Organic watermelon radishes from Hairston Creek Farm

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I was listening to the news last night and heard that scientists "have discovered that strawberries and chocolate have tons of antioxidants" (Didn't we find out that a long time ago?). In any case, they are now diligently working to "increase" the nutritional content of the strawberry and cocoa plants and "make them easier to grow".

Read between the lines: "easier to grow" means more resistant to herbicides and pesticides. Furthermore, if we have just found out how good they are for us (that is, nature has done an excellent job without our help), why would we want to mess with them?

Remember, the only way to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms is to buy ORGANIC. I started buying organic chocolate a long time ago. Start doing that yourselves if you have not done that already.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Closed for the Holidays

Farmers Markets are closed this weekend for the holidays. I was able to snatch a few watermelon radishes from a local grower (see header picture). I had never had them before and although hesitant when I bought them, I was pleasantly surprised at their flavor and amazed at how beautiful they are. I can't wait until next weekend so that I can buy some more! They are delicious!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where is the corn?

Every year the company I work for selects several families on the Christmas Bureau list. The employees and the company pitch in to provide holiday food and gifts to the families we've selected. Today, the kids and I, along with a co-worker went to deliver Christmas gifts to one of those families. We gathered the gifts that had been purchased first and then we marched on to the refrigerator with a list of the foods that had been purchased for this particular family on hand. As we put things in bags or the cooler, we would check them off the list. Corn happened to be on the list for this particular family and as my kids busily went through the bags to make sure we had corn, they both said we were missing the corn. My co-worker took one look in a bag and said it was there as she lifted a can of corn. "Oh" both kids said with a puzzled look on their faces. At that point my daughter looked at me and said that she had never seen corn in a can before and had been looking for ears of corn. There are so many kids in this country that rarely see fresh food and think chicken grows in the shape of nuggets (Did you see the show Food Revolution?) that for me, this was a proud moment :-).

Sunday, December 19, 2010


It has been a while since I last blogged. I guess life in general has gotten in the way. So much so that we picked up some old bad habits along the way of trying to simply eat healthy, home-made meals. Although religiously only buying organic produce and minimizing processed foods, the word 'Local' was once again lost in our vocabulary. So, how could I blog about something that I was not really doing? How do I pick up where I left off? As I pondered these questions, I heard from a friend of mine that Michael Pollan would be in town (Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food) so I joined her and went to hear him talk. We spent an evening listening to him and meeting with all the local food producers that normally participate in the farmers markets around town. We both walked out re-inspired!
Yesterday, my husband and I visited our nearby farmers market (it had been a while) and stocked up on fresh veggies and grass-fed beef. We did go to WF but only to compliment our local produce and we have once again promised ourselves that eating local organic produce would become our priority. So here I am again! I am going to include a favorite recipe of ours because the sweet potatoes were plentiful this weekend. Try it and enjoy!

Sweet Potato-Pecan Pancakes
Cooking Light, March 2000

1 1/4 cups all=purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted and divded
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumkin-pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup (about) of cooked sweet potatoes (original recipe calls for a can of sweet potatoes but we have always cooked our own)

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
Combine flour, 2 tbs pecans, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice,
and salt in a large bowl. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients;
add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Stir in sweet potatoes.

Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or large
nonstick skillet. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles
and edges look cooked. Sprinkle pancakes with 2 tbs pecans.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Waste Not

