Monday, February 22, 2010

There's a saying that you can either choose to pay your farmers now, or your doctors later. Who would you rather pay?

Obesity: Agriculture's Ultimate Externality?
by Greg Plotkin

Published February 17, 2010 @ 01:01AM PT

When strolling through the aisles of the grocery store, most consumers have no idea that they are paying a far greater price for their Coca-Cola and Doritos than what their check-out total may lead them to believe.

These hidden and often unanticipated costs -- known as externalities in economic terms -- are not reflected in a product's purchase price but are instead passed along in the form of environmental impacts or health care costs that someone else must eventually pay.

Perhaps more than any other business sector, the agriculture industry has become an expert at making cheap food and externalizing its costs. For example, the widespread development of coastal "dead zones," is an external cost associated with the over-application of fertilizers and pesticides. These dead zones haven't made our food -- agriculture's end product -- any more expensive, but they have destroyed fisheries all over the world and cost many fishermen their livelihoods.

So while many Americans get to enjoy an endless supply of cheap calories, these may end up resulting in the greatest -- and ultimately, most expensive -- agricultural externality of them all: obesity.

The most recent estimates predict that if Americans continue to grow at their current rate, obesity will cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $350 billion a year, consuming an astonishing 21% of the country's total health care spending.

We can either continue to pass the true cost of our unhealthy diets onto our future selves, or we can begin to realize that paying a little bit more for healthy food now is the best way to cut down on the health care costs we pay later in life.

There's a saying that you can either choose to pay your farmers now, or your doctors later. Who would you rather pay?

Friday, February 19, 2010

I want to be a farmer when I grow up

MNN.COM > Food > Farms & Gardens
Photographer captures the essence of an organic learning farm in Florida
Thanks to Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Jake Stangel spent two weeks working with his hands, tilling some land — and taking some amazing photographs.
By Good MagazineFri, Feb 19 2010 at 2:25 PM EST

ON THE FARM: Bringing sheep to pasture, early morning. (Photo: Jake Stangel)
In an effort to escape the hustle and bustle of his urban life, photographer Jake Stangel contacted Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF, as it's more commonly known, links volunteers with organic farmers to "promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices." WWOOF connected Stangel with a couple who operate an organic farm in Central Florida, where he spent two weeks learning how to work with his hands and till some land.

"I had this desire to leave the urban environment, to ditch the computer and the phone" says Stangel, who lives in Portland, Ore. "I got to work a handful of other people — to use my hands and power tools — on this beautiful farm in the middle of nowhere."

He may have left the computer at home, but he brought his camera with him, and he documented his work with remarkable imagery. What follows is a selection from Jake Stangel's "Florida Farming."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Going Greek for the Super Bowl

Louis Pappas Famous Greek Salad - My version

Potato Salad

6 boiling potatoes

4 whole green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup whole green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar Salt to taste

Greek Salad

1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce

1 head of Romaine lettuce

3 cups potato salad

4 small ripe tomatoes cut into 8 wedges each

1 cucumber, peeled and cut lengthwise into i inch strips

6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1/2 jar pickled beet slices

12 Greek olives

six hardboiled eggs, quartered

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 TBS Oregano


Make potato salad: Cook unpeeled potatoes in unsalted water until tender, about 20 minutes; cool until you can handle them. Peel potatoes; cut into chunks in large bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar and salt; add chopped green onions; toss. In small bowl combine parsley, sliced green onions, mayonnaise and salt; add to potatoes, mix well.

Chop the lettuce and put it in a large (very large) bowl with the tomatoes, cucumber, eggs and feta cheese. Mound potato salad in center.
Arrange the beets and the olives on top of the salad.

Mix the oil, vinegar and oregano in a jar and shake to emulsify.

Serve as dressing over the salad.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup

I went out to dinner with Ryan last night to a nice little Italian place called Patsy’s. Since both of us are trying to lose weight, and knowing we were going out, we abstained from eating for the entire day until he got out of work – around 8:30 pm. So naturally by that point we were ready to start eating unnecessary body parts. We ate an incredible amount of food: fresh bread, bruschetta with tomatoes, lemon juice and basil, mozzarella sticks – those were the appetizers – and for the entrĂ©e I got tortellini carbonara with prosciutto and onions, and Ryan got ravioli with meatballs. There was, unfortunately, no room for dessert. Believe me, though, we tried to find some.

Anyhow, so I woke up today still feeling uncomfortably full, not to mention rather guilty for so egregiously disregarding my diet, and decided to make something light to eat in the middle of the day. After taking a short one-person poll, I elected to make roasted tomato & pepper soup. I scanned a few recipes and none looked good, so what follows is more of less an amalgam of a bunch of recipes I read over and discarded. I was feeling incredibly lazy today so I used mostly canned ingredients, except for the hot peppers (the grocery store didn’t have any of my favorite chipotle peppers in adobo sauce). I’m sure this soup would be even better with fresh red peppers and tomatoes.

Roasted Tomato & Pepper Soup

2 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

2 15-oz cans roasted red peppers

6 oz. chile peppers (optional, but I like heat)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 medium sweet onions

4 cups milk

½ can evaporated milk, about ¾ cup

¼ cup flour

1 tablespoon vegetable soup base

Ground pepper, salt to taste

Preheat the oven to around 450 degrees. Slice the onions, de-seed the chile peppers and drain the tomatoes and canned peppers, but reserve the liquid – it’s all going in the soup. Line three baking sheets with aluminum foil and rub each with a teaspoon of the olive oil, and put the tomatoes, onions and peppers in their own trays. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon or two of garlic, and a little salt and pepper. Put them in the oven to roast for about 20–30 minutes at the preheated temperature, and then turn on the broiler until everything is black on top, probably another ten minutes. Make sure you check frequently while the broiler is on; things in my oven can go from pleasantly charred one second to totally inedible before I can turn around, so watch out. Take the trays out and let them cool.

Put the tomatoes, peppers and onions in a thick soup pot. Don’t scrape off any of the charred bits – they add a lot of flavor to the soup, even if they aren’t pretty. Add the reserved liquid from the cans and stir in the tomato paste. Using a hand blender or a conventional one, puree everything until very smooth. Set aside.

In a sauce pan, add the other tablespoon of olive oil and heat it on medium for a couple minutes until it’s bubbling, then add the flour and make a roux. Then add the milk and vegetable soup base and simmer for about ten minutes, whisking constantly so everything incorporates. When it has thickened nicely, take it off the stove and add it to the pureed tomatoes and peppers. Blend it again until has an even consistency, then put it back on the stove. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes until it’s nice and hot, adding the evaporated milk toward the end for a creamier texture.

I served this with grilled cheese sandwiches and it was exactly what I was in the mood for. For the nutritionally minded, this recipe makes around 10 two-cup servings, and according to my diet software, it has 180 calories, about 5g fat, 28g carbs, 4g fiber and 9g protein per serving. (I used 2% milk and fat-free evaporated milk in the soup.)

[This sentence is a place-holder. My camera's batteries were dead so I couldn't take a picture, but one will go here the next time I re-heat some of the soup.]