Category Archives: Food


Milking It: How Smaller Dairies Are Surviving in a Calcium-Deficient World

eatingwell_august2010.jpgThough I’ve never been a big fan of milk, I felt a twinge of guilt after reading an article titled “The Future of Milk” in the August 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine. In small part because of my (nearly) anti-milk stance but largely because of generational shifts and other economic factors, the local dairy is becoming subtracted from the national nutritional equation.

One major factor, according to the article, is the decline of milk consumption, which has been replaced by the intake of sugary culprits like energy drinks and sodas. Those have also been blamed for obesity epidemics in children and adults, as well. So it’s no wonder that with fewer consumers the small dairy farmer is in a David-vs.-Goliath-like battle against corporate mega-farms, fighting to get his fair price or in some cases to survive–literally.

In just a mere 40 years, more than 400,000 dairy farms in the United States have dried up. What’s left in today’s aftermath seems almost insurmountable, but fortunately for the local farmer and the conscientious consumer, the can-do spirit is still alive.

How did it get this way? The Eating Well article provides amazing insight into what’s behind what goes into that gallon jug we so casually pluck from the dairy case at the grocery store. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The economy has been good–and bad–for the dairy farmer. Since 2009, the recession has significantly slashed processor fees for small dairy farmers, leaving some so overwhelmed that they killed their cows, then themselves. Prior to the economic downturn, a growing milk demand had encouraged dairy farmers to increase production, but that prosperity turned sour when tighter finances forced many families to cut back on milk consumption.

  • The rise of the industrial farm has displaced the local ones. The dairy that once supplied your milk at the supermarket isn’t always a labor of love passed from generation to generation. Just 12 years ago, smaller dairies with fewer than a couple hundred cows provided the majority of the nation’s milk supply. Today, most comes from farms with more than 500 cows and one-fourth from mega-farms with more than 2,000, which has prompted antitrust lawsuits and other measures aimed at protecting a rural way of life.
  • The little guys are finding new ways to survive and thrive. All is not lost for the small dairy farmer, but he has been challenged to get creative to make it. State co-ops and regional initiatives like Rhody Fresh and Keep Local Farms have helped champion the little guys, helping to ensure farmers are paid a fair price while allowing consumers to buy local. As a result, participating dairies are thriving and buyers are willing to pay as much as a dollar more for local brands.

Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine’s Got Something for the Kids Too, Y’all

cookingwithpauladeen_july-august2010.jpgEveryone from celebrity chefs to first lady Michelle Obama is taking up the cause of combating childhood obesity, so it’s no surprise that kids are starting to get more attention in food and cooking magazines.

But don’t expect the content to necessarily push low-fat fare on the little ones. Some just want to get them in the kitchen, like Cooking With Paula Deen magazine, to spur an interest in food or expand growing tastebuds.

The July/August 2010 issue’s six-page spread titled “Winner, Winner Kids Cook Dinner!” is packed with enough recipes to tame the tiniest appetites. But don’t be fooled by the fun names or somewhat kid-friendly fare. These seven recipes are easy enough to hold short attention spans while introducing a few adventurous ingredients–both no doubt concerns for Paula Deen with her young grandson in tow.

Here’s a preview of what’s in store for kids in the latest issue:

  • Slip ‘N’ Sliders: The perfect fit for small hands, these burgers flavored with pickle juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and onion powder get dressed up with bacon and cheese.

  • Chocolate Spotted Flapjacks: Give your little loved ones a sweet start to the day with pancakes kissed with chocolate and topped with confectioners’ sugar.
  • Go-Fish Sticks: Tilapia filets dredged in lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning and bread crumbs leave the store-bought frozen equivalent out in the cold.
  • Fruity Chicken Wings: Apricot-pineapple preserves, lime juice, ginger and garlic add a grown-up taste to a kid favorite.
  • Rock On Rotini: This pizza-like pasta combines pie toppings like onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and pepperoni in a crust-less dish.
  • Roly Poly Stromboli: Grilled chicken, barbecue sauce, cheese and onion make this hot sandwich a pizza-meets-panini experience.
  • Taco Torpedoes: Expand little appetites with tastes from south of the border. This “less mess” taco with onion, garlic, cheese, beef, and black bean and corn salsa is rolled up and baked.

