Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tasty Tuesday- Falafel with Tangy Tahini Sauce

This recipe in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson is another way I've ruined eating out. When we can make our favorite foods at home, what reason is there to eat out?! The only difference between this delicious falafel and traditional restaurant falafel is that this isn't deep fried. It isn't near as crunchy, but saves you calories and fat in oil.

The tangy tahini sauce is fast becoming a go-to sauce for us. We love it for veggie wraps and I bet it would be great as a crudite dip.

Falafel with Tangy Tahini Sauce

4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (canned is fine)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup flour (any kind - I used WW pastry, cause thats what I had)

Tangy Tahini Sauce:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup water

Simply puree all ingredients for falafel in a food processor until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary to get a smooth consistency. If possible, let batter sit 1 hour before cooking to thicken and intensify flavor (CB note: I did let mine sit and I think the onion became less pungent and everything married nicely.)

Use your hands to form patties approximately 3 in diameter and 1/2 in thick. Cook patties using one of the two methods below:
1) Oven method: Preheat oven to 450F. Place patties on oiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes on each side or until brown and crisp. This method works well to cook all the patties at once.
2) Pan Method: Warm a skillet to medium heat. Pour in just enough oil (I used coconut oil) to coat the pan. Drop in patties (4 or so at a time) and grill 10 minutes on each side, or until brown and crisp. Add additional oil if needed and add oil between batches.

To make sauce:
Puree yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and sea salt in a blender or food processor. While blending add water a little at a time until desired thickness is achieved.

Serve falafel with sauce or in a pita pocket with tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

I have used the pan cooking method with great results. I haven't tried the oven method yet. This would also be a great freezer recipe. Use the oven method for that and freeze the patties, individually wrapped. Thaw and then reheat in oven.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sanitizing Sanity

In this article by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), I found that in the mid 1990's only a few antibacterial products were used in the home. They were designed and produced for hospital use where there are a concentrated amount of bacteria, and deadly ones at that. Antibacterial products were specifically designed to protect vulnerable patients - not the average healthy individual. Ten years ago when the article was written, there were more than 700 antibacterial products manufactured for the average healthy home. There are assuredly even more than that today. The market is absolutely flooded with antibacterial claims, and advertising is doing a great job selling these products to consumers. There are even entire mattresses manufactured with antibacterial agents. They are starting to show up in food storage containers and we all think that the more antibacterial products you can buy, the healthier your family will be.

The big deal
You may be thinking "Well, isn't it a good thing - we are killing bacteria before it becomes a problem." You may think of it as preventative. The problem is a well-known scientific concern that is true with antibiotics as well as antibacterial cleaners. Antibiotics have been prolifically overused and misused creating antibiotic-resistant strains. This causes "super germs" that are not responsive to antibiotics. This is why it is critical to not take antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary. The same problem is happening in our households. When antibacterial agents are overused and used without warrant in a normal environment, antibacterial resistant strains are developed. Meaning the more you try to kill germs, the more and stronger germs you will have.

Let me put this another way. Chemically speaking, bacteria is measured in parts per million (ppm). That is 1,000,000. If you are using a product, say LysolTM, that claims it kills 99.9% of germs then you have .1% germ left over. The problem is not that it is just .1% germ, it is 1,000 germs left over. These 1,000 germs are leftover because the antibacterial agent could not kill them. Now these germs are left to breed with each other making more and more antibacterial resistant germs. Soon you have a house full of super germs that all the chemical antibacterial products in the world can not kill.

Further more, the antibacterial agent usually found in soap, tricolsan is under investigation with the FDA due to health concerns. In a Swedish study, tricolsan is now showing up in breast milk! Other chemicals found in antibacterial products like hexane and 1,3-Butadiene are known carcinogens.

Your immune system
Another reason to avoid antibacterial products is to allow your immune system to do its job. I really believe the more antibacterial products you use, the MORE sickness and disease you will experience. Your immune system, like the rest of your body, needs exercise to function properly. A healthy person can be exposed to a variety of weak germs and not become ill. Someone in your house can become sick, and you not get it - that's your immune system at work. The immune system needs regular contact with some germs and bacteria in order to work up a resistance to these germs. If the immune system does not have this opportunity, it is more likely to become sick from even the weak germs that you contact. Hand sanitizer is only effective against 99.9% of germs. That .1% that now survives is more likely to make a person sick if their immune system has not been exposed to other agents.

In the same CDC article mentioned above, allergies also play a role. The stronger the immune system, the fewer allergies a person will have. Over-cleansing an environment can actually lead to more frequent and severe allergies.

Hand Sanitizing Frenzy
I stand firmly against the use of hand sanitizer for all the reasons listed above. Hand washing has seemingly become a thing of the past. I have seen parents slather hand sanitizer on their children before a meal, and I have seen women forgo washing their hands in the bathroom only to pump out a few handfuls of hand sanitizer! Why there is hand sanitizer next to soap and water I will never know! Not only is hand sanitizer a major problem for the reasons listed above, but most hand sanitizer sanitizes with alcohol. The American Association of Poison Control Centers confirmed that hand sanitizer can in fact seriously harm a child who ingests enough of it. There was a story a few years back about a four year old who was rushed to the ER after licking hand sanitizer off her hands that was squirted into her palm by her teacher. This story spread like wildfire and was confirmed by the Poison Control Center.

The safe alternatives
Wash your hands! Hand washing washes away germs and is more effective than trying to kill them. Can you imagine if your doctor before a major surgery decided not to take the time to wash his hands, but instead squirted a large amount of hand sanitizer into his hands!?

Vinegar has been shown to kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, 80% of viruses, and as a bonus - its cheap! Vinegar has not been shown to create resistant strains, either. Vinegar is not labeled as an antibacterial agent because it is not registered with the EPA as a pesticide. Which means that any product labeled as antibacterial is registered as a Pesticide. Hydrogen peroxide is also a great safe antibacterial agent. It can be used to effectively clean counters that have come in contact with raw meats.

Furthermore, decide if your house really needs any antibacterial cleaners. Personally, the only reason I see to use any antibacterial products in the home, including antibacterial hand soap, is if you have a family member with an immune deficiency.The majority of healthy households will find them unnecessary.

Levy, Stuart B., 2001: Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7, No.3.