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Posts Tagged ‘Organic’

The only thing better than growing your own produce is eating it in the off-season after you have preserved it! However, to say that I grew these fabulous peaches and tomatoes would be far from the truth. In fact, the only thing I grow every season are herbs and tomatoes. It is sad, but it is the truth. What’s even sadder is that the tomato plants that I did plant, were actually scorched by the Seattle sun this year (yes, Seattle does have sun) and produced a mere 5 tomatoes.  Each year I tell myself I will figure out a way to grow more vegetables. In Florida, my homes had lots of space and sun, so it was quite natural that one could plant some seeds and watch a bunch of things grow very easily. In Seattle, it is quite a different story. First of all, the ground is not warm enough to start many of your early spring seedlings, so you either need a greenhouse, or a place in your home with a lot of counter space and growing lights. I have neither. I did manage to fill the few windowsills that we have out of reach from tiny toddler hands with some seedlings in those plastic little “greenhouses” you can buy from the garden store. They did very well, but unfortunately, I lacked space to actually plant many of them once it got warm enough. Part of the problem is that we are still renting. It really hard to be inspired to dedicate the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into planning and in my case, creating a garden space that could very easily only last me one season. (Who knows how long we will live here) The second issue is, in order to really grow a great garden here, it would require that I plant in the easement or dig up a bunch of plants already in the front, which our landlord may not be too happy about. But what about the community garden you ask??? Well, it looks like I am not the only one with space areas in Seattle! I signed up for the P-Patch Program when I moved here and am STILL on the waiting list. Needless to say, I relied on the farmers at the local markets to supply me all of produce seen in these pictures. And it was actually fun!! I spoke with a least a half-dozen farmers, and in the process learned more than I ever thought I could know about tomatoes and peaches.  

Peaches come in earlier than tomatoes so they were first on my list to preserve. I decided to dry them, so I could have a quick, delicious snack for the cold winter months ahead. They turned out as delicious as I thought they would. The only problem is that they only lasted me until late summer! While drying is easy and fun, it takes a looooonnnnggg time and there is really not that much space in the dehydrators. I know you can always use the oven, but who wants a hot kitchen with no air-conditioning in the summer???

Tomatoes were next on this list. I really wanted to can them, but had no dishwasher and really didn’t want to undergo such as task alone. Luckily, one of my good friends M is a canning pro (ok, well perhaps not a pro, but a seasoned veteran!). My job would be to hunt down some local, organic tomatoes at a good price (not as easy as you think) and her job was to host the all day event. I tracked down a farmer, Richard Ness, who owns the Kittnas Valley Greenhouse in Ellensburg, WA. I was able to purchase 60 pounds of the most beautiful tomatoes at the market for a really great price. I forgot to take a picture until the very end, so here was shot of the ones with spots. Out of 60 pounds these were the only ones with blemishes.  

Overall, I think both project went very well. We only messed up one batch of tomatoes by adding a little too much water, but the rest of the batches came out perfect. If you are thinking of doing some canning next season, I dont think it is really necessary to add any water at all. The tomatoes are really juicy enough. The ones we canned without water, came out perfect!

Our last project of the year will be apples. I have already picked up 20 pounds of Cameo apples from Kurt Tonnemaker and am planning to can lots of apple butter and sauce this weekend. Look for some pictures later this weekend on my Flickr page.

Thinking about canning, but not sure you are ready to jump into tens of pounds of produce?? Well then I have a perfect recommendation for you. I just picked up Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan and it is truly a gem for anyone interested in trying it out.

Happy Canning!

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A while back, I promised to take a break from the baby business and write about random reasons why I love Seattle. Well, here it is, reason number three: split-shot breves.

latte

It’s the most satisfying, most decadant coffee drink there is. It needs no sugar, no whipped cream, no caramel, no sprinkles. Just steamed half and half and your choice of espresso period. Ahhh! Delish! And the choices of espresso here in Seattle are endless. Okay, okay, I know it sounds cliche to say that Seattle has really great coffee. I mean, after all, ask a non-native what the first thing that pops into their head when they think of Seattle, chances are pretty high that Starbucks may be the first word out of their mouths. But to be honest, corporate coffee definitely doesn’t rule all here in the emerald city. Here is a short list of my favs, in no apparent order.

Vivace Roastaria These guys have been here in Seattle since 1988 (now I feel old). Their motto is “una bella tazza di caffee” which in Italian means a beautiful cup of coffee. Their website stakes claim to creating a specialized, scientific method in expresso preparation AND roasting technique. They are coffee experts. The owners have published books on the perfect cup of coffee. Yes, books plural. I heard from a local that you have to learn how to make espresso for six months before they let you serve. Not sure how true it is, but I am sold. There breves are to die for. Emeril says it one of the best coffees in the world. WOW. Don’t even try ordering a cup of coffee there either…it’s espresso only.

