Food Hackathon 1.0

San Francisco held its very first food hackathon last weekend. Put on by passionate food entrepreneurs, the hackathon’s goal was to concentrate the energy around food entrepreneurship in one space for 36 hours and build innovative hacks to solve problems in our food system and eating habits. Food is the greatest common denominator to spark creativity, emotion, and passion throughout the world. It was no surprise that 200 food lovers, designers, and developers united on their common purpose to build software and hardware tools to potentially change the way we eat and think about food.

There were many people, like myself, who have never participated in a hackathon before and there were those already part of a food tech company. There were people with strong ideas and there were those who just wanted to be a part of this new wave in food innovation. Most of the ideas pitched focused on the restaurant, takeout, and chef space. There were a couple of pitches that actually focused on the food system and improving health through nutrition. Teams formed quickly after the pitches and everyone settled down to make their idea into a plausible company and take home one of the $25,000 in prizes allotted to the top three winners.

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This being a food hackathon, the catered food was impressive. Breakfast was pretty nutritious with green smoothies, granola, organic yogurt, and fresh fruit. Far from the usual fare of pastries and commercial orange juice. Contraband Coffee, a local artisan café and roaster, provided the caffeine fuel for the entire weekend. Callie Waldman, who is a Natural Chef from Bauman College, provided Sunday’s extremely delicious and nutritious lunch. There were also local food sellers sampling their amazing raw chocolates and other healthy edibles.

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On Sunday evening, 14 teams pitched their hacks to a panel of judges in front of the 200 people. The more recognizable judges were Dave McClure (500 Startups), Ben Parr (Dominator Fund), Alexa Andrzejewski (Foodspotting), Danielle Gould (Food+Tech Connect), and Naithan Jones (AgLocal).

The overall winner of the hackathon was Vibrantly, an iPhone app to guide people to make nutritious food choices based on food colors. I liked the concept of this app since it focuses on nutrition and not calories for achieving health goals. The next notable winner was Tiny Farms, which makes hardware to make insect farming easier for people around the world who rely on insects for nutrients and income. The team charmed the judges and audience with their homemade “buglava”, baklava made with wax worms. Slim Menu won the new technology hack, which is an app that helps you order from a menu visually. Touchless Ticket built a gestured-based app to optimize workflow and ticket processing in the restaurant kitchen. I collaborated with Leslie Wu on an idea to make gardens out of unused spaces, called Garden B&B, and won the best social hack.

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Most of the teams concentrated on recipe search and stocking the pantry. Although, finding a credible recipe and stocking the pantry with utmost convenience are pain points, there are much larger problems that we can solve with innovation in food and technology. We need to focus on food deserts, educating people about nutrition, sustainability, and health, alleviating the environmental toll of food production, and reducing inefficiencies in food distribution. We can change our broken food system. We can build a solution that is affordable, nutritious, and easy for those who need it worldwide.

In a city where great innovations and companies are constantly being built, we were long overdue for an organized food hackathon. This food hackathon proved that technology innovation is no longer limited to the programming genius, but is open to anyone who has the motivation to make a difference. The follow-up Food Hackathon is set to coincide with National Day of Civic Hacking. I will definitely be there and hope more people who want to change the global and local food system will join as well.

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Farmers Market Finds: A Few Basics

I am participating in San Francisco’s very first food hackathon this entire weekend. Thus, no trip to the farmers market for me. I will have to stock up my fridge with fresh produce tomorrow. I will leave you with a few snaps of veggies and fruits I always keep stocked. Happy Sunday!

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Tatsoi- is a cross between broccoli and spinach. Tastes amazing steamed and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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I always keep mixed cooking greens on hand. They are versatile and make great main and side dishes.

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Kale- need I say more!

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Lemons brighten up any dish and are handy to keep around. I also drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon every morning to get my system going.

Which vegetables do you normally keep around?

 

All About Eggs: They Are Good For You

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Eggs have gotten a lot of press over the years- “they are bad for you, they are good for you, nope-they are bad, well, we take that back, they are good again”. The assumption that dietary cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease is false. There have been many, well-designed studies done which prove that eggs, including the yolk, are good for you and do not increase cholesterol or cause heart disease. Cholesterol in eggs is dietary cholesterol, not the cholesterol that is measured in blood tests. Dietary cholesterol has no impact on blood cholesterol. Overconsumption and the quality of the eggs should be more of a concern than these health issues.

