Recipe: Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

We have discovered the perfect Halloween/ Autumn seasonal recipe! Nichole and I had been searching for a good meal to make that included pumpkin  (besides the famous pumpkin dark chocolate cookies). Many of the dishes we found were made with squash or didn’t sound very appetizing, until Nichole found this great spicy pumpkin soup recipe.

This is a great meal to use the season’s favorite vegetable to boost your list of healthy, delicious, and warm meals as the weather cools off and (hopefully) before any snow falls.

We adapted our recipe from this entry on

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 pie pumpkins (seasonally available)
  • (1) 14oz can of coconut milk
  • Red Thai curry paste
  • Olive oil


  1. Cut the pie pumpkins into quarters (I suggest using a strong knife, serrated is better – see above), be sure to save some of the pumpkins seeds to roast and add to the finished soup.
  2. Roast the pumpkin quarters at 350° for an (1) hour.
  3. When the pumpkin has cooled, scoop it off of the skin into a good sized pot.
  4. Put light olive oil on a cookie sheet and roast the saved pumpkin seeds for about 6min on each side, until crisp and crunchy, but not burnt.
  5. Add the can of coconut milk and 6 teaspoons of Red Thai curry paste and bring to a simmer.
  6. Use a food processor, blender, or hand mixer to puree the delicious mixture while adding cups of water to attain the desired consistency.
  7. Eat with garnish of parsley leaves, sourdough bread for dipping, and a chilled glass of Reisling wine.

the missing ingredients from Jamie Oliver’s #FoodRevolution

Since November 2010, when I started working with adolescents in the Detroit area tackling childhood obesity, television shows that deal with weight loss and healthy eating have become more interesting. I diligently watched The Biggest Loser and similar shows to re-examine the tactics they use and how successful they were.

More recently I’ve been caught up in Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” because what children and adolescents eat at school is a critical piece if the current trends of obesity are going to be reversed. I’ve been very interested in Jamie Oliver’s attempt to become a healthy food “rockstar” from the UK (sorry Jamie, you can’t compete with First Lady Michelle Obama). Watching the most recent season in Los Angeles, I can’t tell you how many times I yelled at the screen about how ineffective Jamie’s tactics were or how naive he was going up against an institutionalized system.

I don’t doubt Jamie’s good intentions or his passion for the work, but if this is going to be a real revolution then there needs to be some basic understandings of behavioral change and social change as well as community engagement. I’m not sure if this is just a case of making good TV by “making noise” vs. making social change by public health, but there is room for improvement.

Behavioral Change

With the recent release of new cigarette packaging and the tactics used on Jamie Oliver’s show, it has become obvious that many people disregard research in lieu of “making noise as public health.” Any first year public health student (or someone in close proximity) could tell you that the “Health Belief Model” (HBM) of making people change their habits by highlighting fears no longer works, especially among young people. The HBM relies on scare tactics, some of the best example are from old posters from the 1940-50s that feature skeletons, sharks, and death if you don’t immunize your child, cover your cough, etc. The posters and messages worked for the time period when people were scared of new health issues and followed the messages, but we live in a different time. People don’t respond to scare tactics or negative messages. This is true across the board: in politics, with non-profits, and especially within public health interventions.

The scare tactics that Jamie uses, predictably, have minimal impact on changing people’s minds or getting more people involved. People prefer to be told what is going right or what can easily be done to make things better. Messages that empower individuals and reinforce positive behaviors are more likely to receive a respond. People want to know that they have the ability to make the changes themselves. When Jamie has a classroom discussion with adults who are facing health problems as a result of their past bad eating habits and lack of activity he fails to realize earlier that this is something the teens are facing already with their own family members. Studies have shown that young people respond even less to HBM tactics like these, largely because out of all age groups young people like to know that they have control of their lives – and they do!

Tactics for Social Change

I know its a TV show, but one man cannot make a revolution happen. Any community organizer will tell you that it takes many hands and years to make real and lasting changes to systems and structures that are doing harm. Jamie Oliver stands in a great position to include more people, spread awareness, and organize communities to work together to change their political and educational systems for better school health. However, that is not what happens. Jamie is always surprised by the low turnout and minimal impact of filling a bus with sugar or getting upset with the LAUSD superintendent. Telling parents that they are doing everything wrong won’t create community buy-in.

