Lingering in 2009.

definition: conscious of benefit received, expressive of gratitude.
Reflecting back to January 2009, I realize that I have received much this past year.  The completion of my college education and the start of a dietetic internship, moving from California to Boston and re-starting life, renewed freindships and new chums, pleasant circumstances bringing much joy, and harder times bringing the best lessons.  How easy it is for me to fall into an attitude of entitlement, always pressing forward with an ambitious eye for the next step or the next opportunity.  But now I want to linger in thankfulness.  
Favorite memories from 2009.

January.  Bloomingdale's!  (Visiting dietetic internships in Boston with my mom.)

March. Birthday in Napa with UCDavis friends.  Thank you Sunshine Girls!

April.  Nutrition Bowl, UCDavis second place!  Proud to be a nutrition nerd : )

June.  Graduation dinner with Grace Alive-college fellowship group!

June.  University of California Davis, B.S. Clinical Nutrition

July.  Moved to Boston for an early summer class.  My summer adventures began in Copley Square.

August.  Back briefly in California for my friend's wedding.

August.  Sweet snack with my sweet friend in Berkeley, California.

September.  Back in Boston for the official start of Tufts dietetic internship and graduate school!  Some of the Tufts dietetic internship girls met for wine and cheese!

September.  New York City is only a Bolt bus-ride away!
October.  Nashoba Valley Winery.  Apple picking with Tufts dietetic interns.

October.  Yum = our housewarming potluck party.

November.  Running in Maine with friends from Tufts graduate school.

December. Christmas with family in California.
When you look back, what adjective describes your 2009?
It's been a great year!  I started the blog in July 2009, and I've learned so much.  Thanks for reading
Happy New Years!

Seaweed Steals the Show!

 Hijiki Chicken!

December 24, 2009 (ahh--all my posts are so far behind!)
My mom sets down her chopsticks and smiles, "I bet not many people are eating hijiki chicken on Christmas Eve."
"Well, not the typical holiday meal," I reply.  "But there must be one person out in the great wide world who is enjoying this same lovely seaweed!"

When I was at home for Christmas vacation, my mom handed me a stack of recipes saying, "What new recipe should we try for dinner?"  I chose hijiki chicken.  Now a new fav.

Let's Get This Show Rolling!...
2-3oz dried hijiki seaweed
5oz/150g chicken breast
2 carrots
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp dashi-no-moto
2 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp soy sauce
pinch of shichimi togarashi or cayenne pepper

  1. Soak hijiki in cold water for 30 minutes.  It is ready to cook when it is easily crushed between the fingers.  Pour into a sieve and wash under running water.  Drain.
  2. Cut up chicken.  Heal oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the chicken until the color changes.
  3. Peel carrots and cut into long narrow matchsticks.
  4. Add the hijiki and carrot to the chicken.  Stir fry for one minute.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients.  Lower heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi or cayenne pepper when serving.
What is Hijiki?
Hijiki is seaweed.  Yup, seaweed!  Before Christmas Eve I had never tried this variety of seaweed, but I love it!  It gives the chicken a salty kick and pungent aftertaste.  It lends a strong flavor to the whole dish, complimenting rice perfectly.  Watch out- any competing flavor will probably lose.
Couldn't find nutrition information on the USDA nutrient database, or Fitday, or Calorie King, or anywhere!  It seems that most of the nutrient information combines hijiki with other salad ingredients, but this blog was informative: Hijiki-Just Hungry's Blog.
The All-Stars (aka My Seaweed Rollcall):
Wakame- in miso soup *slurp!*
Konbu-for soup stock and traditional Japanese New Years Dish called "Nishime"
Nori-to wrap sushi
Furikake- Japanese condiment to sprinkle over rice
Hijiki- newest addition, welcome!
Hijiki on Foodista

A Cloudy Forecast for the Sunshine Vitamin

I posted this one week ago, and received a comment questioning the 200 IU Vitamin D recommendation that I quoted.  Oops, I was a little careless.  So after some additional research, I'm revising this post.  Tonight my roommate (also a Tufts dietetic intern) and I just raided our fridge and compared our yogurt, milk and vitamin D supplement food labels!  Quite fun!
Vitamin D-How Much is Enough?
Short Answer: The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set a Daily Value of 400 IUs per day.  The Adequate Intake is 200 IUs per day (this was set in 1997).   However many health professionals are recommending higher levels of 800-1000 IUs per day.  Stay tuned because the IOM is releasing new recommendations next year!