Eggs are a nutrient rich food, providing an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. The yolk especially works to keep your brain healthy.  The yolk contains essential fatty acids, which are necessary for proper brain and eye function, healthy skin, hair, libido, reproduction, growth and response to injury. Eggs are a complete protein and contain the “good fats”. Complete protein foods contain all of the essential amino acids, which our bodies need for healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. High quality eggs can contain omega-3 fatty acids, which work to lower the risk of cholesterol. Therefore, when people only eat egg whites, they are literally throwing out these needed essential nutrients.

I invest in my health by buying high quality food. I do pay extra upfront for pastured eggs. I try to buy eggs from the farmer’s market, but they sellout pretty fast. Remember, the massive egg recall in 2010? That kind of stuff usually only happens in factory farming. Pastured eggs are higher in nutrient value and come from healthy, happy hens. Pasture-raised hens are raised on pasture and fed grass and whatever else is on their pasture. You can see the richness of nutrients by the color of the egg yolk, usually a dark yellow to orange. This is because pastured eggs have more beta-carotene and vitamins. Though, the color of the yolk does vary from the changing seasons and pasture availability. Hens naturally lay eggs in the spring, when there is more daylight and greener pastures. Even the eggs shells are all different hues, but mostly due to the breed of the chickens. These eggs come from one farm that usually has a variety of breeds, so you will get a variety of sizes and colors in the carton.

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The less fortunate hens are confined in cages that are too small for them. They are cramped in and have a variety of physical issues. The cages are also stacked up on top of each other. This poses many health dangers for all of the hens in the factory farm, which in turn poses risks for consumers of these eggs. These factory-farmed hens are given antibiotics and hormones (usually without the supervision of a veterinarian) to survive these filthy conditions and grow bigger and faster. The results of this kind of farming are cheap poultry and eggs that cause environmental degradation and antibiotic resistance. In short, cheap foods come with a high cost to people’s health, animal welfare, and the environment.

Free-range and cage-free eggs are significantly different from pastured eggs. Free-range and cage-free are less regulated terms. Free-range means that the chickens may have access to the outdoors. Cage-free chickens are not locked up in battery cages, but they still maybe overstuffed in large hen houses with thousands of other chickens. The term organic in this concern means that the feed was organic, hens cannot be raised in cages, molting must occur naturally, and antibiotics can only be given in the case of an infectious outbreak. Thus, organic eggs are better than non-organic eggs. You can checkout the score of the organic eggs you buy here.

There is also significance to the phrase “farm fresh eggs”. Eggs do have a long shelf life when stored properly in the fridge, but they are not nearly as good as eggs that are recently laid. Truly farm fresh eggs are no more than a week old. Sometimes, the farmers do not wash these eggs so it is better to wash them at home. The pastured eggs at the farmers markets are probably only a few days old, but you can ask the farmer directly to be certain.

When hens in factory farming lay eggs, there is a shipping and handling process. These eggs go to a plant, where they are washed in ammonium or chlorine, graded, and placed in the carton. So by the time they get to the grocery store and by the time you bring them home, they could be already a couple of weeks old. Check the numbers on the egg carton to verify freshness of the eggs. There should be three sets of numbers on the carton. The long set of numbers indicates the plant/factory from which they came, the sell by date is the expiration date, and the three digit number is the Julian date the eggs where picked. In Julian date, the date is read starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365. Today’s date is April 4th, so the Julian date is 094 (94 days into the year).  

Obviously, all of these points factor into the cost of the eggs. Factory farmed eggs are really cheap and pastured eggs are expensive. To make the right choice for you and your family, you have to weigh what is important to you when you feed your family. Again, I value the quality of the eggs and invest in the health of my family and myself. Pastured eggs also contribute to my sanity, knowing that I made a choice that is environmentally and ethically conscious. We eat fewer eggs per week, limiting to one carton of pastured eggs and increase the intake of vegetables, lentils, and beans.  Even though we are eating fewer eggs, I am guaranteeing we are getting more nutritional benefits and superior flavor.

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Farmers Market Finds: Strawberries!

