Posts Tagged ‘food’

Celebrate with a “Green” Thanksgiving!

As we give thanks for family, friends and delicious and abundant food this Thanksgiving, take a moment to appreciate this beautiful earth we live on too.  Why not make your Thanksgiving a “green” one and try the ideas below.

Image by Ilrena Flickr.com
  • For your holiday dinner, support local farmers who grow organic produce. The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Local food by contrast is usually transported 100 – 200 miles, has fewer pesticides and can be picked when ripe.  It is obviously fresher and better.  Farm stands and supermarkets have an abundance of local winter squash, carrots, potatoes, greens, herbs, apples, and pumpkin. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
  • Try a locally grown, free range organic turkey available at local farms and Whole Foods.  Fresh turkeys are unbelievably moist and delicious and not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.  You won’t believe the difference.  For the vegetarians at your table, try a Tofurkey (available from Trader Joe’s).  It come with its own vegetarian gravy and is really good!  If possible, use organic cranberries for your cranberry sauce – cranberries are a heavily sprayed crop.  Heart healthy salmon makes a delicious Thanksgiving dinner too!
  • Add freshly baked local artisan bread and rolls.
  • Consider serving organic wine along with your meal. Organic wine is made from certified organically grown grapes, meaning grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Conventionally grown grapes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and the chemical residues can end up in the wine.  Organically grown grapes are better for the soil, the plant and the wine drinker.
  • China, silver and cloth napkins are obviously better for the environment than paper plates and plastic utensils.  They look better too!  If you are expecting a big crowd and need to opt for disposable, get the biodegradable and compostable plates and utensils.
  • Thanksgiving dinner generates a lot of leftovers and food waste.   According to earth911.com, “at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person.” Careful planning and portion control is a good way to avoid waste. Leftovers are inevitable however, so consider donating them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.                                                                                                                                                                   Use Less Stuff created a handy list of approximate per person food portions for Thanksgiving dinner:
    • Turkey- 1 pound
    • Stuffing- ¼ pound
    • Sweet potato casserole- ¼ pound
    • Green beans- ¼ pound
    • Cranberry relish- 3 tablespoons
    • Pumpkin pie- 1/8 of a 9 inch pie
  • After the big feast, don’t forget to recycle cans, cartons, plastics and bottles and compost kitchen scraps.

With your healthy and “green” holiday feast, you won’t feel so badly about overindulging!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Eating Locally Through The Winter

It’s getting easier to eat fresh, local produce long after gardens have been put to bed.

Many farmers’ markets and CSA’s have extended their season into winter and early spring instead of closing down at the end of October. Green houses and hoop houses allow them to offer even more produce options.   Restaurants also feature locally grown and produced food all year-long.

Ithaca Farmers Market

Ithaca Farmers Market (Photo credit: mhaithaca)

Local produce choices depend on where you live, but in the northeast, farmers’ markets continue to sell root vegetables, onions, peppers, potatoes, winter squash, kale and other hardy greens, apples, and cranberries. Additionally you can also find local organic meat and poultry, freshly caught seafood, homemade baked goods, local organic chocolates, fresh spice blends, maple syrup and more.

Most gardeners have already made and canned fresh tomato sauce, jellies and jams enabling them to eat the bounties from their harvest well into the winter, but with a basement or a root cellar and a freezer you can also stock up on vegetables, fruits, and herbs from the markets.  Easily frozen or dried, you’ve got “fresh” herbs when your recipe calls for it.

So what’s so important about eating locally?

The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value.  With locally grown food there is less chance for spoilage or contamination since it doesn’t travel great distances.

Local food is grown using organic or IPM (integrated pest management) farming practices, with little or no petroleum-based fertilizers or toxic pesticides. Picked at peak freshness, local produce is tastier and more nutritious.

Farmers’ markets support local farmers and the local economy.  Because the farmer sells directly to the customer, he can eliminate the middleman and keep more of his profits.  Farming is hard work and a precarious business.  Their yield is totally weather-dependent and it feels good to help them.

