The Real Foodie

Brodo, New York City

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My mother used to make broth from chicken bones when I was a child and used it as a base for her many soups and other recipes. She would especially give it to us when we were sick and always had a bowl of it in the freezer. She told me my great-grandmother who was born in Devon, England, in 1870, used to drink a cup of beef tea (broth made from boneless meat) every day. She used to say it was a cure-all and give it to my grandmother when she was sick. I have been making bone broth regularly myself, ever since reading about it in Nourishing Traditions (the cookbook that changed my life) and adopting a real food diet eight years ago. I usually make it from chicken bones but if I have leftover beef, duck, marrow or lamb bones I will add them. Oxtail also makes a very rich, gelatinous broth. Every time I roast a pastured chicken, I freeze the bones and when my freezer is overflowing with various containers of bones, I will boil them in my 16 quart stock pot with filtered water and four tablespoons of vinegar for twenty-four hours, according to the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. Sometimes I will also add fresh uncooked chicken parts to make it more gelatinous and nutritious. Then I sift it and store it in glass mason jars and use it to make soups, lentils, beans, vegetables, meat sauce or I just drink a cup on its own. My freezer is always fully stocked with jars of bone broth.

I was amazed to learn recently that this real food staple has taken off amongst the fashion crowd in New York City. Along with the opening of Brodo–a take out window serving nothing but bone broth–and a number of butchers and home delivery services also selling it, bone broth is being recommended not only by nutritionists and health coaches but also by beauticians and personal trainers for its many health benefits and skin boosting properties.

Brodo (Italian for broth), opened last November as an addition to chef Marco Canora’s East Village restaurant, Hearth, serving bone broth from 100 percent grass-fed beef, organic pastured chicken and organic turkey. Canora says he can’t keep up with the demand. So when I was in New York for my father’s birthday, I had to go and check it out. Sure enough there was a queue of people waiting to buy their cup of broth. They had three different types: beef; chicken and a combination of beef, chicken and turkey. You can also get a healthy add-in such as freshly grated turmeric, beet kvass or bone marrow. I ordered the beef broth which was deliciously rich in colour and taste with a hint of fresh ginger. It certainly warmed me up on such a cold winter’s day and I felt well nourished.

I was impressed with Marco Canora’s brilliant idea of a take out window, popularising a healthy cup of bone broth over of a cup of coffee. As the real food movement grows, I hope we will be seeing more of these broth bars and fewer places like Starbucks.

Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of The Weston A. Price Foundation, has come out with a new book devoted to bone broth: Nourishing Broth.

Hershey’s Ice Cream: Not Real

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I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I saw this Hershey’s ice cream truck parked in Southampton, New York. Their motto read:

‘Real Ingredients. Real Ice Cream. Real Smiles.’

Here is a typical example of false marketing. Hershey’s ice cream and its ingredients are definitely not real. I know because I contacted the company to ask if their milk comes from cows treated with the growth hormone rBST and they replied that they do not require rBST free milk from their sources, in other words, yes.

Their website reads:

‘Welcome to Hershey’s® Ice Cream, proud producers of REAL, quality ice cream and other delicious novelty items! Since 1894, it’s been our pledge to produce the very best products by using only the best ingredients.’

Examining the ingredients of two popular flavours, vanilla and chocolate, the first five ingredients are genetically modified, followed by two natural ingredients (vanilla extract and whey or in the case of the chocolate flavour, cocoa and whey), followed by four emulsifying additives. They do use cream as a first ingredient, which is better than most conventional ice creams, however it is from cows treated with hormones as well as from cows eating GMO corn and soybean, instead of grass, which is what cows were designed to eat. The second ingredient is nonfat milk, again from cows treated with rBST. The third ingredient is high fructose corn syrup: a highly concentrated form of fructose, responsible for the alarming rate of heart disease and obesity in the U.S. The fourth ingredient is sugar, which now comes from GMO sugar beets unless it is labeled as ‘cane sugar’. The fifth ingredient is corn syrup from GMO corn. The last four ingredients are a combination of natural and synthetic emulsifiers: mono and diglycerides, guar gum, polysorbate 80 and carrageenan. Mono and diglycerides contain trans fats and are used to extend shelf life. They are replacing hydrogenated oils in processed products because they don’t need to be labelled as containing trans fats. Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic surfactant and emulsifier used in cleaners and personal care products, which is contaminated with the carcinogen, 1-4, Dioxane. In a recent study by Nature it has been proven to cause colitis and metabolic syndrome (obesity) which leads to chronic digestive disorders such as type 2 diabetes, liver and heart disease.

