Saturday, December 31

Another Recipe

This recipe I unabashedly stole from Pearls, Handcuffs, & Happy Hour. (Is that not the coolest name ever for a blog?!)

Chicken Enchilada Pasta sounded too good to pass up and it tasted just as awesome as it sounded! The fact that it is quick to throw together, freezes well and is cheap to make didn't hurt either.  :0)

I won't copy the recipe here, since you should really go to PH&HH's site to see her beautiful pictures, but I will give you my recipe notes:

  •  I used homemade enchilada sauce, and highly recommend you do the same. It takes 15 min to make, is cheap and extremely healthy for you.
  •  I subbed plain greek yogurt for the sour cream and was quite happy with the result.
  • This is one of those recipes that's even better the next day so make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. Also, if you're making your own enchilada sauce, double or triple the batch so you can stash a batch of this in the freezer for a quick meal solution on a busy day!
  • Living Gluten Free? Serve over GF pasta and you're good to go! Can't find a GF enchilada sauce? Use the recipe below - just sub your favorite starch slurry for the flour to thicken it up.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 cloves garlic, diced
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cups broth (chicken and beef work equally well)
15 oz tomato sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Sauté garlic in oil. Stir in flour; whisk consistently 1 min. Stir in chili powder. Gradually stir in remaining. Simmer 15 minutes to reduce. Enjoy!

Friday, December 30

Unusual Appetizers

Even though I know they're good for me, I'm not much of a banana fan. The texture makes me want to gag, but I fare a little better when they're cooked. My husband, on the other hand, loves bananas, so when I saw Bacon-Banana Treats in a cookbook recently, I knew we had to try them.

They were fast and easy to put together, and quite yummy. I still couldn't do more than two because of the texture, but these are versatile enough that I think they'd be a great option for a party and equally appropriate for a fancy brunch.

The recipe notes suggest you can the same with fresh - but not canned - pineapple. As always, I suggest using nitrate-free bacon if at all possible.

Bacon Banana Treats

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grainy dark mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2 ripe but firm bananas
8 slices of bacon, cut in half

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper until thickened. Cut each banana crosswise into 8 rounds, add the rounds to the marinade, stir gently to coat and let stand about 15 minutes

Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large skillet over moderate heat until half-cooked and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the over broiler.

Wrap each banana in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick soaked in water. Place on the rack of a broiler pan and broil 4 inches from the heat until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes, turning once. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Thursday, December 29

Let Them Eat Cake

Food is a big deal in our house, and we maintain consistently healthy eating habits. In the two weeks leading up to Christmas, however, we gave ourselves over to indulgence in celebration of my husband being home to participate in the holiday festivities.

Now that Christmas is over, we're happily back to our steady diet of real food. Between debauchery and being back to my normal habit of constantly expanding my real-food cookbook, I've got lots of great recipes to share!

Today I'd like to share two favorites: Black Bean Cake and Pesto Rounds.

I believe I've shared the cake before, but couldn't find the post so either it's well buried or I just hallucinated posting it. (It's been known to happen.) You may have seen this cake other places, but if you haven't tried it yet you must - asap! It is an incredibly simple recipe (GF too!), high in nutritional value and decadent to eat. (No one will know it's good for them if you don't tell.) You can dust the top with powdered sugar, but I throw my favorite buttercream frosting on top and love it! If you throw frosting on top, feel free to reduce the amount of sugar in the cake itself. (I used half the suggested amount and subbed honey and it was perfect.)

The other recipe I encountered at my godparents' Christmas party - Pesto Rounds! (Sorry, no pictures - I was too busy licking my fingers!)

These are quick, easy and impressive. Slice thin baguettes into rounds and top with a tablespoon of warm pesto (homemade or your favorite brand). Place a thin slice of Brie cheese atop the pesto and finish off with a sun dried tomato. Line the rounds up on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt. Slide onto a platter and watch people gobble them up! (You can definitely make these ahead, store them in the fridge and bake as needed.)

