Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Rules: the FDA Gets Serious About Sugar

Last time, I posted the recipe for my mom's holiday punch

I've felt a little guilty about it. 

After all, we're trying not to have things like punch, right? Loaded with sugar and artificial flavorings and colors, it's a little out of keeping with that healthy lifestyle one works so hard to achieve. The thing is, though, it is a treat. Something for a special occasion or holiday, enjoyed maybe once or twice a year. Nobody would make a daily habit out of it. 

Or would they? 

We all consume far more sugar every day than humans ever have, and it's leading to the myriad health problems we increasingly suffer from; diabetes, heart conditions, obesity. One of the ways, it was hoped, we would make better choices about what we eat was the enactment of the nutrition facts labeling system, appearing on packaged food since 1994. However, the illnesses it hoped to reduce since then have only gotten worse.

This month (July, 2015), the Food and Drug Administration has issued a supplemental proposed rule updating the nutrition facts label on food that would, among other things, require declaration of the percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars, as well as change the current footnote on the Nutrition Facts label.

The label on the left is the current label. The one on the right has the proposed changes.

(click on the image to enlarge)

"The Food and Drug Administration wants to make it easier for Americans to track how much added sugars we're getting in the foods and beverages we choose.

So, in addition to a proposed requirement to list amounts of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts panels, the FDA is now proposing that companies declare a daily percent value, too.

What this means is that, instead of just listing the 65 grams of added sugar in that Coke, soda companies would be required to list that it represents 130 percent of the recommended daily intake. In other words, that one bottle contains more added sugar than you should be eating in an entire day." (emphasis mine) Source 

Do these changes have value? Will they help us make better food choices? Are they earth-shakingly brilliant, or are they modest at best? Whatever your opinion, the FDA invites you to share it with them to help guide the development of the new rules. Starting July 27th, and running until Oct. 13th, 2015, you can follow this link to read the full proposal and follow this link to make a comment, suggestion, or constructive criticism, after having read the changes.

This seems like a great idea to me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mom's Easy Party Punch

Does anyone make punch for parties anymore? Well, do they? It's too bad if they don't, 'cause back in the day, no party was quite complete without it.

At our house, we had our Mom's punch recipe, which was, and is, quite simply, the best ever. I don't know if she got it from a cook book or created it herself, but it's the real deal. I decided to post it here because, too often, you hear about cherished family recipes that, once that special someone passes away, their recipes go with them. I certainly don't want that to happen to Mom's Easy Party Punch. She may be gone, but her punch, at least, should live forever.

Okay! I have rewritten the steps and ingredients below, adding all the details I could think of, because Mom didn't write it down for anyone but herself, I don't think. She knew what she was doing. The rest of us may need a little help.

"Easy Party Punch"

You will need:
1 package (0.13 oz.) cherry Kool Aid
1 package (0.13 oz.) raspberry Kool Aid
2 cups White Sugar
2 quarts Water
1 can of Pineapple Juice (46 oz.)
1 quart Chilled Ginger Ale
1 container of Raspberry Sherbet
Ice Ring (optional)

Alternate Flavor: Green!
To make Green Easy Party Punch, substitute 2 packages of lemon-lime Kool Aid for cherry and raspberry, and pineapple or lime sherbet for raspberry. I don't have a favorite; they are both incredible. Also, as I recall, if you make both they look pretty spectacular side by side on a Christmas party table.

Big Spoon or Spatula for stirring
Punch Bowl
Mellon Baller or small sized ice cream scoop
Wax Paper
Cookie Sheet or Baking Tray
Plastic Wrap (maybe you'll need it, maybe you won't--see below)

Line a cookie sheet or baking tray with a piece of wax paper. Also, clear a huge space in your fridge for the punch bowl to fit into to chill; likewise your freezer, for the sherbet ball tray.

Mix both Kool Aid packages, sugar and water together in punch bowl. Add pineapple juice. CHILL. Mom doesn't say how long to chill it, but probably I hour at least, probably more like 2 to be sure. If chilling over-night, cover with plastic wrap. 

Next, use your mellon baller to scoop the sherbet balls, placing each one on your prepped wax paper. Place sherbet balls on tray in freezer. When ready to serve, place sherbet balls in punch, and pour the ginger ale over the sherbet. Add an ice ring if desired. SERVE.

Not a hair out of place. How DID she do it??

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Waste Not: "Just Eat It," the Documentary

Back in January, 2013, I made two New Years Resolutions. The first was to stop wasting so much food; the second was stop using so much plastic. I did fairly well on the first, though it interfered a bit with the second. Being more on top of food storage meant a certain investment in Tupperware-like plastic containers. Hm.

Anyway, little did I know at the time that my personal battle against wasting food was a much larger issue. 

Irony abounds in the fact that, as a nation, we are fatter than ever, even while more and more Americans enter into "food insecurity" -- not having enough money left over after bills for food--every day. 

The irony does not end there. While our dependence on food assistance grows, and the difficulty in funding it does too, there is, in fact, an abundance of food that goes into landfills via restaurant and grocery store dumpsters, and our own household trash cans. According to a study done in 2011, approximately 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to waste, and about one third of the food produced in the world for humans is lost or wasted.

A sorry state of affairs.

And it's not just a problem in the way that would have aggravated many of our mother's "waste not, want not" philosophies. If your mom (like mine) was one of those--made you clean your plate, and smuggled home uneaten bread rolls from restaurants in her purse--then you know what I'm talking about.  It's also increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.

In 2014, two young filmmakers decided to document their efforts to not just reduce their own food waste, but to literally consume the discarded food of others, for six months. The resulting film, "Just Eat It," is available in its entirety on YouTube. Serious eww factor warning: they regularly "rescued" food from dumpsters and. ate. it. Not only did they never get food poisoning and die (not that they mentioned, anyway) they found such an abundance of available free food that they couldn't even store it all.

Filmmaker Grant Baldwin eyes a dumpster filled with discarded though viable yogurt.

So why DO we waste so much food? The film answers this question in a variety of ways, with enough blame to go around. From confusing labeling requirements  (expire dates and "sell by" dates are not, apparently, the same thing) and safety standards, to our own kitchens, where fresh produce goes bad and dairy products always find their way to the back of the fridge. 

I highly recommend this film, and since, like I said, you can watch it now for free (natch!) on YouTube, it couldn't be easier. 

Bon app├ętit!

For more how to feed people, not garbage cans, visit the "Just Eat It" Facebook page at:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Being George Washington

Fun fact: America and I share a birthday month. Just one of the reasons the Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. Nothing against Christmas or Easter, but, let's face it, for the Fourth, nobody pressures you to dress up, or be nice to your cousins. They just stick you in a bathing suit and let you go nuts, feed you hot dogs and corn on the cob, and watermelon, then it's in the car and off to the fireworks. At least, that was the routine at our house.

Aside from these festivities, my sisters and I knew what the day stood for. After all, we had grown up listening to this:

One story on one side of the record, the other on the flip side!

What a great record! My favorite was the George Washington side--his life sounded so exciting. I began to invest serious play time being George Washington: the daring young surveyor, forging his way across the icy Allegheny River; the dashing army officer with the Virginia Militia, having horse after horse shot out from under him while he fearlessly lead his men against the French; and most famously as the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army fighting the British for our Independence!

George Washington with her two grandmas and aunt.

Sadly, I don't own that record anymore (for our younger viewers, a "record" was something we listened to audio on before CDs and Spotify). Nor do I anymore own my tri-cornered hat or bitchin' cowboy boots. But I still have a soft spot of the big G.W., and, of course, for the Fourth of July.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!