Dairy: Oy, It's Complicated
Last week’s op-ed by Mark Bittman made its way around my circles in seconds. Bittman validated what many of us in the natural foods arena have been saying for a long while — that dairy doesn’t necessarily do the body good. The same can be said for wheat, corn, soy, meat and many other high-allergen foods. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to give them up, and it doesn’t mean that all sources of dairy and producers of dairy are inherently bad. Just read the comments (all 772 of them at the time of writing this article) and you will see that Bittman has opened up a hot topic here.
I’ll try to avoid such intense controversy — but I do recommend reading Bittman’s article and discussing these topics amongst yourselves: Jews and Lactose; Jews and Food Allergies, and the ongoing debates surrounding them. Many who might not tolerate dairy in its unfermented form (milk, cream, most butters) might very well tolerate fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, cheeses, etc.). As a natural foods chef I always encourage my clients to consume the highest quality dairy available to them — be it raw or low heat pasteurized, un-homogenized if possible and always organic.
When the Hazon Cross-USA riders head into Minnesota and then through Wisconsin they will certainly eat their share of dairy — Wisconsin is the dairy state, after all. They are visiting Flavor Ridge farm in Altura, Minnesota where they will learn about organic dairy practices and take a tour of the Nelson family’s amazing farm. They will certainly have discussions, similar to the ones Bittman wrote about the sustainability of dairy, of the connection between eating dairy and eating meat (male cows are not needed for milking, after all) and they will likely taste some delicious food.
As they bike along, I’m sure they will benefit from some extra fuel for the road. This is not a dairy recipe exclusively, but it does use dairy and more importantly, it’s a family favorite. I thought I’d share it with you. If you’re allergic to dairy, you can absolutely use non-dairy equivalents. You control the sugar (I’ve reduced it from the original recipe by almost half!), the type of dried fruit, and the quality of your dairy — and while they bake, why not start up the discussion on what you think of Bittman’s article.
Homemade Oat & Yogurt Bars
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup yogurt (preferably whole milk and organic, but your choice)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1 cup mixed dried fruit, raisins or cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1) Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil or grease lightly with butter. Set aside.
2) Heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, egg, oil, milk and vanilla; mix well.
3) In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix and add to wet ingredients.
4) Stir in oats, dried fruit and coconut.
5) Spread dough into 9x13 baking dish and even out with a spatula or your hands.
6) Bake 28-32 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool before cutting into bars. Store covered or freeze. Grab a few for your next ride!
Elisheva Margulies is the founder of Eat With Eli, a natural foods culinary service based in New York City. Eli is the chair of the 2012 Hazon Food Conference and looks forward to seeing many of you there.