Posts Tagged ‘organic food’

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It’s S’more Season

June 2, 2010

My daughter is going to have an outside sleepover next week with the requisite campfire – and that means s’mores!  And s’mores mean chocolate!

chocolate bar  

And there’s the issue.  I love chocolate!  When I had allergy tests done I told the doctor it didn’t matter what the result was for the chocolate test, I wasn’t giving it up! (phew – I wasn’t allergic to chocolate).  I pick myself up a bar or two of Endangered Species chocolate at the grocery store so I have a bit of something to nibble on now and again.  I find a little dark chocolate goes a long way and I can make a bar last a week, but milk chocolate is gobbled in a sitting.  I buy dark chocolate now – often with mint or cocoa nibs, mmmmmm.

What to buy for the girls though?  Chocolate is associated with child labor and child slavery issues.   Hershey’s chocolate, the traditional bar for s’mores are not transparent about where they get their cocoa for their chocolate and the evidence suggests that they get at least some from plantations that employ slave labor and trafficked child labor.  Hershey says the problem is actually misinformation about the nature of cocoa farms in Africa (Green America).  Given there are options, I’d rather purchase elsewhere.

Green America provides a list of Fair Trade chocolate manufacturers.  There are other options also.  For instance, while Cadbury doesn’t make all of it’s chocolate from Fair Trade cocoa (and so isn’t on Green America’s list), it’s Green and Black’sfairtrade logo chocolate is both organic and Fair Trade.  And my understanding is that while all Fair Trade chocolate is not organic, you can be fairly confident that organic USDA organic logo chocolate is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.  So, while I could memorize the list of Green America sanctioned products, I will probably just keep my eye out for  the Fair Trade or USDA organic logos. 

These little girls are going to have some darn good chocolate in their s’mores.  I almost hate to sully it with graham crackers and marshmallows.

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Dark Days 13 – barely counts as a meal

February 13, 2010

A busy week ending with 4 people going 3 directions.  My son was playing in the band at the homecoming basketball game; my husband was leading a discussion at the showing of a film; my daughter and I were staying home and watching a Harry Potter video (V). We couldn’t even eat dinner together. My husband and I were participating in a progressive dinner party the next day so really didn’t want to eat much.  My daughter ate assorted junk at the school Valentine’s party so she wasn’t hungry.  Last chance for a dark days meal – given appetites, time, and predilections – dinner was bread and salad.

My husband put the ingredients in the bread maker in the morning – using the local whole wheat flour, of course.  It was marvelous!  Brown and moist and light too.  It was like cake without the sugar (or chocolate, or icing).  I had mine plain – it didn’t need anything on it.  I do believe my son and husband used the rest of the homemade butter (cream from the local milk source) since the butter is gone.

Salads were local hydroponic greens, our own organic carrots, and cheese from a local creamery. The cheese was a cheddar/blue cheese.  That isn’t a combination I would have thought would go well together – but if you like sharp cheeses you’d like this.

Beverages were milk (local, ethical, but not organic in the winter), water, and seltzer (from my own seltzer maker – definitely a good investment for the seltzer addicted like me).

There was a bit of cheating – I did have balsamic vinegar and olive oil on my salad and my daughter had Italian dressing.  Not sure what exceptions my son and husband resorted to.   All told it wasn’t much, but it was enough.

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Produce Labels

January 29, 2010

In a recent edition of Mary Jane Farms there was a page on produce labels. I learned something new!apples with PLU

Those little stickers on the produce – those little oval jobs on your apples  – they have numbers on them called price look-up codes or PLU – and they tell more than just a code for the cashier  – it contains important information for us consumers too.

On that little sticker is a four or five digit number.

…A four-digit number means the produce has been conventionally grown using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.  A five-digit number beginning with 8 means the produce was genetically modified.  And a five-digit number beginning with 9 means you’re getting organically grown goodies.  (Note: This number isn’t found in barcodes. It will typically be printed on a sticker affixed to an item.)

So – keep an eye out for 5-digit numbers beginning with a 9.  And remember, it is most important to aim for organic when the produce has an edible skin.

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Holiday Treats

December 24, 2009

This is not a cooking blog. I know that is kind of hard to tell lately, what with all the Dark Days posts. But anyone who knows me well knows I’m not much of a cook, but I do eat, and I do have a sweet tooth.  At this time of year I have a handful of holiday treats that I like to make  – and if you do it three years in a row it becomes a tradition.

