Good Day Sacramento!

I had a great morning spending time with Julissa on Good Day Sacramento’s Mommy Moment segment.  I brought a lot of items and ideas for healthy and quick toddler and preschooler snacks for on-the-go.  It was a fun 3 1/2 minute segment.  The funny thing is all hours and energy for that 3 minutes.  All totally worth it.  Perhaps the best part is after spending a day shopping and prepping for the food and driving to and from Sacramento, my kids will have their own snacks and lunches ready for the next few days.  I think we’ll even have a “Make Yourself Anything” night for dinner.  So much in the refrigerator – everyone can create their own dinner with all the prepped veggies, meats, dips and spreads.  There’s even breakfast for dinner possibilities with eggs and pancakes.  Decisions, decisions…..

Here are some photos from the shoot and the video.

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Apps to Help Against Food Waste

While the holidays are a time to bring family and friends together over big celebrations and meals we also need to be aware of food waste and those that go without.  Unfortunately, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes to waste because of excessive portion sizes at restaurants, misinterpretation of expiration dates on packaged foods, and overstocking. Thankfully, food waste can be reduced using what many people already carry in their pockets—their smartphones.

Numerous food waste apps have been created to help consumers throw away less food in their homes with date trackers, educational platforms, and recipe generators. Additionally, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses can use the apps to donate food they can no longer sell.

This Thanksgiving, consider trying a new smartphone app to help your family reduce food waste. Here are 14 notable apps worth trying, courtesy of FoodTank (focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters):

1. AmpleHarvest: now allows farmers and gardeners to connect with food pantries through an iPhone app. The platform allows users to donate the abundance of their harvest to those in need.

2. Green Egg Shopper: In addition to tracking expiration dates on purchased food items,Green Egg Shopper also provides a tracker for coupons, vouchers, and overall food expenditures.

3. Feeding Forward: Californian businesses and farms can donate their excess product with Feeding Forward, which allows individuals to donate surplus food from their homes. Anyone wishing to give excess food can post the donation on the app or on the online website, and then allow a driver to pick up and deliver the food to a nearby shelter in need. Feeding Forward even allows users to track their impact by viewing profiles of the organizations and individuals who receive their donations.

4. Flash Food: In Arizona, FlashFood connects food service institutions to food recovery organizations and local community centers with a network of volunteers.

5. Food Cowboy: Food Cowboy works at the distribution level to redistribute rejected deliveries from wholesalers and restaurants to food banks and soup kitchens. Event hosts and caterers can use the app to request pickup of leftovers, and charities can use the platform to source larger donations.

6. FoodKeeper: The USDA voice-controlled FoodKeeper app provides storage method tips to extend shelf life, cooking tips for meat and seafood products, and sends expiration reminders to consumers. Additionally, the app contains a feature called Ask Karen that allows users to submit questions to its 24/7 virtual representative that can answer questions about cooking, storage, and food-borne illnesses.

7. FridgePal: Oftentimes, consumers throw away their groceries due to expiration dates. But FridgePal tracks the expiration dates of food items and offers consumer shopping lists, recipes searchable by lists of ingredients, and a meal planner. The app visually separates food contained in refrigerators, freezers, and pantries. It also gives cooks the option of viewing items by type, such as dairy, meals and leftovers, or sauces.

8. LeftoverSwap: Users of LeftoverSwap can snap a picture of their uneaten food and arrange for pickup with other community members who are interested in their leftovers.

9. PareUp: PareUp allows consumers in New York City to purchase unsold food at a discount from a number of various retailers, who in turn increase their revenues by selling food that normally would have been thrown away at the end of the business day.

10. Reta: Reta sends users timely reminders on their phones, allowing them to see all of their food at home from any location to plan their meals at any time. The feature is also useful while shopping for groceries to avoid overbuying. And Reta tracks how much users eat, allowing them to see lifetime statistics of what percentage of food goes uneaten.

11. Spoiler Alert: Spoiler Alert allows food distributors to donate surplus product to charities in Boston, MA. “We offer a secondary market for discounted food sales, which enables new revenue streams, and streamline and simplify the documentation for tax benefits, which are quite sizable,” says co-founder Emily Malina.

12. Still Tasty: Knowing how to store various food items can help anyone keep their food fresh longer. Still Tasty will also provide expiration date reminders while also giving users access to a detailed database containing hundreds of food items. The resource takes many variables into account, such as if the item’s store-bought or homemade, open or unopened, and packaging type, giving storage tips accordingly.

