The First USDA Organic Certified Fast Food Restaurant Opened in Pleasanton, California

Sky McCarthy wrote

Chipotle may claim to be GMO-free but the beloved Mexican Grill may have met its match when it comes to revolutionizing organic focused fast food industry.

Last month, The Organic Coup opened its first location in Pleasanton, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco. With a menu that’s 95 percent organic—from the chicken, to vegetables, breads, sides and even sodas– the chicken sandwich chain is now the first USDA-certified organic fast food restaurant in the country.

The use of the word “coup” is no accident—say the chain’s founders who want to change industry standards when it comes to great food fast.

Founder Erica Welton, a former buyer for Costco who has been on the frontlines of following consumer trends, hatched the idea for Organic Coup two years ago during her time on the road.

“We were always on the go and usually the best choice we had for food was Chipotle,” Welton told “They’ve done a really great job on the non-GMO front but somebody needed to take it all the way.”

Welton, who was responsible for introducing the Costco customer to organic chicken, says she noticed a shift in consumer buying habits during her last four years with the discount retailer and knew the industry would only get bigger. She left Costco in January to move full-speed ahead with the Coup but credits valuable lessons learned during her time there.

“Everything from our business model comes from what we learned during our time at Costco,” says Welton adding that includes a streamlined menu.

The Organic Coup offers just three main menu items—all featuring their signature, organic chicken breast which is fried in Nutiva coconut oil: a spicy chicken sandwich with a spicy slaw made from shredded vegetables; a tortilla wrap with the same fixings and a bowl. The only side is organic caramel-coated popcorn drizzled in chocolate. Welton says they want to focus on the menu as is and become the “best” at what they do.

The says her chain is for everyone– from “moms to millennials,” all of whom are becoming more savvy shoppers.

“They don’t want their chicken raised with antibiotics and they don’t want their produce to have a ton of chemicals…this is where the market is headed,” says Welton. She told that she made her kids’ baby food and buys only organic food when possible.

The Organic Coup has an aggressive expansion plan with 25 stores planned to open throughout California next year. Welton has her eye on other big organic-friendly markets including Denver, Seattle, Portland and Manhattan in the near future.

The signature sandwich may carry a hefty price tag at $8.99—Shake Shack’s Chicken Shack is $6.29—but Welton’s revolutionary philosophy extends beyond the quality of her food. Employees at The Chicken Coup take home at least $14 an hour.

Source: Fox News

Chinese-style Stir-fried Tofu with Colourful Vegetables


1 box medium firm tofu
50 g corn
50 g green peas
30 g carrot
30 g Chinese dried mushroom, soaked in water until softened
30 g fresh bamboo shoot


1/4 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
dash ground white pepper


1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water


  1. Cut tofu, carrot, mushroom, bamboo shoots into dices. Parboil in boiling water.
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add Chinese mushroom and stir-fry briefly. Add the rest of the ingredients and seasoning. Cooking for 5 minutes.
  3. Mix thickening ingredients and add to the tofu mixture. Toss to combine. Remove to serving platter when the sauce thickens. Serve hot.

Source: Vegetarian-style Tofu

A Brief History of Tofu

In Asia, people have been using soybeans as a source of protein for thousands of years. The first known Chinese record of this bean, Glycine ussuriensis, the progenitor of the major current cultivar, Glycine max, is recorded in the Chinese materia medicaBen Cao Gang Mu. It is attributed to the (mythical) Emperor Shen-Nong in 2383 B.C.

Not everyone agrees that this early record is accurate. T. Hymowitz, in a 1970 article in Economic Botany, reported that soybeans first emerged about the 11th century BCE. They were called shu and were repeatedly referred to in the Shijing also known as The Book of Songs. This argument aside, soybeans were one of the five sacred grains essential to Chinese civilization; the others: rice, wheat, and two kinds of millet (sometimes referred to as millet and barley).

