Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's not just what you eat - it's what you cook it in

We usually get our pots & pans based upon sales or what our mom used for our childhood meals. We don't much think about it again but as we get healthier in what we eat, we start to also look at the tools we use to prepare our healthful meals.

Most cookware on the market is coated with Teflon to make the fat-free cooks happy. Teflon and Silverstone coating is convenient for sticky food and things like eggs, but there are real dangers when not used properly:
  • Never use it on high heat - only put it on a medium to medium low heat.
  • Never heat it dry - always have something in it before heating, like oil or butter.
  • Never use it once scratched - if you scratch it discard it because those chemicals will get into your foods.
When heated dry, particles become airborne and embed in your lungs. The fumes are lethal to birds. And let's face it, they scratch easily and are therefore not an economical or environmentally sound way to cook meals.

Aluminum is also popular since it is a great conductor of heat and is cheap. Most restaurants use aluminum cookware to prepare food but aluminum is a poison and leaches into our foods (and you'd better believe those aluminum pans used in restaurants are all scratched up so pieces of aluminum are surely in the foods prepared for our enjoyment - which is another reason we tend to not eat out.) Anodized Aluminum does effectively seal the chemicals but harsh chemicals are used to create the anodized aluminum. In addition, it can scratch easily and then you get the aluminum and the black specs (toxic chemicals) into your foods. And it is definitely not dishwasher friendly.

Stainless is the most economical choice but is not a good conductor so is always plied with other metals. You can easily scratch it and some of the chromium or nickel may leach into the food, but very minute amount. If a magnet sticks to your stainless steel cookware, it has less nickel and is therefore a safer option.

Instead choose cast iron (preferably not pre-seasoned and season it yourself that way you know what kind of oil you are using), enameled cast iron, ceramic, glass, or a safe stainless steel cookware.

My preference is the enameled cast iron. Le Crueset is expensive but you can sometimes find good buys at discount stores like Marshall's and Mercola has his own cookware and great information too.

This is part of today's carnival for:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cholesterol, Eggs, Shell Color, more Egg Facts

We eat eggs. With the six of us, we go through about a dozen a day. We use them for any meal and in many ways. Eggs are an inexpensive yet good source of protein and nutrients and the magical egg - it does amazing things: souffl├ęs, frittatas, sauces, pudding and custards, cheesecake, baked goods, meatloaf, casseroles, soups, stir-fries or all on it's own, truly a versatile food.

The whites and yellows each have their own unique properties. We can whip the whites to add lightness and air to dishes, while the yellows act as an emulsifier and adds creamy richness. The whites contain protein and no fat while yolks contain half of the protein in the egg and all the fat (about 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 of which is saturated and the rest is polyunsaturated which has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol) as well as most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The yolks offer all the vitamin A, D, E, and zinc that is in an egg as well as a larger percentage of the phosphorus, manganese, iron, iodine, copper, and calcium than the white. The yolks are also a rich source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, (carotenoids) essential vitamins with antioxidant value .

Yolk color is determined by what the bird eats. Deep yellow to orange egg yolks are richer in carotenoids.

Contrary to what you may have heard, eggs do not increase bad cholesterol. Nor do they increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, for the average person who is not at high risk. (Hu, F.B., M.J. Stampfer, et al. 1999) (JAMA 281(15):1387-94.) Bad Cholesterol, LDL, is based upon what you eat (saturated fats and transfats) and even what you don't eat (vegetables), than simply your egg intake.

Egg color is simply an aesthetic preference. Birds that lay brown eggs tend to be larger birds with reddish brown feathers and earlobes around their neck. Since they are bigger, they eat more food than their paler cousins and therefore these eggs are a bit more expensive. White egg layers have white feathers on their neck and white earlobes. The breed of the hen determines shell color. Aracona chickens lay a lovely green shaded egg.

Size is actually determined by the age of a hen. The older the hen, the larger the egg. Double yolks come from the same hens making the XL eggs.

Fresh eggs from pastured free roaming hens allowed to eat bugs and raised under organic conditions are best. Fresh eggs are noticeably different. The yellows stand up and are perky. There isn't the air pocket in the shell that forms between the shell and the membrane as it ages. When you put a whole fresh eggs in a glass full of water, it will sink while an older egg will float due to that air pocket. But older eggs aren't all bad. When the whites are more broken down from age they whip up lighter and fluffier making higher souffl├ęs.

Fresh eggs will also have a more noticeable chalaza (the egg white strand that anchors the yolk in place). (The chalaza is indeed supposed to be there and it is not an embryo. It does not need to be removed.)

If your egg white is a bit cloudy, you can be assured of a very fresh egg. The cloudiness is from carbon dioxide found in the young egg that has not had time to escape yet from the shell.

Believe it or not, a bright red blood spot would also indicate a fresh egg. Though very rare nowadays, less than 1% of all eggs have blood spots, they usually occur from a rupture of a blood vessel on the surface of the yolk follicle. The blood spot can be removed for aesthetics; a blood spot does not make the egg inedible.

