Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food for thought...

This is a different kind of post. I had to read this article for my environment and nutrition course last night and thought everyone should read this.

Here 'tis:

The SUV in the Pantry
Adapted from an article by Thomas Starrs
Courtesy of SustainableBusiness.com

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to reduce my family's dependence on energy, particularly energy derived from fossil fuels. I commute to work by bicycle or bus, install compact fluorescents when light bulbs burn out, replace major appliances with the most efficient ones I can afford, and cast jealous glances at my friends who drive hybrids or alternative-fueled vehicles. But until recently, I didn't think of myself as an energy glutton because of the food I eat.

Then I read an astonishing statistic: It takes about 10 fossil fuel calories to produce each food calorie in the average American diet. So if your daily food intake is 2,000 calories, then it took 20,000 calories to grow that food and get it to you. In more familiar units, this means that growing, processing and delivering the food consumed by a family of four each year requires the equivalent of almost 34,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, or more than 930 gallons of gasoline (for comparison, the average U.S. household annually consumes about 10,800 kWh of electricity, or about 1,070 gallons of gasoline).

In other words, we use about as much energy to grow our food as to power our homes or fuel our cars.

Overall, about 15% OF U.S. energy goes to supplying Americans with food, split roughly equally between the production of crops and livestock, and food processing and packaging. David Pimentel, a professor of ecology and agricultural science at Cornell University, has estimated that if all humanity ate the way Americans eat, we would exhaust all known fossil fuel reserves in just seven years.

The implications of agricultural energy use for the environment are disturbing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture contributes over 20% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 20% CO2, 55% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide. In addition, our energy-intensive agriculture industry contributes substantially to soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, degradation of water quality from chemical runoff and causes other adverse environmental impacts.

Much of the energy embedded in our food comes from growing grains that require further processing to be eaten. Producing a 2-pound box of breakfast cereal, for example, requires the equivalent of burning half a gallon of gasoline.

Eating high on the food chain is even worse. Eating a carrot or an apple gives the diner all the caloric energy in those foods, but feeding these foods to a pig reduces the energy available by a factor of 10. That's because the pig uses most of the energy just staying alive, and stores only a fraction of the energy in the parts we eat. All told, it takes 68 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of pork, and 35 calories of fuel to make one calorie of beef.

Interestingly, the path to reducing the energy intensity of the food system dovetails nicely with the path to a healthy and nutritious diet. It can be summarized in three simple suggestions.

In my hometown of Portland, Oregon, individuals and businesses alike are starting to recognize and respond to the public's concerns about fossil food. Grocery stores featuring locally grown and organic products are common. Farm stands, farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture operations are thriving. Here, even fast food restaurants are using local and organic ingredients.

For instance, Burgerville is a local chain that buys exclusively Oregon Country Beef, the branded product of 40 family ranches in the region that produce an all-natural product made without hormones, genetically modified grain or any animal byproducts. Burgerville promotes the fact that customers can trace the source of their food from ranch to table - and play a role in sustaining the local agricultural economy. Another local company, Hot Lips Pizza, worked with a group of Northwest farmers to create a Food Alliance-certified local market for organic wheat and flour, providing customers with pizza that is sustainably grown. It also is really, really tasty.

After all, you are what you eat.

Take Action!

Identify farmers and producers in your area and look for their products when you shop. You might be surprised at what you'll find! Producers, farmers, markets, and locally-minded businesses can be found online at www.localharvest.org.

Take Food Routes' "Buy Local Challenge" by pledging to spend at least $10 a week on local food. Visit www.foodroutes.org to sign up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pumpkin Polenta with Grana Padano and White Truffle Oil

I roasted and pureed the remainder of my sugar pumpkins this weekend and have a ton of fresh pumpkin puree. It is fabulous.

This made a perfect lunch for a study afternoon. I have another a&p midterm tomorrow. Seriously, it feels like there is a midterm everyday.

I want to make this for dinner sometime with sauteed wild mushrooms like oysters, chantrelles and porcinis. Since I didn't have any mushrooms I added truffle oil for the umami.

Pumpkin Polenta with Grana Padano and White Truffle Oil
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated grana padano
salt & pepper
dashes of truffle oil to taste.