I doubt any of these ingredients were used to make Hershey’s ice cream in 1894. The only real ingredients are vanilla extract and cocoa. While Hershey’s may be better than some other ice cream brands like Carvel, as you can see, Hershey’s ice cream is everything BUT real.

Art with a Bold Message

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At the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, I came across this silkscreen print by artist Ester Hernandez, brilliantly portraying the deception of health food marketing. The artist produced the silkscreen in 1982 to address the unfair wages and poor working conditions, particularly exposure to toxic chemicals, of the Mexican migrant workers harvesting grapes in the San Joaquin Valley, California.

Coincidentally, just a few days before seeing this print, I learned to my horror that my daughter’s school, which has a strict organic food policy, were serving Sun Maid raisins to the kids as a snack. I don’t usually eat raisins as they are high in fructose (I would rather save my sweet treat for something more delicious), they get stuck in your teeth and can cause cavities. However, I would never go near non-organic raisins such as Sun Maid raisins, as grapes are one of the fruits with the highest number of different pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group and their latest 2014 data on pesticides in produce, a single grape contains 15 pesticides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report stating that children have unique susceptibilities to [pesticides’] potential toxicity. They cited evidence demonstrating associations between early life exposure to pesticides and paediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioural problems.¹

 

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1. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health. Pesticide Exposure in Children. Available from http://www.aap.org. [26 November 2012].

Front Cover of Time Magazine: Past and Present

time magazineAfter 30 years of bad advice we are finally seeing an end to the war on fat.

El Galpón, Buenos Aires

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My second real food stop in Buenos Aires was El Galpón farmers’ market in Chacarita, which I was more impressed with during this trip than Sabe La Tierra in San Fernando. Here I was finally able to find raw grass-fed milk and yoghurt! They came in glass bottles and I found them at La Azucena stall, owned by Walter and his father Nestor. They only bring two bottles of raw milk to the market each time for the few customers who buy it so I got lucky. Usually you have to call in advance and order it. The milk was much creamier than our Amish grass-fed raw milk in the U.S. and had a richer flavour.

Walter explained to me that the milk would need to be boiled after two days, which I found strange because our Amish milk lasts at least a week. I thought he was being overly cautious as most people are afraid of raw milk but sure enough it did start to sour after two days. However, it didn’t sour in the same way as our raw milk sours which usually gets a bitter taste and curdles, it became thick and developed a pleasant tart flavour like buttermilk. As time went on the flavour stayed the same and the milk got thicker. I did not need to pasteurise it as it comes from roaming grass-fed cows, eating what they are designed to eat and therefore not sick like grain-fed, confined cows. The fact that it had such a pleasant taste meant it was free from any harmful bacteria. If milk has bad bacteria it smells foul, such as when pasteurised milk goes bad, it doesn’t sour like raw milk, because all the enzymes which would otherwise ferment the milk and turn it sour, producing more beneficial bacteria, have been destroyed by the heat process of pasteurisation.

At La Azucena they sell cow milk, goat milk, cow yoghurt, goat yoghurt, aged and soft cheeses as well as chicken, chicken eggs, quails eggs, salami without preservatives, pork, bacon, sausages, pollen and honey. The cheeses unfortunately are not raw. Their farm is in Las Heras; their cows are purely grass-fed and their chickens are pastured and also given leftovers from the vegetable garden and some non-organic corn (which could mean it is GMO). I went back to the market the following week and bought more raw milk, as well as salami and cheese. The milk again soured after two days which was problematic considering my daughter refused to drink it after it soured and I was not able to go to the market again until 2 days later, but it was still delicious and a breakthrough to have finally found a source for raw milk in Buenos Aires.

At the Granja Organica de Arroyo del Medio stand they sell organic pastured eggs, salamis made without preservatives using pastured meats and homemade mustard, pesto, hummus, and eggplant pate. Territorio Cuyano sells organic wines.

