Friday, March 25, 2011

Met w/ Cong. Miller about genetically modifed alfalfa

I met with Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) today to request unbiased research and caution for genetically engineered food. We had a good discussion. I left feeling that he had heard my points and would have the appropriate staff member follow up on possible action. We agreed that these are technical issues, but that it is important to have good, unbiased scientific analysis before taking action that cannot be undone.

As I said during the meeting, when we found out what horrible side effects thalidomide caused, people could just stop taking it. If we find out that genetically engineered food causes horrible side effects, we may not be able to recall it from the environment. Thanks to Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore and Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute for their help in preparing for this meeting.

Here are the points we covered:

  • People want to know what they are eating. An MSNBC poll this year shows that 96% want genetically modified food labeled so people can make informed choices. A Deloitte survey in 2010 found that 70% of Americans are concerned about eating genetically modified food.

  • Roundup Ready Alfalfa is not needed, according to a lawsuit filed by several groups against the USDA. 93% of alfalfa is currently grown without herbicides.

  • But Roundup Ready Alfalfa is now unregulated and has huge risks:

    • GE alfalfa would contaminate all alfalfa seeds in just a few years because the pollen is spread by bees. They will cross-pollinate non-GMO alfalfa and wild alfalfa miles apart.

    • It threatens organic dairy industry, a $26B a year industry growing at 20% annually, because it is the key food for dairy cows. No organic food means no organic milk, yogurt, or cheese.

    • It threatens the organic beef industry

    • It will speed up the development of Roundup-resistant super weeds. Farmers dealing with glyphosate-resistant weeds may stronger herbicides, such as 2,4-D, a chemical that has been linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and insulin resistance.

    • Animal miscarriages and infertility may be caused by Roundup and Roundup Ready crops, wrote Dr. Don Huber of Purdue University in a letter to Secretary Vilsack.

    • Alfalfa and other GE Crops put organic farmers at risk with through spills and uncontrolled pollination. Recovery and recertification can take years and lead to bankruptcy.

    • Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops. Scientific American says “that restriction must end.”

  • World hunger can be better addressed through safer techniques

    • A U.N. report says that “agroecological” techniques can double food production in 10 years.

    • Poster-plant Golden Rice requires eating 12 times more rice than normal27 bowls of expensive rice a day — to get enough Vitamin A. Better to plant greens and sweet potatoes.

    • Hunger stems from poor distribution, political problems, poverty, and environmental problems. Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used for either ethanol (40 percent) or animal feed (50 percent).

  • Requested actions:

    • Ask the USDA and President Obama to restrict Roundup Ready alfalfa until it is proven to be safe.

    • Support unbiased research through funding and regulation.

    • Support Congressman Kucinich’s bills on genetically engineered food (the Right to Know Act, the Safety Act, and the Farmer Protection Act).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why there's a rooster on my stairs

With a busy busy week ahead, I kept the slow cooker going with beans yesterday. I made a stew with small red beans from my local Hispanic market and then made a pinto stew. This morning, I'm kicking myself because I forgot to put up the pintos before going to bed last night, so they will be feeding the compost instead of my Taster and me. If only I'd put the rooster on the stairs!

The rooster? He's a wooden list holder with a clothes pin as a beak made by a resident of my in-laws retirement community. The rooster holds the grocery list. And he perches on the stairs to remind me when I need to do something in the kitchen before going to bed at night. Most often, he reminds me to refrigerate food, including rising bread dough and brewed tea. The key point is that I can't get to bed without passing him and it reminds me to take another turn around the kitchen and do what needs doing.

Before the rooster, I used a less decorative but still effective cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels.

What memory tips to you use?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year! Food at Raleigh Celebration

Happy Chinese New Year, y'all! I'm looking forward to going to the celebration at the State Fair Grounds today. It's in the new Exposition Center.

I'm looking forward to these treats, recommended by Lisa Chang, VP of the Triangle Area Chinese American Society:
There's a woman who makes a Taiwanese soft crepe with savory fillings that's delicious and interesting to watch being made. The crepes are made by wiping a hot pan surface with wet dough/thick batter. The part that sticks to the pan becomes a very thin, translucent crepe that wraps around meats, vegetables, and peanut powder - very yummy.

I'll also have Asian style shaved ice at the CNYF. I just purchased a very expensive commercial grade cubed ice shaver for myself that I will loan to the event. We won't have the huge variety of toppings available that an actual restaurant would (plus mango this time of year is terrible), but we'll have enough to approximate the true Chinese shaved ice experience. I'll have red bean, almond jelly, mochi, brown sugar syrup, and condensed milk for sure, and others are up for debate.

You know I've got to try the red-bean shaved ice! Lisa also says the celebration includes:

marvelous performances, cultural exhibits, vendors, and of course, lots of food! There are a couple of fantastic cooks who will be lending their talents to the event in order to provide a some specialty dishes that aren't generally available at your average restaurant.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Turnips, eggs rule at January farmers' market

I'm just back from the Western Wake Farmers' Market, watching the snow come down outside as I write this. Even after heavy snow starting Christmas night, the stalwart farmers who come to the winter market still had good selections. The slower winter markets are a great time to get to know your local farmers better.

I'm working on recipes with eggs and turnips, so you can see from the photo that I stocked up on each. The white "salad" turnips range in size from ping-pong to golf ball and are more tender than the larger turnips. I do like that purple band, though! The greens from both types of turnips are delicious.