Caffe Vita: They are another smaller roaster here in the city with a few locations around town. It is also not uncommon to see them served at a plethora of cafe’s and restaurants around town. Fuel, which is the coffee place up the street from me, serves their coffee and it is delightful. I keep a pound in my freezer at all times. You never know when there might be a coffee emergency 🙂 They didn’t get their start until 1995 (babies, I know), but you would never tell. I especially like Punchinello on thier logo. There’s an interesting story about it on their site.

 Caffe Ladro: They, like Caffe Vita, are seen all over the city. Their coffee is roasted in up in Bellingham. One of the qualities that I like about them is that they only serve 100% fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee. The other companies are social responsible as well, but for Caffe Ladro, its not an option.

Victrola Coffee Roasters:These guys got their start in 2003. They are a very small roaster, but their espresso is divine. I kinda like that they are small, unpretentious, and well, just simple. Check out their staff pics on their site.

Stumptown: Ok, I know what you are thinking. These guys aren’t from Seattle! Originally from Portland, they opened up shop here in Seattle a few years ago giving Vivace a run for their money. All I have to say is YUM-EE. I feel like I am drinking a glass of wine when I am in there. They are way serious about their coffee. I read somewehre that they paid over $50 a pound from some highly regarded coffee from Colombia. They are also known for doing vino’s version of tastings; they call them “cuppings”. You sit around and taste different types of coffee from all over the globe. And while it will give you the total opposite effect of wine tasting, if you have no reason to go to sleep that night, it’s so worth it. Drink up!

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So, yes, I am back from my temporary blogging hiatus. Needless to say, three weeks in Florida, Christmas, birthdays, and recovering from my three weeks in Florida didn’t leave me much free time! Liam is on the go, walking with assistance, and getting into just about everything. He loves emptying out the lid drawer, playing with onions, and splashing in the dog bowl (the latter of which I immediately remove him from). Although he is still breastfeeding often, we have been experimenting with all kinds of foods these past few months. Ok, well, not ALL kinds of foods. liam-eating1

We have stayed away from milk, honey, nuts, processed food, and sugar (I know, all the fun stuff, right?) but other than that, its a go. So far, I have been able to meet all of his nutritional requirements without relying on Gerber, Earths Best, or Infamil. Everything he’s eaten has come from myself, the ground, or an animal. Pretty simple, huh? Well I don’t think Gerber would want you to know that.

When most people think about baby food the first thing that probably comes to thier minds are those tiny little jars filled with mashed…..well, just about anything. Baby food companies can get just about ANY food, plant, or animal to resemble a very similar colored mash of slop. I was walking down that isle in the grocery store and thought to myself, hmm…yellow chicken? Interesting. When most people have kids, they have been so used to seeing that food in cute little jars at the grocery store, they automatically start purchasing it by the truck load when their infants are ready to eat. Its starts with the neatly cellophane-wrapped cereal, then to the baby food “stage 1”, then onto “stage two”, and so on. Each stage with a bit more chunks and less mash. What many people don’t stop to realize is that food is food. It doesn’t need to be packaged and labeled “baby food” in order for your kid to be able to eat it. You want to feed your kid some bananas (typically a good first food)?? Buy bananas and mash them up! While I agree, not all foods are as easy to feed your baby as bananas, most take a just  little prep and a lotta love 🙂

So if you’re still not convinced and think making your own baby food is not up your ally, I have highlighted some very brief, yet compelling reasons why you should start.

1. You will save money. With the economy in dire straits, who doesn’t need to save a little?  A 2oz. jar of baby food costs between .50 cents to 1 dollar. A box of rice cereal runs about $3. Do you know how much rice cereal $3 of rice would make?? A ton! Typically I can get about two pounds of organic rice for three bucks. Conventional is even cheaper. Since rice doubles when you cook it, that adds up to be a lot of baby cereal! When you buy packaged food, you are paying for the jar, the box, the the cost of processing, and the marketing. When you make it yourself, you pay for the food.

2. It’s simple. You don’t have to be Emeril Lagasse to make your own baby food. In fact, you don’t even have to be Rachel Ray. If you can boil, mash, and blend, you can make baby food. All you really need is a pot and a blender and you are good to go. I will admit that there are a few luxury items such as a seed grinder, a book, extra ice cube trays, and a portable food mill that I purchased, but they are totally not necessities. The seed grinder I just really wanted anyways and while Cathe Olsen’s Natural Baby Food is great, there are many free websites with a lot of the same information.