At Grupo San Juan there is a wide array of organic vegetables: mostly greens, some fruits and local blueberries. La Choza, which is also at Sabe La Tierra market, sells organic pasteurised, grass-fed milk, yoghurt and cheese. Cumulen stand sells ice creams made from grass-fed milk, carefully sculpted in the Argentine tradition onto cones, which come in a variety of different natural fruit flavours.

There is a very good cafe at El Galpón where they serve organic salads, pastured grilled meats, whole grain alternatives to the classic Argentine pastries such as empanadas and tartas as well as whole wheat pizzas and pastas (my favourite being beet ravioli when in season), all from local farms. They have fresh organic juices such as passionfruit, peach, blueberry and mulberry.

El Galpón is held every Wednesday and Saturday next to the Federico Lacroze train station in Chacarita.

 

Sabe la Tierra, Buenos Aires

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When I first started going to Buenos Aires seven years ago, it was very difficult to find real food. Even the grass-fed beef Argentina is known for worldwide, was quickly being replaced by feedlot beef. In the supermarkets it was impossible to find plain yoghurt; everything was loaded with sugar and additives. There were a few health food stores and restaurants but they were still stuck in the old school belief that soy and vegetarianism is healthy.

Argentines eat mostly bread in the form of pasta, pizza, sandwiches and pastries, with meat, cheese and few vegetables, which made it very difficult to eat well when I was there. However, when I returned in 2010 to visit my in-laws, things had changed. There were now several organic food delivery services and more health food stores and restaurants, but the biggest change was the opening of two farmers’ markets: Sabe La Tierra in San Fernando and El Galpon in La Chacarita. Now when I visit, as soon as I arrive I go to the nearest market to stock up on real food, which has made eating healthy a lot easier when I am there.

During my recent visit in November, my first stop was Sabe La Tierra in San Fernando. The market is held every Saturday at the charming San Fernando, Tren de la Costa train station, where the stalls are set up along the train platform. The most impressive stall is Tierra Florida, owned by Fabio, who sells medicinal herb tinctures and makes various smoothies, using fruit mixed with water kefir, kombucha or coconut milk and adds superfoods such as pollen, cacao, maca, aloe, purple corn, ginger, coca and moringa. Fabio has had his stall at the market for two years.

The movement still has a long way to go in terms of real food and there is still a big emphasis on vegan and vegetarianism. There is no raw cheese or raw milk being sold at the market, only pasteurised, partially grass-fed organic yoghurt and milk from a cooperative of small farmers called La Choza. At the Coeco stall, another cooperative, their chicken and eggs are marketed as pastured but the chickens are fed grains which most likely are GMO as they are not certified organic and the hens are fed GMO soy. I spoke with the owner at Coeco who told me that in March their eggs are going to be certified organic—a huge improvement. Another stall owned by a lady named Susanna, at the end of the platform, also sells eggs; the hens are fed herbs, corn and some commercial feed but again these probably include GMO grains. Since Argentines have started learning about the effects of GMOs from soy, their largest producing crop, there is pressure for producers to have their products certified organic, as most are still getting away with marketing them as healthy and organic when they are fed GMOs.

Across the train tracks at La Cañada stall, there is always a long queue of people waiting to buy their organic fruits and vegetables. Here they sell local organic blueberries, the ones imported all the way to the U.S. during the winter months when blueberries aren’t available.

A few stalls further along there is La Areperia de Buenos Aires. An arepa is a Colombian and Venezuelan cornmeal patty which is grilled or fried and then sliced and usually stuffed with cheese. What differentiates La Areperia de Buenos Aires from the typical arepas you find in the U.S. is that they are made in the traditional, rustic style, using corn kernels that are first boiled and then ground, instead of cornmeal, to produce a more flavourful arepa. The arepas look delicious but when I asked the owner, Hassan, if the corn is organic, his answer was vague. He told me that his producer says it is organic but it isn’t certified, in which case I wouldn’t take the risk, as most corn is GMO.

The health food movement in Argentina has grown tremendously since my last visit, with hopefully more certified organic products to come. Sabe La Tierra market is now held at two more locations, in Tigre on Wednesdays and in Vicente López on Saturdays. As of January this year, Sabe La Tierra started Mercado de Noche, a night market held at different locations from six till ten in the evening. Another market which I have not been to yet, Buenos Aires Market, is held every month since April 2012, at various locations for two days over the weekend, selling organic and healthy food.

