Have a Complicated Halloween

Halloween Letter Fargo MomDid you see the Halloween letter from Anonymous Mom? She is handing it out instead of candy to overweight kids. Her stand against childhood obesity made the media outlets. Too bad she doesn’t know that shaming doesn’t work. Weight prejudice seems to be socially acceptable now and will become more so when healthcare costs are transparent. But back to today and the conflicts Americans have about Halloween candy. Check out yesterday’s Tweets:

  • How to talk to your kids about Halloween candy.
  • Watch out for these common (and gross!) ingredients in Halloween candy.
  • Don’t get caught giving petroleum, GMOs, and trans fat to little children.
  • Artificial dyes linked to M+Ms.
  • What it takes to burn off your Halloween treats.
  • Food Allergies: Could Halloween Kill My Child?
  • 7 Terrifying Facts About Halloween Candy!

Danger! Danger! And still, the kids return with their sacks full.

A few years ago, I was asked to write about the “healthiest” Halloween candy. What could I say? “Give out candy that won’t get eaten.” Dum Dum Lollipops, wax lips, and candy buttons stuck on paper tape. Nobody eats those. Pencils, stickers, and temporary tattoos, All good. As you can image, my Dietitian’s Guide to Halloween Candy wasn’t well received. The comments tell all.

Realistically, Halloween night is a free-for all. Everybody eats candy. That goes on for another day or two, but sooner rather than later, candy is rationed to one piece at lunch and another after school. Some is shared with grown-ups or relegated to the freezer or traded with a friendly dentist for cash. (Just don’t dump candy on the Food Bank because needy people need real food!)

I’ve stated my feelings about junk before in Eat Only the Junk Food That You Make. But homemade doesn’t fly on Halloween because of hidden razor blades. Oy! Razor blades, artificial dyes, barbs from Anonymous Mom. Halloween is complicated.

Your thoughts: What is your Halloween candy plan?

Confessions of a Wheat Germ Lover

Wheat GermA brief interaction on Twitter led Kretschmer Wheat Germ to me. They are considering me for a “Happy Wheat Germ User” feature, but needed to know more first.

Wheat Germ and Me

As a nutrition-loving baby boomer, it seems like I have always known about wheat germ. Along with soy protein and non-fat dried milk, it was part of Cornell Bread, a staple food developed for wartime rationing in the 1940s (well before my birth!) My first encounter with a regular wheat germ eater took the form of a woman from Switzerland I met in my late teens. She ate wheat germ for breakfast mixed with avocado and honey or as part of muesli along with yogurt. I like to add wheat germ to recipes for pancakes, muffins, veggie burgers, and meatballs. My favorite Wheat Germ Bread is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book via Kretschmer Wheat Germ a long time ago.

The Original Super-food

As a registered dietitian, people complain to me about feeling stiff-achy-and-punk. Their children are listless and their parents are falling apart with inflammatory diseases and cancers. To them I say, “You really ought to be eating wheat germ!” Wheat germ is LOADED with B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid), vitamin E and essential fatty acids, the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and zinc, plus protein and phenolic compounds. Wheat germ is the nazz! In fact, the germ is the richest part of the wheat kernel, which is why white flour is a problem: the germ (and bran) is tossed during in processing. Such a sin.

An Image Problem

A “germ” is a seed, bud, spore, or embryo, the basis of all new life. A plant germ is highly nutritious because it has the nutrients to support future growth.  A “germ” is also a microorganism, especially one that produces disease. People today don’t seem to know that one germ has nothing to do with the other. Wheat germ needs a re-branding campaign. I can help with that.

Here are three good wheat germ recipes from my recipe files at Calorie Count:

Your thoughts: Do you eat (and enjoy) wheat germ?

A Fire Escape Herb Garden

Image

Fire Escape Herb Garden in August

Fire Escape Herb Garden in August

Naysayers, I know it’s illegal. But, in case of fire, toss the pots and run.

Everyone else, I thought you might like to see what can grow in a 3′ X 3′ space fire escape in the city.

This year, there is spearmint, chives, flat parsley, lemon grass, Italian oregano, culinary thyme, rosemary, Genovese sweet basil, spicy globe basil, morning glory, nasturtium, euphorbia, a dwarf Japanese maple tree, and self-seeded red-orange impatiens and a heirloom black cherry-tomato. The mint and chives reappear every year.

At the risk of sounding like Martha Stewart, I love cooking with fresh herbs. Yum, flavor! Yippee, disease-fighting antioxidants! And a way to use less salt. Here’s a little Guide to Using Fresh Herbs from the Cooperative Extension offices at the Universities of Nebraska and New Jersey (Rutgers), your tax dollars at work.

At my place August means it’s all-pesto-all-the-time (add a little lemon to keep it green) and Insalata Caprese, as well as mint syrup in beverages, rosemary vinegar, and assorted herbs in every salad, stew and roasted dish.

