Braised Kale and Feta Tartines

These tartines (open-faced sandwiches) have become a staple in our house … in fact, they were our Christmas morning brunch this year. The cool thing is, they come together in about five minutes if you have some braised kale on hand; 15 or so if you’re starting from scratch.



Nourishing Hero: Kelly Anderson

This is the latest installment in our Nourishing Heroes series, in which we feature the individuals and organizations who inspire us with food that nourishes body, soul and planet. Do you know a Nourishing Hero we should feature on NOURISH Evolution? Let us know who inspires you!

If you’ve been following the saga of British chef Jamie Oliver’s latest installment of ABC series “Food Revolution,” which is filming now in Los Angeles, you know the city’s school district has banned him from the schools. Whether the L.A. Unified School District has something to hide or simply isn’t interested in Oliver’s TV-ready antics is hard to say (it’s probably both). But let’s just say Oliver’s relationship with the City of Angels is off to a rocky start.

But Kelly Anderson, a mom in Glendale, Calif., shows that you don’t need a camera crew and celebrity status to make a profound difference in school food.

After working in PR and marketing for 10 years, Anderson decided to follow her passion for food and went through the culinary program at a local community college in 2008. Her daughter inspired her to focus her talents on developing young palates through her consulting business, The Lunch Bunch.

“She had just started preschool,” says Anderson. “They had an amazing commercial kitchen that had never been used to cook meals for the kids. I started testing recipes at the school for the kids, and they really liked it.”

Soon, other parents asked her to develop a healthy menu for the preschool. Anderson created healthy, kid-friendly dishes like veggie-topped pizzas, turkey tacos and baked chicken tenders breaded in crushed whole-grain Goldfish crackers. Many parents were pleasantly surprised to see their kids happily eating vegetables.

Anderson has several ways to encourage the kids to eat their veggies. Serving a variety of foods at schools uses “positive peer pressure from the other kids,” she says. “If they see a friend eating broccoli, they’ll try it, too.”

She’s also a fan of sneaking vegetables into kids’ favorite foods. “I hide a lot of my vegetables,” she admits. Anderson’s zippy marinara sauce, below, is thickened with a generous amount of carrots, celery and onion. She’ll add shredded veggies to beef sliders and mushrooms to Bolognese sauce.

She also teaches basic cooking classes to spark kids’ interest in new foods. “Once they’re familiar with what I’m making, they’ll be more likely to try it because they were a part of making it.” It’s a tactic she recommends parents try at home.

Anderson has launched The Lunch Bunch to consult on healthy menus for schools, restaurants, families and individuals. And she continues to cater lunch for her daughter’s preschool. Parents pay her $4 per day, per child. Though that’s more generous than the current USDA school lunch reimbursement rate–26 cents per full-priced meal to $2.72 per free meal–it’s still a tight budget that requires Anderson to shop strategically.

“All our eggs and milk are organic. I try to buy organic chicken whenever I can,” she says. “I also belong to a couple of different co-ops and shop the farmers’ market. The problem is, it’s still really expensive to buy organic.”

So she makes smart compromises, like using the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists to choose what to buy organic or picking up organic frozen berries, which typically are cheaper than fresh.

Anderson is a fan of Oliver’s efforts and sympathizes with his difficulties working with the L.A. school district. “The fact that they’re not even allowing Oliver to come in, tells me they’re not giving much thought to what they’re feeding the children,” she says. “Right now, we treat our school lunch program workers as if they are day laborers. They open up a can, they put it in a pot and they turn on the stove.”

Parents whose children are in private schools or smaller public school districts might have an easier time getting involved in their kids’ lunch programs, she says. And as long as her own daughter is in preschool, Anderson knows that she’s eating well. But when she moves up to kindergarten, Anderson may need to take her nutrition activism to the big-kids’ school.

Meet our other Nourishing Heroes:

Kelly’s “Sneaky” Veggie-Laden Marinara Sauce

Chef Kelly Anderson, founder of The Lunch Bunch, is a master at getting kids to eat their vegetables. One of her strategies: Sneak veggies into favorite foods. This thick marinara sauce is packed with tomatoes (of course), plus a boatload of onions, carrots, celery and fresh herbs. But once it’s pureed, even the most skeptical kid will just see–and taste–bright-flavored tomato sauce. It’s familiar enough to win over little ones, yet bold and vibrant enough to appeal to grown-up palates. Use it on pizzas, over pasta or as a soup base.


