Monday, February 28, 2011

Around The Culinary World

Good evening everyone! We're back and better than ever (well...back anyway!) Maggie is healing up nicely, although she does have some minimal pain from time to time, she is back to a normal diet and normal activities. My finger has healed up nicely over the past week, although it is still fairly gross to look at, I can type and (more importantly for blog purposes) cook with ease once again.

First and foremost, you may notice a few slight changes to the blog. It's true, I've spent the last few days making subtle visual updates or tweaks to the blog - no particular reason, I just felt it was time to freshen up a little bit. We're now using a new font style (ooh...ahh!) and a new color scheme, as well as a new background image. Enjoy and let me know what you think of the changes.

Also of note, yesterday the Urbandale Public Library held a 'forum' and book signing with Julie Powell of 'Julie & Julia' fame. After an hour -question/answer/interview session - we got to meet Julie and have her sign a copy of her book. Maggie will have more on this meeting on Wednesday's blog - but I just felt the need to mention that after we told her about our blog, she laughed and commented 'I love the name'. We're two for two in regards to famous culinary figures and loving our blog title. We may not become famous, get a movie or even make a buck on our blog - but at least we have an entertaining name. You have to take the little victories in life.

Over the last two weeks, the 'Around The Culinary World' feature has been a little...sparse to say the least. The food world simply wasn't turning out stories of any interest. There were small dustups over sodas and diet sodas - but nothing that deserved the full attention of the press juggernaut that is 'Around The Culinary World' (Full embellishment and sarcasm in use here)

This week, our patience has been rewarded with a new food controversy, thanks to the previously mentioned McDonald's oatmeal. Not to mention, our own favorite celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has come out firing at Sarah Palin (her stance on healthy eating and her own stupidity need no introduction) for her stance on changing the diets of children in America's schools. Top that off with a few interesting stories regarding snack foods and we've got a great week of tales to share! So, let's dive in!

Around The Culinary World: 2/28/11

We'll start off this week with the big food controversy. Over the past week, the actual ingredients of McDonald's newest breakfast menu item - 'healthy' oatmeal, were analyzed. It turns out that (and no surprise here) McDonald's version of healthy food and the rest of the world's version tend to differ...slightly.

McDonald's oatmeal, which has already been called out for being flat out disgusting and an assault on everything that is good about oatmeal (check out that story from a previous Around The Culinary World) is far from the healthy choice they lead you to believe. It turns out that the oatmeal contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald's cheeseburger. This shouldn't be the case, after all - oatmeal IS AN INGREDIENT you don't have to add anything to it, alter it in anyway at all to make it a meal. It is a meal by itself. Adding fresh fruit and even a pinch of sugar or honey shouldn't send the dish skyrocketing to cheeseburger status. When prompted by an outside source regarding its ingredient choices, McDonald's responded with:

 “Customers can order FMO with or without the light cream, brown sugar and the fruit. Our menu is entirely customizable by request with our Made for You platform that has been in place since the late 90s.”

               Oh -so, it's not our fault it's bad for's yours. You're keeping all of the extra junk on the oatmeal, the old don't blame me, I just make it defense. (Also known as the 'you don't have to eat it' defense) Stay classy McDonald's. For more insight and commentary, check out the full story HERE

My favorite story of this week comes from the inspiration for this blog - Mr. Jamie Oliver. It's not secret that we're big champions of Jamie's 'Food Revolution' campaign - a movement that is trying to change the way school lunch systems operate (from the ground up). His argument is simple, start with healthy eating habits when kids are young and they will develop a healthier eating / lifestyle as the grow older. Obesity is a large problem in the United Sates, and starting off kids on the right foot (by removing processed foods and sugary drinks) is one great way to lower the rate that America's children are ballooning. Jamie's television show changed my perspective on cooking and eating well, his cookbooks taught me to cook and his passion made me a supporter of his cause. We're not doing what we're doing without Jamie Oliver.

Enter Sarah Palin, who for all intents and purposes, is the opposite of Jamie Oliver. Mrs. Palin has taken the stance that changing the dietary guidelines for children is an 'assault on American families' and that Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver and telling parents how to raise their children. Healthy eating habits are bogus and America doesn't need this forced on our kids - etc. etc. We've lambasted Sarah Palin and her moronic stance on this issue before on the blog - so we won't dive into that issue again - however, Jamie Oliver fired back this week with something I wish I would have thought of calling her:

'Clearly, on this issue, she's a Froot Loop' Oliver said of Palin's attacks on Mrs. Obama and the healthy eating initiative. Well put Jamie! Read the full story of Jamie's comments on the political 'froot loop' HERE

Spot on Jamie...Spot on! 

How would you react if I told you chocolate was actually good for you?

Wait! Before you go running out the door to the nearest grocery store and stuff your face full of discounted Valentine's Day candy - you should know there's a catch.

Multiple studies are emerging that are linking chocolate to many health benefits. Chocolate has been found to include antioxidants, especially the antioxidant polyphenol, which is also found in plants and red wine. Polyphenol helps lower heart disease by preventing the artery walls form accumulating waxy, fatty substances known as LDL cholesterol. 

Ever eat a chocolate bar and feel a little more optimistic or aware? Science has an answer for that too - chocolate contains theobromine, which acts a lot like caffeine (without the withdrawal or addiction) a small amount of theobromine can stimulate the mind to be more awake or even improve your mood. 

In addition, chocolate has been proven to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. One ounce of chocolate has been shown to be enough for all of these health benefits to be enjoyed. So, why has chocolate been getting a bad rap for all of these years? Well, much like any menu item at McDonald's it's not the item itself, it's what we've done to it. 

Chocolate gets filled with sugar and buttermilk, canceling out all of the health benefits with health detriments. (Such as obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure...) So, (and here's the bad news) not all chocolate will help you and (more bad news) you can't eat mounds of it. However, small amounts of dark chocolate (which don't have nearly the levels of sugar or added fat as milk chocolate) can yield amazing heath benefits. So, there you have it - chocolate is good for you (sort of). Check out the full story, along with better descriptions of the science behind the story HERE

Finally this week,we have a interesting little story regarding snack foods. Snacking has always been a black sheep of the culinary world. Is it bad for you? Is it good for you? To an extent - yes to both. Snacking has been shown to have positive health benefits (supplementing a diet, lowering calories consumed throughout the day, better portion control) however, mindless snacking (and snacking on the wrong things) can be extremely detrimental to your health. So, what is the right snack food and what is the wrong snack food? Find out HERE. (The wrong isn't really a surprise in my opinion - but the 'right' may catch you off guard)

There you have it folks, that's what's new in the culinary world for Monday, February 28th 2011. We've got a full week lined up for you in regards to recipes - Maggie makes her return to the blog with two dishes this week. Also, I've got a great halibut dish (pushed from last week) that I can't wait to try out. It should be (pending any emergency surgeries or kitchen injuries) our first full cooking week in two weeks. Stop back tomorrow night for my halibut dish - until then,


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