On the Trail of Delicious Food (and a Happier Life)

by in Books, June 18, 2014

eating wildly cover

If you were to take a little bit of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, cross it with some of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and set the story in the fields and parks of New York City, you’d come up with Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal, a touching new memoir by the New York Times “Wild Edibles” columnist Ava Chin. Confronting the demise of a relationship she thought would end in marriage (but instead just ended), and reeling from the loss of her beloved grandmother, Chin takes to the urban forests of New York City, hunting for blackberries, dandelions and wild greens, ultimately finding herself (oh, and a new guy too.)

It’s crazy to think that you can find wildly healthy foods in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or even your own backyard, but Chin proves it’s easy once you know where (and how) to look. You’ll never stroll through a park again without looking for something to eat growing right beneath your feet. Chin beautifully threads foraging tips and terrific recipes (wild greens pie, field garlic and hummus, and mulberry-balsamic jam) through a heartfelt memoir that is honest, real and inspiring.

You’re a professor of creative writing at the City University of New York. How did you get started foraging?
I was the kind of kid who grew up pulling onion grass from the back courtyard of my apartment building and eating it. I would also go fishing in New York City waters during summer camp and bring the fish home for my family to eat. I loved that kind of thing. But I didn’t start foraging in earnest until I became an adult, and I went on a foraging walk with a naturalist, Wild Man Steve Brill.

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Dessert of the Month: Frozen Blueberry and Banana “Ice Cream”

by in Amy's Whole Food Cooking, June 17, 2014

blueberry ice cream

When it comes to quick sweet treats to beat the heat, nothing is as fast and satisfying as a scoop of this all-fruit “ice cream.” It’s pretty amazing how frozen bananas develop a lusciously thick and smooth consistency after a minute in the food processor. There’s no need for a high-powdered blender to achieve impressive results — nor any need for cream or sugar. Try making this with frozen peaches, mangoes, raspberries or apricots in place of the blueberries. You can also flavor it with cinnamon, cardamom or orange zest. Just be sure to have spoons at the ready, as this cool treat melts fast. 

Frozen Blueberry and Banana “Ice Cream”

Serves 2

When the bananas are sliced prior to freezing, they create a super-thick consistency in less time, which prevents the mixture from thinning due to over-blending. If you only have whole frozen bananas, cut or break them into pieces before blending. Read more

Is Soylent the Future of Food?

by in Trends, June 16, 2014

soylent
Technically, Soylent isn’t really a food at all. It’s a drink mix designed to replace actual food in order to make your diet easier, cheaper and more convenient. Soylent was created by a 25-year-old software engineer named Rob Rhinehart, as a solution, in part, to his own dilemma. The entrepreneur was on a tight budget, which meant subsisting on a steady diet of ramen noodles, fast food and frozen burritos. In search of something healthier but even cheaper, he started researching nutrients and eventually came up with this concoction of protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Read more

5 Ways to Fire Up Fruit This Summer

by in Healthy Recipes, June 15, 2014

grilled plums

Feasting on fresh fruit is always a summertime ritual, but try roasting some of that just-plucked bounty or throwing it onto the grill until it’s nice and charred. Intense heat adds rich new layers of flavor, deepening and caramelizing sugars. With these vibrant recipes, there’s more incentive to keep the grill’s flames going, long after the turkey burgers have been demolished.

Grilled Plums with Spiced Walnut Yogurt Sauce (above)
Forgo that everyday berry parfait, and spring for this juicy plum dish instead. The fruit is draped in Greek yogurt that is brightened with honey, orange juice and grated orange zest — and warmed by cinnamon and toasted walnuts.

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Chef Dan Barber on Why “Whole-Farm Eating” Is the New “Farm-to-Table”

by in Chefs and Restaurants, June 14, 2014

the third plate
You may not be eating a lot of mustard greens, kidney beans and millet these days, but if Dan Barber has his way, you will be very soon.

Barber is the award-winning chef of Blue Hill, an elegant respite for sustainable cuisine in New York City’s West Village, and Blue Hill Stone Barns, a locavore’s paradise located within the nonprofit farm Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Tarrytown, NY. Since his early days as a cook, he’s been a pioneering advocate for the farm-to-table movement. But in his revolutionary new book, The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, Barber reexamines the farm-to-table movement, and comes away from it a new man, one championing the whole farm, not just what’s most prized for the table.

“For all its successes, farm-to-table has not, in any fundamental way, reworked the economic and political forces that dictate how our food is grown and raised,” wrote Barber in a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times. “Big Food is getting bigger, not smaller. In the last five years, we’ve lost nearly 100,000 farms (mostly midsize ones). Today, 1.1 percent of farms in the United States account for nearly 45 percent of farm revenues.”

