Archive for October, 2009

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It Will Take A Village

October 30, 2009

Child eating peachI know a lot of you have been subjected to our barrage of emails and pleas to reach out and vote for us as a finalist in the Inc. Magazine/Alibaba.com Newpreneur of the Year Contest.  Aside from knowing us or our products, this has been a labour of love 20 years in the making.  And never have we felt more dedicated in knowing our mission can make a difference.

EAT CLEANER comes at a time ripe for change. With over 78 million reported cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. annually and concerns around pesticides, processed food and questionable handling practices, our products remove pesticides, wax and surface contaminants that can carry bacteria from produce, seafood and poultry. I founded EAT CLEANER with my dad, Dr. Shawki Ibrahim, Colorado State University Emeritus Professor, Ph.D., Environmental Health Sciences, M.A., Agriculture. With an emphasis on quality ingredients, sustainable packaging and beautiful branding, we created a line of all-natural products that allows consumers to take food safety into their own hands with the power of plant science. Dad has been an accomplished writer and professor for over 30 years, and began challenging government agencies to strengthen food safety procedures after receiving contaminated seafood at his local grocery store. I began my food and retail marketing career writing about sustainable agriculture and food safety issues (Food, not Phood) early in my career as the marketing director for Wild Oats Markets.

Dad’s brainchild and my love for all things culinary coupled with our mutual love for my two young children fueled the fire for this joint venture. We had discussed the product concept for years, but in 2005, the year my son was born, dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In 2008, I became a single mother, was traveling almost weekly and my home had lost 30% of its value. It hit me hard that life is uncertain and ultimately, you have to make tough decisions that are right for you. Tireless hours…I mean, long hours, sweat and tears from everyone who’s touched this brand.  Working 80 hours a week sometimes, it’s been a challenging road.  But we know we’re doing the right thing. 

In honor of my father’s lifetime of commitment to his practice and my desire to create a lasting legacy for my children and an improved quality of life, we decided to push EAT CLEANER into overdrive. For my friend Gayle whose daughter was paralyzed after a bad bout with foodborne illness and as a preventative measure for everyone who eats (yes, the whole population), eating cleaner is for all.

If you think after reading this we still deserve your vote, please visit www.inc.com/newpreneur/vote.html

It will take a village to take us into the finals.  Hopefully, we’ll meet some great neighbors along the way.

 

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Squash: Part 2 of 4 – Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

October 26, 2009

Who doesn’t want at least ONE easy dish on Thanksgiving? For the last two years I’ve made this Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake to rave reviews. It is a quick, holiday-appropriate and unfussy recipe from Elise Bauer’s wonderful Simply Recipes blog. This dish was submitted by Heidi H. of Carlisle, MA. Here, Elise takes us through creating “a colorful, simple harvest bake, with chopped butternut squash, tart apples, and cranberries.” This easy recipe can be made up to one day in advance and reheated in the oven before serving. Elise also suggests adding half a cup of toasted walnuts or pecans for a good counter-crunch.

Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large tart cooking apples cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (can substitute ground nutmeg)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice and peel squash and apples. Put squash cubes in ungreased 7×11-inch baking dish. Place apples on top and then cranberries. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and mace and sprinkle on top. Dot with butter.
2. Bake 50-60 minutes.

Serves 8.

Buying tip: Around the holidays friends ask me if they should buy the prepared butternut squash that is already conveniently peeled, diced, and ready for use. After all, cutting up squash can be an intimidating process and, for the inexperienced cook either the hardest part of the recipe, or a total deal-breaker. But the answer is no; do not buy the prepared squash because you are trading in flavor and texture for convenience. While you might get lucky and occasionally score a good “bag,” prepared butternut squash is often woody, and almost always tough and with lackluster flavor.

I am including preparation tips that will make the preparing and cutting of the feared squash a lot less mysterious and onerous. When buying butternut squash, keep in mind that size is directly related to quality: smaller squash have a more intense flavor and a better texture than larger gourds which tend to have a more fibrous consistency and watery taste. Even better, smaller squash are easier to work with! Therefore, when shopping for a recipe that calls for a large amount of squash, it’s better to buy several smaller ones than one or two large ones. The right size is no bigger than 2.5 lb.

Preparation: Following are guidelines for cutting up squash. Once this task is done, the rest will be easy breezy, I promise!