However, eggs with blood spots are not considered kosher. This is because blood spots can also occur due to fertilization. Of course, most hens are not allowed anywhere near a rooster so fertilization is an impossibility in today's eggs, but religion dictates that we toss the egg with the blood spot. The laws of Kashrut do not dictate white eggs over brown or other color eggs, just that it not be a fertilized egg. Some people believe that there are more blood spots in brown eggs than white eggs because they mistakenly think that a naturally occurring brown marks of coloration in the brown egg are a blood spot. The laws of kashrut are clear that it is the red blood spot that is not allowed for fear of fertilization and that brown spots can be ignored.

Inappropriate temperature and humidity will age an egg. (A week-old egg can actually be fresher than a day-old egg.) In the U.S. eggs are refrigerated but in other parts of the world they are not. They will keep fresh out of the refrigerator if never placed in a refrigerator but once they are refrigerated, they must always be refrigerated to maintain freshness.

Conventional eggs are from hens living in very cramped quarters where their beaks are clipped so they don't peck at themselves or their sisters who are literally stacked on top of one another. They are fed genetically modified and pesticide-doused corn and soy and sometimes their own brothers ground in the feed. They live stressful lives in a toxic environment - that is carried through in the eggs they produce. Just remember, you are what you eat.

Choose organic free range eggs. Yes, they are more money, they need more room but organic eggs are more nutritious so you get more bang for your buck. Organic eggs are from hens given no hormones or antibiotics and fed only organically certified feed grown without pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. They are free roaming and must have access to fresh air. They are healthy eggs and all in all, we're not talking $10 for a dozen eggs, it's still pennies an egg, maybe dimes, but seriously, is that the quibble here? Cheap eggs to poison our world, our animals, and our bodies or healthy eggs to make us strong that cost less than .40 each as an inexpensive source of nutrition.

This post is part of the No GMO Challenge - JOIN US!


Sunday, May 24, 2009


Breakfasts are a big deal around here. We never have cereal, well, occasionally a warm bowl of oatmeal, or muesli or granola over yogurt. But normally it's eggs (organic and free range, and preferably pastured) every which way and sometimes pancakes or muffins and normally a smoothie and yes, a salad.

This morning it was a plain ricotta & sour cream frittata. I usually use the frittata as a conduit to adding veggies, left overs and fresh, but today we did the salad on the side. The sour cream added a creaminess and ricotta just lightens up a frittata beautifully so I try to keep some grass-fed ricotta stashed in the fridge.
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 package ricotta
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
that was it - simple, easy and really tasty. Mix it all together. Heat butter slowly on medium stove. Pour into a pan warmed on the stove once the butter bubbles a bit. Transfer to a preheated oven at 375F for about 30 minutes until it's puffy and golden.

It will fall so make sure to present right out of the oven so you get the ooohs and aaahhhs.

We served it with some greens and a salad of tomatoes, avocados, parsley, sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon.

We usually nosh on the frittata throughout the morning since it can be eaten warm or at room temp.

I had lots of yogurt I needed to use so I made a quick easy smoothie:
  • 1/2 bag of frozen strawberries
  • 32oz container plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of honey or agave
  • 1 ripe banana
Blend, serve, enjoy.

I add chia seeds to morning smoothies. Chia seeds are high in omega 3s and fiber, very important for good health. I add them every morning to the kid's smoothies. They come whole or ground. I use the ground in the smoothies because the kids don't like the texture of the whole in a drink. They get jelly-like when combined with liquid so you can actually store it in the fridge in water (9 cups water to 1 cup chia seeds) and use that slurry for baking and smoothies. You can easily add chia seeds or the gelatanous liquid mixed with chias to smoothies, yogurt, baked goods, and cereal or granola.

Since I had a lot of yogurt on hand and since the kids asked for muffins, I decided to try some banana yogurt muffins.
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup succanat
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, cut into chunks

Mix wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients on top and mix. Add chopped bananas and mix gently. Spoon into well buttered tins (the bananas will get sticky!) and cook for 30 minutes until they are done in the center.

The bananas get ooey gooey and fall to the middle and bottom so I served them upside down. I bet it would have been prettier with some powdered sugar on top. Everyone loved them.

All in all our breakfast doesn't take that long to make but we do sit around the table together and gab and take our time enjoying it. It's a whole lot better than something out of a cardboard box and I know they are full of stuff that will keep them going strong all morning. A good breakfast is the best start to a productive day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alphabet Soup: PLU

How to tell what you're eating - what do those numbers mean?

Tags (PLU "Price Look Up" code sticker) on fruits and vegetables can help you identify organic, conventional and even genetically modified produce.

  • ORGANIC produce stickers start with a 9 and have 5 numbers
  • Conventional ones have 4 numbers
  • GM (Genetically Modified) produce have 5 numbers like organic produce but start with the number 8 so be particularly cautious of those fruits and vegetables
Choose 9 for peace of mind -

I am a Food RENEGADE!This is part of Food Renegade's FIGHT BACK FRIDAYS where people who are fighting back against the dominate food culture blog about our adventures in real food including:
  • updates & stories about our Real Food journey,
  • tips,
  • recipes,
  • anything we think others might find useful, helpful, encouraging, or inspiring.