Soybeans have been called ‘nature’s miracle protein.’ As a matter of fact, protein is the key word when describing them. Historians say that China’s survival has been possible because of these beans; they are particularly high in protein and in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that cannot be synthesized by man. Soybeans are a versatile legume. They are used for oil, meal, flour, milk, sauce, sprouts and cheese. Yes, cheese, or what some Chinese call tofu.

What is tofu? One person said that it sounds like ‘a karate chop,’ another calls it ‘slabs of light cheese floating in water.’ For those unfamiliar with it, tofu is a product made from one of the oldest of crops cultivated by man, the soybean. Its curd or soy cheese is called tofu by the Chinese and is a product made by boiling soy milk, adding a precipitating agent such as calcium sulfate, separating out the precipitate or curds, and finally, pressing the solids into molds. The resulting item is a very smooth textured food resembling and sometimes called cheese. This tofu contains highly digestible protein with little carbohydrate.

The Chinese refer to tofu as ‘meat without the bones’ or ‘meat of the fields.’ And just as one does with meat, they use it in dozens of forms and in hundreds, perhaps thousands of recipes. Tofu is a culinary chameleon that takes on flavors and seasonings of anything with which it is cooked. It is a low calorie, low sodium, cholesterol free, protein rich, easily digestible, and nutritious vegetable source of all essential amino acids.

Theories abound as to when this coagulated form of soybeans was first produced. It’s use predates the common era. Early indications are that it was known about the second century with credit given to Liu An, a Chinese king of the Han dynasty. In the Qin and Han dynasties, China had close ties with Japan and Korea. Introduction of the soybean and of its coagulated soft white mass to both of these countries began about that time, maybe sooner, perhaps along with exchanges of agricultural experiences. Its use in Japan increased considerably between the 3rd and 8th centuries, the rise credited to returning Buddhist missionaries who had studied in China for some time.

In Japan, the first written mention of soybeans was in 712 CE. In the Nara and Heian periods, respectively, (710 to 749 and 795 to 1185 CE), Japanese Buddhists, whose religion forbids consumption of animal flesh, used soybeans in many ways. They considered this a temple food. As such, they brought soybeans and later tofu, from the temple to the bowls of the common man. Thereafter, in Japan the use of tofu increased appreciably; the reason, a very popular 1782 book: Tofu HyAkuchin or The 100 Flowers of Tofu that outlined preparation and manufacture.

Extensive research into the early history of tofu has been done by a Japanese sinologist, Osamu Shinoda. He is credited with finding the earliest written Chinese reference in a document Tao Ku, written some time between 900-999 C.E., in the Ch’ing I Lu. An unpublished manuscript, circa 1183, is the earliest known written reference to this food item in Japan. This manuscript, also located by Shinoda, is a diary of a Shinto priest of the Kasuga shrine in Nara, Japan. It was written with the characters ‘to’ (for the T’ang dynasty, 618 – 907 CE) and ‘fu’ (for mark, sign). This may be when the name tofu became popular.

The first western reference is credited to John Saris who mentions tofu in a log of a trip to Japan, circa 1613. In 1665, Friar Domingo Navarrette told Europeans about this ‘common and cheap sort of food … eaten by the Emperor and the meanest Chinese.’ His early European reference is to tofu and its manufacture. The well-known Swedish biologist, Carl Linnaeus also wrote about this legume, he listed soybeans in an inventory of plants grown in Holland in 1737.

You may think American interest in soybeans is a 20th century phenomena; it is not. Records show Samuel Bowen planting the bean near Savannah, Georgia in 1765. Benjamin Franklin wrote of them in a letter to John Bartram, dated 1770 and described how to make tofu. This letter, published in A. H. Smyth’s Writings of Benjamin Franklin, documents that he sent some along with planting and cheesemaking (meaning tofu preparation) advice.