Every year I make fudge – mostly because the kids and my husband like it.  I make coconut swirls – which taste like mounds bars.  [I don’t think they are actually a family secret recipe – but I’m not ready to share it.]  And I make 2-minute cookies – which are an oatmeal “cookie” (milk, butter, sugar, oatmeal, cocoa and then coconut, nuts, or raisins – I like the nuts and/or raisins – but the kids don’t – so this year it is coconut).  Often we dip pretzels in chocolate too.  None of these requires any kind of oven time.

I make up plates for various and sundry people around town, take some with us when visiting, and eat too many ourselves.

When I went to the store last week to stock up on treat supplies I made an effort to look for organic ingredients and got a lesson in what is available and what isn’t.

First, I failed in the butter category.  I had intended to make butter from our local, natural (not quite organic, but hormone-free) milk – but we weren’t able to get cream this week.  So, I had to resort to the butter in the fridge – which is what we can get in town – your typical run-of-the-mill unsalted butter. 

I need lots of chocolate for all of these treats.  I was able to get organic chocolate semi-sweet chips [Kroger’s store brand – Private Selections Organics].  I also got organic sugar and organic powdered sugar (also Kroger’s Private Selections Organics].  In my cupboard I have some organic cocoa powder.  The other items I needed were oatmeal, sweetened condensed milk, and powdered milk.  At the large grocery store I was at (Kroger – which has an impressive “natural food” section and increasing number of organic products intermixed with the nonorganic) I could not find any organic versions of these items.  Bob’s Red Mill apparently makes organic rolled oats, but it wasn’t readily available to me.

So, I guess I did 1/2 way ok on the organic factor.  None of the ingredients are particularly local though. 

As for taste – I can’t say as I can tell a difference.  But since much of the ingredients are organic I know my family, my friends, and I are ingesting minimal pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer chemicals.

Anyway – it’s Christmas Eve.  For everyone who celebrates Christmas – I wish you a very merry one.  For everyone else – I hope you have a lovely, peaceful day.

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Dark Days – The third week

December 1, 2009

Time is flying isn’t it.  How could we have gone through 3 weeks of Dark Days already?!  So far we haven’t been especially creative or adventuresome – and this week was no different.

My husband, as usual, did the cooking.  I would starve if it weren’t for him.  Since we were still suffering from over eating at Thanksgiving we were thinking light – and since we have hectic week ahead of us – we were thinking easy.  To that end we had chicken vegetable soup and baked sweet potatoes.sweet potato soup and wine  Oh, and wine.  This week’s wine was a local apple wine.  It was light and sweet – almost too sweet at first until we found it really went well with the sweet potatoes.

The chicken vegetable soup was made with the remains of last weeks roasted chicken and a few other organic/local chicken remains we had in the freezer, chard from the garden (which tasted better in the soup than I thought it would), garlic seeds (we’re out of cloves from our garlic – but the seeds are pleasant and mild), and onion from the farmer’s market.  It was a soup with a delicate flavor. 

The kids?  Our daughter had a baked potato (from the garden) and our son had his usual dark days meal of salad with hydroponically grown greens and local cheese. 

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The First of the Dark Days

November 18, 2009

Today (Wednesday) was our last chance this week for a dark days meal (a sustainable, organic, local, ethical – SOLE – meal – – click the button in the side bar for more information).  I am going to Chicago for a conference tomorrow and won’t be back until the first week will have passed – – we couldn’t mess up on a challenge the very first week.

My husband stopped at the year round farmer’s market (heavy on the organic) on the way home yesterday and got greens (hydroponically grown) and pork chops.  chops He also made baked potatoes with our own potatoes.  [I hadn’t eaten the potato yet, just smushed it up with the butter before I remembered I wanted to take pictures.)potato Our son is not an adventuresome eater (as if pork chops and potatoes require bravery) – he had a salad with the greens and some green onion cheddar from a local cheesemaker.  The salad included carrots from our garden.H's salad

My husband also brought home a pint of heavy cream from the sustainable, ethical local, natural (nearly organic) dairy – – as close as we can get, so I’m calling it good.  This morning I made butter with it. butter There was a glass of buttermilk left that my husband will use to make some bread this evening for us to eat whenever.

To accompany dinner, my husband and I had wine made by the Benedictine monks at a local Abbey.agape1

But wait – we aren’t done yet.  We are celebrating my son’s birthday tonight (once my daughter gets back from dance class).  His birthday is Saturday, but I’ll be gone.  I had initially thought I’d bake a cake – and I could have at least gotten an organic mix (I am not the bake a cake from scratch kind of woman).  But, no, that wouldn’t be SOLE – – what to do what to do. 