It isn’t until the final episode that Jamie encounters a group of parents protesting high sugar flavored milk in the schools that a first real attempt to meet people where they are happens. There are many people who want a food revolution and they are already doing the hard work. The final episode is also where Jamie brings together a group of top chefs in LA to run a competition with school cooking teams. This is a great example of the necessary coalition building and community engagement that needed to happen closer to step one.

If you want to change the policies of structure of a system, then you can’t start at the top. The superintendent, as we saw, has the power to kick people out, but not change whole policies. Jamie needed to start by building relationships with people within the system who have more power to push for change. The cafeteria workers would have been a great start. When Jamie finally met some of them, they were overjoyed with his message and could have been  a big force for change in food preparation. The superintendent wasn’t on board, but maybe one of the Board members was sympathetic to the food revolution message and could have been an important ally inside. You have to work on smaller targets before you can take on your primary target.

Building a coalition of people both inside and outside the system that you want to change is critical to making real social change. Jamie kept trying to take on his primary target, the superintendent, as an outsider with no community backing. You have to start with the hard organizing work of bringing together other influential community members, workers in the system, and individuals with power inside the system in order to effectively push for change.

Community Engagement

Throughout the whole season it was painfully obvious that the community wasn’t behind Jamie’s antics, but there weren’t very many opportunities for collaboration. Many of the points I want to make about community engagement are already listed above, but I do have one key ingredient that was missing in Jamie’s outreach.

Listening. From Jamie’s first show in LA he was telling people what was wrong. He used a series of scare tactics about school meat by waving inedible raw pieces of cow in parents’ faces. It was gross and it made a point, but it didn’t give anyone the opportunity to get involved.

Thinking back between the first show and the final show, if Jamie (or his crew) had taken the time to LISTEN and find people who were already championing the cause of better school food then he might have had a more successful season.


Jamie ended this season by saying, “It’s not about me. […] We all gotta start stirring the pot.” I have more hope for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution after the final show where he did some community listening, some great community engagement, and even some coalition building. Maybe he is even beginning to recognize that the problem isn’t all on his televised shoulders, but it is shared across the community – and they want change too.

Here are a few improvements to tactics that could revolutionize the food revolution:

  1. LISTEN to a community before acting on their behalf
  2. Focus on systems change, not just people in power
  3. Practice patience: the problem wasn’t created overnight, its not going to go away overnight
  4. Use inclusive tactics: don’t reprimand or scare

Recipe: Chisaya Mama Stuffed Peppers

Since moving to Ann Arbor, Nichole and I have had the chance to try out some new recipes, some of which we are very proud of and enjoy sharing. With my job working in healthy weight loss through education and healthy food choices and Nichole’s upbringing in healthful (lactose-free) foods, we have a wonderful repertoire of recipes for those with their good health in mind.

We picked up a stuffed peppers recipe from Meijer one day because it looked interesting, had lots of vegetables, and decided to make healthier with our own additions. We added more corn and quinoa. Quinoa was considered sacred by the Inca people, calling it chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains.’


  • 2 Bell Peppers (of any color preference) (30 cal./pepper)
  • (1) 16 oz Jar of Corn & Bean Salsa (from Meijer) (260 cal.)
  •  (1) 8oz Can of Whole Kernel Corn (120 cal.)
  • 1 Can of Black Beans (rinse before using) (330 cal.)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (4 cal.)
  • 1/4th of an Onion (1-2 cal.)
  • 1/2th Cup of Quinoa (Brown Rice can be substituted) (344 cal.)
  • 1/2 lb. of Ground Turkey (425 cal.)
  • Pam Cooking Spray with Olive Oil (0 cal.)