Both of these recipes have made their way into my recipe collection. What recipes did you pick up this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 28

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

Back in my catering days, my team and I always scheduled time to review the events of week and compare notes. We celebrated all that had gone well and examined things that hadn't gone smoothly for ways to do better next time.

This week, I've felt compelled to do the same kind of review on Christmas. We rarely "do" Christmas here, since my husband is usually deployed this season. Having him home put an entirely different spin on things and has given me a lot to think about.

The science of positive psychology tells us that reflecting on good experiences is emotionally and physically healthy; it actually makes us stronger. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, taking note of the less-than-great experiences as well can go a long way towards helping us avoid them next year.

So this week, I'd like to encourage you to take a few minutes to sit down with a steaming mug of your favorite coffee (or coffee alternative), grab your laptop or a pen and think about the last couple weeks. (If you do, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear what you come up with.)

Here are a few things that popped up in my post-holiday assessment:

  • Stock up on holiday goodies now. There's very little I'd like to be doing less than shopping right now, but there's no denying that this is the best time of year to get holiday themed stuff for dirt cheap. From wrapping paper and stocking stuffers to half-priced holiday scented candles, I can do myself a huge favor by heading out now and snagging all the things I know I'll need next year to stash in a closet so next November I can start ahead of the game.
  • Update the gift idea list. Gifts are not one of my love languages, so I really struggle with giving them well. But seeing what people's best loved Christmas gifts were or getting an inside look at their favorite color schemes, coffee brands, candle scents, etc.  during Christmas parties can be a great prompt for me in planning birthday, graduation or wedding gifts that I know I'll need to buy later in the year. Of course, the time to write down those prompts is NOW while it's all still fresh!
  • Start crafting a strategy. While it's not good to dwell on what didn't go well, an honest assessment of rough patches and a little constructive planning can go a long way. What was your biggest challenge? Splitting time between families? A tight budget or too-packed calendar? Start thinking (and talking) to your friends/family now about ways to do things differently next year. [This is especially important if you want to introduce a significant change such as whose family you'll visit or stepping down from a social obligation you've traditionally filled like running the kids' holiday program at your church.]
  • Follow up. In the back-to-regular-life rush of this week, it's important to me to make sure I don't forget to follow up. Email friends or relatives to ask for that great recipe they made for their holiday party (pesto and brie rounds - yum!), send a note telling an out of town friend how wonderful it was to see them, or send simple thank you notes to the people who poured their time and energy into making Christmas special. 
  • Steal good ideas. Every year I struggle to figure out what I'm supposed to bring to $5 gift swaps or as a hostess gift, and every year I see something brilliant that other people have thought of. This year I'm going to be the brilliant one and write them down! (Or, more accurately, start a board on Pinterest to reference next year.) Nerf guns, mini-marshmallow launchers, pocket size flashlights in fun colors and little travel scent packs (for cars or hotel rooms) - next year I won't have to wrack my brain to find the guaranteed popular items!
  • Write a bucket list. Stick it in your planner. Whether you pick things you didn't find the time to do this year or focus on things you did this year and loved best, write yourself a list of must-do activities. (If you have a spouse or kids, be sure to include them in this part!) Then stick it in your planner or calender - early (think July or August). Life doesn't come with guarantees, but this is probably your best shot for making things happen. [If money tends to be the main reason for not doing something, consider stashing an envelope or jar somewhere with the total estimated cost of the activity written on the front and start tucking money away now. You won't miss a few dollars here and there all year, and the payoff at the end will be so worth it!]
What pops up in your post-holiday reflections?

Friday, December 23

A Happy Find

If you think this looks like a pile of fairly nondescript sheets, you're partially correct. But they are so much more than that - these are a sign that there is hope after all!

I have all but given up thrift store shopping in the last few years because our area has an abundance of "consignment shops" but almost no real thrift stores. (That means everything is brand name and sells for half of it's retail price - pretty much the same amount it would cost to get the same stuff brand new somewhere like Target.)

This week, however, I half-heartedly decided to stop and try one more time and came away with unexpected treasure! I got all four of these sheets for $10! 