Why Choose Organic?

There is no more important single thing we can do to have a bigger impact on helping the planet and our bodies than choosing real organic foods.

Organic foods are produced without the use of chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, petroleum-, sewage- or sludge-based fertilizers or chemical pesticides. Organic food is not bio-engineered, genetically modified, nor is it irradiated. Poultry and Beef are fed only organic feed, are grazed on organically maintained pastures, and are not given antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products.

Until WWII, organic was the "conventional" practice as it was the most common way to farm. The use of synthetic chemicals and toxins won the battle away from home and were now touted to improve our lives here too. With this fanfare, it was well received and pushed through quickly. At that time, shocking to us now to think, but chemical poisons were even sprayed directly onto children to kill off bacteria! And some of us still remember walking behind the trucks spraying chemicals to kill off mosquitoes and other bugs around the neighborhood because it was so cool to see that puff of smoke come out. Conventional, the norm, changed to today's standard of using these chemicals readily.

Conventional farmers use millions of pounds of pesticides each year, much of which ends up in our drinking water and oceans. Pesticides and chemicals kill off living things - bugs and animals that may eat the food as well as parasites and microorganisms. Pesticides deplete the soil so more chemicals are needed to fertilize enabling the cycle to continue.

Pesticides are poisons. Most have the potential of causing cancer and are endocrine disrupters that mimic or interfere with our hormones. Pesticides cannot always be washed off the food, even with soap, as they are "ingested" in the plant through the roots and are actually in the body of the food.

Pesticides have a well documented and serious impact on our health. Among the many adverse effects, pesticides:
  • compromise our liver's job of cleaning toxins from our body
  • compromise each cell's ability to produce energy and do their respective jobs in our body
  • compromise our nerves and their job of sending important messages in our body
In short, pesticides cause disease and death. That's their goal, to kill off the bugs and pests. But they are having serious impacts on the lives of humans and especially on our future, our very own children. This is particularly important in the amounts and combinations of these pesticides. Since most children are picky eaters, they will eat more of one thing meaning more of certain chemicals. The long-term effect of these pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemicals, and the effect of the 'cocktail' of pesticide combinations on growing children has not been completely studied but it's clearly impacting fertility, development, health, and longevity. Pesticides can cause birth defects, cancer, nerve damage, impact our immune system, and disrupt our hormonal balance.

More recent news suggests that conventional foods may help us keep unwanted weight on our bodies. We all know the liver's function is to clear our bodies of toxins. The latest research indicates that the toxic buildup burdens the liver's function to such an extent that it cannot do it's other important jobs - burn body fat! An impaired liver can therefore cause weight gain.

Organic farmers are leaders and innovators at protecting our environment while protecting the crops naturally.
Organic farmers work with the natural ecosystem to improve the soil and deter pests. They rotate crops between fields and have diversity in their farms; while the conventional farmer limits crops and farming practices which depletes the soil's nutrients and leads to a real risk of crop damage from disease.

Organic farmers plant certain flowers and bushes to attract helpful insects who will then eat or deter pests that might otherwise eat the crops; conventional farms kill off insects and pests, helpful and hurtful to the farmer.

Organic farmers work with nature to replenish the soil, do not use toxic pesticides or fertilizers and maintain a biologically sustainable investment in our future.
The organic farmer works to create and maintain healthful soil. Worms and microorganisms work to keep the soil strong. The soil feeds the plant. Therefore healthful soil creates food with more nutrition. True, conventional food is devoid of harmful bacteria and bugs, but it is also lower in nutritional value and has less flavor.

Chemicals deplete the top soil and cause soil erosion which in turn offers less nutrition to the plant which in turn creates less nutritious food for us.
In addition, the chemicals and pesticides are killing off microorganisms. Many of these microorganisms are helpful and are actually healthful. Discoveries of helpful bacteria that turn into cures for disease are found in dirt regularly around the world. In killing off the good and bad organisms, we are creating new super-resistant bugs and strains of insects and pests that require even more powerful chemical pesticides to be killed.

Healthy plants are more disease resistant, are more drought resistant, create a better supply of food, create more nutritious food, and grow strong without chemical assistance. It all works together.

At home, our own yards can be maintained organically. Years ago, we would to play in the dirt, dirt that was free of harmful chemicals and loaded with helpful microorganisms. As children this set up our immune systems to be strong. Children were healthier. When our children run and play in the yard, we need to make sure that is a yard they can lie in safely and that runoff from our yard is not going to poison our planet and water supply.

Conventional farming overseas is even worse than in the U.S. since farmers can get away with more with relaxed environmental laws. In many countries, conventional farming is destroying the rainforest and causing the demise of plants and animals for the sake of one single kind of "cash" crop ki. Forests are plowed to make way for planting, soil is eroded, chemicals and poisons enter our water systems, animals lose their homes, toxins enter the delicate ecosystem.

