Quite simply, organic baby food is that which is processed without the use of artificial pesticides and/or synthetic fertilizers. While many note organic food as being either store-bought, garden grown or gathered in the wild, the correct association is certified organic foods, which are produced and labeled according to strict regulatory standards. In a number of countries, including the United States, the use of the word organic in the commercial market, without the proper certification, is prohibited by law.Organic baby food is most commonly found in a supermarket and will be labeled accordingly. Because of its nature, "organic baby food" is more expensive than other types. Processed organic baby food typically includes only those ingredients that are organic and has no artificial food additives. While there seem to a number of benefits to using organic baby food, the most common reason for purchasing this type of product is the overall quality. Increased nutritional value, the absence of residues from artificial pesticides and better taste are all positive benefits of organic baby food.Organic baby food, because it is believed to be fresher, often carries an improved taste over other baby foods. Because organic farms are small, their products are most commonly sold close to home. Therefore, organic baby food and other products feature a fresher taste simply because they are fresh.By 2003, organic food products were available in 20,000 natural food stores and 73% of commercial grocery stores. While many believe that organic baby food is helpful, others are not as certain. Some believe that farming and organic fertilization may carry its own risks that may be passed along in organic baby food.The main debate lies with the better approach to manufacturing organic food. Is it more healthy to use artificial and synthetic products in food processing or natural fertilizer and organic farming methods? There are both sides to any debate and the questions surrounding organic baby food is no different. There is legitimate concern over contamination and safety of organic food and products, but an exact determination as to which side of the table is right has yet to be decided.The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes. It should not be considered as, or used in conjunction with, professional medical advice or recommended feeding for your infant, toddler or young child. Prior to beginning any food preparation involving the use of [*_*], consult your childs physician for additional information and/or a recommendation regarding the use of [*_*] as part of your childs food intake.
Salt and Pepper: A PerspectiveHave you ever thought about salt and pepper? Theres more to it than just the shaker on the table. Pepper is the singular reason we are Americans instead of Europeans. Even today, pepper is the most widely traded spice in the world and served as the incentive for Christopher Columbus and others to search for a direct oceanic route to India. Hippocrates prescribed it as a digestive aid, and the active ingredient in pepper, piperine, is what makes it hot and is still used today as a heart and kidney stimulant. Historically, salt and pepper have been used as currency, medicinally and as seasoning. Plato wrote, Pepper is small in quantity and great in value. Ancient Egypt, the Greeks and the Romans all competed for supplies, which were shipped via small boats in the Mediterranean or overland by camel along the Silk Road. Both routes were treacherous, with the danger of sinking on the voyage contrasted against the cost of buying off Arab middlemen.Interestingly, all varieties of pepper come from the fruit of a perennial climbing shrub, and are grown by a handful of countries within 15 degrees of the equator. Differences in appearance and flavor are the result of picking the berries at different stages. Below is a list of characteristics, point of origin and best uses.1.Green peppercorns Picked before maturity and more expensive due to smaller yields and extra processing. Aromatic, but not pungent. Used in French, Creole, and Thai food.2.Pink or Rose peppercorns Not from the pepper vine, but rather from a small tree related to the rose bush. Grown on the French Island of Reunion. Rare and expensive, rose pepper has a milder, sweeter flavors and is used in nouveau cuisine or in pepper mixtures. 3.White peppercorns Fully ripened with the outer skin boiled off. Hotter flavor, but fewer aromas. White pepper is the most popular spice in Northern Europe and is used in sauces, soups, potatoes and beverages.4.Red peppercorns Picked at full maturity and dried whole. Extremely rare and expensive. There are two varieties, Muntok, from Indonesia and the superior pepper, Sarawak, from Malaysia.5.Black peppercorns The most popular variety in the US, they are picked while still ripening, then dried and fermented naturally in the sun. There are several types:a.Malabar From SW India. Slightly green in color, robust flavor.b.Tellicherry Also from SW India. Large, dark chocolate to black peppercorns with pungent, complex aromas. These are considered the best.c.Sarawak From Malaysia. Least pungent, mild, fruity flavor.d.Lampong From Sumatra. Earthy, smoky aromas, hotter flavor.e.Talamanca Del Caribe From Ecuador, certified organic, the worlds finest pepper, according to some. Robust flavors, hotter than average.In no way does salt pale to pepper in comparison. Salt is not considered a spice, but a naturally-occurring mineral. Over time, it has been used as a preservative as well as medicinally. There are as many types and originations of salt as pepper, but modern salt is filled with additives to keep it from clumping up. Iodine is the main additive and tends to have a bitter flavor. Some of the varieties available include:1.Sonoma Pacific Sea Salt Kosher, coarse sea salt originating from California. Soft flavor.2.Sterling Atlantic Sea Salt Off-white color from Brazil.3.Sel Gris de Guerande Unrefined, organic and sun dried. Originating in Northern France, it is very soft, flavorful, but not good in a grinder.4.Fleur de Sel de Guerande The finest available. Moist, slightly gray and used as a finishing salt served in a small dish on the table.5.Alaea Hawaiian Red Sea Salt Hailing from Hawaii, it is harvested from salt beds lined with Alaea red clay that lends color and unique flavor. Use on meats and fresh vegetables.6.Salish Pacific Alder Smoked Sea Salt A natural, coarse-grained salt that is slow smoked over red alder to give it an earthy flavor. Good for salads, meats and salmon.Have you heard the phrase, Worth your weight in salt? Salt has been referred to and regarded for centuries as priceless. Pepper was worth more by weight than gold in the Middle Ages. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah. God turned the sinners into a veritable gold mine. So, the next time you are adjusting the flavor of your meal, consider the origin of the spice. Enjoy the flavors available and seek out some new varieties. Another modern miracle of agriculture and transportation that we often take for granted.Mary Margaret Ambler is the Publisher and Editor of Black and Whites Magazine, a trade publication for wait staff, www.blackandwhitesmag.com.
