The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has launched a series of Twitter feeds that will provide state-specific, food safety alerts to consumers. Followers of these Twitter accounts will receive alerts about recalls of meat, poultry and processed egg products in their state, as well as information on how to protect the safety of their food during severe weather events.
“These new Twitter feeds provide yet another mechanism for us to provide consumers with critical updates and relevant information they need to protect their families from foodborne illness,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “The immediacy of information-sharing through social media is unparalleled, and we believe these timely, targeted updates will better protect public health.”
For more information on creating a Twitter account and accessing these feeds, go to VT_FSISAlert. To set up a Twitter account, visit twitter.com.
By Phyl Newbeck
In general, Vermonters are making use of 3SquaresVT, the state affiliate of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In fact, more than 90 percent of eligible Vermonters receive assistance. However, only 30 percent of eligible seniors are taking part in the program, but the folks at Hunger Free Vermont are trying to improve on those numbers.
3SquaresVT Advocate Faye Conte said eligibility for the program has expanded and, due to the recession, more people are signing up so use is at an all-time high, with over 95,000 Vermonters participating. However, numbers for seniors are still quite low, either due to lack of knowledge of the program or pride. “Seniors tend to see the program as something they don’t deserve,” she said. “We do a lot of messaging to convince them that they’ve been paying taxes and contributing to society and this is no different from collecting Social Security.”
Conte explained that 3SquaresVT is an entitlement program rather than one dependent on block grants, so funds will not run out and seniors needn’t feel they are taking benefits away from younger recipients. Conte believes many seniors don’t participate because they have too much pride to request assistance until they have hit rock bottom.
But Conte said the program has changed greatly over the years. In the past, when it was known as the Food Stamps program, recipients had to pay in order to get benefits. During the Reagan era, there was also a stigma to receiving benefits so those old stereotypes need to be overcome. “We do a lot of messaging,” Conte said “and try to dispel myths and keep people informed.”
3SquaresVT has worked with the Vermont Department of Children and Families and several area agencies to simplify the application process for seniors. The current application form, which covers several programs including fuel assistance and Medicare, is 32 pages long. A simplified, 9-page application has been created that covers 3SquaresVT and is designed solely for seniors and people with disabilities who are living on a fixed income in a one or two-person household. 3SquaresVT is a need-based program with eligibility determined by gross monthly income. The minimum benefit is $16 a month, but nine out of 10 households receive more than $50, and the average benefit for a single person over the age of 60 is $150.
3SquaresVT has partnered with the United Way and Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA) to launch a new pilot program involving senior peer-to-peer outreach called Eat Well, Age Well. Senior volunteers are recruited and trained to provide support for other seniors with the application process. Eat Well, Age Well is based on a similar program in Maine which was highly successful. “The big message,” said Conte, “is proper nutrition will help you age well and stay in your home.”
Conte oversees the program with volunteers from RSVP (a non-profit organization which matches volunteers, age 55 and over, with meaningful work at other non-profits, schools, libraries, hospitals and towns), the United Way and CVAA. Outreach started in April. Initially, the program will be limited to Chittenden County, but the hope is that it can be expanded. By having a large number of peer volunteers, the program will be able to reach smaller groups of seniors like those in book clubs or bingo nights. Since the application process involves a phone or personal interview and requests for documentation, peers can ensure seniors follow through with all the pieces.
Tamsen Goldfield of Burlington is one of the three Leadership Volunteers working with the peer to peer program. Goldfield tried several volunteer opportunities through the United Way before settling on working for Hunger Free Vermont. “I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I’m so excited to be part of the leadership of people working peer-on-peer with elderly folks who might be suffering from food insecurity.”
Goldstein and her fellow Leadership Volunteers have been mapping out a strategy to reach as many seniors as possible, creating a vast spreadsheet showing various community groups ranging from church choirs to Zumba classes. Goldstein’s interest in the program isn’t abstract. She lives in a low income senior housing facility and is part of the 3SquaresVT program. “When I stand up at the senior center,” she said “I’m one of them.”
Another group involved in trying to alleviate hunger among Vermont seniors is the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA). NOFA assists farmers’ markets in installing Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machines which allow seniors to use their 3SquaresVT benefits for fresh produce. Conte said fruits and vegetables are often the first things low income seniors talk about adding to their diets when they begin to receive benefits. By shopping at farmers’ markets, they are able to get these nutritional products seasonally at low cost.