And talk about doing our part to help curb global warming,
conventional farming uses more fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used to create pesticides and chemicals. They are used to transport them to the farm. Micro-organisms that would otherwise hold carbon are killed releasing carbons into the atmosphere. Once the soil is depleted of micro-organisms, the soil must be enriched with chemical fertilizers which again take fossil fuels in creation and transportation. Conventional farms are more automated and use more fossil fuels generally. They have an over-abundance of manure since they are not using that so that is another issue which must be removed with fossil fuels. Organic farming uses up to 60% less fossil fuel per unit of food.

What is Biodynamic? Biodynamic Demeter supervised farming meets all organic standards and takes them even further. This system was created in ancient times to create healthful soil to withstand the test of time. Biodynamic farming takes even more time and money and therefore things cost more, but what it gives us is a true harmony with our land. It works with the plants, animals, and the environment to promote healthy soil and healthy plants.

Choosing organic produce and biodynamic products supports local, generally smaller, organic farms and the families who work those farms. Paying organic farmers in other countries a fair wage by choosing Fair Trade products allows them to create strong communities, schools and help children and their families. In addition, and as you would guess, conventional farmers and the people that work in and around the fields (including the people that crop dust and spray the chemicals and pesticides) have a much higher risk of cancer than organic farmers.

Organic certification confirms a set of standards:

  • farmland used to grow the produce must be free of chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, etc) for at least three (3) years. During the three year period, they are considered "transitional" and before that they are simply conventional.
  • there is a paper trail to make sure that product is indeed the organic product you expect.
  • organic poultry and beef are raised on organic feed or organically maintained pastures
  • organic cows and chickens cannot be given growth hormones, stimulants or antibiotics
  • organic dairy cows, poultry and cattle must be treated humanely with
    o clean water,
    o a clean place to sleep,
    o access to the outdoors,
    o exercise, and
    o fresh air
  • organic dairy pasteurization must meet hygienic standards
  • dairy cows may not be sold for slaughter as beef
  • beef is processed in a certified plant where organic cows are separated from conventional ones and the entire processing line must be cleaned to organic specifications for the organic ones
  • no more than 5% of the ingredients (excluding water and salt) are conventional; or at least 95% of the product is organic as per the standards of certification
  • organic products cannot use some organic and some conventional of the same ingredient
Chemical poisons are dangerous. The environmental impact is great today and sadly, they remain in the ecosystem for decades after use. When we look and see that organic foods are sometimes more than conventional, we need to remember the toll conventional foods are having upon our world and our future. Organic foods are actually less costly when we look at the money it takes to fix the problems created by conventional farming. And yes, EVERY choice, EVERY person, EVERY item counts as a vote in the right direction.

Understandably, organic can cost more than conventional, but remember that cheap is not food, cheap is a way to fill the belly that has expensive repercussions long-term upon our health and our planet. It's actually more expensive to produce cheap food, more energy is needed to create each calorie and the clean up of the mess made to our health and our environment is expensive. Instead choose organic whenever possible - particularly for those foods you feed yourself and family most. That will offer you the biggest impact on your own lives and is the best place to start.

Organic farming protects our water supply, our wild life, our families, and our future. Choosing organic foods is like voting to go back to a more natural and safer way of breathing, eating, and living. It's a vote for our health today, our children's current and future health, our environment, animals, and our planet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mama was Right! (weight loss, processed health foods, real foods)

Like many of us, my weight has fluctuated a bit during my adult life. I was both thinnest and biggest all during my twenties. I feel healthiest now.

My husband and I started rethinking our eating when we were pregnant 12 years ago with our first. The changes came slowly with lots of research. Then I got mad that I could not find the foods I wanted locally so we started an organic grocery delivery business. I had a mission to have a real food store, a real "whole foods." but I acquiesced under customer requests and started to offer more packaged things and the latest and greatest super foods.

Sometimes things didn't sell in time at the store. Sometimes we received short-dated product but didn't catch it in time. Whenever something was short-dated, it found it's way to the local food banks (we donated twice a week imperfect produce and products) and of course some made it into our home since I had lots of guilt from buying it but it not selling in time. It was organic, and I had taken it a step further and researched the products and ingredients, so it was the best packaged stuff we could get; I figured it was ok once in a while. But once in a while became pretty regularly without me even noticing. I continued to prepare most meals from scratch.

Then we lost it all. Our business collapsed. No more access to foods. We lost our house, our savings built up over our entire working careers, we lost everything. The most depressing part for me was opening my empty refrigerator wondering how I would feed my children. Literally, I'd cry. I was beside myself. I figured I could never afford organic foods again and was almost resigned to buying the cheap packaged stuff. I had even pictured in my mind my children's quizzical reactions at their first cheap non-food meal that I'd prepare with love. While I was losing some weight from the stress of it all, I wasn't feeling well.

Then one day I really watched my youngest play and realized all he really needed in life was me. We had lost our money, our home, and our business, the economy was bleak and jobs were tight, but, we had one another. And we still had our health. I have always been so thankful that I was able to have children in the first place when so many of my friends had trouble. To top that off, I have such wonderful and healthy children; we had a lot! None of us are on any medications, no aches and pains, no problems pooping and all those other things we see commercials for on television. No over the counter meds or prescriptions. We were healthy because overall, we had been eating well and nourishing our bodies.