Farmers’ markets create a sense of community, a place where friends and neighbors can gather.  They are a way for farmers and consumers to connect with each other.  They also offer a venue for musicians and artists.  In cold climates when hibernating sets in, this extension of summer is a welcome respite.

Check out the winter farmers’ market schedule in your town!

 

Clever Uses for Spent Spices

I have many more spices in my spice cabinet than I actually use, and most have been there for years. Ground spices lose their volatile oils after a time and shouldn’t be kept longer than a year or two.   I’ve even heard 6 months.  Many of mine are way past their potency and won’t add much flavoring to food; yet, I can’t just throw them away.   I recently read an article with some clever uses for old spices, a few of which I want to share with you.

To freshen your carpet (and your vacuum), you can sprinkle old spices like cinnamon, thyme, cloves or nutmeg directly on your carpet and then vacuum up.  What a perfect alternative to a toxic room freshener!  Try a small area first to make sure the spice colors won’t stain your carpet before applying to the entire rug.

Strong-smelling spices are often used in insect repellents, and the same theory holds true in the garden.  Sprinkle your old pepper, oregano, sage, peppermint, cayenne, chili powder, etc. around your rows of plants to keep insect pests away.  It won’t hurt your plant and is definitely worth a try.  Gardening is often a battle between mother nature and man, like on our farm where we have at least 25 geese and goslings, as well as rabbits, hedgehogs and even a fox who all seem to eat the vegetables as quickly as they come up.  Chili powder, red pepper and cayenne apparently keep squirrels, rabbits and other animals away as well.  I just spread old pepper flakes around our corn – I’ll keep you posted about its effectiveness.

English: Pepper yet to be ripened, taken by me...

Here’s an unlikely tip. According to Organic Authority, adding a few teaspoons of black pepper to your laundry load will keep colors bright and prevent fading.  Why not?  It’s certainly not toxic and may prolong the life of your clothes.

Enhance your summer cookouts by adding your old spices to the charcoal.  Cooking them helps to release the remaining volatile oils. You’ll love the extra boost of flavor and the aroma.  You can also toss freshly picked herbs right into the charcoal.  I especially like rosemary.

The pigment from nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon and turmeric make safe, natural paints when mixed with water.  Or place old spices in a sachet to freshen your dresser drawers.

English: spices: (Turkey, travel, Istanbul, sp...

Specialty tea and spice stores selling small jars of spices or spices in bulk are gaining popularity.  Farmers’ markets sometimes sell spices too.  I prefer to buy them in smaller containers so I know that I can use them up before they lose their potency.   But if not, I really like the idea of reusing old spices in fun ways.

Information compiled from Earth911.com, Kathryn Sukalich, 10 Ways to Use Up Old Spices.

 

Treat Your Pets With Organics!

February 07 015We have the same concerns for our pets about good health, proper nutrition and chemical exposure as we do for ourselves;  they are vulnerable to many of the same illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. As with humans,there are now many organic products and accessories for pets, as well as alternative therapies like aromatherapy, homeopathy and botanical supplements.  For example, conventional flea control products contain pyrethroids and pesticides, which can cause health problems and cancer risks.  They also pose risks to humans who touch their pet after a treatment.  I sprinkle a yeast and garlic supplement on my dog’s food to repel fleas from the inside out which seems to work with no risk. (Don’t give your pet straight garlic however.)  Flea combs, non-toxic powders, organic sprays and shampoos also work.  Here is a natural, easy-to-do flea spray you can make yourself:

Natural Flea and Tick Repellant

6 drops lavender oil; 6 drops cedar oil; 6 drops peppermint oil; 1 cup witch hazel; Combine all the ingredients and place in a spray bottle. Shake until mixed thoroughly. Shake bottle before using. This does not need to be worked into the skin. The smell will repel fleas and ticks.