Additionally, in 2011 there were 925 seniors enrolled in a special Farm Share program that NOFA and the Agency of Human Services (AHS) oversee. The program is designed for those living in senior housing, and outreach is provided by volunteers at those sites. The program’s budget is limited by federal funding, so no additional seniors can be accommodated at this time. “We’ve heard lots of positive comments from participants and farmers,” said Mary Woodruff of AHS. “The farmers feel more connected to their community and enjoy providing food to people who really need it.”
Conte is hopeful the peer-to-peer program will convince more Vermont seniors to sign up for 3SquaresVT. “By connecting with peers who they relate to, my hope is Vermont seniors won’t feel alone in needing some extra money for groceries, and will feel more comfortable and confident applying for 3SquaresVT,” she said. “Eat Well, Age Well has the potential to not only empower our older volunteers, but also empower all seniors to receive the assistance they deserve and help Vermonters stay healthy and independent.”
By Daphne Oz
Week two of my time on the Whole Living 21-day cleanse is wrapping up, and I am 8 pounds lighter, with eyes whiter and skin clearer, energy renewed through better sleep and purer food for fuel, and a positively outrageous permanent smile plastered to my face that is part sinful pride at having stuck with it this long (a record for me!) and part uncontrollable giddiness at how much better I feel.
You never quite appreciate the fact that the foods we eat, aside from largely determining our outward appearance, also directly impact hormone output, the brain’s chemical response and our genes turning on and off (the study of this phenomenon is called epigenetics, and it is fascinating) until you sample for yourself the complete change from when you are eating out of convenience to when your body is running on premium fuel.
Now, even though I feel wonderful and fully intend to pull parts of this program into my permanent eating habits — I think reducing dairy, meat and processed sugar/wheat consumption would be a good move for everyone looking to avoid unnecessary allergens and potentially toxic additives — I admittedly am looking forward to not being “on” anything.
I know it is a health-supportive cleanse, but being “on” a specific eating plan always conjures bad memories of all the horrible fad diets I tried when attempting (unsuccessfully) to lose weight as a teenager before I wrote “The Dorm Room Diet.”
I finally was able to lose the weight, but only when I dropped all the restrictive eating regimens and turned instead to a healthy lifestyle plan of my own creation, which, at its core, is all about putting food in perspective and making sure that “we the eaters” are always in control. To maintain this power balance, I would prefer just to take the excellent health cues this cleanse provides and incorporate them into my daily routine without there being some big to-do in which I have to be aware of the foods I am “not permitted” to have.
But for undoing bad habits — especially the ones I adopted during the holidays that have completely warped my previously good grasp on how much is too much of a good thing — and proving to myself that I have the willpower and strength to course-correct, I find that a proper, full-blown cleanse is the best solution, even if it means living by rules for a little bit.
And seeing as we’re on the subject of rules: Sometimes we have to be our own parents. Your mother or father probably forced you to eat broccoli over and over before your taste buds finally acquired a taste for it, but as an adult, you are now in the position to dictate what your taste buds will learn to love.
Yes, our tastes are learned! True, we are hard-wired biologically to crave sugar, salt and fat because these things in the wild signal great sources of nutrition that our ancestors needed to survive. But the sweetness that comes from a juicy pear is nowhere near the overload your tongue experiences when you sip a soda or eat a candy bar. It’s all about perspective and about weaning yourself away from the hyper-stimulation and appreciating instead the natural spectrum of flavors that are perfect 95 percent of the time. (What you choose to go crazy with the other 5 percent of the time is between you and that box of glazed doughnut holes.)
When I decided to embark on this journey — and it truly is a journey to break old habits, because your own nature will fight against you — it was not because I had any major health concerns, thank goodness. It was not even for weight loss, though this is often an added benefit of reimagining your daily diet to include more whole foods and fewer things that come out of a package. Instead, this three-week cleanse was meant to retrain my taste buds out of their learned addiction to too much processed sugar and flour and, ultimately, to get back to a place where the rules are thrown off and I am back in control. — CNS
By Daphne Oz
Have you ever considered going vegetarian? Whether out of concern for the horrible animal injustices that occur every day on factory farms, knowledge about the pollution these enterprises create or concern over the manifold health issues that might arise from eating a diet loaded with meat from animals that have been raised on genetically modified feed and loaded up with antibiotics and growth hormones to combat their unsanitary living conditions, many of us have wanted to take a closer look at the prime role of meat in our daily diets.
It used to be that meat was reserved for a special occasion meal, because the average person could not afford its cost on a regular basis. Only the very wealthy could eat meat regularly; unsurprisingly, the lifestyle-related diseases we see so commonly today — such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease — were isolated to the privileged classes until recently, when, thanks to astronomical farm subsidies, (low-quality) meat became ubiquitous and cheap.
