Monday, February 22, 2010


The week in Washington, D.C. and New York City was fun-filled. The snow in D.C. didn’t detract us from all we were destined to do. CJ spent time outside in the snow with his great friend, Fred, and my friend, Nina, and I cooked and talked, talked and cooked – a perfect way to spend some relaxing days away. We even got a chance to make sushi with a group of 6th grade boys!

In NYC, we walked and walked. We went to the top of the Rockefeller Center and looked out at the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. We even got our 15 seconds of fame – our picture on a billboard in Times Square!
In both cities, I kept my eyes peeled for how the locals eat. Do New Yorkers and people on “the Hill” eat differently from us here in the SF Bay? At Nina’s, we ate wonderfully, but then Nina is a wonderful cook. Our first morning there, Nina made delicious and light Danish puffy pancakes and filled them with fresh berries! One evening we ate brown rice with sautéed mushrooms, dark leafy greens, grilled tempeh and topped with a marvelous tahini-parsley sauce. It reminded me of a dish I love so much at Café Gratitude in Berkeley that I made it for dinner last night. For dessert one night while watching the Olympics, we had a wonderful apple crisp made from the apples we bought the day before at the local Farmer’s market (see recipe below).

At the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, I was so pleased to see signs up throughout the museum cafeteria, like these above, outlining the need to be conscious of our health and of the health of our environment - our motto!

On Thursday, we were off to New York City where we joined my cousin and her two wonderful boys for 36 hours of fun. You can find anything and everything in NYC. I found two very cool things – street-side produce vendors right next to the hotdog venders and Pret A Manger, a chain deli originating in London (UK) that makes all their food fresh, with no preservatives or additives and posts great signs about eating well, such as the one above (click on the photos to read what it says).

All in all, it appears that Americans on the West Coast and East Coast are becoming more conscious of what and how they eat. Next, maybe a trip to St. Louis or Detroit. What will we find there?

Farmer's Market Apple Crisp by Nina L.
2-3 large Farmer’s Market apples, quartered, cored and sliced thin (the vendor suggested we use a variety of the larger apples for a pie or crisp)
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup whole wheat or spelt flour
½ cup turbinado* or brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter, melted (3/4 stick)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place sliced apples in a bowl with the lemon juice. With your hands, mix thoroughly. Transfer apples to a shallow, round baking dish and evenly distribute.
In a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients. With your hands, mix until everything is evenly incorporated and some clumps form. Spoon mixture evenly onto apples.
Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

*Turbinado sugar is often called “raw sugar.” It is brown in color and has larger crystals than does refined, white sugar. Organic turbinado sugar is made by crushing the freshly-cut sugar cane to squeeze out the juice, rich in, vitamins and minerals. The cane juice is evaporated and spun in a centrifuge, or turbine, to produce the large sparkling golden crystals.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I know you kids don't need to wonder much about the cost of the meals you eat. But your palates are broadening, you are cooking more and cooking well so you should know how much the meals you want to prepare and eat cost. After all, it will not be long before you venture off on your own and then...believe us, you will be eating on a budget. Here are some things to consider when you want to eat healthy yet have limited resources:


If you were to only compare the cost of an organic apple against the cost of a non-organic apple, you would never eat organic. Organic produce costs more than non-organic produce (more on this below). But when making your choices you have to ask a few more questions and make a few more comparisons.


When you must make a choice between buying organic produce and buying non-organic produce, you should consider each fruit and vegetable individually. There are two good ways to choose:
  • The thicker the skin of the fruit (and chances are you will peel the skin before eating), the safer the bet that you will not be eating a lot of the chemical pesticides. Take for instance avocado. You take the skin off an avocado before slicing it on your sandwich or making a spicy guacamole with it, right? The same for mango and banana. You can't eat the skin of those fruits. So if, for reasons of cost, you have to buy some fruits or vegetables that are non-organic, go for those. But peaches, nectarines, strawberries and cherries are all eaten with the skin! Bell peppers are eaten with the skin. You may be able to wash off some of the chemicals but the skin is thin enough to allow the pesticides to penetrate into fruit itself, and you can't do anything about that. For those kinds of fruits and veggies, opt for buying organic.
  • Check out the Environmental Working Group's Website. The EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides provides you with a wonderful, downloadable pocket guide to what fruits and vegetables are "cleanest" and which are the "dirtiest" so that you can shop wisely at the store.

