Excellent Eggs – or are they?

eggsHow do you like your eggs? Fried, scrambled, boiled, poached? Have you ever stopped to think about where your eggs come from and how long they take to get to you – are they the product of chickens who never know the simple joy of scratching in the soil for a juicy worm or pecking at a blade of grass?  We humans like to close our eyes to these facts because if we dwell on them – who is going to eat another egg?

There are more than 280 million egg laying hens in the U.S. confined in battery cages — small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses. In accordance with the USDA’s recommendation to give each hen four inches of ‘feeder space,’ hens are commonly packed four to a cage measuring just 16 inches wide. In this tiny space, the birds cannot stretch their wings or legs, and they cannot fulfill normal behavioral patterns or social needs. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions.

The comparison between conventional battery-raised eggs and free ranges eggs is stunning. Mother Earth News had free ranges eggs tested to see what their nutrient levels are and compared the results to the official USDA data for commercial eggs.

The results varied from farm to farm, but the average free range egg results showed:

  • 1⁄3 less cholesterol
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • 21 times more omega-3 fatty acid

Keep in mind that these eggs were from hens that Mother Earth News considers legitimately free range. They spend all or most of their lives outdoors, roosting in trees if they choose. This is not what is usually meant by free range eggs in supermarkets. Usually, those eggs are from chickens that can hardly be distinguished from battery-raised ones.

The requirements for the free range label are laughable, with only limited access to the outdoors—and that does not mean pasture—and often nearly as crowded as those labeled battery-raised. As often as not, the outdoors that supermarket “free range” birds see has no grass, but only concrete under their feet, and no real space to roam.  Don’t be fooled by the egg industry’s double-speak definitions of what organic and free-range really is. True free-range eggs are from hens that walk about freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

The good news here is that you can still depend on your small, local farmer to produce some of the best food on earth.

 

Amazing Lemons

lemonI recently received an email expounding the healing powers of the lowly lemon. Being skeptical by nature I decided to do a bit of research. Some of the claims which moved into the realms of curing cancer were unsubstantiated; however there were a large number of factual ways this sour little fruit can be used to enhance our health and well being.
The fruit juice contains mainly sugars and fruit acids, which are made mainly of citric acid. Lemon peel consists of two layers: the outermost layer (“zest”), which contains essential oils (6 percent) that are composed mainly of limonene (90 percent) and citral (5 percent), plus a small amount of cintronellal, alphaterpineol, linayl, and geranyl acetate. The inner layer contains no essential oil but instead houses a variety of bitter flavones glycosides and coumarin derivatives. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C. In addition, they are a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, folic acid, flavonoids, and the important phytochemical limonene.

Lemons are alkalizing for the body: Lemons are acidic to begin with but they are alkaline forming on body fluids helping to restore balance to the body’s pH.
Lemons are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids that work against infections like colds and flues.
Your liver loves lemons: The lemon is a wonderful stimulant to the liver and is a dissolvent of uric acid and other poisons, as it liquefies the bile. Fresh lemon juice added to a large glass of water in the morning is a great liver detoxifier.
Cleans your bowels: Lemons increase peristalsis in the bowels helping to create a bowel movement thus eliminating waste and bonus to help with being regularity. Add the juice of one lemon to warm water and drink – after you drink your two to three cups of Water First Thing in the Morning .
The citric acid in lemon juice helps to dissolve gallstones, calcium deposits, and kidney stones.
Vitamin C in lemons helps to neutralize free radicals linked to aging and most types of disease.

How can you use the whole lemon without waste? Simple. place the washed lemon in the freezer section of your refrigerator. Once the lemon is frozen, get your grater, and shred the whole lemon (no need to peel it) and sprinkle it on top of your foods.
Sprinkle it to your vegetable salad, ice cream, soup, cereals, noodles, spaghetti sauce, rice, sushi, fish dishes, whisky, wine…. the list is endless. All of the foods will unexpectedly have a wonderful taste, something that you may have never tasted before. Most likely, you only think of lemon juice and vitamin C. Not anymore. Now that you’ve learned this lemon secret, you can use lemon even in instant cup noodles.
What’s the major advantage of using the whole lemon other than preventing waste and adding new taste to your dishes? Well, you see lemon peels contain as much as 5 to 10 times more vitamins than the lemon juice itself. And yes, that’s what you’ve been wasting. But from now on, by following this simple procedure of freezing the whole lemon, then grating it on top of your dishes, you can consume all of those nutrients and get even healthier. It’s also good that lemon peels are health rejuvenators in eradicating toxic elements in the body.
So place your washed lemon in your freezer, and then grate it on your meal every day. It is a key to make your foods tastier and you get to live healthier and longer! That’s the lemon secret! Better late than never, right? The surprising benefits of lemon!

By Hazel Bacigalupo

Breaking Bread

breadOver the years, I have noticed an evolving theme in my personal journey with food. And it started, as with so many of us, the first time I realized that the farm fresh natural label held no truth, and that the reality was stranger than fiction. Food companies are constantly taking short cuts to bulk up food and save a few pennies, pennies! Or finding ways to produce something in shorter time and save on production costs. And as a result, we are eating things we should not be eating, prepared in a way that is less than ideal, and our food makes us feel unwell instead of nourished.

