Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic-sized Food: Don't try this at home

I have to admit, I'm a bit of an Olympics-junkie. My eyes tear up at the familiar "BAAA-bum-ba-baa--bada-da" as NBC starts it's nightly montage of fantastic athletes and beauty shots of their most amazing moments. It's hard (and not advisable for your own health) to sit through hours upon hours of it, but it can be so inspiring. My almost 3 year old has been practicing "jumping off a chair and rolling across the rug" in a toddler-style mimic of the synchronized diving. Although my heart goes straight to my throat when she does it, I'm glad she's responding to the athletic display by getting active herself. I'm DVR-ing events to similarly inspire my older kids who are away at camp--Gymnastics for my acrobatic older daughter and Track and Field for my son who joined the middle school track team last year.

There was an NBC profile of gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps in which he said one of his biggest problems was getting enough to eat. He reportedly consumes 10,000 calories a day as part of his regimen. Wow! He is great evidence that exercise (a tremendous amount) can balance out even the largest of diets.

In contrast, most Americans consume far too many calories and exercise far too little. This past Sunday, the Times had a very interesting piece with a cool graphic, The Overflowing American Dinner Plate. Basically, from 1970 to 2006, American food consumption rose as did its rate of obesity. Americans now eat roughly 2 additional lbs of food per week, most of it in increased fats, refined grains, and refined sugars. According to the CDC, 15 percent of adults age 20 to 74 were obese in 1980, but by 2007, that percentage had doubled. Many other social and economic changes have occurred in these decades. many of which seem to contribute to a thickening waist-line: the rise of two-income families (leading to less time and more $ to purchase "convenience" foods), more "take-out" and restaurant meals, more car driving and commuting, less exercise, and of course, less family meal time.

Let's take the spirit of the games home and be inspired by those wonderful athletes. Don't go for the McDonald's version of the Olympic spirit. Instead, get yourself and your family out there and have fun with some physical activity. Be mindful of your eating, knowing that you are no "Michael Phelps" with 5 hours+ in the water everyday. Eat dinner with your family and get some play time in too.

Related Links:
14,000 pounds of Tofu and Hold the Lettuce. NYT Ring Blog. 08.11.08. Report on Size of Food venture needed to feed Olympians in Beijing.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Local Food Round Up, 08.08

There have been so many articles on local food lately, it's hard to keep up. Maybe it's that the high summer growing season is upon us, and the sheer bounty and promise of fresh, local, food is inspiring writers and eaters from coast to coast. I found several local food advocate organizations today online and want to further the "Buy Local" message here. So click and explore the links below. Family dinners are a natural part of the slow food movement, even though it is sometimes cast as a elitist, foodie sentiment. Family dinners not only provide your own family with nurture and stability, they contribute to the wider economy and ecosystem of how food gets produced and delivered to the table, By choosing healthy, "cook-you-own" food, that is also as local and organic as possible, you help improve the system. You help make family farms economically viable while educating your children about food, culture, and the wider world. One study of the Maine agriculture system cites that consumer shifting of just 1% of their purchases to local goods, increased farmer's income by 5%. Every little bit helps, and the summer is the easiest time ever to enjoy what great local produce is all about.

Coming up soon is the Slow Food Nation Conference (Labor Day Aug 29-Sept 1 2008) in San Francisco. I won't be there, but I look forward to vicariously celebrating local food via the blog posts and news articles that sure will follow. Edible nation writer calls it the "First Continental Culinary Congress." Forgetting for a moment that the First U.S. Continental Congress is often considered a failure, it did serve to inspire the Constitution and the re-making of our nation. Can we hope for the same with good old local food? It's sure to be a good time, anyway.

FoodRoutes - Where Does Your Food Come From?

Some ways to find and support local food:
Guide to NYC greenmarkets here and what's in season: Pride of NY Harvest schedule.

Food Routes: A national non-profit which sponsors "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" Chapters nationwide

Search local food directories from ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, a public-private partnership with the USDA.

Eat Local Challenge
Join the East Local Challenge October 2008, start planning now!

Local Harvest, an extensive website and directory connecting people to local food sources, search by zip code, or mail order from small farms nationwide.

My Top Six Favorite Farm Food sites, by Ethan Book, www.epicurious.com editor

More Articles on Local Food.

Comments on NYT's Lazy Locavores article at Grist.org

Mark Bittman belongs to a CSA and here's his happy report: Back to the Farm, Bitten Blog 08.05.08

Register Your Beliefs: how to go green at the grocery, also at Grist.org

Niche Farming Offers Way Back to the Land, Brent Bowers NYT, 08.06.08

Greenmarket Sellers Debate Maze of Producers-Only Rule Indrani Sen, NYT, 08.06.08

NYT Well blog post on healthy local food: Boosting Health with Local Food. 06.06.08

Monday, August 4, 2008

Keeping it easy in late summer

Our friend, the pig. Note Pasquale Ravioli on the window sign.

My older kids are away at summer camp and we are down to the Freedman 3. I had envisioned more elaborate, adventurous fare, like curries, paella or hot pots, during their time away. My kids are foodies compared to many their age, but there is still a long list of meals that my children tolerate but do not appreciate in the least. So, the effort seems wasted and many foods my husband and I like are not part of the standard rotation. Hence fantasies of more adult fare...

I'm surprised to report that quite the opposite has happened. With only two real eaters, the dinner efforts have dwindled significantly. (My almost three year old eats heartily but her consumption amounts to a pittance compared to a couple of preteens.) The heat doesn't help. Who wants to put together a multi-step meal after a long, hot day, be it slaving at the office or doing playground duty. A salad and a nice glass of chilled wine are what's called for.

Wonderful summer produce makes it easy to make great no cook meals and to be happy and sated with a salad or sandwich. My best quick and delicious summer meal so far has been: fresh cheese ravioli (purchased at Esposito and Sons Pork Store in Carroll Gardens, see photo above) with homemade pesto, local cherry tomatoes, and chopped bacon. The only cooking part was boiling water and cooking the ravioli, which went quickly since they were fresh (maybe 5 minutes). Easy, cool, delicious. The presentation: served on nice plates, with candles was very adult, but any kids would love this too.
Homemade Pesto
1 bunch of fresh basil*
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil, depending on consistency
1-2 cloves of garlic, depending on taste
1/4 cup of chopped nuts or seeds (pine nuts are traditional, but I usually have walnuts on hand, and have used sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup or less of fresh Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash basil and pick leaves off stem. (I had my toddler help with this.) In food processor, mince garlic. Stuff the basil leaves into the food processor bowl, then process while drizzling olive oil through chute. Add nuts and Parmesan cheese and continue to process. Add small amounts of olive oil if needed until the mixture is the consistency of a wet paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta or in any other dish. If you don't use the entire amount in your dish, freeze the remainder or use within a couple of days.
*I only do this in the summer when the basil is plentiful and inexpensive. You can mix fresh parsley with basil if you need to stretch the amount.

More No Cook Ideas:
No cook menus by the Food Network
No bake blueberry cheesecake by Mark Bittman
Summer Express, Bittman's list from last summer of 101 quick summer meal ideas.