Unfortunately, the implied price of meat mysteriously has not shrunk, despite streamlined mechanization of agribusiness. Rather, it has been transferred into hidden and delayed costs. The true cost of meat is hidden in the form of farm subsidies, which are simply our tax dollars being channeled to pay for the fees of raising the animals. More viscerally, the cost is delayed as more of us find our way to operating tables courtesy of the high levels of saturated fat found in animal products, which clog our arteries and weigh on our scales. The rising cost of health care could be averted if we chose to spend proportionately more of our money on preserving health through good eating and exercise than on the “health care” we need to pay for once we are ill.
That said, I appreciate that meat is a crucial component of some of our favorite meals. My thought is that if we could revert to enjoying meat as a treat rather than as a dietary staple, we could afford to purchase organic, farm-raised product that not only has been minimally processed, is free of unnecessary additives and is rich in all the nutrients that humanely raised, pasture-grazed animals provide but also allows us to support local business. For that reason, I’m a huge proponent of the “Meatless Monday” movement and its emphasis not on deprivation, but on consciousness, when it comes to preparing our daily meals, with an eye toward really appreciating and moderating our consumption of meat.
Now, if you are considering the vegetarian route — and, as someone who eats a mostly plant-based diet, my experience has been that my body responds with increased energy, more efficient digestion and a clearer complexion to the rich fuels of vital fruits, veggies and grains — here are a few tips to help you get started:
• Start gradually. There’s no rush to go cold turkey, so start by making vegetarian meal choices one or two days a week. You’ll be amazed at how many delicious vegetarian recipes let you have the full flavor of meals you love without the added fat, calories and cost of meat — and they’re often much easier to prepare because you rarely have to worry about cooking temperatures, etc., to ensure food safety. I love Eating Well magazine’s website (http://www.eatingwell.com). It’s a great source of healthy recipes.
• Get your calcium, iron and B vitamins. Vegetarians — and vegans, especially — can run the risk of being B vitamin-deficient because the primary source of this essential nutrient — a powerful booster of energy and the immune system — is red meat. Because I don’t eat much red meat, I get a B complex and B-12 shot once a month to keep my levels stable. That might sound a bit extreme, and you can just as easily supplement with nutritional yeast (you can get this on Amazon.com, and it is one of my all-time favorite supplements; I add it to everything from salad dressings to popcorn) and a good multivitamin or B complex vitamin. (Please consult with your doctor before beginning any supplement plan.)
• Don’t worry about protein. There are tons of vegetarian sources of protein — beans, legumes, greens — to make sure you are getting adequate levels, but you should be aware that some studies have linked high levels of protein with increased risk of cancer. We really don’t need nearly as much protein as we’ve been told. (Many advertising dollars have been spent trying to scare you into over-purchasing meat products.) Women need about 45 grams per day, and men need about 55 grams per day; a cup of tofu has nearly 20 grams of protein, just to put this in perspective. For some more in-depth information on this topic, check out the following movies: “Food Inc.,” “Eating” and “Forks Over Knives.”
• Long live good fats! Though you’ll be cutting down on unhealthy, saturated animal fats as you include less and less meat in your diet, you will want to consider adding back some delicious, health-promoting omega fats. Omega fats are essential for human health, and our body cannot produce them, so we have to get them in our foods. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are great sources for pescatarians, but there are plenty of vegetarian sources, too, such as nuts and olive oil. If you’ve been watching ABC’s “The Chew,” you probably know by now that I am a huge proponent of coconut oil; I replace butter with it all the time — on my toast, in baked goods, for sauteing. I even use a separate jar of the same stuff to take off my makeup at night! It’s a wonderful source of the healthy omega fats that are so important for keeping hair, skin and nails moisturized and joints lubricated and promoting healthy brain function and preventing heart disease. Not to mention, healthy fats in our diet help us feel full for longer.
So go ahead and dip a toe in! Who knows, you might love it. — CNS
Most of us don’t think about where our food comes from as we’re taking a nice bite into it…but that is changing and local restaurants, and the food producers they partner with, are making that change happen.
On Oct. 13 at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, eight Burlington-area restaurants created food using locally-sourced food ingredients provided by over 35 Vermont food producers. The restaurants were vying for the title of Grand Food Miles Champion and/or any one of three other titles which included: Lowest Food Miles, People’s Choice, and Judges’ Choice. What is a food mile? A food mile is a phrase to describe the distance a food travels to get to one’s plate.
