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Green Chile Pie

What won’t green chile go with?

—Francie Zeller

If you ask any New Mexican this question, they will say chile goes with absolutely everything. So one holiday season at The Merc, I tried something a little different. To my surprise, it was the biggest hit. What was it? Green chile apple pie! Sound a little strange? Well, give it a try. This pie has traveled to New York City, Chicago, and even Michigan.

Any pie crust will do. Cheat, make that the easy part. I like the folded crust in the dairy section, since you will need two pieces—one for the bottom and one to top the pie.

Green Granny Smith apples are the perfect complement, but you can use any apple of your choice. Again, make it easy, don’t peel the apples. Just core, slice, and remove the seeds. For a large pie, you’ll need eight to ten apples.

Mix the apples with 3/4 cup of sugar, two large spoons of cinnamon, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of well-drained hot green chile. Toss it all together and fill your pie shell, dot with butter, and dust with a spoon or two of flour. Cover your pie and crimp the edges well. Cut about six vent holes on top. This allows the steam to escape. Brush your pie with a pure, well-beaten egg wash. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar just around the edges for a decorative effect.

Bake on a cookie sheet to prevent any spills in the oven. 350 degrees should be fine. Bake your pie until it is completely golden brown.

This recipe is as easy as pie! Go for it!

You’ll need:

  • •Pie crust
  • •8 to 10 Granny Smith apples
  • •3/4 cup sugar
  • •Cinnamon
  • •Lemon juice
  • •Green chile
  • •Butter
  • •Flour
  • •Egg
  • •A pastry brush
  • •A good pie pan

 


Flash in the Pan

Flash in the Pan

Infant formula additives, claimed to make babies smarter, could make them sick

—Ari LeVaux

The Diarrhea Formula

If you believed a certain baby food would make your child smarter, would you buy it? Infant formula manufacturers are betting that you would. Since 2002, several baby food companies have fortified their products with synthetic versions of DHA and ARA, long-chain fatty acids, aka oils, that occur naturally in breast milk and have been associated with brain development.

The oils are produced by Martek Biosciences Corporation from fermented lab-grown algae and fungus, and extracted with hexane, according to the company’s patent application. Hexane is a neurotoxin.

A growing number of parents and medical professionals believe these additives are causing severe reactions in some babies, and it’s been repeatedly shown that taking affected babies off of DHA/ARA formula makes the problems go away almost immediately. The FDA has received hundreds of letters to this effect from upset parents.

Ohio mother Karen Jensen says that due to health complications, she was unable to breastfeed her daughter, and so fed her Neocate, a formula containing DHA/ARA.

“At two weeks, my daughter would often stop breathing in her sleep, and was having various other serious health conditions,” Jensen told me in an email.

After many trips to the hospital, a CT scan, an EEG, time on an apnea monitor and thousands of dollars in bills, Jensen says, “we tried the Neocate without the DHA/ARA in it. Within twenty-four hours, we had a brand new, entirely different baby. She had no abdominal distress, no gas, she smiled and played and for the first time ever, we heard her laugh.”

Jensen’s story is echoed many times over in letters urging the FDA to ban DHA/ARA from baby foods, or to require warning labels advising parents that some babies may experience adverse reactions like bloating, gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, and diarrhea. While only a fraction of babies seem to react in this way, it’s a common enough occurrence to have earned DHA/ARA baby formula the nickname “the diarrhea formula” in the neonatal unit of an Ohio hospital, according to a nurse, Sam Heather Doak, who works there.

In 2001, the FDA had concerns about the safety of DHA/ARA formula additives, and notified Martek of the agency’s plans to convene a group of scientists to study the issue. Martek wrote back: “…convening a group of scientific experts to answer such hypothetical concerns would not be productive.” A month later, the FDA caved.

While quick to protest examination of such “hypothetical concerns,” Martek had already pounced on the hypothetical benefits of its oils.

In a 1996 briefing to investors, Martek explained that “Even if [the DHA/ARA blend] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk.’”

Mead Johnson Nutritionals took the opportunity to heart, drawing the ire of breastfeeding advocates when it began promoting its Enfamil Lipil, containing DHA/ARA, as “The Breast Milk Formula.”

Mead Johnson was also involved with a report in the September/October issue of the journal Child Development, in which a Dallas-based team of scientists provided evidence that DHA/ARA in baby food improves mental function in infants. Several members of the team received research funding from Mead Johnson, as well as the coveted currency known as “consulting fees.”

