Summer Tomato Holiday

by | Dec 20, 2011

Summer Tomato will be taking a break for the rest of the year. In the meantime, feel free to keep up with me on Twitter @summertomato, Google+, Facebook, Instagram and the like.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I’ll see you in a couple weeks.

xoxo Darya

p.s. I’ll also still be blogging at ZocDoc over the holidays.

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New Year’s resolutions, inflammation & clearing acne – Episode 17 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Dec 19, 2011

Tonight is the final episode of Summer Tomato Live for 2011. Tune in here at 6pm PST for a live chat with me about food, health and New Year’s resolutions.

To participate click the red “Join event” button and login with Twitter or your Vokle account. The show is now open and free to everyone, so no password is necessary.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

If I don’t get to your question or you’d like a more in depth follow up, you can Ask Me or subscribe to the Tomato Slice newsletter.

Click here to see past episodes or subscribe on iTunes (video podcast or audio only).

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Book Review: Folks, This Ain’t Normal

by | Dec 19, 2011

Joel Salatin is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Self-described as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer,” you’re probably more familiar with him as the “beyond organic” owner of Polyface Farm featured in Michael Pollan’s landmark book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc. (note: if you haven’t read/watched those do so immediately).

I sat down with Joel recently to talk about his latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. On the outside, Joel does not appear abnormal in the least. He was well dressed, well spoken, extremely polite and fiercely intelligent—a gentleman in every way. But once you get him talking you quickly see that his ideas make him an anomaly in modern society, not because they are far-fetched, but because they come from so many different sides of the political and societal spectrums. People are rarely this thoughtful and well-rounded, and after finishing the book this is the point I keep coming back to.

You are almost certain to disagree with some of Joel’s ideas. Folks, This Ain’t Normal runs the gamut in controversial topics. He touches on politics, religion, the environment (including global warming), sustainable agriculture, big business, peak oil, taxes, protectionism, meat eating, government regulation, women’s role in farming (he told me to my face he’s “sexist”) and likely a few more subjects that will get your blood boiling. But this is not your usual liberal-conservative political banter.

Joel is a thinker, and just a few pages into the book it is clear that he has a more intimate understanding of these topics than most experts and advocates could even dream of. Folks, This Ain’t Normal is by far the best ecology lesson I’ve ever had, and I try to be a responsible person and keep up on sustainable food issues. While most people discuss this subject academically, Joel actually knows how an ecosystem works, because he works with one every day back at Polyface Farm. For example, despite the cries of some environmentalists to do away with cows and replace them with tofu (aka soy beans), Joel explains in detail why a tillage-based crop like soy depletes soil, while a grass-based system of herbivore feeding builds and protects soil, and is necessary for environmental sustainability.

Food politics is another topic where Joel’s position runs flatly against conventional wisdom. Most of us in the food movement agree that Monsanto is the devil, and Joel is no different. But while most foodists lean liberal and think more regulation is the answer, Joel explains why those very regulations are what protect the big companies and put small farms like his out of business (exactly what Monsanto wants). So contrary to what you might guess, his position on this topic is strictly laissez faire.

As mentioned above, there’s almost certainly something that Joel writes that will offend you. (Yes, he takes more than a few shots at urban farmers market goers with award winning poodles—Joel, in my defense I at least use my fancy kitchen and make my own sauerkraut). But I’ll argue that this is precisely why you should read the book. When crafted by a thoughtful, intelligent person, opposing viewpoints are among the most valuable thing in a thinking person’s arsenal. Even if he doesn’t convince you to change your opinion, at least it forces you to question your beliefs, think a little harder and refine your position. There are no worthwhile topics that don’t have valuable insights from both sides of the fence. Thinking is good for you, and it is something that is sadly laking in our current political environment.

In this spirit, the types of people who would certainly benefit from reading Folks, This Ain’t Normal include: vegetarians, carnivores, environmentalists, McDonald’s patrons, farmers market shoppers, Chipotle patrons, Tea Partiers, liberals, Christians, scientists, atheists, politicians, big farmers, small farmers, city folks, country folks, the 99% and the 1%. In short, everyone who eats.

What Joel wants us to understand is that it isn’t him who is historically abnormal. What’s not normal is having no idea where food and water come from, nor how to keep them healthy and safe. In other words, it is the rest of us who have lost the basic life skills necessary for survival. This, he argues, is what isn’t normal.

Grade: A

Note: The audio version of the book is particularly wonderful, since Joel reads it himself.

What’s your normal?


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For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 16, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week my biggest fear about GMO has come true, why your kids might be eating Twinkies for breakfast and 101 reasons to walk more and take the stairs.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week


What inspired you this week?

