Sunday, February 28, 2010
I have to admit I had no idea what I was making. I placed a pan on the stove and drizzled in some olive oil. I sliced the zucchini and cubed the tofu, throwing it all into the pan. I stood there, sautéing in my morning stupor, and trying to plan the course of my day. I might not be able to control all of the craziness in my life, but I can control my brunch, and today, that was just fabulous.
3 zucchinis, sliced
1/4 block extra-firm tofu, cubed
green onions for garnish
salt and pepper
Place zucchini and tofu in a pan over medium heat and sauté with the olive oil for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning as needed. Sprinkle with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste. Remove from heat and garnish with green onions and balsamic vinegar.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
2 lb butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and diced
1 medium red onion, cut into small wedges
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
3 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c cashews, raw, unsalted
1/4 c chopped fresh chives
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine squash, onion, and 2 Tbs olive oil in large bowl, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and scatter evenly on a baking sheet. Roast vegetables for 20 minutes, turning 2-3 times with a spatula.
Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1 Tbs oil, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes in small bowl. Place cashews in medium bowl and add 1 Tbs maple syrup mixture. Toss to coat.
Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees F. Scatter cashews among squash and onion wedges. Roast vegetables 10 minutes more, or until tender. Transfer to large serving bowl, drizzle with remaining maple syrup mixture, add chopped chives, and toss to mix.
Gluten Free, soy free
One of those bloggers that carry their laptop with them wherever they go just in case they have to blog about something interesting. (You're just lucky I don't have an iPhone... yet.)
This morning I made my weekly stop at the farmers' market. The one in the University District is open year-round. Lots of greens and root vegetables! It's starting to get busy again too. I think all of us Seattleites are anxiously awaiting spring.
After picking up some Brussels sprouts and kale, I stopped at Trabant for some chai (and blogging). This quarter is coming to an end and I keep questioning myself if I've "learned enough." In this moment of reflection, I tell my voice of cynicism to be quiet. I remind myself that learning is a process and there is no end.
The end of this quarter will not signal the end of this blog. This experience has changed my relationship to food - both publicly and privately. I appreciate that this blog that has opened up amazing conversations about food and life which I never would have had without it.
This morning, I came across WhyHunger.org and an amazing article on racism & farmworkers: "Seventy to seventy five percent of the entire agricultural workforce (migrant and non-migrant) in the U.S. are members of racial minority groups" and "farmworkers are the lowest paid occupational group in the United States." Just because a farm sells its organic produce at the local farmers' market does not mean they engage in fair and equitable labor practices. Just something to keep in mind.
There is so much more to food than what meets the eye. I cannot look at my food now without thinking about who grew it (if I even know) or how it was grown (again, if I even know). Food is not just about eating and nutrition. Our food system is so interconnected with issues of labor, race, culture, class, economic status, gender, policy, and the planet. I think my next area of exploration is organizations who are working on community-based solutions for food justice. Uh oh... do I hear another independent study?
Friday, February 26, 2010
CAGJ also had their famous baked kale. And it was the extra curly kind. Yum, baked kale... this organization spoils my taste buds every time I see them. What a good reputation. :)
I also have to do a shout-out for Hidmo at 20th and S Jackson St. I had never been here before, but it was an adorable restaurant with great food and music. They also have delicious vegan food: Injera (a traditional flat, sour, bread) with salad, red lentils, yellow lentils, cabbage, spinach, green beans, and okra. This picture does not do it justice.
Good friendship begins with good food. Well, at least that's my philosophy. Erin (B.) and I have known each other since elementary school and always seem to entertain ourselves with food - whether that's talking about it, cooking it, eating it, or spilling it on ourselves.
She recently moved and I went over last night to see her new place. With all of the cooking I've been doing for this blog I, of course, had to bring her dinner. She hadn't moved in all of her kitchen equipment yet, but I found a pretty creative solution to cooking with minimal supplies: my new Pyrex.
I always bring my own lunch to work and school and previous to buying Pyrex, I stored it in plastic containers. Even though the plastic containers are supposedly "microwave safe," given all the connections between heating plastic and cancer I refuse to do it. So, I would find myself lugging around extra dishware. Lame.
The great thing about Pyrex is that it's glass! I prepped all the food, threw it in the Pyrex, and then just stuck it in the oven to reheat when I got to Erin's. Any leftovers just went right back into the Pyrex for today's lunch. Genius.
Add the Sesame Broccoli & Sweet Potatoes to this bowl for a complete meal.
