From someone who writes a food blog, this might come as a surprise, but I really hate baking – or baking sweets I should say. Even in December. Even for the holidays. But I sometimes do it because what comes out of the oven is never for me but is always a gift for others, and there is nothing more special than homemade sweets as gifts. So that’s a good enough reason for me to do something I don’t love to do. But if I am going to bake, give me simple with no sacrifice in taste, and I might almost enjoy the whole process.
So what is this winning “low time/high taste” recipe, that is also gluten-free, largely naturally sweetened and takes under 30 minutes from pulling the ingredients to giving them their chocolate bath? Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate. I have no idea where I even got this recipe since I’ve been making it, tweaking it and giving it away for so long.
Egg whites bind the macaroons.
The finished product.
What I also love about them is all the leeway they give you in terms of altering the basic recipe — make them gluten-free by using rice flour (an easy substitute for the wheat flour since there is so little flour used) and add a shot of cinnamon, almond or vanilla to compliment the coconut flavor. The only way you can screw them up is to over-cook them, which will make them dry. But if you do, just dip the whole thing a little deeper in the chocolate and no one will notice the dryness.
Any fave super quick and painless baking recipes or tips to share?
Important Note: Going forward you will (very occasionally I promise!) notice an email from me that will be clearly titled “Sponsored Email”. This means it is from another site I have done a marketing partnership with (or it may be a post written by me but for another site). They will only ever be from a highly vetted food website or brands that I think you would be interested in, but if you’re not interested, then just ignore that particular email. Thanks!
Lemon Bread/cake: A really light, sweet bread that I sometimes make in a tiny loaf pan and give as a holiday gift.
Gingerbread Cookies: A little more time consuming, but says “holidays” like no other
In a biting piece in The New York Times Sunday, investigative reporter Lucy Komisar offers an in-depth look at how the food industry — and its complex web of internal alliances — is taking over school meals. And not in a good way.
Komisar notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture spends about $1 billion annually to send fresh products to schools across the country as part of the $13.3 billion National School Lunch Program. But increasingly, schools are paying high prices for third-party food processors to turn those products into fried and fat-laden items.
Deals between management companies, food processors and food manufacturers complicate the system and exchange more money within the system as schools foot the bill, Komisar finds. The report also details accounting tricks and contractual incentives that make the business all the more lucrative — click through to The New York Times to read the full report and more about motivating factors for both the companies and the schools.
Yesterday in Washington DC, First Lady Michelle Obama gave an inspirational talk to almost 1000 stakeholders in the future of America’s Health. At the first ever meeting of the Partnership for a Healthier America, Obama shared some of her early fears that her initiative to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation would not be successful.
But yesterday she was confident and exuberant as more and more groups have announced their support and definitive actions to tackle the problem. For example, the YMCA, serving 700 thousand children daily across the nation, is planning to switch from juice to water, serving fruits and veggies instead of cookies as snacks, and limiting screen time for young children so they can be more physically active. More info on that in the Y’s press release.
What surprised us in the First Lady’s keynote was the exclusive focus on physical activity as the means to reduce childhood obesity. After a minute or two spent talking about commitments by supermarkets to open up shop in food deserts, and one sentence about sugar and sodium reduction in some products, Mrs. Obama spent the rest of her 30 minutes speaking about making exercise fun, getting kids to play by moving their bodies instead of just their thumbs. While we certainly agree that making exercise and physical activity fun and safe in order to encourage a less sedentary lifestyle, this is NOT THE MAIN ISSUE.
In 60 minutes of physical activity during an organized sport event, a child under 10 years of age exerts about 100 calories. But the intake of calories from a single soft drink or snack cancels out those burnt calories, usually during or right after the event (See more from an angry soccer mom here). What happens the rest of the day, when that child consumes other snacks and nutrition void foods? What about the hundreds of times a day she is bombarded with junk food marketing messages on TV and in online websites for kids?