1/27/11 Nourishing News Roundup

Food Manufacturers Unveil Label Program

Hot on the heels of Wal-Mart’s healthy initiatives announcement last week, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) revealed their new front-of-package Nutrition Keys labeling program. The GMA claims the labels will make it clearer for consumers to know what’s in packaged food–calories, fat, sodium, sugars–and potentially highlight healthful aspects like fiber and potassium. In her Food Politics blog, however, Marion Nestle says the program is little more than the industry’s effort to preempt the front-of-package labeling standards being developed by the Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, she says, it has plenty of potential to confuse consumers even more.

USDA Fires Top Dog for Organics

The USDA has certainly paid lip service to organics, but as we’ve noted, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack wants to have it both ways: support organics and conventional agriculture. Now the USDA has fired Mark D. Keating, an agricultural marketing specialist with the National Organic Program (NOP). Keating had been with the department for 20 years and was instrumental in developing the USDA’s organic standards. Jeff Desay reports on the implications of this move on AlterNet.

Where’s the Beef?

Skip the fast-food fix and try our homemade burritos instead.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a California woman has filed a class-action suit against Taco Bell, claiming the ground beef used by the fast-food chain contains too little actual beef. She may not win, because Taco Bell itself calls the stuff “taco meat filling.” If you need a Taco Bell fix, try Cheryl’s Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos instead. They come together in no time, you’ll actually know what’s in them, and they taste a whole lot better!

Organic Milk Overcomes Climate Change

Climate change, well, changes the nature of your food. Researchers in the United Kingdom have found that milk produced during wet, cool summers tends to be much higher in saturated fat and lower in healthy fatty acids than milk produced during normal weather conditions. But Newcastle University scientists have found that’s not the case with organic milk, which has higher levels of beneficial fatty acids than conventionally produce milk regardless of the weather. The researchers also discovered that the nutritional quality of organic milk is far more consistent than conventional.

Eliminate Food Waste to Fight World Hunger

We talked about minimizing food waste as a smart 2011 resolution for the health of the planet (and your wallet!). But there’s another benefit, too: increasing food security. Worldwatch Institute’s new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations That Nourish the Planet, highlights the importance of preventing food waste in battle against world hunger. The report offers real-world examples of innovative programs from around the world, like women in The Gambia who formed a cooperative to ensure the sustainability of local oyster fisheries or Kenyan women who designed “vertical” gardens to grow food for residents of a Nairobi slum.

Failure to Fund the Food Safety Modernization Will Fail the World

We’ve noted that food safety is one of the big issues we’ll be following this year, and already the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act is threatened by lawmakers reluctant to appropriate funds to implement the law’s measures. We love this editorial in the journal Nature, which teases out the byzantine quality of food safety regulations in the United States. But failure to fund the act will have implications far beyond our borders. The British government think tank The Foresight Programme’s new report, The Future of Food and Farming, illustrates the need for a global food supply system to ensure safe, sustainable food for a world population that’s projected to reach 8-10 billion by 2050.

Oh, Meyer

Whenever I spy Meyer lemons in the market I can’t resist grabbing a handful and bringing them up to my nose for a whiff of their bright, heady aroma. It transports me back to a trip I took to a small town in Connecticut several years ago.

It was late winter and I arrived in a snowstorm that took even the hardy Yankee locals by surprise. The next morning, I awoke in my snug little B&B to a world cloaked in a flawless blanket of snow sparkling under a clear blue sky. That postcard-perfect setting was a enough of a treat, but it got even better when I sat down to breakfast at a table beside potted Meyer lemon tree. Perfectly framed by the snow-covered scene outside, the tree was heavy with fruit and offered a fragrant, sunny harbinger of warmer days to come.

Ever since, I’ve been delighted to see availability of this fruit expand from gourmet stores to farmers’ markets and even supermarkets. Once coveted by chefs, they’re steadily becoming a staple for home cooks.

What makes them so special? First, they’re not entirely a lemon, but a cross between a lemon and an orange so they have smooth, thin skin that ranges from lemony yellow to nearly orange and a flavor that’s sweeter and less acidic than a standard lemon. They’re prized for their citrusy perfume and abundant juiciness. They tend to be smaller and rounder than regular lemons, so there’s a wonderful tactile pleasure to holding one in the palm of your hand.

You can use Meyers in any recipe calling for lemons. (Depending on the recipe, some cooks like to balance their sweetness with a squeeze of regular lemon–use your taste as a guide.) Try them in Kitchen MacGyver Lemon Curd (my, that would be lovely!), Go-To Vinaigrette or Roasted Cauliflower with Meyer Lemon Fauxaioli. Or simply use them as an excuse to make these scones.