(Yes, I know.  I'm unreasonably pleased by such a simple success.)

They're all thick and warm, which is perfect because I'm going to use them for quilt batting. I love quilting, and I love that it is at heart a thrifty craft - even if modern day quilters have turned it into an obscenely expensive hobby.

I have a stack of quilt tops I've been avoiding finishing because batting and backing get expensive quickly.  But I decided that if I went with pieced backs, I could use fabric from my stash instead of buying any more, so that kills two birds with one stone. Now that I have a batting layer, I can make some progress! What great finds are you celebrating this week?

Thursday, December 22


If you're looking for something that will open with a bang and keep you up late because you have to know what happens, you just found it! I don't read a lot of fiction, and even less that's directed towards young adults - but this was awesome.

The pacing was perfect - it never dragged or felt rushed. The characters' responses to finding themselves in crazy situations were realistic and age appropriate without being shallow and annoying; that was a rare and much-appreciated bonus.

I usually dock stars for glaring typos and editing glitches, of which there were a few, but everything else about this book was so great that I decided not to this time. For anyone who likes science fiction, comic books, or aliens this series is a must-read! (And really, how can you not like something with chaos right in the title? Lol)

Tuesday, December 20

Books Should Come with a Warning Label

Somehow, while looking for something else, I ran across Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Even though I'm not reading much fiction these days, I picked it up and figured I'd give it a shot.

(It happens to be by Ransom Riggs who sounded familiar but I couldn't place until I found the note in his bio that he writes for Mental Floss!)

The good news is, the book was amazing. 

The bad news is that - for the second time this year - I have accidentally picked up and loved a book that was the first in a series... a series that is currently a work in progress.


I try very hard to avoid getting into unfinished series because they require patience and attention - one must wait for new books to come out and remember to be paying attention, often a year or more later, when they do.

Yes, I know I can stick a note in my planner and try to forget until then. But it is only fair to point out that my father (also an avid reader - both my parents are) actually had an author die in the middle of writing a wonderful series and was left never knowing what would have happened! How incredibly annoying would that be?! Who wants to take a chance on that?

So, I have a business proposal for book publishers: all books that are part of a as-yet unfinished series should be clearly marked with a big, bright note tell people so.

Not on the book itself, obviously, but on the page and/or the book's website. It can be removed once the series is complete, but in the meantime those of us who agonize over the wait to find out what happens next can choose to bump the book down ten or twelve places on our long reading list and come back to it when we can read the whole thing. If we fail to check the page before picking up the book, the onus is on us, but please give us a chance!

What do you think? Is waiting for the next book in a series a form of unnecessary torment or a delicious anticipation that's a savored part of the reading experience?

Monday, December 19

Operating Budgets: The Controversy

One of the perennially contentious topics in the non-profit world is funding for operational expenses. Let's face it: no one wants to fund staplers, copier ink, building insurance or any of the unglamorous essentials behind the scenes that make every organization run. It's just not as energizing and motivating as chipping in for a shiny new exhibit or jump starting a fantastic new educational program. 

If you're to believe a recent article at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more grant makers should be called on to make no-strings-attached grants available so that non-profits have funding for whatever they need to spend it on - even if it's something as unexciting as toilet paper or staples.

Believe me when I say that as a grant writer, I know something about the frustration of trying to get an organization fully funded in the face of challenges, partners experiencing budget cuts and the sometimes bafflingly technical minutiae that can snag the money you need or get you ejected from any consideration for the rest of the year.

So I don't say this lightly, but I have to disagree with the notion that there should be lots of capital available for general operating expenses. Certainly there should be some, to help those in a pinch or who need seed capital while they branch out in new directions or transition from one focus to another. But generally speaking, if an organization is (1) valuable to it's community, (2) meeting a genuine need and (3) structured such that it can be viable long term, it should be capable of funding itself.