1 c brown rice
4 c water
2 vegan bouillion cubes
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
sesame seeds for garnish
Remove the tofu from the package and drain the liquid. Place the block of tofu on a plate and place a second place on top of it. This will help draw out the excess moisture. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Cook the tofu over medium heat in a frying pan for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish and serve.
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning 2-3 times. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish and serve.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
This week I challenged myself to focus on winter vegetables. Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes was a great help for this. Here's a handy chart:
I came across this recipe for root vegetables in 1,000 Vegan Recipes and it looked delicious. I do not think I have ever used sugar before when cooking vegetables so I figured this would be an interesting experience. Ok, let me pause here for a moment.
I have a confession. I have never eaten parsnips or turnips before today. Why? I guess I didn't know what to do with them. These were not part of my vegetable experience while growing up and we're always a little cautious of the unfamiliar.
However, this recipe is amazingly sweet, tart, and tangy. These veggies are still a little too scary for Ashley, but maybe one day they'll make it into the Ash Picks. I used half the amount of sugar recommended and mine still turned out quite sweet.
Makes 4 servings.
2 tbsps olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium shallots, halved or quartered
3 large carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 large parsnips, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 small turnups, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 c water
1/4 c sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute to soften. Add the carrots, parsnips, and turnips and cook, stirring, until lightly brown and softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the water and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining two tablespoons of water and and the vinegar and simmer for 2-3 minutes to blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low until the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Soy free, gluten free
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I've been doing a lot of late-night cooking this week. Posting a new recipe a day is both an amazing gift and a challenge. I've been listening to a lot of Jack Johnson lately and he has become my new cooking buddy. I cannot remember which song it is, but at the end of one of his song tracks, he talks about how surfing is all about operating in the present. I will have to find the clip and share it with you because the way he phrases it is really beautiful.
His comment about operating in the present really struck me. It seems like most of us would agree that our mainstream culture is all about not operating in the present: multi-tasking, skipping meals, and constantly adding things in our planners for the future, but losing touch with the current moment.
I know that I personally struggle with operating in the present, which was one of the reasons I challenged myself to go on a five-day silent meditation retreat back in November. At the retreat, we alternated between sitting meditation and walking meditation. From 5:30 am until 10:30 pm, we performed sitting and walking meditation, with meal breaks and occasional chores. Since there were no distractions of my daily world -- work, my cell phone, my computer, schoolwork, or chatter -- it was easy to remain fully present.
At the end of the retreat, our teacher told us that one of the ways to keep our practice going as we returned to our lives was to pick a daily habit and choose that as our meditation period. For example, every time you shower, use that as an opportunity to be fully present. Or, every time you drink tea, do nothing but drink tea and become present in your body. I never ended up doing this, and sadly, I have not meditated since the retreat... until now.
Tonight I realized I have been meditating while cooking. While cooking I am fully present. I am aware of all the colors, flavors, sounds, and smells of what I am cooking. For the last three weeks, I have made the time and space in my day to cook. It has become my practice.
This got me thinking about eating as a meditation practice and inspired me to find out more. Eating As Meditation and Eat Your Way to Enlightenment are both great resources about mindful eating meditation. This is also an interesting contrast to Mindless Eating, a book by Brian Wansink, that I read a few months ago about how unaware we are of our food and eating habits. I think a huge piece of this journey for me has been becoming present with my food; taking the time to recognize what actually tastes good and what I like eating (not simply what is most nutritious) and allowing the space for food to become a spiritual experience.
What I do know about soy is that there are a lot of people who have soy allergies or can be sensitive to it. I consider myself to be part of this second category, so I try to limit my use of soy in my cooking. However, I do love a good batch of marinated tofu.
The fun thing about tofu is that it has no real flavor of it's own - it's a blank canvas for marinades and sauces and can be used in many different dishes. Tofu is made from soybean curd that has been pressed into blocks. There are different varieties of tofu - silken, soft, firm, extra-firm - which relate to the moisture content. For most of my cooking, I prefer the extra-firm variety because it holds together the best.
This recipe is a just a basic batch of marinated tofu that has been baked. It can then be used in wraps, salads, sandwiches, or with rice or quinoa. It's also a great snack.
Here's how I made mine:
1 package extra-firm tofu
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp spicy mustard
Remove the tofu from the package and drain the liquid. Place the block of tofu on a plate and place a second place on top of it. This will help draw out the excess moisture. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
While the tofu sits, mix the soy sauce, olive oil, basil, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a medium-sized bowl. After 10 minutes, slice the tofu in strips about 1/2 inch thick. Marinate the strips in the mixture for about 30-60 minutes.
