Considering it was a long weekend, I almost felt obligated to bake something. While my whims on baking ebb & flow, it has been a while since I threw something in the oven. So I decided to experiment a bit and create my own wonder cake.
Having a lot of bananas in the house is a good problem. But I literally had over 2 dozen and not wanting to lose them to rot, I decided to do something about them. A huge fan of banana bread, I decided to take it up a notch and create a cake instead. I did not want all purpose or whole wheat flour so I instead opted for oat bran. Yes the oat bran sucks moisture out but add a little butter and toss your cake in the microwave. You will turn into a believer!
So, here's what I did:
3 cups oat bran flour
4 ripe bananas
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg worth egg whites
2 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt to taste
1 1/3 cups coconut sugar
1 cup walnuts
1 cup chocolate/carob chips (I used a mixture)
- Mix all ingredients (until salt) with 1 cup coconut sugar.
- In a separate bowl, take remaining 1/3 cup sugar and mix chocolate chips & walnuts.
- Spread one layer of flour on a baking dish after slightly greasing it.
- Add middle layer of chocolate-walnut mixture.
- Pour remaining flour layer on top.
- Top with the rest of the chocolate-walnut mix.
- Throw in the oven for 45 minutes.
- To serve, cut a piece, throw some butter on top and microwave for 20 seconds.
After a snow storm at Bryant Park
I don't have anything against smokers, I used to be one. I do, however, have a problem with the smoke in my face everywhere! At every turn, every block and every corner in New York, you will inhale cigarette smoke despite your otherwise intentions. There are times when I walk around with my scarf around my nose but those buggers still manage to get to you!So you can only imagine what a welcome relief it was when Mayor Bloomberg initiated the no smoking in parks rule.
This meant that smokers could no longer waft their stinky smoke in parks and beaches across the city! At least some place we can go to breathe a sigh of relief and get some unpolluted oxygen. Of course with smoking all over town still going on in full glory, I know that the park air is not 100% smoke free but its at least some place where we can go and not be disturbed by them. So imagine how peeved I was when earlier this week I saw a couple sitting inside Bryant park - my favorite park in the city - and SMOKING! Now mind you, this couple was not young, perhaps in their 50's or so.
The woman was holding a long stick and puffing away while chatting with her male friend. I walked by determined to not say anything but the urge was so strong I had to turn around and inform them of the rule. Here's how it flowed:Me: You know if a cop sees you, you will get fined. Smoking is banned in parks. Man: Yeah she knows. Me: Well then you shouldn't do it.Man: Yeah, we know.
Mind your own businessMe:
(Walking away). You mind your own business by doing the right thing. While exiting the park, I see two cops. I walk up to them. Me: Hello officer, there are 2 people sitting on the bench and smoking. Cop 1: Where? Me: Just by the benches, there (pointing). I told them smoking in parks is banned but they told me to mind my own business. Cop 2: OK, we will go check it out. I came home and told my husband and he said, perhaps you should have stayed out of it. Why inform the cops? I informed the cops because I am sick of it! I am sick of us taking everything for granted and polluting and pillaging the environment and Earth for our selfish needs! If you know smoking is banned in the park,
why do it?! You have the ENTIRE city for your cigarettes, so why take the one place where we can breathe without them and smoke there? WHY? Of course, he did not have an answer for me. I don't think anyone does. In my heart, I know I did the right thing. My intention was not that they be fined but realize that we need to be aware and conscious of our actions.
Have you ever wondered why lately so many of us suffer from cancer? Everywhere you look, in most families there is at least one person who has/had cancer. Do you question why? By 2020, the population of the world will reach 7.5 billion with 15 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 12 million cancer patients will die. That is a lot of people specially when you consider the notion that cancer can actually be prevented
. Cancer is caused due to 2 main reasons:
We cannot do anything about genetics but can definitely control the second reason. According to researchers, only 5-10% of the cancers are attributed to genetic factors, the rest 90-95% are a direct result of where and how we live. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.
