I really can’t wrap my head around any of this. The FDA appears to be close to approving the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon. To me, GM or genetically engineered (GE) foods - especially animal products (this salmon would be the first available in the U.S.) - are problematic as it is. But to top it off, there is no mandate that GM/GE foods be labeled as such. As for salmon, whether salmon is wild or farm-raised needs to be specified where it’s sold… so in what way does it possibly make sense that GM salmon doesn’t need to have a label indicating it as such?? Or any other GM/GE food, for that matter? Plain and simple, it doesn’t. Even if GM/GE food is the way of the future (or present, as plenty GM/GE products are on grocery store shelves everywhere), it still boggles my mind that there aren’t strict rules mandating that these products be clearly labeled. We as consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods we put into our bodies, and this complete lack of transparency really tramples all over that right. The company bringing us this mutant GM fish is AquaBounty. According to their website, they are “developing advanced-hybrid salmon, trout, and tilapia designed to grow faster than their conventional siblings.” As for the salmon, they write: “AquAdvantage® Salmon (AAS) include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. In all other respects, AAS are identical to other Atlantic salmon.” So they are touting the benefit of this salmon as being it’s speedy development time ,as compared to “conventional” (i.e., NATURAL) salmon. Even if they have conducted research supporting the safety of this salmon, my personal belief is that even simply due to time - or lack thereof - there is no way to know what potential negative effects this could have in the long run. Consumer groups are (rightfully!) petitioning both the apparently imminent approval of GM salmon and the lack of a label requirement. They wrote: “Atlantic salmon is a substance traditionally regarded as safe. [AquaBounty’s] GE process significantly alters the salmon’s composition, however, in a way that is reasonably expected to alter its nutritive value or concentration of constituents, and the new substance raises safety concerns… Under the Agency’s regulations and guidelines, such a substance must be treated as a food additive and the Agency must make a closer inquiry into the safety of its consumption, including, but not limited to, subjecting it to extensive pre-market testing.” Sounds very reasonable to me. I am no conspiracy theorist and I am not an all-around skeptic or cynic, but regardless of research or studies indicating the safety of GM/GE foods, the realist in me immediately sees a large, shiny red flag being raised at the idea of foods/ingredients altered in such a way from their natural state - especially animal products. I have issues as it is with non-animal product GM/GE foods - but to alter animals in such a way is an even bigger beast. I love science, but I don’t think living things that we then put in our bodies were meant to be meddled with in such a way. I worry the risk will very, very much so outweigh any purported benefit, now or down the road. Perhaps the key point here though is that regardless of whether you personally are for or against the manufacturing, sale and consumption of GM/GE foods, we should be able to very easily know whether what we are eating falls into that category or not. And the fact that some major food corporations and government agencies say otherwise makes less than no sense to me. On another personal note, this announcement about salmon disappoints me especially as a salmon-lover - it’s one of my favorite types of fish, especially in sushi form - but unless I can be sure whether salmon I am about to consume is GM, I won’t be eating it at all anymore. Read more about this news via the following links (or do an online search and pick from the many, many available sources):

And, if you want to learn more about GM/GE foods, I highly recommend watching the documentary The Future of Food.

So far, we’ve used the vanilla balsamic vinegar we purchased from Olive Creations in two dishes - one sweet, one savory (both vegan!) - and both were delicious. The first:

Brussels Sprouts with Beans & Grains

This was one of those on-the-spot, use-what’s-in-the-fridge/cupboards meals that was simple and super healthy. It’s a combination of some of my favorite foods, and the vanilla vinegar added a special touch (though regular balsamic vinegar would be more than fine as well!)

What You Need:
- 20 (approx.) brussels sprouts, halved
- 1/2 package Trader Joes Harvest Grains blend
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Virgin/unrefined coconut oil (a couple of tbsp, to taste)
- Sea and/or truffle salt and ground pepper, to taste
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Vanilla balsamic vinegar, to taste

What You Do:
- THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Heat a (preferably nonstick) cast-iron griddle pan on the stovetop over low-medium heat. Melt about 1 tbsp of coconut oil (add or reduce the amount of oil based on your preference and the pan you’re using) on heated pan. Place brussels sprouts flat side down on the pan and season with salt (consider using truffle salt if you have it!) and pepper; cook until they are lightly browned and begin to soften, and then flip and continue cooking to desired doneness. When finished, place in a bowl and toss with approx. 1 tbsp of the vinegar.
- THE GRAINS: Cook on stovetop according to directions on the package. I used coconut oil in place of butter or olive oil, and once the grains were finished cooking I added approx. another 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil. Then, season to taste with ground pepper and garlic powder. Keeping the flame beneath the pot on the lowest setting, add the kidney beans and stir; wait until they are warmed through.
- SERVE: Combine all in a bowl and enjoy! (Side note: I love the vanilla vinegar so much I also added a bit to the grains in my bowl)

Coconut Milk Ice Cream with Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar

What You Need:
- Coconut-milk vanilla ice cream
- Vegan chocolate chip cookies, or whatever you have handy (I will be posting my recipe this week!)
- Vanilla balsamic vinegar

What You Do:
Kind of a no-brainer here - just combine all of the ingredients together in whatever amounts you prefer in a bowl! For three small scoops of ice cream totaling about 3/4 cups, about 1 tsp of vinegar was added on top. You may be surprised at just how tasty the vinegar is with the ice cream! And I’d bet regular aged balsamic vinegar would do just fine as well.