I have no illusions about the vast amount of restructuring many charities would need to do in order to fit this bill, but I don't think it's unreasonable or unwise to use as a general standard. Many organizations could do with much less in the way of overhead and many would benefit (despite the initial pain) from being forced to re-focus their mission, merge with a rival charity (it boggles my mind that there even ARE rival charities) or live within their means.

We are no less morally responsible for our work as stewards of the resources we have been given when they are those of an organization for which we work/ volunteer than we are when they are our own private resources. Why should we be any less expected to adjust, adapt and humble ourselves to what is needed until we can legitimately build ourselves up to where we want to be?

What do you think? How much operational support should be available in grant money, and how much should organizations be required to provide for themselves?

Saturday, December 17

Love Languages, Learning Styles and Holiday Giving

(This post is prompted by an opinion article that can be found here where two bloggers for major newspapers online argue the costs/ benefits of replacing traditional food drives with cash donations only to anti-hunger charities.)

The more I learn about how people's learning styles and love languages shape the way they interact with the world, the more skeptical I get of articles like the one in Slate magazine arguing that people should simply donate money instead of physically being involved in food, toy and other donation drives to show their support for charities.

The business major in my head completely understands the good intentions of such a request: charities can often get items directly from suppliers for pennies on the dollar, delivered right to their door and sometimes even pre-sorted. Cash also alleviates the headaches of sorting and simplifies distribution.

At the same time, experience proves that for most people donating cash is not at all equivalent in impact or motivational force to participating in a drive. 

For social and kinesthetic learners, it is the interaction and participation itself that makes the donation mean something and builds the connection that motivates them to give. Even visual and auditory learners will find a significantly stronger impact in physically seeing and hearing the people running/ benefiting from the charity and feeling their passion to meet the burning needs of hungry families. No website photos or video clips will ever compare.

In the end, though, it is the love languages that will prevent cash-only from being the wave of the future among successful charities.

I don't usually quote scripture on here, but a verse came to mind that seems highly appropriate here:  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)

We can throw all the money we want at charities, but if we do it from behind our computer screen with our credit cards and never really connect we may as well not have bothered.

And if we only give the gift of our money or the item it buys, we have missed so many opportunities to bless and be blessed through the other four love languages! What about: 

The quality time we could have invested in strengthening our families by working together towards a goal, or in sharing a cup of hot cocoa with someone who's lonely and needs a listening ear more than they needed the neatly wrapped package we came to deliver?

The words of kindness and affirmation we could have offered a busy, struggling single parent that mean so much because they come from someone other than a charity worker who's "supposed to" say those kinds of things.

The hugs, handshakes and other little physical touches that come with working together on a project or meeting to celebrate a successful drive that are so important to people who aren't loved on at home.

The simple act of serving one another that has long been proven to change hearts, reorient perspectives and improve the world one interaction at a time.

Whatever you do to give back, at whatever time of year you do it, make a point of doing it in love - even if that means you have to trade it what you've always done for something new or more challenging. It will make all the difference - for you and the world.

Friday, December 16


We don't watch almost any tv and rarely go to the movies, but when I saw the trailer for the new Muppet movie I knew we had to go. We went to a late showing on an off day to avoid any chance of crowds, and I was highly amused to see that the rest of the audience was just like us - adults... with no kids in tow. Unabashedly there just for ourselves.

It was so worth it!! If you don't get out to see this in the theater, make sure you rent it. It was wonderful - well done, funny and nostalgic.

Thursday, December 15

One Thousand Gifts

Months ago now, the (in)Courage book club (Bloom) started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. 

 Although familiar with her writing from her beautiful blog, A Holy Experience, I opted not to participate at the time because I am on a strict, self-imposed no-book-buying policy right now. (We've maxed out the number of books we can comfortably accommodate in our current space, so all further acquisitions will have to wait since I have a pathological inability to tolerate clutter.)

I put the title on hold at my local library, however, and eventually almost forgot about it since it took so long to come in. Apparently everyone else wanted to read it too!