I realized we needed fresh organic fruits and vegetables!

Around this time we were reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff, and Real Food: What to Eat and Why. We were convinced to eat it real. And so we have.

Since our store closed we have all lost weight and feel healthier. The kids have not been able to open a box when I was too busy to get up to make them something. Now when I don't have something ready to eat, they open the refrigerator and grab a fruit or piece of cheese. We have no packaged processed "health" foods in the house. We eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, grass-fed meats, grass-fed butter and whole milk, wild fish, cheese, organic eggs from free-range hens.

We eat a lot of eggs; they are an inexpensive source of protein and very versatile. Pastured eggs (eggs from hens allowed to pasture naturally) are best. I remember when we were first getting into organics I looked at the price of organic versus conventional eggs and told Jack "we eat so many eggs, look at the price difference, we can't afford to eat organic eggs." And he said a very wise thing that I will never forget, "since we eat so many eggs, we cannot afford to get conventional ones."

Our egg consumption has gone up considerably since that time, up to a dozen a day (and no, we do not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, we are quite healthy) to feed our family of four kids and two adults. I know the difference (conventional hen houses are disgusting to say the least) and my body does too.

There is also new research to indicate that organic foods and foods with less pesticides and chemicals allow our body to more easily maintain a healthful weight and actually help our body lose weight. It has to do with our liver having time to use the excess fat instead of working overtime cleansing our body of the unnatural additives we ingest.

Sure it can take more time and requires some planning, but to me, that is what life is all about. Planning a meal, preparing the food with care, nourishing your loved ones with delicious healthful real foods that they enjoy, and sneaking vegetables into every dish as well as offering plenty on the side for color, flavor and variety. Being a healthy weight, avoiding the doctor, saving money, enjoying one of life's pure pleasures: food - to me that is all part of a real life and thankfully, a big part of ours.

This is part of two carnivals
and the carnival on Weight Loss/Gain, Share strategies for losing weight (naturally, of course) or gaining weight, if that is what your goal is sponsored by:

and Works for Me Wednesdays

Monday, May 11, 2009

Salsa & Chips, it's not so simple anymore

For Cinco de Mayo last week I brought in fresh organic roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, limes, garlic, avocados, and scallions to make salsa with the kids. And of course, I brought in chips for the class.

  • 4 ripe roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, fresh squeezed juice
  • 1 garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 jalapeno, chopped fine
  • sea salt
  • 2 scallions, chopped
Mix and enjoy as a topping or with chips. You can cuisinart it if you like it less chunky.

They did an outstanding job chopping and making their own salsa. We talked about the different flavors, smelled and tasted. I helped share information with this bright group of third and fourth graders about the differences between organic and conventional and why our family doesn't eat certain things, especially those made of conventional corn. Eating salsa and chips isn't a simple task for us anymore as we have to search for organic corn chips or at least those labeled non-GMO.

In the U.S. there are no labeling requirements when a product contains anything genetically modified. Corn and Soy are the top two crops that are genetically altered. Therefore, corn chips are most assuredly GMO if they are not labeled organic.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) or Genetically Engineered (GE) foods involve a scientific process that alters the very genetic make-up of a plant by introducing new DNA into the nucleus. Genes from humans, bacteria, viruses, other plants, and even animals are spliced into the seed. The effects of these changes have not been fully tested on our environment, nor on our health. Europe has banned GMOs but here in the U.S. we have to search and read labels carefully.

The organic label is a good place to look to make sure the products we choose are not GMO. By definition, organic foods cannot be genetically altered.

My rule of thumb to people just starting to change their eating habits is to choose organic particularly for those things that your family eats most and especially those products that contain any soy or corn in them. And corn is in almost every processed food under the label of a variety of things including:
  • in Baked Goods that contain Baking Powder or Confectioner’s/Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, Corn Syrup, Cornmeal, Cornstarch, Starch
  • Fructose And Fructose Syrup
  • Maltodextrin & Dextrine
  • MSG - Monosodium Glutamate also listed as Autolized Yeast Extract
Corn is even ingested by us second hand and a majority of it goes for animal feed so be wary of:
  • Grain-fed Poultry
  • Grain-Finished Beef
  • Vegetarian-Fed Eggs
Choose pastured, grass-fed, and organic for a variety of reasons not the least of which is to avoid GMO corn.

It may not be simple anymore to find and enjoy chips and salsa, but armed with some knowledge, we can protect ourselves and crunch away!

This post is part of the No GMO Challenge - JOIN US!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Papaya Salsa & more - Dinner a la Buying Club

Since getting all these goodies in our boxes least week, I have been making salsas, fruit platters and lovely salads all week long.

The other night I made a Papaya Mango Salsa to enjoy with the Mexican-Spiced ground Beef, Collard Chips, and fresh organic non-GMO Corn on the cob.

The papaya mango salsa was a big hit - we had a papaya that wasn't quite ripe but had a little mold spot so I cut that away and peeled the fruit, took out the seeds, and chopped it in strips. Then I added some other things. It was really delicious.