Your thoughts, How do you cook with fresh herbs?

The Quinoa Standard

Liza and QuinoaGreetings from the planet we call Brooklyn, where the peeps can’t get enough of healthy (organic, gluten free) food. Look at my daughter, Liza, standing alongside of 130 pounds or so of quinoa. At $10 for a 26-ounce bag no less. A picture says it better than words.

Quinoa, a seed not a grain, is a wonderful source of complete protein, providing all of the essential amino acids. It is also a good source of dietary fiber and a host of other nutrients. It made the Incas thrive. But that’s an awful lot for the USA..

Furthermore, we happen to be in a grocery store in Crown Heights, a once posh residential neighborhood that took a deep dive in the 1960s, but is now coming back. I guess quinoa is an economic indicator. Invest with confidence in a quinoa-forward neighborhood.

Here are some quinoa recipes from Cooking Light: Cooking with Quinoa: 22 Recipes

Your thoughts: Do you eat quinoa?

Hey Brooklyn, What’s in Your Lunch Bag?

brooklynlicious_tote_bagMary:     Why am I doing this? No one begins a TV career at my age.
Brian:    Not so. There’s Judge Judy.
Mary:     Okay. That’s true.

For what it’s worth, that conversation took place on July 10th outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It’s three subway stops from my home.  While the cameraman filmed, I asked regular people on the way to work to let me peek into their lunch bags. It was spontaneous and unrehearsed. You get what you pay for.

“Brian” is Brian Vines (BTW: He drinks half portions of soda at the movies now) of Brooklyn Independent TV. He called to ask what I though about developing a pilot based on what Brooklynites eat for lunch. (Actually, the cameraman’s wife, a Brooklyn foodie, thought the idea would make a good show.) I told Brian to add a few questions to put the lunch choices in context, and suddenly, I was the one asking the questions.

One week later, Amy Sarah Clark from the Prospect Heights Patch posted this on my Mary Hartley RD Facebook timeline:
“I saw your piece at the BRIC media thing today, it was fantastic! Congratulations!”
(Translation: “BRIC media thing” had to do with an event, presentations, and the pilot.)

Really? Sweet! Thanks you! Maybe I should see it. Maybe you should see it too.     

Mary Hartley, RD Asks Brooklyn, “What’s in Your Lunch Bag?”  

Those Brooklynites couldn’t be healthier! Everybody carries produce and no bacon was found. Brooklyn should show the rest of the country how it’s done. As for me, I could be a correspondent, like Ross the Intern. I will even prepare for pay.

Your thoughts:  Do you agree that the lunch idea would make a good show?

One Way to Raise a Great Cook

Little Liza's Cookbook

Liza’s Personal Childhood Cookbook

As I recall, this is the time of year that gave rise to “Cook ‘Til You Drop”, the cookbook my daughter, Liza, made when she was six or seven. I can’t remember. The book,  including title and cover art, was entirely her idea.

Every year, when the raspberries ripened around the first of July, we’d say, “Where’s that Raspberry Cheesecake Parfait recipe?” Since it was the old days, the early ’90s before the Internet, that meant searching through a huge stack of Cooking Light magazines until we found it. Liza, having much less to do than I and forever the Martha Stewart, thought it made sense to preserve her favorite recipes in a self-adhesive photo album. We photocopied only her besties to make Cook ‘Til You Drop.

From that time on, Liza has always kept a personal recipe book. Perhaps it’s a reason why Eliza Hartley in the Kitchenshe is a fabulous cook today.

Here are two summer favorites from Cook ‘Til You Drop:

Your thoughts: Did you cook as a kid? Do you cook with your kids? What do you make?

Got To Do It: Take a Hike!

trail marker for the Appalachian Trail.This past weekend, I went hiking on a bit of the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. (That’s the Delaware River on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, not Delaware, the second smallest state.) The A.T. is a marked hiking trail running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I decided that I will hike the entire A.T. in sections over the next twenty years. I might have done 20 miles so far. Just 2180 left to go.

Sandee Takes a Hike Sandee Ostwind Hiking in the Delaware Water Gap

This is my friend, Sandee, a 60 year old woman who had not hiked a day in her life until last October. The very idea makes her daughter convulse with laughter. Sandee is still not your typical hiker (“Let’s sit down and take a rest.”); however, she enjoys it immensely. Why? Sandee says, “Hiking has everything – physical, mental, spiritual. I feel great about myself when I finish a hike.”

Mountain LaurelMountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia, the flowering evergreen shrub, blooms in May and June in the mountainous forests of the Eastern United States. The Mid-Atlantic States are blanketed this week. White flowers in the shade and pink flowers in the sun.

 

Damn You, New York Times!