Are you worried about cooking for a vegetarian in your family this upcoming holiday season? Well, worry no more. This article will tell you exactly what you need to do and know before you start cooking this holiday season.You can start off by finding out what type of vegetarian your guest is. For instance, if she is a strict vegan, then theres a chance she will not eat food that contains honey or yeast; however, if on the other hand, she is a "semi" or "pseudo" vegetarian, there is a chance she will actually eat the meal as it is prepared, including the meat. And if shes a lacto-ovo-vegetarian,she might eat anything with eggs and milk, but will probably avoid meat dishes.If you talk to the vegetarian in your family before you prepare your holiday meal, you should consider asking the following five questions:1. Do you eat certain types of meat or none at all?If the vegetarian in your family will eat certain meats (generally fish, chicken, and turkey), then you should consider preparing that as a side dish or asking them if they would like to bring a small dish of it for their own meal.2. Will you use serving utensils that have been placed in dishes containing meat?Some vegetarians experience severe gastrointestinal stress when they consume meat and grease from meat, so it is a good idea to find out whether or not they can do so ahead of time. If they cant, you can simply put out one utensil for all non-meat dishes and ask that guests do not cross-contaminate.3. Do you eat foods that contain milk and eggs?As I mentioned above, lacto-ovo vegetarians will eat milk and eggs, but other sub-categories of vegetarian will not. Some wont do it for health reasons; others wont for ethical reasons. Whatever the case, you can get around this problem by either creating more dishes that do not contain milk and eggs or by using egg replacer, which you can find at most supermarkets, and milk replacements, such as soya milk.4. Do you eat honey and yeast?Some vegetarians do not eat honey and yeast for ethical reasons. If you find out that the vegetarian in your family does not eat honey and yeast ahead of time, you can either prepare alternate dishes or ask if they are willing to bring an alternate dish.5. Would you like to bring your own main dish (to replace the turkey, ham, etc.)?Many vegetarians eat popular meat-replacement dishes, such as "tofurkey" and "veggie burgers." Your guest will probably be more than willing to bring her own meat-replacement dish if you ask.To reiterate, there are a number of things you should take into consideration when you cook for a vegetarian this holiday season; however, the single most important thing you can do is actually approach the vegetarian and ask how you can accommodate her and if she would like to cook with you or bring her own dish.If you keep this in mind, your holiday meal will be a success with everyone - even the vegetarian in your family!