One of the issues dearest to my heart is to live as environmentally responsible as I can. No, I don't have a house with solar panels and a water tank in the backyard (Although I wish I did), but I do what I can. When it comes to food, there are several things that I try to live by:
  • Try to buy raw foods (less packaging);
  • Always buy organic;
  • Try to buy as much local foods as I can;
  • Always take my recyclable bags into the supermarket or farmer's market;
  • If I have to buy something that is packaged, make sure the packaging is recyclable;
  • If our family goes out to eat, don't order more than what we can consume (My husband and I often split a meal and so do my kids); and
  • Whatever I do, I do not ask for a to-go container (usually, they are styrofoam so we ask the waiter for foil and use it instead).
I am also a firm believer in portion control so I tried something the other day at a restaurant that worked wonderfully. I went out to eat with my coworkers and knowing that I would not be able to share a meal, I took a glass container with me in a bag. When I was done, I simply put my leftovers in my container. I was worried I might get some looks but surprisingly, nobody seemed to care (or if they did, they did not say anything). It was a win-win situation because my food was stored in a leak-proof container that is safe to heat up and that I don't have to throw away when I am done. Since that day, I have made it a habit to have a pyrex container in my car in case I need it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Bounty

Yes, I know it is not quite summer yet. However, zucchini already showed up in my Greenling box and I know from talking to friends that are growing it, that there is plenty more coming my way. So, in order to use up the zucchini I had on hand before I got even more, I went searching for a recipe and found a delicious lasagna recipe through (follow link below).

NOTES: This lasagna might be just as delicious as mine was if you follow the recipe but I should at least mention what changes I made due to what I had on hand:
  • I did not use fat-free cottage cheese. I tend to prefer low-fat products;
  • The instructions say to spread 1/4 cup zucchini mixture in the bottom of the pan and I thought that this was not enough so I used way more than 2 cups of tomato sauce total (I think I used about 4 cups);
  • I did not buy the brand of tomato sauce recommended because I had some plain Muir Organic tomato sauce on hand.
  • I did not have onions left in my pantry to chop, but I had chopped and sauteed some the previous night with bell peppers, olive oil, and oregano for another recipe and had about one cup left. I used it all on this recipe.
The basil was from our garden, the egg was from local pastured chickens, and the mozzarella was from a local farm. Everything else was non-local but organic. It was so good I plan to make this for as long as I have zucchini!:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I guess I knew our family would face challenges when we made the decision to only eat local. It was easy at the beginning but the past couple of months have been especially tough. The reasons are:
  1. Both our kids play select sports and the commitment is monumental. Between the two kids, there are practices every day which are at least 20 minutes away from our home and last about 1.5 hours. That is over 2 hours every afternoon that one or both of us spend away from home;
  2. We both work;
  3. Trying to eat local, organic, and unprocessed foods all the time time consuming. The market we go to is 30 minutes away. These past weekends we just didn't have time to go to the market, take 2 hours to roast the chicken, 4 more to prepare the stock, just so that I could have chicken broth to prepare another meal;
  4. Some local foods by themselves do not make a meal. We always had carrots on hand but carrot soup just does not satisfy two active kids. Besides, I need stock to prepare the soup. Carrot tacos? No, thank you.

As a result we constantly faced ourselves with either not enough food to put together a meal, or completely stressed out trying to cook a complete meal with what we had on hand, even if it was enough because of time. Previously, non-local ingredients might have made the meals easier to prepare but I was not budging. Then I got sick.

See, I know what Barbara Kingsolver would say. I have read her book. When women decided to join the work force, who were we thinking was going to cook our meals? Women's lib was the beginning of the fast food era. Eating out replaced mom's cooking. She is right. So, the past two months or so, as I struggle to juggle both home and work, I have seriously thought about what it would mean to not work:
  1. Staying home would give me 7 hours a day that I could dedicate to the preparation of our food;
  2. Staying home would also mean my kids would not be able to play select sports;
  3. Staying home might also mean that I would not be able to afford organic foods.