His solution? Eat more cowpea. Seriously. Instead of cherry-picking crops like tomatoes, strawberries, asparagus and other blockbusters that deplete soil of their most crucial nutrients, Barber proposes we start supporting more humble offerings like buckwheat, cowpea, barley, and mustard greens — which are often used by farmers to enrich the soil in rotation with those A-list vegetables.

The “first plate,” argues Barber, was a classic meal centered on meat with a few vegetables. That gave way to the “second plate,” a new ideal of organic grass-fed meats and local vegetables. Now, he proposes a “third plate”— a new way of eating that’s rooted in cooking with and celebrating the whole farm: vegetables, grains and a smidge of protein. It’s a juicy new holistic approach to food and farming that’s bound to put Barber in the company of legendary food policy gurus like Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser.

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This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News, June 13, 2014

salmon
In this week’s news: Seafood guidance for kids and expectant mothers; the next iteration of futuristic faux food; and a reminder from Mark Bittman to just eat the real thing.

Pass the Salmon
This Tuesday, federal officials announced that they’re for the first time ever recommending a minimum of two weekly servings of low-mercury seafood (think salmon, shrimp, cod and light canned tuna) to children and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Back in 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency had set an upper limit to these foods. And though this proposal, too, suggests an upper limit of three servings, the shift is noteworthy. According to a recent FDA analysis, one in five pregnant women in the United States currently eats little or no fish, and the new recommendation is said to reflect concern that these individuals are missing out. Indeed, a number of studies show that children born to women who eat fish have better cognitive development and higher IQs than those born to women who eat little to no fish. Still, the recommendation isn’t without controversy: Some environmental groups expressed concern that this will ultimately increase mercury consumption. One particular worry is packaged fish, especially tuna, from which Americans get approximately a third of their methyl mercury exposure. Interestingly, other groups fear that the measures don’t go far enough. Bottom line: Know where your fish is sourced, and also remember that while plenty of research suggests taking Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, there remains a wide variety of nutrients in fish worth tapping.

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7 Foods to Grill for Health-Nut Dads Everywhere

by in Healthy Recipes, June 12, 2014

tuna burger
So you had the dad who was always going for a run first thing in the morning? The one who always seemed to be making some kind of crazy protein shake in the blender? Then show him the love with one of these healthy recipes, each of which comes in at under 500 calories.

Tuna Burgers (above)
Sprouts. Avocado. Whole-grain hamburger buns. This tuna burger has all of the requisite healthy trappings, but sushi-grade tuna and a delectable sesame-ginger sauce take the dish out of the realm of Spartan hippie food and into deliciousness territory. 

Sausage-and-Pepper Skewers
Kebabs are always a good time, but this chicken-sausage rendition — made with red onion, bell peppers and tomatoes and served with a scallion-herb pesto — is an edible party on a stick. 
sausage and pepper skewers

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Beyond Chicken Nuggets: When Kids Eat Out, Can They Eat Well?

by in Dining Out, June 11, 2014

kids' plate

With their steady rotation of grilled cheese and butter-topped noodles, the “kid-friendly” section of restaurant menus has always been unimaginative. But these days it’s hard not to notice that the offerings are also fairly unhealthy. The palette of food geared toward children is primarily white, brown and orange — the colors of french fries, fried nuggets (of one sort or another) and mac and cheese. Not only is such fare typically lacking in creativity, it’s also lacking in nutrition, although there’s generally no lack of calories or sodium. It’s not uncommon for a kid’s meal to exceed 1,000 calories, more than any adult needs in one sitting.

The good news is that many restaurants are making strides in revamping the menu options for pint-sized patrons. The National Restaurant Association just hosted the second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge — a competition that encourages chefs to come up with enticing but healthy alternatives for kids. Winners included an organic sunflower butter and jam sandwich on multi-grain oat bread and a whole-wheat quesadilla filled with broccoli, chicken, peppers and corn. Read more

Salad of the Month: Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan

by in Amy's Whole Food Cooking, June 10, 2014

asparagus salad
In this salad, raw asparagus spears are shaved into long ribbons and then tossed in a rich, flavorful dressing made from pine nuts, lemon, olive oil and Parmesan. It’s the kind of dressing that could double as a simple pasta sauce — and in fact, when it’s tossed with the long, wide asparagus ribbons, the dish is reminiscent of fettuccine.

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The Antioxidant Avenger Smoothie from “Blender Girl” Tess Masters

by in Cookbooks, June 9, 2014

antioxidant avenger

Tess Masters is the first to admit she’s not a trained chef, but she has been experimenting with food for as long as she can remember. As a smoothie-obsessed teen, she started exploring the various virtues of the blender as a food prep tool, and she has never looked back. It was also starting in her teen years — after a diagnosis of Epstein-Barr virus — that Masters began searching for the perfect diet to help her feel healthier. Macrobiotic, vegan, raw food — you name it, she tried it. Ultimately, what she discovered is that her perfect diet (like everyone’s) was a blend. And so, The Blender Girl was born, and this spring, The Blender Girl Cookbook. Read more

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