While the tofu is marinating, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. After it is done marinating, place the tofu strips on a baking pan and bake for 30-45 minutes, flipping halfway through.
The nice thing about this recipe is that it's easy to make and can be modified in different ways. You can also experiment with different spices in your marinade. To mix it up, try using parsley, cilantro, garlic, ginger, or onion powder. You can also use sesame oil or lemon juice instead of soy sauce.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I did not initially realize that the Italian herb blend I bought also had lavender, which gives this salad an interesting twist. Do I like it enough to add it again? The jury's still out. For my salad, I doubled the amount of peas and also added in chickpeas and red bell pepper.
From the Veg-Feasting Cookbook:
Serves 6 to 8
5 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup millet, rinsed
1 cup drained and quartered artichoke hearts
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 bunch chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1 cup thawed frozen peas
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
3/4 cup light-flavored oil, such as canola
Place 2 medium saucepans on the stove and pour 2 1/2 cups water into each. Bring the water to a boil and add the quinoa to one saucepan and the millet to the other. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook until the grains are soft, about 15 minutes for the quinoa and 20 minutes for the millet. Drain and rinse the grains in cold water. Set them aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked and cooled grains with the artichoke hearts, carrots, red onion, parsley, sunflower seeds, black olives and frozen peas.
In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and Italian herb blend. Drizzle the oil into the blended ingredients. Toss the grain and vegetable mixture with the blended dressing and serve.
Monday, February 22, 2010
This dish is easy to make and very hearty with the red beans. The warmth and spiciness make it the perfect winter dish for a cold day. I was so excited to try this that I tasted it too quickly and burned my tongue, which I do not recommend. :)
Makes 4 servings
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c long-grain brown rice
2 cans red kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
cayenne pepper to taste
cilantro for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots, and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
Stir in the rice, beans, tomatoes, thyme, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. Add the broth, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft and rice is tender, about 1 hour.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
This recipe came from the 1,000 Vegan Recipes cookbook and was originally called "Chinese Chicken Salad." However, I'm not the kind of person to make tofu or tempeh taste like "real meat" -- in my book tofu should just taste like tofu and tempeh should just be called tempeh.
I thought about calling this recipe "Chinese Salad with Tempeh." Then Ashley and I ended up having a conversation that this isn't truly a "Chinese salad," it is an American salad inspired by Chinese cuisine. We debated for awhile about what I should call it, and naturally, Margaret Cho's skit about the "Asian Chicken Salad" came up. It only seemed right to name this after her.
Makes 4 servings
2 cups finely shredded romaine lettuce or cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
12 ounces baked marinated tofu (or tempeh or seitan)
1/3 c chopped unsalted roasted peanuts, for garnish
(I also added shredded cucumber and bell peppers for some extra veggies.)
In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, green onions, and cilantro. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, mince the garlic and ginger, then add the peanut butter, lemon juice, water, oil, soy sauce, and sugar. Blend until smooth. Pour the dressing over the lettuce mixture, add the tofu (or tempeh) and toss well to coat. Garnish with peanuts and serve.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Ashley loves Italian food and she was the one to introduce me to rosemary bread and roasted garlic back when we first were dating. Since then, our love for bread & garlic has only grown. This isn't something I eat often since I can be sensitive to gluten, but it sure hit the spot today.
There is very little work that goes into this, so it's nice for entertaining guests.
1 loaf bread (I use the Rosemary Diamante from Essential Bakery)
1 Garlic Bulb
Here's how I prepare mine:
Remove loose outer leaves from garlic and cut off top of the bulb so that each clove is open at the top. Drizzle one quarter teaspoon olive oil over the bulb. Set bulb in the center of a Garlic Baker dish and cover with lid. Place in cold over and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 45 minutes or until garlic is tender and husks are golden brown. Baste occasionally with olive oil.
Cut bread into 1-inch thick slices. Coat with a light layer of olive oil and heat in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Mix the roasted garlic with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. You can also spread the roasted garlic on the bread.
Friday, February 19, 2010
This is great as a snack or appetizer. I love to bake the entire leaf and eat it whole, but you can also cut it up into smaller pieces and remove the stem if you like.
1 lb kale, rinsed and patted dry
2 Tbs. olive oil
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil. Coat leaves in a light layer of oil and spread on baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning kale once. Bake until edges are browned and leaves are crispy. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately, they lose their crunch after a couple of hours.