- Environment and lifestyle
Therefore, cancer prevention requires smoking cessation, increased ingestion of fruits and vegetables, moderate use of alcohol, caloric restriction, exercise, avoidance of direct exposure to sunlight, minimal meat consumption, use of whole grains, use of vaccinations, and regular check-ups.
Image: Food Politics
March 12, 2013 will be an epic day for New York! It will be remembered as a day when obesity started to decline just a teeny bit in the Big Apple. It will be heralded as a day when, thanks to the 16-oz soda cap, New Yorkers started to take notice and restrict their soft drink consumption.Really? Will it be? Nope not anymore, it won't. Thanks to a judge the 16 oz soda cap ban has been blocked
and has been called "arbitrary and capricious". I mean really?! Do these people ever learn? And what about the spiraling health costs inflicted on everyone thanks to the freedom of free flowing soda? About 58% of New Yorkers are over weight and obese. Do we really not owe them anything? Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to fight the ruling but this just highlights the measly regard we have for human life and public well being. Well done Judge Tingling! Well done indeed!
Yesterday Marion Nestle had an awesome article
raising some phenomenal points in favor of the 16 oz soda ban. I quote some of my favorites below. Today, she talks about Tingling's explanation and rationale behind the block. Eye openers, both.
That “tiny bit harder” is its point. If you have to order two sodas instead of one, maybe you won’t. If you have to add sugar to your coffee drink yourself, maybe you will only add one or two teaspoons instead of the 10 or more someone else put in there for you.
On top of that, big sizes make the problems worse. To state the obvious, larger portions have more calories. If an 8-ounce soft drink provides 100 calories, then a 16-ounce drink provides 200, a 32-ounce drink provides 400 and a 64-ounce drink provides 800.
From my nutritionist’s perspective, a 16-ounce soda is still generous. Just one contains the equivalent of 12 packets of sugar. Just one provides 10% of the daily calorie needs of someone who typically eats 2,000 calories a day. Just one contains the upper limit of sugar intake that health officials recommend for an entire day. Once you down a 16-ounce soda, it’s best to stop right there.
You may find this hard to believe, but the original Coca-Cola was 6.5 ounces, smaller than any size available today. In the 1950s, Coke advertised its 16-ounce bottle as large enough to serve three.
City officials concerned about the health of their citizens, as those in New York most definitely are, want to do everything they can to prevent obesity and the illnesses that go with it. Their rationale is humanitarian, but also fiscal. Poor health is expensive for both individuals and society. You don’t believe that excessive weight is an issue? Just ask the military.
Tax sodas. Most people wouldn’t dream of eating candy all day, but soda companies have made it seem normal to drink sodas from morning to night. Raising the price of sodas would discourage sales, especially among young people most susceptible to marketing efforts and most vulnerable to weight gain. A one-cent tax per ounce should do the trick and raise plenty of needed revenue besides.
Don’t let SNAP (food stamp) benefits be used for sodas. Bloomberg tried this, but the federal Department of Agriculture said no. There is absolutely no reason that taxpayer-subsidized food assistance for low-income people should go toward junk with no nutritional value. He should try again.
Image: Free Phoenix
This is a guest post about the GM crops debate in India.
The Budget Session is upon us and we might be witness to one of UPA’s most ambitious flagship programmes, the National Food Security Bill (NFSB), becoming a reality. So it seems like Food Security is the flavour of this session with President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, reiterating UPA 2’s commitment to food security in his maiden speech at the start of the Budget Session. But this commitment comes under serious question when one of the responsible agencies of the Government dilutes the issue of food security and further misleads the debate on an important issue like hunger and malnutrition. I am referring to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) under Sharad Pawar mindlessly promoting GM crops as a solution to food security.
Sharad Pawar has, on more than one occasion, voiced the faulty argument that GM is needed to feed India’s growing population. This was overly emphasised by the Ministry on behalf of the Union of India in its affidavit to the Supreme Court in the PIL of GMOs[i]
. This narrow minded and false argument put forth by the MoA is unfortunately the same approach put forward by global biotech companies and their cronies to promote controversial GM technology in food and farming, overlooking the obvious risks with Genetically Modified (GM) crops and at the same time trivialising the debate on food security in India. INDIAN PARADOX OF EXCESS PRODUCTION AND INCREASING STARVATION
A logical understanding of what constitutes food security and the food production situation in India will paint a clearer picture as to why GM is no silver bullet to food security and not much more than a very expensive distraction.