As a result of this enlightenment, my personal journey progressed as follows: disbelief, horror, anger, and now, paranoia. So here’s where I am at: feeling hostile towards my food. The more I read, the more I know, the more overwhelmed and frustrated I am, and it is not just about labels. Milk is an inflammatory, bread contains gluten (read: evil incarnate), sugar is really a dangerously addictive gateway drug, and red meat causes cancer.  WTF!?!  As a society, I don’t think there has ever been as much controversy and drastic intentional diet overhauls as we are seeing today as we scramble over elimination diets, pre-historic diets, GI diets, and more, to combat what has been done to our food, and try to resolve the resulting health issues. I know a large number of people who, like me, struggle to reconcile brand names we have been loyal to and products we love, with a complex range of options that never seem to be ideal: pastured butter vs organic butter vs local butter vs soy free margarine, OR local eggs vs organic eggs vs not organic but pastured eggs vs free range eggs with omega’s . . . the list goes on. Don’t you find it stressful? Grocery shopping has become an experience riddled with guilt, disappointment, disillusion, frustration and deer-in-the-headlights paralysis over which eggs are the best eggs.

And then I watched Cooked, starring Michael Pollan. Several friends had made the recommendation that I watch it with such passion, I was intrigued enough to put aside my semi-subconscious avoidance of all scary food films, and settle in with Netflix. I loved it. It was not laden with information, no scientists were interviewed, and for the first time in a while, there was no evil food villain. Instead, what Michael Pollan did with this series was celebrate food and our relationship with it. It was refreshing. It was inspiring. It gave me a new level of awareness, and moved me one more step along my food journey path towards reconciliation.

I have a greater awareness of my emotional relationship with food; I no longer want to have those anxiety filled internal debates in the supermarket. I no longer want to feel suspicious, or scared to death of the very thing that is supposed to sustain life. My position on what I choose to avoid has not changed, but my appreciation for what’s good, and wholesome, and nourishing has deepened. Food is beautiful, it is glorious, it nourishes, and it brings people together. When food is made properly, it is a celebration. And when we approach our food with reverence, it becomes something sacred. And therein lays my recent epiphany.

I also understand now, that 99% of our problem as a modern society is that food and the act of eating has been cheapened. And it is has nothing to do with the cost of it. Eating has become something we have to get out of the way so that we can get back to work, watch TV, get to soccer practice . . . we eat at our desks, we eat in our car, we eat while we walk, we eat while we are busy, we eat mindlessly – it’s consumerism in its purest form. And it is about priorities I’m afraid. If mealtimes were a time to slow down, connect, and nourish, if mealtimes were sacred, we would not tolerate anyone messing with it. If culturally, we cherished family recipes, and stopped to savor our food seasoned with conversation, we would immediately notice the difference between a decent nourishing meal, and some of the additives, fillers, and preservatives being passed off as food, and we wouldn’t tolerate that either.

My most personal takeaway is that preparing food and sharing it with someone else is an act of love, humility, and respect. I’m definitely inspired to spend more time in the kitchen making beautiful food, and nothing about that statement leaves me feeling anxious or paranoid. It feels healthy. It feels good.

By Pamela Denholm

The Versatile Lettuce

lettuceNow that summer is upon us all the warming foods like soups and stews are the last thing we want to eat.  Summer means outdoor fun and usually activities include swimming or lazing on a beach which brings weight watching to the forefront.  We are suddenly conscious of those pounds we packed on during the winter and which were hidden under layers of warm clothing.  So let’s turn our thoughts to light eating and of course the first food one thinks of is salad.  I thought that it would be interesting to talk about the basis of most salads – the lettuce.  Lettuce (of all types) is the second most popular fresh vegetable in the United States behind #1 the potato. The average American eats approximately 30 pounds of lettuce each year, which is five times what was eaten in 1900.

The lettuce has a very interesting history.  The ancient Greeks believed that lettuce induced sleep, so they served it at the end of the meal. The Romans continued the custom. However, the dictatorial Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) served it at the beginning of his feasts, so he could torture his guests by forcing them to stay awake in the presence of the Emperor.  In fact the Emperor Caesar Augustus believed lettuce cured him of an illness and erected a statue in its honor.  And no, Caesar salad was not named after the great emperor but was created by Caesar Cardini (1986-1956), an Italian Mexican chef and hotel owner.  Cardini is credited with having created “Caesar’s salad” which became fashionable among Hollywood and other celebrities, especially after he had moved his restaurant a few blocks to the hotel built c. 1929 (nowadays called Hotel Caesar’s). Another interesting fact is that lettuce is a member of the Sunflower family.  The lettuce that we see today, actually started out as a weed around the Mediterranean basin. Served in dishes for more than 4500 years, lettuce has certainly made its mark in history with tomb painting in Egypt and identification of different types of lettuces by various Greek scholars. Christopher Columbus introduced lettuce to the new world and from there lettuce in the United States began cultivating.

Lettuce contains the sedative lactucarium which relaxes the nerves without impairing digestion. As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green. For example, romaine or watercress have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce. By varying the greens in your salads, you can enhance the nutritional content as well as vary the tastes and textures.

Lettuce is a vegetable that is pretty much immune to any form of preservation. You can’t freeze it, can it, dry it, or pickle it.

There are 4 main types of lettuce:

BUTTERHEAD (includes Boston and Bibb) – Loose heads, grassy green leaves, butter texture, mild flavor. Good examples are Boston lettuce, which looks like a blooming rose,   and Bibb lettuce that has a small cup-shaped appearance.

CRISPHEAD – The least nutritious of the salad greens, this pale green lettuce takes on the cabbage appearance with its leaves more tightly packed together.  An example is the Iceberg lettuce.  It is known for the crispy texture and very mild flavor

LOOSELEAF – This variety doesn’t grow to form lettuce heads, but is instead the leaves are joined at the stem. Good examples of this variety include: oak leaf, red leaf, and green leaf.

ROMAINE OR COS – This lettuce has gained tremendous popularity in the past decade as the key ingredient in Caesar salads. It has a loaf-like shape with darker outer leaves. It’s strong taste and crispy texture has been favored by those who like Iceberg lettuce.

“Lettuce is like conversation: It must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.” C.D. Warner, 19th century

By Hazel Bacigalupo