The above references are but a few of the more than one hundred written records outside China, pre-1900. A post 1900 item of interest, is that tofu was first manufactured commercially in the United States in 1915 by the Quang Hop Company in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Should you visit that city, this company founded in 1906, still exists.

Many decades after soybeans were introduced to the United States, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the first agricultural bulletin devoted to soybeans (1899). One person responsible for this interest was William J. Morse. He helped develop the soybean industry encouraging Americans to grow and use them. Morse worked for the USDA, wrote numerous articles about the planting and manufacturing of soybeans, wrote a classic book, The Soybean with Dr Charles Piper, and founded the American Soybean Association.

Clearly, people listened to Morse and others because more than half of the world’s one hundred million tons of soybeans are grown in the United States. Growers call them a ‘Cinderella crop’ while economists refer to them either as America’s ‘balance of payments’ or as the ‘queen of the commodity exchange.’

Did you know that soybeans are an important oil source that makes up one-fourth of the world’s supply of fats and oils. As a bean and as the oil, they have great export value. This is important because the United States uses only a small percent of this crop for human consumption and a reasonable amount for fodder.

After 1900, soy product use was expanded. One interesting story is that of a Dr. Harry Miller who encouraged the Chinese to drink more soy milk and more specifically to feed it to their babies. With his son, he set up the world’s first soy dairy. It was in Shanghai, the year 1936. They sold soy milk in various flavors and it became very popular. Unfortunately, some months later, the plant was destroyed by bombs, after which, the Millers returned to Ohio where they began another soy milk dairy.

Speaking of interesting items, did you know that Henry Ford developed and encouraged American use of soybeans. He supported both industrial and food usage. One example is that in 1935, one bushel of soybeans was used in the manufacture of every Ford automobile, incorporated into the plastic.

Today, soybeans and the curd made from them are used in many processes, most related to foods. While its use is not mainstream, there is increased use among non-Orientals. This can be credited in large part to William Shurtleff and his wife, Akiko Aoyagi. They helped the Americans appreciate this inexpensive and versatile protein source.

Shurtleff is a leading authority on the soybean. His personal interest and commitment to its use inspired him to develop the Soyfoods Center in Lafayette, California and to design a database called ‘Soyascan.’ This database has thousands of references about the soy bean from 950 CE to the present. A few recent additions to Soyascan were located in my own cookbook collection. Shurtleff read about it in a volume I authored: Chinese Cookbooks; an Annotated English Language Compendium/bibliography. From these cookbooks, I was able to advise him of the first English-language cookbook with a recipe for making tofu. It was in The Chinese Cook Book by Chan Shiu Wong published in New York in 1917. Shurtleff’s name may be familiar. It should be because he and his wife wrote several volumes including one that sold thousands and thousands of copies, The Book of Tofu. It is a valuable tome that includes history, manufacture and five hundred recipes, most from Japan, some from China, Korea and Taiwan.

Each day, tofu, the traditional backbone of oriental cuisine, gains new devotees. Not quite as often, new products are designed for its use including ice cream. One brand, ‘Tofutti’ is quite popular. Informants advise that it has been franchised in Russia, and there and here it is both profitable and popular.

It should be noted that the idea of freezing bean curd is not new. Iced Bean Curd is one of Yuan Mei’s recipes from the Xi Yuan Cookery Book written near the end of the 18th century. This book, by a poet, government official and author, has more than three hundred recipes; a few are about doufu. Be aware that the Iced Bean Curd recipe is meant to be served hot; the doufu in it is first frozen, then after a textural change, is prepared for use.

Tofu is used in ice cream, as an iced dessert, in items like bread, wafers, and chocolate chip cookies, and in dozens of entrees from lasagna to meatloaf; it is even used in some cheesecakes. In addition, it is found in non-food products from shampoos to soaps. When pressed, the ‘curds of cheese’ have lots of popularity be they called beancurd, tofu, doufu, age (deep fried tofu), yaki-dofu (grilled tofu), yuba (bean curd sheets), oboro (soft curds), or ganmo (tofu burgers). No matter the language (many of the above are Japanese), in the year 1990, the sales of tofu and related products exceeded five hundred million dollars in the United States alone. They have risen each year since.

