you are what you eat
11 November 2014, by gj
If you have little ones in your life, and you are a gardener, then you are doubly blessed.
Choosing what to plant for healthy baby food and for older kids should center on two main things:
1. What produce has the most pesticides in it, and
2. What do kids like?
The first one is easy. The Environmental Working Group is the wonderful non-profit that has compiled this information.
Fruits are some of the worst things to give a baby, unless they are grown organically. If you cannot have room for a few dwarf sized trees, try to buy organic versions of apples, peaches and nectarines. Strawberries are also highly hit with pesticides, but are very easy to grow and preserve. Likewise, grapes.
On the vegetable side celery, cucumbers, summer squash and sweet bell peppers are more items with the worst levels of pesticides. All are easy enough to grow.
When it is time to introduce baby to greens, again it is better if they are homegrown or at least organic. Kale can be grown almost year round even here in Zone 5/6.
What little one doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Guess what, they are not only hit with pesticides on the root ends, but then herbicides are applied on the tops before harvesting. They are so simple to grow, really, and easy to store.
So now your garden is keeping baby’s diet cleaner, what will little ones also like to eat? Probably not broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts or cauliflower, though there are exceptions. We used to marinate fresh cauliflower in oil and vinegar with Italian seasonings when our kids were younger and they loved it.
Carrots are sure to be a favorite, and homegrown ones are so sweet they are like candy. Green beans are generally bland, so kids go for them. Choose a stringless variety to make things easier.
Every garden should sport at least one tomato plant. For taste, we recommend sungold cherry tomatoes, for older kids.
Still got room for more? Butternut and acorn squash are so healthy, and generally well received by little ones.
Check out the baby food aisle at your local market for ideas on veggie combos to blend for smaller kids, and to combine for older ones. Adding some pears and strawberries to shredded fresh spinach may just be the ticket to get older kids to eat their greens.
Categories: grandkids and kids, you are what you eat
19 August 2014, by gj
I am still ticked about what happened yesterday, and there is something I have been holding in that started to seep out in that last post.
Now’s the time to get this off my chest:
Lots of people talk about pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods; this is important information to get out there. Here is a different approach to what might be an overlooked yet significant issue with our food supply.
Did you know that animals can smell death?
Sometimes we can as well, I did once, nurses probably do.
But animals smell it as a matter of survival.
It is not unheard of for a pig, held in a holding pen in line to be slaughtered, to simply faint. Fear?
They are very social animals as well, and when kept in isolation in birthing cages, have been known to bang their heads against the side of the cage until they die.
What kind of emotional suffering causes that behavior?
Chickens often are subject to what would be considered inhumane practices as they are being ‘processed’.
Milk cows have their young taken away soon after birth, so they can be artificially impregnated again and the milk supply continue.
This is not all farms, but this is now the most common.
You read and hear a lot about all the other issues with our food supply, but rarely have I seen anyone talk about this aspect of it.
Just as we excrete chemicals in our body as a result of life circumstances such as happiness, fear, loneliness and love, so do animals.
As a society what we are consuming and feeding to our children is suffering, loneliness, fear, anxiety and an unnatural break from nature.
I would bet that if a scientist were to look at a sample of muscle from a deer taken by a hunter, and compare that to a pig killed in a slaughterhouse, they would find very different levels of these chemicals.
Why are animals being factory farmed this way, when there are alternatives?
Now the farmer would answer that they need to raise the meat using these practices because of the demand for it, and to keep prices low. This is especially the case for farmers who supply most fast food places.
So what is the one variable in this formula that we, as concerned consumers, can change?
We can demand less, and demand better.
Many Americans eat meat three times a day, which is much more than we need.
Technically, we don’t need to eat any meat, but let’s not go there.
If we all cut down to either once or twice per day, we could afford to buy the grass fed beef and the organic eggs.
If we cut out one or two days a week, a Meatless Monday for example, we could afford the better products.
We could eat the meat that comes from happy animals, ones that were allowed to be outdoors and have families and range in their natural way.
The same way we grow our own veggies because they taste better and are healthier, we can make the change that will allow us to have the better quality meat as well.
And if the demand for better quality goes up, more farmers will look to provide quality over quantity.
Then what we will have will be better for us, better for our children, and better for the environment.
In the long run, that may be just what we need to turn around all the violence and need for medications that our children and grandchildren now face as a part of daily life.
Shouldn’t we do that for them?
Isn’t one day without meat worth it?
For more information on our food supply:
The Chipotle’s Scarecrow.
Suggested reading: Eating Animals
Categories: special posts, you are what you eat
18 August 2014, by gj
The facility I work at has on site a pre-school program, government offices, a senior center, a playground and a little league ball field. It is a place where many local residents can find something to do.