If you live near a farmer’s market, it always makes good money sense to shop there. There are many hidden costs when shopping at the grocery store. Included in the cost of peppers is the cost of the electricity needed to run the store, the cost of paying the checkers and baggers, the cost of the bags used when shopping, and even the cost of paving the store parking lot! There are none of those hidden costs when shopping at a farmer’s market. There, you pay for the produce and the farmer’s eggs. In other words, the money you spend at the farmer’s market is money directly related to the cost of growing that pepper – not on the other stuff unrelated to growing the pepper itself. So, buying organic food at the farmer’s market will be a better deal than buying it at the grocery store.


Buying items in bulk, whether it be nuts, grains, pasta, or beans, is always a smarter money choice. You are not paying for packaging, which ends up in recycling, or worse yet, the trash! And for things like beans, if you soaked them and cooked them yourself, it is pennies for a serving instead of...well...way more than pennies.


In general, Americans eat way too much. We are engaged in portion distortion. Did you ever really look at how big that bag of popcorn is or that soft drink that you are buying at the movie theatre? A family of 4 can easily satisfy themselves with one of those super-sized sodas and yet one person will drink it all during a two-hour movie. Why? Because “for only 25 cents more, you can get the large.” The small is already really huge. The medium is gigantic and the large is actually gargantuan! But what a savings to get the gargantuan one for only 25 cents more! You probably would have saved something like $1.50 if you got the small, which is to say huge, and not been tempted by the sales pitch!

Our portions have increased substantially over the last 50 years. A slice of pizza 20 years ago was 500 calories. Today, a slice of pizza is 850 calories! If you went to the movies 20 years ago, you would have gotten 5 cups of popcorn (270 calories). Today, the popcorn an average American gets at the movies is almost 400 calories more (11 cups)!

If you buy quality food, such as organic produce, grass-fed beef and sustainable fish, and eat less of it, you will be spending no more money than if you ate huge portions of a low-quality meal. And, if you eat fresh fruit instead of a sugar-laden piece of cake or chocolate for dessert (except on special occasions – Michael Pollen includes Saturdays and Sundays in that mix of special times), you will be saving money.


Junk food is junk food whether it is organic or not. As a society, we eat too much junk food. Just because the potatoes in the potato chips you’re begging your mom to buy are organic, doesn’t make them any less potato chips! The same can be said for a lot of other boxed and bagged foods in the middle aisles of the grocery store. If you check out the labels of many of those packaged foods which you think are good for you, you might be surprised! Many of them still contain preservatives, lesser quality oils, trans-fats and too much salt. Next time, buy a whole potato, slice it thin and roast them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper until they are crispy. That will cost a heck of a lot less than your bag of chips. And your house will smell divine!


Unsustainable and conventionally grown foods, many of which travel thousands and thousands of miles to get to us are often consumed at a cost to our health and to the environment. Someone has to pay for the damage done to both – and it will surely be each and every one of us in the long run. If we continue to eat foods laden with chemicals, we have a greater chance of getting sick from them. If we continue to pollute our air as a result of conventional farming methods or the transportation of produce from thousands of miles away, we have a greater chance of getting sick and of sickening our Earth. If we continue to catch fish in a way that is bad for the oceans and causes the extinction of fish, we will eventually need to pay more for all fish. This final point goes to the question of whether we want to pay a little more money now or pay a lot more money later. It's a question we must all chew on carefully.

We'd love to hear from you about how you make your food choices when shopping. Do you consider the cost of food? Do you consider what goes into the price you pay for food? Would you spare no expense when it comes to food but cut your costs on other luxury items, like music or games?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Help! I have Food Neophobia!

FOBBELKNOCKERS! How did you get it? Did you catch it at school? Did you catch it from your little sister who is always crawling around on the kitchen floor? Or maybe your dog passed it on to you - you know how he always eats the food scraps from the dining table?