The Child Development report claims that infants fed DHA/ARA baby formula (supplied free of charge by Mead Johnson) showed greater ability to solve certain problems, like pulling a blanket with a ball on it toward them. The researchers say this problem-solving ability correlates with enhanced IQ and vocabulary development later in life.

“New evidence favors baby formula,” announced the Los Angeles Times, in an ambiguously worded headline that begs the question: Over what is baby formula favored?

Breastfeeding advocates bristled at the suggestion that formula could be better for babies than breast milk. “Parents will be encouraged to forego breastfeeding in favor of a hyped-up infant formula,” complained Barbara Moore, president and CEO of Shape Up America, a pro-breastfeeding nonprofit. “Breast milk has other benefits not related to mental development. The CDC [Center for Disease Control] promotes breastfeeding to confer maximal protection against swine flu and other infections.”

Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute has written a weighty report on the risks and benefits of baby formula containing DHA/ARA. She told me that the Mead Johnson-funded team behind the Child Development story is “the only group that has found real differences in cognitive development” resulting from the addition of DHA/ARA to formula.

Not that other researchers haven’t looked. To make sense of the growing body of research on the subject, a team of scientists led by Karen Simmer, a professor of newborn medicine in Australia, compiled a review, published in the Cochrane Library in January 2008, of the available literature. The team found that “feeding full-term infants with milk formula enriched with [DHA/ARA] had no proven benefit regarding vision, cognition, or physical growth.” A March 2009 review by the European Food Safety Authority also found the available data “insufficient to establish a cause and effect relationship” between DHA/ARA and brain development.

Nonetheless, the use of DHA/ARA has grown, and via some backdoor means has even won approval for use in Certified Organic baby formula and milk. In a Washington Post article on the eroding integrity of the Certified Organic label, staff writer Kimberly Kindy described how these lab-produced oils received organic approval.

“… in 2006, [USDA] staff members concluded that the fatty acids could not be added to organic baby formula because they are synthetics that are not on the standards board’s approved list… Barbara Robinson, who administers the organics program and is a deputy USDA administrator, overruled the staff decision after a telephone call and an email exchange with William J. Friedman, a lawyer who represents the formula makers.”

While serious questions have been raised regarding DHA/ARA’s safety, the issue remains in limbo, with concerned parents, medical professionals, and advocacy groups pushing one way, and deep-pocketed corporations pushing the other. The FDA did instruct Martek and other formula companies to conduct post-market surveillance of the health impacts of DHA/ARA-containing products, but after seven years, no reports of any surveillance has been submitted.

Until conclusive proof emerges on the safety and/or benefit of DHA/ARA in baby formula, it’s buyer beware for parents of newborns. Last I checked, breast milk—the product of millions of years of evolutionary shaping into the perfect food for babies—remains widely available, and free of charge.


Questions of ‘eggspiration‘

Q: How long do “fresh” farm eggs stay good in the fridge?

A: If kept refrigerated, eggs can keep safe for months after their expiration date. I know some farmers who stockpile eggs in the summer, when the chickens are laying overtime, and keep them in their produce cooler to eat all winter.

Nonetheless, the longer eggs are kept, even under ideal conditions, the higher the chances that they’ll go bad. If in doubt, use the “float test.” Place the questionable eggs in water. If they float, they’re bad. If they sink, they’re useable.

Of course, to legally cover my bases, I should say, “the minute the expiration date passes, throw it away.” But as the next question points out, blindly worshipping at the altar of expiration dates can get you in trouble, too. 

Q: I’ve been buying some local pasteurized heavy cream for my coffee. (Half-and-half? Why go halfway?) The last three containers I’ve purchased have started smelling sour and curdling in my coffee up to a week before the “sell by” date. What gives? What should I do?

A: From here, it’s tough to know why that’s happening. If you want to stick with this brand of cream, you should grab yours from the back of the display fridge—those bottles will often have a later “sell-by” date. And once you get it home, be extra-vigilant. The first smell of spoiled milk or cream often comes from the thin film that coats the dispenser from pouring, and isn’t in the liquid itself. At the first whiff of something wrong, pour the cream into sterile half-pint Mason jars and boil in a water bath for an hour. This re-pasteurization will buy your cream some time, and to me, makes it taste even better than before. 

 

     

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