Young Coconut Smoothie

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At around the same time as I read the Body Ecology Diet in 2007, where I learned about making fermented coconut pudding (by blending coconut meat with coconut water and adding a culture), I was introduced to blended coconut water and coconut meat smoothies by Melvin, the legendary juice man who used to work at my local health food store in New York City, Lifethyme Market and has now gone on to open two of his own juice bars. Melvin also introduced me to the idea of adding greens to the coconut, such as kale, chard and collard greens, so I would get my greens and healthy fat (to absorb the vitamins), all in one. It also tasted divine.

Ever since then, young coconut smoothies, either pure or mixed with greens, have been a part of my regular health routine. When I started weaning my daughter, puréed coconut meat was one of the first foods I gave her and she loved it. Sometimes I buy my own coconuts and make smoothies at home, or if I am in a rush I will buy a smoothie at one of my local juice bars. Now that I live in Miami where coconuts grow (!) I buy coconuts from my guys, Kokonut Kreationz at Glaser Farmers’ Market, or I will buy a coconut smoothie from Jugo Fresh. When I am in Jamaica, a local man named Lindsay delivers coconuts to us (the gorgeous yellow dwarf variety coconuts pictured above) or I get them delivered from Pantrepant Farm or buy them at a roadside fruit stall. In New York I go to Juice Press or Organic Avenue where they make and bottle coconut smoothies and call it ‘coconut milk’. Wherever I am, I’m never without my coconut smoothie.

How to make young coconut smoothie:

Select a fresh young coconut. If you don’t live in a tropical climate where coconuts grow, you can buy 100 percent certified organic packaged young Thai coconut meat and bottled water from Exotic Superfoods. Though not as fresh, they are the only certified organic young coconut meat source in the U.S and Thai coconuts are more flavourful. Do not buy the Thai coconuts you find in health food stores which have the husk shaved down to a white cone shape as they are sprayed with fungicide, dipped in preservatives and are up to 2 months old. They are far from fresh or nutritious.

Chip the top away, turning the coconut to cut all around the top, using a cleaver or machete until you make a small  hole through the hard inner shell. Pour the water into a blender. Slice the coconut in half and scoop out the soft meat with a spoon. Put the meat in a blender and blend the meat and the water until it forms a smooth consistency.

Note: There is a difference between young and mature coconuts. The young ones are green or yellow, they contain a lot of water and the meat is soft and able to easily be scooped out with a spoon. The mature ones are brown and dry, have little water and the meat is hard and difficult to remove. It needs to be cut out with a special curved knife. The mature coconut meat produces a rich oily cream called coconut milk by grating the meat and squeezing out the cream with a cheese cloth. There are two juice bars in Miami that use mature coconuts to make milk: Milk Gone Nuts and Athens Juice Bar.

Grain Free Gingerbread Cookies

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To get in the Christmas spirit this year, I made gingerbread cookies with my daughter, using  mini holiday cookie cutters. Here is a healthier and more digestible version of gingerbread cookies using homemade nut flour instead of refined wheat flour. I adapted this recipe from The Healthy Home Economist blog which was adapted from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. It is important to find truly raw Italian organic almonds because most U.S. almonds, even those labeled as raw are either steam treated or sprayed with carcinogenic propylene oxide. It is also important to make your own almond flour, as store bought almond flour has already lost most of its nutrients from being on the shelf for so long and it hasn’t been soaked or sprouted to eliminate the phytic acid, which causes digestive problems and blocks mineral absorption. I always had a hard time digesting store bought almond flour and didn’t like the taste, until I started making my own flour from soaked and dehydrated almonds. The taste of homemade almond flour doesn’t compare.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups raw organic Italian almonds

1/2 cup pastured organic butter, melted

1 cup arrowroot powder

1 pastured organic egg

1/2 cup Sucanat or Organic Whole Cane Sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground organic ginger

1 tsp ground organic cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground organic nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground organic cloves

1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt

Preparation:

Soak the almonds in a bowl of salted, filtered water for 18 hours, then spread them out on a baking tray and put them in the oven set at warm for several hours (this varies depending on the oven) until they are crispy, or dry them in a dehydrator.

Set the oven to 300F degrees. Grind prepared almonds in a food processor or blender until they are ground into almond flour.  It is not necessary for the almond flour to be extremely finely ground as a more coarse texture turns out fine when mixed with the arrowroot powder. Mix in remaining ingredients. Roll the dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. Press the balls till they are 1/4″ thick and cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Bake at 300F for 15 minutes.