Long Answer: There is controversy about both Vitamin D requirements and Vitamin D status.  I mentioned the Vitamin D requirements above, but what about Vitamin D status?
A blood sample can test Vitamin D status by measuring levels of 25 hydroxy vitamin D, or 25(OH)D.  Vitamin D sufficiency is defined as blood levels greater than 30ng 25(OH)D per mL.  Vitamin D insufficiency is 21-29 ng 25(OH)D per mL.  Vitamin D deficiency is 20ng 25(OH)D per mL or less.
Now comes the tricky part.  How do we measure Vitamin D produced in from sunlight?  Like most things Vitamin D-related, I don't know if there is a concrete answer for this.  Although Vitamin D is found in a limited number of food sources (salmon, mackerel, tuna, fortified milk, fortified cereal), our skin makes Vitamin D from sunlight.  Factors such as skin pigmentation, sunscreen, and weather make the situation very confusing.  The Institue of Medicine is taking this into consideration as they update their Vitamin D recommendations (scheduled for release in May 2010).
flickr photo by _mandrew_
Daily Sunshine Dose
During rotation at the Joslin Diabetes Center on December 14th, I heard a research presentation on Vitamin D status in children with Type 1 Diabetes.  At Joslin a group of researchers is comparing levels of Vitamin D in children who have Type 1 Diabetes compared to children who do not.  Vitamin D receptors have been found on many cells, extending D's function in the body beyond calcium absorption and bone strength.  This explains much of the recent Vitamin D hype.  Joslin is analyzing Vitamin D's role in immunity, particularly in the auto-immune factors of Type 1 Diabetes.  Cool, right?  Their study is not completed, so I can't comment on the preliminary results.
The UV Index
Vitamin D comes from sunlight.  But not just any old sunlight.  In order to absorb Vitamin D through the skin, the sunlight must be above UV level 3.  The researcher at Joslin presented these nifty weather charts that show UV Index by month.  Any month with UV less than 3 means that Vitamin D cannot be absorbed through the skin.  Where I'm living, the forecast looks a little gloomy for sunny D.
Boston, my New England home.  Low UV levels November through February.
Sacramento, close to my hometown in California.  Low UV from November through January.
Honolulu, dare I even compare?  I guess my grandpa doesn't have to worry.
Japan, a country dear to my heart.  UV levels are similar to Boston.
Check out your city at Climate Guides-Weather 2 Travel.
In October I started taking a calcium + vitamin D pill.  The world of vitamin supplements is a slippery slope.  I know some dietitians who promote them, and others who won't touch them.  I believe it is best to get vitamins from the food that we eat.  However I decided to start some Vitamin D pills this winter since I don't drink milk, I hardly eat fish, and I live in New England.
Where do you live?  What do you think?

Creole Cornbread Stuffing

As if the plain stuffing wasn't good enough!
This recipe is from a dietitian that I met during my rotation at the Massachusetts State WIC Office-thank you!