I'm a big fan of fresh juice. I bought a Juiceman a few years ago and have never regretted it. There is lots of information on the benefits of drinking fresh juice, but from personal experience, I find that juice helps with indigestion and is a great pick-me-up when you're feeling fatigued or your blood sugar is low.
I have some leftover fennel from yesterday's recipe, which is perfect for juicing!
For my juice, I combined a few sprigs of fennel, a small piece of ginger (about the size of your pinky), 1/2 an apple, 1 pear, 3 stalks celery, 4 large kale leaves, and 1 carrot. You can mix and match with your favorite fruits and vegetables. When you are juicing items that will produce little juice, such as the fennel, ginger, and kale, place them between apple slices or pear to make it easier to juice.
Fennel has great health benefits and both fennel and ginger aid in digestion. Celery is very alkalizing so it equalizes the body's PH, which is great if you are prone to acid reflux or get frequent stomach aches. I also recommend cucumber, which is very hydrating in a juice.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Fennel is a pretty interesting plant. It is often used as an herb in French and Italian cooking. It's great for digestion because it prohibits cramping of the smooth muscle in the intestinal tract. It tastes like licorice-flavored celery and can be eaten cooked or raw. Fennel's natural season is in the spring and early summer, which is why fennel's flavor is much milder in the winter if it is grown year-round.
I stumbled upon this recipe in The New Vegan Cookbook, and had to try it. Although it takes a while to slow roast the tomatoes and fennel, the results are well worth it. The tomatoes literally melt in your mouth. If you're a big tomato fan like me, this is divine! I used much smaller tomatoes than the recipe called for, but I think they turned out great.
Serves 4 to 6.
Olive oil for drizzling
2 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
2 Medium fennel bulbs or 1 large bulb
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar syrup for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Select one or two baking sheets large enough to arrange the tomatoes in one layer and brush with oil. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheets cut side up and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Set aside.
Select a heavy roasting pan or large gratin dish for the fennel (it does not have to fit in a single layer), and brush the bottom with oil. Remove any fennel fronds and set aside for garnish. Cut the top stalks from the fennel and reserve for stock (or juice!). Trim the base, and quarter each bulb, top to base. Discard any tough or bruised outer layers. Slice the quartered bulbs 1/4 inch thick, leaving the core as intact as possible to hold the layers together. (This won't be possible with all of the slices.) Set in the roasting pan, seasoning lightly with salt and drizzling with olive oil. Cover the pan tightly with foil.
Bake the tomatoes until collapsed and shriveled, 2 - 2 1/2 hours. (For the first hour or so, it will look like nothing is happening.) At the same time, bake the fennel until tender and easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Once the fennel is tender, you can roast it uncovered to brown it and achieve a more intense flavor.
To serve, arrange the fennel and tomatoes decoratively on small plates and drizzle with olive oil. Finely chop the reserved fennel fronds and use them as a garnish. If you wish, dot a few drops of balsamic syrup decoratively around the plate.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
This smoothie is great as a snack, dessert, or breakfast. I also love it as post-workout nourishment because it's quick and a good source of protein/fat/carbohydrates for fatigued muscles. I always keep a stash of frozen bananas in the freezer for smoothies. Just peel, chop, and store in a bag or container. They last for about a month or so.
1 cup soy milk (Sub almond, rice, or hemp milk to make it soy-free)*
1 frozen banana
2 Tbsps peanut butter (Sub almond butter to make it peanut-free; if using peanut butter, make sure it is a gluten-free & soy-free brand)**
2-3 ice cubes
1-2 scoops protein powder (I usually use rice protein, but you can use soy or hemp as well)
Put all the ingredient in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass & enjoy.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Adapted from the 1,000 Vegan Recipes Cookbook.
4 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion
4 large kale leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 package lasagna noodles
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled
3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
parsley for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the zucchini, onions, and bell pepper on a lightly oiled 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and black pepper. Roast the vegetables until soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
2. Chop the kale into small pieces and then blend for 10 seconds on low with 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Mix this with the crumbled tofu.
2. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until just al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. To assemble, spread a layer of tomato sauce in a bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top the sauce with a layer of noodles. Top the noodles with half of the roasted vegetables, then spread half of the tofu mixture over the vegetables. Repeat with another layer of noodles and top with more sauce. Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables and tofu, ending with a layer of noodles and sauce.
4. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
These black bean & quinoa patties are easy to make and you can also throw in plenty of different ingredients. Here is how I make mine (this has been adapted from The Complete Vegan Kitchen cookbook):
1 cup black beans
1 cup quinoa cooked
1/3 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon cumin
lime juice from 1/3 lime
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 yellow onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, diced
1 tablespoon oil
In a medium mixing bowl, mash the black beans with a fork. Mix with the quinoa and then add the other ingredients. This will make 2-4 patties depending on how big you like them. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, fry the patties until they are nicley browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and fry the other side.
Top with your favorite ingredients and serve on a whole-wheat bun. Here are some of my favorite toppers:
onions sauteed in BBQ sauce
homemade pico de gallo
*Soy-free (depending on the condiments), leave out the bun to make it gluten-free
Friday, February 12, 2010
From The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen:
2 pounds red potatoes, left whole if small, halved or quartered if large
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
Salt, preferably the course variety, and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes and garlic in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with the oil and toss well to evenly coat. Sprinkle with the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Toss again.
Roast, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the size, turning halfway through cooking time, or until the potatoes are nicely browned and tender through the center. Serve hot.
*Soy-free, gluten free
Brussel spouts make a tasty side dish in the winter and are easy to make. All you need are the brussel sprouts, a couple of cloves of garlic, and some olive oil.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut brussel spouts in half and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from water and drain. Place in shallow pan. Add minced garlic and olive oil. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
Marion Nestle has the answer for this one: “The organic seal tells you that the producers of the foods followed a long list of rules: they did not use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; they did not plant genetically modified seeds, use fertilizer derived from sewage sludge, or treat the seeds or foods with irradiation; and they kept records of everything they did and showed the paperwork and everything on their farms to inspectors from a USDA-accredited state or private certification agency any time they were asked to, announced in advance or not” (2006, P. 42).
Are organics better?
“Given the potential size of the organic market, you can understand why the idea that these foods might be better for you or for the planet so annoys critics. One is Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington D.C., think tank that receives funding from, among other sources, agribusiness corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, ConAgra, Monsanto, and the National Agricultural Chemicals Association. No wonder these groups fund the institute’s work. Mr. Avery argues that organic methods are so unreliable that they reduce productivity, cause higher prices, and therefore, threaten the food security of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Organic farming, he says, is an environmental disaster, an imminent danger to wildlife, and a hazard to the health of its own consumers. Strong words, indeed.
Consider first what is at stake. If farmers switched to organics, the makers of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides would suffer. If you decided to buy organics, you would buy fewer conventionally grown foods. And if more of your friends bought organic foods you all might go as far as to demand government subsidies for organics rather than for conventionally grown corn and soybeans. Research on the kinds of issues Avery raises also cannot help but have political biases. … Fortunately, some questions about organics have been researched and do have clear answers. One such question is about productivity. As early as the mid-1970s, studies began to question the idea that agricultural efficiency necessarily depends on fertilizers and pesticides. In 1981, a review of such studies came to surprising conclusions: farmers who converted from conventional to organic methods reported only small declines in yields, but the loss in income was offset by lower fuel costs. The study found that the farms were equally profitable, but the organic production kept the soil in much better shape. More recent studies confirm these results. Overall they show that organic farms are nearly as productive, leave the soils healthier, and use energy more efficiently. The productivity issue seems settled” (Nestle, p. 45).
What are the benefits of organic produce?
Again, I defer to Nestle and the What to Eat bible for the answer: “If crops are grown without pesticides, it seems self-evident that fewer pesticides will get into the soil and water, foods will contain less of them, and people who eat organic foods will have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies. Plenty of research confirms these obvious connections. Organically grown foods do have lower levels of pesticides, and children and adults who eat them have lower levels in their bodies. Avery and his fellow critics say: ‘So what? Pesticides are safe.’ As evidence, they say that nobody has ever died from eating the small amounts of pesticide residues on food. Oh, please. Pesticides are demonstrably harmful to the farmworkers and ‘nontarget’ wildlife, and they accumulate in soils for ages. If they kill pests, can they be good for you? If they really were all that benign, there would be no reason for the government to bother to regulate them, but it does. Scientists may not be able to quantify the degree of harm they cause, but that does not mean that pesticides are safe for you. This is also a settled issue. Pesticide-free produce may not look as pretty, but if you want fewer pesticides in your body and in the bodies of your children, buy organics. If you want fewer pesticides in soil and water, organics are also a good idea” (p. 45)
Pollan also echos this sentiment that organic is better for the environment, farmers, and public health: “If the high price of my all-organic meal is weighted against the comparatively low price it exacted from the larger world, as it should be, it begins to look, at least in karmic terms, like a real bargin” (2006, p. 182).
