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Monday, October 19 2009

Is Organic Food Really the Healthier Choice?

A Look at the Benefits and Concerns of Conventional Foods Versus Organic Products

In the 1990's
Since the advent of organic food, and its subsequent rise in popularity in the late 1990's, people have been skeptical about its purported superiority. Skeptics and makers of conventional foods claimed that the benefits of organic foods were based in theory, not fact. Others claimed the superiority of organic products over traditional products were baseless and unproven. The truth behind all of the controversy is that during the 1990's there had not been enough testing done to substantiate the purported benefits of organic products or confirm the drawbacks of traditionally produced food.

Organic Facts Today
Since the '90s there have been various studies done to show the improved nutritional value of organic agriculture by researching and analyzing the vitamin, nutrient and mineral content of both organically and traditionally grown produce. There are significantly higher levels of various beneficial components in organic products, including:

* Chromium: prevents hardening of the arteries and type 2 diabetes

* Calcium and Boron: build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis

* Lithium: a common chemical in antidepressants and mood stabilizers

* Salicylic Acid: an anti-inflammatory which can prevent heart disease

* Antioxidants: protects cells from damage

* Magnesium: helps prevent death during a heart attack

* Selenium: helps prevent heart disease and certain cancers

* Vitamin C: builds the immune system

And while these are just a few of the many nutrients which have been found in organic produce; they are by no means the only ones. This list could get longer as more research is done about the nutritional benefits of organic food.

As we consider the beneficial properties of organic food we may also ponder the harmful effects of traditionally grown foods in order to understand fully why organic food is superior. When many of the chemicals used in farming today were approved, they had not had been researched to determine their safety for the land or the environment. Subsequent research has found that most chemicals used in traditional farming also have negative effects on humans. Non-organic foods have been analyzed and have been found to contain harmful chemicals, heavy metals, solvents and various hormones. Some of the conditions linked with these substances include:

* cancer

* heart disease

* osteoporosis

* migraines

* hyperactivity

* decreased intelligence

* impaired hearing

* reduced growth during childhood

* anemia

* Alzheimer's

* multiple sclerosis

* rheumatoid arthritis

* early puberty

* increased antibiotic-resistant disease strains

Again, not unlike the list of benefits attributed to organic foods, this list of harmful side effects caused by chemicals used in traditional farming is only a partial list. As research continues into chemicals used in traditional farming and the effect they have on the human body, more conditions will likely be added to this list. To date, most of the research on chemicals has been done on the affects of them singly. As research grows surrounding the various combinations of chemicals found in many conventional foods, the likelihood that still more conditions will be added to the list of adverse affects is high.

While there are obviously many benefits to organic agriculture, it is not without its faults. It is well-known that organic products are more expensive; depending on where you buy organic food, it could cost twice as much as regular grocery store brands. There is also concern that natural fertilizers such as plant material and manure could contain harmful organisms, such as e coli. While contamination is rare, it can prove harmful if proper food handling is not used.

Even with the drawbacks, organic foods are proving to be much safer for consumption than conventionally grown foods. Along with the health benefits, organic agricultural practices also benefit the environment, keeping it viable for years to come. Go Organic...It's good for the community, good for the environment and good for you!

Marty Rich has been a professional chef for more than 27 years. He is dedicated to helping everyday people, like you and me, learn to create easy, simple meals with the freshest of ingredients. For more information on organic living please visit

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, October 15 2009

Halloween party food - I do not think there is one parent come this Halloween Night that wont have an over excited fidgety kid stand before them while dressing them in their Halloween Costume. There is nothing to beat the feeling a parent feels on the inside seeing their children happy.

To watch them gleefully jump up and down for joy on the spot, at world record speed is enough to put a smile on any ones face let alone mom and dads. Nonetheless, it is difficult to apply face paint while the kid is in mid air, so be a little stern and tell them if they want to be the best monster (scary ghoul, screeching witch, wailing banshee, squealing bat, Dracula or black cat) in town trick or treating then they will have to stand still. Good luck, although kids will want to be the scariest monster they tend to forget your warning after about a minute, and back on the imaginary trampoline they go.

Tip: If the Halloween costume needs altering, do not do it while the child is wearing his or her scary Halloween costume if using a needle and cotton.

Are you dressing your child as a ghoul or witch to go trick or treating, or for a Halloween party you have planned for Halloween night, or because the child has an invite to a friends house. Either of the options will include Halloween party food having to be arranged. If you lay on a spread of eats the kids love and find attractive then nothing will go to waste. Make sure the room where they sit down to feast is decorated accordingly, and the table prepared with ghoul foods to match the event. You will not not get away with the average layout of cakes biscuits and jelly.