This is a decision that is not to be made lightly. Maybe if I owned a 40 acre farm I would be more inclined to take the leap but for today, I still need my job. So for now, I am going to have to be a little more flexible when it comes to preparing our foods. We are still making our bread every week and roasting the chicken and preparing the stock. We just sometimes don't have the energy when we are done with all of this, to then prepare the meal I had in mind with the stock. So if instead, we make tacos with out-of-town avocados and local whole wheat tortillas because it is less stressful and faster (and still home-made and healthy), then so be it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


During a work meeting last week, the subject of recycling came up. Some of the people present at the meeting often mock the subject of recycling and other subjects related to taking care of our planet (using organic methods, buying unprocessed foods, etc.) - they do not believe that it is that crucial to recycle, for example. I guess they think trash disappears when the trucks take it away. Or, maybe, they think landfills will never fill. Or, better yet, they believe trash really decomposes in the landfill and that landfills will become again some day places where we can build homes and schools and grow food. I guess if they are thinking only about their generation, it could be true that landfills will not fill. I, however, have to think of my children, and their children, and their children's children, and of how I would love to leave this planet for them in at least the same shape I found it when I got here. While we don't have solar panels on our roof, nor do we have a 100 gallon tank to collect rain water in our backyard (although I wish we did), we do pay attention to what we buy and try to recycle as much as we can so that we do our part. Not because it is easy (it isn't), nor because it is free (it isn't where we live), but because it is the right thing to do. Although I know that there are people out there making a much bigger, better impact on this planet than our family is, compared to the average American, you could say we are at least trying to do the right thing:
  • We buy mostly raw foods so we buy little packaging;
  • When we do buy packaged foods, we choose the product packaged in recyclable containers;
  • We recycle everything we can (aluminum, paper, plastics 1-7, and styrofoam), even if it means we have to drive it somewhere every couple of months;
  • When we have leftovers at restaurant, we ask for foil (better yet, we split meals so that we don't have leftovers);
  • We compost our food scraps as long as our compost bin is not full; and
  • We use organic methods only to grow plants and on our lawn
In any case, when one of my coworkers made fun of recycling, I felt like speaking up. I didn't because I know these people. They are bright and eloquent and I would never have the last word. This was also a work meeting and I knew that as soon as I tried to make my point, the subject would be thrown out. One of my other coworkers, however, did speak up. Before the subject was quickly thrown out (as I had suspected), someone else said something along the lines of how as humans, how we live, including everything we do, including our wasteful ways, is natural. In other words, we were created by nature, therefore, the consequences of our actions, are natural, so why worry so much about it. I did not say anything, but wanted to. Had I had the nerve, I would have said that yes, she is right. We are nature's creation and so what we do is "natural". As "natural" as a meteorite heading toward the Earth to possibly destroy all life as we know it. And I suspect that if a meteorite was heading our direction and our society had the tools to stop it (or at least delay impact), these people would be the first to push for our society to use the tools to stop it. So, why, if we know of things we can do to make this planet better, why shouldn't we? If we don't, I suspect nature WILL take its course and we will eat, shop, and waste ourselves right into extinction.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Local vs. Organic

