Chipotle Uses Video to Promote Local Sourcing

On August 30, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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My Bullshit Meter goes off when I see fast food chains trying to position themselves as being friendly and supportive of small farms. Some marketing of local food support is utter nonsense and downright missing the point. For example, we kept seeing billboards from McDonald’s stating how they use “Local Michigan Eggs” which left me wondering – And? And are those eggs from chickens treated humanly from non-factory farming operations without antibiotics and cramped miserable conditions?

I never took a picture of the McDonald’s local egg billboard, but they did other “localwashing” ads with products in the Northwest, “from here” campaign, looking to showcase local factory farms they source from.

The good news is Chipotle isn’t McDonald’s. They have quite a few initiatives ongoing around local food and improving the fast food supply chain. More here on the Haute Pasture blog: What is Food with Integrity?

And recently Chipotle announced they would double their efforts of sourcing locally from 5 million pounds to 10 million pounds of produce.

It’s also no coincidence the video features pigs instead of cows or chickens since Chipotle sources 100% of its pork from Niman Ranch, a company we buy from with a stellar reputation in the industry. Chipotle is trying to meet its “naturally raised” standards, but that has been more difficult to do.

In the end, I think Chipotle is serious and trying its best to demonstrate sustainable farming is possible as a source for fast food. I guess the video conveys this, but it is not very clear.

Basically, it’s nice imagery and music showing farm-to-Chipotle. There is no end message sharing what they are doing and I’m unsure others will get how focused Chipotle is on this topic. Perhaps their fans already know and this is simply a vehicle for their advocates to spread the more underlying message?

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Vegan Curried Sweet Potatoes

On August 29, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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Finding a new food blog full of amazing vegan (or vegetarian) recipes makes my life planning 3 to 4 vegetarian meals a week a whole lot easier. We are trying to eat half of our dinners without meat so I’ve been spending some time searching for some great recipes. I was happily surprised to find Healthy Blender Recipes.

Healthy Blender Recipes is more than just smoothies and things to do with a VitaMix blender. There are some great vegan recipes to try too which brings me to tonight’s dinner and my first recipe attempt from The Blender Girl’s blog.

I reduced the original recipe by half, since I only bought 3 sweet potatoes at the Coppell Farmer’s Market yesterday. They were beautiful sweet potatoes from a local farm near Dallas. I also had picked up some fresh lettuce at the Farmer’s Market that went well with a simple lemon and oil dressing I’ve been making.

 

Lemon and Oil Dressing

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

shavings of lemon peel

Squeeze the lemon, I usually just cut a lemon in 1/3 and extract the juice. Shave the lemon with a lemon zester. Add about half of the olive oil and mix the dressing with a fork. Add remaining oil and mix. If you want, add a small dash of salt too.

Makes enough for 2 small side salads.

I reheated some rice and dished out a couple heaping spoonfuls of the vegan sweet potato main dish then added a side of salad.

For the recipe: Vegan Curried Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Herbs

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Bagel Bites Now "Wholesome"

On August 26, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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If this ad doesn’t illustrate what’s wrong with food marketing, I don’t know what does.

If you want to learn more checkout their website to “get the real story”: http://www.bagelbites.com/simply-wholesome.aspx

One would think the ingredients of a bagel bite is cheese, tomatoes and “wholesome” bread (bagel), but look at the label and there are 37 ingredients!

Bleached Wheat Flour, Water, Mozzarella Cheese (Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes)Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste, Water)Pepperoni (Pork, Beef, Salt, Spices, Water, Dextrose, Seasonings [Oleoresin of Paprika, Natural Spice Extractives, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid]Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Sodium Nitrate)2% or Less of: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Cornstarch, Salt, Soybean Oil, Yeast, Whey Protein Concentrate (Milk)Nonfat Milk, Flavor Enhancer (Potassium Chloride, Ammonium Chloride, Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin [Corn]Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Calcium Lactate, Natural Flavor)Methylcellulose, Citric Acid, Red Pepper, Natural Flavor, Dough Conditioner (Ascorbic Acid)Enzymes.

Thanks to the Weighty Matters blog for the ingredients list which wasn’t easy to find on the Bagel Bites web site, still not sure it is even online… [“Badvertising Bagel Bites”]

Ad Source: Redbook magazine, August 2011 issue.

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Supermarket Pastoral: An Introduction

On August 26, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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What is “Supermarket Pastoral”?

A full definition is here on the NY Times website. In brief, it’s a phrase developed by author Michael Pollan referring to companies marketing the bucolic life of our food’s origins through their use of language on packaging.

I read a lot of supermarket pastoral as I frequently visit small, health focused grocery stores and of course the best known of these is Whole Foods. We see this packaging everywhere with scenes of cows, farmers, and rolling hills adorning our food as if it comes from the most wholesome place on earth. Of course, Pollan’s seminal work The Omnivore’s Dilemma looked at where our food comes from and exposed some of the untruths about food origin.

I thought I would profile some Supermarket Pastoral examples on this blog as I find them. Not to always discredit them, but rather to have some fun with how our food is being marketed to us.

I was in a small organic food market in Traverse City last week on vacation where they featured some small farm meats – Oryana Natural Food Market. Each farmer was nicely featured in the meat section educating consumers about the source of their food to the most personal of levels – photos of the farmers.

While the pastoral writing above is a way to build relationships with source and consumer I ran into a more common Supermarket Pastoral example at Kroger the next day. This package is more to what Pollan talks about. Giving our food the idea of care and grandeur through language instead of the reality of mass production farming, or fishing in this case.

