UC Food Blog
Editor's note: Today we launch a “Weekly food dispatch” in the UC Food Blog. It will appear every Friday. The dispatch is a compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative. To suggest stories for next week, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kashkari points out that poverty persists
California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari posed as an out-of-work homeless man in Fresno last month to demonstrate that California's economic recovery hasn't reached everyone in the state. "It's been a week and I've found nothing. I've run out of money and had to turn to the homeless shelter for food," Kashkari said in a 10-minute video about his experience that is posted on his website. Fresno Bee
Botulism fear prompts food recall
Two cases of botulism infection may be tied to a California company's gourmet pine nut basil pesto, reported the state Department of Public Health. As a result, the manufacturer, VR Green Farms of San Clemente, is voluntarily recalling the pesto and other products packaged in Mason-style glass jars with screw-on metal lids, including Pickled Farm Mix, Old World Tomato Sauce, Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Tuscan Grilling Sauce and Pasta Sauce. CDPH Press Release | Orange County Register
Karen Ross on trade mission in Mexico City
California agriculture secretary Karen Ross was in Mexico City this week as part of Gov. Brown's trade mission south of the border. The delegation included organizations representing California organic products, pistachios, tree fruit, wine and raisins, plus private farming and food companies interested in expanding trade and learning more about Mexico's market dynamics. Planting Seeds Blog
Cheap food is calories, not nutrition
New York Times columnist Mark Bittman sat down with the host of Vox.com Ezra Klein to talk about American food habits. In the U.S., food is cheap, Klein said. “The scary thing about that is we get clobbered on other costs,” Bittman said. “We have higher rates of obesity; we have higher rates of diabetes than any other country too.” Bittman said you can spend very little money on food, but you are buying calories, not nutrition. Vox.com
U.S. Senators decry FDA's food animal antibiotic policy
Three Democratic U.S. Senators, including Dianne Feinstein of California, sent a letter to the FDA commissioner that said the FDA's voluntary guidelines on antibiotic use in food animals “do not go far enough.” The guidelines, they said, “may not be sufficient to effectively curtail the routine use of dangerous low doses of antibiotics for the duration of an animal's life.” An op-ed in the New York Times called the policy “a blatant failure on food.” Wall Street Journal | New York Times
Americans are cutting back on soda
Americans have become increasingly wary of drinking soda in the last 12 years. In 2002, 41 percent said they actively tried to avoid soda. In a poll taken in July, 63 percent said they tried to avoid soda. A poll last year showed that caloric soda consumption is most popular among the young, people of color and those with a low income. Gallup.
Peanut industry seeks to start marker-assisted breeding
The peanut industry funded a five-year project to sequence the domestic peanut and many of its wild ancestors. Scientists will determine what genes confer desirable traits – such as disease resistance and higher yield – and then begin breeding peanuts assisted by genetic markers. As a result, the typical 15 years needed to breed new peanut varieties will be cut down to seven. Southwest Farm Press
Business model created for sustainable farming of edible insects
Mohammed Ashour and four fellow MBA students at McGill University believe palm weevils could cure world hunger. Insects have similar levels of protein as beef and higher levels of iron, potassium, zinc, phosphorous and several amino acids. The grad students developed a low-cost farming model that permits year-round insect farming in countries where insects are part of the food culture, but residents lack access to sufficient nutritious food. CNN.com
Australian farmer breeds mango with coconut flavor
Farmer Leo Skliros of Berry Springs Australia stumbled on coconut flavor notes in mango by chance and by crossbreeding developed a new cultivar he named “malibu.” The experiment was aimed to create a better tasting mango and a more practical variety for farmers. Mysteriously, ABC Rural reported he picked the name “malibu” because of the fruit's “coconuty” flavor, but Malibu is a beach in California where coconuts don't grow. ABC Rural
The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.
The 2nd annual 4-H Cooking Throwdown at the California State Fair took place June 22 and 24. Youth ages 9 to 18 had one hour to create a three-course meal with each course containing the designated "secret ingredient." The theme was "Fair Food Done Healthy."
All of the dishes were judged on originality, taste and the USDA's MyPlate standards. Healthy living is a major component of the 4-H Youth Development Program and this contest was introduced to help teach youth to cook and learn portion sizes.