13. Waste No Food: Waste No Food is a nonprofit platform created by Kiran Sridhar, a high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area. The app connects farms, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores with local groups that need donations, and has helped to save over 10,000 pounds of food.

14. Zero Percent: Chicago’s retailers with excess food can use the Zero Percent app to post available donations in real time. “Zero Percent is a food rescue platform, not just an app, that solves the problem of matching and moving excess prepared and perishable food between businesses and local nonprofits in a reliable and safe way,” says Raj Karmani, founder. “The platform coordinates the rescue of nearly 2,500 pounds a day without owning any vehicle or warehouse. Zero Percent will hit its millionth pound this holiday season.”


“Chef” Gets the Scene and Story Right …But Bring Your Own Food

Chef, movie

Ever since the movie Swingers I’ve loved Jon Favreau.   I haven’t agreed with his movie choices lately with blockbusters such as the Iron Man films, but I enjoy his Dinner for Five Series and now Chef brings him back to sharing food, friends and stories.  He’s written a film about a self-absorbed chef who gives up his safe restaurant job after a bad review, for creative integrity, and ends up searching for a new way to express himself and discover happiness on a food truck.  While food is everything to him, Chef Casper is forced to explore his relationship with his 10 year old son, himself, ex-wife, friends, and the ways of the Internet.   His journey is an enjoyable one to watch.


I went to see Chef at a matinee with my foodie friend.  Unfortunately I was late for our planned lunch and the theater café was closed.  The thought of eating concession popcorn for lunch was unthinkable, so we snuck in some food from neighboring Japantown.  No.  I’m not above sneaking in food.  Although my friend wasn’t pleased.  However I won’t be forced to eat junk from the theatre.  Plus I cleaned up after myself, which is more than I can say for many theatre goers. You’d never know where I ate my tea noodles.


Chef was big with food and personalities.  In addition to Favreau (Chef Casper), there’s Sophia Vergara (the ex-wife), Scarlett Johansson (the hostess), Dustin Hoffman (the restaurateur), Oliver Platt (food blogger/critic) John Leguizamo (the sous chef),  and even Robert Downey Jr. (Sophia’s other ex) .  The 10 year old son, Percy , is played by Emjay Anthony.  He’s got an old soul  and can hold his own with Favreau beautifully.


While watching this film my friend and I were very pleased to eat our contraband lunch. Food itself is one of the main stars in Chef.   It all looks amazing and delicious and you wish you could taste every dish.  Everything from caviar eggs to grilled meats to chocolate lava cake to cubano sandwiches are on screen – sizzling and tempting you for two hours.  In addition to the beautiful food is the carefully chosen soundtrack to help transport you as the food truck travels from Miami to Los Angeles and has the rhythms and beats to match.


Chef is one for the time capsule.  The backdrop is the foodie scene as we know, live and eat it today.  Learning via Twitter where a certain food truck will be during your lunch break.  Reading the latest food blog that can make or break a chef.  Kids knowing more than their parents about the ins and outs of videos and the Internet.  Teaching kids the importance of cooking, sharing and eating good, real food.   There’s even a reminder of one of my favorite other food movies, Ratatouille (see past review) in the feel good ending.  Stay past the credits and watch famous Korean taco truck chef Roy Choi, who consulted on Chef, teach Jon Favreau how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  For all these reasons I really enjoyed the film.  So go …but not hungry.


Year of No Sugar, A Memoir by Eve O. Schaub

Over spring break I read Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub.  Ironically I finished on Easter (which she talks about as surely one of the biggest sugar holidays).  In the book Eve takes her family on a sugarless journey after hearing esteemed obesity expert and pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Robert Lustig‘s YouTube video, Sugar, The Bitter Truth talk about the dangers of sugar.  It is great that Dr. Lusitg’s research and words can reach so many (over 4.5 million view and counting) and empowered this family to take on this challenge.  And the challenge is not only to avoid sugar but also agave, syrup, fruit juice, and any other added sweetener.  Eve is also empassioned by, and  meets David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat.  Because of this research on the dangers of sugar, and specifically fructose, are so important to this family’s project and the book I wish I would have seen the Dr. Lustig talk and/or read the Gillespie book before reading Eve’s book.  But remember I was on break and actually poolside.  Now that I am home and back to my computer, I will.