More than 180 guests enjoyed servings from each restaurant and helped to decide the People’s Choice award. They also tasted four varieties of wine from Boyden Valley Winery.
Awards winners included:
• Lowest Food Miles: Barkeaters – Creating a dish using local ingredients that traveled the least distance, Barkeaters dish was Bloomin’ Beet and Carrot Latkes with Apple Relish. The food producers included Bloomfield Farm, Charlotte; Nitty Gritty Grains, Charlotte; Philo Farm, Charlotte and Shelburne Orchards, Shelburne.
• People’s Choice: American Flatbread – Creating a dish deemed the best overall by ECHO guests, American Flatbread’s dish was Cider Braised Lamb with Butternut Squash Puree and Spiced Apple Chutney. The food producers included Shelburne Farms, Shelburne; Shelburne Orchard, Shelburne; Stony Loam Farm, Charlotte.
• Judges’ Choice: Skinny Pancake – Creating a dish deemed the best overall by the celebrity judges, Skinny Pancake’s dish was Steak and Potatoes. The food producers included Arethusa Farm, Burlington Intervale; Charlotte Berry Farm, Charlotte; Jericho Settlers’ Farm, Jericho; Personal Garden, Burlington.
• The Judges’ Choice was determined by the votes of four celebrity judges: Alice Leavitt, food writer, Seven Days newspaper; Sally Pollack, Burlington Free Press Food writer; Sarah Langan, core faculty member, New England Culinary Institute; and Cheryl Herrick, food blogger from crankycakes.com.
• Grand Food Miles Champion: Sugarsnap – Creating the best overall dish with the least food miles, determined by a combination of overall points in the three categories, Sugarsnap’s dish was Roasted Garlic Soup with Cheddar Tuile. The food producers included Bread and Butter Farm, So. Burlington; City Chicks, Burlington Intervale; Full Moon Farms, Hinesburg; Samara Farm, Burlington Intervale; Shelburne Farms, Shelburne; Sugarsnap Farm, Burlington Intervale; Windstone Farm, Williston.
Other participating restaurants included August First, Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Leunig’s Bistro and Sweetwaters.
When asked about the quality of the food prepared by area chefs, judge Cheryl Herrick commented, “The variety of what was prepared was amazing and the level of excellence was motivational.”
Another judge, Alice Leavitt, was pleasantly surprised by some of the ingredients used. “I saw chefs using products that I didn’t even know we had in Vermont. And the use of the common Sumac to create a caramel in a dessert was amazing.”
“We couldn’t be happier with the turnout and the quality of offerings at this year’s event,” said Molly Loomis, ECHO’s Director of Education. “This event created the opportunity to learn, build relationships and show creativity with fresh Vermont food ingredients.
Vermonters flocking to sources of their favorite foodsBy Adam White
Farming and tourism are two defining characteristics of the Green Mountain State. More than one quarter of Vermont’s land is devoted to agricultural purposes, and tourists make an estimated 14.3 million trips to the state each year and contribute over $1.5 billion to its economy.
Those two trends have combined to spawn an entire industry that is booming in Vermont: agri-tourism. The New England Agricultural Statistics Service reported in 2002 that one-third of Vermont farms benefitted from agri-tourism to the tune of more than $19.5 million, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 census indicated that the number of farms nearly doubled over the preceding five-year period.
But while the latter half of the agri-tourism label suggests out-of-state visitors getting their first real taste of the state’s signature maple syrup and cheddar cheese, Vermonters are making an increasing number of those farm visits. The mainstream popularity of the “localvore” movement has consumers more interested than ever in how their food is made, and where it comes from.
That journey to discovery is the business of Chris Howell, who is in his third season operating Vermont Farm Tours out of Winooski. Howell has found success connecting customers with not only the locations where their food originates, but also the people whose hard work and craftsmanship helps turn raw materials into local culinary delights.
“Eating real food, with the person who made it on the soil where it comes from, you have a totally unique experience,” Howell said. “You develop a story around the food that you eat, and it makes you appreciate it more.”
Food tours can also enhance people’s understanding about the difference between local products – which may cost more at markets – and less expensive, but potentially lower-quality alternatives delivered from elsewhere.
“I used to go to places like City Market and look at the cost of Vermont produce and think, ‘why would you pay so much extra for that?’” said Jay Garrett of Burlington, who said he has visited a number of Vermont farms since moving here from New York state. “But it is important to support local farmers, and you’re reducing the need to truck in more food from out of state – and the more you eat [local food], the more you realize how it’s so much better, and worth it.
