Posts filed under ‘eating’

Beware of Carrageenan

As a vegetarian and all-around nice person to animals, I used to buy alot of soymilk, specifically Silk, thinking I was being pretty healthy. It’s organic, it tastes good, they make that tasty eggnog version at christmas, but I was recently enlightened about a very dangerous additive found in most store bought soymilks—carrageenan.

A natural food additive derived from seaweed, carrageenan is a proven carcinogen and has been found to cause all sorts of digestive problems for people, and was shown to cause intestinal lesions in animals (which we are). Turns out, carrageenan is a cheap additive that big companies are using to save costs, and putting us at risk. It’s found in many things too, not just soymilk, so check your labels. You’ll find it in ice cream, chocolate milks like Nesquik, diet sodas, yogurt, cottage cheese, even beer. Oh, and carrageenan is even used to de-ice airplanes. YUM.

Here’s a link to the full study. And, here’s an excerpt:

Wakabayashi and associates (72) demonstrated the appearance of colonic tumors in 32% of rats fed 10% degraded carrageenan in the diet for less than 24 months. The lesions included squamous cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, and adenomas. With exposure to 5% degraded carrageenan in drinking water, there was a 100% incidence of colonic metaplasia after 15 months.

100 percent— That’s 10 in 10, people. I’m not experimenting with that. On the positive side, I’ve learned that it’s actually really easy to make your own soy and nut milks at home, and a lot cheaper too. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, check labels and if you need to buy soy/rice/nut milks, choose one that’s carrageenan free, like West Soy.


January 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm 7 comments

Storing Apples Over Winter

By the time I already heard it was almost too late—County Line Orchard, with some of the best locally grown, organic apples around, was having their annual one day, stock-up-for-winter sale. It was very hush-hush and unadvertised, and I was lucky enough to hear from my friend and homesteader Lala, who warned to get their early because all the locavores line up. The impending snowstorm had other plans, but while most of the Northeast was frantically running to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk, we headed to Kempton, PA to stock up on bushels of organic, local apples to store. No apples from Ecuador for us this winter! And, think of the transportation emissions and carbon we were saving by buying local. And they were organic! It really didn’t get much better.

With proper storage, apples will keep all winter, and here’s a really easy way to do it.

Step 1: Get a Box and Some Newspapers

Cut up an old newspaper into smaller squares, large enough to wrap around the apples. Get a box to store all of your apples. Watch any cats within a 100 foot radius find the box and jump in. Get ready to wrap.

Step 2: Inspect and Prep

You’ll want to only store apples that are bruise and nick-free, so inspect them before wrapping. If damaged at all, use these sooner, and do not store.

Step 3: Wrap the Apples

Once you have your storage apples ready, put an apple in the center of a piece of newspaper…

…and wrap it up, pulling the sides up and to the top. Twist to lock it in, like this:

Step 4: Pack the Box and Store

Place the apples in twist side down, so the newspaper stays on. Fill the bottom, than keep layering on top until the box is full. Then, store the apples in a cold area of the house or root cellar. Not too cold though, you don’t want the apples to freeze (this bruises them). Make sure to keep them out of light too.

Apples with thicker skins store longer, but most apples will keep for at least two months if properly stored. And, then, next time it snows, you can make pie with your own local apples!

January 5, 2010 at 2:54 am Leave a comment

Make Your Own Dried Hot Peppers

dried pepper

It’s pepper time, and last weekend, I stepped outside to find this huge box of mixed hot peppers on my side porch. They were beautiful:


My friend Karen, of Skylark Studios, had one of those utopic growing seasons—bunches of red beets, hundreds of carrots, loads of tomatoes, and bushels of hot peppers. So many she didn’t know what to do with them all. 

I was short on time (It’s been a bit crazy around here, with the Dine Indie Chef Tour kicking off last week), so I decided to dry a bunch, since this is one of the easiest ways to preserve hot peppers to store all year. Plus dried peppers are versatile, and can be used in tomato sauces, reconstituted to make mexican mole type sauces, muddled  in a mortar and pestle to make your own crushed pepper flakes, or added to a soup or curry for a little kick. All you need is a dehydrator and a bunch of hot peppers. Here’s how to do it:

Wash the peppers and wear gloves, just in case (These peppers are hot people!) Leave stems on and do not cut them or your kitchen will be filled with hot pepper smoke (not fun, trust me). 

washing the habeneros

Next, place them in a dehydrator. I have a retro convection oven/dehydrator I picked up at a yard sale in Provincetown, but the typical tray ones work great. Set it at 125 degrees and dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours. Sometimes longer depending on the size of your peppers. 

spaceship-dehydratorCheck to see if they are done. If they are crunchy, and break when you bend them, they are dehydrated.  The peppers should be totally stiff, and will have darkened, like this.

final product

Then, you just have to store them. I like to put mine in mason jars. If kept airtight like this, they’ll last up to a year. They also make great presents (you can even make your own labels and put them in fun jars.) 

dried peppers


October 4, 2009 at 7:09 pm 2 comments

Chef Night at Tim Stark’s

alex2I was lucky enough to attend a chef dinner at heirloom tomato farmer and author Tim Stark‘s new farm in my my neck of the woods last Tuesday. Alex Lee, former executive chef at Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in New York City and a past contender on Iron Chef, made a fantastic farm fresh dinner using tomatoes, berries, beans and other local produce all grown on or within a few miles of Tim’s sprawling 55-acre farm. And, needless to say, it was an amazing dinner.

Chef Alex told me that he tried to keep it simple, and let the ingredients speak for themselves—“real farm style food” as he called it, using only three or four items.

fruit tart

fruit tart

The mood was relaxed, with children running around, a chef in the kitchen, and local chilled wine to toast off the fabulous dinner. Alex prepared three soups—green gazpacho, mole pork rib stew, and Faro soup—and this delectable bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and pesto:


About 30 of us enjoyed dinner as the sun was going down, amid the 19th century farm buildings and this beautiful stone wall.


For dessert, we all went inside as Chef Alex served up a local fruit pie with a simple, but oh-so-amazing flaky crust. It was gone in about a minute.


August 21, 2009 at 4:22 am 1 comment

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