Here we go!
Cornbread (Jiffy mix ok)
1 roll breakfast sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1/2 bellpepper, chopped
5-6 mushrooms
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh pepper
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1/8 cup kernal corn
1/8 cup chopped baby carrot
  1. Day 1. Make cornbread 2 days before to dry out the bread. Let cool, wrap in foil.
  2. Day 2. Saute breakfast sausage. If using turkey sausage, make sure to remove the casings.
  3. When sausage almost cooked (after 5 minutes), add all the chopped vegetables and herbs. Cook for 5-8 minutes.
  4. Cut cornbread into LARGE blocks. Add cornbread to the ingredients and mix together. (From my experience: Cornbread naturally crumbles, so small chunks yield a "mush" rather than a distinct "stuffing.")
  5. In separate bowl, mix together butter, eggs, half-and-half and chicken stock. Mix into stuffing.
  6. Cover and referigerate over night.
  7. Day 3. Bake 45min-1 hour at 350. Bake stuffing in a covered baking pan, or stuff inside a bird. If cooking a bird, make sure to stuff right before you put the bird in the oven, and to remove the stuffing immediately after the bird has cooled.
It looks like a long list of ingredients, but it is pretty easy! I didn't plan for a 3 day endeavor, so I skipped the overnight referigeration and crammed it into 2 days.
Why is this my new favorite? Sweet cornbread plus savory sausage makes for an easy winner. I made this for Christmas dinner, and it was the perfect compliment to our Morrocan lamb chops, roasted Japanese pumpkin, balsamic brussel sprouts, and vegetable stir fry. A little diverse? Yup. (Our taste buds couldn't make up their minds.) But delicious? Oh yeah.
Recipe Nutrition Facts
For 1/18 of the recipe, (I'm imagining how we cut the pan and served it up.) Nutrition facts estimated with Sparkrecipes calculator.
205 kcal, 10.8 grams total fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 479 mg salt, 21 grams carbohydrate, <1 gram fiber, 0.9 grams sugar, 6 grams protein.
Maybe you are balking at some of the numbers, because who really eats only 1/18th of the pan? Try decrease the saturated fat by using milk instead of half-and-half, or cut out some butter. Just remember that this rich side dish is... a side dish! So savor every bite of this Creole cornbread treat; but make vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fruit the real celebrities of your plate.
Cornbread on Foodista

My New Holiday Favorite- Sweet Potato Pudding

Sweet Potato Pudding
This recipe is from one of the nutritionists at the Massachusetts State WIC Office- thank you!

6 sweet potatoes (or mix with yams too)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon all-spice
dash of salt
dash of pepper
optional topping: marshmallows, walnuts, or almonds

  1. Clean sweet potatoes, rub olive oil on skin, and prick with a fork.  Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45minutes-1 hour.
  2. After cooled, cut sweet potatoes into cubes (leave the skin on). 
  3. Mash it up!
  4. Mix in all the other ingredients. 
  5. Pour into double boiler, or pour into a deep baking pan using ban marie technique.  Huh?  (I had no idea the first time, so I looked this up.)  Simple!  Pour pudding into desired pan.  Then place that pudding into a bigger pan.  Fill the outer pan with boiling water, and place the whole contraption into the oven.  This water bath allows the pudding to cook gently without direct heat contact.
  6. If topping with nuts, sprinkle nuts on top before baking.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  8. Optional: last 5 minutes of cooking, top with 1 bag of miniature marshmallows.  Place pan under broiler.  Watch closely and take out the pan when marshmallows are soft golden brown (not burnt).
  9. Cool and cover before serving.  

Recipe Nutrition Facts
Take #1: The Original Sweet Potato Pudding
In November I made this pudding to take to a Thanksgiving party.  I used the original recipe, but skipped the marshmallows and topped with chopped walnuts for a crunchy twist.  It was rich and yummy; I took home no leftovers.
Take #2: Slim But Sweet Potato Pudding
I wanted to make this special treat again for my family.  But this time I modified the recipe for a slightly slimmer version.  I swapped skim milk for half-and-half, added only 1/8 cup brown sugar, and garnished with almonds instead of walnuts.  Although the pudding was not as rich, I thought it tasted great.  My family scraped the bottom of the pan- I think they liked it!