The title of this article is disturbing. The concepts of Organic and Fair Trade are very important to building (rebuilding) a sustainable society. The good news is that the certifications are not mutually exclusive and actually complement each other nicely.First, a word about certification. In our current market, third party certification is essential to both organic and fair trade. As the market for both fair trade and organic grows many businesses would rather change the definition than to change their practices. We are seeing this now in the fair trade coffee market place. As time goes on a search for fair trade coffee is more and more likely to turn up non-certified fair trade coffee, which is most likely just a marketing rouse to attract ethical customers. In a recent search of ebay for fair trade coffee 90% of the results were not third party certified, and upon further examination most looked very suspect. We have seen this already in the organic market. How many products marketed to organic consumers are actually certified? Companies have greened their names but not their practices. Without non-biased third party certification of organic or fair trade we are left to trust self interested parties who will only profit from that trust. So look at the labels a product caries, look into the requirements of that certification and make an informed decision. Know what labels you trust and know the ones that you feel are deceptions. With fair trade Transfair is currently the only certification agency, so look for the fair trade label.The concept of growing organic is essential to the preservation of our environment. Herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers seep into the ground polluting our groundwater and it also runs off the fields and into local water resources. When forest are cleared for the planting of fields much of the topsoil is eroded and transported in nearby streams to the nearest lake where it deposits the sediment, filling up the lake. Working with the environment to prevent this erosion, organic coffee farmers preserve the fertility of the land by growing coffee in the shade, where coffee was meant to grow. This shade grown coffee provides the migratory birds with habitat and is thus called bird friendly. The concept of organic goes beyond protecting the environment and extends to protecting the the people who work in the fields. Many of the chemicals used in farming have been shown to cause cancer as well as many other health concerns. These concerns are multiplied when a person is repeatedly exposed to the sprays, like the farmers. How many lifelong farmers labored to provide our society with food and are now suffering from cancer (my grandfather is one of them)? Some studies have shown that organic methods even protect those who eat the fruits(even after they are washed), and also protect locals who drink the water.Fair trade certified works in the opposite direction. First it ensures that the people are being paid and treated fairly. When it comes to fair trade coffee certification, fair has an objective definition through the certification requirements of Transfair. The coffee farmers are paid a fair trade premium (currently $1.26/lb) to ensure that they have money to invest in their community infrastructure. The money supports the families through health care, education, and through providing the needed capital to improve equipment and methods of harvest so that they can compete in the open market. "Fair trade" goes beyond community and family support and extends to protecting the environment. One of the requirements of fair trade certification it that a premium is paid for organic coffee, currently a full 15 cents more per pound than just regular fair trade. Many fair trade farmers have switched to organic methods and are now actively restoring the rain forest in order to receive this premium. They are not doing so grudgingly either, they understand that the rain forest is their heritage and want it to be restored. They don't want to expose themselves and their families to toxic sprays when they can make a living otherwise. This explains why more than 80% of coffee certified as fair trade is also certified organic.So why ask the question which is better when you can have both? Well there is plenty of coffee out there labeled as organic but not fair trade. The environment is being destroyed by some farmers out of what is seen as economic necessity. Organic is great, but by itself it is not sustainable, we must ensure that the people who grow it are properly compensated otherwise they are put in an economic position which lends itself to decisions with negative environmental consequences. Families that provide us with quality organic products deserve financial security. Fair trade does not compete with organic but it does make sure it is fiscally sustainable for the producers, thus ensuring future supply in our current economy..This is why the fair trade model works. First it ensures the financial security of the farmers through fair prices, access to non-predatory loans and capital needed to market and sell their goods. Then it guarantees them a premium for environmentally friendly practices, which many times leads to conversion of conventional fields to organic. This model has been working for coffee and has now expanded to tea, chocolate and even some tropical fruits.The results of fair trade have been amazing:* Organic methods are being used and taught* Community infrastructure is being built/rebuilt* Clean water* Erosion control* Children in school* Quality products through quality methods* Adult education* Secure families* and sustainability Next time you buy organic coffee or tea make sure it is also fair trade certified by Transfair. Request that your local grocer carry fair trade fruits when they are available.
Are you as tired as I am of those little white heart-shaped candies with messages like I like You printed on them? Be a little creative this year and come up with some new Valentines Day treats to take to school and work. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Valentines Day CookiesMake a batch of Sugar cookies or pick up some refrigerated dough at the grocery store. Cut them out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and bake. Frost with a glaze of powdered sugar, water and a little red food coloring, or make it really simple and buy a container of pre-made frosting. Use some frosting pens to write messages or draw on the cookies. Add a few sprinkles and youre set! Dont forget to invite your kids to get involved in decorating any cookies they are taking to school. They will have a great time preparing these special treats. Valentines Cup CakesPurchase a box of devils food cake mix (or your favorite flavor) and prepare according to package directions. Line muffin tins with paper liners and pour enough batter in each to fill to about 1/3 full. Top with 1 tbsp of fruit preserves (strawberry works great) then add more batter until the muffin tins are approximately filled. Bake according to cake mix directions. When they are cool, dust them with powdered sugar, or frost them and sprinkle with red-hot candy hearts. Valentines Day CakeBake any flavor cake in a heart shaped cake form. Let cook and cut in half horizontally. Mix a few drops of red food coloring into a container of whipped topping, and spread some on the bottom layer of the cake. Add the top layer and frost the entire outside of the cake. Top with fresh berries.Chocolate LollipopsGet some heart-shaped lollipop molds. Melt milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate (quality chocolate chips work great). Pour the melted chocolate in the mold and add a lollipop stick. Let cool until hardened. Wrap in cellophane and tie with a little bow. Use leftover chocolate and plastic spoons to create fancy coffee stirrers. Simply dip the plastic spoons in the melted chocolate. Let cool and repeat until you reach the desired thickness,Both of these can be decorated by drizzling different types of melted chocolate over the finished product. Have fun this year creating some wonderful Valentines Day treats. Im sure you will come up with a delicious treat that will be a big hit in the office or the classroom.