The MoA along with the promoters of GM crops have advocated the need for GM crops to increase production and feed India’s growing population. But an analysis of the food grain production confirms the Indian paradox of excess production and increasing starvation. The Economic Survey 2013 presented a day before the budget suggests that production has improved remarkably growing twice as fast as the population. It has also noted that the food grain production was at a record high of 259.32 million tonnes in 2011-12. Apart from food grain production India is also ranked 1st in the world in fresh fruit, milk and pulses production and 2nd in terms of production of fresh vegetables. So clearly India need not be in a hurry to adopt risky technology like GM crops to increase production and this was also pointed out by the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture. GM CROPS DO NOT FIT THE BILL OF FOOD SECURITY
If one were insistent to go down the path of the need for increased production through increased yield, one would fin again that GM crops have failed to show any increase in yield in the nearly two decades of their existence. There has been no GM crop developed anywhere in the world to increase yield. The Bt cotton experience back home and a look at government statistics only confirms this and further raises many a question on the sustainability to Indian farming. The insignificant increase in yield when Bt cotton area touched 96% was also accepted by the Planning Commission of India in its draft of the 12th year plan. Further, Bt cotton has only added to the burden of agrarian distress of the small, marginal and landless farm families who also are highly food insecure.
GM crops are controversial world over and do not fit the pillars of food security defined by credible agencies like the WHO. Apart from the monopolistic control of seeds, control of our food systems by seed companies and cost of high cultivation for farmers, there is growing scientific evidence on the health and environmental risks of GM crops. Therefore GM crops do not pass the food safety criterion which is very vital to food security. MOCKERY OF FOOD SECURITY AND IGNORANCE TO PUBLIC OPPOSITION OF GM CROPS
Hunger and malnutrition is a vital issue for a country like India and every citizen is concerned that half the children in this country are underweight and a third of them are born malnourished. What is worrying is a mockery of such an important and complex issue by Sharad Pawar and the biotech giants by offering simplistic techno-fixes like GM crops. “On the eve of the budget session to voice their opposition, 17 Greenpeace activists occupied the FCI godown in Delhi to challenge Sharad Pawar on this mindless, unfounded promotion of GM crops for food security. While 12 of these young activists were detained for 12 hours by the police, as are many activists in this country for expressing dissent with the State on several issues.”
The Government’s effort to ignore public opposition has been ongoing with the debate on GM crops in the country; it cannot be the case anymore as the opposition has become stronger and diverse over the last few months. From the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture to the high profile scientific Technical Expert Committee[ii]
appointed by the Supreme Court, has recommended to tread cautiously down the path of GM crops. Very recently 150 scientists from around the country have also expressed their displeasure at the unscientific advocacy of GM crops by the MoA for food security.[iii] CAN THE AAM ADMI PIN THEIR HOPE ON MoEF?
There is enough evidence and many alternatives if one wants to seriously consider India’s farming to be sustainable and to ensure that every Indian has the access to available food. But the Agriculture Minister’s relentless attitude to introduce GM into food and farming can make anyone wonder whether this is due to vested interests and not public interest. Unfortunately this attitude seems to be the representation of the Government of India in important judicial arenas like in the PIL filed in the Supreme Court on GMOs.
It is only obvious that the aam admi is left confused and angry by the cruel joke played the Government where on one hand they talk about their commitment to bring in a National Food Security Bill and on the other they want to open the flood gates to risky GM crops and allow multi-national biotech companies to take over our food and farming system, destroying the livelihood of the poorest farmer in this country and paving the path for food insecurity for the next many future generations.
