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Melamine, China and the Food Supply

30 Sep

The first time I heard about melamine contamination in food was last year. I had just fed the Sous-Chef her nightly meal of  Alpo Prime Cuts and Pedigree Senior Formula Dry food. As the Sous-Chef ate her dinner, I saw the pet food recall on CNN. I  went to the site, and found the food I had just given to my dog on the list.

I was horrified.

I looked at Sous-Chef and panicked. I called my vet and hysterically I told them I may have given the dog the food. The vet tech on the other end of the line was very calm, and told me to check the recall numbers on the list against the food I had given her. I did, and the numbers were different. I grabbed the Sous-Chef and hugged her. i honestly don’t know what I would have done if she had died from eating the food I had given her.  You see, she is my family ( pet owners know what I am talking about). I was just glad that she was ok; and glad that this chemical would not find its way into the human food supply. That was then.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I had all but forgotten about the melamine toxicity incident when I heard/read/seen another report about this happening again; but this time, the melamine contamination was in baby formula.


I  didn’t make the connection immediately; I readily admit that I probably didn’t because it didn’t directly affect me. All my friends have adult kids, so there was no connection for me. Now, please don’t think ill of me, but i did take notice when Cadbury announced it was recalling 11 of its chocolate products. The precautionary recall is linked to fears of the melamine contamination of the products  containing milk protein powders made in China.

Four days ago, another batch of suspected melamine-laced products were recalled. The instant coffee and milk tea products were sold overseas, and the FDA is concerned that the products may have made their way into Asian food markets here in the U.S.

So, what’s the connection?

Melamine was used in the wheat gluten that was used in the recalled pet food. The origin of the wheat gluten was China.

Melamine is the prime suspect in the milk powder used in both the baby formula and chocolate candy, milk powder made in China. ( note: latest report issued said  according to the Chinese government current levels of melamine in candy are acceptable)

And, as CC was researching this story, another recall was issued in the Netherlands for Koala brand cookies.  According to the FDA, a dutch watchdog group found slightly elevated levels of melamine in the cookies.  The cookies are imported from China.

Apparently melamine is used in products that require a certain amount of protein. It is alleged that certain suppliers in China use this product to elevate protein levels, instead of actually putting the real protein in the products. The reason, I guess is money.

I guess  what I’m asking  is this: why are we as people allowing this to happen? I know that somebody will say that it is cheaper to import these products than to make them ourselves. That American workers won’t take these jobs, or want too much from the employers of these jobs like safe working conditions, some sort of basic benefits, some pesky job protections, you know. We aren’t satisfied working for $1 an hour and a bowl of rice. We import all this stuff to make everyday products in out lives more affordable.

That argument may wash sometimes, but is it really cheaper to buy foodstuffs from other countries when we have problems keeping our own food safe? What’s more expensive: cheaper labor, or the cost of recalls and the imminent health risks.

Our government has gutted the agencies that protect us from bad consumer products. How about lead in the toys, and the latest scare: salmonella and peppers. The inspectors whose job it is to check these things are woefully understaffed. So what are we to do?

I heard the phrase “Food Autonomy” from a fellow wordpress.com blogger. I take it to mean we should not import food, or we should grow our own food. I couldn’t find anything about it on the net, so if anyone knows what this term means, please enlighten us.

What do you think we should do?

Zucchini Ratatouille

5 Sep

Ratatouille is a Provencal-style stew made from eggplant, zuchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic. It is great as a main dish served with focaccia, a rustic Italian flatbread, or a crusty loaf of french bread. It is wonderful tossed with a hearty pasta like penne rigate or pappardelle, or used as a rustic topping for your homemade pizza!  This is a perfect way to enjoy the end of summer’s bounty.

This application foregoes the eggplant, and uses canned flavored tomatoes so that prep and cooking time is reduced to about 15-20 minutes. If you are a die hard freshness fanatic, you can use fresh tomatoes instead, just take care to blanch them before using ( here is a link with pictures on how to blanch a tomato). Preparing this dish this way preserves some of the crunch of the vegetables.

You will need:

Wooden spoons

Cutting board

Chef Knife

Paring knife

Bowls to store cut vegetables

measuring cup

saute pan

measuring spoons

For blanching fresh tomatoes you will need


large bowl filled with ice


3ea medium zucchini, washed ( about 3-4 cups)

1 green pepper ( about 3/4 to 1 cup)

2 small onions (about 3/4 to 1 cup)

2 ea. 15oz. can of Italian-flavored diced tomatoes in juice ( ex. roasted garlic, basil and oregano)

1/2 tsp. sea/ kosher salt

1/2 tsp. coarse-grind black pepper

3/4 tbl. italian seasoning

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

1/3 cup olive oil

After washing zucchini, inspect for any blemishes. If there are any bruises or blemishes, cut them out using a paring knife. Cut  off both ends of zucchini, then cut in half lengthwise. Slice into 1/2 inch half moon slices and set aside. Peel and dice onions, and set aside. Cut off top of green pepper , discarding seeds. Cut in half lengthwise, and dice peppers. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and green peppers to pan, and cook over medium heat until onions are clear, about 5-7 minutes.  Add zucchini and garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and seasonings, turn up heat to high and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and let cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Turkey sausage

10 Jul

Here is a recipe for turkey sausage that can be used as a breakfast patty,

or in all kinds of recipes where sausage is needed (lasagne, stuffing. ect.)

*always clean surfaces, utensils and hands before and after handling ground meat*

Turkey Sausage (makes 1 1/2 lbs)

1 lb.  regular ground turkey or chicken ( do NOT use extra-lean or breast meat)
1 Tbl. grated onion
1 Tbl olive oil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 Tbl dried parsley
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup grated apple ( optional, see note following recipe)

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for a least an hour before using.
To use as breakfast sausage, shape into patties. Fry in pan with a bit of oil. Cook over medium heat until brown on one side and turn only once. Do not press patties with spatula, or poke with knife to test doneness or sausage will become dry. Press with finger. If firm, sausage is done. Don’t cook longer than five minutes total time, or it will be dry.

To use in other recipes, don’t shape into patties. Cook in pan with a bit of oil until halfway done, remove from pan and chill before adding it to your recipe in place of cooked pork sausage.

Note- for Sweet Turkey Apple sausage, omit pepper flakes and add 1/4 cup peeled  and grated golden delicious, red delicious or any other sweet apple.

Try the sausage for breakfast this weekend