When I cracked the cover I knew quickly that it was worth the wait. Mrs. Voskamp tackles life's hardest, most painful questions and does it with soul-baring sincerity and grace. She never once slips into pat, easy answers or the empty "faith-speak" of repeating verses as if just hearing them should be sufficient answer.

Choosing to live the mystery that is life and faith, she invites readers along her journey of discovering the power of gratitude and how consistently living it until it sinks into your bones can reshape your entire life.

If you haven't read this beautiful and unique book, snag yourself a copy and try to read it soon - especially if you're the type to make New Years Resolutions. It could very well change your whole perspective on life.

Wednesday, December 14

My Grand TV Debut

Somehow, in a brief moment of insanity, I allowed myself to be talked into going on a local TV show to talk about the museum and our upcoming events. Fortunately, Ann Parillo was amazing and made sure I didn't make a fool of myself. Considering that it didn't turn out half bad, I thought I'd share. :0)

Saturday, December 10

Government & Taxes Are NOT the Answer

When I started reading non-profit and philanthropy books and newsletters my intention was to familiarize myself with trends and topics specific to the industry that I wasn't well versed in.

Instead, I keep finding myself appalled by the opinions and assertions of people who apparently have done little to immerse themselves in the realms of history or finance.

Advocates get up in arms every time Washington looks at budget cuts, yet non-profits allow themselves to remain dependent on government funding to keep their programs running.

Interest groups protest when the government seeks out private business to help keep public resources like State Parks open, but fail to provide realistic alternative options. (More taxes are NOT a viable answer.)

Books about how to do the most good as a non-profit blatantly announce that it is impossible to do well without lobbying the government and advocating nationally or internationally for one's issue. Yet any basic history of charity will quickly prove the opposite is true - the most efficient, effective and quick- to- respond efforts have always been done without the government.

Rather than ranting about how frustrating it is to see people blindly buying whatever line government and media sell, I would like to make a simple request - be skeptical. Truth can stand up to skepticism. In fact, it usually benefits from it, since facing questioning forces people to be clearer and more specific about their facts and makes them more prepared for the next time someone questions them. Lies, on the other hand, will fall apart or ensnare the teller.

Remember: as many far wiser than I have pointed out, we are people not "sheeple".  God gave us brains so that we can use them - not to mindlessly soak in the latest trends or majority polls.

And that ends today's PSA... Thank you for listening.

Do you notice bias towards government dependency in the way news is reported, or is it so common it just seems normal to you?

Friday, December 9

Charities, Class and Conscious Choices

Everybody's seen or heard about the waves PETA makes with their risqué ads at some point or another. I've never been impressed, so I wasn't particularly happy to hear that more charities are taking up their habit of use shock value to get attention.

I was going to write it off as just another example of charities failing to live up to the high standards they were once held to. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it is actually an example of what happens when you reward the wrong behavior.

Like parents cultivating the habits and behaviors of their children by rewarding the good and purposefully ignoring the fits of child who wants candy in the checkout isle, Americans could choose to ignore uncouth marketing efforts and reward charities that comport themselves respectably with their donation dollars instead.

Marketers of all stripes would stop putting out racy, over-sexualized and vulgar ads if they failed to bring in traffic. God forbid we went so far as to pull current funding from organizations and businesses that run campaigns in bad taste, we'd see a complete clean-up of the market in record time!

This trend toward shock-value marketing says a lot about Americans... and not in a good way. Our youth embrace t-shirts that say "F**k Cancer" and the insanely annoying "I *heart* Boobies" bracelets because we haven't pushed and done the hard, long work in their early years to fight "socialization" trends that break down the concepts of class, good taste and modesty. Adults let the offenses pass, because we can't dredge up the time, energy or
indignation to fight them.

Let's take a stand, shall we? There's no need to cause a scene or to offend anyone at all. Just sift through your life as you live it and intentionally weed out the offensive, the crass and the disrespectful. Before you write a check or lay down your credit to buy something, ask yourself if the company or organization is living by standards and playing by rules that you are proud to be associated with. If the answer isn't a firm yes, walk away. Spend your money elsewhere.

