Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Farm Egg vs. Organic Egg

The pastured chicken egg is on the left
while the commercial organic egg is on the right.
Choosing to buy organic eggs is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to enter into the world of organics.  And dollar-for-dollar, the nutritional difference between a conventional and organic egg is huge.

But going one step further and buying eggs from a farmer who pastures chickens may be even better.

Consider this,  a study conducted by Mother Earth News found the following benefits of eating from pastured hens rather than those from commercial producers:

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

When we don't have easy access to farm eggs from pastured hens, we choose organic.  While pastured chickens dine on insects, commercial organic eggs come from chickens fed an organic grain-based diet. While organic grain-based chicken feed is not the ideal diet, it is still better than a conventional egg.  Think of eggs using this scale:

  • Best:  farm egg from a pastured chicken
  • Better:  organic egg
  • Good:  conventional egg

When I recently cracked open an organic egg and then a pastured egg, the color difference was startling.  A truly pastured egg is deep orange -- bursting with nutritional beta-carotene and goodness that can only be achieved by allowing the chicken to eat its preferred diet.

Check out my picture -- and the video of somebody else who home-tested an organic and farm egg -- and choose orange when you can.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Enjoy Peanuts and Skins

When you're a kid, a trip to Grandpa and Grandma's house usually means some foods you might not always receive at home -- namely candy and nuts.

It was no different for me.  While my grandparents had an array of tree nuts from which to choose, they also had Spanish Peanuts.  I usually passed on the peanuts.  Why?  Because of the skins.  They were dry, flaky and in the way of what I really wanted.

It turns out, the skins on peanuts carry many healthful qualities and shouldn't be so readily discarded.

According to the Peanut Institute, the antioxidant capacity of peanuts exceeds that of red wine or green tea.  With skins intact, peanuts double their antioxidant capacity, exceeding the antioxidant capacity of a widely recognized antioxidant leader -- blueberries.

Some peanut butters are now produced with skins.  If you make your own peanut butter at home (as we do), simply choose peanuts with skins before blending them.

When you enjoy Spanish Peanuts and roasted, in-shell peanuts, know you are doing more for your health.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Happened to the Maple in Cracker Barrel's "100% Pure Natural Syrup"?

I have always loved Cracker Barrel pancakes and they were recognized last month by Consumer Reports Magazine as "being the best".

On my last trip to Cracker Barrel, I ordered the pancakes and an extra syrup as I traditionally do.  Halfway through my pancakes, I reached for the next little bottle of syrup and noticed it read "100% natural syrup" rather than the usual "100% maple syrup".

I quickly turned the bottle around and noticed it is now made of 55% maple syrup and 45% cane syrup.

Their decision to reduce the percentage of maple syrup from 100% to 55% was almost certainly brought about as a cost-cutting measure without having to increase the menu price.  I would have preferred the slight bump in cost over a reduction in quality.

I will note, however, that Cracker Barrel did choose cane syrup over corn syrup and should deserve some credit for that.  Still, it's a bit of a disappointment.

They remain the only larger chain to offer any percentage of real maple syrup and it certainly enhances the overall taste.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is Truly Artisan?

You've probably noticed as I have that products on grocery store shelves have increasingly featured the words "Artisan" this or that.

So what does it mean to have artisan pizza, bread, chocolates, etc.?

There is no guidance or oversight for the use of the word "artisan", so technically a food company could use it on whatever they choose.

A generally accepted description of an artisan product would be one that is handmade (you would probably know the person or at least where the business is located), contains whole unprocessed ingredients,  prepared using traditional methods of cooking/baking, and usually in small quantities.

If the item doesn't fit the generally accepted description above, (and almost all of the grocery store stuff won't), it just isn't an artisan product.

For the real deal, check out local bakeries, farmers markets, and off-the-path restaurants.  You'll know when you've found it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mortar and Pestle -- Old School

Jamie Oliver Mortar and Pestle
Not many modern home kitchens have a mortar and pestle, and if they do, it's more for decoration.

I really like my mortar and pestle and purchased it about a year ago.  My favorite cookbooks are those of Jamie Oliver and he uses a mortar and pestle frequently in his recipes to crush and grind fresh herbs and spices, mix oils and create fresh mayonnaise and pesto.

There are plenty of sources for buying a mortar and pestle, including grocery stores and World Market, but I chose to order the Jamie Oliver brand and have been completely satisfied.

Look for one that holds about a cup or cup and a half -- bigger if you plan to really create a lot of creations.  Find one that is solid (stone) and that has a good amount of weight to keep it steady.
Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker

Jamie's "Flavour Shaker" is a bit more limiting, but can still quickly crush herbs and spices and easily create flavored oils and dressings.  This would be a good option for those who have more limited space, have less ability to use heavy objects, or who want something a bit more modern and basic.

The mortar and pestle or shaker are great ways to grind whole and fresh herbs and spices and really create something nice for your recipe.

The aroma from your creation and old world connection to your food preparation will bring extra pride to your finished dish.

I highly recommend this addition to any kitchen.