Whole wheat pastry flour is a fool-proof way to bake muffins, batter breads and cookies with whole wheat and without the risk of a dense, dry or gummy final product. When using other whole wheat or whole grain flours, the ingredient ratio/balance can be a little trickier to finesse in order to end up with a desirable texture, but whole wheat pastry flour makes it easy - no modifications necessary (the vast, vast majority of the time) if you’re swapping it for all-purpose unbleached white flour - delicious and nutritious!

WHOLE WHEAT RASPBERRY MUFFINS

WHAT YOU NEED For the muffins:
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg*
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk**
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp coconut oil, melted*** - plus more (not melted) for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cups berries (I went with fresh raspberries this time)
NOTES: *If halving the recipe, whisk 1 large egg in a small bowl and spoon or pour out half of it for use in the recipe **For best results, use the full-fat canned version (Thai Kitchen brand is great) ***Use unrefined virgin coconut oil
For the topping:
  • 3/4 tsp turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
WHAT YOU DO
  • Preheat oven with middle rack to 375°F
  • Grease 12-muffin tray with unmelted coconut oil
  • Whisk flour, turbinado, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  • Whisk egg in a separate medium bowl, and then whisk in coconut milk, oil and vanilla
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring and folding with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined (the batter will be thick and dense
  • Fold in berries
  • Fill each muffin cup equally with the batter
  • Stir together the additional turbinado and cinnamon in a small dish until combined, and sprinkle over the top of each muffin
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, and then unmold onto a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy!
  Adapted from Gourmet
Thanks so much to my awesome colleagues for surprising me with these mags (they know me so well!) and a lovely card for my birthday :) I’m lucky to work with such a great group!

Having lived in Manhattan for more than 5 years I’m really late to the game on this one, but I was only just recently enlightened (thanks, Quyen!) to the existance of the Hester Street Fair (open every Saturday). Better yet, though, is the craziness taking place down there this Sunday, October 23rd:

My office provides free lunch everyday, which is a tremendous money-saving perk. Usually it’s healthy and at least fairly good, but there are the inevitable days (e.g., pizza Fridays and occasionally less-than-desirable options on Wednesdays, which changes from week to week) when buying something separate becomes warranted. Given the fact that I’m not paying for lunch the vast majority of the time, it’s a little easier to justify indulging in a perhaps slightly overpriced - but so worth it - sandwich or salad from one of the great local spots near the office once in a while.

Friedman’s Lunch in Chelsea Market  right across the street is consistently solid - the food is fresh, healthy (mostly) and really tasty. The downside is the price. But, once every couple of weeks I’ll get something from there, and my most recent go-to is the Garden Vegetable sandwich: grilled sourdough with hummus, avocado, sprouts, cucumber, tomato, carrots and lettuce. The freshness of the ingredients, char on the bread and quality of the hummus makes for a fantastic combination of flavors and textures. I would happily eat it every day if I could!

As a more wallet-friendly alternative though, I think I need to attempt recreating this at home.

Here comes the first of a series of posts that are ridiculously long overdue … but, better late than never! This summer was filled with many memorable meals, and I’ve been holding off on properly documenting most until this new blog was set up. I’ll start with the one that was, without question, the best!

This particular meal was homemade - and homemade for me; my only participation, thanks to strict instruction, was to eat and enjoy - and I wasn’t about to argue with that :)! And, did I ever enjoy it. Delicious, perfectly cooked, wonderful, tasty, satisfying, memorable, special… just a few of the words that come to mind when I try and describe this dinner, yet none come close to doing it justice. Peter was visiting, and I knew he had spent the afternoon gathering ingredients for a dinner creation he was plotting. That evening I walked in the door from work to:

Dogfish Head Red & White, sliced peppers, goat cheese, prosciutto, mixed olives and my favorite "crack" crackers (seriously, try and stop yourself after eating just one), and beautiful roses. And then came the main dish. Wow - what a cook:

Baked chicken breast that was wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with goat cheese, habanero, and rosemary, along with flash-pan-fried and steamed brussel sprouts and roasted rosemary potatoes, peppers, cipollini onions and mushrooms. Topped with a sprinkle of truffle salt.

AMAZING. A perfect balance and combination of flavors and spice. The rosemary was an incredible common thread to tie the various main components together, and the heat from the habanero added a delicious kick.

I unfortunately did not capture a photo of dessert, which was very dark chocolate with fresh figs - a lovely end to an incredibly lovely meal.

I’m a firm believer that while you can have fantastic meals at great restaurants, nothing is better than a homemade, heartfelt meal. And this was by far the most belly- and heart-warming meal that’s been made for me, and I couldn’t have felt luckier to be the recipient. It still makes me smile when I think about it.

A most special meal that I will never forget!

Made a great green salad for dinner last night with Jame: baby spinach, cucumber, green pepper, avocado, broccoli, yellow grape tomatoes, mushrooms, a little goat cheese on top and some green olives on the side. While I usually opt to make a simple vinaigrette from scratch, if I reach for something store-bought chances are it’s Cindy’s Kitchen - the Barcelona Vinaigrette and Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette are so good I could drink them - and both were just right with this salad mix. Leftovers to be consumed for lunch tomorrow!