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Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

By MARK BITTMAN from the New York Times

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.)In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

The making of our VEGETABLE GARDEN

The photos below illustrate the steps in making our Vegetable Garden in our backyard (it is facing east - sun in the morning until about 4 pm in summer).

Note: we decided to make a Garden when friends gave us 7 plants of tomatoes and 3 plants of peppers in small planters.  We already had collard greens we seeded a month ago in a large container.

DAY 1: Select the size of the garden
and shave the grass.

Here 105 inches x 45 inches.
(the tomato, pepper planters and the container
with the collard greens are under the porch)
DAY 1: Unroll the plastic borders under
the sun to make them softer and straight.
DAY 1: Top soil (20 bags),
Garden soil (6 bags) and Mulch (1 bag).
DAY 1: Cut the plastic border pieces to size.
DAY 1: Mark with stakes and twine
the exact size of the garden.

15 Food Companies That Serve You 'Wood'

From The Street

Are you getting what you pay for on your plate?
are you getting wood?

Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you're actually paying for -- and consuming -- may be surprising.

Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper because the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients in the [food] product.

Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry 

Find out if your favorite foods contain the wood pulp... Read here to read the complete article. 

From an article in the Wall Street Journal:

Here’s the low-down on cellulose:
  • “Powdered cellulose is made by cooking raw plant fiber—usually wood—in various chemicals to separate the cellulose, and then purified. Modified versions go through extra processing, such as exposing them to acid to further break down the fiber.”
  • “Cellulose additives belong to a family of substances known as hydrocolloids that act in various ways with water, such as creating gels.”
  • “The rising cost of raw materials like flour, sugar and oil is helping boost the popularity of these additives.”

Is Slow-Cooker Food Safe to Eat?

The facts about bacteria growth and 
slow-cooked meals.

From Elisa Huang - RealSimple

The idea of slow-cooking food for eight hours on your countertop might trigger fears of bacteria and other unwelcome food invaders. But according to Mark Tamplin, M.D., a USDA microbiologist and food-safety specialist, it's not a problem: "You won’t see growth of harmful organisms in a slow cooker."

According to FDA guidelines, cooking food at temperatures above 140º F ensures "significant destruction of bacteria." Slow cookers operate at temperatures between 170º F and 300º F, well above the FDA recommendation. But bacteria thrive at what the FDA calls the "danger zone"―40º F to 140º F―and can multiply rapidly in food left at room temperature for long periods, so it's better to let your cooker cook on low until you get home than to set the timer to shut it down in the early afternoon.

To reheat leftovers properly, you should heat food until it's steaming hot. If you leave food in a slow cooker that's been turned off, Tamplin warns, "try not to leave it out for more than four hours." And make sure that the cooker is on the "warming" function if you leave food in it during a meal―and immediately refrigerate any leftovers in airtight containers.

Whipped Cream


  • 1 cup of organic Whipping (Heavy) Cream
  • 2 tablespoon of organic Powered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of organic Vanilla Extract

How to prepare the Whipped Cream:
Keep the bowl and the beaters
in the refrigerator
Start beating the Heavy Cream at medium speed,
and add gradually the Sugar. 
Beat at high speed until soft peaks are formed (about 5 minutes max).
DO NOT OVER-BEAT, you will get butter.
Keep in refrigerator.

Hard & Soft Meringue

The HARD MERINGUE is to be used as a crust or a layer for some deserts.
The SOFT MERINGUE can be used for topping a pie.

NOTE: ingredients and instructions for Soft Meringue are in RED
  • 2 free range Eggs Whites
  • 1/2 cup of organic Powdered Sugar  (for Soft Meringue use 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
  • 1 teaspoon of organic Vanilla Extract
How to prepare the Meringue:
Mixing bowl and beaters should be completely grease free
and kept in the freezer
Carefully separate egg whites from yolks (they separate best when cold).
Egg whites should come to room temperature before beating.
This increases the volume.
In small bowl, beat Egg whites and Cream of Tartar. 

Anaheim Pepper Spread - Dressing

  • 2 Anaheim Peppers (organic)
  • 1/4 cup of White Wine
  • 1/2 cup of virgin organic Olive Oil
  • 1 cup of sliced organic Onion
  • 2 cups of sliced organic Tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Garlic Granules
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
How to prepare the Anaheim Pepper Spread - Dressing:

Roast the Anaheim Peppers until done (as seen on photo above).
Open the Peppers and remove the seeds.
Blend ALL the ingredients in the blender
until smooth
Keep in a jar in the refrigerator
Note:  To use as a DRESSING, mix with the same amount of virgin Olive Oil

North-African Lamb Couscous

Plate of North-African Lamb Couscous

Ingredients (serve 6):

  • 2 tablespoon of Harissa (Hot Chili Sauce)
  • 1 can (15 oz) of Organic Tomato Sauce
  • 1 can (6 oz) of Organic Tomato Paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Garlic Granules
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Premium Olive Oil
  • 1 quart of Organic Chicken Broth
  • 1 Natural New Zealand Lamb Shank
  • 3 slices (1 inch thick) of Natural New Zealand Leg of Lamb
  • 5 medium Organic Carrots cut in long slices
  • 2 Organic White Turnips cut in medium size pieces
  • 1 bunch of Organic Swiss Chard (remove the green part of the leaves and use only the white ribs you cut in pieces 2-3 inches long - keep the green to make later a soup with potatoes)
  • 1 Organic Artichoke
  •  NOTE: You may not be able to find "blette" in the US-Canada which is used in original recipes. The combination of Swiss Chard + Artichoke has a similar flavor to "blettes"
  • 2 cans of Chick Peas (also known as Garbanzo Beans)
  • 1 minced Organic Onion
  • 1 Organic Zucchini cut in slices
  • 3 cups of Organic Couscous
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Unsalted Butter
  • Sea Salt to taste