Papaya Mango Salsa:
  • 1 unripe Papaya sliced
  • 1 ripe sweet Mango cut into chunks
  • 1 ripe Avocado cut into chunks
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 of a Jalapeno chopped fine (seeds, ribs and all if you want it spicy!)
  • 1 juice of a fresh Lime
  • Sea Salt
We had that with some simple Mexican-inspired sauteed ground beef.

  • 2 Cubanelle Peppers sliced
  • 1/4 of a Jalapeno, with ribs and seeds if you want it spicy
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each: oregano, chili powder
  • 1lb Grass-fed Bison or Ground Beef
Saute up the peppers, onion and garlic, add the tomato paste and spices cook a half minute more. Add the meat and saute until done.

These were locally grown Florida Cubanelle Peppers. They are normally long and pale green. I let mine go a couple days and one started turning red, as you can see.

They are crispy, juicy and mild tasting. Great chopped fresh for salad or in a sandwich, but their shape begs them to be stuffed! Today I just sliced them up and sauteed them into the dish.

Collard Chips were a nice crunchy side dish. We have made them before from Kale but never thought of Collards until someone at the school mentioned it to me so we gave it a go and they are wonderful and surprisingly not bitter at all.
  • 1 bunch Collards washed, tough stem removed
  • olive oil
  • salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut Collards (or any other green) into chip pieces. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in batches, each in a single uncrowded layer for 10 minutes. Turn once and cook another minute or so until crisp.

For dessert we enjoyed a sweet VERY juicy yellow watermelon, one of our favorite kinds of watermelon.

A fun meal thanks to the Buying Club goodies! Last week's box included:
    • Strawberries
    • Pineapple or Blood Oranges
    • Fuji Apples
    • Bananas
    • Lemons
    • Limes
    • Florida Cantaloupe
    • Florida Roma Tomatoes (most groups)
    • Florida Collard Greens
    • Florida Yellow Corn
    • Florida Cubanelle Peppers
    • Florida Jalapeno Peppers
    • Romaine or Red Leaf Lettuce
    • Cilantro
    • Garlic
    • Scallions
    • Hass Avocados
    • Broccoli
    • Baby Peeled Carrots
    • Garnett Sweet Potato Yams
The Papaya and Yellow Watermelon were part of the extra fruit add-on to the regular buying club share in our group.

The club has certainly been a fun way for me to try new things and give old favorites a new recipe. It keeps our refrigerator colorful and fresh and we always have lovely healthy things to snack on during the day. I have appreciated the food, freshness, quality, and variety very much and hope those of you who are in our buying club or another one in your area, are also venturing outside your normal menu and enjoying yummy fresh seasonal organics too!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mango Salsa & Wild White Pacific Salmon

This week's share from our buying club offered a bounty for Cinco de Mayo fun. I chopped up Avocados, Cilantro, Jalapenos, Scallions, a ripe Mango from the week before, and Tomatoes into this incredible salsa. A squeeze of fresh Lime juice and a shake of Alea Hawaiin Sea Salt and it was unbelievably fresh and tasty with a bite that kept us going back for more.
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • 1 handful of cilantro chopped
  • 1 mango, cut into chunks
  • 2 good size roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 - 1/2 jalapeno, seeds, ribs and all because we like the heat, chopped very tiny
  • 1-2 scallions chopped
  • all the fresh juice of 1 lime
I used it to top Mahi-Mahi and Wild White Pacific Salmon which topped a green salad and Sweet Potato Hash made up of Chopped Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Red Bell Peppers from a couple weeks ago (a little wrinkly by now), an Onion, and some Jalapeno diced small.
  • 2 medium sized Sweet Potatoes, chopped, grated or sliced in thin strips
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Red Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 Jalapeno, diced thin
  • 1-2 Garlic cloves, chopped
Heat pan, add olive oil. Add sweet potatoes and cover. You'll want to turn it every couple minutes so the bottoms don't burn. When almost tender add onions, garlic, red bell pepper, jalapeno, and saute until onions are translucent and potatoes are done and getting brown. We have topped this with eggs for brunch last week and today topped the hash on one side and salad on the other with white wild pacific fish.

White salmon is a rare and delectable treat. It has a firm flesh and the flavor of Ivory or White salmon is more delicate than the Red Salmon. It is comparable to regular king salmon in omega 3s and less of a "fishy" taste from regular pink salmon.

Why White? The color variation is due to genetics. Salmon get their typical red or pink color from carotene in the food they eat (crustaceans such as shrimp and krill), but 1% of the salmon are genetically predisposed with an extra enzyme to process carotene rather than collect it. This can only occur in the wild so you can be assured your salmon is indeed "free range" when you buy Ivory or White Chinook Salmon.

Why Wild and not Farmed? Farmed sounds better, we are protecting the wild fish, right? But it's not that simple. When you hear farmed, think agri-business, think of those huge dairy and cattle farms and chicken pens where they sit on top of one another. Ah, it's getting clearer now.

Yes, the fish are raised in confined areas (cages or nets) in the ocean. "Ocean-raised" is another name for farmed fish so don't be fooled there. The fish do not have room to move and are treated much like conventional livestock on top of one another to maximize profit.

