Kate prepares for Halloween with Pumpkin and Squash recipes, recommends a great gift cookbook for entertaining, and explains the dangers of BPA in plastic bottles and containers. PLUS: Election Editorial—Saving $$$ at the Grocery Store: Obama vs. McCain on Oil.
Don't miss Kate's special October editorial: Saving $$$ at the Grocery Store: Obama vs. McCain on Oil
by Kate Heyhoe
Native to the Americas, winter squashes have rolled across all continents. While we're used to cooking them with warm spices and maple syrup, other cultures put their own flavor stamp on pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and other hard-skinned squashes. There's even a Japanese squash, the kabocha, which is as sweet and tasty a variety as any of the original New World squashes.
Crock Pot Squash: Did you know that slow cookers (Crock Pots) are energy-efficient ways to cook squash? Simply halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and strings, place with the cut-side facing up, season if desired, and add a tablespoon or two of water to the pot. Cover and cook until tender, about 3 hours on low or half that time on high, depending on the squash and the size of the cooker. Serve the halves as they are, or scoop out the pulp for use in recipes calling for cooked squash—including pumpkin pie. (You can also cook the squash in chunks.)
Markets are decking out with orange, yellow, green, and white squash, in long, round, oval and oddball shapes. So it's a great time to get experimental with recipes that break routine. Here's a few dishes to get you started, and basic tips on winter squash.
If you're opting to save money by eating in, pamper yourself with foods that make you feel special. Great Bar Food at Home is one of last year's 25 best cookbooks, as selected by Food & Wine Magazine. It's featured in their latest Best of the Best collection, and you can find sample recipes here:
With holidays and entertaining ramping up, this is the book that every host needs for quick, stylish nibbles. Give it as a gift to the hosts, instead of or with a bottle of wine, or pack it in your carry-on as a holiday gift.
Recently, BPA's been making headlines, but often with incomplete information. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a widely used chemical that can leach from packaging into foods and liquids.
As canned and frozen packaged foods go, BPA presents a real dilemma. It's so ubiquitous, it's even in soda cans. From Con-Agra to Carnation, Annie's Naturals to Whole Foods, and conventional to organic, we've been eating products with BPA-packaging for more than fifty years.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest stops short of putting all BPA-lined containers (including cans) on the do-not-use list. But it does note that pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children are more at risk than the general population because BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone that affects brain development.
In early 2008, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that BPA-packaged products "are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects...At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles."
But in September 2008, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and released before federal hearings linked exposure to bisphenol A with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities in adults.
Other studies suggest that as BPA leaches into ground water, it may harm fish and plants over time. (BPA does have a short half-life, chemically speaking, but it's everywhere; as a polycarbonate component, it's found in everything from CDs to medical equipment to fire retardant.)
The food safety issues are really just opening up. Things you should know about BPA include:
The good news is that non-BPA alternatives do exist. They're either not widespread or not promoted as BPA-free. For instance:
With increased consumer demand, more manufacturers will get the BPA out. You'll probably never see labels stating the package contains BPA, but the brands that voluntarily go BPA-free will be smart to let us know.
This article is excerpted in part from Kate Heyhoe's book (Da Capo Press, April 2009):
Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way *Hundreds of tips and over 50 energy- and time-saving recipes to shrink your "cookprint"
This article also appears on our New Green Basics site. Visit New Green Basics for more articles, and reviews of green cooking products.
Since 1994 we've hosted some of the most popular Halloween recipes on the web. Here's a sampling:
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This page created October 2008
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