Today, a 16 year old boy shot a younger boy playing nearby with an air BB gun, multiple times. The physical wounds were not severe, about a dozen welts to the arm and back.
The emotional wounds, for both boys, will last much longer.
When questioned by police the older boy reported that he had not taken his medication that morning, he has anger issues and sometimes does bad things without his medication.
Both boys are victims here, and I’ll explain why I say that.
We are spiritual beings in a chemical body. If you don’t have a religious faith, we are still chemical beings.
‘Carbon based life forms’ is what they called it on Star Trek, but that is exactly what we are.
When we hurt, when we are sad or happy, and when we are fearful or feel any other emotions, our brains and bodies secrete chemicals that flow throughout us.
Did you ever see a video of a child playing with puppies?
If you smiled and felt good, that was at least partially the result of your brain releasing a chemical called Serotonin into your body. Yeah, advertisers know this.
My background is not in horticulture but actually in psychology, and we’ve learned from studies and information gathered long ago that our minds react chemically, and also in other ways that is more difficult to understand. Many call that part the ‘soul’.
In the recent example of Robin Williams, I believe he was a soul tortured by what the chemical processes were doing inside his body. Depression causes a known chemical reaction in the body. The same is true for anger issues and many other deviations from what we might consider the average.
Note I don’t use the term ‘normal’.
So what has happened to our children that we now see a young person go out and harm someone defenseless?
Sandy Hook, Columbine… plus there are many other incidences, like the one here, that you never hear of.
I grew up in the town where I work, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything other than normal growing pains amongst kids.
What has changed in the past 40-some years? Well, a lot; but one of the main things is our diet.
“You are what you eat” or more literally, “Man is as he eats” was quoted almost 200 years ago by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Most of what we eat today is meat filled with the chemicals secreted by fear, suffering, maltreatment and pain. With few exceptions, our burgers and eggs are heavily dosed with antibiotics and the feed these animals are given is laden with pesticides. Man made chemicals are also found on a lot of the produce we consume.
We’re feeding this to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and step-children.
I understand it is easier to get and afford these ‘foods’ than the better alternative, but all of us can make a few choices, easy choices really, to change this.
I’ll post that tomorrow, right now I need to take a walk in the garden to help put it all in perspective.
Tomorrow I’ll post what I think we can all do to help change this, from the easy to the more involved.
I hope you will share that post as much as you can… this has got to stop.
For now, thanks for listening. <3
Categories: gardening people, places & things, special posts, you are what you eat
7 January 2014, by gj
The original, and now the best.
Good news was out last week that General Mills has decided to change their sources for sugar and corn starch to non-GMO products, thus allowing them to take a little step and make their Cheerio’s original non-GMO. Just that one variety so far, as they say it had so little GMO in it the switch was easy.
While the company is still maintaining that GMO’s are not bad for us to ingest, and does admit they make some of their other products without GMO’s so they can be sold in Europe, they do not express any intention of changing what they use in their products in this country.
Recently Chipotle restaurants announced that they were moving toward all non-GMO foods, including grass fed meats.
Their stocks soared, even though customers were informed they may need to slightly increase their prices.
These big companies are smart, and they keep a close eye on trends.
We have already seen an organic version of Heinz catsup hit the store shelves. Since they are not using the heavily pesticided corn syrup and sugar beets, then they are probably non-GMO as well.
But they will keep that quiet for now. Why?
Because its a double standard to manufacture one way for the European market, and another for the US.
And it is hypocritical to say GMO’s are safe, and we don’t want to have to label foods that contain them, then turn around and start using the non-GMO ingredients to their advantage.
This, my friends, is where the conundrum comes into play:
Do you not buy any General Mills products because they financially support efforts against labeling GMO’s containing foods, and they in fact use much of the product so heavily doused in Monsanto’s chemicals-
Or, do you purchase that yellow box of non-GMO Cheerio’s and show General Mills your support for removing GMO products from at least that one box?
Normally I would go with the first choice, but not this time.
Because here’s the thing- if the sales of the non-GMO containing Cheerio’s soar, then other General Mills cereals will follow.
From there, other companies will be quick to jump on the wagon and so maintain their share of the market.
And perhaps the tide will turn.
Amy’s food started it a year or so ago and saw their stock jump up, and now Chipotle’s has thrown some major heat on the fire.
I’m thinking… let’s get out our fans and feed that flame.
Because voting with your dollar? It works.
Don’t just take my opinion on it.
Read what the GM reps say about GMO’s and their other products.
