The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

September 30, 2014 | Oldways Table

October is National Pasta Month and October 25th is World Pasta Day. What better time to give this healthy and delicious food the attention is deserves?

A healthy pasta meal is truly the sum of its parts, and features two key factors: what you pair with your pasta, and how much pasta you eat in a meal. Pasta is an ideal partner for healthy foods and ingredients such as vegetables, beans, and herbs (whole or pureed in sauce) and extra virgin olive oil. Nuts, fish, and small amounts of meat or cheese can also be added for extra flavor and protein. Pasta's versatility allows for almost endless preparations.  Healthy pasta meals are a balance of pleasure and health and enjoyed worldwide!

So as you think of the ways you will celebrate this special food and before we dive into many of the delicious ways you can prepare pasta we will dish up some fun facts to wet your appetite!

  • According to a 2011 Survey by Oxfam the world’s favorite food is pasta! 
  • There are more than 600 different pasta shapes made around the world! 
  • The most popular pasta shapes eaten in the United Sates are spaghetti, thin spaghetti, and elbows.
  • A healthy serving of pasta for an adult is one-half to two-thirds cup of cooked pasta.
  • The first known pasta recipe was documented in approximately the year 1000!  The recipe appeared in the book De Arte Coquinaria per Vermicelli e Maccaroni Siciliana (The Art of Cooking Sicilian Macaroni and Vermicelli) and was written by Martino Corno, chef to the powerful Patriarch of Aquileia.
  • If Italians ate their average yearly amount of pasta in spaghetti they would eat enough pasta to wind around the earth 15,000 times! 
  • The literal translation for “al dente” is “to the tooth.” Looking for some pasta cooking tips? Here is a great article.
  • The United States is the second largest pasta producing nation, totaling 2 million tons every year.

And without further adieu here are Oldways 12 great ways to prepare pasta!

September 24, 2014 | Oldways Table

It's not nutrition that’s confusing; rather, it's nutrition communications that have reached new heights of confusion.  In recent months and years, it's possible to find newspaper articles, research studies, books, websites, TV and radio shows, and newsletters that proselytize conflicting information, particularly by zeroing in on single ingredients as dietary villains or by exaggerating real results. 

We've been barraged with headlines that scream bacon and burgers (and saturated fat) are back (and good for you), contradicting other experts who maintain that it's the type and quantity of fat that matters.  Unbelievably, even fruit has become a nutrition villain thanks to carb fearing phobics.  Gluten, although a real problem for a small population of celiacs, has become a pariah, with whole grocery store aisles filled with gluten-free foods.  Restaurants are willy-nilly labeling foods as gluten-free, even when they may not have been prepared in a gluten-free environment (yes rice is gluten-free – but not if the risotto was prepared next to the baking station with its airborne wheat flour. As the fad side of gluten grows, those with a real medical reason to go gluten-free are at risk from the spread of misinformation. Newspapers, radio and TV shows have recently been covering a study about low fat diets v low carb diets, when neither is sensible, and the most recent study that allegedly addressed this issue really didn't.  Common sense has been thrown out with the bath water. 

What do we need to do to bring back common sense and straight talk?  Whenever I'm asked what the next new thing in nutrition is, my answer is the old ways are the new ways.  Moderation, lots of plant foods, healthy fats and less processed foods are the hallmarks of the old ways.  They are time-tested, research-tested, but not new, and therefore, not sexy and usually not newsworthy.

There are scientists who are focusing not only on the science, but also on big-picture common sense and on making the complicated more easily understood by the guy or gal on the corner.  David Katz, MD, of Yale University's Prevention Research Center is one.  As James Hamblin wrote in The Atlantic magazine, “Dr. David Katz is emerging as an iconoclast on the side of reason." Dr. Katz writes prolifically and poignantly on LinkedIn, the Huffington Post and in his newspaper column about these very issues. Three statements he recently made in his LinkedIn post, "Diet research, Stuck in the Stone Age" are right on target, are views that make perfect common sense, and I hope, are leading nutrition indicators.   

On healthy food:   "I am an advocate, based on the evidence, of wholesome foods in sensible combinations."
On research:   "I am an advocate of research that is fair, unbiased, and relevant in the real world."
On the media:  As a medical journalist, I am a proponent of reading past headlines. Headlines want to titillate you, not educate you."  

Both David Katz and James Hamblin will be speaking about nutrition common sense at the November 9-11 Oldways-Whole Grains Council Conference on "Breaking Barriers."  Hamblin will address the Pitfalls of Pseudo-Science in Popular Nutrition Writing, explaining how and why “most of the bestsellers in health writing are largely fiction, including books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain” while Katz' presentation will explore the disconnect between popular fad diets and what Paleo Man really ate. 

We hope you'll join us for this event -- either in person or through an audio recording (available after the Conference) -- and in Oldways' renewed efforts in the years ahead to stop the madness and bring back common sense. Stay tuned for more old ways.


