Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup

This is scary--according to an article published in the scientific journal Environmental Health, mercury was found in almost half of the samples tested of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Another study for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) found mercury in about a third of popular brand name foods containing HFCS. The worst part is, according to the article, the FDA has known about this for FOUR YEARS and have done NOTHING about it. Just another reason to avoid any foods containing HFCS.

For more information, go to this press release. There's also a great article in the Huffington Post about it which explains how mercury gets into HFCS. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons is the 4th edition of Nava's book previously titled Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons. It is essentially the same book as the 3rd edition (with the green cover), but with the color photos added along with the new cover. It is substantially different from the first two editions. 

I am a total soup nut so I was happy to get a copy of this book. I hadn't seen any of the previous editions but I have lots of Nava's other books so I knew it would be good. I was not disappointed. The recipes are arranged by seasons which is a really nice feature for those trying to eat local, in season foods. I turned straight the the winter soups and found a couple just perfect for this rainy winter weekend. The soups were both easy to make, used simple ingredients that I had in the house, and, most importantly, my family loved them. I look forward to trying more recipes from this cookbook and a full review will be forthcoming in the March issue of VegFamily Magazine.

Nava has generously agreed to share the recipes for the two soups I made this weekend.

Three-Bean Soup with Brown Rice
Red, white, and green beans in a tomato broth
8 servings
A warming, hearty, high-fiber soup, this is great served with Green Chili Cornbread (page 000) and a simple salad or coleslaw.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large celery stalk, diced
6 cups water
1/2 cup raw brown rice, rinsed
One 16-ounce can salt-free crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
One 10-ounce package frozen green beans
One 16-ounce can great northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
One 16-ounce can kidney or red beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Thin limes wedges for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and celery continue to sauté until all are golden.

Add the water, celery, rice, tomatoes, oregano, and chili powder. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the three types of beans and simmer over very low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice and green beans are quite tender.

Stir in the lime juice and cilantro, then season with salt and pepper. If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or longer, then heat through  before serving. Garnish each serving with two or three lime wedges, if desired.

Hearty Winter Roots Soup
A chunky mélange of rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips with a hint of cheese
6 to 8 servings
This hearty soup makes use of a couple of underused winter vegetables—parsnips and rutabaga—to great results. Make sure you have a good, sharp knife for cutting the rutabaga.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 medium parsnips, diced
1 large celery stalk, diced
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons salt-free seasoning (see page 00 for brands)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1  cup rice milk, or as needed
1/4 cup Silk creamer
1 cup grated cheddar-style nondairy cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until  golden.

Add the rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, celery, oats, wine, seasoning, bouillon cubes, and just enough water to barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove about 2 cups of the vegetables and transfer to a shallow bowl or a plate. Mash coarsely, then stir back into the soup. Add the rice milk and allow the soup to simmer over very low heat for another 10 minutes.

Stir in the creamer, then sprinkle in the cheese, a little at a time, stirring in until fairly well melted each time.

If the soup is too thick, adjust the consistency with a bit more rice milk. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, or if time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or so before serving, then heat through gently before serving.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Standard for Naturally-Raised Meat

Here's a press release from Consumers Union about new standards for "naturally raised" meat. Do you call animals that have been cloned or genetically engineered naturally raised? How about animals confined indoors for their lifetime and fed pesticide laced food?

News Release: Consumers Union – Publisher of Consumer Reports


Consumers Union and Food & Water Watch say new USDA standard for so-called naturally-raised  meat sanctions unnatural practices


WASHINGTON -- Following news reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had issued a voluntary standard for so-called “naturally raised” livestock and meat marketing claims, Consumers Union (CU) and Food & Water Watch (FWW) criticized the last-minute regulation, saying the labeling effort was misleading and fell short of consumer expectations.  The announcement comes days before the change in federal government administrations in Washington

The naturally raised marketing claim standard states livestock used for meat production have been raised without growth promotants and without antibiotics, except for ionophores used as coccidiostats for parasite control, and have not been fed animal by-products.

CU and FWW said, aiming to ban antibiotics, animal byproducts, and growth promotants are all important practices that should be labeled specifically and discreetly and not couched under a vague and misleading term that does not address how the animals were raised, their main diet, treatment of animals, space requirements and other concerns.


"This regulation will allow an animal that has come from a cloned or genetically engineered stock, was physically altered, raised in confinement without ever seeing the light of day or green of pasture, in poor hygiene conditions with a diet laced in pesticides to be labeled as ‘naturally raised.’  This falls significantly short of consumer expectations and only adds to the roster of misleading label claims approved by USDA for so-called natural meat," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst at Consumers Union.


"These last minute rules for the 'naturally-raised' label on meat practically invite agribusiness to greenwash their products and rip off consumers" stated Patty Lovera, assistant director for consumer group Food & Water Watch.  "Until these standards are revised, consumers will have to navigate another set of misleading labels at the grocery store."


USDA said it received more that 44,000 comments about the rule, while Consumers Union and FWW generated more than 36,000 signatures stating that the USDA's proposed standards for "naturally raised" were flawed, would only confuse consumers and should be withdrawn. 


A national telephone poll conducted by Consumer Reports’ National Research Center released in November 2008 showed American consumers want the “naturally raised” meat claim to mean more than USDA's proposed standard, including that it came from an animal that:

• Had a diet free of chemicals, drugs and animal byproducts (86%)

• Was raised in a natural environment (85%)

• Ate a natural diet (85%)

• Was not cloned or genetically engineered (78%)

• Had access to the outdoors (77%)

• Was treated humanely (76%)

• Was not confined (68%)


Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.


Media contact: David Butler, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262

Friday, January 09, 2009

Cookus Interruptus

This is a cool web site with videos and recipes on cooking whole organic foods despite life's interruptions . . . 

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Agave Nectar: Which Should You Choose?

Someone told me recently that they'd stopped using agave nectar because they'd heard it was as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I was rather stunned because I use agave nectar and like it a lot. Long before HFCS and agave nectar were even on the market, health experts warned about the overconsumption of refined sugar. But lately, it's like sugar is fine and HFCS and other high fructose sweeteners are the bad guys. What is this opinion based on? As I researched, I found that the negative press about HFCS started when researchers put a graph of the rise of obesity in the U.S. over a graph showing the increased use of HFCS. The rises were similar, so they assumed that HFCS must be causing obesity. Well, that's not enough proof for me. I decided to find out more about sugar, HFCS, and agave nectar and how different sweeteners are metabolized before coming to any conclusions. 

See the results of my research here.