Categories: GMO's, special posts, you are what you eat
5 January 2014, by gj
Plotting and planning.
Having a goal is great; whether it is to lose weight in the new year, start a new career as an entrepreneur, or grow a garden.
Having a good plan however, can make all the difference.
The basics of writing a business plan can help you achieve your goal, whatever it is. So let’s leave the new business planning to the experts, and look at the wonderful goals of Getting Healthy and Growing Food:
1. State the goal specifically.
I want to get healthy is not as specific as I want to lose 2 pounds per month this year or I want to drop my overall cholesterol by 10 points.
Similarly, I want to grow food would be better stated I want to grow enough food to eat fresh and preserve for my family of 4.
2. Detail the steps you will take and make them achievable.
Do the research on what it takes to lower your cholesterol, as an example. Talk to your Doctor and Pharmacist. Find out what specific steps you need to take, and see which ones will work for you
Likewise, do you have the room to grow enough to sustain 4 people? That would be in the neighborhood of 2000 pounds of produce. If space is limited, rethink your goal. Otherwise, look at what techniques you can use, such as intercropping and succession planting, to optimize your harvest.
Yoga on the wii.
3. Plan for challenges.
Everybody is gathering for dinner at that new rib joint, what do you do?
Two weeks without rain, what now?
Life happens, plan on it. What is the old army adage, “Forewarned is forearmed”?
You know there will be stumbling blocks, but do what you can to be prepared. Maybe that will entail a rain barrel, perhaps a husband who is willing to share a dinner entrée. Decide ahead of time.
4. Know your own personality.
Are you the type of person who would rather set a goal of an Elephant, and be happy with a Mouse?
Or would you rather go for a Mouse, and be thrilled with an Elephant?
Do what works best for you.
If you are the type of person that does better with the support of others, use that to your advantage; just be careful, as supporters can also become enablers.
Set a goal that can be achieved alone, just in case.
5. Enjoy the journey.
Sure, the gardening goal sounds like a lot more fun than lowering cholesterol, but it doesn’t have to be. If you enjoy trying new foods and cooking, then you can have a blast experimenting with dishes and ingredients that are better for you.
Plan the steps you will take with your own enjoyment in mind, that will not only make the journey more enjoyable, but increase your chances of success at the same time.
Oh, and by the way, wouldn’t these two goals work well together?
Hmmm… I may have to go update my plan a bit.
Learn more about the Gardening Techniques mentioned in this post.
Categories: preparedness, special posts, you are what you eat
4 January 2014, by gj
Easy to grow, nutritious and delicious.
If you have seen Forks Over Knives then you know of the overwhelming amount of evidence that shows consuming 20% or less of your protein intake from animal products can stop and even reverse health issues, as well as promote weight loss.
They’re not talking mild issues either, but rather heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even some cancers.
Okay, I know, I know… Bacon.
That’s what we thought, too. But it has been almost 2 years now since we decided to limit meat to once per week, and almost 1 1/4 years since we decided we really didn’t want it at all anymore.
Perhaps being a cook and a gardener, making the change was a tad easier.
Still there are many books out there, including a few by the cast members of the documentary, that will help making that switch to be easier and very delicious.
Once you see how much better you look and feel, well- even Bacon just does not hold up.
So what foods can you grow to keep this a tasty and healthy lifestyle change?
Pert near anything, actually.
Most veggies have a good amount of protein in them.
The highest numbers are found in beans, peas and legumes; especially in dried beans.
Think you’ll miss the bacon in your homegrown baked beans?
Probably not, but in the beginning try adding a smoked salt, Liquid Smoke, or Truffle oil to get that smoked flavor.
You won’t want to ever go back.
Soy is a member of the legume family, and often processed soy is substituted for meat. If you buy it, look for Non-GMO labels.
You can grow your own soybeans and enjoy them roasted in the form of edamame.
Nut trees will also provide a delightful abundance of vegetable protein. Check to see what is hardy in your area.
Quinoa (pron Keen-wa) has the most complex proteins of any veggie, similar to meat.
It is a relative of spinach, which is also high in protein when it is cooked down. You can grow it and harvest the seed, if you live in a cooler climate and have the room.
If you have the space and love a new seed to try out, go for it!
Really, even though getting enough protein is what concerns most people new to limiting their intake of meat, it probably will never be an issue.
Think about it… if we couldn’t get enough easily from plants, wouldn’t all animals be meat eaters?
The only way Mandolin will eat beets.
If you have thought of limiting your meat intake, or even becoming vegetarian or vegan, this is what we would suggest:
1. Never say never.
Start off easy, and give yourself one day each week to eat whatever meat you want. After a while, you may just lose interest. Even if you don’t, you are still better off.