You have to hand it to Michelle Obama for choosing childhood obesity as her crusade. But it seems that she has realized the limits of her power to change the behavior of companies that manufacture sugary beverages, sugar laden cereals, and other kiddie delights.
It’s much easier to get everyone to rally around MORE of something (in this case exercise) than convincing corporations to forfeit revenue streams by selling LESS junk food.
Until we realize this simple truth, childhood obesity will not disappear.
Apparently, she has given up on encouraging food companies to make healthier products and stop marketing junk foods to kids.
This shift is troubling. Here’s why:
1. The shift is based on faulty biology.
To lose weight, most people have to eat less whether or not they move more. For example, it takes about three miles of walking to compensate for the calories in one 20-ounce soda.
Activity is important for health, but to lose or maintain weight, kids also need to eat less. Sometimes they need to eat much less. And discouraging them from drinking sugary sodas is a good first step in controlling body weight.
But eating and drinking less are very bad for business. Food companies do all they can to oppose this advice.
2. It undercuts healthy eating messages.
On the one hand, Mrs. Obama says that she disagrees with this assumption: “kids don’t like healthy food, so why should we bother trying to feed it to them.”
But her speech implies that kids won’t eat healthfully unless forced to:
I want to emphasize that last point — the importance of really promoting physical activity to our kids…This isn’t forcing them to eat their vegetables. (Laughter.) It’s getting them to go out there and have fun.
3. It declares victory, prematurely.
Mrs. Obama says:
Major food manufacturers are cutting sugar, salt and fat from their products. Restaurants are revamping kids’ menus and loading them with healthier, fresher options. Companies like Walgreens, SuperValu, Walmart, Calhoun’s Grocery are committing to build new stores and to sell fresh food in underserved communities all across this country.
Congress passed historic legislation to provide more nutritious school meals to millions of American children. Our schools are growing gardens all over the place. Cities and towns are opening farmers markets. Congregations are holding summer nutrition programs for their kids. Parents are reading those food labels, and they’re rethinking the meals and the snacks that they serve their kids.
So while we still have a long way to go, we have seen so much good progress. We’ve begun to have an impact on how, and what, our kids are eating every single day. And that is so important. It’s so important.
Really? I’d say we’ve seen promises from food companies but remarkably little action.
Mrs. Obama’s speech fails to mention what I’m guessing is the real reason for the shift: “Move more” is not politically loaded. “Eat less” is.
Everyone loves to promote physical activity. Trying to get the food industry to budge on product formulations and marketing to kids is an uphill battle that confronts intense, highly paid lobbying.
You don’t believe this? Consider recent examples of food industry opposition to anti-obesity efforts:
- Soda companies successfully defeated efforts to impose taxes on soft drinks.
- Food companies successfully defeated efforts by four federal agencies to set voluntary standards for marketing foods to children.
- Food companies successfully lobbied Congress to pass a law forbidding the USDA from setting standards for school meals regarding potatoes, tomato sauce, and whole grains. The result? Pizza tomato sauce now counts as a vegetable serving.
- McDonald’s and Burger King evaded San Francisco’s new rules restricting toys with kids meals by selling the toys separately for ten cents each.
The political cost of fighting the food industry is surely the reason for the change in Mrs. Obama’s rhetoric. Now, she agrees that kids won’t eat vegetables unless forced to.
But in March 2010 Mrs. Obama warned Grocery Manufacturers Association:
We need you…to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering…, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children….This isn’t about finding creative ways to market products as healthy.
The food industry understood those as fighting words. It fought back with weapons at its disposal, one of which is to deflect attention from food by focusing on physical activity. It now has White House endorsement of this deflection.
I’m all for promoting physical activity but the refocusing is a loss, not a win, in the fight against childhood obesity.
Salad in a Jar are great food items to bring in to family picnics…
Illustration by Oliver Munday for BusinessWeek
Should Food Stamp recipients be able to use government funds to buy fast food? Yum Brands, the holding company of KFC and Taco Bell thinks YES!