It was a slow, quiet morning at the farmers market today. Partially because of the intermittent rain and the Easter holiday. Even though, I literally only had 30 minutes to get to, shop, and return from the farmers market, I decided it was worth the hustle. The alternative would have been to make time to shop at the grocery store for the week. I resist going to the grocery store, because the quality and prices of the produce just are not as good as what I get at the farmers market. Let’s just say I have been spoiled by shopping consistently at the farmers market for over 3 years now. Plus, I like to see all my farmer friends weekly.

It’s definitely full-blown spring now. Strawberries, artichokes, English peas, asparagus, avocados, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, fresh herbs, and ramps are just some of the vegetables and fruits you will find at the stalls and stands. I’ve already pinned many recipes to include these vegetables in our diet. Photo Mar 31, 11 12 12 AM

Organic strawberries are just coming into season. Serendipity Farms

Strawberries are one of the fruits I refuse to buy non-organic. The 54 or so pesticides sprayed on strawberries are outrageous and dangerous for your health, the health of the farm workers, and the health of the environment. Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Inc, the company producing the fumigant pesticide methyl iodide, decided to pull out distribution in the United States after a year-long battle with farm workers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalist. However, Arysta still continues to market methyl iodide in other countries for strawberries and other crops. This means methyl iodide can still end up in the United States, which is another reason to eat local fruits and vegetables.

I liked eating strawberries as a kid, but most of the time ate them because my parents made us. I am pretty sure I was not eating local, seasonal, or organic strawberries most of the time. Some of the times the strawberries were super sweet and delicious, but other times the strawberries left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember telling my dad one day to stop buying strawberries and he was really surprised. Maybe, he thought all kids like the cute fruit and should eat them. Aside from the bad taste in my mouth, I started experiencing a tingling sensation on my lips, inside of my cheeks and tongue. It was not until I discovered farm fresh, seasonal, organic strawberries that I fully enjoyed them again. I have not experienced the tingling sensation again. I really do think it has to do with all the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional strawberries.

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There are many varieties of avocados other than Haas, something I only learned by shopping at the farmers market. The produce at the grocery store can get monotonous. Avocados really come into season during spring through autumn. They are not natural in the winter as they need warm climates to grow, something to keep in mind when you eat those guac and chips at Super Bowl parties.

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Beautiful, colorful radishes at Happy Boy Farms.

Photo Mar 31, 11 33 05 AMThe market basket, my Instagram post of the day.

What do you plan to cook this week?

 

Farmers Market Finds: The Color Green

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This is going to be an exciting week for me. I am starting the Nutrition Consultant program in Berkeley and we are having a good friend, Andreas, stay with us for a few days. Each time Andreas visits from Italy, he brings us amazing olive oil and coffee. This time he brought me gluten-free pastas to try out. Apparently, there is a high prevalence of celiac disease in Italy and the quality and selection of GF products are better than here. I made a pesto from pea tendrils (pictured below) and had it with the pasta (pictured above). It was delicious!

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Before I headed out to the farmers market this morning, I took a look at my Pinterest recipe boards to figure out what we will eat this week. I collect recipes from all over the web, which inspire and teach me to cook delicious foods. It also helps organize my cooking thoughts and plan my trip to the market. This week, I am going to focus on one-pot meals and salads.

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Since I got to the FM a bit late again, I was very surprised to find pasture-raised eggs. They are always gone an hour or so within the market opening. Though, I was not as fortunate with the asparagus. I was definitely attracted to the greens today. I bought Dino kale, rainbow chard, baby spinach, cilantro, and the very last stalk of asparagus. Currently, my Spring Cooking board on Pinterest looks very green too. I think I counted five types of kale today. Dino/Lacinato, purple/Redbor, Curly, Red Russian, and Premier kale.

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Of course, to brighten things up, I got one bunch of yellow ranunculus.


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Blood oranges are no longer available, but I think there are still a few weeks left for the other citrus fruit. This winter, I became obsessed with blood oranges and came up with a variety of ways to use them. I made margaritas, salads, brownies, and recently my first original gluten-free cake (pictured below) using blood oranges.

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What are planning to cook this week? What’s available at your farmers market?