In this situation with a schizophrenic government and profit hungry biotech companies, is there anyone that the aam admi can pin their hope on? The history of GM crops has shown the Ministry of Environment under Mr Jairam Ramesh stand up for public interest and declared a moratorium on Bt Brinjal at that time.
Can we expect the same from Smt Jayanthi Natrajan, the current Minister of Environment and also the decision maker on GM crops in India to intervene so that the MoA does not lead the country down the dangerous path of GM crops under the fallacy that it is a need for food security?
This question cannot be left unanswered. Smt Jayanthi Natrajan needs to take a stand sooner than later.The article originally appeared here. By 'aam admi', the author refers to the common man.
This was really no news but still any new proof for healthy eating is worth singing from the rooftops. Processed meat is well known to have chemicals (its processed, duh!) and lots and lots of sodium to give it a longer shelf life. But when anything processed enters your body, it works against its natural mechanism - you are after all going against nature who has designed you to only eat natural foods. The chemicals and other processed material do not suit your body well. So it is no surprise that the journal BMC Medicine reported that according to one of their studies on nearly half a million people, they found that processed meat causes not only cardiovascular diseases but also cancers and early death! One in every 17 people followed in the study died. However, those eating more than 160g of processed meat a day - roughly two sausages and a slice of bacon - were 44% more likely to die over a typical follow-up time of 12.7 years than those eating about 20g. In total, nearly 10,000 people died from cancer and 5,500 from heart problems. That's a lot of people! Now some people might say, we all have to die one day. True, of course we do. But the kind of death you inflict on yourself is up to you. And until such time, it is also up to you whether you choose to live healthily or suffer from all sorts of diseases and live dependent on pills, rising healthcare bills and, in general, a negative outlook towards life. The choice is entirely up to you.
Image: Scientific American
It seems now more than ever there is increasing talk about how climate change is affecting our agriculture and consequently our ability to produce greater amounts of food for the rising population. Last week a USDA report
painted a very grim picture of the consequences of ignoring climate change and doing nothing to reverse its effects.Earlier last month Tufts University also reported on Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture. While not as detailed, it succinctly highlights the perils of climate change we are suffering and inevitably will befall us.
Here are some salient points:
- Carbon fertilization benefits have shrunk in general for all crops but particularly for maize and cassava. (Carbon fertilization is defined as, "The enhancement of the growth of plants as a result of increased atmospheric CO2 concentration. Depending on their mechanism of photosynthesis, certain types of plants are more sensitive to changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration.")
- Global warming is causing unprecedented changes in conditions that affect agriculture. The climate is changing faster than farmers to catch up and adopt trial and error processes to "fix" the situation and continue producing crops.
- If warming continues at current rates, no amount of GMO techniques or other trial and error processes will fix the problem. It is very important to accept the implications of climate change and look towards new solutions to thwart this very real threat.
In the end, if we do not change and continue unabated, the entire future of the planet - you and me - included hangs in the balance. We are many years away from producing the kind of technology that will enable everyone of us to leave this planet and live elsewhere. So our only option is to take care of our Earth and preserve the planet for generations to come. It would be a shame if we destroyed the very hand that feeds us! We're all in this together.
Lets act together.
Image: New York Times
Last week the New York Times published an article
about how the food industry uses a menagerie of scientists, flavors and marketing ploys to keep unsuspecting consumers, like you and me, hooked on the worst possible foods. While it is a known fact that companies like Nestle, Coca-Cola and Frito-Lay exist to make the most profits, the extent to which they go to do so is pretty fascinatingWith the bad also comes the good and there are several people who know their "work" has caused en epidemic among the public. The high fat-salt-sugar diets and snacks are causing us billions of dollars in healthcare and while this fact is not lost on the food company executives, paying homage to
that too much means they losing their jobs (as ex-executive of Coke, Dunn found). Conscience in the food industry is for the faint-hearted and those usually do not last long. An unfortunate turn of events!
Here are some interesting tidbits from the article. And remember to always read the ingredients and the nutrition information before eating anything. In this industry, do not trust anyone, least of all the package staring at you in the face!