“Eat an apple from who-knows-where, then eat an apple from Vermont. It doesn’t even taste like the same fruit.”
While he admits that much of his business comes from out-of-state visitors, Howell said that one of his events in particular attracts many Vermont residents: the Heart of the Islands Bike Tour. Participants choose between 10, 25 and 37-mile routes, along which they can visit a variety of farms and vineyards situated among the Champlain Islands.
“The Bike Tour draws mostly people from Chittenden County and across the lake in nearby New York,” Howell said. “A lot of older, retired folks enjoy it, too. It’s self-paced, not a race; you get to stop between five and 15 times along the way; when you come back, you get a massage and a wine tasting. It’s pretty relaxed.”
Riders can get their localvore fix along the way by stopping at the Champlain Islands Farmers Market, where homegrown foods ranging from preserves and produce to baked goods are available for sale. They can wash all that down with one of Snow Farm Vineyard’s signature wines, such as its estate Vidal Blanc – which won a gold medal at the 2011 Taster’s Guild International Wine Competition.
“People get excited tasting wine here because it’s very personal,” said Harrison Lebowitz, proprietor at Snow Farm Vineyard. “The staff can spend time talking with you, they know what they’re doing and they believe in it.”
Part of the localvore allure is knowledge about the practices with which food is grown and produced, particularly when it comes to organic fertilizers and pesticides vs. chemical ones. But Vermonters’ interest in the source of local foods isn’t just about how green it is.
A growing number of food tour participants are looking to educate themselves about the processes, so that they can replicate them on smaller scales on their own property.
“They want to learn something they can take home with them,” Howell said. “People who might be interested in starting their own vineyard or hobby cheese-making operation can come to a farm and experience the process not through a workshop or book, but by seeing people actually do it.”
Garrett said he has picked local farmers’ brains for ways to improve his own garden, which he jokingly called “an overgrown weed patch.” When asked if he has ever shared samples of his homegrown produce with fellow Vermont growers, he laughed.
“I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself,” he said.
Others aren’t so shy. Lebowitz said that many aspiring local winemakers bring samples of their products to Snow Farm, and are more than willing to share their experiences with the craft.
“Some people will talk about their home setups for as long as you’ll let them, and we try to listen for as long as we can,” Lebowitz said. “People have brought in all kinds of homemade wines for us to try, including things like dandelion wine and rhubarb wine.”
Lebowitz said that support from fellow Vermonters for his company has been “great,” though he wishes that restaurants in the state would embrace local wines more. He said that while professional wine writers typically make a point of sampling local wines when exploring a place, too many Vermont eateries have turned their noses up at local vintners.
“You constantly see restaurants saying, ‘come try our localvore menu – and our California wine list,’” Lebowitz said.
But otherwise, Vermont is one of the leading states in taking pride in its local food makers and exploring their operations and practices; in fact, it has grown to become a significant part of the state’s identity.
“Vermont has the image of being at the forefront of both the localvore and agricultural tourism movements,” said Greg Gerdel, chief of research and operations for the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.
The intersection of those two movements is a place where agri-tour guides are thrilled to be bringing people.
“It’s a part of connecting with the place that you live, and it’s something that stays with you for a long time,” Howell said.
“To eat is a necessity,” noted Francois de la Rochefoucauld. “To eat intelligently is an art.”
The 17th-century French author’s observation may be more relevant than ever in an age marked by fast food, chemical ingredients, stress and lack of knowledge about healthy choices.
People grappling with various concerns — diabetes, weight gain, acid reflux, gall bladder problems, gluten allergies — are often unsure where to turn. Primary care physicians generally have had little or no training in nutrition; most medical schools fail to offer such courses.
“The reality of requiring substantive course work in nutrition for doctors — we’re not there yet,” acknowledges Amy Nickerson, director of the Master of Science in Dietetics Program at the University of Vermont.
Luckily, a wealth of registered, certified dietitians can offer guidance.
As a former head of the nutrition program at the state’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, Nickerson is particularly aware of how seniors are faring. “We do know from studies that older adults don’t eat enough, especially enough fruits, vegetables and dairy, or get enough physical activity,” Nickerson says, adding that strength training and tai chi are excellent ways for people to incorporate movement into their daily routines.
On matters of food, she advocates learning more about essential nourishment to understand the options. For one thing, every Area Agency on Aging in Vermont contracts with a dietitian who might do home visits, phone consultations or nutrition workshops.