Conventional pet food has preservatives, additives with little nutritional benefit, substitutes for more expensive meats, artificial colors, thickeners and sweeteners.  Many of these fillers are contaminants and potentially carcinogenic, but you can find healthier alternatives at most pet stores and supermarkets.

Most dogs spend a lot of time outside on the lawn, rolling around, digging, and sniffing.  If you are not already doing so, consider switching to organic lawn care instead of conventional which uses unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen based fertilizers, many of which are known carcinogens linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  Lawns actually use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.

Organic bedding, toys and clothing made using organic catnip and organic cotton help to keep your pets healthy and keep our planet free of pollutants.  Bark your dog (and cat) up the right tree!

Single Use Products

If you think about it, single use products make no sense at all. That’s part of the problem. In our throwaway society, we don’t think about it. Continuing the theme of my recent post about eliminating aluminum foil and plastic wrap, I’ve listed below other products you can try cutting out (or at least cutting back on).

English: Reusable shopping bag

English: Reusable shopping bag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Plastic bags – The movement to bring reusable bags food shopping is becoming well established. In fact, some cities and towns have eliminated them all together or charge for plastic bags. Start bringing reusable bags on your other errands as well. Make it a challenge to always bring them with you. Earmark some for food, some for clothes, etc. (Don’t forget to occasionally wash your reusable bags too.)

2. Plastic food baggies – They are hard to live without, but you can wash and reuse them a couple of times. Reusable cloth sandwich and biocompostable baggies are more available now as well.  Rule of thumb:  plastic and food don’t go together.

3. Paper Napkins – Cloth napkins are prettier, more durable, and certainly more eco-friendly than paper ones. Aim to use cloth napkins at most meals and keep recycled paper ones only as backup.

4. Paper Plates and Paper Cups – There is no doubt about their convenience, but they are totally wasteful, and plastic ones aren’t biodegradable.  For outdoor (or indoor) dining, consider dishwasher and oven safe enamelware. Lightweight and unbreakable, enamelware is perfect for camping or picnics too and comes in fun designs.

5. Plastic Water Bottles – There is no reason to buy plastic water bottles. They shouldn’t be reused and they don’t biodegrade. Use glasses at home and stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles for transporting.

6. Facial Tissues – This is one of those single use items you probably just want to cut back on rather than eliminate. I gave my husband some old-fashioned handkerchiefs and he loves them. Use them a few times, throw them in the wash and then reuse!

7. Dryer Sheets – There are lots of alternatives to conventional dryer sheets that aren’t made with chemical fabric softeners and soaked in toxic fragrances. Several natural brands use vegetable derived softening agents and essential oils instead. Reusable dryer balls made with PVC-free plastic or felt make the most sense to me – they soften clothes without chemicals, reduce drying time and save energy.

Cutting back on or eliminating single use products helps not only the earth, but your pocketbook as well. What single use products have you eliminated from your daily life? Email me – I’d love to know.

Raw Food Diet

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently attended a raw food cooking class. A raw food diet is just what it says – food that is eaten raw or heated to no more than 115 degrees. According to raw food experts, the advantages are that raw food contains beneficial live enzymes that make it more digestible and that it has a higher vitamin and nutrient content.   Heating or cooking chemically alters food causing it to lose its ability to provide energy.  Cooking also destroys certain vitamins. A raw food diet can cleanse and heal. The raw food diet as a health treatment was first developed in Switzerland in 1897 by Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, the inventor of muesli, after he recovered from jaundice by eating raw apples.  His health center is still in operation today.

In summer when fruits and vegetables are abundant, preparing seasonal, local, raw food is easy. A strict raw food diet year round however, is more involved and does not include any processed foods.  To make crackers, breads and other “baked” goods can be time consuming and requires advance planning.  Blenders, food processors, juicers and dehydrators are all needed equipment.  Sprouting and soaking are necessary to eat grains, legumes and nuts.  Nuts are a large part of the raw food diet and are used to make cheeses, crackers, breads and soups.