  1. Spray a good sized pan to cook the ground turkey.
  2. Add finely diced the garlic and onion to the pan along with the ground turkey, cook until browned.
  3. Add 1/2th cup of quinoa & 1 cup of water to a pot. Set to boil until water is gone.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine: browned ground turkey, cooked quinoa, kernel corn, 1/2 – 1/3 can of rinsed black beans, and the jar of salsa.
  5. Cut 2 bell peppers in half and clear out the insides.
  6. Place the pepper halves in a glass pan or on a cookie sheet and fill the pepper halves with the stuffing mixture.
  7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

One (1) stuffed pepper made with this recipe has about 325 Calories with lots of fiber, protein, and other nutrients to help you feel full for a long time.

Average cost for the meal, making 4 stuffed pepper halves: $17

burundi: the agricultural dilemma

Topping out at an HDI value of 169, the country of Burundi is far from attaining the coveted term of “developed.” Life expectancy sits at a young 44 years, adult literacy is about 60% of the country with school enrollment at just 36% of the population in either primary, secondary, or tertiary education, and Burundi’s GDP per capita wallows at $677. Burundi’s GDP is roughly $39,000 less that that of the US. ‘Why?’ you ask. Burundi has a history of ethnic conflict much like is neighbor Rwanda, it has faced overpopulation problems, and large numbers of Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Germany gained the Burundi region in the partitioning of Africa, however after the First World War the region was given to Belgium. As part of the Belgian Colonial Empire, Burundi remained apart from the clutches of colonialism. In this regard Burundi is unique because it is not a product of colonialism. The country was ruled by a monarchy with a dynasty of kings. Colonial Belgium made a pact with this dynasty in order to control the people, however this dynasty faced numerous coups and a fragile rule as the polarization of ethnic groups continued. Burundi gained independence in 1962, but did not democratically elect a President until 1993. The President was assassinated before his first 100 days in office were finished.

The unique conflicts that Burundi has faced created an interesting economic situation for the country as well. Agriculture is the main source of profit with over 90% of the country being subsistence farmers. Therefore Burundi’s import purchasing power relies heavily on the weather conditions for growing coffee and tea and the international prices for their top commodities. The Tutsi minority controls the government and benefits from the coffee trade at the expense of the Hutu minority (85% of population). Since ethnic tensions have subsided, civil war has ended, and political stability has returned aid flows have increased along with economic activity. However as the CIA World Fact Book states, “[…] underlying weaknesses – a high poverty rate, poor education rates, a weak legal system, and low administrative capacity – risk undermining planned economic reforms.”

Burundi could have benefited from the ‘development’ agreements of the various UN bodies, some failed and some still existing. UNCTAD seeks to promote “the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy.” Yet UNCTAD’s main activity is to gather information and data to promote policies that could possibly benefit ‘developing’ countries. As far as the NIEO, I have to agree, just this once, with the words of former President Reagan that the NIEO is dead. The NIEO began with great plans to bring multilateral policies to the ‘developing’ world. It would stabilize and raise the prices for ‘developing’ world commodities of the G-77, which are the countries relying on foreign exchange. This would have improved the purchasing power of ‘developing’ countries with the creation of a commodity trade market. Burundi would have especially benefited since it relies completely on the trade of coffee and tea. However the NIEO died when the G-77 made concessions in order to gain the support of the ‘developed’ world.

ISI and EOI are in direct competition, however EOI gains the upper hand in the way of success stories. ISI, although it relies on trade in the economy, is considered a development policy as it promotes a mercantilist idea of keeping trade local or within the country instead of importing goods. EOI is attributed to the success of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore with the dropping of tariffs, floating exchange rate, and government support of exports. Both policies, in the case of Burundi, are not feasible. Since Burundi relies on the coffee and tea trade and the majority of the population is farmers, the country cannot use ISI. Oddly enough the main import of Burundi is food due to the previous ethnic conflicts and flood of refugees. Switching to an economy of import substitution makes no sense. In the way of export-oriented policies Burundi is already there, but it does not hold the power to be able to influence the international prices.

