The 1st Annual Back to Basis Good Food Festival NYC

If you live in New York and you love food, then mark your calendar, because there is an upcoming event you won’t want to miss.

Benefiting The 30 Project and Just Food, and featuring local farmers and chefs (think The Amazing Real Live Food Company, Dashing Star Farm, Padgett Far,  Gramercy Tavern, Colicchio and Sons, Rouge Tomate, and Minetta Tavern, to name a few), the event is called the Back to Basis Good Food Festival.  The goal is to get all of us to consider what we’re eating, where it comes from (no doubt this week’s massive egg recall helped with that), and how we can choose to “eat locally,” supporting small, regional farms in the process.   From the event website:

ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2010, FROM 11AM TO 4PM IN GANSEVOORT PLAZA, Basis and The Feed Foundation will co-host the first annual BACK TO BASIS™ GOOD FOOD FESTIVAL in celebration of the season’s harvest. By day, the festival will feature traditional, localized, 100% traceable food from 30 family farmers and local top chefs. In the evening, farmers, chefs and a select group of ticket holders will come together for a seasonal, farm-to-table dinner to celebrate good food.

I’ve been following The 30 Project, since coming across a TEDTalk given by Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of The FEED Foundation and FEED Projects, at the TEDxEast conference in May of the year.   In the talk, she explains her shockingly simple, common-sense equation for global malnutrition: “Obesity + Hunger = 1 Global Food Issue.”  The reality is that, worldwide, 1 billion people are hungry and 1 billion people are overweight.  She contends that this issue is the direct result of the changes in the food system over the past 30 years, and it will take the next 30 years to get it back on track, starting now.

If you’ve not already seen the video of Ellen’s talk, I’ve included it below.  It takes ten minutes to watch.  Trust me, it’s worth the time.  And, if you’ll be in New York City on September 19th, buy your tickets and head to the Meatpacking District for what is sure to be a delicious time.

Eat well and do good.


Four is the Magic Number – “Desserts 4 Today”

Last week, I attended the August Book Club, hosted by medabistro’s GalleyCat blog.  Five writers, all accomplished in their respective fields, read from their books.  It was an interesting mix: Jewish Chick Lit, a memoir about the effects of hip-hop culture, a dissection of what Goldman Sachs was really doing heading into the economic meltdown, a fictional tale of 8 women who pass through New York’s famed Four Seasons Hotel, and a dessert cookbook, which is the topic of this post.

"Desserts 4 Today: FLAVORFUL DESSERTS with just FOUR INGREDIENTS"

Abigail Johnson Dodge, or Abby Dodge per her website, is the author of Desserts 4 Today, “four” being the operative word.  As she pointed out in her talk (it’s kind of hard to do a “reading” from a cookbook), there are so many wonderful things associated with the number four: four seasons in the year, four suits in a deck of cards, The Beatles (aka “The Fab Four”), the four-leafed clover … you get the idea.  In her case, “four” represents the number of ingredients in every dessert recipe in the book.  Pretty nifty.

She mentioned a few decidedly easy-to-prepare desserts (a few in the form of a cocktail), some with surprising ingredients like jalapeno peppers and mint.  There are Flourless Chocolate Mousse Bites and Flaky Cinnamon Sugar Crisps and  Minty Melon Sorbet and Individual Blackberry Napoleons.  Should you be missing one of the ingredients or want to jazz the recipe up a bit, she offers “Switch-Ins,” like brown sugar for granulated sugar or graham cracker crumbs for crushed vanilla wafer cookies, and recommendations to “Gussy It Up” and “Change It Up.”

Abby Dodge had a creative marketing idea for the book reading (probably not surprising given that this is her seventh cookbook).  Each attendee received a postcard with a photo of her cookbook cover on the front and the recipe for Nutella Fudge Brownies on the back, as well as a brownie sample, which I ate, of course.  And, I loved it, of course.  (Mind you, I am someone who cannot keep Nutella in the house for fear that I eat the entire jar in one sitting, and who, when visiting her three lovely nieces, who also love Nutella, has resorted to eating their leftover toast crusts to get my fix.)

Desserts 4 Today will be available on Amazon in September.  So get your order in now.  And, to hold you over until the book arrives, I am including the recipe for brownies.

Eat deliciously well.

********

Nutella Fudge Brownies (makes 12)

The 4 ingredients: Nutella spread (1/2 cup); large egg (1); all-purpose flour (5 tablespoons); hazelnuts (chopped, 1/4 cup).

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lina 12-cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners

2.  Put the Nutella and egg in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and well blended.  Add the flour and whisk until blended.

3.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full) and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.

4.  Bake until a toothpick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs, 11 to 12 minutes.  Set on rack to cool completely.  Serve immediately or cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Switch-Ins:  In place of the hazelnuts, switch in one of the following:

* ground cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon, add with the flour)

* peanuts, chopped (1/4 cup)



Possibly the Best Cookie I’ve Ever Eaten

I’ve just discovered what I believe is the best cookie I’ve ever eaten.  The best because it has everything in it, giving it that perfect blend of sweet and salty, that’s, well … heaven.  It’s the Whole Foods Jumble Cookie, freshly-baked and available in the Bakery section of the store.

The Whole Foods Jumble Cookie

What’s in the Jumble Cookie?  Dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, raisins, some mix of almonds, pecans and walnuts, all mixed up with some oats and flour, and the rest of the usual cookie ingredients.  It’s nicely dense, and not too crispy, not too chewy.