2. Be creative.
Eating is one of the few basic human needs we enjoy in public. Have fun with your dishes. Experiment. Share.
3. Grow what you can.
You know it will taste better if it is homegrown.
4. Don’t be defensive.
We did find that some people react strongly when you tell them you are giving up or even limiting meat in your diet. Don’t let them get to you.
The simplest answer when they ask “Why?” is
“For my health.”
For some reason, that does not bother them and after all, it really is the truth.
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for more.
Categories: you are what you eat, you can grow that
17 December 2013, by gj
Served with a dollop of sour cream.
Most every culture has some kind of filled dumpling recipe.
The Polish serve Pierogies, while the Italian Ravioli. Chinese have numerous and varied recipes from potstickers to things we cannot begin to pronounce correctly.
Do a search on the internet and you will find an abundance of recipes to choose from.
Although we had heard of them for many years, it was only recently that we found knishes for sale at the local market.
Cool, a new food- We’re game.
It was somewhat disappointing though.
The dough was heavy; the knish fried, then cooled, then reheated; the filling bland.
But then, isn’t pretty much any manufactured version of a good recipe usually not as flavorful as it is supposed to be?
So I set about reading up on recipes, and feeling somewhat overwhelmed, decided to just try my own.
Most dough-filled dumplings can be fried, baked or boiled.
The kitchen is cool this time of year, so baked it will be.
The fillings usually center around precooked meat, potatoes or cabbage, and possibly veggies. Pretty broad.
We had some leftover mashed potatoes with turnips and rutabagas in the fridge, along with leftover imitation spicy sausage and homemade fermented sauerkraut.
We mixed it all together, adding a raw egg to help bind them.
Baking is something I have been doing since childhood, and professionally at our restaurant.
For us, the filling was a given- it was the dough that mattered.
We wanted a dough that would compliment the filling rather than overwhelm it.
Corn meal appearance, but able to form a ball.
So here’s what happened:
In a food processor, we added
2 oz. butter
3 oz. hard cheese, we used swiss
3 Tablespoons ricotta cheese
3 Tablespoons Kefir (or yogurt or sour cream)
Pulse this until it looks like cornmeal. You can also do it by hand with a pastry knife or two butter knives.
Slowly add enough flour to form a dough, in this case it was 2 cups. Like many recipes, how much flour to liquid ratio depends on your elevation and on the humidity.
Also keep in mind the less you work the dough, the better the texture will be.
Roll the dough as thin as you can on a floured board.
Fill with your choice of filling, pinch closed using an egg wash, or leave open at the top.
I was concerned the dough might melt some, having never made one with so much cheese in it, so used muffin tins. Turns out the dough held up just fine, so this really wasn’t necessary.
Bake at 350 until brown, about 15 minutes.
Ready for the oven.
We did ours as an open dumpling, but you can also fold the dough over to cover the filling completely.
Forget what everyone told you growing up-
playing with your food is a very Good thing.
Categories: Recipes, you are what you eat
4 October 2013, by gj
Whether you are allergic to wheat, have a problem with gluten, are trying to reduce carbs in your diet, or are just looking for a healthier alternative to the typical store-bought bread crumbs, your garden is the place to go.
It was a few years back we looked at making flour from pumpkin flesh. The same can be done with a slew of other veggies, in fact I’m sure you could combine different vegetables to make a very healthy flour.
Note here that if you are going to bake with it, you can only substitute 1/3 of your vegetable flour in the recipe.
But then the same line of thinking led to… what about bread crumbs?
How to fit a head of cauliflower into a canning jar.
So the theory was tested by dehydrating an entire head of cauliflower. The result was about 1 3/4 cups of dried vegetable. Pretty potent stuff.
Some of that was then ground up in a good coffee grinder. Tofu was chosen for the experiment since it has pretty much no flavor of its own, a good test to see how strong the cauliflower taste would be.
Tofu slices were dipped first in organic corn meal, then in some beaten egg, then into the cauliflower. Some pieces were baked, some were fried. Just for comparison sake, some were also made with rice flour instead of the cauliflower.
Mandolin was the unknowing taste-tester. Good thing he trusts me!
“Is that cauliflower?” he asked, “It’s good, I like cauliflower.”
The taste was much milder than we expected, and we agreed if it were anything other than tofu you would probably not taste the cauliflower at all.
We both liked it better than the rice flour, as it was crunchier. We also preferred the fried to the baked.
We then served it with a nice orange-ginger sauce, and it was wonderful.
This weekend we’re looking forward to trying it again, when SaveTheWorld is home on fall break; but this time with fried green tomatoes.