I liked Eve’s writing style – honest, warm and witty.  I especially enjoyed reading her 10 year old daughter’s journal entries about her thoughts on the no sugar project.  When I unwrapped my copy of the book and my 10 year old son saw the title he was very concerned and immediately asked “Are we going to do that?”  So I can imagine what Eve and her family went through to survive this challenge and year.  I already seem to some as the health food nazi as I cook,pack, order, and of course, teach, about healthy foods.  This would likely send my children over the edge.  And actually Eve wondered about whether her kids would then resent her and go for sugar overload as soon as they had the chance.

It was interesting to read about the challenges and changes that happened over the year of no sugar.  By no sugar, this also means no agave, no syrup, no fruit juice, or any other added sweetener.  Eve talks about everything from poop (more frequently), and absentees from school (fewer sicknesses), to changing palates and tastebuds.  There were also lots of discussion, and agonizing over the no sugar rules and what was an exception.  One dessert per month.  Kids could make choices at school functions and birthday parties.  Dad still got to drink Dr. Pepper.  (That one baffled me).  Then there was their italian vacation.  (What no gelato?)  While the project and book is about no sugar, really what the family found out is that it’s hard to avoid.  There were  many hoops they had to go through to make food without sugar, and even harder to eat food without sugar while at a restaurant or any venue or house outside their own home.  The book certainly made me think.  Our family does not eat what I consider an excess of sugar by any means.  However I do like to bake with my kids and I find it healthier than buying processed baked goods.  And I teach my kids to go for quality over quantity or quick satisfaction for all foods.  Such as skipping a carnival ice cream for a handmade cone of gelato at the local shop after.  But I also don’t always make my own marinara sauce or condiments.  And our family does like real maple syrup on pancakes.  And let’s not talk about our house specialty…s’mores.

I was a bit surprised by the recipes as a few have sugar and others have dextrose.  Obviously I need to listen to Dr. Lustig’s talk.  But I understand these were recipes they used to get through the year.  So those with sugar were for their monthly dessert, such as Great Grandma’s Hotchkiss’s Sour Milk Chocolate Cake.  Others were no sugar versions using dextrose.  Which by the way is not found in supermarkets.  I only found for purchase online for about $6 per 2 pound bag.  I must admit I have no desire to make any of her recipes.  Sorry.  I have some great no sugar recipes of my own.

I admire Eve’s family’s commitment but felt a little let down at the end, as did Eve herself.  What was going to happen after?  They made changes and the kids are well educated about the dangers and presence of sugar.  However the family’s diet like many other restrictions also had them feeling left out of life.  Funny how sugar plays such an important role in socializing when you think about celebrations, holidays and gatherings.  I was hoping for more of a revelation, and I think Eve did too.  But they had to get back to life.  Also focusing and living this project seemed very all consuming.  It’s easier to do and not think and write about 24/7.  In the end it’s all about moderation and picking your poison.  This book sheds light on our American obsession and hopefully makes readers want to learn more about avoiding sugar, making thoughtful food choices, and searching out the experts on the topic.

Here are a few of the things (excerpted below) Eve’s family took away from our their Year of No Sugar project.  (I know I’m definitely rethinking any juice in my house.)

Number one: don’t drink sugar. If we change nothing else in our culture, we should do this one thing. Not only will we be far healthier, but we’ll begin to realize what we are up against in the Sugar Wars: the ubiquity of sugar, the elevated degree of sweetness we’ve been trained to expect. Tellingly, this cuts out most of our society’s popular options: soda, juice, sugared teas, sports drinks, vitamin waters. What’s left? Water. Lots of water. More water. Milk. Unsweetened tea and coffee. And, due to its vanishingly small percentage of fructose, I hereby give you permission to include wine. You’re welcome.

Number two: read ingredients, always. We have come to a point where it has become all too clear we cannot trust the food industry to have our best interests at heart. The more packages, boxes and bags you read, the more amazed you will be at the number of things you buy, things that are not even sweet, that contain added sugar in all its myriad guises and aliases. Think you know your favorite tomato sauce? Chicken broth? Salad dressing? Cold cuts? I’d be willing to bet if you look closely, you’re going to be surprised. The good news is there’s almost always another brand, further down the shelf, thatdoesn’t contain that sneaky ingredient, if you take the time to find it.

Number three: order simply in restaurants and don’t be afraid to ask. Once you start to ask, you’ll be amazed at how much restaurant food has added sugar in it. And that’s assuming the staff even knows what’s in their own food, which is not always the case. The usual suspects? Dressings, glazes, broths, marinades and always,always the sauce.

Number four: make sugar special. Skip the crappy cookies someone brought to the office. Try having oatmeal with bananas and raisins on top instead of brown sugar. Save your sweet tooth for that oh-so-special something that’s really worth, you know, consuming a little bit of poison for.