September 22, 2014 | Oldways Table

Eight years ago, my son gave me the Recycled Paper Greetings birthday card shown on the left, above. It pictured two grocery aisles, one labeled “Tastes Bad. Good for You.” and the other labeled “Tastes Good. Bad for You.” Sure it was funny, on the surface. But after I chuckled, I sighed. Why is it that so many people buy into the idea that “nutritious” and “delicious” can’t ever be found together?

This month, Oldways and the Whole Grains Council are delighted to be working with sixteen outstanding bloggers and dietitians who are experts in the art of crafting recipes that are both good tasting and good for you. If they ran a supermarket, in fact, they’d be adding a whole new aisle to that greeting-card illustration, with a big sign saying, “Tastes Good, Good for You.”

In honor of Whole Grains Month, these bloggers each created a recipe that switched out refined grains for whole grains – and in the process, they illustrated some key how-to pointers on melding taste and health:

  • It’s got to be mouthwatering. We were pretty much drooling as the photos started to arrive of these special Whole Grains Month recipes. If you picture dry rice cakes, carrot sticks and overcooked cabbage when someone says “healthy food” you need to see these photos (thumbnails below). Before we even take that first bite, a recipe needs to appeal to our eyes.

  • It can’t be weird. We all saw the scene in Indiana Jones where our hero had to eat monkey brains and we all cringed in our cinema seats. No matter how healthy something might be, it’s got to appeal to our emotions as well as our eyes. These food experts have taken recipes like crab cakes, stuffed peppers, ratatouille, and smoothies and created whole grain comfort food – foods everyone loves – with ingredients that are easy to buy in your local supermarket or by mail order.
  • It’s got to be simple. All of these recipes can easily be duplicated by the average home cook. We all have jobs and kids and lives and need recipes that we can plug In, even on busy weeknights.

Here’s our list of bloggers, with links to the blogs they wrote about Whole Grains Month and their own recipes:

Chocolate & Carrots Caroline Edwards - Apple Pie Smoothie for One

Ellen Kanner Ellen Kanner - Curried Spelt

Tiny Farmhouse Amy McCoy - Wild Rice and Fall Fruit Salad

We are Not Martha Sues Anderson - Popped Amaranth Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

Peanut Butter and Peppers Jennifer Drummond - Corn Chowder with Wild Rice

Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen Bobbi Burleson - Grilled Ratatouille Quinoa

The Lean Green Bean Lindsay Livingston - Buckwheat Pumpkin Porridge

Cooking with Books Marnely Rodriguez-Murray - Amaranth Crab Cakes

Real Mom Nutrition Sally Kuzemchak - Spiced Johnnycakes with Apple Compote

The Nifty Foodie Amy Singleton - Chewy Quinoa Monster Cookies

Mountain Mama Cooks  Kelley Epstein - Barley Risotto with Kale & Butternut Squash

Healthy Seasonal Recipes  Katie Price Webster - Millet & Lamb Tagine

The Nutrition Twins  Lyssie Lakatos, Tammy Lakatos - Spiced Ginger Citrus Millet

Poet in the Pantry  Carrie Vibert - Baked Spelt Rotini

A Kitchen Addiction  Jessica Tuttle - Lightened up Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Girlichef  Healther Schmitt-Gonzalez - Chicken and Farro Whole Grain Empanadas

Feast your eyes, then go to our Whole Grains Month “Make the Switch” contest website to vote for your favorites. Your votes will determine the top five favorite recipes to advance to our cook-off and judging on October 8, when the top three recipes will win cash prizes. Voting ends at midnight on Tuesday, September 30, so vote today before you forget!

As an added incentive to encourage you to vote, we’ll be picking one person at random from among all those who vote on our contest website, and that lucky winner will receive $500 cash plus an enormous selection of whole grain prizes. Vote today, to show your support for healthy delicious whole grains – and for a chance to be our random-winner voter!


September 17, 2014 | Oldways Table

Sometimes a culinary conundrum isn’t exactly what it seems….at least at the Oldways Table blog.  Today our Conundrum Series is taking a turn (for the good, we hope) as we ask our experts for simple suggestions or tips they recently came across that upped their game in the kitchen!  
Occasionally the simplest advice can make life in the kitchen that much easier and today we are excited to share some wisdom our experts had to impart when we asked, “What is the best cooking tip you’ve heard in the past few months?”

Thanks to a tip from our Editor-in-Chief, Merrill, we've been zesting citrus with the zester face-down, positioned horizontally above the citrus, so the zest sits atop the back of the zester and you don't have to sweep it up off of your counter. Brilliant!Editors at Food52

Drape a towel over your standing mixer while you add in the flour so it doesn't make a mess.Melissa Clark, food columnist for the New York Times and cookbook author

Soften a winter squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes before cutting. –  Janice Bissex, Dietitian and one of the moms behind Meal Makeover Moms

I love the idea of separating eggs with a plastic bottle.  Breaking eggs into a bowl and then using a plastic bottle to pull the yolks out without breaking them.  Brilliant, clean, no shells and fast.Ana Sortun, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author

I always thought vodka was tasteless in cooking. A reputable corporate chef told me that vodka adds umami to a dish. Cheers to that. - Michelle Dudash, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Chef Consultant

Have you come across any helpful cooking tips lately?  Please share!


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