Maybe we’ll even try a variety of veggies for the breading, just to see how it tastes.
I’m betting she doesn’t notice the difference at all, though she will be happy to know it is a healthier alternative.
With younger kids, you may want to keep this a secret for a while.
This post is part of a monthly group effort by gardeners around the world to encourage people to grow. Click on the link below to find a variety of posts with that theme.
And always remember-
Categories: drying-roasting, gardening people, places & things, How to Store, organic, preparedness, you can grow that
17 August 2013, by gj
If asked ‘If you could only grow one edible plant, what would it be?’ most gardeners would answer resoundingly ‘Tomatoes!’
And why is that?
They aren’t as easy to grow as beans, or as versatile as a potato.
They don’t store over the winter like a cabbage will, nor do they produce like a zucchini.
So what makes a tomato special?
This is what can happen when you spill some compost.
Well, if you thought ‘taste’ you are close. Any homegrown vegetable will taste better than its mass farmed counterpart. Homegrown carrots are so sweet they don’t need a glaze or even need to be peeled. Celery fresh from the garden tastes significantly different than what you get at the market.
Growing in gravel.
But tomatoes have an unfair advantage-
store bought tomatoes suffer from forced maturity.
They are picked green and gassed so they turn red; seriously who ever came up with that idea?
Even the so-called ‘vine ripened’ tomatoes are no better. They are gassed just the same, they just are still stuck to the stem. No big deal.
At least they are producing.
It isn’t just taste, it is the extreme taste difference. If that wasn’t the case, I wonder how many gardeners would bother with tomatoes.
Think about it-
-They have to be staked in some way.
-Many need to be carefully pruned.
-When the fruit is ripe, hurry!
-Tomato hornworms… just saying.
-Then there’s blight, both early and late.
-Cat facing, blossom end rot, blossom drop… I could go on.
This volunteer has a vining squash supporting it. Clever.
Tomatoes are also invasive.
Any gardener who makes their own compost knows that all too well. Even gardeners who only grew one cherry tomato plant in a hanging basket know they will just keep coming back.
Still we don’t think of all the problems when spring rolls around. We just remember the flavor of a warm tomato fresh from the garden… even though it really only is what a tomato should taste like in the first place.
Is it really worth it?
Tomatoes? Yeah, they are nothing more than a disease prone, weather sensitive, critter attracting weed, with a fruit so comparatively wonderful they can make even the most health conscious person think of eating white bread.
Yes. Yes it is.
Which reminds me, I believe we’re out of mayo.
Categories: gardening people, places & things, you are what you eat
23 June 2013, by gj
“I can’t begin to fathom that” was SaveTheWorld‘s response when I was telling her how things were when I was a kid.
Lucy in the nest box.
The conversation actually started when she asked me how my day at work was.
“It was pretty funny” I told her. The new woman was asking me about being a vegetarian. “If you don’t eat meat, what do you eat? I mean, meat is like the main part of every meal. I can’t imagine life without it.”
So I proceeded to tell her some of the dishes we prepare.
“Oh now that sounds pretty good.” she responded, “Actually, really good. I think I could become a vegetarian. I don’t like to think about what I’m eating and where it comes from. I can’t buy a whole chicken. At Thanksgiving my husband has to carve the meat off the turkey and put the carcass back in the oven before I can sit down to eat. If I saw the whole thing I wouldn’t be able to eat any of it.”
Robin and Cheesey
“That’s pretty funny,” STW said, “I bet if she met our chickens, or worse, knew about factory farms, that would put her over the edge.”
“Yes, it probably would. I’m not going to tell her though. I don’t bring things up unless someone asks me. Some people get very defensive when you talk about food. I will say those practices sure did get the price of chicken down though. When I was a kid, chicken was so expensive we only ate it on Sundays. Even then, the carcass would be tossed into a pot and used for soup or stew. Nothing went to waste, we couldn’t afford it. Monday through Thursday and Saturday were beef or pork. Of course, on Fridays we ate fish. But chicken, that was the long awaited treat.”
“I can’t begin to fathom that” she said, “I can’t imagine chicken costing more than beef. I don’t think it has been my whole life. You know what’s going to be interesting,” she continued, “is to see what happens with Sprout.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, he’ll be spending time here as he grows up. He’s already seen the Ladies. Next summer he’ll be big enough to hold one. What’s he going to think?”
“Oh, you may be right. I know a number of seniors who don’t eat chicken because they grew up with them. And he’ll be exposed to people who don’t eat meat at all. Hmmm, maybe his chicken on Sundays will be a visit to see the Ladies.”
Treats from the Ladies.
Categories: factory farms, you are what you eat