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Book Review: Wheat Belly

by | Dec 14, 2011

I had no idea what to expect from Wheat Belly, the new book by Dr. William Davis. Several of you had asked me about it so I picked it up, not knowing much about the author or its content.

Davis is apparently a medical doctor who treats patients for heart disease and other ailments using a wheat-free diet. Though this isn’t particularly revolutionary I was immediately intrigued by the first chapter of Wheat Belly, which gives a detailed explanation of how modern wheat is different both physically and genetically from the wheat “our grandparents grew up eating.”

How interesting!

He explains that selective breeding and genetic manipulation to increase wheat yield have dramatically changed the chromosome number of modern wheat compared to earlier versions grown before the 1950s. This, he claims, fundamentally changed the molecular properties of wheat and we are supposedly not yet adapted to the new product.

I haven’t gone through all the plant biology to determine if any of these claims hold water, but the premise is fascinating. If modern wheat were really a primary cause of the health issues plaguing Western society, not only would gluten be off the hook (once I started reading I thought this was going to be another gluten-free diet book), but all other grains would be back on the table, even older versions of wheat.

Had Wheat Belly gone on to further explore the differences between modern and traditional wheat and, most importantly, how they affect people differently, then this could have been a groundbreaking book. Unfortunately, that isn’t what this book is really about.

Davis doesn’t present a shred of evidence that modern wheat has a worse (or even different) impact on human health than pre-industrial wheat. The only anecdotal case he makes is that he personally found a farmer who grows traditional wheat, made a loaf of bread, ate it himself and seemed to be fine. This is not science.

Instead the rest of the book focuses on how his patients have benefited from removing wheat (presumably modern) from their diets, a premise that is much easier to swallow but brings us right back to Dr. Atkins. Wheat is the most abundant refined carbohydrate, and refined carbohydrates are almost certainly the biggest contributor to human health problems on the planet. Is it any wonder that eliminating the major one—not to mention the ingredient that is most often paired with sugar—would make people feel better?

When push comes to shove, the bulk of Davis’ argument is not about modern wheat at all, but about the Glycemic Index (GI) of foods (he’s sure to point out that the GI of wheat is even higher than sugar). His prescription is not just wheat elimination or even gluten elimination, but removal of all grains, sugars and starchy foods like potatoes and even beans.

Haven’t I heard this somewhere before?

To his credit, Davis promotes a relatively healthy diet. He discourages the use of gluten-free flour substitutes because for the most part they are just another form of unhealthy food. Though these ingredients can obviously play a role in the lives of people with serious gluten sensitivities, I agree that they do not qualify as health food just because they do not contain gluten. But extrapolating from processed carbohydrates to nutritious whole foods like beans and potatoes that most of us can eat without increasing risk of disease or obesity is less than helpful.

But all my criticisms aside, I think there are some valuable messages in Wheat Belly worth considering. Gluten (and maybe just modern wheat, who knows) is known to be one of the most inflammatory substances consumed by humans and many people would likely benefit from cutting it out. Davis recommends eliminating wheat for 4-8 weeks to see if there is an improvement in symptoms.

If you regularly struggle with any of the following issues, a temporary gluten-free experiment may be worth it for you:

  • fatigue
  • depression
  • arthritis
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • autoimmune problems
  • attention deficit disorder
  • hair loss
  • bone loss
  • anemia

And there are probably many more. The nice thing is that while eliminating gluten for 4-8 weeks does take some effort, it is still a relatively simple, non-invasive way to troubleshoot health problems and potentially improve your life dramatically. If nothing improves, you can always go back to your bagels and Cheerios. It is important to keep in mind though, that many symptoms require an extended period without gluten before improvement is seen.

To summarize, I really wish Davis had done a better job of convincing me that it is modern wheat and not processed foods in general that is particularly problematic in the Western diet. From that perspective, this book is just another Atkins diet with a better title. That said, I do think Davis does a good job of illustrating how many ways patients could benefit from a temporary wheat elimination. The prescription is easy and harmless, and definitely worth trying if you have health problems you and your doctor can’t seem to solve.

Grade: B-

What did you think of Wheat Belly?

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Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List 2011

by | Dec 12, 2011

Photo by WTL photos

It’s time to start holiday shopping for all the wonderful healthy foodies in your life. My goal this year was to be extra creative and come up with an interesting and useful mix of items that I personally adore. I also tried to hit a range of price points.

Hopefully there’s some stuff in here you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Happy shopping!

The 2011 Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List

1. Fitbit ($99)

Paying more attention to my daily activity has been the most positive behavioral change I’ve made this year. Since the Jawbone Up is no longer an option, my pedometer endorsement this holiday season goes to the awesome Fitbit pedometer.