                      1 Pan - Original  Pudding                                 1 Pan- Slim But Sweet Pudding

Nutrition data calculated from Sparkpeople's Recipe Calculator.
Sweet Potato Nutrition Specs
Filled with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and more, there's really no good reason to NOT eat this nutrition all-star.  But rather than type out the spectacular specs myself, I'll redirect you to my friend and fellow Tufts dietetic intern Corinne Dobbas at Green Grapes Blog.
Nutrition facts + sweet potato trivia + an easy recipe:  Check out Green Grapes Blog-Sweet Potato Goodness!

Ipo wanted to help out with the photography.  He's a cutie.
Sweet Potato on Foodista

Merry Christmas!

Got this watermelon radish from a Farmers Market in Boston.  I forgot to eat it during finals, so I packed it with me to California for the holidays.

Merry Christmas everyone!
or as they say in Hawai'i,
Mele Kalikimaka!

Surprised by Sweetbreads

Sweetbreads are the thymus glands of veal, young beef, pork or lamb.  Since reading Julie and Julia, I've occasionally cooked with butter and cream, and have gained a curiostiy for organ meats like sweetbreads.  Guess what, I like it.

flickr photo by ulterior epicure
With finals last week, I neglected my blog.  And now that I've returned home to California for the holidays, it looks like I will be equally busy with family and friends.  I have several posts waiting in my head, however I feel compelled this morning to write about sweetbreads and a wonderful little restaurant called Waterboy.  

Waterboy Restaurant, from website
Last night my family and I went to Waterboy in Sacramento.  I want to give it a shout out, because it is amazing!  The friendly and knowledgeable wait staff (sign of great management!), lovely atmosphere (elegant but not stuffy), and astonishing food (they use seasonal ingredients) have won me over.  It requires a tidy sum, so I know I'll be back for a very special occasion.
A tasty evening began with a gnocchi dish that I split with my sister.  Actually, this is the first time I ate gnocchi.  I hardly cook pasta and I don't go out for Italian very often.  Gnocchi- so soft and cute. 

  • Housemade Gnocci Gratin, with Butternut Squash, Chanterelles (I learned that this is a type of mushroom), Fontina, Breadcrumbs, Sage. 
Then I was surprised by sweetbreads in the entree.  
  • Mixed Grill of Yolo Poultry Chicken, Pork Tenderloin and Sweetbreads, with Savory Bread Pudding, Glazed Brussel Sprouts, Salsify, Herb Jus
  • Pear-Ginger Upsidedown Cake, with Cinnamon Sabayon (I learned that Sabayon is an airy Italian custard)

You're thinking, "Doesn't this crazy girl know that a restaurant review is tasteless without the accompanying food photos?"  I know, I know.  Let's just say that bringing out a camera with its bright flash would have felt very un-classy.  So use your imagination.  : )
Waterboy Restaurant
2000 Capitol Ave
Sacramento, CA 95814

Nutrition Facts for Sweetbreads
The USDA Nutrient Data Base, which I consider the gold standard, didn't have the nutrition facts for sweetbreads.  This is from FitDay.

Track the Sugars and Count the Carbs

Joslin Diabetes Center Part 2
Dietetic Internship, Diabetes Rotation
December 1-18, 2009
flickr photo Holiday Sugar Cubes by libraryman