They don't get to use their muscles and really swim as they should. They are in close proximity to one another and therefore, like other animals raised in big agri-business, are prone to sickness. They are infested with sea lice (30,000 times more than normally occurring in the sea!)

If and when they get out, (and they DO get out - some by accident while others are let out on purpose to get rid of a sick population of fish easily) they mingle with the wild fish which in turn gets them sick. They infest the surrounding sea with disease and sea lice.

If they are not sick when they get out, the wreak havoc on the delicate ecosystem - they are super-fish that eat more than the regular wild salmon. The farmed fish are genetically engineered salmon and they are sadly taking over the environment.

Since they are in such close living quarters, like the beef and chickens on big conventional farms, they are routinely fed antibiotics. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (, over 68% of all seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and most of it is industrially produced. Most are farm-raised and have little oversight regarding antibiotic drug use. While the U.S. government has standards that should ban imports with high levels of antibiotics in seafood, there is essentially no enforcement.

Farmed salmon have more antibiotics administered by weight than any other form of livestock. Farmed salmon have significantly higher levels of PCBs, dioxin, and other cancer causing agents over wild salmon.

Farmed fish are fed coloring agents (no doubt petroleum-based) to give them that pinkish blush we are accustomed to seeing, otherwise they'd be a blah unappetizing grey.

Farmed fish are fed pellets and undoubtedly contain GMO and soy in the grind. Those pellets DO NOT get converted by the fish to make the powerful omega 3s for us like the wild salmon's regular food. Farm raised salmon doesn't have as high nutritional value. Omega 3s are an essential fatty acid that are most easily found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. It can be found to a lesser extent in some seeds and nuts including walnuts, chia & flax seeds, but our bodies don't convert the foods into omega 3s the same way so the best source is fish.

We didn't even discuss flavor, there is absolutely no comparison. I always thought I hated salmon until I had real wild salmon. It is delicious.

Wild is the only sustainable approach to fishing as long as they are not using those nets that pick up everything from the ocean killing innocent fish that are destined for nothing more than to be tossed overboard. I choose Vital Choice brand because they sustainably harvest. Their fish are line caught by hand from the pristine Pacific waters. They explain that only two percent of the Alaskan Salmon are caught by line and all of their fish are line caught. Net fishing damages habitats making more species endangered.

Yes, it's more expensive, it's cheaper to throw in a net and catch some and kill a few other things. But then again, there is a lot more nutritional bang for your buck in a wild salmon so cheap is all relative. Our choice of what to buy and feed our loved ones impacts our lives, our future, and our planet so choose carefully and if you think it's too expensive, just eat less of it. Cheap is not food. Choose food not cheap.

Then there was that article in the NY Times about the farmed fish being sold as wild for more money. You are more likely to have wild salmon if it is frozen, unless you live on the Pacific coast, but here on the East coast, I only eat salmon that is fresh frozen on the boat the same day it is caught - it doesn't get any fresher. It is incumbent upon us as the consumers to choose a source we trust and understand the facts.

Farmed salmon are administered antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs. Wild Salmon is also much higher in heart and brain healthy Omega 3s and just taste so much better. In my mind, and I hope you agree, WILD fish is the only choice. And of the wild fish available, please learn which are safest (lowest in mercury, flourishing in a healthy habitat, and not over-fished) to make a sustainable choice for your table and our future. Check out the Seafood Selector by the Environmental Defense Fund and Seafood Watch by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I am a Food RENEGADE!This is part of Food Renegade's FIGHT BACK FRIDAYS where people who are fighting back against the dominate food culture blog about our adventures in real food including:
  • updates & stories about our Real Food journey,
  • tips,
  • recipes,
  • anything we think others might find useful, helpful, encouraging, or inspiring.

Roast! (and I ain't talkin' Beef)

Sometimes the ugliest* fruit is the sweetest. Sometimes the simplest preparation of meals are the most delicious. And many times, the ugliest and simplest help make eating real food affordable and convenient.

Roasting is the easiest, simplest, quickest, and quite a tasty way to prepare vegetables. The method can be used on almost anything and it's pretty much the same:
  1. Cut up veggie into equal sizes.
  2. Drizzle on oil and toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle on grey salt or sea salt.
  4. Lay it flat on a cookie sheet so they are not crowded.
  5. Roast at 375F for 10 - 30 minutes until done, usually until they begin to brown.
Variations have to do with what vegetable, oil, and temperature.
  • You can roast at a higher heat, 425F, for less time. I usually choose that method.
  • You can toss in olive, coconut , walnut, macadamia nut, or sunflower oils. Don't use corn or soybean oil or another GMO oil.
  • The big secret is not to overcrowd the pan, otherwise they will steam instead of roast.
  • Choice of vegetable or mix of vegetables is the biggest change.
Roasting enriches the flavor and deepens the color. It offers variety into our weekly menu and can be done for any seasonal vegetable. It is quick and easy, nutritious and delicious, and comprises of 3 ingredients and some heat.

