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Archive for February, 2010

NEWS: Sara Lee “Organics” Controversy

Boo, Sara Lee!

According to corporate and governmental watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit farm policy research group, Sara Lee is trying to pull one over on consumers.

The popular supermarket brand has launched a marketing campaign for its EarthGrains bread, using misleading environmental-friendly catchphrases with the hope of attracting people who want to buy organics because they’re better for the environment and healthier to eat.

Sara Lee claims that “Eco-Grain™”—its trademarked ingredient that comprises just 20% of the grain in EarthGrains breads—is more sustainable than organic grain. This is not true, and the Cornucopia Institute has created a comparison chart to detail the differences.

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Sara Lee’s EarthGrains line. Not particularly
earth-friendly. Photo courtesy Sara Lee.

According to Charlotte Vallaeys, a Food and Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, “Sara Lee is doing practically nothing to ensure its ingredients are truly ecologically produced. It’s a crass example of a corporation trying to capitalize on the valuable market cachet of organic, while intentionally misleading consumers—without making any meaningful commitment to protect the environment or produce safer and more nutritious food.”

  • The farmers who grow Eco-Grain differ very little from most conventional grain producers who use petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
  • Organic farmers, on the other hand, use natural fertilizers, compost and crop rotations to enrich the long-term health of the soil, without damaging the environment or potentially contaminating the food produced.
  • Sara Lee’s eco-claim for Eco-Grain production is that their farmers incorporate technology that has reduced chemical fertilizer usage by 15%. That means they’re using 85% chemical fertilizers.
  • In contrast, as mandated by federal law, organic farmers are required by law to reduce their synthetic fertilizer use by 100%—i.e., 0% chemical fertilizers.
  • Plus, as Cornucopia’s Vallaeys points out that, “Even if their new fancy wheat were truly superior, each EarthGrains 24 ounce loaf contains only 20% flour from Eco-Grain, with the remainder of the bread’s wheat coming from regular, conventional wheat. The total reduction in chemical fertilizer use in a loaf of EarthGrains bread therefore amounts to a meager 3%.” According to a Sara Lee press release, “the brand will look to increase the percentage of Eco-Grain in its products.”

 

To educate consumers about EarthGrains bread made with Eco-Grain wheat, Sara Lee launched a consumer marketing program called “The Plot to Save the Earth, One Field at a Time.“ The campaign includes print, TV, radio and digital advertising, public relations, social media and point-of-sale materials that take a whimsical approach to catch consumers’ eyes with tag lines like, “How your turkey sandwich can help preserve the earth.”

“If advertising executives could be charged with malpractice, this would be a major felony,” said Mark A. Kastel, Co-Director at The Cornucopia Institute.

Now that you’re aware, make your own decisions. If you want to help the environment and eat pesticide-free food, look for the USDA certified organic seal.

Sara Lee also owns the brands Ambi Pur, Ball Park, Douwe Egberts, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Kiwi, Sanex and Senseo.

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COOKING: Cassis In Your Kitchen?

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The new cassis for cooking. Photo courtesy
SurLaTable.com.

The cassis in our kitchen is crème de cassis, a heavenly blackcurrant (a.k.a. cassis) liqueur made in Burgundy. We employ it in various desserts, and adore it mixed with sparkling wine (a Kir Royale cocktail) or sometimes, in a still white wine (a Kir).

Cassis is a great fixer-upper for white wines that you don’t much like. The sweet, silky blackcurrant liqueur covers up how flat, flavorless, acidic or otherwise unattractive the wine is.

The cocktail was named after Félix Kir, a longtime mayor of the city Dijon in Burgundy (from 1945 to 1968)—as well as a former parish priest, resistance fighter and subsequent knight of the Légion d’honneur. As mayor, he popularized the drink by offering it at receptions. The cocktail was previously called a blanc-cassis and mixed with Aligoté, a white Burgundy. (We’re not, we emphasize, implying that the mayor served bad wine.)