Meyer Lemon Ricotta Scones

The combination of whole wheat pastry flour, seasonal Meyer lemon and ricotta yields moist scones with a tender crumb. Grating the cold butter makes it easy to cut into the dry ingredients. This not-too-sweet treat works for breakfast or a snack.


Get a New Grain: Millet

I love millet, so it throws me when, more than with any other grain it seems, people scrunch up their noses when I mention it. In an effort to remedy this, I’m going to wax on a bit about why I adore it. First off, it’s a quick-cooking grain; on your plate in just 20 minutes. Second, it’s like vanilla ice cream: good on its own, yet still a blank canvas for whatever you want to make it. Third, its texture is lovely—and versatile; you can make it fluffy like a pilaf, or sticky like sticky rice. And last but not least, it’s incredibly nutritious, packing a good dose of protein and vitamin B along with minerals like iron and manganese.

Those four reasons should be enough to inspire you to read further. After you do, let me know what you love about millet!


What it Looks Like: Millet looks like butter-colored—the really intensely yellow of French butter–beads.

What it Tastes Like: Taste-wise, I find millet to be about the same “neutral but with a pleasing flavor’”as a basic brown rice. Texture-wise, as I mentioned above, millet can vary from fluffy and almost poppy (as in it sort of bursts to the bite) to somewhat dense and sticky.

How to Cook it: As with many grains, millet takes on a deeper flavor and retains its integrity better if you toast it in a bit of fat in the pot before boiling (skip this step, though, if you want to the millet to be sticky). Then add 2-1/2 cups liquid (with millet, I like to use some sort of flavorful broth) to 1 cup millet. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Finish by letting the millet stand, covered, for 5 minutes and fluffing before serving.

How to Use it: I like to use millet as a stand-in for rice in baked one-pot dishes, like the Cuban-Style Millet con Pollo below. Sticky millet makes a fun crust for savory pies and casseroles.

Additional Notes: Like many whole grains, millet can go rancid quickly in the cupboard. It’s best to buy it in smaller quantities (from the bulk bin is fine … although sniff it to make sure it doesn’t smell bitter) and keep it in the freezer. Another big note—millet is gluten free.

Cuban-Style Millet con Pollo

When I worked in the travel industry, I used to randomly jet off for the weekend on my own. One time, during an especially long New York winter, I went to Miami. What I remember most vividly aren’t the beaches, but a dish of arroz con pollo I had sitting at the counter at a Cuban diner my friend Luisa had told me about. I set out to replicate the flavors in this classic chicken casserole here, substituting millet–a bouncy little whole grain–for the rice. Ah … now if only I could replicate those travel benefits!

millet-con-pollo--chicken-casserole1 tablespoon cumin, divided
1 tablespoon oregano, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds), backbone removed and cut into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (I used Shiner Bock)
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon ground annatto*
1-1/2 cups millet
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup large pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced crosswise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon oregano with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Sprinkle chicken pieces with spice mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven and brown the chicken on all sides in two batches, about 5-8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate as done. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat and add onion, garlic and bell pepper to the pot. Saute 5-8 minutes, until softened and translucent.

Pour tomatoes, beer and chicken broth into the pot, and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin and 2 teaspoons oregano along with the bay leaf, annatto and another pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and nestle the chicken legs and thighs into the liquid. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook 10 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a separate small skillet over medium heat and toast the millet for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant and a shade darker.

After the dark meat has cooked 10 minutes, take the pot out of the oven, uncover and scrape in the millet. Stir well and nestle the rest of the chicken into the liquid in as close to a single layer as you can get it. Cover and cook another 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and uncover. Scatter the frozen peas and olives on top, cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 10

PS — I like to squeeze a lime onto both this dish and the beer I’m drinking with it.

* Annatto powder comes from the achiote seed and is slightly sweet, slightly bitter. It’s also what gives this dish its golden hue. You can find annatto powder (you could also use the same amount of achiote paste) in the spice section of your grocery store, or in Mexican markets. If you can’t find it or don’t want to buy it, no worries. Your millet just won’t be as gold.