In these tight days, when everyone is looking to stretch their resources - make your money count twice. Once, for the physical good done by the donation and again for the statement it makes about what we want to see our nation be. We can change the world, a dollar at a time. All we have to do is choose to.

Thursday, December 8

Romance Novels & Porn ... Two Sides of a Coin?

I used to read fiction at a fast clip - historical, sci-fi, fantasy, romance - pretty much anything. (Except Harlequins and their ilk. I couldn't get past the poor writing and dry predictability.)

But within a couple years of beginning to date my now-husband, I made the switch to reading largely non-fiction. Being in a real relationship opened my eyes to how terribly skewed a perspective romance novels (of any kind) create in a reader's mind.

With books like Twilight bringing this subject into national public debate in recent years, I've watched with interest as people weigh the pros and cons of fictional romance. Recently, I ran across a very interesting post on this subject written by a smart lady named Mel that is one of the best written and easiest to read I've come across in ages. Take a minute to check it out and let me know what you think.

Do you think romance novels are a woman's equivalent of porn?

Wednesday, December 7

Crispy Honey Lime Tilapia

My husband has returned safely from distant icy shores, and as life begins to fall back into normal rhythms (or as close to normal as we get) I've started cooking proper meals again. As such, hopefully there will be new recipes popping back up among my posts in the near future.

Since the availability of fresh fish can be hit-and-miss around here, I took a chance and grabbed a bag of wild-caught frozen flounder fillets last time I was at BJ's. If the success of this recipe was anything to judge by, they're going to be worth every penny!

(I picked this recipe up from the How Sweet It Is blog.)

Crispy Honey Lime Tilapia
makes 4 filets

4 fresh (or thawed) tilapia filets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup flour [I used whole wheat pastry]
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
additional honey + lime zest mixed for drizzling

60 minutes before cooking, season tilapia filets with salt and pepper then lay in a baking dish. In a bowl, combine olive oil, honey, lime juice and zest, and crushed garlic and whisk until combined. Pour over tilapia and let marinate for an hour. Add flour [+ a bit more salt, pepper, and lime zest] to a bowl and set aside.

Heat a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Dredge each piece of tilapia through the flour until you have a very light coating. Making sure the pan is hot, add tilapia to the oil and cook until flaky and crispy on each side – about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove tilapia from pan and let drain on a paper towel for a few minutes. Serve with an additional drizzle of lime + honey.

Jamie's Notes:

I subbed lemon juice because I didn't have any lime, and skipped the zest altogether. I did not drizzle anything over the top, but served straight from the skillet as soon as it was fully cooked through.

In the future, I will marinate the fish a little longer but overall this was great! It was very flavorful, quick to throw together and quite easy.

For a light dinner, serve with a rice pilaf or confetti quinoa. For something a little heartier, pair it with baked corn and noodles (that's what I did, and the contrast of the rich, creamy side with the light entree was perfect).


Tuesday, December 6

The Fastest DIY Ever

Pinterest is possibly one of the best inventions ever. For visual learners like me, it's the best way to organize the millions of bookmarks I collect while hunting for resources either for work or fun.

And while one is on Pinterest, there is a high likelihood of running into awesome ideas you had not thought of but have every intention of stealing. Like this: the DIY Cardigan.

Pioneered by a lovely young woman named Trina on her blog (where I stole this pic from), it is one of the best DIY's I've ever seen. It is literally free!

All she did (as she'll show you if you click on the link and check out her super-simple tutorial), is pull a long sleeved tee out of her closet that she wasn't wearing much and cut the front open. Viola! Instant cardigan.

Why am I passing this on?

Because I tried it over the weekend and am delighted by the results. Instead of getting rid of a long sleeved black tee I rarely wear, I was able to turn it into a perfect, light weight cardigan that I can layer over things which, due to the tee's high neckline, I wasn't able to wear under them.

(If you're really a super-fashionable type, I imagine it wouldn't be hard to grab a tee a couple sizes too big from a thrift store and cut the bottom edge into one of the asymmetrical hemlines that are trendy right now.)

