Hope you are all enjoying the spring weather as much as I am! I am excited to share with you my favorite dessert recipe for Mutabbak—the phyllo and melted cheese confection that is quite similar to bavlava. Now if you have been following my videos and posts you are already familiar with this recipe. However, I just published an article that gives more of a back story and recipe breakdown of this special dessert. Check it all out here:
I know this dessert is a splurge, but portion control is hugely important! In general I believe the Middle Eastern diet is all about eating whole, organic foods. However, buying whole foods has become far more complicated in the age of industrial farming and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You might think that filling your shopping basket with fruits, vegetables, eggs and meats—however if these foods are not pesticide and gmo free, you could be doing more harm to your body than you realize. Genetic engineering causes unexpected mutations in an organism on the cellular level, which can lead to more toxins in your produce and thus your body. The foods on the market most likely to contain GMOs are canola, soy, and corn. These ingredients are used in so many processed foods, from lunchmeat to cereal to frozen meals that you may not even know you are ingesting them. GMO foods are designed to withstand enormous amounts of pesticides, so the chemicals in GMO foods and products are much higher than you would find in organic foods. Thus people have had increased adverse reactions, from more allergies to foods they could formerly tolerate to weight gain, yes weight gain! When you ingest toxins and pesticides, the safest place they can be stored is in your fat cells. So, the body holds on to the fat cells to protect the rest of your body from these toxins. Now the more GMOs and pesticides you eat, the more the fat cells expand to store the toxins! Also, while GMO fruits and veggies might look colorful and fresh, they can be weeks old and have little nutritional value compared to organic produce. In studies, scientists have found that GMO crops can cause cancerous legions and miscarriages in mice. GMOs also harm the environment in that once GMO pollen is released in fields, they can contaminate non GMO fruits and vegetables, causing irreversible damage. So my friends, here is a list on how to shop for the best foods for earth day, and everyday:
1) Support organic farmers with your dollars. Organic farmers do not use toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which can eventually leach into your drinking water . Organically grown food helps to preserve the integrity of our water supply.
2) Those little stickers on fruits and some vegetables can inform you as an organic shopper. For instance, a four digit number on the sticker on an apple means the apple was conventionally grown, meaning there are mostly likely some pesticides on the apple, but no GMO tampering. A five digit number starting with the number 8 means that the fruit or vegetable was genetically modified—so it is best to stay away. A 5 digit sticker beginning with the number 9 means the produce is organic, meaning no pesticides, and no gmos.
3) You may also notice that the GMO produce does not have any smell. The nose knows-—use your nose to direct you to the most nutritious produce.
4) To ensure that you get the freshest produce around, go to your local farmers market, where the fruits and vegetables were picked that morning rather than weeks before, ensuring maximum nutritional value. Not all farmers can afford the organic certification, yet use organic practices on their farms. Get to know your local farmers and learn how they grow their produce and you can pay even less for organic produce that does not necessarily have the organic label.
5) Buy organic, free range beef, and try to limit beef consumption. Make sure that the beef you buy is grass fed, as cows cannot digest corn and actually get quite sick from eating corn, thus needing antibiotics. As a result the meat is less nutritious because they lack the omega 3 fatty acids found in grass feed. If you want to buy ground beef, make sure you pick the piece of meat you want and have the butcher grind it for you so that there is no pink slime. More than 80% of ground beef on the market today have pink slime, which is basically inedible cow grizzle treated with ammonia to kill all of the bacteria. The ramifications to the environment is even more dire. Confined animals generate three times more raw waste than humans in the United States. Deforestation for animal grazing and feed crops is estimated to emit 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year. The confinement also creates unsanitary conditions ripe for e-coli and other diseases. That is why I personally buy my meats from the farmer’s market. At the market, I can meet the farmers personally and get to know them. Most of them have sustainable practices and raise their animals in a humane way, giving them the space and the sun they need to be healthy, while feeding them grass or other organic meal that is conducive to their health. Their premise is quality, not quantity, which is the reason why the price is also higher. They do not make the large profits of the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) but they use sustainable practices that benefit the environment. Finally, organic, farm raised beef tastes significatly better than supermarket beef.
6) By only organic, free range chicken from a farm you trust. The word “free range” is tossed around quite a bit, but not regulated in the poultry industry. Therefore a company can label their chickens free range by opening a door to sunlight for them only 5 minutes out of the day. Often times free range hens are debeaked just like caged hens. Debeaking is a painful procedure where the beaks are mutilated, so hens can’t eat normally or preen their feathers. Just because hens are cage free it does not mean they are allowed outdoors. Often they are in dark crowded buildings filled with toxic gases. Male chicks are left in trash cans to suffocate and die because they are not useful for eggs. Conventional chicken has another layer of toxicity. Scientists studying conventional chicken have found arsenic, prozac, antibiotics, and the active ingredients found in Benadryl and Tylenol in feather meal of chickens—shoot you might as well use your whole medicine cabinet as a marinade for your chicken—or better yet limit chicken consumption all together.
7) To get the freshest fish available, stay away from farmed varieties, particularly farmed salmon, which is 16 times higher in PCBs than wild salmon. PCBs are polucholorinated biphenyls, which are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals banned in the United States in 1976. PCBs actually accumulate in oceans and rivers from the fishmeal that is fed to farmed fish. Check to see if you have Community Supported Seafood or Fisherman (known as CSS or CSFs) in your area, where they catch the wild fish that day and deliver them to nearby neighborhoods. I have used this service with HH Fresh Fish and tasted some of the best fish in my entire life. Otherwise, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch : http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx for guidelines on the most sustainable fish and seafood to eat.
It is a tragedy that we must work so hard to find good old fashioned whole foods that are untainted, but the effort and extra expense is worth it to ensure a healthier mind and body. The extra expense for the organic foods will be worth it in the long run. Ingesting toxic foods day after day will no doubt translate to much higher hospital bills. Once these shopping tips become a habit and you realize how amazingly delicious fresh, untainted food can be you won’t look back!