(Farmers’) Market Savvy: Cooking Light and Saveur Magazines Travel Around the World to Your Own Backyard

saveur_junejuly2010.jpgWith National Farmers Market Week upon us and farmers’ markets gearing up to peddle the last of the summer garden bounty, nearly every food and cooking magazine has shared recipes or provided tips over the last couple of months on how to get the freshest tastes and most delicious dishes from the season’s fruits and vegetables.

That’s not a bad thing, but most magazines failed to capture or convey the old-fashioned, earthy mystique of going to market (roadside stand or open-air bazaar, not mega-grocery) or even the importance of using down-the-road produce. Food–from preparation to consumption–is a universal language, the edible tie that binds, which was not lost on recent issues of Cooking Light or Saveur magazines. 

For many restaurants, and families, going green has become going local for food, according to an August 2010 Cooking Light magazine article titled “America’s Summer Bounty.” So the rise in markets–true markets (not just the super ones)–has been attributed to the rising number of conscientious chefs and cost-conscious shoppers, courtesy of the struggling economy. Even in the recession, the USDA says, the number of farmers’ markets nationwide grew by 13 percent.

cookinglight_august2010.jpgThe Cooking Light article put a face on this trend, highlighting five chefs around the country who seek out the best local produce to serve on their tables, as well as their markets of choice. That’s not to say these culinary masters never go the store-bought route, but expect to see their menus flavored by–and change with–what’s in season. Best of all, it’s reassuring to know that the food on your plate could be as local as the restaurant’s ZIP code.

If you’ve wondered whether your local market is any different from those around the world, look to Saveur magazine‘s June/July issue. Following its expectedly well-traveled route, Saveur explored local markets on a global scale from cover to cover.

The “Market Issue” travels to 148 destinations from New England fish markets to the best bazaars in Paris and Asia to the must-sees around the world. Included are everything from the largest in Ethiopia with more than 13,000 vendors to one in Brazil that peddles some of the rarest foods in the world (like 220-pound Amazonian catfish and fresh acai berries).

But wait, there’s more. The 138-page Saveur issue also covers the art of displaying food, 12 memorable market meals, the best market reads and cookbooks among its all-market content. I’m still living vicariously through its articles.

Still, despite the exotic fare or far-away locales, Saveur’s overarching message is that as much as markets are different, they are the same. From Minnesota to Madagascar, markets draw in people who are simply buying food to prepare and eat, which suddenly makes these otherworldly farm stands seem not so distant, but no less fascinating.


Seven Peachy Ways to Celebrate National Peach Month in August

cookinglight_august2010.jpgPeach cobbler, peach pie, peach ice cream. They’re all about as common as apple pie. With the juicy stone fruit hitting its peak in July and August, nearly every food and cooking magazine’s issues for those months included an appropriate recipe. But what most didn’t acknowledge is that August is National Peach Month, so proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 to recognize the economic impact of the fuzzy fruit.

If you love peaches, here are seven unique ways in seven courses to help satisfy your peachy cravings any time of day throughout the month of August.

  1. Dutch Baby Pancake with Sautéed Peaches: Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine‘s August 2010 issue starts the day peachy keen with this pancake dusted with confectioners’ sugar and served with a side of warm peaches cooked in a syrup of sugar, butter and lemon juice. An added bonus? It’s easy enough for the kids to help make too.
  2. Peach and Blackberry Muddle: From the July issue of Everyday Food magazine comes this refreshing concoction of peaches, blackberries, mint, honey and bourbon (if you wish).
  3. Grilled Peach Salsa: Taste of the South magazine‘s June/July issue gives peaches a little kick with cilantro, onion, jalapeno, garlic and fresh lime juice, making it an appetizing pairing with tortilla chips.
  4. Peach Gazpacho: Martha Stewart Living magazine‘s July issue says goodbye, tomatoes, hello peaches in this fruity soup flavored with cucumber and herbs and topped with red bell pepper and avocado.
  5. Prosciutto, Peach and Sweet Lettuce Salad: Cooking Light magazine‘s August issue recommends this light, easy-to-prepare course served with a baguette and a Riesling to complement the fruity sweetness.
  6. Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Chipotle-Peach Dressing: Want more substance? For a meatier dish, try Bon Appétit magazine‘s July recipe of chicken topped with peach preserves and chipotle chiles and served with grilled peach wedges.
  7. Peach Shortcake with Vanilla Whipped Cream: Food & Wine magazine‘s July issue puts an appropriate twist on a strawberry classic. Prepare cake in a larger pan or muffin cups, then plate with peach wedges flavored with peach schnapps and homemade whipped cream.