These experts can dispense numerous little tips. Nickerson points out the importance of foods with Vitamin B12, for example, which doesn’t absorb well in seniors who need it for cognition. Vitamin D and calcium are crucial for strong bones. “This is a field I’m still able to get fired up about,” she acknowledges.
The same probably can be said of Laura Biron, a dietitian who practices in Stowe and at the Adams Center for Mind and Body in South Burlington. “My focus is people struggling with food because of eating disorders, weight management or digestive issues,” she explains. Input from primary care physicians or specialists is sought because “it’s important to have a medical diagnosis, sometimes even just to rule things out. Of course, I have more time to talk with patients than doctors do during our 60 to 90-minute initial visits.”
Biron looks at “dietary patterns, weight history, a snapshot of the patient’s lifestyle so I can start to put the pieces together.”
One of those pieces tends to be sleep disturbances. “If people are not feeling refreshed, their hormones may be off-balance,” Biron says. “The hormone gherlin is responsible for hunger and it goes up in your system if you’re not getting enough rest. And leptin is another hormone to think about since it signals that we feel satisfied after eating. Sleep apnea, which is common in older folks, may contribute to being overweight.”
Menopause, according to Biron, frequently affects sleep patterns and thereby can lead to consuming more calories. “The cause is not necessarily menopause itself,” she contends.
The basics, in her view, include making sure to fuel the body throughout the day, never skip meals “which may set us up to eat more or larger portions later. Also, we can mistake thirst for hunger. This exacerbates overeating. Plus, medications are likely to increase thirst. So stay well hydrated.”
Reflux is largely related to eating too close to bedtime, Biron says. Otherwise, different people have individual reactions to certain foods. “I do a complete dietary recall with my patients.”
Biron recommends a balanced diet, “with as close to whole foods as possible,” 80 percent of the time, but that it’s OK to indulge in other edibles “just for taste” the other 20 percent.”
In terms of packaged foods, look for a short list of ingredients and avoid things on the list if you don’t know what they are.”
Another way to go is “the plate method,” which involves filling one-half of a platter with non-starchy vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with protein (meat, poultry, seeds, nuts, tofu) and one-quarter with grains or veggies that have starch (peas, corn, winter squash).
Biron admits that the process isn’t always easy. “I tell patients to keep a food log to get an objective, non-judgmental look at what and how much they’ve eaten each day. Over 50, we have ingrained habits that may be hard to change. But taking small, sustainable steps is a great way to start.”
An Alternative Approach
Those seeking an alternative approach might appreciate the ideas espoused by Ann Ramsay, a dietician and registered nurse who offers Chinese acupuncture and medicine, massage and nutritional counseling in Essex Junction. “There is no blanket advice,” she says. “You must eat what’s appropriate for your age, for your level of activity and for your location.”
With this philosophy, the body’s internal mechanisms can become too cold or too hot, requiring procedures and foods that warm or cool. Ramsay cites a patient in her late 20s, an ex-athlete who had cut back on exercise, begun experiencing painful menstrual cycles and gained weight. “The painful periods meant there was cold in her uterus, which is close to the digestive system.”
Over six weeks, the woman apparently improved after starting to exercise more, eat better, drink warming teas like ginger and ingest an herbal formula that the Chinese call “warm the middle burner.”
Ramsay, whose husband is a doctor specializing in palliative care, taught at UVM’s nursing department — her courses included an introduction to Chinese medicine — for ten years. “People may come to me for acupuncture but you can’t leave food out of the health equation. First, I do a dietary assessment and decide how that fits into the entire treatment plan. The advice is specific to their situation: It’s different for 60 or 70-year-olds than for a 20-year-old; the tropics versus Vermont; what type of work they do. All those factors are important. I tell anyone who wants to lose weight that there is acupuncture geared to cravings and addictions.
In working with some elderly patients, she often uses a Japanese abdominal massage technique called ampuku that improves digestion: “It’s the hands-on part of nutritional counseling. Muscles are part of the digestive system in Chinese medicine. If I had my way, every nursing home in Vermont would have at least one massage therapist.”
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ, just beneath the liver, that aids in the digestion of fat, such as cholesterol. Painful gallstones form when that substance becomes concentrated in the gall bladder.
Among a range of dietary solutions for this condition, beet greens are at the top of the heap in the opinion of Dr. William Warnock, at the Champlain Center for Natural Medicine in Shelburne. The naturopathic practitioner’s recommendation is quoted on a web site (www.mothernature.com/l/Natures-Medicines/Gallstones_1676.html) that covers the topic.