1. Remove the tough outer skin with a peeler and then cut once cross-wise with a chef’s knife to separate the neck from the bulbous end.
2. Next, place the bulbous end of the squash cut side down on your cutting board to stabilize it and then cut in half again.
3. Scrape out the seeds using a spoon then cut each bulb half into half-inch moons, and those moons into half-inch dice.
4. For the neck of the squash trim one thin, long piece from the side of the squash to create a flat edge; lay the entire neck on its side, flat edge-down to create a stable surface.
5. Slice the squash lengthwise into half inch planks.  Cut each plank into half inch strips and then each strip into half inch dice.

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CSI Miami Digs the Dirt on E.coli

October 20, 2009

It’s sometimes difficult to discern if life imitates art or vice versa.  In the case of last night’s ‘Bad Seed’ episode, CSI Miami dug deep to expose the dirt on why food goes bad. Just last week, I met the mother of a woman who nearly died after eating tainted food herself. 

There’s a message here we all to need chew on.

On CSI, a woman becomes hospitalized after eating a tainted salad at a restaurant.  The team is unnerved by how quickly a seemingly healthy, young woman could slip so quickly.  And after diving into their investigation, they unearth the root of the illness:  cow manure infested irrigation water on organic crops.  

Meanwhile in real life Orange County, Alexis Sarti became paralyzed and blind after eating an ahi tuna appetizer that had been contaminated by raw poultry at a local restaurant.  Her mother, a teacher at my son’s school, saw me in a “Think Before You Bite” t-shirt and was compelled to ask me about it.  After I explained how our products work, she began to cry.  Then she told me why.

Although Alexis won a $3.2 million lawsuit, she will never have the life she lived before that meal.  Still in her 20’s, her mom shared with me the heartache of her trial and the long road her family has endured on her path to recovery.  As a mom, I could relate to the trauma she must feel knowing her daughter has suffered so much.  I explained to her that based on our third party lab studies, we proved a kill rate of 99.9% of E.coli and Salmonella. “Restaurants should be required to use products like yours” were here comments.  Then she went on to say “Thanks for making a difference with Eat Cleaner.  We need to all be thinking before we bite.” 

On the journey from the field to the fork, we know that there are several stops where food can go bad – from the irrigation water to the organic fertilizer to the 20 sets of hands that touch them after they’re harvested.  What we also know is that E.coli lives on the surface and is often the result of fecal matter, so if it is washed and cooked properly, it will be safe to eat. In just two minutes, you can take  food safety matters into your own hands and let the people you love in your life know how they can do the same. 

Food should be our pleasure, not our pain.

Eat Cleaner helps to cut through the crud.  Dig it?

Eat Cleaner helps to cut through the crud. Dig it?

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Falling for Squash: Part 1 of 4

October 13, 2009

There is this amazing transformation that occurs right around October.  As the leaves start to turn and the temperature drops in sunny So. Cal, the royal family of vegetables begin to make their appearance.  Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins of course, and the list goes on.  Their curious appearance beckon a second look and their unique flavors each have something very special to contribute.  So, here is where the race begins – to try and pack as many squash recipes into the next two months.  Why such dedication? 

1)  Like many people we know, winter squash has a tough exterior but once you cook (get to know it?) it, it softens up. 

2) It marks my favorite time of year, and the fact nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are there, hand-in-hand

3) It’s packed with beta carotene, folic acid, fiber and potassium with minimal calories and it goes the distance – from soup to stews, baked to boiled, sweet to savory. 

And the aroma.  That’s why they make candles that smell like pumpkin pie.

To mark the launch of our Falling for Squash: Part 1, I set out to make homemade pasta featuring my absolute fave as the hero of the filling.  I used most of it as the star for my agnolotti with fresh sage from the garden (the last of the year, I’m afraid) and brown butter.  Don’t be afraid of a little butter.  Your body appreciates the pure fat – not the trans fat in most margarine, which doesn’t have a way of escaping your body.  The rest will go into a soup puree topped with creme fraiche and  nutmeg.  Week 1 of 4 starring squash, we have begun.

Cooking Pics 002Cooking Pics 004Cooking Pics 005Cooking Pics 008 

The filling:  Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and roast with a little butter and nutmeg until fork tender.  Mash into a bowl and add half a cup of grated Romano or Parmigiano cheese, a dash more of nutmeg and cracked pepper.  Let cool.