For a Sweet, Citrus Sensation, Try Cooking Light Magazine’s Blueberry-Peach Cobbler

blueberry_peach_cobbler.jpgLove blueberries. Love peaches. But together? I’d heard of this combination before in muffins and breads, yet still wasn’t sure about the end result. The Blueberry-Peach Cobbler recipe in Cooking Light magazine‘s July 2010 issue sounded interesting enough, and since August is National Peach Month I figured why not?

The most challenging part was cutting the recipe–and by that I mean doing a little math to reduce the amounts of ingredients–to accommodate the peaches I had on hand. They weren’t too ripe, which was ideal because those hold up better when cooked.

There were a few things I didn’t have, but thanks to some quick tips from another food magazine and a little Googling, I made the necessary substitutions. Since I never seem to use an entire quart of buttermilk before it expires, I was hesitant to buy more at the grocery store. Instead, I made do by mixing milk and white vinegar as recommended by Eating Well magazine‘s May/June issue.

The final ingredient I needed to pull off the cobbler was turbinado sugar. I had searched in vain for it in the baking aisle at the store, then apparently forgot about it until I had already sliced the peaches and started mixing the flour and sugar. A quick trip down the information superhighway, and I learned that light brown sugar was the perfect substitute because of its molasses content–much like turbinado sugar.

After an hour at 375 degrees, the cobbler was ready, and my kitchen was filled with the delicious aroma of peaches and blueberries. I let it cool before digging in, and I was surprised that the taste fluctuated between a little sweet and a little tangy. Two somewhat unlikely ingredients called for by Cooking Light could have been responsible.

According to the magazine’s test kitchen, the addition of salt heightens the sweetness of baked goods, while the acidity of lemon juice makes flavors more robust. The recipe called for drizzling the sliced peaches with fresh lemon juice and tossing them (which I seriously questioned). 

Despite all of my doubts about fruit combinations and ingredient interactions, the Blueberry-Peach Cobbler was a delicious twist on an old favorite. Next time I’ll have plenty of peaches on hand to make the full 12 servings. But for now, I’ll happily eat my words.


Fewer Food Magazines Than Expected Offer Gluten-Free Support

betterhomes_july2010.jpgAfter reading an article titled “Gluten’s Laws” in the July 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I got some great insight into gluten sensitivity and celiac disease and the challenges faced by those who must cope with them.

Basically, glutens are proteins found in the most basic dietary staples. They can cause serious health issues for those with gluten sensitivity (about 30 percent of the population) or celiac disease (about one in 100 Americans) because foods are never completely digested. If untreated, those issues can develop into serious medical conditions like diabetes and intestinal cancers.

What especially struck me was the number of food items celiac sufferers have to eliminate from their diets–many things I take for granted like breads, pastas, cereals, salad dressings, malted candies and processed cheeses.

A number of gluten-free items like cookies, cakes, flour, pizza, beer and rice are available, but very often can only be found at health food stores or specialty stores online. According to the article, some of those items are making the crossover to supermarket chains, and restaurants like Wendy’s and Subway are offering gluten-free menus. But what about the gluten-free cook?

Vegetarian Times, Clean Eating and Eating Well magazines seemed to be the obvious answers as each has an all-healthy focus. But only two appear to be responding to the need for gluten-free recipes.

Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times magazines each contain a healthy number of gluten-free recipes, which are clearly identified in their recipe indexes. Of the 43 recipes in the July/August issue of Clean Eating magazine, 16 were noted as gluten-free. By comparison, Vegetarian Times magazine had 23 gluten-free recipes of its 36 total in its July/August issue.

The Better Homes and Gardens article tackled the basic questions about celiac disease–what are glutens, how is celiac disease diagnosed, what if I test positive–and provided information resources, blog support, and where to find gluten-free foods.

While most of the larger food and cooking magazines don’t often include gluten-free recipes, articles like this one are a good start in bringing about awareness. Various celebrities are embracing the gluten-free lifestyle, more for its health benefits than necessity, according to the article, and perhaps this will lend a louder voice to the cause.

Some in the food industry seem to chalk up the widespread development or availability of gluten-free products to the popularity of fad diets, but if that leads to awareness and education (along with more gluten-free groceries), it’s a healthy start to supporting those with celiac disease.