Soybeans, wheat germ and apple cider vinegar also qualify as respected treatment possibilities. Lecithin — particularly in granule form — cannot break up an existing gallstone, but has proved effective in preventing the formation of new ones.
Reportedly, one in 33 Americans is allergic to gluten, a protein primarily found in wheat, rye and barley. The resulting Celiac Disease is an immune reaction in the small intestines and an inability to absorb nutrients that can lead to severe vitamin deficiencies. There’s no cure but, in recent years, a plethora of ways to avoid the culprit:
• The King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich produces gluten-free bread, pancake, muffin, bread and pizza crust mixes that replace wheat with tapioca and potato. www.kingarthurflour.com or (800) 827-6836.
• The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury concocts gluten-free beer with sorghum instead of barley. www.alchemistbeer.com or 244-4120.
• The Woodchuck Cidery in Middlebury brews hard cider from apples rather than ingredients with gluten. www.woodchuck.com or 388-0700.
Against the Grain Gourmet in Brattleboro turns out gluten-free artisan baguettes, rolls, bagels and pizzas. www.againstthegraingourmet.com or 258-3838.
Many grocery stores now offer gluten free food sections including Natural Provisions in Williston and Healthy Living in South Burlington.
“Older people may have limited transportation and more social isolation, see changes in their senses of smell and taste — appetite killers. So eating well can fall by the wayside,” says Robin Edelman, a dietician who is the administrator of the diabetic program at the Vermont Department of Health in Burlington.
She mentions some staggering statistics: “About 50,000 Vermonters of all ages have diabetes, though only 31,000 of them know it. So one-quarter to one-third don’t realize they have this chronic disease. But 130,000 adults in the state have pre-diabetes conditions. Diet and exercise to lose five to ten percent of a person’s current body weight is the best way to prevent or at least delay the onset.”
For diabetes and a host of other “complex chronic diseases,” Edelman urges people to avoid empty calories and pick foods without fat, especially saturated and trans fats, and find a support system to help make behavioral changes that will manage the problem.
Community services are available, she says, adding that Fletcher Allen Health Care maintains The Diet Line (847-3438) at no cost. “You get a recorded message, give your name and phone number, and a dietician will call you back.”
In addition, the health department has a web site (www.heathvermont.gov) with an A to Z menu. Under the letter E, click on Eat for Health and see an array of subjects, such as Meals for a Week. Similarly, under D, the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program link contains a bonanza of information.
At www.eatrightvt.org, an online service of the Vermont Dietetic Association, there’s much food for thought to explore, such as Quick Guide to Healthy Living, Fruits and Vegetables: More Matters, Online Checkups and Watch Your Weight. Contact a Dietician enumerates the state’s many nutritional counselors on a county-by-county basis.
In days of yore, “we never thought we were getting diseases from what was missing in our food,” Edelman suggests. “Nutrition is a relatively new science.”
And, to borrow a 460-year-old concept from Francois de la Rochefoucauld, a timeless art.
Laura Biron: www.theadamscenter.com/staff/biron.html or 859-1577
Ann Ramsay: www.vtacupuncture.net or 879-1515
California avocados are in season spring through fall, and to celebrate the new crop, the California Avocado Commission asked several chefs to create recipes using avocados. One of those chefs is Trey Foshee, of George’s at the Cove in La Jolla.
Chef Foshee’s creation is a rich avocado cheesecake with a hint of lemon.
CALIFORNIA AVOCADO CHEESECAKE WITH TOMATO-VANILLA JAM
14 ounces cream cheese
2 large, ripe California avocados, peeled and seeded
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Graham cracker crust (recipe follows)
Tomato-vanilla jam (recipe follows)
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. With a paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese over medium-high speed until smooth, approximately three minutes.
Add the avocado, sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
Mix in the lemon zest, and pour filling onto Graham Cracker Crust, then smooth top with an offset spatula.
Place on top of a baking sheet, and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes or until set. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Garnish with tomato-vanilla jam to serve.
GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon butter, to grease pan
Combine crumbs and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
Melt the butter over medium heat, and mix into crumb mixture with a spoon until well combined.
With the remaining butter, grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Cut out a parchment paper circle to fill in the bottom of the pan.
Pour the crumbs into the pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan with your fingers.
Bake at 300 degrees for five minutes to set the crust, then cool to room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, split
4 cups red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
In a small pot, combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean, and simmer until sugar is melted.
Add the tomatoes, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
Strain the mixture, and reserve the tomatoes in a small bowl.