What's your favorite DIY wardrobe trick?

Monday, December 5


Just something to make you smile today. I love Dilbert...

Sunday, December 4

The FDA Can't Help You

As much as I consider the FDA a useless figurehead, puppeteer-ed by Big Food and Big Pharma, I occasionally feel bad for them when I read the news.

The FDA legitimately does a lot of things wrong, but sometimes they find themselves in no-win situations. Consider two recent cases in which the FDA has been petitioned or lambasted: outrage over serious allergic reactions to the meat substitute Quorn attributed to questionable labeling and the revelation of high levels of arsenic and lead in most major apple juice brands.

In the first case, people are petitioning the FDA to force Quorn to change it's labeling practices, since it does not clearly warn of potentially serious reactions in people allergic to eggs or fungus. (After all, who knew imitation chicken nuggets were made of "a vat-grown fungus", right?)

In the second, they face general outrage over the fact that a favorite children's beverage has been poisoning the population and there's little to be done because while there are arsenic and lead limits for bottled water, none exist for fruit juice.

While there's plenty of angles to be debated, I think that these issues take us back to the two fundamental truths of our modern food supply:

1. The FDA Can't Help You. It is simply impossible for them to regulate every little thing, or to physically oversee everything people argue they should be responsible for. With allergies, special medical conditions and new diets developing all the time it's only getting more inconceivable that warning labels could possibly cover everything in any one item.

2. People need (and have a right) to know exactly what they're eating. Obscure, euphemistic labeling practices need to be outlawed. You don't need sixteen warning labels if every ingredient and process (hydrogenation, etc) is clearly labeled on a package. The only reason we need such extensive labeling now is because you can't tell what's in something just by reading the insanely long, obtusely phrased ingredient lists.

Obviously the best way to do this is to buy close to the source, whenever possible. The relationships between buyer and seller keep people honest, and typically create the types of practices that ensure and validate trust. (Like the food companies that voluntarily test their products for safety above and beyond the FDA's regulations and make the results available to customers or the restaurants that post their health inspection results in the front window.)

Buying food in it's whole form, or as close to that as is practical, helps tremendously as well. There are other ways, as well, but they all lead back to the same point: Instead of constantly bashing or petitioning the FDA, we need to retire it. 

It can't help us, and as long as we continue to go around in circles in a broken cycle we only hurt ourselves and our children. So let's make the change. Fire the FDA, burn the books of food law, and start again - this time with an eye to common sense, personal responsibility and essential truth. We can do better. 

Saturday, December 3

Burying the Lead

Do you read something and then go back and read it again, because one little line the author tucked in somewhere makes you go "WHAT?!"

That happens to me surprisingly often, as I have a tendency to read things I don't necessarily agree with. It happened again today in an unexpected place: a very short article on how an NYC woman escaped from two people trying to kidnap her for a sex trafficking ring.

I won't really get into my observations that the couple wasn't very smart, since six hours after she was picked up the woman escaped. Call me crazy, but if you're going to subject someone to a long-term stint of forced prostitution, you should probably have not only a plan but a secure location in which to keep your captives. One would think those would top your list of planning items when starting up such an operation.

More to point, however, was a the following single line from the article:
"The woman told police that a man and a woman approached her as she walked on a street near East New York and stuffed her into a car about 2 a.m. Monday, the sources said."

Now granted, I'm not a city girl but am I the only one who's first thought is "What the h*ll was a twenty year old girl doing walking down the streets of Brooklyn at 2 a.m. by herself?"

I know you're never supposed to blame the victim, but seriously. If you were trying to get kidnapped, raped, murdered or otherwise into a compromising situation, doesn't that seem like a great way to advertise such an intent?

Before you go ranting about how women should be able to do what they want when they want let's just remind ourselves that we all live in real life, okay? Do I think the streets everywhere should be safe for whomever wants to be out, whenever? Yes, of course.

But common sense says it doesn't work that way. I appreciate that common sense is out of vogue these days, but seriously? Just a little would go a long way.