1/20/11 Nourishing News Roundup

Wal-Mart’s Healthy Food Pledge

This week, the retail giant unveiled a five-year healthy food initiative. Programs include eliminating trans-fats from all packaged foods sold in its stores; reducing added sugars by 10% and sodium by 25%; making healthy foods more affordable and easier to identify; and building new stores in food deserts. That’s big news–so big that first lady Michelle Obama was on hand at the press conference. Groceries now account for more than half of Wal-Mart’s annual sales, or a whopping $258.2 billion, so whether you love Wal-Mart or hate it, wherever it goes, others are sure to follow. If Wal-Mart demands that a manufacturer reformulate a product in order to keep it on the store’s shelves, believe me, it’ll happen.

Lia’s Nourishing Story

Lia is one of the most energetic people I know, so you can bet I was shocked to learn she has fibromyalgia, a condition marked by fatigue and chronic pain. Learn how a nourishing diet transformed her life and helped her thrive.

Fish Tales

The Marine Stewardship Council may be based in London, but it’s the best-known and largest certifier of sustainable seafood in the world, and chances are you see its familiar blue logo on seafood sold at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and other retailers. The UK’s Guardian newspaper details concerns by Greenpeace and other organizations that the MSC’s certification program is more about brand-building than saving the fish. And Greenpeace isn’t alone its concerns. Here in the States, the Pew Charitable Trusts also questions the MSC’s standards.

In other seafood sustainability news, Scientific American reports on a new aquaculture operation that farms salmon on enclosed freshwater tanks. The Monterey Bay Aquarium approves, giving the fish a place on its new SeafoodWatch Super Green List.

Eat Fish, Stay Smart

Researchers find a fish- and vegetable-rich traditional Mediterranean diet may help keep your mind sharp in your golden years. That’s great news, but will it put more pressure on the world’s stressed fish stocks? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Whole Grain Confusion

A new survey by General Mills finds most Americans think they’re eating enough whole grains, yet only 5% of us actually consume the recommended three servings a day. Why? Most people are still confused about what constitutes a whole grain. For a refresher, check out Lia’s primer, “Know Your White From Your Wheat.”

Nourishing Issues 2011: Will Nutrition Get Real?

This is part 3 in our Nourishing Issues 2011 series, in which we’re spotlighting a few key topics: food safety, local food and nutrition. The list could be much longer, of course, but these are three biggies that we’re sure to revisit throughout the year.

Hmmm. I’d hoped to have some actual news to report in this post, since the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were due to be released, well, last year. These guidelines, issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the department of Health and Human Services, are updated every five years. They’re a big deal, because they influence public health policy, including programs like school lunches. The finalized 2010 guidelines may be released by the end of this month. Or maybe not.

As we reported last fall, the USDA and HHS are evaluating the recommendations made by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) of experts and based on all the latest nutrition research. As we noted then, many of the recommendations were in line with NOURISH Evolution’s core values of sound nutrition, eco-clean food, mindful meals and cooking skills. As for the finalized guidelines, here’s what we anticipate the guidelines will include, based on the committee’s recommendations:

Predicted guideline: Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Our take: Duh, this has been part of every version of the dietary guidelines since they were first published in 1980. Trouble is, government recommendations do little to encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables–consumption rates have been flat since 1999.

But we don’t expect the finalized guidelines to go along with the advisory committee’s call for a shift shift toward a more plant-based diet with only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs. That’s excellent advice, but it’s hard to imagine the USDA will overlook influence from the powerful beef, poultry and egg lobbies, which will want to keep their foods on the American plate.

Predicted guideline: Reduce the recommended intake of sodium to 1,500 milligrams per day (that’s a little over 5/8 teaspoon of salt) for the general population, down from 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines.

Our take: Because the evidence is so strong, we think the final guidelines will lower the recommended daily allotment of sodium.

Predicted guideline: Americans need to get off the SoFAS (solid fats and added sugars, that is).

Our take: We think the final guidelines will urge Americans to minimize their consumption of solid fats (butter, cheese, fatty cuts of meat and the like) and added sugars, both of which comprise more than a third of the American diet and contribute to our ballooning obesity rates.

But here again, the USDA will continue to deliver a conflicting message–on the one hand, urging moderation and a healthy diet while on the other working with the industry to create programs that promote consumption of the very foods contributing to our nation’s health problems. Cheese, anyone?

Will we be right? We’ll revisit this when the 2010 guidelines are–finally–released. At the very least, we’re hoping the new guidelines also come with a fresh new graphic. The 2005 guidelines came with a confusing color-coded pyramid that no one liked.

Also in this series:
What Will It Take to Make Our Food Safe?
The Evolution of Local