Depending on how many kids are invited to your Halloween party you might have to consider booking a venue hall to accommodate the numbers. If money is tight, and with already having splashed out on Halloween costumes, and yet still to buy the Halloween party food, then you might not have much left in your purse to decorate the room. Do not panic because it wont take much to do this, in fact you may not have to dip into your pocket either.

A couple of inexpensive Halloween party decoration ideas

Black sheet if you have one. if not dye a white one

Tin foil for paper cut outs

Black paper to make black cat shapes, moon, toads and frogs, its your choice.

Use string for hanging bits and pieces from the ceiling.

Use blue tack its safer than using drawing pins should one drop on the floor.

Glue for sticking witch and wizard cut outs and cauldrons to the black sheet

To set the whole Halloween theme a couple of decorated pumpkins around the room. When preparing and arranging the party, consider the childrens safety. Make sure candles and electric sockets your using meet with safety requirements. For instance: The candles are not near curtains or within childrens reach, and electrical wiring taped down to avoid trips or falls.

Pumpkins can be picked up for pennies late in the evening when the shop keeper believes the mad rush for pumpkins is over.

If a lighted pumpkin is planned for the table centrepiece then make sure the lid remains on top and the pumpkin placed in the middle of the table out of reach. Do not have food around the pumpkin so the kids hands do not come in contact with the pumpkin. When you decorate the pumpkin make the mouth of your creation saddened so the kids cannot put their finger in and touch the flame.
To keep their Halloween costumes clean cut a black sheet into squares' and glue edges neatly for napkins. On each napkin glue their name in a spooky font, or Halloween symbol.

Best Halloween Party Food Recipes

Little Witches


2 egg whites

115oz (4oz) caster sugar

8 ice cream cones (double up if there are more kids)

50g melted chocolate

Chocolate vermicelli

Tube Smarties

Silver or gold balls

Liquorice strips

White ice cream


Preheat oven to 110C/225F/gas mark 4. Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff and dry, add 115g (4oz) caster sugar1tbsp at a time, and mix again until the mixture is thick. Put 8 heaps of meringue on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper and bake for 2 hours. Remove and cool. Dip the ends of the wafer cones in melted chocolate and chocolate vermicelli. Leave and let dry. Decorate the cones and meringues with Smarties (hat) silver/gold balls (eyes) and liquorice strips for straggly hair...attach with melted chocolate. Use scoops of ice cream to stick the hats to the faces.

Halloween party food is fun and exciting; however certain eats can be a risk. Its important you serve safe and healthy foods. Avoid risky meals that contain something a child could choke on, or hazardous causing an allergic reaction (nuts) Speak to the parents whose child is attending the party and ask what yummy food they can, or cannot eat.

Every Halloween party has toffee apples, and if they do not then they should. Most Halloween treats consist of sugary ingredients, so watch out for the greedy child wanting seconds. Print out an awareness pamphlet for each child, telling them about the "ghoul-den" rules on how all Halloween freaks clean their teeth. The kids will love to follow in the footsteps of their monster idols, and will do the same. Explain how the monsters know being gummy prevents them eating food that is yummy.

Toffee Apples


5 medium-sized dessert apples (depending on how many guests)

450g soft caramel sweets

2 tbsp water


Wash and dry the apples, and stick a wooden skewer through the stem end. Slowly heat the caramel sweets in a double boiler or over a bain Marie until melted and smooth. Dip the apples in the toffee and twist until completely coated in the caramel/treacle. Place on greaseproof paper upright and sit in the fridge till set

Ice-cream Creepy Crawlies


Chocolate ice cream

Black licorice sticks



Put a scoop of chocolate ice cream in the middle of a bowl. Poke 8 pieces of black licorice along the side of the scoop to make the legs. Add two currants for the eyes.

Eyeball Eggs


Hard boiled eggs (halved)

Cream cheese

Stuffed olives

Tomato ketchup


Scoop egg yolks out. Mash the yolks in a bowl and add some cream cheese. Fill the empty egg middles with the yolk/cheese mix and add an olive for the eye ball. Use cocktail sticks to draw lines on the whites so they appear blood shot.

Your Halloween party food needs to include the messy

Green Slime

Make a lime jelly and when its set mash it up. Decorate with gummy wriggly worms, or jelly slithery snakes.