Though the web interface and social features aren’t the greatest, there is a beautiful simplicity in the Fitbit’s ability to show you your daily steps at the push of a button. The latest version also shows you how many flights you’ve climbed, a nice feature for those of us who pride ourselves on taking the stairs whenever possible. I wear mine everywhere.

2. Harsch Gairtopf Fermenting Crock Pot – 5 Liter ($119.95)

What better way to get more probiotics into your diet than doing your own lactofermentation? We’ve been making our own sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi at home using this 5 liter fermenting crock pot. The biggest worry when doing this stuff on your own is contamination. This device is clever because you fill the seal with water, which allows gas to escape but doesn’t allow any air inside.

We’ve tried several methods of fermentation at home, and this is by far our favorite. It is way easier than it sounds, and the sauerkraut we’ve made is superior to anything we’ve ever found at the store or the farmers market. Bye bye stomach aches.

3. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Ellix Katz ($14.48)

If you do decide to dabble in home fermentation (or are just curious and want to learn more before trying it out) you should also pick up this book. It was recommended to me personally by Michael Pollan, and is the definitive and most accessible book on the subject.

4. Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, by Nathan Myhrvoid ($450.15)

Arguably the most amazing food book ever created, Modernist Cuisine combines breathtaking photography with cutting edge science and foolproof recipes. Created by the former CTO of Microsoft, this ostentatiously 1% item is the epitome of awesome for the special foodie in your life.

5. Bodum Bistro Automatic Gravity Activated Salt and Pepper Grinder ($39.74)

This is admittedly a little ridiculous, but the way it works is clever and I think it would make a great gift, particularly for guys getting into cooking (my boyfriend thinks it’s the coolest thing in our entire the kitchen). Basically it is both a salt and pepper grinder that creates perfectly calibrated seasoning by just tilting it over your food. It works really well and I’ve liked it way more than I expected.

6. Sleep Mate ($54.95)

Few things are as valuable as a good night’s sleep. If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, particularly if you’re sensitive to background noise, the Sleep Mate really can help by creating soothing, ambient background noise. It’s like a blanket for your ears.

7. Withings WiFi Body Scale ($159)

When this scale first came out a couple years ago I thought it was a joke. Why would anyone want their scale to tweet out their weight to the world? But while the social feature got the most attention in the press, it is an optional feature (I opted out) and the scale is actually really cool.

The Withings scale talks wirelessly to your computer, creating simple to understand graphical displays of your weight and body fat over time. It can even tell the difference between different people in the house just by stepping on it. I was skeptical of the body fat readings, but I’ve found them to be very similar to measurements I’ve had from hydrostatic testing. And as long as you weigh yourself at the same time every day in the same outfit (aka first thing in the morning in your birthday suit) then the readings are consistent and can be a great way to track progress over time.

8. Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Thermo Tea/Coffee Cup (set of 2, $14)

Not only do these insulated cups look amazing, they keep your tea or coffee remarkably warm without heating the glass enough to burn your hands. We swear by them.

9. Sous Vide Supreme ($399)

By far one of the coolest cooking methods around, sous vide gives you the ultimate control when cooking meats and vegetables. It’s pricey (though it has dropped about $100 in the past year), but if you can afford it and are obsessed with food it is a fabulous addition to the kitchen.

Related: You may also want to pick up the vacuum sealer ($129.99) and some vacuum bags ($19.99) to get started.

10. Nesco 700 Watt Food Dehydrator ($59.49)

Baked kale chips are good, but dehydrated ones are even better and last longer. With a food dehydrator you can make your own dried fruit, vegetables and even beef jerky to your own preferences (cranberries without sugar!). Definitely go with this higher-powered device over the cheaper ones, you’ll get more consistent results in way less time.

Need more ideas? Check out last year’s list.

What do you want for Christmas?

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Feeding A Crowd: 10 Tips for Healthy Entertaining

by | Dec 9, 2011

Photo by star5112

Sarah Newkirk is a New Hampshire native, Brooklyn booster, brand strategist, aspiring nurse practitioner, eternal student, inept yoga enthusiast and reformed picky eater committed to healthy living. She just started blogging at thelivelongjune.tumblr.com.

Feeding A Crowd: 10 Tips for Healthy Entertaining

The holiday season is in full swing, which means many of us are stepping up and taking our turn at hosting a party. It’s also a time of year when culinary temptations are kicked up a notch, leading many of us to stray from the healthy habits we’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

When you’re in charge of the menu, why not offer your guests healthier options and even a nudge in the right direction? Many people secretly welcome the chance to take a night off from overindulgence. When done right, they won’t notice anything other than the amazing food and great time.