Celebrate World Food Day – Support and Stand with Farmers

On October 16, 1945 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was founded, built upon “its belief that the goal of freedom from want of food, suitable and adequate for the health and strength of all people can be achieved”. Celebrated around the world, World Food Day honors that day and our commitment to defeating hunger.

Oxfam is encouraging everyone to do something today.  Whether it’s to make a donation, make dinner, share a recipe or talk to your family about where their food comes from.  Here I’m sharing one of their tasty recipes.  Go to Oxfamamerica for more information.

Chickpeas & Rice Pilaf

Recipe contributed by Oxfam America by Aarti Sequeira


  • 1 cup rice (basmati recommended), rinsed until water clear
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1⁄2 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 2 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick

• 4 cloves
• 1⁄2–1 whole Fresno chili, minced

(to taste)
• 1 141⁄2-ounce can chickpeas,

drained and rinsed
• Scant 2 cups hot water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

Fill a large bowl with fresh water and soak rice for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups of water. Combine oil and butter in small pot over medium heat. Once butter has melted and foam has subsided, add cumin seeds. After cumin seeds have darkened, add onions, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add Fresno chili and sauté 30 seconds.

Add rice and cook, stirring frequently but gently, until the grains turn translucent and don’t clump together, 2–3 minutes. Add chickpeas, reserved water, and salt. Bring to full boil then simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and allow to steam 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.


After cumin seeds have darkened and before adding onions, add 1⁄4 teaspoon asafetida powder (hing).



5 Essential Foods for Life – Outside Magazine


One of my assignments in a college writing class was to write an article for Outside Magazine.  If my memory is correct it was about rafting down the American River.  (It was a long time ago).  However when I was sent this article and slideshow from Outside Magazine about some important foods to have in your pantry I felt compelled to share.  For nostalgia sure.  But also because these are some of my family’s favorites and were always trying to get more of these items in our diets.  To see the entire article and slide show with recommendations for choosing and preparing these foods click here.

Here’s an excerpt…

You’re getting older. It’s time to accept the fact that you can’t stay out for last call, then make it up for a 6:30 A.M. mountain-bike ride. And enough already with your daily routine of coffee-and-bagel breakfasts, takeout lunches, and pizza-and-beer recovery meals. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that the highest rate of adult weight gain happens between ages 25 and 35—roughly one pound per year.

And on top of your slowing metabolism, you’re producing fewer digestive enzymes, meaning you can’t absorb nutrients as easily. Here’s the good news: you can still run and bike like a 25-year-old—as long as you’re smart about what you put in your body. What’s more, quality food needn’t be expensive, and prepared right, it’s much faster than waiting for the delivery dude.

The key is simplifying your meal plan. Instead of spendy, ad hoc grocery runs, develop a set of go-to recipes and stock your pantry with all the ingredients you’ll need. More importantly, anchor those recipes with high-quality, nutrient-rich staples—these five. —Jen Schwartz


For a day-to-day routine, there’s no better source of animal protein than salmon—just four ounces packs roughly 30 grams. That same fillet has more than 250 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium and protects against a range of cancers. It’s also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to boost brain function. Plus, this iconic fish is notable for what it lacks: mercury. Its levels are significantly lower than nearly every other popular species, including tuna, sea bass, cod, and halibut, which means it can be consumed regularly.


No food is as misunderstood as the mighty egg. Eggs are rich in 13 essential vitamins and minerals, everything from A and E to B complex and D. They also contain high-quality protein, antioxidants, and the brain-boosting nutrient choline. “But the cholesterol!” critics shout, pointing to research on heart disease, including a 2012 study that claimed eggs were as bad for your arteries as smoking. But that study looked at correlation, not cause and effect—in other words, plaque buildup was observed to occur more frequently in people who regularly consumed eggs, but those people were just as likely eating their eggs with bacon, too.

Most agree that the human body absorbs protein from eggs better than from almost any other food. So embrace moderation. Six large eggs per week will give you roughly 36 grams of protein and as much as 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids—and still limit the fat that contributes to plaque buildup in arteries.


The United Nations declared 2013 International Year of Quinoa—and for good reason. The gluten-free seed contains sky-high concentrations of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which tackle tissue-damaging free radicals. And unlike wheat, barley, and oats, quinoa is a complete source of protein. Compared with processed pastas, quinoa has roughly four times the amount of iron and twice the calcium, yet takes the same amount of time to cook.