First I decided on chocolate – an exception to the local part of the SOLE – but organic chocolate is readily available, and my understanding is that if it is organic than it is automatically fair trade and ethical (i.e. all organic chocolate is fair trade, but all fair trade chocolate is not organic – at least that is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong.)

I spent too much time scanning the Internet and finally decided that I could make something tasty that wouldn’t kill us, would be relatively SOLEful, and would be something my son would like. 

I bought some organic chocolate chips at the health food store (I also found local whole wheat flour – that was a great find for my husband to use in bread making).  I then bought another pint of heavy cream and a quart of 2% milk from the above mentioned dairy of high morals. 

I melted the chocolate and mixed it with a cup of milk (what I’ll do with the rest of the milk I’m not sure – maybe make pudding).  Then I put it in a cake pan (9 x 9).  Meanwhile, I had whipped the cream and then combined about 1/2 of it with the milk and chocolate in the cake pan.  That went in the freezer.  I mixed a tiny bit of organic powdered sugar in with the rest of the whipped cream – that’s in the fridge.

When my daughter gets home we’ll have my frozen chocolate yummy (that will now be the official name) with whipped cream and my son will open his computer-oriented presents (he has taken to making stop action films – at least he was doing that last month – – so we bought him a video capture device to turn analog tapes into digital and a computer game – and this weekend the computer will be upgraded with more memory and a graphics card – plus fixed because all of a sudden it is incapable of accessing the internet and the printer spooler has ceased to function… virus perhaps?)

Back to the dark days – so, what were the exceptions? What didn’t quite stack up on the SOLE criteria. Well, I mentioned the chocolate – that was not local.   And we did have salad dressings and they were just store bought.  I was proud of my son who thought better of mixing blue cheese dressing with green onion cheddar cheese (a pretty strong flavor in its own right).  So he was dressing-less. Oh, and the mustard in the honey mustard for the pork chops was just your basic brown mustard – but the honey was local.

We did ok – we’ll see if we can do better in future meals.

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What’s been put up?

October 31, 2009

 

picklings

My friend over at Fessenden Farmstead had a piece on preserving fruits and vegetables, which made me think I hadn’t talked about what has been put up at our house.  I’ve been derelict on that because I’m not the putter-upper – my husband is (and I am ever so grateful). 

I suppose that isn’t totally true (it’s true that I’m grateful, not true that I’m not a putter-upper).  I am the runner of the dehydrator – and in fact, I intend to dry parsley today.  I am also the freezer of fruit.  This year it was only blackberries (wild) – it is also often peaches, but apparently peaches are biannual and this is their off year I guess (plus a frost came and killed the blossoms last spring… that couldn’t have helped). 

Peaches look fine frozen, but as soon as they thaw they start turning brown.  Last year I “solved” that problem with camouflage – I froze spiced peaches – the spices (heavy on the cinnamon – but I can’t remember what else) already colored the peaches brown so the discoloration wasn’t as off-putting this year when I used them (great in my oatmeal).  Next year I’m also intending to freeze in single serving sizes.  That should do the trick.

Berries are easy – wash, dry, freeze on a cookie sheet, dump in a container or bag.

I dry tomatoes – and have been enjoying them in many things already.  Salads and sautéed with onion and polenta being my two favorites.

My husband is the tomato freezer.  We stopped canning and went to freezing, primarily because I didn’t like the lemony taste of the tomatoes when they were canned.  I’m sure we could have adjusted his approach, but freezing is so darn easy (we won’t discuss the power usage of the freezer – although a full freezer is more efficient than a 1/2 empty one – and the tomatoes really help keep ours full).

My husband pickles also – and they are soo good.  Pickled green beans are to die for!  And pickled asparagus, and pickled banana peppers – – and pickled cucumbers too.  He most recently made green tomato relish – I haven’t had a chance to dip into that yet.  I made green tomato relish once in my single years – and my face got blotchy and puffy – the doctor said it was probably the steam off the green tomatoes causing an allergic reaction.  I now avoid the kitchen on green tomato cooking day.

So the pantry is well stocked with the fruits (and veggies) of the garden.  All set for the Dark Days Challenge.  That’s the once a week meal made of SOLE food – sustainable, organic, local, and ethical. For more information you can click the badge in the side bar.  Sign up too!