Here is a combination of Purple and Yellow Cauliflower florets pre- and post-roasting:

NOTE: Roasting does shrink them some AND they are so delicious everyone, including the kids, will eat more so roast more!

Try Roasting:
  • Root Vegetables together - try a combination of Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips, Rutabaga, even some pieces of Fennel mixed in
  • Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes - cut in similar shapes but try different ones like squares, frie cut, big beefsteak fries, rounds
  • Cauliflower - see Cauli-power
  • Broccoli
  • Greens - take out the ribs and cut into equal sized "chips" and roast Kale or Collards. Check out this great blog with pictures and clear easy instructions and yes, even your kids will eat it!
  • Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Green Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, just about any vegetable can be roasted.
The timing depends upon how big or small you cut them and how dense the vegetable is, so check it after 10 minutes, you are looking for the beginning of caramelization and browning on the vegetables. You may need to give them a turn with the spatula mid-way through. Enjoy your veggies - this method is quick and easy and very delicious.

This is part of the Simple & Nourishing Carnival on Keeping it Simple with meals.

* Sometimes the fruit that looks over the top is the sweetest and can be gotten for nothing since no one else wants it. Don't always judge a piece of produce by it's looks, like many things in life, it's what inside that counts.

See more:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Carrots, Chlorine, & Kids, Oh My!

The internet is great for sharing information. Unfortunately, it's equally great at sharing misinformation. And as we all know, a little information can be a dangerous thing.

Once again, the email about baby carrots is circulating. This says that it's from a farmer and gives some fancy labels explaining that baby carrots are "dipped in a solution of water and chlorine to preserve them (this is the same chlorine used in pools)." Some of the emails claim the carrots are not real and call them "practically plastic" and others say they are deformed carrot mutations and that is why they are cut up into baby carrots. Even better it goes on to say "You will notice that once you keep the carrots in your refrigerator for a few days, a white covering will form on the carrots. This is the chlorine which resurfaces. At what cost do we put our health at risk to have esthetically pleasing vegetables?" After reading that, how can we feed this to our precious kids?

I checked on snopes and there are some valid points and some clear non-truths. That is in addition to the spelling error for aesthetically. I also took this a step further contacted Bunny-Luv the maker of the organic baby carrots directly and learned:
  1. The white residue is evidence of dehydration not chlorine.

  2. Chlorine is not a preservative and cannot be used as a preservative, it has not preservative qualities.

  3. Grimmway/Bunny-Luv uses the same amount of chlorine found in your regular drinking/tap water NOT the levels from a pool. So if you wash your food under your tap water, you are doing the same thing.

  4. Baby carrots are NOT plastic or practically plastic or deformed carrots, they are big carrots cut to size.

  5. Baby Carrots are not cut from mutant carrots, they are just created from regular larger carrots or the tops after processing carrots for other things like frozen or shredded carrots.

This was the response from Grimmway/Bunny-Luv:

"We do use chlorinated water in the processing of our carrots; HOWEVER, the amount of chlorine used is only 4ppm (parts per million) which is the same standard for household tap water. If you wash your vegetable under running water from your faucet, you are getting the same amount of chlorine we use.

Chlorine is not a preservative as it has no preservative qualities. It is used to kill any bacteria that may be present on the surface of the carrot. The dry white that can appear on carrots is not chlorine residue; it is simply evidence of dehydration. Cut and peel any carrot and allow it to sit for awhile and it will turn white. I hope this answers your question."

So baby carrots, at least organic ones, are safe to eat and are a good food to feed our children.

HOWEVER, it is true that Chlorine is a carcinogen. Chlorine is probably the most widely used toxic chemical. It is used in clothing, paper products, laundry bleach, cleaners and scouring pads. We use it to clean, we add it to our pools, we add it to our laundry to get our whitest whites.

Chlorine is readily absorbed through the skin and is toxic when inhaled. Chlorine Bleach, Phosphoric Acid, Sodium Hypochlorite, and Sodium Hydroxide can irritate lungs, burn eyes, skin and internal organs (if swallowed). Chlorine can react with other chemicals, like ammonia, to damage lungs. In fact, it was used full strength as a weapon to destroy the lungs of soldiers in WWI.

Once Chlorine gets into our environment, it forms cancer-causing compounds. It is a "hazardous pollutant" according to the Clean Air Act and is on EPA's Right To Know List. It is the chemical most involved (tops the list for children) in poisonings, injuries and even death. Studies show a link between dioxins and cancer as well as reproductive problems, endocrine disruption, and a weakened immune system.

We should make the effort to eliminate it from our laundry, cleaning, and washing. We should also take steps to eliminate it from our showers (which are a toxic mix of chlorine heated next to vinyl shower curtains – a horrible combination - that's another post!)

We buy baby carrots because they are convenient. We can add them to soups and stews. They are an easy kid-friendly snack. They are great for dips and the crudites platter. They save us time from peeling and washing and therefore allow us to add a vegetable to our day easily, even on the go.

Baby carrots are a REAL FOOD made more convenient and much better than opening a bag of chips or pretzels. Please don't stop eating carrots. But do take steps to take chlorine out of your life where possible.

This is part of