I'm thinking of a classic line from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird,  "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
At Joslin many of the diabetes educators take this attitude.  They try to experience the everyday life of a person with diabetes by tracking their own blood sugars, wearing a temporary insulin pump (it has salt water, not real insulin!), or trying continuous glucose monitoring.  I must do likewise.  This means I must learn to eat as if I had diabetes.  My assignment this week: carbohydrate counting.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease where the body cannot properly use and store energy.  The primary form of energy is sugar, or glucose.  Food is broken down into glucose and sent to the blood stream.  The pancreas makes insulin, which is a hormone that transports the glucose from the blood into body cells.  In untreated diabetes, the glucose will constantly build up in the blood and cause serious complications.  Insulin shots, oral medication, diet, and exercise are needed to manage diabetes.  There is no cure.
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes - The body cannot use glucose because the pancreas cannot make insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes- The body cannot use glucose because the pancreas makes too little insulin, or the insulin cannot efficiently transport the glucose into body cells.
What is carb counting?
Carbohydrate counting is a method of controlling food intake by tracking sugars.  Carbohydrates are found in many foods, and once digested they immediately turn into glucose.  Using menu plans and daily carbohydrate goals are helpful for dosing insulin and controlling blood sugars.  A registered dietitian is the best professional to coach someone in carbohydrate counting.
For the record, this is not a "diabetic diet."  There's no such thing.
My Assignment:
  1. Pretend I have Type 1 Diabetes.  I am taking 20 units of Lantus insulin at bedtime.  (This slow-acting insulin is like a constant drip that steadies my blood sugar throughout the whole day).  I am also taking Novolog at each meal.  (This short-acting insulin quickly takes care of the food that I eat at mealtimes). 
  2. Eat about 165 grams of carbohydrate each day.  
  3. Only eat a max of 50 grams of fat each day.
  4. Eat small meals with frequent snacks.  This helps stabalize the blood sugar.   
  5. Try balance each meal with protein, carbohydrate, and fat.  This gives slow and steady digestion of food, and evens out the blood sugars.  
My Carb Counting Results for Monday, Dec 14th
I had to make a special shopping trip to Trader Joes this weekend, and I planned out my carbohydrate goals for each meal:
Breakfast 30 grams carbohydrates
Lunch 45 g
Snack 15 g
Dinner 60 g
Snack 15 g

Looks like I met my overall carbohydrate goal and my fat goal.  However, my diet quality was low, and my meals were not spaced out very well.  Balance could have been better, since I didn't have much protein.
The Carb List
Just for fun!  This is what I'm frequently munching on during the week.  Hmm, good to know.  My carb awareness has increased.

Taken from food labels and Joslin's Food Choice List
What did I learn?
Lesson #1: 1-2-3, Re-learning the numbers.  As suspected, counting was hard work.  Besides the careful fat and carb tallies, carb counting was more than numbers.  It required mindful eating, skillful label reading, and careful menu planning skills.
Lesson #2: Healthful eating is universal.  Counting carbs is useful for managing diabetes.  It's also useful for planning balanced meals.  With or without diabetes, it's a skill for eating healthfully.  
Lesson #3: I love my pancreas.  Carb counting, tracking blood sugars, insulin shots, insulin pumps- these are all tools to imitate the action of the pancreas.  But even with the best technology, diabetes management is not perfect.  So I'm thankful for my pancreas; It really is an amazing organ.  Good job pancreas, keep it up!

Carb counting is a tool, imperfect but useful.  As one of my preceptors said, "Diabetes management is 60% art and 40% science.  But shh...don't tell the doctors!  They think it's the other way around." : )

Armed and Hungry. Watch out!

I can't wait to cut some MEAT!
Ok.  Let me explain.
Number one.  Today my new knife arrived!  7" Santoku by Wusthof.  Like many in my generation, I used Ikea knives all through undergrad.  However a recent (and almost dangerous) struggle with Japanese pumpkin convinced me that it was time to invest in some quality.  Thanks to a 20% OFF Bed Bath & Beyond coupon, I've bought a basic chef knife.  It was a little pricey (a sad reflection on my budget), but it came with lifetime warranty and a free cutting board.  All I need to do is cut something... how about some sirloin pork chops?

Which brings me to Number two.  Today an armful of books arrived at the Boston Public Library.  My newest addition is Lobel's Meat Bible: All you need to know about meat and poulty from America's master butchers.  Yes please.  Teach me!

