News Roundup: Thursday 2.20.2014

Comedian Sid Caesar passed away this week and left behind a brighter and funnier world for him having been in it. The quote below reminds us that enjoyment is an essential part of a balanced life. With that in mind, today we offer some great tips about shopping GMO free, inspiring news about outdoor-based education, important information about Monarch butterflies, two great articles on the economics of the food industry, a Mark Bittman squash recipe that will fill your dinner plate, and a more. Have a healthy weekend, Warriors!

Words to Live By

“In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed.”

— Sid Caesar

Newest News

I’ll Have Wheat Germ With That
This old comedy-sketch TV gem was too good to wait to put it in our “What We’re Watching” section. It’s pretty easy to make fun of the health food craze, but Sid Caesar might have been one of the first people to do it on TV. One of the comedy greats! Good health to you!


GMO-Free Shopping
Our friends at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have long helped guide the savvy consumer’s decisions for their own health and the health of the planet. Check out EWG’s famous Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen and their Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disrupters to get caught up. Now we can add another guide to the list with their hot-off-the-press (released on Wednesday) guide to avoiding genetically engineered (GE) food while shopping. It gives a great summary of why and how you might want to avoid GE food, plus a list of food ingredients that are most commonly genetically engineered. We vote at the ballot and at the cash register in this country, so get in the know and take your values to the grocery store.
EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide To Avoiding GE Food via Environmental Working Group


The Best Learning Environment May Be The Environment
Richard Louv’s recent trip to Australia is just another example of how important outdoor education is and how many people are working towards getting students (of all ages) out into the natural world. This article in Salon highlights the benefits of an outdoor-based curriculum and gives some examples of great programs and schools that are honing the practice. It’s a trend that is growing, which we love to see!
Outdoor learning: Education’s next revolution? via Salon


What Do You Eat In A State that is 95% Covered in Corn?
This little piece may have slipped by most of us, but it is well worth a read. In this editorial,  a former Iowa Department of Natural Resources officer (of 30 years) succinctly points out the disjointed nature of our food system, and the plight that it has had on Iowa.
Mark S. Edwards: Eating Iowa via Amestrib


Butterflies in Our Stomachs Over Butterfly Migration
When Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Food Democracy Now!, and a host of other important leaders in the world of sustainable food tweet about the same cause, we know it is worth fighting for. Milkweed, the ONLY wild plant family that sustains Monarch Butterflies during their long migration, has been on a steady decline over the past ten years, thus resulting in a decline of Monarchs.  Some groups are directly blaming Monsanto, pointing a finger at glyphosate (Roundup) as the ultimate catalyst for the population decline. This species could be on the verge of collapse if we don’t take action! Check out the “GET INVOLVED!” section below to see what you can do to help.
A Letter for President Enrique Pena Nieto, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper via Make Way for Monarchs


Get Involved

Plant Milkweed and Sign a Petition to Save the Monarchs
As you may have read above, Monarch butterflies are on the decline—most likely due to agricultural practices or even the hundreds of thousands of miles of roadsides that are sprayed each year to control “weeds” (roadsides are a prime growing zone for milkweed). Lipedoptera are not without hope, though. There are at least two things you can do to help this species. The petition to Monsanto below will help send the message that we are not going to stand for big businesses putting profit before the health of the planet. You can also follow the Monarch Watch’s guide and plant some milkweed in your yard. The payoff? You’ll get to host these lovely creatures on their two primary migration routes: east of the Rockies (from Mexico to Canada and back again), and along the Pacific Coast.
Petition to Monsanto via Sum of Us
Growing Milkweed via Monarch Watch


The Fast Food Frontline

The Chipotle Menu Meets Your Hulu Menu
Chipotle tends to challenge convention. It’s not really fast food, but it’s not really a sit down meal, either. This chain restaurant serves tons of meat like other fast food places, but it doesn’t use meat raised with antibiotics. It doesn’t really advertise on TV, but it does create mini-series on Hulu. Wait. What? That’s right, Chipotle has officially released the first episode of its new series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” which is designed to point out some of the problems with the meat industry. With other restaurants ready to follow the no-antibiotic rule and  the release of a new Humane Society exposé on the pork industry slated for late this week, and other restaurants ready to follow,  it seems like meat consciousness is really on the rise.
Fast Food Econ 101
We know that the health effects of eating too much fast food are far-reaching: now we hear how the industry affects the economic lives of fast-food workers as well as the overall U.S. economy. This editorial in the Boston Globe outlines the complex problem of the industry’s wage system. You may be shocked, like we are, to learn that fast-food workers are receiving about $7 billion in government aid annually. Essentially, taxpayers are subsidizing an industry that profits while paying its workers too little to live on.


Prevention News

Brazil’s Answer to Obesity: Eat Mindfully
When the world comes to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, spectators and athletes may be met with a healthier national food system. The country has released new dietary guidelines that not only take nutritional value into consideration, but also freshness, processing, advertising, and a slew of other recommendations that would please any foodie. Marion Nestle gives an excellent summary on her blog post.
Brazil’s new dietary guidelines: food-based! via Food Politics Actual Headline name link via source


What We're Watching

Vote for Your Favorite Food Video
Anna Lappe and the folks at Food Mythbusters are running a contest showcasing amateur videos that examine sustainable food and farming. Ten videos have been chosen, and each is no more than 4 minutes long. Take a few short breaks and watch them throughout your day...and vote.
Real Food Media Contest  via Real Food


Wonderful Listening

Poultry Farms + Rural Economies
Another story about mass-farmed poultry that we don’t hear often is what this industry does to its farmers. It is a sad one, often ending in large amounts of debt for farmers and consolidation and market dominance for a few companies. A new book, The Meat Racket, by Christopher Leonard, gives an incredibly detailed account of just how bad it is for these farmers. The article accompanying this radio piece is full of great information as well.


Squash Your Veggie Fears
Veggies as a main course? You betcha! Mark Bittman’s recent piece in NY Times magazine honors the veggie and ditches the meat. There are multiple recipes linked to the article, but this one stuck out. Porcini mushrooms, ample sage, and roasted squash seeds looked too good to pass up.
Stuffed Butternut Squash
Photo credit: New York Times

Total time: About 1.5 hours
Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 medium butternut squashes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried porcini or other mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon


1. Heat the oven to 400 F. Peel and trim the squash; separate the necks from the bases. Scoop out the seeds from the bases, and reserve. Roughly dice the necks into pieces no bigger than ½ inch.

2. Rub the hollowed out bases inside and out with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stand them up on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast, flipping once, until they are browned all over and you can easily pierce the flesh with the tip of a sharp knife; about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, soak the porcinis in 1 cup hot water until soft; remove, and chop them, reserving the liquid. Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to soften — about 5 minutes. Add the chopped squash and porcinis, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the squash is nicely browned, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Add the red wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom, and let it bubble away until it almost disappears. Add the porcini soaking liquid (leave any sediment behind) and the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover partly and cook, adding more liquid if the pan gets too dry, until the squash is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes; taste, and adjust seasoning.

5. Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate small skillet. When the oil is hot, add the squash seeds and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown and crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the chopped sage, lemon zest and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and toss.

6. When the squash bases are done, spoon the chopped squash mixture into the cavities (save the leftover stuffing, or serve it on the side). Sprinkle the squash seeds over the top, and serve.

Stuffed Butternut Squash via NY Times

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