Chickens lay fewer eggs in the fall and late winter, but start up again beginning with the winter solstice and peak in the spring. These free-range beauties were $4 a dozen.

I also got two types of organic sweet potatoes for $2 a pound, since I bought five pounds worth, and a small cabbage. Alas, no beets were available.

Lettuce, arugula, collards, various meat, and cheese was also available.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scored collards and more for local New Year's Day feast

I was SO happy to pull into the State Farmers' Market lot today and see Mrs. Wise in her usual place at the Wise Farm booth. She's there nearly every day except Sunday with great produce and great advice. She's here with her son, Gary, who owns the Mt. Olive farm with his wife Teresa.

My New Year's Day party will now have excellent local collards despite the snow! Mrs. Wise said that they'd run out of collards Wednesday, but they had plenty today at 9:00. They will be at the market on Friday and Saturday, so please drop by to get some yourself. Gary pointed out their excellent bok choy, which they've planted under row covers this year with good results. Those amazing tomatoes come from green houses and they will have hoop-house strawberries soon.

I got five big bunches of collards, red and yellow onions, and sweet potatoes. At other booths, I picked up two gallons of apple cider, some apples, and two pounds of Ashe County super-sharp cheddar. The egg booth wasn't open yet.

Between the Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, I also got local corn meal, eggs, milk, and buttermilk.

What's cooking for New Years' Day? Hoppin' John, Tasty Tahini Collards, corn bread, a new chocolate cake I'm developing, and my favorite lemon cake from the Silver Palate cookbook. Other folks are bringing salads, fruit, and more greens. Should be fun!

What are you cooking for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day? Any special local dishes or ingredients?

Friday, December 10, 2010

NC Christmas Trees at Bargain Prices this Year

I set a speed record for picking our family Yule Tree this year. I started at Cole's Phoenix display at the State Farmers' Market in Raleigh. I'm originally from Lansing, Michigan, which started my attachment to Cole's years ago. Maybe this isn't quite rational, since they are from Lansing North Carolina. But Cole's often has terrific trees, so I always start there.

This year, the first tree I saw was a contender and the second tree was the winner! I had the tree trimmed and in the truck in less than 10 minutes, topped with a fresh wreath. Total cost: only $65. The tree is about 8 feet tall and 7 feet wide towards the bottom. It's very full and fresh, drinking water like an athlete.

I had lived in Raleigh for decades before realizing that the Farmers' Market had such a fantastic selection of trees at such terrific prices. You can find tiny trees, huge trees, very symmetrical trees, and trees with rough spots that you can face towards the wall, all at good prices. I've paid $85 or more for an equivalent tree at single-vendor lots near the State Fairground, back when I had a high-tech job and lots of moola.

This week I checked out the prices and selections at other Raleigh tree lots. Here's what I found:
  • Best price: $30 for 6-7' trees at the Food Lion
  • Next-best price for somewhat taller and fuller trees: $50 at Whole Foods
  • Good selection and good cause: the Optimist Club offers a good mix of trees on Blue Ridge Road between Rex Hospital and the Olde Raleigh Village Shopping Center. I would have paid about $90 there for a similar tree/wreath combo, but would have gotten a $5-off coupon for next year and would have been helping a good cause.
But I still like to go to the State Farmers' Market. Look at this greeting!

All the trees at all the lots I visited were from North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association:
North Carolina has 1,600 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser fir Christmas trees growing on over 25,000 acres. Fraser Fir trees represent over 90% of all species grown in North Carolina. The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested.
The artificial vs. real tree debate heats up every Christmas. Many artificial tree fans cite being able to use the same tree for decades. But as trees age, they may become dangerous, according to a study by EPA and other researchers:
Artificial Christmas trees made of PVC also degrade under normal conditions. About 50 million U.S. households have artificial Christmas trees, of which about 20 million are at least 9 years old, the point at which dangerous lead exposures can occur.

Happy and safe holidays to you all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Q&A: Dairy-free recipes?

Q from K.:
I recently had a babe and find that she does not tolerate dairy AT ALL. and my bigger kids dont take kindly to it either. You have recipes that dont require dairy but many of the desserts and sauces include it. Do you have alternatives to dairy that work well in these recipes? Oh and that are not soy alternatives? If you do i would love to see them featured. It seems like so many of the budget food ideas include or are heavy on the dairy group.

A from Linda: Thanks so much for your kind words and enthusiasm! We are actually cutting down on dairy in our household and I'm looking for non-dairy desserts, so you will see more recipes that work for your family in the coming months. The cheese-sauce recipe was actually just a response to the canned-soup casseroles of Thanksgiving.

Here are some recipes you might enjoy:
Lemon-Walnut Sauce
just the sauce for Potato-Peanut Curry
Bean-Broth Gravy made with corn oil
Oooo, Mama! Gravy

Applesauce with Raisins
Minted Cantaloupe Sorbet (not in season now, alas!)

And I'll put non-dairy desserts on the front burner for January. I haven't tested any recipes with almond milk or other nut milks, but many cooks say they work fine. I used to use soy milk before we gave up soy. We often have plain fruit for dessert, but I'm sure you've already thought of that.

Does anyone out there have good non-dairy dessert suggestions suitable for vegans or people who can't tolerate milk?