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My First Attempt at an Alice Waters’ Recipe

On August 26, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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It’s no secret to those who read this blog regularly that I am an advocate of local food, but I’m just another person in this movement. The chef most responsible for giving local food a renewed prominence is without a doubt Alice Waters. Her restaurant Chez Panisse is a mecca for the local food movement. I still haven’t been to Berkeley, California even though I was born in California and lived there for 11 years, but 99% of my time was spent in Los Angeles.

With no near term plans for a trip to Berkeley, I decided to pick up one of Alice’s cookbooks from a Border’s that was closing (sad to see Border’s go.) I found a copy of her Pasta, Pizza, Calzone cookbook.

The book is organized by season since her cooking philosophy is using fresh, local ingredients of course that means fresh and local in her region of Northern California so it’s not always local to everyone. I did find one recipe that met local, fresh ingredients for an August in Texas. I found some great Sweet 100 local tomatoes at Whole Foods and bought some basil and made fresh linguine pasta. The recipe also called for bread crumbs, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. It was very simple, almost too simple.

The flavor was okay, but that was mainly due to the recipe calling for an unnecessary large amount of bread crumbs – 1 1/2 cups. I reduced it to 1 cup and even then only used about a 1/4 of a cup and that was still too much for two people. The recipe should’ve called for a teaspoon garnish on top for each dish and it’s a change I’ll make on my next attempt at this.

The Sweet 100 tomatoes were excellent as they provided such a vibrant, summer taste that really brought out the joys of simple summer food which I’m sure was the whole point.

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Orecchiette with Kale and Cherry Tomatoes

On August 6, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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This is a very simple dish and a great way to put some fresh kale to use. It’s likely even people who do not normally like kale will find it enjoyable in this dish.

Best part this dish takes less than 15 minutes including preparation.

Orecchiette with Kale and Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

1 lb Orecchiette pasta
1/2 bunch of kale, cut into large pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
1 tablespoon butter
4 leaves of fresh sage

Cook pasta according to directions, most likely around 8-9 minutes.

Add garlic and a about a table of olive oil to a saute pan. Cook garlic for about 2-3 minutes making sure not to burn on medium heat. Add butter and hand tear small pieces of fresh sage into pan. Cook for about 1 minute then add kale. Cook kale for about 4 minutes turning frequently. Remove everything from the pan to a small bowl. Do not rinse saute pan.

Pasta should be done. Drain. Once pasta is finished, add remaining olive oil to saute pan. Add kale mixture and tomatoes. Cook for about 2 minutes then add pasta. Stir everything together and add Parmesan Reggiano mixing it so everything is coated.

Serve with a chunk of bread.

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Spotlight On "Fresh" Orange Juice

On August 6, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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One thing films like Food Inc and authors like Michael Pollan have caused me to do is ask where does my food come from. We buy 95% of our meats from a local ranch and about 40% of our food from local farmer’s markets during the late spring to early fall months. The rest of our food is bought on the perimeter of the market, basically the non-processed foods or as they are becoming known – real foods.

One of the foods we buy a lot of is fresh, not from concentrate orange juice. The ingredient label simply reads: “organic orange juice.” That’s it, but that isn’t it. A recent article from Food Renegade “The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice also covered by Gizmodo Dirty Little Secret: Orange Juice is Artificially Flavored to Taste Like Oranges made me look a little deeper into what our family is drinking.

Here is a video from Australia that explains how our orange juice is made. It’s an excellent piece that applies to the U.S. and Canadian markets too.


Basically what we are drinking is aseptic juice that later gets “flavor packets” and a few other ingredients the FDA does not require orange juice producers to label, since “technically they are derived from orange essence and oil.”

Aseptic juice is squeezed fresh juice that is then heated at a very high temperature to increase its shelf, storage life allowing the juice to last 12-24 months. It also removes the nutrients and flavors of the original squeezed juice. All of that is later added from the “orange essence and oil” that isn’t on any label.

So we the consumer pay anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99 for 1 to 2 year old juice that is flavored with chemicals to return it to its previous natural state.

What to do?

I don’t like to be taken advantage of and told I’m buying x and getting y so our family is moving to higher quality and less quantity. We will be squeezing oranges.

One final note, I don’t think there is anything bad about aseptic juice. My issue is it is dishonest food and like a lot of processed food, which fresh orange juice is, it is misrepresenting itself in the marketplace and at the price we pay for it I’d rather pay slightly more for the real thing sans flavor packets.

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What to do with a Dragon Fruit? Will It Blend?

On August 4, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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I was at Jimmy’s Food Store, an Italian market in downtown Dallas, picking up some pancetta for another recipe and noticed a peculiar, yet beautiful pink fruit. It is called Dragon Fruit and sold that day for $3.99.

I bought one unsure what I would or could do with it. It was definitely an impulse, novelty buy and something I’m sure my 5 year old twin boys would find interesting especially with dragon in its name.


After a couple days of letting it ripen, it basically behaves like a mango so you feel the firmness of the fruit to determine when it’s ready. I decided to finally put it to use with my VitaMix (sorry BlendTec for borrowing your Will it Blend nomenclature while using your competitor.)

How’s it look? It looks like someone threw Docker’s khaki pants with poppy seeds into a blender. More importantly how does it taste? It’s better than it looks. The flavor is good, nothing great. Dragon Fruit doesn’t really have that much flavor. It almost tastes like jicima, sweet but muted.

If you want to experiment with something new in your smoothie, Dragon Fruit might be what you are looking for. Just don’t expect to be blown away.


Dragon Fruit Smoothie

1 orange, peeled and halved
1 dragon fruit, peeled and halved
1 banana
1/2 apple
1 cup ice

Add items in order and turn on VitaMix at speed 1 and rapidly turn to 10 then switch to high speed power and blend for 45 seconds.

Serve.

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