The tofu vendor, called ‘a poor man with a good heart,’and the beautiful but poor girl called ‘beancurd beauty,’ are names used in China; in America and in other Western nations, the name clearly is: ‘miracle in the marketplace.’

Should you want to try your hand at making tofu, try the following recipe:

Home-made Tofu


2 cups dried soy beans (about a pound)
1 heaping Tablespoon Epsom salts (or use Nigeri or another coagulant)


  1. Soak the beans in eight to ten cups of water overnight.
  2. Rinse well. (You can pour off the soaking liquid and use it for soup, it is high in nutrients.)
  3. Take one cup of beans and 3 cups of cold water and put in a blender, liquify this and repeat until all the soaked beans are made into liquid pulp.
  4. Mix the Epsom salts or other coagulant with 1/4 cup warm water to dissolve it.
  5. Boil the pulpy water for three minutes. Remove from the heat and let the temperature cool to about 190 degrees F. then slowly stir in the dissolved coagulant water. Let this rest 10-15 minutes.
  6. Gently pour through a double layer of cheesecloth, squeeze the curd very, very gently then mold it to shape and let drain two hours. If you want a firmer curd, put a light weight (wrapped in plastic wrap) on the cheesecloth wrapped curd.
  7. Cut into squares and gently place them into a glass or ceramic container filled with cold water. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Note: Store tofu in the refigerator and change the water daily. Keep it tightly covered and it will stay about three or four days. If each time you change the water you add a little non-iodized salt (i.e.: kosher salt) to it, then it can stay a week.

Source: Science and Art of Chinese Cuisine

Read more about tofu, soy and soyfoods at Soyinfo Center . . . . .

Does A Vegetarian Diet Contribute to Climate Change?

Marie Ellis wrote

Health care professionals have proclaimed the health benefits of eating a vegetarian diet in recent years. But a new study questions such a diet’s effects on the environment, with researchers warning that consuming more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood could be harmful to the environment.

The study is published in the journal Environment Systems and Decisions and was conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.

As part of the US government’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, health officials detailed diet recommendations to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which called for the adoption of plant-based diets as a way to improve public health.

Additionally, a study published earlier this year suggested consuming a vegetarian diet is linked to reduced risks of colorectal cancer.

However, despite the touted health benefits of a vegetarian diet, researchers from the latest study have found that following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits and vegetables will be harmful to the environment because these foods have high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.

Study author Prof. Paul Fischbeck says eating lettuce “is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” noting that many common vegetables use “more resources per calorie than you would think.”

Interestingly, he says vegetables such as eggplant, celery and cucumbers require more resources than pork or chicken.

‘Complex relationship between diet and environment’

Prof. Fischbeck and colleagues – Michelle Tom, PhD student, and Prof. Chris Hendrickson – analyzed the food supply chain in order to assess how the US obesity epidemic is affecting the environment.

In detail, they looked at the growing, processing and transporting of food – as well as food sales and household storage – to determine how they impact resources by using energy and water, and how they impact GHG emissions.

Results revealed that keeping the obesity epidemic in check by eating fewer calories positively impacts the environment by reducing energy and water use, and lowering GHG emissions by around 9%.

On the flip side, however, eating the healthier foods as recommended by the US Dietary Guidelines – which includes fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood – negatively impacts the environment by increasing energy use by 38%, water use by 10% and GHG emissions by 6%.

“Amidst the current overweight and obesity epidemic in the USA, the Dietary Guidelines provide food and beverage recommendations that are intended to help individuals achieve and maintain healthy weight,” write the authors.

However, Michelle Tom notes that there is another side to eating healthily:

“There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment. What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment. That’s important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future.”