By: Stanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel.
published 2009

Lobel's of New York is a family run butchery, operating in Manhattan's Upper East Side since 1954.  In their most recent book Lobel's Meat Bible, the authors share their expertise,
We want nothing more than to help meat lovers get the most from their purchases.  [...]  We respect [the] time-tested traditions and deliberately take the best of the old and combine it with the requirements of the present and future.  We also believe it is crucial to treat our customers fairly and pleasantly, to sell only quality meat, and to answer every question.
I'm really enjoying this cookbook.  It covers the basics of veal, pork, lamb, poultry, and beef (who knew there were 23 types of steak?).  And most importantly, the recipes come with full page juicy pictures.  I confess that I don't usually like steak, or any big pieces of meat.  Recently I've accidentally been eating vegetarian because meat is expensive and I love tofu and eggs.  However, maybe it's time to vary my protein.  With this book, meat never looked so good.

So armed with a new knife and some new meaty knowledge, let's go get me some filet mignon chuck steak.

Crisp to Crumpled: Information Overload

Joslin Diabetes Center Part 1
Dietetic Internship, Diabetes Rotation
December 1-18, 2009
On December 1st I walked into Joslin Diabetes Center with a tidy blue notebook.  New notebook, new rotation.  Crisp pages, clean mind.  Now after 2 weeks I shuffle through this bent notebook, struggling to turn the crumpled pages against the deformed spiral binding.  Smudgy scribbles, pages of barely-legible notes...there's too much diabetes information to process!  Although this rotation has been a whirlwind, it has been great.  Now I want to start organizing my thoughts and slowly piece together what I've learned.

What is the Joslin Diabetes Center?
Joslin is a eight story building on the corner of Brookline and Longwood Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts.  Every day I enter through the first floor and pass the pharmacy and eye clinic.  I spend most of my time on the second floor with the adult clinic.  Sometimes I go up to the third floor to visit the fitness center and group education classrooms.  In the evening you'll find me on the fourth floor library.  But venture beyond the 4th, and I'll risk getting lost in research labs.  Joslin Diabetes Center is an eight story building filled with brilliant people who are dedicated to the prevention, management, and cure of diabetes.  The multi-discipinary team includes doctors, exercise physiologists, nurses, registered dietitians, researchers, and others.  Kind of intimidating!  Their vision,
Joslin Diabetes Center is an institution on the front lines of the world epidemic of diabetes, leading the battle to conquer diabetes in all of its forms through cutting-edge research and innovative approaches to clinical care and education.  Every person at Joslin is dedicated to realizing our vision of a world without diabetes and its complications. 
The center was founded in 1898 by Dr. Elliot P. Joslin.  He must have been an amazing doctor.  After 2 weeks I'm slowly beginning to appreciate the power of Joslin's three pronged mission: innovative clinical care, personalized education, and ongoing research.  Patients come from near and far to receive high quality care at Joslin.  As I talk to them or sit with them in classes, I notice that they often feel empowered to continue living with diabetes.  Hmm, this diabetes rotation is different than what I expected.  This is exciting.

More to come!  I've enjoyed this rotation, and I still have one week left in pediatric diabetes.  There's many lessons that I want to slowly write down and remember.  But with the information overload, how do I know if I am absorbing the right information?  I worry about this.
But for now, I need to switch gears and focus on finals.  Ready, set, go.  I'm packing my bag and camping out at Tufts library today.  My objective: final research paper on green tea and weight loss.  Bye! : )

picture: First winter snow in Boston on December 4th.  

National Cookie Day!

December 4th is National Cookie Day!
What perfect timing!  The holidays are here, and the Christmas cookie baking has begun.  But even as you grab for that crumbly treat, the voice of reason kicks in.  Hmm, cookies are not the healthiest way to celebrate the season.

picture from McCormick recipe website
No worries.  I just read this blog article, Have A Cookie, But Choose Wisely.  The author, Kristen Seymour, offers some tips for munching in moderation.  She shares 3 easy recipe modifications to make your favorite cookie a little bit healthier!
  1. Cut the Cholesterol.  Add some egg whites instead of using all whole eggs. 
  2. Switch out the fat.  Substitute applesauce for oil, butter or margarine.  (Yes!-this works great for muffins.  Now I should try it in cookies.)
  3. Fiber it up!  For a little extra bulk, use half wheat flour and half white flour.  PS-Nobody will notice the difference! 
So have a happy cookie day!  I'm going to celebrate with a gingersnap, preferably one that's nice and chewy.  Yum...what's your favorite?