No doubt, at some point, I’ll find another cookie to replace the Jumble Cookie as my must-eat delight, but until then I’ll continue to stop in at Whole Foods, under the guise of needing a piece of fish or some fresh vegetables, and one of these delicious treats will find a way into my basket.

Sometimes eating well, means eating things we love.  What’s your favorite?

And, yes, eat well.


An Innovative Massachusetts Program Prescribes Produce for Better Health

Photo: br3akthru / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I came across an enlightening piece, “Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders),” in the Food section of last Thursday’s New York Times. It describes an innovative nutrition program being run in Boston, “in which doctors write vegetable ‘prescriptions‘ to be filled at farmers’ markets.”  Program participants receive coupons to be redeemed at the markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.  The idea is to provide low income families with the means, and the incentive, to try out fresh produce and prepare more meals at home.  The goal?  To show that healthy eating is good preventive medicine.  “Doctors will track participants to determine how the program affects their eating patterns and to monitor health indicators like weight and body mass index.”  The hope is that the families will reduce their consumption of unhealthy, salty and sweet snacks as they increase their consumption of healthy produce.

The clinics administering the project are sponsored by a foundation called Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited (CAVU).  A non-profit, Wholesome Wave, based in Bridgeport, CT, and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture each provided $10,000 in funding.

And, apparently, Massachusetts is not the only state taking the initiative.  “Thirty-six states now have such farmers’ market nutrition programs aimed at women and young children.”  Which is a good thing.  Because the very real cost of what we’re eating goes like this:

Childhood obesity in the United States costs $14.1 billion annually in direct health expenses like prescription drugs and visits to doctors and emergency rooms, according to a recent article on the economics of childhood obesity published in the journal Health Affairs. Treating obesity-related illness in adults costs an estimated $147 billion annually, the article said.

Pay now or pay later.  That’s the choice.  And that does not even factor in the most important outcome of programs like this, the positive impact on quality of life … priceless.

Eat well.


Radical Thinking – Heathly Eating Does Not Have to Cost More

Photo: Christian Cable from Lancaster, WikiMedia Commons

The Huffington Post has a great piece in their Living section, written by Mark Hyman M.D., “Why Quick, Cheap Food Is Actually More Expensive.”  He makes so much sense – as do Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama – I am beginning to think that we’re at a tipping point when it comes what and how we eat.

In the article, Dr. Hyman explains how we’ve ended up with highly-processed food that is so much less expensive than fresh, whole food, namely, massive government subsidies for corn and soy crops.  An abundance of both corn and soy makes the cost of food containing high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats) cheap when compared to the price paid for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, and nuts.  The uses for these crops don’t stop there.  “Corn and soy are also used to feed cattle for the production of meat and dairy.”

In addition to the food we choose to eat, how and where we choose to eat it, makes a difference.  We don’t cook nearly as many meals at home as we used to – over 50% of our meals today are eaten out – further exacerbating the problem.

However, what Dr. Hyman argues is that that the price paid at the grocery store is not the real cost to the consumer.  There are hidden costs that, when factored in, make the bag of spinach look like a bargain.  Costs that are associated with the harm we are doing to our bodies (the statistics are alarming) and our planet, not to mention our society, just by the way we eat.   He writes:

This is what you need to remember:

1. The true cost of unhealthy food isn’t just the price tag–in fact, the real costs are hidden.
2. Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more.

Read it.  You might believe it too.

Eat well.


What’s In Season – August

Photo: jchatoff, Flickr

We’re getting into the heart of it, the time of the year when farmers markets are bursting with produce and just about everything is in season.

Vegetables:

Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, summer squash, tomatoes.

Fruits:

Apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.

Recipes:

Summer Squash – I came across a recipe for Sauteed Zucchini on 101 Cookbooks.  I’ve yet to try it, but love that it can be served as a side dish, or with some hearty pasta, like faro, or even as the topping of a frittata.

Corn, Tomatoes – Meanwhile, Smitten Kitchen has posted a fabulous Summer Succotash recipe.

Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries – And the Today Show has a healthy, delicious, minimal-cooking-required dessert, courtesy of Joy Adams, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Boston’s Rialto Restaurant and Bar.  Her Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios is my idea of the perfect summer dessert.  I have included it below.

Eat well!

Greek yogurt with berries, blueberry honey sauce and pistachios

Jody Adams, from her Rialto Restaurant and Bar

Ingredients
  • 1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • Juice of one lime
  • Zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 quart assorted berries, including raspberries, strawberries (halved, quartered, or sliced depending on the size) and blueberries.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
  • 4 mint sprigs for garnish
Preparation

If you do not have thick Greek-style yogurt, start with 2 cups of regular yogurt; put the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl and drain for two hours in the refrigerator. The volume should have reduced to 1 cup, resulting in nice, thick yogurt. Refrigerate. Discard the liquid.

Combine 1/2 pint blueberries and 1/4 cup honey with the rum in a small saucepan and cook eight minutes over medium-low heat, to cook the berries. Puree with the lime juice. Strain to remove skin and seeds. Chill.

Mix the yogurt with 2 tablespoons honey and the lime zest. Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold the cream into the yogurt. Chill.

Toss the berries with the sugar. Mix the berries with the mint.

Put a spoonful of the yogurt cream in each of 4 bowls. Drizzle with blueberry sauce, top with berries and sprinkle with pistachios.

Serving Size

Makes six servings


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