Homemade Gluten-Free Citrus Granola {Recipe}

Since I figured out that I am gluten intolerant, I’ve been on a constant search for delicious and affordable replacements. I discovered that most gluten-free packaged food is almost twice the price. Also, most of the ingredients in them are not natural or whole. I will actually discuss this topic in great depth in another post.

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Initially, one of the toughest things about practicing a gluten-free diet was finding good breakfast cereals. Like a typical American, I grew up eating corn flakes, pop tarts, and toast for breakfast. As I became smarter about my food choices, I stuck to more natural types of cereal which didn’t contain much added sugars and processed ingredients. All of the gluten-free cereals on the shelf just seemed exorbitantly priced or full of questionable ingredients. Eventually, I discovered gluten-free granola with minimally processed ingredients. It was almost love at first taste, but it was hard to swallow the extra sweet taste (after months of conditioning myself to have a less sweet palate) and price tag. Unfortunately, most gluten-free granola is really, really expensive. I mean really expensive. Also, prepackaged granola is loaded with sugar! Though, I kept eating store-bought granola because I thought it was more convenient than any other breakfast option.

maple syrupI also thought buying granola was more convenient than making my own. I had seen many recipes and heard about people making their own granola (it’s actually become a thing), but I just never got myself to do it. I made it out to be really complicated and time consuming in my head. I had even bought certified gluten-free oats but let them sit in my pantry for 6 months (they don’t spoil easily) before I said I am going to do it. Making my own granola turned out to be a lot simpler than I had envisioned. I have since come up with at least four unique recipes for my own granola and have started giving jars to friends as gifts.

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The thing about homemade granola is that it is highly customizable for YOU. You as the maker are in charge of the ratios. I like granola with more oats, and less dried fruit and nuts. You can choose the types of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, sweeteners, and fats to add to the oats to make your own unique creation. Unlike baking a cake, the measurements of the ingredients mentioned above do not have to be precise. Just pay attention to the wet ingredients so the oat mixture is coated evenly, but not soggy.

I did post one granola recipe on this neat website/iOS app called Snapguide. You can get step-by-step visual instructions on many of my recipes there, particularly my Gluten-Free Citrus Granola recipe with video. The guide is actually being featured on the app/website right now. Please note that I use a whole lot less sugar than the granola you get at the grocery stores. I always use honey and maple syrup, not granulated white sugar or corn syrup, as a binder and sweetener for granola. I like granola to be less sweet and I can always add local honey or fresh fruit on top. I estimate my granola has about 1.5 teaspoons (6.3 grams) of sugar per 1/2 cup of granola. The sugar comes from the freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and dried cranberries. I am working on trying to reduce the amount of added sugar even further. Most store bought granola has about ~4 teaspoons (14 grams) of sugar per 1/2 cup serving size and the sugar is usually from corn syrup, white sugar or barley malt (gluten).

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Please let me know in the comments about your favorite granola recipes, toppings, and cooking methods. How do you like to eat granola?

Farmers Market Finds: Cusp of Spring

Today was the perfect Spring day. Bright and sunny, without the iconic San Francisco fog. The farmers market was bursting with activity and I feared I was too late for the first crop of the asparagus. Things like asparagus, pasture-raised eggs, and squash blossoms always go super fast at the markets.

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There comes a certain time each quarter of the year when I begin to anticipate the arrival of new crops as I become bored with the current selection. Subtle signs like hearing more birds chirp outside the window and cherry trees blossoming throughout the city, get me thinking about all of the recipes I can revisit. As I walked through the market, I was mesmerized by the subtle changes taking place at each stand.

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The cusp of a seasonal change is the best time at the farmers market. Vegetables such as rainbow chard and broccolini are still available as the pea shoots and asparagus become abundant. This kind of availability can really kick up the creativity in the kitchen and lend to more variety in your meals.

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Nevertheless, I was able to get a few of the remaning stalks and texted my friends to come over for brunch. I made grilled asparagus topped with sautéed onions and fried eggs. We also had a salad made out of roasted watermelon radish, arugula, walnuts, and feta cheese. My husband did the honors of pouring freshly squeezed Cara Cara orange juice.

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Real eggs are supposed to be this rich in hue. Pale, neon yellow eggs are the biggest signs of low-quality, factory-farmed eggs. Eat vibrantly!

What are you anticipating for the Spring season?