Factory Food, What's Really for Dinner?

How can we produce food without affecting the environment?
The following are my notes from a forum I attended on November 19, 2009. It was sponsored by the Museum of Science and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare.
Speaker 1: Timothy Griffin
Professor at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University. (woot, go Tufts!)

Farmers are rare. Most Americans are one or two generations removed from farming. In the Northeast, only 3% of our food supply comes directly from local farmers (and this is above the national average).
America has been industrializing since the 1800s. Post Civil War there's been an increase in scale: farms, machines, processing, and retail. The number of farms was declining until the Great Depression; then big farms started to take over. Griffin prefers the term "industrial farm." This means large inputs and large outputs. The industrial mindset in the US wants to push down the cost of food. This is not a sustainable food system.
One environmental concern is geographic concentration. This occurs when single commodities monopolize one area. For example, California is the #1 dairy state. Iowa is the #1 swine state. The Great Plains is primarily feedlot beef. The Southeast is poultry. The Mississippi Basin is particularly concentrated with over 1 million farms. These farms all drain into the Mississippi River, creating "dead zones" around the river.
There are 2 areas that impact public health: pesticides and antibiotics. Currently the animal system uses 70% of US antibiotics supply.
The process of industrialized food supply, or "factory farms," needs to change.

Speaker 2: Monsoureh Tajik
Assistent Professor, Univ. of Massachusetts Lowell School of Health and Environmental Science
"What are the dangers of living near a big farm?"
She spoke about her studies in North Carolina's swine production. She thinks the American switch from numerous small farms into a few large farms was not accidental. In the American capitalist system, one just follow the money.
One public health concern of large swine farms is "lagoons," or swine manure pits. Farmers collect the manure into a lagoon, and then liquify the contents and spray it over the adjacent fields. Did you know that 1 pig makes 7.3 million pounds of waste per year? Um, gross.
This effects the communities living near the swine farms. Their quality of life is directly related to their proximity to the swine farms.

Speaker 3: John Stowell
Director of Fresh Meats and Sustainable Programs, Dole and Bailey, Inc.
John tells the story of how his meat processing business has answered the call for sustainable meat products. All the beef is pasture raised and grain finished (not 100% grass fed-which is literally impossible in a Massachusetts winter). Northeast Family Farms, link.
Did you know that a 1,250 pound cow will yield only 70 pounds of restaurant quality meat?

So now what?
1. Change consumer demand.
2. Biggest New England concern: Keep the farmland in the northeast as farmland.
Hmm, what do you think?
It seems to me that they talked more about problems, and less about solutions!

Another book in my basket....
Eating Animals
by Jonathan Safran Foer
published 2009
Tonight I stopped by my favorite Brookline Booksmith to welcome any new books on the shelves. Sure enough, I met several lovely hardcovers and quite a few intriguing paperbacks. (I enjoy torturing myself by browsing in bookstores, even though I have no money to spend. I'm holding out until after the holidays!) Among my new acquaintences, I found Eating Animals, which offers another perspective on the factory food issue. It chronicles the discoveries of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who prepared for the birth of his first child by exploring the American meat industry from a parenting perspective. Interesting...

Get Healthy with Bento!

My First Bento: Turkey Day Leftovers!