Then again, what is good for the environment is not always best for our health. Medical News Today recently reported on a study that suggested avoiding meat could reduce kidney cancer risks.

Additionally, a report published recently by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested eating processed meats can cause colorectal cancer.

Source: Medical News Today

Eat Your Veggies to Cut Breast-cancer Risk

Leslie Beck wrote . . . . .

You’ve heard it over and over: Eat your vegetables and plenty of them. A vegetable-packed diet has been linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cataract, macular degeneration and cognitive decline.

Now, a study published online last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the benefits of eating more vegetables extend to breast-cancer prevention.

The research, part of a larger research project called EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), explored the association between vegetable and fruit intake and breast-cancer subtypes, hormone receptor-positive and hormone receptor-negative cancers.

Doctors test breast-cancer cells to see if they have hormone receptors. If breast-cancer cells have hormone receptors, the cancer is said to be hormone receptor-positive. If cancer cells do not have hormone receptors, it is called hormone receptor-negative breast cancer.

For the study, European researchers followed 335,054 healthy women, average age 51, to determine the association between vegetable and fruit intake and breast-cancer risk. Upon entering the study, participants were asked about their usual diet over the previous 12 months.

After 11.5 years of follow-up, 10,197 women developed breast cancer.

Compared to women with the lowest intake of vegetables (one serving per day), those who ate the most (at least 5.5 servings daily) were 13-per-cent less likely to develop overall breast cancer.

The protective effect of vegetables, though, was most apparent for hormone receptor-negative breast cancer. High vegetable consumers had a 26-per-cent reduced risk of this type of cancer compared to women who ate few vegetables. Fruit intake was not associated with breast-cancer risk.

Hormone receptor-negative breast cancers don’t respond to hormonal treatment and are typically more aggressive than hormone receptor-positive tumours.

It’s thought that phytochemicals in vegetables, many of which differ from those in fruit, may reduce the level of proteins involved in the development of hormone receptor-negative breast cancer. Fibre in vegetables may also play a role.

These new findings are consistent with a large study called the Pooling Project, published in 2013. Among nearly one million women followed for 11 to 20 years in 20 observational studies, high vegetable consumption was tied to a 20- to 25-per-cent lower risk of hormone receptor-negative breast cancer.

Both studies, observational in nature, don’t prove that a high vegetable diet guards against breast cancer. Their findings do, however, strongly suggest there’s a connection and provide yet another reason to boost your vegetable intake.

Aim to eat at least five vegetable servings each day. One serving is equivalent to one-half cup of cooked or raw vegetables or one cup of salad greens. The key to meeting your daily quota: fitting vegetables into every meal – including breakfast – and snacks.

Seven easy ways (beyond salad) to eat more vegetables

Try the following to eat a minimum of five daily vegetable servings (i.e., at least 2.5 cups of cooked or raw vegetables).

1. Include them in breakfast. Add chopped bell pepper, mushrooms and green onion to scrambled eggs and omelettes. Stir shredded carrot and zucchini into muffin, pancake and waffle batters.

2. Blend them into smoothies. Make a green smoothie by adding raw or cooked spinach or kale. (Compared to raw, cooked greens offer more antioxidants and minerals.)

3. Fortify meals. Add chopped carrot and celery to chili and soups (homemade and store-bought). Top pizza with roasted vegetables or garnish with baby arugula.

4. Jazz them up. Splash raspberry or champagne vinegar over steamed spinach. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over steamed or roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

5. Add spinach to (just about) everything. Throw an entire container of baby spinach into soups, stews, casseroles, chili and pasta sauces. For a change, try chopped kale.

6. Use leafy greens for bread. Wrap lettuce leaves around tuna, salmon and chicken salad for a low-carb sandwich.

7. Replace white carbs with vegetables. Top shepherd’s pie with mashed cooked cauliflower instead of potatoes.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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