Circada on a leaf

Little Circada

I’m mad at The New York Times, with their multimedia features and images enlarged 100 times, for scaring me about cicadas. Cicadas are insects that crawl out of the ground every 17 years for a three-to-four-week frenzy of mating before they deposit their nymphs underground and die. We saw cicadas on leaves, and they are cute little critters. First, we heard them (Is that the sound of a broken fan belt? You decide…) and then we saw them on leaves here and there. Their swarming actually takes place 40 feet above in the trees. Not once did a molted carcass fall on my head.

Your thoughts, do you hike? What do you like about it?

Beware of the Ground Turkey Trots

ground-turkey-406x250“Don’t buy the ground turkey,” I said to my nonagenarian aunt at the supermarket. She is just too frail and too old to take that risk.

Consumer Reports’ recently investigated 257 samples of raw ground turkey meat from major supermarkets in the United States. They tested for five bacteria (enterococcus, E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, and campylobacter) that may cause severe foodborne illness and be fatal in some cases. Consumer Reports’ found that 90 percent of the samples tested had  one or more of the five bacteria.  But what’s worse is that nearly 80 percent of the Enterococcus bacteria were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, as were more than half of the E. coli and 67 percent of the Salmonella strains. Who can forget the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak of 2011? One person died, 37 were hospitalized and 136 people were officially sickened – from ground turkey. The CDC said the outbreak might have sickened 4,000 more people.

Consumer Reports’ recommends buying ground turkey labeled “no antibiotics” or “organic” because turkeys “raised without antibiotics” contain fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria – they still harbor bacteria, but they are less likely to be superbugs. Still, just to be safe, IMHO the very young, very old and frail, pregnant, and sick should avoid ground turkey and the risk of getting the turkey trots.

Your thoughts, Do you eat ground turkey meat?

The Absolutely, Positively Not Chip to Eat

Clean room technician holding  finished microchip waferOkay, I’m blowing the whistle on Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google. Did you hear him being interviewed by NPR Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal on May 3rd? Please, listen as Ray tells Kai that microchip computers will soon live in our brains. Ray said,

“Ultimately these devices will be the size of blood cells, we’ll be able to send them inside our brain through the capillaries, and basically connect up brain to the cloud. But that’s a mid-2030’s scenario.”

In Kurzweil’s vision, these advances don’t simply bring computers closer to our biological systems. Machines become more like us. “Your personality, your skills are contained in information in your neocortex, and it is information,” Kurzweil says. “These technologies will be a million times more powerful in 20 years and we will be able to manipulate the information inside your brain.”

“When I say that computers will reach human levels of understanding by the 2030s, I’m specifically talking about emotion. I’m talking about getting the joke, and being funny, and being sexy, and being loving.”

“When computers can achieve these things it’s not for the purpose of displacing us it’s really to make ourselves smarter, and smarter in the sense of being more loving… Really enhancing the things that we value about humans.”

So, our brain functions are altered remotely by supercomputers via microchips?  Robotization to fix personality quirks.

But, but…I thought humans learned those things through spiritual growth. One thing I do know: No chips for me.

Your thoughts: ….about implanting microchips in humans?

Rethinking Soda at the Movies

soda at the MoviesSince I choose to do those things that amuse me most, I find myself in lots of crazy places. A few weeks ago, I was a guest on Brooklyn Independent Television’s show, Intersect, talking about Mayor Bloomberg’s sugary drink limit with host Brian Vines and fellow guest Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. At minute 23:05, I talk Brian Vine out of thinking big portions of soda at the movies are a bargain. Here is our conversation:

BV:   I was just at the movies two weeks ago and split a, what had to be a 60-ounce something, between the two of us. The thing was gone, and this was the debate we had afterwards, that if the mayor would have had his thing, we would’ve had to buy two drinks – and I believe in my health, but I more than that, I am cheaper than I am healthy – so we would have had to buy two different drinks to get the same thing, but we wouldn’t even be allowed to buy the thing if this law passed. So it hits you in the pocketbook because cheap food is usually bad food…
MH:   That’s not food. DON’T CALL THAT FOOD!
BV:   What is it then? It’s empty calorie things….
MH:   It’s empty calorie stuff. You cannot compare….
BV:   Cheap drinks. It’s enjoyment. It’s cheaper though….
MH: Well, for instance, I’m a fun gal, but one thing about me is I do not order anything at the movies. I have unhooked the idea that sitting in a movie means eating. Talk about cheap! I’m not going to that concession stand. I’m not buying any of that stuff!
BV: It’s relative. (laugh)
MH: So let’s get it all straightened out, okay, and that’s what the dialogue is about. It’s testing those ideas people have: “I need my soda!”  Well, why do you need your soda?
BV: Thank you for unhooking me, because it’s not cheap. Soda isn’t cheap at the movies.

Your thoughts: Will Brian Vine quit drinking soda at the movies?