On June 22, three junior teams composed of 9- to 13-year-olds competed. In Round 1, the secret ingredient was a hot dog. The Fat and Furious Team made a mini corn dog, a "speedy" Italian sandwich and a funnel cake with homemade whip cream and candied hot dog. The Blond, Brunette and Ginger Team made hot dog nachos, seafood stir fry and cinnamon chips with fresh creme and strawberries. The fresh cream was infused with hot dog. The food was very original and very tasty. The Fat and Furious won the round.
Round 2 secret ingredient: zucchini
The Cuisine Queens Team made a berry zucchini crepe, chicken salad, and a berry zucchini smoothie.
In the final junior round the secret ingredient was watermelon. Fat and Furious Team made a watermelon mint goat cheese appetizer, a wasabi bread crumb pork chop with a watermelon reduction sauce and fried watermelon for dessert. The Cuisine Queens made a fruit salad, fruit and beef kabobs, and a baked funnel cake for dessert.
The Fat and Furious team were the junior champions.
July 24 was the senior competition of the State Fair 4-H Cooking Throwdown. Six teams competed for the champion title. The youth were between 14 and 18 years old.
The Cookin' Coyotes vs. The Culinary Ninjas
Secret ingredient: berries.
The Culinary Ninjas focused on the health aspect of the competition. They cooked a chorizo caramel apple appetizer, egg roll in a bowl as the main course and a mini churro for dessert. The Cookin' Coyotes made guacamole and chips for the appetizer, fish tacos with a fruit salad for the main course and a baked funnel cake with berry infused fresh cream. The Culinary Ninjas won the round.
Lamorinda Iron Chefs vs. Organic Fanatics vs. Clever Clover
Secret ingredient: broccoli
The Organic Fanatics made a sweet and tangy yogurt sauce for a kabob appetizer, a veggie stuffed burger on a lettuce bun, and a baked funnel cake. They focused on creating a healthy, well-balanced meal.
The Clever Clovers made baked potato chips, chicken and broccoli kabobs, and a dessert smoothie.
The Lamorinda Iron Chefs made zucchini and broccoli backed chips, a gyro with a broccoli sauce, and a chocolate, broccoli and avocado mousse. They focused on a tasty balanced meal.
The Lamorinda Iron Chefs won the round with the Organic Fanatics in 2nd and the Clever Clover earning 3rd place.
Lamorinda Iron Chefs vs. Culinary Ninjas
Secret ingredient: dried seaweed
The Lamorinda Iron Chefs made a seven-layer bean, salsa, seaweed, guacamole chip, chicken on a stick with a apple and onion slaw, and for a dessert a baked funnel cake with seaweed flakes in the batter and topped off with seaweed and strawberries.
The Culinary Ninjas made a zucchini chip with seaweed hummus, a baked vegetable and seaweed pizza and a berry mouse pretzel cookie.
Lamorinda Iron Chefs were the senior champions of the day. They are eligible to represent California at the Texas State Fair in the National 4-H Cooking Challenge. The contest will be held during the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, October 7 and 8, 2014. The National Food Challenge will not only include a contest, but an educational day as well. More information can be found here: http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/nfchallenge/table>
During summer break, healthy food and fitness often take a long vacation. For many, the vacation is ending and it's time to do some homework. Study these back-to-school tips for the start to a healthy school year. If you follow a balanced diet and stay physically active, there's no way you can't get an 'A' in back-to-school nutrition!
- Don't skip breakfast! Studies show children who eat breakfast perform better in school.
- If you pack a homemade lunch for your children, include a good balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat free dairy products, and lean meats and proteins.
- Provide new options! Pack exotic fruits like kiwi or allow your child to pick a fun new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. They are more likely to eat their lunch if they helped prepare it.
- Reinforce cleanliness and remind your children to wash their hands before they eat or pack a moist towelette or hand sanitizer in their lunchbox.
- Physical activity and exercise are important and help improve a child's health. Children should be active for at least 60 minutes a day, and adults need to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. Make exercise a family affair and get the physical activity everyone needs! Go for a weekend hike, walk the dog together, or ride your bikes after dinner.