3. Its better for your baby. You want your baby to get the most nourishment and vitamins from their food right? Well by making your own food, you get more nutrients per tablespoon of baby food. Processing not only adds a ton of garbage (salt, sugar, “natural” flavors, etc), to your food, but the process itself takes nutirents AWAY from your food. In order to kill bacteria, the food is heated up to exprememly high temperatures so that it can be jarred. While killing the bacteria is good, it also kills a lot of the good stuff as well. This is why many companies artificially add vitamins after the processing. With homemade food, you know and can control every ingredient that is going into your baby’s food.

4. They can and WILL eat more stuff! When you are controlling what goes into their food, you can feed them just about anything you eat. SInce Liam is still young, he hasn’t been exposed to a ton of stuff, but I have fed him kelp, quinoa, swiss chard, goat cheese, flax seeds, and eggplant. Try finding that stuff in your baby food isle!

Rice Cereal for Infants by Cathe Olsen

Place 1/2 cup brown rice in 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until rice is very soft. Its okay if water is not completely absorbed. Puree in blender. Refridgerate or freeze extra. (this is what the ice cube tray are for!)

Pear-Applesauce

Place 1 pear and 1 apple (both peeled and diced) in 1/2 cup water and simmer over low heat untill soft. Add more water if necessary. Puree or mash.

Squash and Peas

Place 2 cups of peeled and cubed winter squash and 1/2 cup peas in a pan with 1 inch of water. Cover and simmer on low heat until soft. Puree or mash

Remember, it is baby food, so you can mix just about anything! Experiment with different food and have fun!

 

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Eat Wild!

Since I have moved to Seattle, I have undergone somewhat of a revolution in the way that I eat. While I have always been a healthy eater, my definition of “healthy” has radically changed. When I began thinking about the “roots” of this new obsession, it was quite an arduous task. Was it Seattle? Was it the move itself? Hopes of an auspicious beginning? What about being pregnant? A new baby??? I started thinking about all of these things and I eventually realized that I owe this new found view not to the move, nor the new city, but my proximity to the public library. I guess you could argue that had I not moved, my proximity to the library would have never occurred;  or had I been employed, my desire to spend time in the library would have diminished, but either way…it all boils down to the library.spaceballspaceball1

It was here that I became acquainted with so many inspirational foodies. I read some of the founders of these whole/slow food movements like Weston Price, Sally Fallon, and Carlo Petrini; as well as some more recent crusaders like Sandor Katz, Michael Pollan, and Joel Salatin. I became obsessed with their research; devouring each word off the page as if it were my last meal. When the books arrived in the library, I felt like it was Christmas. So what have I learned from these food gurus, you wonder? Well, enough to write a book. But since I no longer have that kind of time, I will sum it up as best as I can in a few short paragraphs.

1. Most “food” is really not food. If it is created in a lab, and not a garden, it’s not really food. It’s science. This type of “food” accounts for 90% of what is in your grocery store. I read something really great in Micheal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dillemma. He said “beware of foods with health claims.” The beautiful thing about food science is that they can shape a type of food to match the latest health craze. If fats are the big no-no, they can make fat-free. If it’s carbs, well, that’s easy, let’s just create this to be carb free and fill it with some other chemicals. The fact is though, that  problem with our food sources has nothing to do with fat and carbs. Fat does not make you fat. Processed foods make you fat. It all the junk they sneak into your food to make you think it’s healthy. Did you know that there are 36 ingredients in a chicken nugget? Yes, 36. What ever happened to chicken, flour, salt, and oil??? It is crazy when you begin to think about all of the science behind food. There are actually entire top-secret labs (yes, labs) dedicated to turning corn into other things. When I read the list of what they turn corn into, I was amazed. Corn is in EVERYTHING! Its in our ketchup, our mustard, our bread, our meat and even our shampoo. It may be disguised as guar gum, xantham gum or fructose, but its corn. We have such an overabundance of corn in this country, that we have even turned cows into corn-fed animals! How crazy is that!

2. Organic is Big Brother – The government has taken the organic industry to a very scary place. First of all, it regulates the industry itself. It has come far from the vision of a few hundred farmers “growing food biodynamically” in the early 1970s; even farther than that of J.I Rodale and Rudolph Steiner.  It is a million dollar industry just like any other. The owners of Cal-Organic, one of the largest organic food companies, have stated on record that they will only continue to grow organically if the money is still there. Basically, they are not there to save the world from toxic chemicals, they are there to make a buck. Which is both good and bad I guess. Good that more and more conventionally grown land is pesticide free, but bad because they miss the bigger picture or what the organic industry sought out to be. While organic food is better for you and the environment, it is a far cry from it’s original intention.

