Month: July 2009

Food, Inc.

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A couple of weeks ago, my foodie friend and I went to go see Food, Inc. at a local independent movie theater (ya I’m a little late posting about it :/ )  All through the documentary, I kept saying “EWWW”, “OMG OMG”, squirming in my seat, or on the verge of tears.  I was excited to see Michael Pollan and other authors in the film since they had introduced me to what this documentary had to say through their books.  Pollans books are amazing, but sadly most people rather go see a film than having to sit through 200 + pages of a book.  Here are some of the things that were shown in the film:

food-inc-poster

-What we put in our mouths are mostly composed of corn, petroleum and other synthesized products.  Go grab a loaf of bread at the grocery store and see how many ingredients you can actually pronounce. 

-The USDA and FDA are suppose to be protecting our nation by enforcing and coming up with suitable laws for the health of our nation, but they’re not.  When Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle came out, it shed light to the food industry and how unsanitary our food was.  The FDA and USDA soon emerged and laid the law down and we were back to good wholesome food.  As the nation became complacent that we have the FDA and USDA to protect us, we were and are back to square one.  Many top officials in the FDA and USDA held former positions in food companies such as Tyson and Monsanto. 

-It usually takes 3 months for a chicken to fully develop into an adult bird.  In 2009, it takes only 46 days.  The chickens are fed growth hormones so they grow faster and bigger.  Their body speeds up the growing process but the organs and muscles cant keep up.  That is why these chickens walk a couple steps and fall down since their legs can’t keep them up for long.  😦 

-These chickens are also kept in these coups with no sunlight whatsoever (they actually never see sunlight from the time they’re born to the time they are slaughtered) and room with so many chickens that there’s no space to really move around.  They poop, eat, sleep in the same area and this naturally is a recipe for disease.  To take care of that, these chickens are pumped with antibiotics.  So now we have chickens who are fed growth hormones, antibiotics, and can barely stand on their own two feet. 

-Cattle are pretty much the same way.  They spend their days in severely close quarters of their other fellow cattle.  They are also fed corn, not grass.  Cows have E. coli in their stomach and eating grass produces Rumen which kills off the E. coli naturally.  Now when they are only fed corn, this E. coli doesn’t die off.  It stays in their body and passes through their feces.  These guys also sleep poop eat in the same area and feces are all over them when they are being slaughtered.  So we now have cattle smothered in feces containing E. coli.  Now the feces are also used as fertilizers in other plants.  Why do you think we keep on having so many E. coli outbreaks in our spinach and other produce? 

-People do die from eating this E. coli ridden food.  The documentary had a mother who was telling her story of when her family went on vacation and gotten burgers to eat from some restaurant/fast food.  Her young son, I think 7 years old, was infected with E. coli due to the meat and died a week later. 

-Farmers are being forced into perpetual debt and unfair laws.  They either loose their livelihood by trying to produce wholesome food or keep being farmers living under the thumb of corporations by producing food that they aren’t proud of.  Many of them have been sued because they want to use their own seeds instead of GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds. 

 Those are just some of things talked about in the film.  I’d definitely check it out if it’s playing in your area.  People always ask me why I’m so interested in food.  It’s because of many things.  Food brings people together, builds culture, provides comfort, entertainment, and is a necessity.  It’s also because I want to be knowledgeable in what I eat and don’t leave it up to corporate companies to decide what’s going into my body.  What happened to eating real food?  Where did we get lost in having home-cooked meals and ending upgoing through the drive-thru for dinner.  When I eat, I want to gain nutrients and not pump myself with chemicals that might lead to cancer or other sickness. 

I’m constantly trying to refine the way I eat so I stay away from boxed items.  It’s definitely not an overnight transformation, habits are hard to break.  The more you become aware of the consequences of what is nourishing your body, the more it will push and motivate you to find practical solutions and alternatives.

Cookie-Brownie

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I’m not much of a cake maker, I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I’m scared the frosting won’t turn out right.  But I do on occasion make some.  So far, out of all the cakes I’ve made, my favorite is Red Velvet Cake.  The first time I had red velvet cake, I had no clue there was cocoa in it because the red color threw me off.  I did wonder though what flavor would produce a red cake.  I later found out that the acidic vinegar and buttermilk reaction turns the cocao a deep red color.  The recipe that I used suggest to use red food coloring and the cake is always a vibrant red.  I think the next time I make I’ll see what shade of red is produced without the food coloring.  The recipe that I use actually is for cupcakes but I find it works for cakes just the same.  It’s actually from NYT and is reduced down to 1/3 of the original recipe.

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Red Velvet Cake + Cream Cheese Frosting (From here)
1c cake flour
1/3c cocoa
1/2tsp salt
2/3c vegetable oil
3/4c sugar
1 egg
1oz (2T) red food coloring
1/2tsp vanilla
1/2c buttermilk
1/2tsp baking soda
3/4tsp white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat oil and sugar until well combined.  Add in egg.  Carefully pour in the red food coloring (make sure you don’t splash or else it will result in red counters and hands). In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt.  Alternately, mix the dry ingredients and buttermilk in two batches into the red mixture.  Mix until incorporated.  In a small dish, mix together the baking soda and vinegar.  While the hand mixer is still running, add the baking soda-vinegar into the batter and let it mix for 10 seconds.   Pour into a cake pan and let it bake for about 25-30 min until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese – room temperature, divided in three parts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the 1st 3rd of the cream cheese.  Add in the vanilla and shortening.  Add in the rest of the cream cheese in two batches, making sure it’s well combined after each.  Once the cake has cooled, frost the cake evenly and refrigerate so the icing sets.  Decorate as desired. 

