Want Healthy Kids? Cut Soda, Not Food Stamps

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Last week Raj Patel wrote – intelligently, of course, as he does – that passing the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill must not come down to a choice between feeding children and feeding families. A current version of the bill that has been passed by the Senate plans to fund an improved (healthier) school meal program in part by cutting $2 billion in funding for SNAP –the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program otherwise known as food stamps.

Food stamps, of course, are often the last line of defense for Americans that don’t have consistent access to sufficiently nutritious food (according to the USDA there were over 50 million of them, including more than 17 million children, in 2009). Patel argues that the Government should expand both SNAP and school meal programs, and that robbing a family’s dinner to pay for a child’s lunch is deeply misguided economic and social policy:

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Posted in Food Politics

Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms

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By Freya Bellin

Polenta can be really fun to work with because of its versatility. You could serve it as a grain with stir-fried vegetables, under an egg, or even as a savory breakfast cereal (think grits). Or, as in the recipe below, there’s also the option to cool it and pan fry or bake it to get more of a solid “cake”. For this recipe, make sure in step 1 to cook down all of the liquid. By the time the polenta comes out of the pot, it should be very thick like a dough and almost resist being spread into a pan. If it’s at all runny, it won’t cool and set properly.

Polenta and mushrooms make a great pair in this dish, both in terms of flavor and texture. Mushrooms get a little chewy when cooked, which is great against the crispy polenta cakes. This mushroom recipe in particular is a great one to have in your back pocket— it’s fast and flavorful and could be served as a vegetable side dish or even inside an omelet with goat cheese. The thyme, garlic, and wine all work beautifully together to make an earthy, very garlicky dish. While this dish involves some forethought because of the cooling process, it requires little active time and comes together easily. If you end up with scraps from cutting up the cooled polenta, you can bake those up too and eat them like fries with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Turkey Curry

Still have leftover turkey in the fridge? How about turkey curry?

Posted in American, Indian

Some Thanksgiving Advice: Chill Out

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The following story ran in The Times’s Week in Review just before last Thanksgiving; I think it’s worth running here.

But first, another word. There has been a lot of talk, and a lot of press, about Thanksgivings that are “healthy,” or “sustainable,” or “vegetarian,” or all three. Leonard Lopate asked me questions about this during our chat on the Intrepid last night (which drew 1000+ people, a nice benefit for WNYC).

I think all of this misses the point somewhat. The idea – I believe – is to focus on the big picture. Are our diets sustainable in the long run? Are we eating wisely, intelligently, consistently? Because if we are, one meal, one day cannot possibly matter. Why would you want to do a “healthy” Thanksgiving if your normal routine was not consistent with that? Why, in fact, would you want to worry about anything on Thanksgiving other than putting a lovely meal on the table? This is a once-a-year day. If your diet is moving, has moved, in the right direction, Thanksgiving will follow; if it isn’t, or hasn’t, this is not the day to single out to make changes. Make the changes gradually, and let Thanksgiving take care of itself.

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Posted in American

More Cheese, Please. Wait! That’s Enough!!!

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When I was a kid we used to get pizza with extra cheese; I get it. Cheese is gooey and fun; against the sauce, it’s very very nice.

Of course that was real mozzarella, not flown in from Naples but at least made in Little Italy.

Now we have this, two awful pizza chains putting as much cheese (and bacon, why not) as can possibly fit on their pizzas. The cheeses – in Papa John’s case mozzarella, “parmesan,” romano, asiago, provolone, and “Fontina” – no doubt are indistinguishable from each other. (The quotes because those two cheeses, at least, are DOC in Italy and there is really only one Parmesan, made in Parma, and one Fontina, made in the Val d’Aosta, and everything else is a shabby imitation.) They’re made god knows where and how, but no doubt at least half of them would qualify as “pasteurized processed cheese food.”

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Posted in Food Politics

Quinoa Tabbouleh

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By Freya Bellin

This take on tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern classic, is quite versatile. While herbs still remain the star of the show here, the recipe includes a variety of less traditional ingredients (olives, beans, nuts). During the colder seasons, you could try replacing the tomatoes with a variety of roasted root vegetables, like sweet potatoes or parsnips, or roasted squash. Anything roasted will add a nice smoky flavor too. As mentioned below, pretty much any leftover or vegetable will work.

Quinoa is a great substitute for the traditional bulgur; being very high in protein, it makes this salad a bit more filling. The lemon juice and scallions add a nice brightness. Since the herbs really are the main ingredient, try to get them as fresh as possible. The more fragrant, the better. I filled a pita with Quinoa Tabbouleh, hummus, roasted eggplant, and caramelized onions to make it a meal.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes

Mock Lattice Pie

How’s this for an easy Thanksgiving dessert? (Use apples or pears instead of berries.)

Posted in Baking

Hummus

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Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Time: 15 minutes with precooked chickpeas

The Middle Eastern classic has become daily fare for many Americans, whether as a dip or a sandwich spread. Make it as garlicky, lemony, or spicy as you like (try it with smoked pimentón or Aleppo or other mild Middle Eastern pepper); I love it with lots of lemon juice.

If you’re serving it as a dip, you may need to add more bean-cooking liquid, water, olive oil, or lemon juice to thin it. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes