My Weekend In Food

This weekend, my maid of honor came to visit. We did of course do lots of wedding talk, but we also got some good food in while she was here. I don't often do "this is what I ate today" kind of blogs, but this weekend we ate a couple of things that are definitely worthy of such a post. We were lucky enough that the Greek Festival was going on, so, on Saturday, we headed that way for lunch. This event is put on by the local Greek Orthodox Church and let me tell you, it was impressive. It's a 3 day sha-bang and while we were there they told us that they had fed 9,000 people the day before. That's insane! Especially for a 3-day event organized by a relatively small group of people. Leave it to me to be interested in the logistics of a food service operation. Anyways, after 20-30 minutes of waiting in line, we finally got our food and it was delicious!

On the way home, we stopped by the Cast Iron Outlet. Yes, really.

Our breakfast Sunday morning was incredible. I made stuffed french toast as a special treat. Let me tell you, this is one of the most drool-worthy things I've ever made. It's obviously not something you can eat every day, but, if I'm in a splurging mood, I'm not going to waste it on some pre-packaged, mediocre, junk. Plus it has fruit. That makes it healthy, right? :)

My Thoughts On The "Organic Study"

Last week, news broke on a study out of Stanford University comparing organic foods to their conventionally grown counterparts. The main message I heard in the media was something along the lines of "study finds organic food not any healthier than conventional food." Reporters would then go into a few specifics of the study and move on to the next story. I was on the fence on posting about this since I haven't read the full study, but since I've gotten quite a few questions about it in the last week, I thought I could at least discuss some of the details we do know from what has been released in the media. While this may not be the most complete analysis, I do think there are some important points that got brushed over in the media for the sake of a good headline. Here are my top takeaways. 1. What Kind of Study Was It?

Let's start with the basics. We can only interpret the results if we know what kind of results we're working with. This was a meta-analysis of 237 studies comparing conventional and organic food, meaning the researchers compared the results of these studies using statistical methods. While studies such as this are helpful, it is important to know that this was not a study spanning 50 years with thousands of subjects who ate identical diets with one being conventional and the other organic (ideal, but impractical).

2. Nutritional Content is Similar

The study concluded that, on average, organic produce has the same nutrient content as conventional produce. The only exception to this was phosphorus, which was higher in organic produce. Considering this, I do want to point out that shipping produce plays a big role in this area. If you pick an apple from a tree in your back yard and eat it that day, the nutrient content will likely be much higher than an apple grown and shipped across the county, or across the world. Lesson learned, grown your own and hit up the farmer's market.

3. Conventional Produce Has Higher Pesticide Residue

This should come as a no-brainer. One of the major reasons people purchase organic produce is to reduce their exposure to pesticides and other similar chemicals. However, this point been spun in the media to be unimportant with many articles and reports noting that the levels of pesticides found on conventional produce was still far below the levels deemed safe by the FDA. Really? Do they think people buy organic because conventional produce is somehow not adhering to FDA regulations? No! They buy it because they disagree with FDA regulations that say these chemicals are safe in the first place.

4. Conventional Meat Has Higher Levels of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

This makes perfect sense considering animals raised conventionally are pumped with antibiotics to encourage growth (yes, really) and also to fight the infections and diseases that run rampant in the deplorable conditions in which these animals are raised. But what does this really mean? Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a serious issue because, as their name suggests, they cannot be killed with antibiotics. If these kinds of bacteria continue to proliferate, more and more often we will find ourselves with bacterial infections that simply can't be treated.

Overall, the findings of this study (assuming they are valid) largely point to the benefits of organics. Yet, somehow, the media message became "organic food not healthier." Amazing.

What are your thoughts on the organic study? What do you think about the way it was portrayed in the media? Sound off in the comments below. :)

Fruit, A Salad's Best Friend

I love a good salad. Nothing feels better than filling up on a bowl full of different vegetables. However, we all know that not all salads are created equal. Loading up with heavy dressings, croutons, fried items, and other caloric fare can take your salad from virtuous to villainous. For the non-veggie lovers out there, this can be a real problem, making a healthy salad practically unbearable. If you find yourself falling into the salad-hating category, or you just want to take your regular salad to the next level, adding fruit can really make a difference. Some of you may feel a little leery about mixing the sweet with the savory, but I'm here to tell you that it is a killer combination. The sweetness compliments and contrasts with the other flavors and the acid found in many fruits can help balance the fat from the olive oil in your dressing or the avocado you slice on top. Whatever fruit you have on hand is fair game. Strawberries, peaches, apples, nectarines, cherries, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all great options (but not all at once). Basically if you like it, toss it in there. Whole fruit is going to be your best option over dried because you'll be getting the water that comes with whole fruit and you also won't have to worry about the extra sugar that is often added to dried fruits, particularly cranberries. So next time you make a salad, get a little crazy and throw in some chopped apple or fresh berries. You'll be amazed at the difference it can make. What is your favorite fruit to put in your salad? Let me know in the comments below. : )

How To Build a Vegetarian Meal

While I myself am not vegetarian, I am picky about where my meat comes from and I eat vegetarian meals more often than not. With this said, as I see more people switch over to a meat-free lifestyle (whatever their reasons may be), many do not know how to build a meal on this new eating plan. Most often, I see people continue to plan meals that are centered around meat, even though that is exactly what they are giving up. For example, they may eat frozen "chicken" nuggets that are made from plant-based proteins or subsist solely on frozen veggie burgers. These foods are highly processed, often unappetizing, and expensive. I saw this very sort of thing promoted on a recent show on the Cooking Channel. The episode was all about cooking using the Morning Star veggie burgers and the hosts kept talking about getting healthy with a vegetarian diet. I think they were doing exactly the opposite. The key to being meat-free is to think of food in a new way, and get the focus off of meat. The first step is to think of all the foods you are eating, rather than the few that you aren't. Vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products, and eggs are all fair game for vegetarians and can be combined in many different ways to create a delicious meal. Make spiced black beans served over brown rice with grilled veggies and a fruit salsa on the side. Another option is to roast your favorite vegetables in the oven and make them the star. Then  serve with quinoa or over whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce. Think outside of your normal confines and get a little creative. A good place to start is with a vegetarian cookbook. Make sure it's one based on whole real foods and not the franken-foods I mentioned above. Deborah Madison is a great cookbook author as well as Heidi Swanson. Start with their titles, and use them as a jumping off point for your own creativity.

Whether you are vegetarian or not, meatless meals can be a delicious and filling option. Learning to cook this way may take a little practice, but, once you drop the fake meat and embrace the yummy plant foods at your finger tips, you'll see that vegetarian does not have to mean cardboard.

How do you feel about vegetarian cuisine? Like it or hate it, I'm all ears!

Do you have a favorite vegetarian cookbook author?

Let me know in the comments below! : )