Revolution + Recipe

Two bits of this week’s “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” had me yelling at my television screen.

First, when the head of the school food program said that, according to the powers that be, “It’s more important for children to get calcium than it is to pay attention to the sugar.” This in response to Jamie wanting to remove from the elementary school the chocolate and strawberry milks, which contain more sugar than soda. Considering that added sugar may contribute to heart disease, it should hardly be a staple item in school lunches. Grrrrrr….

Second, when Jamie toured the local warehouses of U.S. Foods, which keeps the schools stocked with, er, food? Not quite. Most of the warehouse space was taken up with 4,000 “products” (remember what I said about eating food, not products?), with a relatively tiny segment filled with refrigerated fresh food. That, folks, sums up so much is what is wrong with how this country eats. Too little food, too much product.

Speaking of why we should eat better, results of a research study conducted by the University of Michigan Health system shows that the recent generations of are getting obese faster than their forefathers (and foremothers).

Using data pulled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), researchers found that 20 percent of Americans born between 1966 and 1985 (so ages 25 to 44 today) were obese by age 20-29. The generations born between 1946 and 1965 took until age 30-39 to reach that rate of obesity. For those born between 1936 and 1945? 40-49 years old. Finally, the generation born between 1926 and 1935 did not reach a 20 percent obesity rate until its members were 50-59 years old. The study was published this month in the International Journal of Obesity. Some food for thought, surely.

Speaking of food, and switching gears…as I mentioned in an earlier article, Jamie’s new book (Jamie’s Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals)proved its worth within a few hours of its arrival on my doorstep, helping me get a tasty, quick and healthy dinner on the table. Since I had failed to plan ahead, I was grateful that my well-stocked pantry and fridge held almost all the ingredients I needed. The only items I did not have on hand was fresh ginger, a fresh red chile and cherry tomatoes (well, I had some “fresh” ginger that was not-so-fresh, so I tossed it), but the soup was plenty delicious with ground ginger, canned tomatoes and a splash of Sriracha hot chili sauce. I look forward to making it to his specifications when my garden has me up to my eyeballs in cherry toms this summer. I happily did have red lentils, Jamie sez this recipe also works with yellow or green split peas (which I’m pretty sure would have to cook longer…those red lentils cook up super fast).

Lentil and Spinach Soup
(Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution)

2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 ¾ quarts (7 cups) chicken broth
Olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
Red chili sauce, to taste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups red lentils
7 cups (7 ounces) fresh spinach
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup natural yogurt

Heat broth in saucepan until boiling. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan (I used my Le Creuset), then add all the chopped and sliced vegetables and mix with a wooden spoon. Partially cover with the lid and cook for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are slightly soft (but still holding their shape) and the onion is lightly golden.

Add the boiling broth to the pan, along with the lentils, ginger, chile sauce and tomatoes. Stir well, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until lentils are cooked. Add spinach and continue to cook for 30 seconds (or so) while stirring it in. Add salt and pepper to taste, dish up, and top with a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6-8

Last night, in between work and studying, I whipped up a super easy lamb and red wine stew from the book. (Seriously…30 minutes to prep and saute, then 2 1/2 hours simmering unattended while I studied and played with my adolescent chickens). It was so good that my husband suggested I change the name of this site to “I (heart) Jamie Oliver.” Not the worst idea he’s ever had, to be sure, but I think I’ll leave the name as-is.