Milk Gone Nuts, Miami Beach

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I found this hidden gem while washing my car at the Texaco gas station in Miami Beach. I was surprised to the see that the old pseudo-healthy sandwich and juice bar that I was used to seeing, had been replaced with a truly natural, fresh, made from scratch on the spot, nut milkshake bar. In an ice bucket on the counter there was a selection of different types of nut milk: cashew, almond and coconut, in old-fashioned glass milk bottles. Being so jaded from all of the false health food marketing, I was expecting to find an artificial ingredient to ruin it all but was amazed that the milk is made of all natural ingredients and am impressed that they use glass bottles so the milk doesn’t get contaminated with toxic plastic. This is the first time I have seen glass bottles used in a juice bar in Miami. Jugo Fresh, Glaser FarmsAthens Juice Bar and CPR all use plastic bottles for their juices and milks; even Organic Avenue in New York City replaced their glass bottles with biodegradable plastic ones. There is a five dollar bottle deposit to encourage reuse (and of course refill). I ordered a bottle of coconut milk and watched as the mature coconut (from Miami’s hip new coconut company, Coconut Cartel which also supplies their branded coconuts to Soho Beach House and The Standard Spa), was cracked open, separated from its shell and added to a Vitamix blender along with hot filtered water used to extract the coconut milk, Medjool dates, pure maple syrup, vanilla and Himalayan pink salt. The result was a heavenly tasting, fresh, nutritious milk full of healthy fat from the mature coconut.

Opened less than two months ago, owners Mario Suarez, Sara Tacher-Suarez and Brittany Fierman started Milk Gone Nuts with a vision to create an old-fashioned milkshake bar with a twist—dairy-free. Sara started making her own nut milks for herself and later her family and friends. When she decided to open her nut milk bar after being encouraged by friends, her daughter Brittany quit her corporate job to help run the business. The three types of nut milk can be ordered by the glass or bottle and made into a variety of milkshake flavours such as green apple and fig or homemade peanut butter and cacao, with different toppings including superfoods like maca, goji berries and chia seeds. Their sister company, Organic Juice Bar, at the same location, makes salads, wraps, pita sandwiches and juices using certified organic fruits and vegetables. Their salad dressings and extras are not natural (and may contain GMOs, e.g. soy, chicken) but along with expanding to more locations, their goal is to become fully organic.

I never expected to find a real food spot in such an unlikely place and I have no doubt, with a unique idea and the only nut milkshake bar that exists, Milk Gone Nuts will become a huge success. Getting my car washed is something I rarely have time for, but now that I can feed my toddler a healthy treat on our way home (saving me the time of making lunch) I will be stopping here more often.

True Loaf Bakery, Miami Beach

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Walking back from Jugo Fresh, I came across this bakery which had been opened just three days. I was drawn inside after seeing a stack of bags of organic King Arthur Flour in the window. The owner, Tomas, was giving away samples of his cherry pecan bread with made to order peanut butter by Big Spoon Roasters. It was delicious and I could really taste the difference compared to the bleached, bromated flour of conventional bread, of which after being on a real food diet I can taste the bleach. Tomas told me his breads are all naturally leavened sourdough breads and that he uses organic flour, making True Loaf Bakery the only organic bakery in Miami (Zak the Baker who also uses organic flour and natural leaven, will soon be opening a shop in Wynwood). His breads include walnut, whole wheat, country loaf, multi grain, whole wheat with flax, sunflower and cherry pecan. Sourdough leavening is the traditional practice of preparing grains which removes the phytates and enzyme inhibitors, making them more nutritious and digestible.

True Loaf Bakery also makes croissants, chocolate croissants, ham and cheese croissants, madeleines and brioche with pastry cream and creme fraiche, however, a conventional butter is used for these, Plugra, which is made from cows that are treated with rBST hormones and fed GMO soy and corn, so I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re on a real food diet. Although True Loaf Bakery isn’t one hundred percent organic it is hopeful to see traditional food shops like this one opening in Miami and perhaps this will be the start of many more.

True Loaf Bakery is so new there isn’t yet a listing for it or a website. It is located at 1894 Bay Road in Miami Beach.