While the fruit and vegetable part of the organic industry are somwhat “pure, organic meat, milk and eggs are are a joke. You have this vision in your mind that when you buy “organic” meat or milk that your cows are lounging around on a large pasture, or that the hens are free from cages and torture. The truth is, animals need only to have “access” to pasture to be certified organic. This could mean a 15×10 foot lot that is closed off to them most of the time. I read (not sure where) that the actual wording in the rule says that that “access” does not apply to cows under “certain conditions” or something like that. Well, Horizon , the largest seller of organic milk, had decided that lactating is one of the conditions. I could go on and on here. Egg-laying hens have it the worst of almost any animal raised.

“For nearly every person in the United States, one egg-laying hen is confined in a tiny battery cage in a metal, windowless warehouse. She is kept in a wire cage the size of a filing drawer with up to nine other birds, unable to see sunlight, touch earth, or even freely stretch her wings. Suspended above thousands of pounds of manure, she breathes air heavy with ammonia and toxins. Many hens around her—approximately one out of ten—die from disease and infection, or dehydration and strangulation, trapped in the wires of the cages.

She must live with their decomposing bodies. And if she, too, falls ill or becomes entangled in the wires, unable to access food or water, she won’t receive any veterinary care or human intervention at all because it’s cheaper for egg production facilities to let her languish and die.

When she’s less than two years old, her battered body slows down, no longer able to produce the unnatural number of eggs the industry expects from her. She’s ripped from her cage and trucked to her death.”

Organic hens don’t have it much better. They may be able to spread their wings a little more, but are not treated any different. Organic cows are raised on the same feedlots of other non-organic ones but feed organic corn and grain, instead of other slaughtered animals’ bi-products. Like I said before, I could go on and on.

3. Cheap food isn’t really that cheap: When you take into consideration all that goes into a 99 cent hamburger, the amount it truly costs can be staggering. For one, think about the environmental cost; the pesticides for the veggies not only on the burger, but the ones that fed the cow;  the massive amount of waste that a feed-lot cow produces…so toxic it has created a hole in the Gulf of Mexico where nothing can survive. Then, think about the health costs. I read just the other day that our children are going to be the first to live SHORTER lives than their parents. With the rise in obesity and type two diabetes, both directly linked to the “food” we eat, we as parents have a lot more to worry about than what college they will go to.

So now what do you do? While, you may not be able to replicate it, here are some changes that I have been able to make.

1. Eat local. Not only will you keep your money in your own neighborhood, you will be eating fresher and healthier food. According to Sustainable Table,  

The majority of the money spent on grocery-store food goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers. Only 3.5 cents of each dollar actually goes to the farmer.ix If you buy food from a farmers market or farm stand, you can be sure that most, if not all, of your money is going directly to the farmer.

While the thought of eating locally may appear daunting at first, it is really pretty simple. As consumer demand increases, so do farmer’s markets. Chances are, there is one close to you and you don’t even know it! Another option, which is what I depend on for most of my veggies, is to join a CSA. Each week, I get a box full of fresh veggies straight from a local farm. To find a CSA or farmers market near you, click here or here.

2. Don’t buy processed foods. Other than the occasional can of beans, condiments, and the very occasional pint of Haagen Daaz, I stay away from anything processed. No bread in a bag, no English Muffins, no Wheat Thins, no packaged cookies. Yes, there are many things that I miss, but I do allow myself a treat every once in a while! A good rule of thumb for this is if there are more than five ingredients and you didn’t make it, chances are it’s processed. If there is something in it you can’t pronounce, it’s definitely processed. When you are in the grocery store, stay on the outskirts and away from the center. Most of what is in the center is processed and full of corn 🙂

3. Know your milkman (and your meatman) I get my meat and my milk delivered. My milk comes from a local dairy and is delivered weekly (by Jeremy and Mariah). My meat comes from Thundering Hooves Ranch in Walla Walla, WA (Ken drives the truck over here). They raise grass finished meats, and truly free-range birds. They also partner with farmers who raise some happy hogs. Their tails are not docked, they are not weaned too early, and they are allowed to roam and root as pigs like to do. Peter Singer would even approve. I even eat this meat!! Grassfed beef and truly free range birds are not only better for you, but better for the Earth. For more information on humanely raised animals in your area, click here.

4. Grow, or forage, your own! It doesn’t get more local than your own backyard. Even though I have a small space, I still manage to grow all of my culinary herbs, some healing herbs, and tomatoes. If you don’t have a lot of space, you can always join a community garden. Unfortunately for me, there is a 3 year wait for the ones here in Seattle. I am on the list though! My new endeavor is to forage local greens and mushrooms. I hear that now is a great time for chanterelles in the Pacific NW. I eventually want to take the Micheal Pollan challenge and once a year, make a complete meal of food I grew, killed, or foraged myself. I will get there one day, I will.

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