Well, there is good news! Food neophobia is not catchy and you can actually do something about it. The word "neophobia" (also known as "caitonophobia") comes from the Greek words "neo" meaning "new" and "phobia" meaning "fear." Yeah, you got it - fear of something new! As it relates to food, it is the fear of trying out new food. Or more simply put - a super-picky eater. Not so scary after all, right?

So, we've got to ask, what do you do when you are afraid of trying our something new in ordinary life - say for example - trying out a new summer camp - or joining a new soccer team? Do you just walk away and say, "NOPE, not gonna do it!" Do your parents let you just take a pass and not experience what might be the greatest thing you've ever done?? I doubt it. So why do you do it with food? Well, for starters, we are not born to want food other than sweet food because our mother’s milk was sweet. We must learn to like savory foods. And, scientists think that, for some people, a fear of trying new foods is genetic. Finally, there’s this thing about the texture of food. It might not even be the taste of the food. Some foods are crunchy; other foods are soft or even squishy. How you prepare the food might have a lot to do with whether you might give it a try or not.

Food neophobia is not uncommon. Tons of kids have it. Many overcome it and become great food adventurers. Others stick to what they know and miss out on a world of fantastic stuff - like roasted cauliflower, salmon burgers or mango salsa. When it boils down to healthy eating, not surprisingly, kids who are afraid of eating new things eat less vegetables, fruits and protein - the stuff that makes your mind and body grow and be strong.


Scientists have studied this issue and have found that children who are exposed to a food over and over again (up to 50 times) will eventually eat that food. Here are a few ideas:

(1) PICK UP AND TOUCH NEW FOOD: Ask your mom or dad to take you to the farmer’s market or grocery story. Let your imagination run wild! Choose your favorite color and go find fruits or vegetables in that color that you have never tried before. Pick them up. Touch them. Find out the name of that fruit or vegetable. Maybe even ask your mom or dad to buy it so you can try it out!

(2) SMELL NEW FOOD: Even if you don’t want to eat a vegetable on your plate, pick it up and smell it. What does it smell like? Would it smell different (better) with mustard or butter or cheese or hot sauce? Maybe ask your mom or dad to find a recipe next time that will incorporate some other ingredient you love, like peanut butter or tomatoes (not both)!

(3) LICK NEW FOOD: At least give a new food a chance at you eating it! Sometimes smell is deceiving. Broccoli smells DISGUSTING! But it tastes fabulous. Papaya smells super gross too. But have you ever had papaya with lime juice squeezed on it? It is so delicious and it is one of the best fruits around for tummy problems.

(4) HELP COOK NEW FOOD: Like picking up and touching new food, cooking new food helps familiarize you with it. When your mom brings celery root home for the family dinner, ask her if you can scrub and peel that knotty-looking veg. Notice how sweet it smells (and how much like celery it smells)? Ask her if you can sauté it or cook it in the stock for your soup. What other vegetables might taste good with it? Perhaps you can ask if you can find a recipe on-line for it that interests you?

(5) TASTE AND EAT NEW FOOD: Finally, take a deep breath and give it a go! Everything you do today that is routine was once new to you. That’s the same with food. Food that you will enjoy when you are a teen or an adult will once have been a new food that you might have been afraid to try. So try it out. If you don’t like it this go-around, politely ask your mom or dad if you can “take a pass today.” But don’t close the door on tasting it again next time!

So kick your neophobic habit. Like trying to boogie board or meeting a new person, trying a new food can be scary. But if you don’t try it, you might never know how wonderful it is! And you might never benefit from its amazing nutritional benefits. Take the challenge: If you don't eat the following foods already, ask your mom or dad to put them on your next week's grocery list:

  • cauliflower
  • celery root
  • beets
  • anchovies
  • kiwi
  • plantains
  • coconut milk or coconut water
  • quinoa
  • pumpkin seeds
  • dates
Tell us what you are afraid to eat and what you have done or will do to try and overcome your fear. Maybe we can pass along a tasty recipe for you to try!