No green compares with the nutrient-to-calorie ratio of this dark leafy vegetable. It has off-the-charts levels of vitamins K, A, and C and is a good source of fiber—one cup has nearly 25 percent of the daily recommended amount. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk, and it trumps broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage for its broad range of flavonoids, compounds that help prevent muscle inflammation and cancer. All of which are compelling reasons to stock up on it, but here’s the best: as a cooking staple, kale is endlessly flexible. Throw a shredded handful into soups, casseroles, or frittatas. You can even use it in smoothies and juices.


For the money, these little nuggets, also called garbanzo beans, are unbeatable. They’re rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber (the former makes you feel full and helps regulate blood sugar, the latter keeps you regular); you need both for a healthy diet, and two cups of these legumes pack 100 percent of the daily recommended amount. And just half a cup contains five grams of protein and ten different vitamins. Chickpeas are also wildly versatile. Just ask the guys behind the blog (and forthcoming book) Thug Kitchen, which offers profanity-laced recipes and kitchen tips that dispel the notion that healthy cooking is a realm of rarefied luxury. “Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, whatever you want to call them, they do all the heavy lifting in my kitchen,” says the site’s anonymous founder.


Arsenic Found in Baby Formula and Brown Rice Syrup Products

Here’s the entire article and Dartmouth study regarding arsenic found in formula and organic foods sweetened with brown rice syrup.  Once again it’s always important to check labels and eat things in moderation.   Check your kids’ snacks bars such as Cliff and Envirokids.  I too sometimes sweeten muffins and cookies with brown rice syrup instead of sugar.

A local Bay Atea pediatrician had this to say to his pediatric regarding the findings:

“We would also like to reassure you. We had a lengthy conversation with the chief toxicologist at the UCSF Pediatric environmental health study unit this afternoon and here are some of his thoughts: All rice takes up natural arsenic from the soil — so it’s not a contaminant during manufacturing.  The exposure is not an acute high level toxicity (such as in large ingestion of poison) but rather a slow and low level exposure, which would take years or even decades to affect the human body. Treatment for this is to simply stop taking the formula. Arsenic has short half-life, and some studies have shown that it clears the body within a week or 2, unlike other heavy metals like lead that can deposit and take years to clear. Overall the risk from this type of exposure is very minimal and no treatment is necessary. As far as testing, most experts recommend against testing for several reasons:

1.      Testing isn’t reliable and can be influenced by organic, non-toxic arsenic which is found in fish and water.

2.      Treatment is the same and that is to stop exposure.



Taking Steps on Food Chemicals

We’re always hearing tips about eliminating food chemicals such as bisphenol A, artificial food dyes and pesticides out of our food.  But why isn’t the FDA banning these substances to make it safer, healthier and easier for consumers to shop?  This is Marion Nestle’s answer posed in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.  Read the article , learn the trouble with FDA studies and find out what you can do to be part of the solution, and keep yourself and family safe.




“Is Junk Food Really Cheaper” – NY Times Op Ed Article

Mark Bittman is a journalist, food writer and cookbook author with a direct writing style, which I admire.  His book How to Cook Everything is a must for any avid home cook.  He wrote a great article in the NY Times this week entitled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”. It’s an interesting read and debunks some of the information about the cost of food.  Having just gone through the hunger challenge I agree with him that healthy food can be made inexpensively, but with effort and planning.  Money alone is not the issue.  He concludes the fight to shift people’s eating from fast food to home cooked meals must be via education, policy and culture.  He brings up some interesting statistics in this article.  I had no idea there are 5 times as many fast food restaurants as grocery stores.  Wow!  And he also write about the fact that the engineering behind hyperprocessed food makes it virtually addictive. “A 2009 study by the Scripps Research Institute indicates that overconsumption of fast food “triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses” in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine. In other words the more fast food we eat, the more we need to give us pleasure; thus the report suggests that the same mechanisms underlie drug addiction and obesity.”

I think he’s got some good questions and issues and brings into focus how our food and diet needs to change, and everyone needs to take responsibility and action. Individuals, families, local communities, and government need to get educated and involved.


Cantaloupe Warning/Recall – Listeria Outbreak

Health officials say as many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes, the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.  Listeria is most harmful to the elderly and pregnant women (as it passes thru to the fetus).  Symptoms of listeria include fever and muscle aches, often with other gastrointestinal symptoms. Victims often become incapacitated and unable to speak.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths have been reported from The Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms grown in Colorado and shipped between July 29th and September 10th all across the United States.  The cases have been found in 18 states including California.  See entire article here.