Great! Organic looks like “the answer”! Let’s all switch to eating organic produce!
Hmm, not so fast. Even with all of the benefits of farming organically, there are still problems: “And yet, and yet… an industrial organic meal such as mine does leave deep footprints on our world. The lot of the workers who harvested the vegetables and gathered up Rosie for slaughter is not appreciably different from that of those on nonorganic factory farms. The chickens lived only marginally better lives than their conventional counterparts. … But perhaps most discouraging of all, my industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart. … Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. And while it is true that organic farmers don’t spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts … All told, growing food organically uses about a third less fossil fuel than growing it conventionally, according to David Pimental, though that savings disappears if the compost is not produced on site or nearby” (Pollan, p. 183).
The other issue that comes up with the topic of organic is cost. Produce in general is far more expensive than processed foods. For example, a salad is going to cost more than a fast-food cheeseburger, whether or not that salad is organic. This all has to do with federal policies (e.g. The farm bill) and the fact that the U.S. government subsidizes corn and soy, the main ingredients in a cheeseburger.
After all of this reading this quarter, here are my thoughts about buying organic:
- Organic produce is more expensive, but I believe that the extra cost is worth the benefits for the planet, the public, and less pesticide residue in my body. I cannot always afford to buy organic produce, but I recognize my privilege that I can buy some organic items and afford produce in general.
- Organic produce may not be “the answer” to fixing the issues within our food system, but it provides a lot of good benefits.
What produce contains the most pesticides?
In September 2008, Vegetarian Times had an article by Cindy Burke on "How to Buy Organic." Here are her recommendations:
- Bell Peppers (all colors)
- Collard Greens, Salad Greens, Swiss Chard
- Green Beans
- Winter Squash
- Brussels Sprouts
- Corn, sweet
- Eggplant (all varieties)
- Onions (all varieties)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Peanuts (and peanut butter)
- Soy foods
- Beans, dried
- Macadamia nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Grapes (imported)
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Grapes (domestic)
- Grapefruit, Tangerines
According to the Environmental Working Group, these are the 12 most pesticide-laden conventionally grown fresh fruits & vegetables.
- Bell Peppers
Nestle, M. (2006). What to Eat. North Point Press.
Pollan, M. (2007). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin Press,
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of quinoa when I first had it a few years ago, but it didn't take long to make me a true believer. Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) is an amazing food. It is high in protein and also contains amino acids, which make it a complete protein source. It is gluten-free and can be used in a ton of different recipes, like this one! You can find it in the bulk section of most grocery stores (PCC, Whole Foods, QFC, etc).
This recipe says that it will "convert people who think they don't like quinoa." I tested it out on Ashley (a genuine quinoa-hater) who gave it high praises. I believe her exact words were, "You just made me like quinoa? I hate you." Awww, true love.
2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, toasted
1 small bunch cilantro, minced
1 bell pepper (red or yellow), diced
2 cups cooked kidney beans
2 cups cooked black beans
In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa and cook until done, 10 to 15 minutes. It is done when the grains are almost completely translucent, with just a small opaque dot in the center. Do not overcook.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and salt.
Drain the quinoa into a colander (make sure that the holes are small enough so that the quinoa doesn't escape) and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly. Place the quinoa in a bowl and pour the dressing over it. Add the golden raisins and currants, mix together and refrigerate until completely cool.
When the quinoa is cold, add the onion, pine nuts, bell peppers, beans, and cilantro. Mix well and serve.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Glassner, B. (2007). The gospel of food. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Black Beans - 1 cup
Garbanzo Beans - 1 cup
Kidney Beans - 1 cup
Couscous - 1 cup (uncooked)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Green Bell Pepper - diced
1/2 Red Bell Pepper - diced
1/2 Orange Bell Pepper - diced
2 Green Onions - diced
3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
Juice from 1/3 Lemon
4 Garlic Cloves - minced
1 tsp Salt
3 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1 pinch oregano
1 pinch black pepper
Boil 1 1/4 cups of water. Once it reaches a boil, put it in a bowl with the couscous and mix. Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
While the couscous sits, dice the bell peppers and onions and mince the garlic cloves. Put the beans in a bowl and combine with the bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, worcestershire sauce, cumin, oregano, and pepper. When the couscous is ready, add to the bowl and mix. Enjoy!