The dough:  The mixer technique is the best way to go.  Combine 2 cups organic unbleached flour and 5 extra large eggs.  With the dough hook attachment, mix until the dough ball forms together.  Add a little more flour until dough doesn’t stick.  Roll with a pasta maker until sheets are thin, almost transparent.  If rolling by hand, do the best you can.  With a cookie cutter or mouth of a jar, cut out 2-3″ circles of dough and set aside on a floured surface.  Keep from drying out.  If you have kids, getting them to cut out the circles is a lot of fun.

The technique:  Add a small spoonful of filling to the center of the dough circle.  Pinch edges of dough together until sealed.  After you’ve filled them all, cook in a large, salted pot of water until they float to the surface.

As they’re boiling, melt 2 tablespoons of European-style butter in a pan until butter over low heat until it begins to turn a golden brown.   Add a handful of fresh sage leaves and fry until crisp.

Toss cooked agnolotti with brown butter and sage.  Top with freshly grated cheese and a dash of nutmeg for color. 

Buon Appetito!

Cooking Pics 015

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Frankenfood in 3D: Eat Cleaner weighs in

October 10, 2009

Cheeseburgers from Paradise - Eat Cleaner Weighs In on Feature Film FrankenwoodLast night, I took the kids to see a movie – their choice.  Without hesitation, my 8-year old took control of the vote and proclaimed she ‘had to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.’  Naturally, this had me grinning ear to ear, proud mama. From Big Night to Tampopo to Ratatouille and most recently, Julie and Julia, we’ve never missed a foodieflick.  So off we went with a big appetite for the big screen, sneaking in our non-gmo popcorn and bottled water (sorry movie police, please don’t bust us) donning our 3-D glasses.  This feature of the movie may have even made me more excited than the kids.

If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, please skip to the last paragraph.  If you haven’t and are too caught up in the juicy details of what I’m about to tell you, keep reading. So, here goes…Flint Lockwood creates what could be considered the most important invention known to man…a machine that converts water into manna from the sky.  Hamburgers.  Hot dogs.  Chicken.  Bacon, eggs and toast.  Ice cream sundaes and candy hills.  It’s a veritable falling feast of indulgent bliss. 

But then something goes very, very wrong.  A greedy mayor capitalizes on the insatiable hunger of the global population and tranforms the town into a tourist destination.  Cruise ships full of visitors from around the world arrive to the newly crowned town of ‘Chewandswallow’ (Formerly Swallow Falls), greeted by fifty foot fountains of spewing nacho cheese and the promise of supersized steaks and colossal shrimp raining down in droves while a gigantic mountin of uneaten food frames the postcard scene.  All the while, the girth of the mayor expands to the point where he has to move his belly on a dolly and the local cop’s son has to be revived from a food coma. 

Here’s where the perfect storm starts to stir – like the kind of fierce frenzy that rips through you after a bad Vegas buffet. 

The demand for more, more, more makes the machine malfunction.   A spaghetti and meatball twister rages from the heavens and squashes everything in its path in a tomato sauce bath.  Cherries the size of small houses rain down whild gargantuan sushi steamrolls with abandon.   And because it’s in 3-D, the food literally pops off the screen and grabs us and consumes us in its impending terror. My daughter turned to me just as a King Kong sized banana was about to flatten half the town and said, ‘mom, can you imagine food that big?’  Laughing, I replied, ‘Yeah, it’s like food on steroids! haha”.  Ha….  Ha……..  Hmmm…

Yeah.  It’s exactly like food on steroids.  Just like the strawberries I saw at the store the other day that were almost the size of my fist.  Similar to the apples that weigh in at almost 2 lbs. each.  And kind of like the chicken breasts the size of DDs.  Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a clever wake up call to where our industrialized food supply has taken us.  And the moral is…more is not necessarily better and bigger can be a hazard to our health.  If it’s not pummeling you over the head, it’s weighing down our society.  In an effort to produce more with less, mass production has compramised the integrity of our waistlines.  As of January 2009, obese Americans (34% of the population) now outweigh those who are overweight (32.7).  That’s far more than half the total population.  So where does this leave us?  Are we hungry for more or thirsting for a reprieve from the storm?

Food for thought.

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When Good Food Goes Bad

October 7, 2009

5 out of Top 10 Riskiest Foods are Produce Items

Yesterday was one of those days that just reaffirms your mission in life.  I spoke with a woman in Fort Collins, Colorado who had to call in her order because she was so weakened from her bout with E.coli poisoning, she didn’t have the strength to purchase online.  After eating tainted food at a local restaurant, she spent 8 days in the hospital fighting for her life.  At 61, she had never been ill from foodborne illness.  She was compelled to call us after reading an extensive article about Eat Cleaner in the local paper and thanked us for creating products that would help her and her family at home.  It brought me to tears to hear her but spoke volumes about the epidemic at hand and our mantra – think before you bite.  We all know, it only takes one bad experience to forever leave a bad taste in your mouth.