How to prepare the North-African Lamb Couscous:
In a large roasting pan mix Harissa, Tomato Sauce & Paste,
Cumin, Garlic, Olive Oil, Chicken Broth
Add the Minced Onion, then add the meat.
In the middle put the Artichoke. Add the Carrots,
Swiss Chard Ribs and Turnips + Salt to taste
Add Purified Water to almost cover
the ingredients as seen on the photo.
Cover and put in the oven at 250 for 4 hours.
Then add the Chick Peas and Zucchini.
Put back covered in the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the Roasting Pan from the oven and put in one dish or bowl
 the meat (remove the bone from the shank) & the vegetables,
and in an other one the Marga (the liquid).
Heat 4 cups of Marga to boiling point and remove from fire.
Add slowly the 3 cups of Couscous and mix.
Add the butter and mix well. Cover until ready to serve.
In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of Harissa and
2 cups of Marga to make the Hot Sauce.
Bring to the table: Hot Sauce, bowl of Marga,
the dish with the meat and vegetables
and the dish with the Couscous.

From left to right: Hot Sauce, Marga, Couscous.
In each plate put couscous, vegetable and meat.
Pour Marga over the Couscous until real wet.
Add Hot Sauce to taste.
Almost ready to be eaten. It is delicious!

Harissa Hot Chili Sauce

Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce.
It is a standard ingredient of North African cuisine.

The recipe below is for you if you cannot find
Harissa in a Gourmet Store.
The Harissa in cans or tubes as show below
is much better that the one you can prepare yourself.

  • 2 oz Arbol Chili
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Garlic Granules
  • 1 cup of Organic Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon of Organic Caraway Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of Organic Coriander Seeds
  • 2 tablespoon of Organic Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of Organic Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon of Organic Lemon Juice
  • 1 can (6 oz ) of Organic Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup of Purified Water

How to prepare it:

It should be prepared at least 1 day before using it to make sure all the flavors are blended.
  • Crush the Arbol Chili and soak them for 30 minutes in hot water
  • Drain the Chili
  • Put all the ingredients in the blender at high speed until the mixture is smooth
  • Put in a glass jar and cover with 1/5 inch of Olive Oil
  • Can be kept in the fridge for few months

Chocolate Strawberries and Red Wine Strawberries

Ingredients for Chocolate Strawberries
  • 1 lb. of ripe Organic Strawberries
  • 2 cups of Premium Baking Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup of Organic Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 cup of Organic Half & Half
Ingredients for Red Wine Strawberries

  • 1 lb of ripe Organic Strawberries
  • 2 cups Red Wine (Merlot)
  • 1 cup of Organic Powered Sugar
  • 2 oz of Cognac

How to prepare Chocolate Strawberries:
Mix in a Double Boiler the Chocolate, Sugar and Half & Half.
Stir until melted and smooth.
Dip each Strawberry in the Chocolate
Place each chocolate dipped Strawberry on Wax Paper
Put in the refrigerator for the Chocolate to harden.
Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.
If you have Chocolate mixture left, mix it with fruit
(Apple or Strawberry or Banana).
Put in the refrigerator for the Chocolate to harden.
Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.

How to prepare Red Wine Strawberries:
Cut the Strawberries in small pieces and mix them in a steel bowl
with the Red Wine, the Sugar and the Cognac.
Mix every couple of hours.
It tastes better if eaten the next day.
(could be kept for few days in the refrigerator)

Stuffed Green Cabbage & Potatoes

Ingredients: serve 6

  • 1 Organic Green Cabbage (2.5 to 3 lb)
  • 3 large Potatoes
  • 3 medium organic Carrots
  • 1 small organic white Turnip
  • 1 medium size red organic Onion
  • 1 free range Egg
  • 1 lb natural Ground Pork
  • 1/2 lb natural Ground Beef (85% lean)
  • 1 cup organic Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup of organic Half & Half
  • 1/4 cup of organic virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Bread Crumbs (from Ezekiel Bread)
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Garlic Granules
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Italian Seasoning 
  • Kitchen Twine
  • Sea Salt - Black Pepper - Cayenne Pepper to taste

How to do it:
Stuffing: In a large bowl mix Meat, Egg, chopped half Onion, Garlic,
Italian Seasoning, Half & Half, Bread Crumbs,
Salt & Pepper (to taste).
Cut the Potatoes in half (peeling optional)
 Cut the bottom so they will lay flat in the roasting pan. 
Slice and dice the Carrots & the Turnip,
add the Potatoes and boil for 10 minutes in water
with Salt and Garlic Granules to taste. 
In the roasting pan pour the Chicken Broth and half of the minced Onion.
Add the Carrots and the Turnip that you boiled.
Remove the leaves from the Cabbage and steam them for 10 minutes.
Steam the Cabbage heart for 15 minutes.
Let the Cabbage leaves and Cabbage heart cool