If this seems totally preposterous to you, well, it’s because it is.
The aid program, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), was instated by the federal government during the depression years of the 1930′s to help solve two issues – feed starving families and help keep farmers in business by paying them a minimum price for their produce. And so the things people could buy with food stamps were fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, dairy, and meat. Here’s some more information on the program.
As the years progressed, and processed foods became the mainstay of the American diet, food stamps were also being used for the purchase of soda pop, snacks, and candy.
Now YUM Brands is trying to get approval for the use of food stamps in its dining establishments in 4 states: Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. SNAP is administered at the state level.
According to BusinessWeek, SNAP aid reached a mind boggling
$64.4 billion in the 2010 fiscal year. “Everybody wants to get a piece of that action,” says Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of nutrition and public health. “Right now it’s going to grocery stores; restaurants think that’s not fair.”
In California, as it turns out, fast food establishments are already able to receive food stamps from individuals who cannot cook from themselves – the homeless who have no kitchen and people with disabilities. So “the foot is in the door” for the fast food industry.
Thankfully, state and federal officials so far have not let the lobbying by YUM get to them. But what if McDonald’s and the rest of the fast food industry join in on the demands?
Repurpose your turkey into this healthy and tasty Thai soup; it can also be made with chicken, fish, or just veggies.
Mini Margarita Cupcakes. Tequila. Lime. Cake. Perfect party treat!
This is a guest blog post by Benzi Ronen, founder & CEO of Farmigo
Anyone interested in the future of agricultural policy in the U.S. has surely been following the progress of the U.S. Farm Bill that is currently making its ways through the halls of Congress. The bill is set to shape U.S. policy on a key industry that touches every corner of daily life. Whether you care about our food system’s impact on human health, its huge impact on our environment, or about the move to a more sustainable system of agriculture, the legislation currently being debated in Washington is set to shape the food on your plate for years to come.
As the debate on the bill has heated up, voices from across the web have addressed what we can expect from the bill, and what this legislation might mean for the future of sustainable agriculture. At the moment, prospects seem mixed for a full and transparent debate about the legislation.
As Tom Laskawy pointed out on a post on Grist, Congress needs to cut billions of dollars from agricultural spending, and yet that doesn’t mean that the flawed subsidy system that supports industrial farms will be reformed in any meaningful way.
“But one thing is certain; negotiators are desperately trying to maintain the annual flow of $18 billion in subsidies to the largest farmers who produce commodity crops like corn, soy, and cotton. And while there will certainly be losers, you can count on the fact that there will also be winners,” Laskawy wrote.
The bill is also being pushed through Congress at an accelerated pace, what Laskawy describes as “warp speed,” casting doubt that Congress is sufficiently addressing how the U.S. can transition to a more sustainable food system. The urgent need for this transition was highlighted in an eye-opening post in the New York Times from Mark Bittman with this startling fact:
“Incredibly, however, we are net importers of fruits and vegetables, foods that our land is capable of growing in abundance and once did. Most of our imports are from Mexico, Chile and Canada, but fresh fruits and especially vegetables are shipped here from all over the world, with significant quantities coming from as far away as India, China and Thailand. And those imports are growing.”
That the U.S., with its rich abundance of arable land, needs to import fruits and vegetables is one of the clearest signs that we need to reorder our food priorities. There are however some signals that leaders in Washington are beginning to take notice of this issue.Agriculture.com noted that recently, a new proposal was laid out that called to “help farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs to access growing local and regional food markets.” While this initiative is an important step, there needs to be a much deeper and open debate about these issues. Please add your name to a petition calling for an open debate on the Farm Bill. Our government representatives need to know that the silent majority wants smart legislation that moves us closer to a more sustainable agricultural future.
Benzi Ronen is the founder of Farmigo. The Farmigo team is on a mission is to make fresh locally grown produce available to all households. Benzi believes software is the missing link to create and alternative food system that connects consumers directly with the growers of their food.