Here are some tips on how to prepare and serve up a healthy, satisfying and festive spread when entertaining large groups:

1. Plan ahead

Even if you’re comfortable in the kitchen, cooking for larger groups than you’re used to can be intimidating. But really it’s easier than you think, and with careful planning you’ll pull it off without a hitch. Do some reconnaissance early, and plan a well-balanced meal around what’s fresh and in season. Concentrate on foods that hold up well and can be served at room temperature. Schedule in a test run the weekend before if you’re making a recipe for the first time.

2. Do in advance

Do as much of the prepping and cooking as you can in the days leading up to the big event. On the day of, you should be focused on reheating (slowly, so that you don’t go overboard and restart the cooking process), assembly and other final touches. This will help you keep on schedule and ensure you’re not a cranky mess when your guests show up.

Braised meats, baked beans and most soups actually taste better on the second or third day after they are cooked. One of my staples is a main-course chickpea and leek soup with pancetta that holds up extremely well for at least three days. All I do the day I serve it is reheat, grill some bread and make a green salad.

Two days before the party, make your dips and sauces and cook your beans and grains. One day before, cut and roast your veggies and make grain-based salads like this one. Shrimp cocktail (a party classic for a reason) should be cooked the day before to allow it time to thoroughly chill in the fridge.

Most desserts can be prepared a day or two in advance, then either served chilled or baked off after the party is underway. A few weeks ago I made this dessert for a few friends (adding an extra apple and skipping the whipped cream). It took me less than 10 minutes to warm up the apples and layer the two components into serving glasses as everyone was finishing up dinner.

Some things need to be done the day of the party, like frying, dressing a fresh vegetable salad and anything involving foods that visibly oxidize (e.g. avocados and raw apples.) Keep this list of tasks manageable and you won’t get in over your head.

3. Serve reasonable quantities of food

Most people make way too much food when entertaining, usually out of a combination of poor planning (see tip 1) and the fear of being judged a bad host in the unlikely event the food runs out. Resist the temptation. You’re not doing your guests any favors by making them feel obligated to stuff their faces. Develop a realistic estimate of what you’ll need based on the anticipated headcount, and proceed accordingly. If serving buffet style, set out reasonable quantities and refill when the food runs low.

4. Make it yourself

In a convenience-driven world, taking the time to make things from scratch showcases your love of food and makes your guests feel special. When they know it’s homemade, people will slow down and savor their food, helping with portion control.

Even if you’re relying on prepared food to make things easier (nothing wrong with that), try your hand at making your own dressings, toppings and condiments. They’ll lend a homemade (or, dare I say, Semi-Homemade – hey, it’s not a terrible concept) feel to the entire dish, impress your guests with your rock-star kitchen skills, and can often be made days or even weeks in advance. One of my favorites is ketchup: so much better than commercial versions, and I’ll bet you’ll prefer making it, like I do, with a fraction of the sugar.

5. Let your guests know what’s on the menu

If your guests are left to guess whether a full dinner will be served or if the appetizers are the meal, they’ll probably go to town on the cheese platter and regret it later. Make a menu card and set it on the serving table at the beginning of the night, and let the anticipation build.

6. Server lighter, more nutritious appetizers

Appetizers laden with empty calories are dietary Kryptonite, setting the stage for a night of overeating. Start the evening with a more satisfying mix of fats and proteins that won’t overwhelm the appetite. Spiced nuts, black bean dip, guacamole and devilled eggs are all great options.

Include more decadent options in the mix if that’s what you love to cook, just make them filling, nutrient-rich and worth the indulgence. Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with cheese and almonds have been known to cause normally even-keeled guests to nearly collapse with delight, and they’re rich enough that most people will consume in moderation. Anything that good has a place in my world and on my menu as a special-occasion treat.

Bread, crackers and chips are a popular foundation for many appetizers, but are typically (not always) low in nutritional value. If they’re nothing more than an edible personal serving platter and not adding much flavor or texture, consider swapping in lighter options. Some to try: cucumber cups, lettuce leaves, apple slices, water crackers or toothpick skewers.

7. Offer non-alcoholic beverage options

Rather than make hydration seekers rifle around in your kitchen, set out a pitcher of water and appropriate glassware alongside the liquor. Guests with a morning meeting, unannounced early-stage pregnancy or just the desire to take it easy will appreciate a non-alcoholic option that is still fun. I mix seltzer with cherry syrup and add limes for a homemade cherry-lime ricky.

8. Give healthier options an upgrade

Treats do a good job at selling themselves, while healthy options might need some help to compete. Think contrasting colors and textures, unexpected sweet-and-savory combinations, and big flavors that satisfy in smaller quantities. Remember back to something truly exceptional you ate at a restaurant, and search online for a similar recipe. Put some time into creating food that’s as visually appealing as it is delicious.

Make it accessible as well: any guest who respects the integrity of a host’s upholstery (not to mention his or her own clothing) will shy away from food that’s awkward to eat. Cut your veggies bite-sized, pre-slice the meat into easily speared pieces, and serve sauces on the side.

9. Serve the food earlier …

Food at parties is often served later than most people are used to eating (largely due to lack of planning on the part of the host—see tip 1 again). This means your guests are probably drinking on an empty stomach, which speeds alcohol absorption. Late-night eating is also linked to weight gain.

Be nice to your guests and start putting the food out by 8 (7 if you live in an early-dining town.)

10. … and put it away when the time comes

After it’s been a few hours and everyone’s had ample time to eat, bring the food to the kitchen and pack it up. I set my iPhone alarm as a reminder, as I’m normally enjoying my own party too much at that point to remember. Don’t worry about the late arrivals; odds are they double-booked and already dined elsewhere.

You’ll get a head start on clean up and save your guests the indignity of picking at an already picked-over spread after a few too many cocktails (I’ve certainly been there).

At its best, this time of year is about being generous, slowing down and enjoying time with the people you care about. I feel fortunate to have enough food to share. When it’s your turn to host, good luck and have fun.

What are your tricks and tips for healthy entertaining?

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UPdate: Jawbone Up is still really cool, but far from perfect

by | Dec 5, 2011

After a month I figured it’s a good time to check back in and give you my latest opinion on the Jawbone Up, since a lot of you are asking. I had only used it for five days when I wrote my last review (below), and how I’ve been using it over the past weeks has definitely evolved.

Apparently a lot of people are having trouble with the device. I’m on my second one (my first wouldn’t charge properly and eventually stopped working), but to be fair I’m on my third Fitbit as well. Since I’ve had the new one I’ve had no problems and it works perfectly (so does the latest Fitbit). I wonder if it’s working better because I stopped wearing it in the shower? Who knows.

I’ve heard a few people say they are having issues with the accuracy of tracking, but mine has consistently registered within a few hundreds steps of Fitbit, a difference that is virtually irrelevant. Someone in the comments here said their device counts steps when they drive their car, pushing the numbers very high. I don’t drive so can’t attest to this issue, but I would be pretty upset if it were true. I’ve also heard that a lot of people lose their plug caps, which hasn’t happened to me but would be annoying. To their credit, from what I understand Jawbone has been cool about replacing devices and caps for those with problems.

Hardware issues aside I still think the Jawbone Up is really cool, and I absolutely love the hourly reminders to get off my ass and move around. I set these myself, so the nudges aren’t a prerequisite for using the device, but I think they are by far the best reason to get the Up. (Are you listening Fitbit?)

As a pedometer, the lack of bluetooth wireless syncing bothers me more than I expected. This is especially true since I’m still using my Fitbit, which has a beautiful display of my steps (not to mention calories, stair flights, miles traveled and the time) at the push of a button. Though plugging the Up into your iPhone is easy enough, to get your data you need to launch the app and sync the device. This takes the better part of a minute and feels very laborious compared to the simplicity of the Fitbit that I can check easily without a second thought.

That said I do love that the Up presents my data in a graphical form that has me making progress toward a defined goal (10,000 steps). There’s something innately inspiring about seeing your activity build over the course of the day, and it is even more powerful when you can see it compared with friends (I’ll get more into the social side shortly). Once again, inspiration is probably the greatest advantage of the Up.

As much as I love data, however, I stopped using the Up to track sleep and food. I’m not a big food tracker anyway, but the interface is a bit too cumbersome despite its attempt at simplicity. It just isn’t very intuitive and doesn’t translate well onto my personal eating style (low-maintenance). I’d be interested to hear if any of you have found a way to make the food tracking worthwhile. If not, I’d recommend Jawbone kill this feature or spend some serious time rethinking how to make it work.

The reason I stopped using the sleep tracker is more rudimentary: I don’t like sleeping with a bracelet on. I think Jawbone did a great job of making a sleek, cool looking device for wearing during the day. But when I sleep I have a tendency to move around a lot and I like to slide my arms under blankets, between pillows and other cozy places. In that setting the Up is obtrusively bulky. As much as I love the idea of naturally waking up every morning during the perfect time in my sleep cycle, it won’t happen for me with the current bracelet design.

Back to the app, the social aspect was the part I was most excited about and it kills me how difficult it is to find friends on Up. Why is there no Facebook or Twitter integration? This is baffling. The search function for friends is ridiculously difficult to use, and I don’t think there is any way to discover other friends who are using the device if you don’t already know they’re on there. From what I understand this is a fairly simple feature to add and I don’t understand why it wasn’t built in at launch. I share Alexia’s dream of Up seamlessly integrating with social services, but for now it’s a major social FAIL.

To summarize, I like the Up and still think it has tremendous potential. I still might choose it over Fitbit for that reason (a lot of these issues can be solved with software updates), as well as the buzz reminders. But if you aren’t the social butterfly I am (or if you happen to be an Android user) at this stage Fitbit is still an excellent alternative if you’re just looking to move more for health reasons.

How is your Up working out?

UPDATE from Jawbone (12/8/11):

I receive this email from Jawbone today guaranteeing a full refund, even without returning your Up. They say that have found a few hardware issues and are stopping production until the problems are fully resolved. There will still be software updates as necessary. Here’s the complete letter from the Jawbone CEO:

UPDATE FROM THE CEO
The UP™ No Questions Asked Guarantee
To the UP Community:

Earlier this year, we unveiled Jawbone’s vision to help people live a healthier life with UP. We’ve been thrilled by the passionate response to this product. We heard from tens of thousands of you through emails, tweets, blog posts and on our forums about how you’re changing your lifestyle and becoming consumers of your own health. In just four weeks, UP users have collectively taken over three billion steps, gotten more than 300 years of sleep and captured hundreds of thousands of meals.

While many of you continue to enjoy the UP experience, we know that some of you have experienced issues with your UP band. Given our commitment to delivering the highest quality products, this is unacceptable and you have our deepest apologies. We’ve been working around the clock to identify the root causes and we’d like to thank everyone who has provided us with information and returned their bands to us for troubleshooting. With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware. Typically, these issues surface within the first seven to ten days of use. The glitches are purely performance related and do not pose any safety risk.

We’ve also received helpful feedback on the application experience, including bug reports, ways to make signup and finding friends easier, user interface suggestions and new feature requests. Your comments are invaluable as we continue to improve, so please keep them coming and check back frequently for updates to ensure you’re always enjoying the latest features and enhancements.

We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own – so we’re taking action:

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee

This means that for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.

The program starts December 9th and full details can be found at http://jawbone.com/uprefund.

For most of you, this program is simply meant to offer peace of mind. Please continue to enjoy your UP band and keep sharing your experience with us. If you encounter any problems with your UP band, contact Jawbone directly for your choice of a replacement and/or refund under this program. It’s that simple.

Jawbone remains deeply committed to addressing all issues with UP, investing in the category and giving our customers the tools to live a healthier life. We’ve temporarily paused production of UP bands and will begin taking new orders once these issues have been sorted out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to release app updates for existing users.

We regret any disappointment we’ve created for our community of users and appreciate the trust you’ve put in us. The fact that you’ve taken the time to talk with us and help us make a better product is simply phenomenal. Our customers have always been part of our team and we’re incredibly grateful for that.

Please know that we’re doing – and will continue to do – everything we can to make things right. This is just the beginning for UP and we are excited to keep improving until we realize the powerful vision of what this category can be.

If there is absolutely anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Hosain Rahman
CEO
Jawbone

Jawbone Up is the coolest pedometer in the history of the universe

November 9, 2011

I don’t write a lot of product reviews, mainly because I don’t use a lot of products. For my healthstyle I prefer simplicity, and until recently the only health tracking I’ve done regularly involves making sure the same jeans fit me year-after-year. Super fancy, I know.

That was until a few months ago when I realized that it is very easy for me to lose track of how much walking I do, which I’ve learned is absolutely critical for maintaining my weight. Since then I’ve been tracking my steps with a Fitbit (that I adore), and in just two months I’m back down to what I consider my ideal size.

But as much as I love my Fitbit, the Jawbone Up I got last weekend is way cooler.

What is it?

Like any pedometer, the Up tracks your steps. I’ve been wearing both my Up and Fitbit for a few days and the numbers are very similar.

Instead of clipping to your pants like the Fitbit, Up is a water-proof wristband that you wear at all times. The Up plugs directly into your iPhone sound port, and syncs with an app that displays the data.

It has three different modes: regular, sleep and active. There is a single button on the device you use to change modes. Generally you keep it in the normal mode, but if you are exercising vigorously the active mode will give you more accurate readings. The sleep mode tracks how much sleep you get and displays when during the night you were in light versus deep sleep.

The Up allows you to track your meals as well, which is powerful when combined with the various challenges you can set up for yourself. For instance, if you take a picture of your lunch and you have also challenged yourself to eat something green at both lunch and dinner, you will have the option of giving yourself credit for that meal.

Up is also proactive. It has a built in vibration that can be used as an alarm clock that gently wakes you up at the right time of your sleep cycle around the time you specify. Or if you want to break the habit of sitting at your desk for long stretches of time, you can have it nudge you if you’ve been inactive for a set amount of time.

Why it’s awesome

Where Up has a huge advantage over Fitbit is how the data is displayed. For the most part the app interface is beautiful and intuitive, making it easy and fun to use. You can scroll through your days and look for the patterns of activity, and the sky appears to cycle between night and day as you look back in time.

The social integration is also way better in Up than Fitbit, and it is highly customizable for any goals you may have. Your engagement can be friendly or competitive, so you can set it up for whatever motivates you best. It’s really fun when there are two devices in one house, it’s a constant competition here over who takes the most steps every day (I always win).

The sleep mode is also awesome. While Fitbit has a sleep mode as well, it’s a pain to use and doesn’t give you much insight. The Up sleep data is more similar to the Zeo personal sleep manager, but has the advantage of not requiring you to sleep with the equivalent of a camping headlamp strapped to your face, which is nice. The sleep data is simple and gives you information that is actually useful.

I also like what they’ve done with the meal tracking. This is usually a tough sell for me, because tracking can easily become way too labor intensive to be practical. The Up only requires a picture, but it is also proactive in that it will remind you to evaluate how you feel a couple hours after the meal. The simplicity is key, and I think this could actually be helpful in selectively building and breaking various eating habits.

I think this app has huge potential for habit building. With the challenges and built in reminders, tracking and nudging has never been more simple. And since the key to habit building is repetition and consistency, these tools are incredibly powerful for making meaningful behavioral changes.

Lastly, the Up is surprisingly cool looking and is relatively comfortable to wear. I expected it to look something like the rubber LIVESTRONG bracelets (which fit better on my ankle than my wrist), but the form factor is much more elegant. I got a black band and I love it, but it also comes in bright red, bright blue or silver, and dark brown, dark red and white are coming soon.

Down sides

So far I don’t have many complaints. There is the obvious disadvantage that it cannot be used if you don’t have an iPhone, but I could write pages about why the iPhone is the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life so I personally don’t think this is a major negative.

There are still a few imperfections in the app UI, which can easily be addressed. For example, it isn’t particularly easy to search for friends to add to teams. But presumably all this will can be fixed in software updates.

It would be nice if the Up tracked elevation like the new Fitbits do. I encourage all of you to be taking the stairs whenever possible, and elevation data is a nice feature in that regard.

My last critique is that you can’t see your data with just a push of a button like you can with Fitbit. The Up requires you take it off and plug it into your phone, which isn’t that much of a hassle but makes me slightly less inclined to check my status.

But considering you’re basically getting Fitbit, Zeo and Health Month rolled into one, at $100 it’s hard to beat.

You can order yours on Amazon or the Jawbone Up website.

What do you think of the new Up?

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Farmers Market Update: Las Vegas

by | Dec 4, 2011
Organic Pink Lady Apples

Organic Pink Lady Apples

I love featuring markets that are unexpectedly vibrant. As a desert, people don’t generally assume Las Vegas will offer much in terms of fresh, artisan food, but Kari Rose shows us otherwise.

Kari is the owner of Hip Chix a women’s & children’s clothing wholesaler that supplies to boutiques, salons and online websites. She also runs Little Hip Chix, a place where children learn about fashion and the basics of sewing.

Farmers Market Update: Las Vegas

by Kari Rose

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Who says Vegas has no culture? I am a native of Las Vegas and boy, has Vegas changed. Every time I tell someone I live in Vegas, they say, “Where?  On the strip?”

Vegas is more than hotels, showgirls and gambling. We have several communities with great shopping, restaurants, parks, theatre and farmers markets.

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

Vegas farmers markets started here in 1999 in local community parks. Now, we’ve got a number of markets including one of my favorites, Fresh52 & Artesian Market (fresh52.com). This market is in two locations weekly: Summerlin and Henderson. The Summerlin location (Tivoli Village at Queensridge) is closest to my home and has become my Saturday ritual.

This market has 30-40 vendors and anywhere from 500-1500 shoppers weekly. One of the things I love about this location is how the market is nestled in a European Shopping village. In the summer, with the Vegas triple-digit temperatures, it is nice that there is an indoor walk-in area too.

This market features locally and California grown seasonal produce, baked goods, gourmet oils, salsa, spices, teas, nuts and handmade crafts.

Last weekend the Fresh52 & Artesian Market was quite festive.  I was greeted by Christmas carolers, Santa and Nutcracker characters promoting their upcoming performances at the Paris Hotel here.