According to Sur La Table’s thinking, cassis is the new hot color for Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron cookware. The retailer has the exclusive on the color, available now in SLT stores nationwide and online. It’s paired with Le Creuset stoneware in lilac. If purple is your thing, put it on your wish list. Or as one NIBBLE wag was heard to say, “Wait for the clearance and buy it at 30% off.”

But don’t wait to pick up a bottle of cassis. For cocktails, ice cream, sorbet, flavored ganache, trifles, cake filling and frosting, and a fruit salad dressing, it rocks. On the savory side, you’ll forget all about duck with cherry sauce once you substitute the cherries for cassis.

 

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CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Toast To George

It’s the birthday of the Father of Our Country (George Washington, to those of you who didn’t attend grade school in the U.S.).

Washington was quite a fan of egg nog and devised his own recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry.

  • If you’ve been missing nog since the holidays ended, try this egg nog recipe (plus the history of egg nog) and toast to George. If egg nog isn’t your thing, there are two other choices.
  • First, there’s kirsch (kirschwasser/kirsch water), which is a cherry eau de vie. In keeping with the Washington’s Birthday cherry theme, try it or any cherry schnapps straight or in a cocktail.
  • The other appropriate libation: a Margarita. Why? February 22 is also National Margarita Day! See the history of the Margarita plus Margarita recipes.
  • For the kids: alcohol-free egg nog or delicious tart cherry juice!
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Toast to Washington with egg nog: He loved
it! Photo courtesy Chefs.com.

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PRODUCT: Baileys Coffee Creamers

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Try it—you’ll like it! Photo courtesy HP Hood.

Here’s a terrific coffee enhancer that delivers far less calories than those mocha-chocolattes. They’re so rich and creamy, no added whipped cream is needed.

Baileys Coffee Creamers—“all the flavor of Baileys without the alcohol”—are now available on the East Coast (for the time being, anyway—everyone else will have to be patient).

The #1 liqueur in the world recently introduced the line of super-premium coffee creamer products following three years of development and consumer testing. We say: Great job!

The four flavors—which include both sugar and real cream for your coffee—include Caramel, French Vanilla, Hazelnut and The Original Irish Cream. They’re all good—addictively good. Our favorite is Original, which tastes “just like Baileys without the alcohol.” A shot of Caramel in your coffee could substitute for a rich dessert.

In fact, at 35-40 calories per tablespoon, added to a cup of zero-calorie coffee, these are a great dessert substitute as well as a sure-to-be party favorite.

And they’re very affordable. Suggested retail price is $2.49 per 16-ounce container. French Vanilla and Hazelnut are available in quarts for $3.99. Look for them in the dairy section of your supermarket. The products are lactose-free (but do have 5g cholesterol per tablespoon) and have no caffeine. They are certified kosher OU-D.

The products are produced by HP Hood under license from R & A Bailey & Co. The website is BaileysCreamers.com—but there’s not much on it at this point. Hopefully, some of the recipes we picked up at the Coffee and Tea Festival in New York City will end up there soon.

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CHERRY TIP OF THE DAY: Cherries Jubilee

Cherries Jubilee was a very fashionable dessert for many decades. The great chef Auguste Escoffier is credited with creating it for Queen Victoria—for either her Golden Jubilee of 1887 (the 50th year of a monarch’s reign) or her Diamond Jubilee in 1897—the record is not sure which.

It immediately joined the menu at restaurants of haute cuisine, where it was prepared tableside with great fanfare.

Pitted black cherries were flambéed with kirsch (which is cherry eau de vie, or unaged brandy) or regular brandy, then spooned into a stemmed silver dish of vanilla ice cream.

You don’t need to have a stemmed silver dish—that kind of pomp disappeared in the 1960s. And it’s no biggie to get the cherries (frozen), ice cream and spirits to make the dish—tonight or tomorrow to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. A recipe for one head of state is certainly appropriate for another!

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Cherries Jubilee. Photo courtesy RobertsDairy.com.

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