Rice, Sausage Cranberry Stuffing, Yams, Brussel Sprouts, Cranberry Heart.
What is bento?
According to my Japanese dictionary, "bento" simply means "a packed [box] lunch."  A traditional Japanese bento has rice, protein (tofu, egg, fish, or meat), and vegetables (pickled or cooked).  Overtime bento has evolved into an artform, using all varieties of food to create beautiful arrangements.  Bento culture has expanded globally.  Yet despite the diversity of these portable single-meals, a bento box still has one universal pre-requisite: it must be crafted with care.
Get Healthy with Bento!
Get on board, bento is reviving the lunchbox culture!  Sure, we know that packing lunch saves money.  But it's healthy too!  Here's 3 reasons why bento's all-star nutrition line-up makes me excited to pack my lunch:
1. Portion Control.
The whole purpose of bento is to fit an entire meal into a box.  Bento containers come in many shapes and sizes; what a fun way to monitor calorie intake and portion sizes.  Brilliant!
2. Balance in a Box.
Bento is about balancing food groups, and the options are endless.  The main players are carbohydrate (rice, pasta, potato) and protein (meat, fish, egg, tofu, leftover dinner).  However vegetables and fruit add shape and color, making them the real stars of the show.  It's more than just slopping leftovers into a tin.  It is meal planning.  With bento it's easy to eat all the food groups, in one box!
3. A Bento Mindset is a Healthy Mindset.  
While arranging my first bento, I realized that I felt a strong ownership over my food.  I think bento fosters an appreciation for food.  Surely such a thoughtful attitude will stimulate more healthful food choices and less mindless eating.  I believe that a healthy mindset is the first step to a healthy body.  A dose of bento might be just the trick for both.

Show Me More!
Bento is now popular around the world, with hundreds of people blogging about their creative bentos.  Forget my novice attempt, and check out these bentos from the pros!

Teriyaki Salmon Bento, posted on Happy Little Bento by Sheri Chen.

I'm also enjoying:
Adventures in Bentomaking by  Pikko
Bentolicious by Lia Chen
Hapa Bento  by Debra Littlejohn
Hawai'i Bento Box Cookbook, Bentos and More for Kids  by Susan Yuen
Just Bento by Makiko Itoh
Lunchbox Limbo by Amanda
Bento in the recent news:
From the New York Times, Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans.  Look out, the bento culture is sweeping America!
You know me, I love books!
This is on my wishlist.

This one is on reserve at the Boston Public Library.

Do you make bento, and what are your tricks and tips?  What are your favorite bento blogs or bento stories?  I'm a newbie, but I can't wait to learn more!
Thank you.

Dainty and Delish: Shrimp Quiche Bites

Want to impress your friends with a dainty but delicious appetizer?  Treat your guests to these sophisticated but SIMPLE shrimp quiche bites.  The flaky crust, delicate shrimp, and cheesy top are sure to make your guests feel like royalty.  Surely that's a successful start to any Thanksgiving meal.
Sign me up!  What do I need?
4 oz. mini shrimp (from deli)
1/2 cup half and half or heavy whipping cream
8 oz (1 can) crescent rolls or dinner rolls
1 egg
2 tsp finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup swiss or mozarella cheese

Divide dough into 24 even pieces.
Grease mini muffin tins.  Push dough into tins.
Place 1-2 mini shrimp on top of dough.
Mix together half-and-half, onion, egg, and salt.
Spoon evenly into dough, leaving space for the quiche to rise.
Don't overfill, or it will erupt over the top of the tins!
Sprinkle cheese on top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375.
Makes 24 Shrimp Quiche Bites.

It's that easy, I promise!  I made these on Sunday for a church Thanksgiving potluck.  Not only was I out of the kithchen with time to spare, but these tasty bites vanished before I got to the table!
Shrimp Quiche Bites.  Add some easy elegance to your Thanksgiving meal.

Nutrition Facts
for 1 Shrimp Quiche Bite
49 calories, 1.37g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 13.3mg cholesterol, 2.6g protein, 6.4g carbohydrate, 0.2g fiber, 115.5mg salt
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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