Put polenta and water in a sauce pan and cook until water is absorbed and porridge is thick. Stir in puree, butter, cheese and s&p. Take off heat and add truffle oil to taste. This is a very strong flavor should be added to your individual preference.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chicken with Fennel & Green Bean Panzenella

I'm not super fond of chicken. I think of it as a filler meat that is way overused in the American diet. I do use it fairly often though. I think chicken broth is great for soups and it seems like meals come together quickly with this as a main.

For a fast supper I use a contemporary twist on the Italian brick cooking technique which is fast and produces a juicy meat and crisp exterior. (Great for game hens.) Sometimes I will roast like I did for this meal.

I choose to cook with whole legs because are more moist and delicious. I pull the skin away and stuff thinly stuffed lemons, smashed garlic and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. Then drizzle a little olive oil over the tops, rub it in and salt and pepper the legs. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the legs.

I accompanied this with a Fennel & Green Bean Panzanella since I had some leftover bread from the grilled cheese party.

Fennel & Green Bean Panzanella

left over bread cubed
1/2 lb of blanched green beans
1 bulb of fennel shaved
8 artichoke heart quarters - if you can find them frozen get them! trader joes sometimes has them. if not canned is fine but frozen is so much tastier. less tin-y
2 oz chevre - softened
1/4 cup olive oil + extra for drizzling bread cubes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Place bread cubes evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake until toasty in a 400 degree oven. 10 minutes or so.

Combine chevre and olive oil in a bowl. Mix together until smooth. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Toss beans, fennel, cooked bread cubes, artichoke hearts and dressing together and serve.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chard + Cannellini Beans

This is a favorite soup from my childhood. My mom used to make it with Escarole but I like the heartiness of the chard stems. They give the soup an textural dimension that I think it needs.

This is easy makes great leftovers.

Chard + Cannellini Bean Soup
Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion chopped
6 Cloves of Garlic smashed
1 Bunch of Chard roughly chopped
1 can Cannellini's
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Sautee onions, in a soup pot, over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant about 1 minute. Place all the chard into the pot and cook until wilted. Add the beans and broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with s&p.

I like to serve this with leek galettes and baby greens lightly dressed. I'll post the galettes later this week.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cranberry Sauce

There is nothing better than fresh, homemade, whole-berry cranberry sauce. When I lived with my sister she used to request that I make this weekly. I like to eat it as is or add it to my morning oatmeal with some toasted walnuts. I use half the sugar that most recipes request because I like the tartness of it. The recipe is just cooking the fresh cranberries in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until syrupy). If you like it sweeter than you can increase the sugar/water ratio.

Cranberry Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
zest from one satsuma
juice from one satsuma
package fresh cranberries

Place all ingredients in a non-reactive sauce pan (ie. stainless steel) and bring to a boil. Cook until most of the berries have popped. You will know what that means when it happens. If you like a chunkier sauce stop the cooking when few berries have popped. If you like a smoother sauce then wait for most of the berries to pop. Play around to find what you like best.

Cool sauce and store in the fridge.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Punkin Bread

I purchased a bunch of sugar pumpkins out at Sauvie's a week ago and have been plotting their demise. Poor sugar pumpkins. Welcome to my belly.

Ginger Pumpkin Bread
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree canned or fresh
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup brown sugar

Mix flour, baking powder & salt together. Mix pumpkin, eggs, ginger, oil, vanilla & sugar together in a separate bowl.wet ingredients. Mix wet & dry together. Put in a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until center is set.

If you want to use your own fresh pumpkin slice it in half, scoop out the seeds and place each half in foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven about 30-45 minutes or until tender. Scoop out the flesh and press through a mesh sieve for a super smooth puree. I don't mind the threads so I skip that onerous task. Plus more fiber...or something.

Also, microplanes are the coolest. I use this tool ALL THE TIME. I think it is one of my top five favorite kitchen tools. It is specifically useful for grating ginger which can sometimes be too fibrous and difficult to chop or grate.


My sissy sent me this as a the second half of my birthday gift. I can't wait for serious citrus season to make some of the delicious recipes.

Thanks Sissy!