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I was introduced to Crinkle Cookies by my sisters good friend couple years back.  She would come over and make some with my sister which would ususally yield powdered sugar fights.  I was amazed how these cookies would crinkle and tasted like a cookie that tasted like a brownie. 
Crinkle Cookies (from here)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
 
Preheat oven to 350F.  Start by beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add in eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each.  Mix in the vanilla.  With a spatula, mix in all the dry ingredients.  Scoop a tablespoon of dough and form into a ball.  In a small bowl, put some powdered sugar.  Roll the dough-balls into the  sugar and place on a baking sheet.   Roll the dough into a ball. Roll the ball in the confectioners’ sugar until covered. Place the balls on a prepared baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-12 mintues. 
 
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Alton Brown

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GoodEats

Back when I was taking Food Science Lab, when I hadn’t learned to appreciate this science, we started each lab with a video of Alton Brown  (Good Eats) that related to our lab.  Watching Brown, he would always explain the science and concept behind the methods that were being used.  You’d get a history, science, and a cooking lesson all in one.  I wish I had payed more attention back then.  Anyhow, I remember in one episode that we watched, he showed how to make chocolate chip cookies and had altered the same base recipe to make soft cookies, chewy cookies, and a cookie with a harder crumb.  I came upon his chewy cookie recipe couple days ago and decided to give it a try.  The flour that it called for was bread flour but I didn’t have any so I used AP flour.  The cookies came out incredibly soft, even after being long out of the oven.  They were no where close to being chewy, but maybe that was because I didn’t use bread flour.  If you want super soft cookies, make sure to try this recipe out! 

Alton Brown’s Chewy Cookies (from here)

2 sticks unsalted butter (I used 1.5 sticks + 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce)

2 1/4 cups bread flour (I used AP Flour)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt the butter either in a saucepan or in the microwave.  In a large bowl, add the butter and the sugars and mix until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg, egg yolk, and milk.  Stir in all of the dry ingredients.  Once the a batter has formed, fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill for about 30 min.  Scoop about a tablespoon of batter and place on to a cookie sheet.  Bake for about 7-10 min.  Serve with a large glass of milk!

I came across these amazing crackers the other day, Carr’s Table Water Crackers.  They’re from Britain so they’re aCarr's-Table-Water-Crackersctually called biscuits.  All it has in it is flour, oil, salt, and pepper.  These would be amazing a thin slice of cheese, I just haven’t gotten a chance to go get some.  I was amazed to find these and how they didn’t have a long paragraph of ingredients.  Definitely a good light snack. 

Look out for my Crinkle Cookies and Red Velvet Cake that I will be making next week!

Twinkie, Deconstructed

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FINALLY!  I finished Twinkie, Deconstructed(by Steve Ettlinger) yesterday.  I’ve been trying to finish it for way too long, partly because I’ve a bad habit of reading 3 books at once. 

Twinkie

At first, this book was hard for me to get through because I kept on falling asleep while reading.  It was kind of dry with a bunch of facts and the reason I kept going was because I was learning so much.  By the middle of it, I got really into it and finally started putting the pieces together, how this product relates to the next.  I started writing out the chemical formulas for the reactions Ettlinger was talking about so I can actually see what chemicals were being used. 

Ettlinger does an amazing job and his research is very extensive.  As I was reading, I kept thinking how in the world did he have the time and resources to do all this.  He has done something all of us have put off.  Figuring out what exactly we are putting in our bodies.  His book is split up into chapters, or shall I say ingredients.  Each chapter explains where the ingredient comes from, it’s etymology, it uses and functions in the Twinkie, other food products, and other industrial uses, and how it’s processed. 

I felt so empowered by the end of the book with what I had learned.  I was grocery shopping last night and each time I’d pick something off the shelf and read the ingredients, I was like thinking, “Wow, I actually know what this stuff really is.” I looked around at all the people walking up and down the aisle, and felt pity for them.  They were going to go home and put food in their mouth that might not be real food, but just looks like it.  (Twinkies really don’t have any real eggs or butter in them, but they are artificially flavored so you think they do.)

At the end though, I felt like Ettlinger was justifying all the processing of modern foods and how no alarming bell should be sound because of this book.  Looking at salt, NaCl, sodium being highly reactive on its own, and chlorine being the world’s most lethal chemical alone, together they find a place on every household table as salt.  Yes they aren’t healthful when they are apart, but together they become a total different compound, neutralizing the bad components.  He also talks about how we shouldn’t be alarmed when scientist manipulate molecules in our food to make new foods, because when we boil water or frying an egg, we’re doing the same thing, rearranging molecules.  I find it unreasonable to make such a comparison because freezing or boiling water or cooking an egg isn’t changing that it’s still water or egg. 

Methods like curing and smoking have been around for centuries and they don’t make fake foods.  Curing simply draws out the water out of the food using salt or sugar.  Yes this is processing, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. 

Maybe this is why our nation is so obese and every other person has cancer.  Because we are eating things that start off from petroleum and not eating from the earth that is rich in nutreints. 

If you want to know what you’re really eating, this is definitely a book to read.  You’d be surprised where many of our common ingredients come from and how they are processed.  I for one, would never let my kids eat such things.