You are what you eat
The foods you buy at the supermarket may not be as good for you as you think. Here, we provide a guide to the foods that will keep you happy and healthy.
Take pleasure in your food.
Think back 100 years, to the immigrant communities scattered about the land. They didn’t buy into fads or nutritional claims, just into what they knew — great food, made with what was local and available.
Most fields these days are planted with one of two crops — wheat or corn — making local vegetables, fruits and whole grains harder to find. Whole Foods and local specialty food stores are trying to bring back hard-to-find ingredients.
Taste your food.
My husband, Tate, went through most of his life thinking he hated tomatoes. That was until he tasted one picked fresh from the vine in our back yard. Now that he knows what a tomato is supposed to taste like, he loves them.
Fresh foods taste better.
The varieties grown by local and organic farmers are based on flavor and travel a shorter distance between farm and table. Food that is fresh contains the maximum amount of flavor and nutrition, which begins to decline as soon as it is picked. Grown without genetic modification or agricultural chemicals, the food is good and clean.
Remember animal rights.
Industrial meat production is notoriously brutal to the animals and extremely wasteful of resources such as water, grain and antibiotics.
According to a 2006 report issued by the United Nations, the meat industry also is one of the biggest contributors to water and air pollution, even more than the entire transportation industry.
Do we really need meat?
We as humans need plants to survive, but according to food scientists, with the exception of vitamin B12, every nutrient in meat can be obtained somewhere else.
On the other hand, meat is nutritious food, supplying essential amino acids, protein, vitamins and minerals — when eaten in moderation, of course.
You are what you eat eats.
Animals that eat what they are supposed to eat — a diet of grass rich in beta carotene – tend to offer much healthier fats in their meat, milk and eggs.
And remember that the greater the diversity of species you eat, the easier it will be to meet all of your nutritional needs.
Why is “bad” food less expensive?
The government subsidizes farmers who grow corn and soybeans for sweeteners and fat, but not those who grow corn locally for our consumption. These ingredients, found abundantly in snack foods, have helped the cost of snacks, convenience foods and soft drinks drop, while the price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased by as much as 40 percent.
Where should you shop?
Thankfully, the amount of certified organic cropland has more than doubled in the last decade, making farmers’ markets one of the fastest-growing segments of the food marketplace.
While these markets all tend to be seasonal, we benefit greatly from that season — food in season is at its best. Your diet is diversified from eating things that are not available year-round and you will invariably be cooking at home, leading to a healthier diet all around.
Good for earth = good for you.
Our food chain is dependent on our diet and visa versa. When the health of one part of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the other creatures in it. For example, if the soil is sick or deficient, so will be the grass that grows from it, the cows that eat the grass and the people who drink the cow’s milk.
Most farms and ranches that raise meat and produce sustainably also practice crop rotation, which increases soil fertility through alternate grazing and mowing. After a pasture has been used for grazing, it is allowed to recover for a period of time, thus restoring the grass and eliminating erosion through a cycle of fertilization (manure) and recovery. This rotational grazing protects the roots of the grass and boosts the fertility of the soil.
Here are some recipes to help you enjoy organic and sustainably grown foods.
Hard-boiled farm eggs with Greek yogurt and spices
Serves 4 to 6
I learned to make perfect hard-boiled eggs from Julia Child. Not personally, but from her best-selling cookbook, “The Way to Cook.” The fresher the egg, the easier it will be to peel when cooked. This is a foolproof method, eliminating that overcooked, gray-ringed yolk. Dipping or smearing the eggs with a little bit of yogurt allows the herb mixture to stick.
- 6 fresh farm eggs
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- Greek yogurt, for serving
Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with water by 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pan, remove from heat and let sit for 17 minutes. Drain and rinse eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel eggs and slice lengthwise. Combine seeds, herbs, salt and pepper and serve with eggs and a bowl of yogurt for dipping.
Grilled T-bone with herb butter
Serves 4 to 6
Use your favorite cut of steak — I favor the T-bone because it offers both the delicious tenderloin and the juicy strip. You also could substitute lean and flavorful buffalo or meaty, thick-cut lamb or pork chops.
- 2 1 1/2-inch-thick T-bone steaks (3 pounds total)
- Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- Herb butter (recipe follows)
- Let steaks sit out at room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. Preheat a gas grill to high, leaving one burner off. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a light coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed on one side of the grill.
- Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper.
- Grill the steaks over direct heat until marked, about 2 minutes on each side. Move the steaks to the cooler part of the grill and continue to grill over indirect medium heat until desired doneness, 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium (cook slightly less for rare, slightly more for medium-well).
- Transfer steaks to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, 10 minutes before serving.
- Top each steak with a slice of herb butter and serve.
Makes 1 pound
Slice butter and top grilled fish, chicken or steak; stir into cooked rice or pasta; or smear on bread for a zesty grilled sandwich.
- 1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon sage, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon or orange zest
In a medium bowl, mix together butter, herbs and zest with a wooden spoon. Turn mixture out onto parchment or plastic wrap and roll into a log, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Chill until firm, or freeze for up to one month.
Chopped fresh Greek salad
Serves 4 to 6
This crisp and super-flavorful salad takes advantage of the bounty of produce available in our area, is a breeze to prepare and is even better the next day. For a zesty kick, my friend Julie Zimmerly likes to spike hers with jalapeno-stuffed green olives.
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon mashed oil-packed anchovies (2 to 4 fillets)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head romaine, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 vine-ripe or heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 cup feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
- 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded if desired and sliced
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- Place olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, mustard, oregano and anchovies in a sealable jar and shake well until combined and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while making salad.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and drizzle with dressing. Let sit at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.
Fresh blackberry cobbler
Serves 6 to 8
Summer in Oklahoma means it’s berry time! The farmers’ markets around town are usually brimming with berries come June, and you can pick your own at one of several farms in the area — I love Toomey’s Black n’ Blue farm in Broken Arrow for their giant berries and thornless bushes. This delicious summery dessert is inspired by a recipe from Nora Pouillon, one of America’s finest organic chefs, who owns the acclaimed restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.
- 4 cups blackberries
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot
- 2 pinches ground cardamom
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup buttermilk or 1/3 cup milk with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Mint sprigs, for serving
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Grease a 4- to 6-cup baking dish or ceramic pie plate.
- Combine berries, liqueur, sugar, arrowroot and cardamom in a bowl and pour into baking dish.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add the butter and work the mixture quickly between your fingertips, until it is crumbly and has the consistency of coarse cornmeal (alternatively, use a food processor, pulsing until combined).
- Add the egg yolk and buttermilk and stir to combine — the dough will be soft.
- Drop the dough in spoonfuls onto the berries with a large spoon.
- Bake until the topping is browned and cooked through and the berry mixture is bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Serve, garnished with fresh mint.