 

October 6, 2009: 2:07 PM ET :  Leafy greens were rated the riskiest food by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Leafy greens — including lettuce and spinach — top the list of the 10 riskiest foods, according to a study from a nutrition advocacy group released Tuesday. The Center for Science in the Public Interest listed the following foods, in descending order, as the most risky in terms of outbreaks: leafy greens, eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts and berries. The scientists rated these foods, all of them regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, by the number of outbreaks associated with them since 1990, and also provided the number of recorded illnesses. The severity of the illnesses ranged from minor stomach aches to death, the center said. With leafy greens such as lettuce, the top cause of illness were pathogens like E. coli, Norovirus and Salmonella in foods that were not properly washed. Over the past 20 years, leafy greens caused 363 outbreaks, resulting in 13,568 reported illnesses, the center said. That’s compared to berries, No. 10 on the list, which were associated with 25 outbreaks totaling 3,397 reported illnesses. “Leafy greens are a healthy home run, but unfortunately they’re associated with food-borne illness,” said Sarah Klein, a staff lawyer with the center who helped prepared the study. In all, the Top 10 resulted in more than 1,500 outbreaks, totaling nearly 50,000 reported illnesses, according to the center, which added that most food-related illnesses don’t get treated or reported, so the real total is likely much larger. “Millions of consumers are being made ill, hundreds of thousands hospitalized and thousands are dying each year from preventable foodborne illnesses,” the study said. “Unfortunately, the FDA is saddled with outdated laws, and lacks the authority, tools and resources to fight unsafe food.” Food producers, including the Western Growers Association, released statements criticizing the report. “Farmers are consumers, too,” the association said, in a release from spokesman Paul Simonds. “They eat the fresh produce they grow as do the members of their families, and have invested millions of dollars enhancing food safety practices in the last few years. Scaring people away from eating some of the healthiest foods on the planet, like fresh produce, does not serve consumers.” Salmonella was also a chief culprit in egg, cheese and tomato-related illnesses, the study said, in cases when eggs are undercooked and when cheese is not processed properly. Salmonella can be difficult to remove from raw tomatoes without cooking, according to the study. The study also associated Salmonella and E. coli with potatoes. Klein said this generally happens when cold-prepared potato items, such as potato salad, are mixed with other contaminated ingredients. Unrefrigerated fresh tuna deteriorates quickly, the study said, releasing harmful toxins, and canned tuna gets dragged into the picture because of mixed-in ingredients such as mayonnaise. Improperly washed oysters are at risk of Norovirus. Rich Ruais, executive director of the Blue Water Fisherman Association and the American Blue Fin Tuna Association in Salem, N.H., disagreed with the study’s “bad rap” on tuna. “Tuna? I beg to differ,” he said. “Tuna is one of the healthiest foods on the Earth. It’s life sustaining; it’s life prolonging.” Ruais said the tuna-based diet of Japanese citizens plays a big part in their high average longevity. He also said the FDA strictly mandates that tuna is gutted and stuffed with ice immediately after it’s caught by commercial fisherman, and submerged in slush once it gets to shore, to prevent risk of pathogens. More surprisingly, bacteria can also survive in ice cream, primarily from the Salmonella contamination of eggs, an important ingredient that is sometimes undercooked, the study said. Much of the study’s blame goes to a 1994 outbreak that sickened thousands of ice cream lovers in 41 states. The National Milk Producers Federation released a statement criticizing the report as “based on outdated information.” “Cheese and ice cream products are among the safest, most stringently regulated foods in this country,” said the federation, in its release. “The cheese examples in this report mostly concern consumption of raw milk products, which neither [the] FDA nor the dairy industry recommends. The ice cream example is 15 years old and was an isolated incident.”

Eat Cleaner Insight:  You can make a difference.  Over 80% of foodborne illness is due to poor food handling. Eat Cleaner All Natural Fruit + Vegetable Wash and Wipes can help reduce your risk of foodborne illness by removing unwanted residues that water can’t…because rinsing isn’t enough.

The Eat Cleaner Family:  Cleaning Plates Everywhere

The Eat Cleaner Family: Cleaning Plates Everywhere

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