The Mud Recipe below will go down a treat with all the kids

Melt a 200g bar of milk chocolate over a pot of boiling water Allow to cool, and then add some finely grated orange zest, 1 tbsp fresh orange juice, and 2 x 500g tubs of natural fat-free/low fat fromage frais. Blend and pour into a bowl. Chill in the fridge before serving. Make it more exciting by asking the children to wash their hands, and then allow them to eat it with their fingers for more fun

Dracula Burgers

Serve a beef burger, tuna burger or veggie burger in a bun with lashings of vampire blood (tomato sauce.) Check with the childrens parents about what foods they are allowed to eat. Some children are picky at meal times, but this is different to the child that may have special needs.

Spooky Lemonade

1 cup water

1 cup granulated/ or caster sugar

Juice from 4-6 lemons

4 cups sparkling water

Make the syrup a couple of hours in advance. Its a good idea to prepare Halloween party foods while the children are in bed so your baked goodies remain a surprise, hence no need to be tapping the hand attached to those inquisitive fingers sneakily dipping in your mixes.
Mix 1 cup of water - and 1 cup sugar in small pot and bring to a boil, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. Squeeze the lemon juice in and stir into the syrup. Put into a large jug and add 4 cups of chilled sparkling water, mix and serve.

Witches Blood

500ml pomegranate or cranberry juice

100 ml blackcurrant squash

500 ml sparkling water

Mix ingredients together in a jug, and serve

Great ideas for Halloween Costumes.
Be the envy of your friends with the best decorated pumpkin!

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 01:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, October 08 2009

A step-by-step guide to at-home tastings, including wine shopping advice, budget tips, essential supplies, and recipe ideas
By Lauren Salkeld


wine tasting party: see the wine, food, timeline & more

Download Wine Tasting Grid PDF

W hile you might think of wine tastings as things that take place at four-star restaurants and fancy wine shops, there are many compelling reasons to host a tasting in the comfort of your own home. With just a little planning and shopping, a wine tasting can be fun, easy, and affordable.

For advice on hosting an at-home wine tasting we spoke to Dina Cheney, a professional tasting host and author of Tasting Club. Cheney explains that compared to a cocktail or dinner party, a tasting requires significantly less planning, prep, shopping, or cleanup, leaving you more time to enjoy your friends—and the wine. Plus, with so many bargain bottles on the market, a wine tasting can be surprisingly wallet-friendly.

Cheney's at-home wine-tasting plan covers everything: scheduling the event, choosing a theme, shopping for bottles, and leading the tasting. She also shares her expertise on finding a good local wine merchant, choosing recipes (if you opt to serve food), and setting up your party space. And, if you really enjoy hosting tastings, consider forming a wine-tasting club or experimenting with different kinds of tastings—chocolate, cheese, honey, beer, and tea are perfect for tasting parties.

Photos by Charles Schiller

Dina Cheney

Dina Cheney is a freelance writer, recipe developer, culinary consultant, and tasting host. She is the author of Tasting Club and Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salad. To learn more about Cheney, go to

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, October 01 2009
Need to get dinner on the table in a hurry? Turn to quick-cooking proteins and fresh veggies that barely need a sauté, and you'll turn out delicious dishes like Panfried Steak with Mushroom Ragout and Crunchy Vegetable and Brown Rice Salad in no time. For dessert, make use of a variety of store-bought favorites interspersed with high-impact but simple delicacies, such as Dulce de Leche Ice Cream with Honey Orange Roasted Figs.

Quick Fish Dinner

Dinner doesn't get much easier, or quicker, than flavorful baked fish fillets served alongside a hearty sauté of fresh vegetables. For dessert, purchased cookie dough delivers the freshly baked taste (and fragrance!) of homemade cookies but without the work.

menu tips:
  • For A Change

Many reviewers suggest variations on the Fish Fillets with Olives and Oregano. Besides halibut, there are several other types of fish that would work—use striped bass, rainbow trout, tilapia, or orange roughy depending on what looks freshest. Experiment with different olives, like kalamata or alphonso, or, if you're not a fan, replace the olives with capers. Many users also enjoyed the addition of artichokes.

  • Fresh Or Frozen?

When available, fresh vegetables, especially from a local farmers' market, are best, but frozen vegetables make a perfectly good substitute in tonight's succotash. They contain similar nutrients to fresh, and often it's easier to find the organic variety frozen than fresh. It's not necessary to thaw frozen vegetables—just use as little water as possible when cooking (about 1/2 cup per 2 cups vegetables).

see this week's shopping list ›

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 02:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email