Social Eating: Tips To Stay On Track

It’s finally time for another 3-day holiday! Who couldn’t use a break from the normal Monday routine? Though, the holiday is no excuse to completely throw your health goals off track. Adopt these simple rules and you will not have anything to regret (at least not about your health goals)!

With summer and 4th of July upon us, what better excuse (weather permitting) to dust off the barbeque and enjoy some time outside in the fresh air with family and friends. Creamy macaroni salad¸ buttered corn, burgers, and an 8 layer United States flag cake. Sounds delicious, but not good for any health and fitness goals! Following these simple survival tips will save you hundreds of calories and guilt, without you feeling deprived¸ and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

1. Have Healthy Options Available

Bring or make healthy alternatives to processed meats, dips and macaroni salads. This way you can fill up on the healthiest foods first, without worrying about bad calories and unhealthy fats.  Chicken, fish, vegetables and even fruit are delicious cooked on the barbeque. Chicken Kebobs with tons of veggies grilled are delicious and super simple to make. Other alternatives include fresh salads (made with greens, fruits/vegetables, nuts, and a light dressing) and summer fruits (peaches, plums, berries¸ melons).  This could also be a way for you to introduce your family and friends to tasty¸ healthy foods. Other great recipes can be found here¸ here, and here.

2. Small Plates, Big Health Benefits.

If you keep portion sizes reasonable, it’s easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. By using smaller dishes, you can easily avoid “accidentally” eating too many calories. Use a dessert plate or grab one from the children’s table.

3. Mix and Mingle

Choose three or four items you really want to eat, and then step away from the food table so you’re not tempted to graze. You will be less likely to keep mindlessly refilling your plate if you are in the middle of an interesting conversation and standing on the other side of the room from the food. Being with friends and family and having a great time at a BBQ also contributes to overall good health.

4. Go for the Greens

 Skip the chips, bread and crackers. Refined carbohydrates spike your insulin levels, leaving you hungry and craving for more.  Unless it’s amazing, it’s not worth the calories. Make sure to complement any meal with lots of vegetables – especially green leafy veggies like kale or spinach.

5. Make Room for Dessert

Instead of saying “There’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that cake, cookie or ice-cream. Also, remember portion control!

6. Think before you drink

A drink that is not a glass of water has calories and sugar. Drink at least eight ounces of water or so that your thirst is quenched and stomach already feels a little full.  You will be less likely to chug the alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Make your choices worthwhile and sip on a glass of wine or beer.

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Eating Well On A Tight Schedule: Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

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In the last several months, I have had little time do anything else but work on my startup. It’s a really exciting and busy time for Glamour Games, which means I have very little time for Club Dine In. Though, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been eating well. My health is a priority, so I still try to squeeze in 3-4 workouts per week, grocery shop, and cook. I don’t devote my free time for elaborate meals, but stick to the basics. I still cook and eat fresh, unprocessed food that take 30 minutes or less to make. I am also becoming an expert on making large batches of food, so I only have to cook about 3 nights a week. I mostly make Indian curries, sauteed vegetables over soba noodles or quinoa, and hearty salads.

One of my go-to recipes is the One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf I found on the Food 52 website. It has a nice balance of protein (quinoa, pine nuts), healthy fats (walnut oil, pine nuts), carbohydrates (quinoa, pine nuts), vitamins and fiber (kale, chives, quinoa). Good quality walnut oil can be expensive, but it’s worth the investment. Walnut oil is delicious and a little really goes a long way. You can also just use a good quality olive oil, but I really do love the flavor the walnut oil lends to this dish. In this recipe, I substitute chives for scallions often. It really is about what I can find at the farmer’s market. When we are tired of kale, I add in arugula (without steaming it) or spinach. I’ve even added a few sprigs of fresh mint to the mix. It’s easy to make this recipe vegan, by nixing the goat cheese altogether. The texture and taste is lighter without the goat cheese and the walnut flavor really comes thru.

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I refuse to eat takeout food near our office, so I bring in food for us everyday. With this dish, I introduced one of our engineers to quinoa and kale. After that, I decided to bring this dish in every Monday for the team. The pilaf also costs a lot less per serving than fast food. A little prep and planning does go a long way for your budget, time and health!

Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips!