AUSTIN, Texas (November 8, 2001) A traditional holiday feast including popular holiday favorites like turkey, stuffing, casseroles and pumpkin pie may contain as many as 15 artificial ingredients, additives and preservatives. Whole Foods Market, catering to the growing number of people seeking to avoid many of the artificial additives found in food products today, challenges consumers to avoid consuming the unnecessary additives by including great tasting, additive-free products as a part of their family's picture-perfect holiday meal.
“The Pilgrims' first holiday feast included foods fresh from the earth with no artificial additives or unnecessary processing, and that same purity is still readily available today if you look for it,” said Whole Foods Market Chef Janet Chaykin. “If you make conscious choices when preparing the big meal, it's what you are not giving your families during a holiday meal that they should be truly thankful for.”
Many quickly prepared, packaged food products such as stuffing and gravy mixes contain a number of artificial additives and flavor enhancers including monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites and these tongue twisters – butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Commodity turkeys receive growth hormones to encourage faster growth and, after processing, are injected with modified food starch and sodium phosphates to supplement the moisture of the meat after preparation. Frozen rolls are quick to prepare but may contain sodium stearoyl lactylate and high fructose corn syrup. In addition, many conventional foods also contain genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, which can be avoided by purchasing certified organic products and ingredients. Labeling is not required for GMO products.
“From start to finish, a traditional holiday meal can be easily overhauled to include fresh ingredients instead of the same old boxed products full of unwanted artificial ingredients,” said Chaykin. “Selecting fresh, quality foods, making a few items from scratch and adding a couple of new twists can make the difference between an average meal and a truly memorable meal.”
Whole Foods Market chefs offer recipe ideas and suggestions for creating delicious ideas for a family's favorites for a delicious holiday meal made with quality ingredients. Here are several tips from the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket:
Tempting the Appetite
Since people typically eat very little as a prelude to the big holiday feast, serving a few small appetizers can help guests moderate their appetite and more fully enjoy the complete meal experience. Try bite-size treats perfect for autumn such as thinly sliced rounds of bread topped with Lex Alexander's Handpicked SelectionsÔ Adriatic Fig Spread, crumbled blue cheese (such as the Whole Foods Market exclusive organic blue Gouda, imported from Holland) and a walnut. Or select a cheese course of three to five varieties that contrast in taste and texture. Fresh fruit such as grapes, sliced pears and figs complement a cheese course nicely while not filling your guests before the big meal.
Let's Talk Turkey
Naturally, the focal point of the holiday meal – and meals for days to come – is the turkey. Conventional brands of turkey found in the supermarket are given growth hormones during growth and are caged to restrict movement. However, the selection of a free-range turkey ensures all natural juiciness and tenderness. Raised longer than commodity turkeys, the free-range birds are given room to roam and are fed high quality grain diets free of growth stimulants, hormones and animal by-products. Free-range poultry tends to be leaner and especially tender due to its cage-free environment, which allows the birds more exercise.
To enhance the flavor of a roasted free-range turkey, rub the bird with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper on top of the bird and under the skin. Or, for a change of pace, rub the turkey with a blend of Asian Five Spice powder, toasted sesame seed oil, canola oil, fresh ginger and garlic, and cilantro or thinly sliced green onion.
Have you thought about experimenting with a different main course this year? Options other than turkey include Cornish game hens or rack of lamb. Regardless of the meat you choose as your main attraction, Whole Foods Market offers the highest quality selection of natural meats and poultry for any menu. All are free of growth hormones and other stimulants.
For vegetarian guests, or just for something different, try a tofu turkey which have become very popular in recent years. Designed to resemble a turkey — complete with a “roast” stuffed with wild rice-bread crumb stuffing, tempeh drumettes and even golden “giblet” gravy — this tofu feast is 100 percent vegetarian and serves four in approximately 40 minutes. More than 50,000 tofu turkeys are sold each year.
The 'Stuff' of Legends
Conventional packaged stuffing mixes contain many preservatives and flavoring agents. While the convenience of just adding water to a mix may save time, the flavor and texture may be pale and bland for an occasion as special as a holiday meal.
For a variation on this year's stuffing, try a combination of rustic Italian bread, ginger snaps, organic apples, celery, fresh ginger and caramelized onions. Chaykin recommends this selection as an ideal choice to accompany an Asian Five Spice rubbed turkey. To enhance a traditional bread stuffing, add sautéed onions, chopped bacon, parsley, fresh sage, wild rice and roasted chestnuts.
“The variations are endless,” says Chaykin. “Whole Foods Market makes it easy to find unique and healthy foods for delicious recipes, like organic vegetables and all-natural meats that really incorporate a different flavor into the typical holiday meal.”
While garlic added a new dimension to mashed potatoes a few years ago, Chaykin recommends adding sour cream and fresh basil to the mix as a simple way to give those organic russets a boost. For distinctive flavor, blend 1-½ cups of sour cream, ½ cup fresh chopped basil and milk to mashed potatoes and dress with fresh sage gravy. For a more traditional approach, replace butter with sour cream and add fresh chopped basil.
The recipe for the popular green bean casserole includes beans, cream of mushroom soup and melted cheese topped by fried onions and a whole lot of preservatives such as hydrogenated oils, MSG and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone). Replace the standard casserole with a new dish created by sautéing fresh green beans and sliced onions in extra virgin olive oil and tossing in red peppers, artichoke hearts and organic Kalamata olives. Then, add feta cheese and fresh-squeezed lemon juice with a hint of red chili flakes for that added kick. Serve the mixture over pasta, rice or orzo as a light alternative to the turkey entrée.
To replace the can-shaped cranberry relish on your holiday spread, simmer fresh organic cranberries with apple juice and honey. Mix in organic orange rinds for a tangy twist, and then add walnuts or pecans to take this savory sauce to a whole new level.
Topping off the Meal
Instead of canned pumpkin mix that may contain artificial colorings, experiment with fresh pumpkins for your dessert. For an all-natural and delicious pumpkin pie, steam fresh organic sugar pumpkins and blend with maple syrup, honey or rice syrup for sweetness, as well as salt, pumpkin pie spice and all-natural eggs. Replace evaporated milk with silken tofu for a tempting non-dairy treat.
Home-Cooked Taste Without the Hassle
If you want all the homemade goodness of a traditional holiday dinner, without the headaches of preparing an elaborate meal, leave the cooking to Whole Foods Market's full-service catering department. Busy hosts can order a complete spread or a few select items to enhance their own decadent meal. Orders can be placed by phone or in person. For more details and the order deadline, contact the Whole Foods Market store nearest you; a store locator is available on the Web at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/locations.html.