What appealed to me about the class was its emphasis on creating warming uncooked meals.  We learned simple tips like bringing all food to room temperature for a couple of hours before preparation and using lots of warming spices like cumin, curry and nutmeg.  Our meal started with a delicious raw butternut and green apple soup, followed by zucchini chive canapés, a zucchini slice smeared with chive cream cheese made from cashews – even better than “real” cream cheese! For dinner we made a Brussels sprout and pumpkin seed slaw, a wild rice and chickpea salad, kale and shallot pizzettes with 3 kinds of cheese (again, cashew based; the crust was made from flax seeds and vegetables “baked” in a dehydrator) and a fresh fig and lemon tart for dessert.  The dinner was fabulous and you never would have known it was uncooked!

I could never be an extreme “raw foodie”, but I do love experimenting with new and healthy cuisine.  I read somewhere to make 50% of your diet raw, so challenge yourself and give it a try. Below is a simple recipe for Cashew Parmesan cheese that rivals the real thing!  Email me for more recipes…

½ cup dry cashews

1 clove garlic (chopped)

¼ teaspoon sea salt (coarse)

Grind cashews and sea salt in food processor (with ‘s’ blade) until fine, almost powdery.  Add garlic and pulse food processor until texture resembles Parmesan.  Use on everything!

Information compiled from The Raw Truth, The Art of Loving Foods, by Jeremy A Safron and Renée Underkoffler,  http://en.wikipedia.org/, onesmallpatch.com.

What Are We Doing To Our Food Supply?

Today it seems that we have gone beyond the discussion about which foods are good for you and which aren’t, to which foods are poisonous, contaminated, or tainted!  Recently “Fish is not a Health Food” popped up in my email from one of my favorite (and reputable!) daily blogs, the gist of which was though the benefits of Omega-3 in fish are well-known, fish can no longer be considered a healthy food option due to the large amounts of mercury and other pollutants such as PCBs in them.  Mercury and PCBs cause damage to the heart and brain and in pregnant women can compromise their babies’ brain development.  If you eat fish regularly, your body most likely contains high amounts of mercury.  That’s a scary thought, especially when you think you are doing the right thing for your heart, brain and skin! Now recommendations are to avoid fish altogether or eat it no more than once a week. (When you do eat fish, choose the lowest mercury types like flounder, scallops, trout, sole, squid, wild salmon or sardines.)  Yet, factory-farmed chicken and beef raised in filthy, overcrowded, inhumane environments, injected with growth hormones and antibiotics, aren’t safe alternatives either.

fish baked with vegetables and herbs

fish baked with vegetables and herbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, maybe it’s safer to eat more grains, but not rice! Two major reports from the US Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Reports magazine just came out that “focused on the worrisome amounts of arsenic in rice and popular rice-based processed foods”.  According to the Environmental Working Group, there is reason to be concerned.  They state that many rice-based foods and some fruit juices have arsenic levels much higher than is allowed in drinking water, and that the contamination does include the form of arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral, that poses a serious risk to our health.  Their recommendations are: to limit your rice consumption and try alternative grains such as quinoa, couscous, barley or bulgur; to rinse rice thoroughly before cooking and cook with a lot of water; and to limit buying products that list rice syrup as a sweetener.

Throw in GMO foods (over 80% of all processed foods contain GMOs) and pesticide-grown vegetables and fruits, and our choices for safe food are severely limited! We have a serious problem when we can’t eat the basics; food safety should be one of our inalienable rights.  Fortunately, locally grown and organic foods are a healthy and safe option, but it’s time for action greater than just switching to organic foods, which many people cannot afford, or eliminating the latest poisonous food from our diet. It’s time to clean up our water and demand change from our food growers and manufacturers.  Our future depends on it.

Some information compiled from www.enviroblog.org and http://www.peacefuldaily.com.