- A mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies. It also delivers one-third of the sodium recommended for a majority of American adults for an entire day.
- This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.
- When it came to Lunchables, they did try to add more healthful ingredients. Back at the start, Drane experimented with fresh carrots but quickly gave up on that, since fresh components didn’t work within the constraints of the processed-food system, which typically required weeks or months of transport and storage before the food arrived at the grocery store. Later, a low-fat version of the trays was developed, using meats and cheese and crackers that were formulated with less fat, but it tasted inferior, sold poorly and was quickly scrapped.
- Monica Drane had three of her own children by the time we spoke, ages 10, 14 and 17. “I don’t think my kids have ever eaten a Lunchable,” she told me. “They know they exist and that Grandpa Bob invented them. But we eat very healthfully.”
- It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”
- The Frito-Lay executives also spoke of the company’s ongoing pursuit of a “designer sodium,” which they hoped, in the near future, would take their sodium loads down by 40 percent. No need to worry about lost sales there, the company’s C.E.O., Al Carey, assured their investors. The boomers would see less salt as the green light to snack like never before.
Many of us are dissing the problem of climate change. In favor of globalization and industrialization, we fail to understand how climate change is causing our ruin. A rising Earth, growing population are already putting a great deal of stress on scarce resources. Add to that our love for technology, we might be causing more harm than good to our own existence. The government walks a fine line on climate change. While they admit it is an issue, yet, not much is done in this area. Solar and wind energy, renewable resources all lie waiting while we still depend on oil and other fossil energy to pollute the Earth, cause global warming and ice caps to melt. Our food supply is also not immune to this change in Earth's climate. Whether we admit or not, the truth is future generations will face precarious choices because of our inability to protect and preserve. Climate change impacts the growth of food and to promulgate this message, the USDA recently released a report highlighting just that. With this report, the agency delved into questions such as:
- How does a changing climate directly influence agriculture?
- What non-climate stresses need to be considered in interpreting climate change effects on U.S. agriculture?
- How do economic factors respond to climate or alter the effects of climate change in agricultural systems?
- How might agricultural decision makers take adaptive actions that capitalize on the opportunities and minimize or avoid the negative effects on production under changing climate conditions?
There is no doubt human systems impact Earth systems and vice versa. But how interconnected are we? The below picture from the report outlines this interconnection and really puts things into perspective.
Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation (Page 21)
It is all one giant wheel and if we do not realize and take mitigating steps we are at the mercy of rising temperatures as this next picture shows:
Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation (Page 24)
The Earth will get hotter (Australia had to change colors on its temperature indicators this year, the temperatures had risen so much) and food will be impacted, eventually leading to increasing food prices and global malnutrition. So while you can read more if you like of the report, I will proceed with a quick summary of their 'key messages':
We can all play a part in reducing the effects of climate change, individually, baby steps will ensure more and more people join the revolution and minimize the threats posed by a changing Earth.
- Increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity.
- Livestock production systems are vulnerable to temperature stresses.
- Projections for crops and livestock production systems reveal that climate change effects over the next 25 years will be mixed.
- Climate change will exacerbate current biotic stresses on agricultural plants and animals.
- The predicted higher incidence of extreme weather events will have an increasing influence on agricultural productivity.
- The vulnerability of agriculture to climatic change is strongly dependent on the responses taken by humans to moderate the effects of climate change.
- Recycle and limit use of plastic.
- Do not waste water and food.
- Use public transportation whenever possible.
- Reduce dependency on oil - drive a hybrid vehicle.
- Don't smoke.
- Buy local foods reducing the carbon footprint of your fruits and vegetables.
Really? Is there such a thing as healthy fries? This past weekend I indulged in some off-beat cooking. Experimenting with various new things I put together an absolutely delish carrots-oat pudding. My daughter, who has quite a sweet tooth gobbled it up!
Then I created a classic orange tofu, recipe I will share shortly. But on Monday I craved fries so I set out for the perfect fry! I did not have to go too far. Enter sweet potatoes and carrots.
Very simple and takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Recipe is here