Try this quick and easy recipe for your child's lunch or mix it up and substitute a variety of their favorite vegetables instead.
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 4 ounces cooked skinless, boneless chicken
- 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons low-fat Italian vinaigrette
- 1 (6-inch) whole-grain pita, cut in half
- Combine spinach, chicken, bell pepper, and vinaigrette in a bowl; lightly toss and mix ingredients.
- Cut the pita pieces in half.
- Using a spoon, fill each pita half with the tossed ingredients.
- Once assembled, lay them flat and pack them up for your child to enjoy during lunch.
The UC small farm program held a series of two-day workshops around California to outline the provisions of the new law. Shermain Hardesty, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, was the coordinator and an instructor for the series. The class was popular, but many of the farming participants found that the letter of the law tended to hinder their creativity rather than open new business avenues.
Hardesty said the Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) was designed to, among other things, help farming families take their surplus produce and make dried products, jams, jellies and butters. However, the California Department of Public Health is requiring cottage food operators to do all of their processing in their home kitchen, to comply with the Statutory Provisions Related to Sanitary and Preparation Requirements for Cottage Food Operations (Excerpts from the California Health and Safety (H&S Code, including H&S 113980 Requirements for Food), specifically, the CDPH requires that cottage food operators comply with the following operational requirements:
"All food contact surfaces, equipment, and utensils used for the preparation, packaging, or handling of any cottage food products shall be washed, rinsed, and sanitized before each use. All food preparation and food and equipment storage areas shall be maintained free of rodents and insects."
Cutting fruit and laying it in the sun to dry, for example, is not permitted. For jams and jellies, the law stipulates sugar-to-fruit ratios that require more sugar than fruit. For some cooks, the rules defeat the unique character of their homemade, gourmet products.
“I really try not to put a lot of sugar in my jellies. I want it to taste like fruit,” said farmer Annie Main, who took the UC class.
Main and her husband Jeff run an organic fruit, vegetable, flower and herb operation on 20 acres in the Capay Valley of Yolo County.
“I've been doing value-added for 20 years,” Main said. “In the '90s, I started making jams and jellies in a rented certified kitchen. But it's a trek to get labor, jars, supplies and fruit to the restaurant kitchen after hours and then work till midnight. We thought with the new law, I could do it in my own kitchen, which would be fabulous.”
However, she found that the rules of the law are so restrictive as to be prohibitive.
“Farmers in the class were asked whether the law extended their ability for economic return on their products. Every single one shook their heads,” Main said. “The new law doesn't help us at all.”
Hardesty said there may be other options for these producers to process and sell their foods. She is planning to offer another class this fall, “Cottage Food Plus,” to help growers find workable mechanisms for selling their food.
“They may be able to use a co-packer to do the processing or a commercial kitchen or become registered as a processing food facility,” Hardesty said.
A motivated third-grade teacher, Fidel Garcia, applied for grants from the Tulare County Farm Bureau, California Ag in the Classroom, the Dairy Council of California and LifeLab. He invited UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator Grilda Gomez into the classroom to share the UC Cooperative Extension “Nutrition to grow on” lessons. A local nursery, Bonnie Plants, donated seeds and transplants to grow cabbage, zucchini and onions in the school garden.
Garcia asked the other Pixley Elementary third-grade teachers to be involved. David McGrady's class researched and planted herbs. Garcia's class and Ralph Gutierrez' class planted the main garden. All the students regularly visited to weed, irrigate and watch the vegetables grow.
At harvest time, UCCE's Gomez worked with the students to prepare a fresh coleslaw using vegetables representing the six plant parts they learned about in the classroom – stems, seeds, leaves flowers, fruit and roots.
8 cups finely shredded cabbage (2 ½ pound medium head)
1 cup finely sliced celery
½ cup shredded carrot (1 medium carrot)
½ cup sliced green onion
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons salad oil
Pinch celery salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup wine vinegar
Combine cabbage, celery, carrot, green onion and parsley. Pour on salad oil and toss until slaw is evenly coated. Sprinkle on and toss in seasonings. Finally, add wine vinegar and toss.