Return the syrup back to the pot. Place pot over medium heat, and reduce by half, approximately 10 minutes. Pour over the tomatoes and chill completely until ready to serve.
Per Serving: Calories, 410; total fat, 26 g (sat 13g, trans 0g, poly 2g, mono 9g); cholesterol, 130 mg; sodium, 240 mg; total carbohydrates, 45 g; dietary fiber, 4 g; protein, 6 g.
Recipe courtesy of Trey Foshee. –CNS
The knife. Yes, it’s mankind’s oldest tool. Yes, they’re everywhere, at every price, and every home chef has a dozen or more in various drawers and countertop holders. But when the recipe calls for turning the onion from a purple ball to fine dice for homemade mango and habenero salsa, that’s when it gets personal.
That’s when you might wish you had Katherine Emmenegger at your side. From her kitchen at Great News, Chef Emmenegger shared her wealth of knowledge about knife skills.
If I’m buying one knife for general kitchen use, which one is best?
Buying a quality knife can be a daunting task; Chef Emmenegger recommends either an 8-inch Santoku or 8-inch chef’s knife. She says, “Six-inch models are good for some things but will be too short for daily use, and most people don’t have the skills or cutting board space to take advantage of a 10-inch knife.” She recommends: “Look for one that has a good balance between blade and handle, fits comfortably in your hand and feels solid. The fit of a good knife should feel like you’re slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes.”
Once I have the right knife, am I ready?
Home cooks might think so, but Emmenegger disagrees. The knife is only half the equation, she says; the proper cutting board is key to safety and success, “Stay away from anything hard like glass, granite or marble,” says Emmenegger. “Wood and composite (plastic-like surface) are good, but bamboo is awesome — and it has the important anti-bacterial qualities.” In spending time with the chef, it’s apparent that one additional item is a must-have: Her ubiquitous kitchen towel is as much a fixture as her blade and board.
• Wash your knives separately — don’t toss them in a sink full of water with pots, pans and dishes.
• Keep them out of the dishwasher. “It’s not good for the knife or the dishwasher.”
• Hone your European-style knives (chef’s knives) frequently, but Emmenegger warns, “Don’t hone Asian-style knives; they’re not designed for that”
• “Sharpen all knives regularly,” she recommends.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Emmenegger’s “black list”; the five most common knife mistakes:
• Knives that are not sharp. “A sharp knife is safest.”
• The knife or cutting board is too big or too small for the job.
• Knives stored incorrectly. Says Emmenegger, “Don’t just toss them into a drawer filled with knives; that destroys them.”
• Using the sharp part of the blade when pushing cut food out of the way on the cutting board can dull the knife. Instead, she advises, “turn the knife over and use the top edge for that.”
• Walking around the kitchen with a knife out in front of you. Emmenegger says “if you have to move around with a knife, keep it at your side with the blade facing behind you.”
CREATING LONG RECTANGULAR CUTS
Baton: 1_2-inch by 3 inches
Batonnet: 1_4-inch by 3 inches and often used for potatoes
Julienne: 1_8 inch by 3 inches, used for veggies like carrots, celery, leeks, peppers. There is an urban legend that this was named after Julia Childs, but the practice has been in existence since the 1700s.
Fine julienne: (smallest cut) 1_16-inch by 3 inches
Large dice: 3_4-inch cubed
Medium dice: 1_2-inch cubed (starting with Baton)
Small dice: 1_4-inch cubed (starting with Batonnet)
Brunoise: 1_8-inch cubed (starting with julienne)
Fine Brunoise: 1_16-inch cubed (starting with fine julienne)
TIPS AND TRICKS
• Always cut peppers and tomatoes with skin side down — this will prevent the knife from slipping on the hard skin.
• When cutting fruits and vegetables, always slice off the bottom, creating a base so they won’t roll.
• Never try to catch a falling knife.
• Utilizing a simple pair of kitchen shears is often a better choice than a knife.
Many diners have become “obsessed” with Souplantation’s Asian Ginger Broth. Similar recipes found on the Internet don’t compare. The folks at Souplantation offer the lowdown.
SOUPLANTATION’S ASIAN GINGER BROTH
4 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups cold water
14 cups water
6 tablespoons vegetarian base
Yields approximately 1 gallon
Combine ginger, garlic and oil in a large pot and saute for 5 minutes. Add cornstarch and 2 cups cold water to pot and whisk to dissolve.
Add rest of water and vegetarian base to pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with any combination of the following items: sliced green onions, shredded carrots, chopped spinach, sliced mushrooms, wonton strips, cubed tofu.