Carolers

Carolers

My first stop, Pink Lady apples from Bentzler Family Farms-Fresno, CA-Organic. So crisp and juicy. Next stop was D&D (Dan & Debbie Garrison) for some vegetables. This couple gathers fruits and vegetables from many farms in Fresno, CA (Yang Farms, Thao Produce & Bentzler Family Farms) throughout the week and brings them to Las Vegas.

One of my interesting finds was the exotic fruit, Budda Hand from Murray Family Farms in Bakersfield, CA. The Budda Hands were interesting looking and so fragrant you could smell them from several feet away.

Buddha's Hands

Buddha's Hands

The indoor, walk-in portion of the market had lots to offer….

Fresh Produce

Fresh Produce

I was happy when I saw three heads of cauliflower waiting for me for my favorite weekly dish from Darya, Curried Roasted Cauliflower. I never liked cauliflower until I tried her recipe and now my daughter & I are hooked!

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

There are a handful of locals producing homemade salsa, jam, honey, pasta, olive oil & balsamic vinegar. One of my favorite vendors is True Foods (truefoodslv.com). I stop by the booth each week to see Scott and pick up three containers of his salsa. He makes 5 styles: House, Scott’s Pico, Taco Shop Green, Death Salsa and Guacamolito. My favorite is the House (cilantro free) but his most popular is Guacamolito. When I spoke with him today I loved his salsa even more.

True Foods Salsa

True Foods Salsa

He told me he met his wife at age 12—they were high school sweethearts, got married and both became middle school science teachers (with Master degrees). When they had a child, they decided to take turns taking a sabbatical from work so they could start their business and stay home to raise their child.

Right now Scott is taking his turn staying home, making salsa, and caring for their child. On the weekends, he and his wife sell their salsa at the farmers market. They also distribute to Whole Foods.

Salsas

Salsas

Dried Fruit – Valley Best: Locally grown although the tropical are from California ()

Dried Fruits

Dried Fruits

Jams – Miguel’s Homemade Salsa & More: (Pahrump, NV), No preservatives, uses Las Vegas farmers market produce &  grandmother’s recipe.

Jams

Jams

Teas & Seasonings – Bloomin’ Desert Herb: 85% locally grown herbs-organic & fare trade

Dried Herbs

Dried Herbs

Honey – Pahrump Honey Company-est. 1999

Mesquite Honey

Mesquite Honey

This honey is delicious! It’s pure, raw, desert honey from bees working the Great Basin Desert.
Bistro Blend:  Locally produced balsamic vinegar, olive oils and basting sauces—All oils and vinaigrettes are from Napa. I mix the Basil Garlic Parmesan Vinaigrette with their Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, toss it in my vegetables or drizzle it over mixed greens. Delicious!

I stopped to taste some great smelling sausage…

Sausages

Sausages

Tassoni’s Italian Sausage – locally-made, no preservatives, MSG, or nitrates (25% less fat and sodium). They make several great flavors (Sweet & Hot Romano Cheese, Sundried Tomato & Garlic, Cilantro & Onion, Andoville & Bratwurst) my favorite was the Sweet Romano Cheese.

Another great stop was Veg Out. When a vegan couple lost their jobs, due to the economy, they decided to start their own business. They make 5 new vegetarian dishes weekly using locally grown ingredients, no added fats and oils.

Veg Out

Veg Out

There were many other vendors I enjoyed getting to know. At this booth you can buy delicious Cajun boiled peanuts made with pickles. The peanuts had the consistency of a baked potato.

Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts

One more thing … I usually buy these delicious dill green beans each week. They remind me of my Dad who had his own recipe. He was always canning and loved to share with his friends.

Pickled Green Beans

Pickled Green Beans

Of course, I couldn’t leave without having a little taste of dessert. I found homemade fudge with holiday flavors:  Pumpkin, Candy Cane & my favorite (featured flavor) Red Velvet.

Red Velvet Fudge

Red Velvet Fudge

The market wasn’t at full capacity due to the holiday weekend so my purchases were lighter than normal. These were my purchases for the day:

  • Apples-Bentzler Farms-$7.50
  • Red Peppers, Cauliflower, Beets, & Onion-D & D-$14.25
  • Raw Cinnamon Honey-Pahrump Honey-$12.00
  • Salsa-True Foods-$9.00
  • Sausage-Tassoni’s-$5.00

Worth every penny… nice afternoon, great food and a great time putting this together.

The goods

The goods

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For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 2, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week some interesting new data on the ideal amount of salt to eat, frightening news about BPA and canned soup, and a series of fascinating articles on how to maintain cognitive health.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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