Burundi remains extremely dependent on bilateral and multilateral aid from donors to deal with its economy and development issues. The country’s economy is not strong enough or diverse enough to support the country and the nearly seven million people it holds. Agriculture may still be the maim industry, but it has not been able to withstand the increasing population and civil war. There are a number of development trajectories in Burundi most facilitated by the World Bank. Projects currently active in the country deal with infrastructure, economic management and reform, agriculture rehabilitation, reintegration from conflict, and community and social development. These projects and goals are all positive in nature, but their effectiveness is yet to be seen as the country builds on its relatively new political stability.

Human Development Indicators Country Fact Sheets: Burundi. UNDP. 2006. HDI (date accessed 28 March 2007).

Burundi: Governments of the World. BookRags. 2006. . (date accessed 28 March 2007).

CIA World Fact Book: Burundi. CIA World Fact Book. 2007. . (date accessed 28 March 2007).

UNCTAD. 2007. . (date accessed 28 March 2007).

Sneyd, Adam. New International Economic Order (NIEO). McMaster University. 2004. . (date accessed 28 March 2007).

World Bank Projects and Operations. World Bank. 2007. . (date accessed 28 March 2007).

the age of the pirate is everlasting

Welcome to neverland! This is the place where you can never grow up. Float away with Peter Pan and the rights of indigenous people. Live the rest of your days under the fantastical sun and steal the knowledge and resources of people who are almost forced to give them up for need of capital to survive. Bio-piracy has been prevalent since the first conquests of Africa. We still have much to learn from Africa. There is a expansive bio-resource wealth left untapped. And as many begin calling for a Green Revoultion for Africa, the accusations of bio-piracy and the breaking of intellectual property rights multiplies.

According to an article the green revolution is characterised by:

“The green revolution of the 1970s promoted increased yields, based on a model of industrial agriculture defined as a monoculture of one or two crops, which requires massive amounts of both fertilizer and pesticide as well as the purchase of seed. Although this approach to food production might feed more people in the short term, it also quickly destroys the earth through extensive soil degradation and water pollution from pesticides and fertilizers. It ruined small-scale farmers in Asia and Latin America, who could not afford to purchase the fertilizers, pesticides, and water necessary for the hybrid seed or apply these inputs in the exact proportions and at the exact times. To pay their debts, the farmers had to sell their land.”

At the end of Kofi Annan’s term he took a position to head the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Surprisingly this is contrary to all that he had researched and learned about the Green Revolution for Africa. In 2002, he had called together a group of experts from Brazil, China, South Africa, Mexico, and others to figure out if a ‘green revolution’ could help Africa. The group of experts came back and said that a green revolution for Africa, “would not provide food security because of the diverse types of farming systems across the continent. There is ‘no single magic technological bullet…for radically improving African agriculture, the expert panel reported in its strategic recommendations. ‘African agriculture is more likely to experience numerous ‘rainbow evolutions’ that differ in nature and extent among the many systems, rather than one Green Revolution as in Asia.’ Annan’s reasoning is still unknown, but what can be inferred is that he is looking to keep money in the bank. How can you sell out to an entire continent?

There are so many examples of crops that have been destroyed by ideals of the green revolution. From sorghum, wheat and wild rice. One food product that is trapped in politics is amaranth. The sacred plant of the aztecs, destroyed by Cortez for its symbolism and extreme nutritional value. The seeds grow everywhere, the grain is the most nutritious, even the plants leaves are more nutritious than spinach. Mildly off topic, but hails back to the beginning of bio-piracy.

“Sorghum is one example of a crop lost to markets in the global North but not to Africa. On the continent, it is planted in more hectares than all other food crops combined. As nutritious as maize for carbohydrates, vitamin B6, and food energy, sorghum is more nutritious in protein, ash, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, isoleucine, and leucine. One of the most versatile foods in the world, sorghum can be boiled like rice, cracked like oats for porridge, baked like wheat into flatbreads, popped like popcorn for snacks, or brewed for nutritious beer.”

Piracy lives on, it is not just a great theme for the movies. Pirates sail our seas, but this time they come with organizations, false legitimacy, and more money than most pirates. The green revolution is growing as well, but support is waning in Africa. African countries are denying genetically modified (GM) foods and pushing to keep their bio-diversity away from bio-piracy.