Unlike most people, it is usually pretty easy for me to suddenly make a decision to make a change. Ten or so years ago I decided to start cooking healthy food after my brother gave me a collage of pictures for Christmas that included a picture of myself in a bikini when I was 16, next to another picture of myself 20 years later while wearing a very baggy sweatshirt and stuffing my face with cake. Soon after, I bought my first issue of Cooking Light and started cooking only healthy nutritious food. It took a year but I lost the 15 pounds I had gained after having children and have remained the same size ever since.
Several years ago, when organic food started becoming more available, I decided to start buying mostly organic - I am a chemist and know a little something about pesticides and herbicides. I decided to take small steps only because my husband was somewhat resistant to the change due to the increased cost, not because I had any trouble with the decision. I started with the dirty dozen, which are the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticide residue because among these are spinach, bell peppers, apples, and strawberries which are foods we eat often in our house. Little by little I started buying more and more organic foods until it got to the point where no longer did I buy any conventional food products if I could help it. I then started to buy organic cosmetics (shampoos, face cream, etc) and household cleaners. I would say that almost everything I buy now is organic. Easy.
After reading In Defense of Food, I decided once again to make a change. With a few exceptions, our family would no longer eat processed foods. This was the most labor intensive change of all. We make our own bread, crackers, and jam. We no longer buy cereals or breakfast bars. We make our own ice cream. We spend Sundays mostly cooking and baking.
All of these decisions were easy for me to make (although not so easy for the rest of my family) because although more labor intensive and more expensive, nobody could really argue with me that I was making bad choices when making these decisions. Eating less preservatives and additives, less pesticides and herbicides, more whole, nutrient-rich foods could only be better for our health.
When I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which advocates eating locally produced foods, I jumped at the chance to make yet another change for the better. But wait...local does not necessarily mean pesticide-free. So, what is better, local or organic? Obviously, buying local organic produce will be the best choice by far. However, local organic produce is not always available. So, what to do? I started going to the local farmer's markets and talking to all of the farmers before I bought their produce. Many are not certified organic but say they grow their produce following organic practices. Buying their produce was relatively easy for me (although I had to put some trust in folks that I did not really know). Some, however, will very openly admit that they use herbicides and in some cases pesticides when they have to. Buying their produce has proven harder for me. For a few weeks, I was able to do it. Then a friend of mine gave me a book for my birthday. The book is called The Organic Manifesto and advocates, as the name implies, buying organic. I have to admit, I reverted.
You will find much information that will make a very strong case for conventionally produced, local, seasonal foods being better for the environment than organically produced foods flown in from the other end of the world. So, I try, really I do, to make the best choice that I can. I will buy organic strawberries from California before I will buy organic mangoes from Chile. California is not local but is closer to me. You see, I could argue that the carbon footprint made bringing those strawberries to me is smaller than the one made by the local farmer growing the strawberries in Marble Falls. It's not that the choice is simple, it's simply that I would prefer to eat my corn tortillas without a side of Atrazine.
So this is the best I can do: I go to the farmer's market every Saturday and buy as much produce as I can that has been produced chemically-free. I then get in my car and drive to Whole Foods and buy the rest of our food there. Not much, just some.
Sometimes I think that in my previous life I must have been a yo-yo.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I am not sure I really had a problem with GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) before I really understood why they are being used. I thought that if scientists were trying to genetically modify plants so that they were more nutritious, yielded better crops, etc., nothing was wrong with that. Except that genetically modified seeds are not being created by nutritionists and/or doctors. So, who is creating them? Well, it is scientists working for the same chemical companies that produce the pesticides and herbicides that make work so much easier for homeowners and farmers. Their objective is not to make more nutritious food for us. Their objective is to develop seeds that produce plants that are resistant to the same chemicals they sell. This is how it works:

  • Chemical Company A makes Herbicide X;
  • Chemical Company A makes GM Seed Y, which is resistant to Herbicide X;
  • Chemical Company A convinces Farmer B to buy Herbicide X and GM Seed Y from them;
  • Farmer B plants GM Seed Y and, because GM Seed Y is resistant to Herbicide X, he can spray as much of the stuff as he needs to;
  • GM Plant Y grows and absorbs Herbicide X yet thrives despite the herbicide due to its modified genes;
  • GM Plant Y reseeds thanks to wind, birds, and or insects. Some of those seeds end up in Farmer C's land;
  • Organic Farmer C who does not want to have anything to do with the GM Seeds or the herbicide, plants old-fashioned seeds. He harvests his crop and saves his seeds as he has been doing for decades;
  • Chemical Company A accuses Farmer C of planting their seeds after they find their GM Seed in his land. Farmer C denies the accusations but has to go to court to prove his innocence. He spends hundreds of thousands of dollars defending himself and either goes bankrupt or is forced to make a deal with Chemical Company A to buy their products;
  • Farmer B wants to plant more crops. He can no longer go back to using old-fashioned seeds because his land will now contain GM Seeds. He also can't save the ones from his GM plants because they are patented and owned by Chemical Company A, so he must buy more GM Seeds from Chemical Plant A in order to plant more crops; and
  • YOU eat GM Plant Y with a little herbicide on the side and unknowingly support Chemical Plant A, regardless of whether you agree with their practices or not.
Isn't this worth worrying about? If you do, rest assured that at least for now, Organic foods are not allowed to have Genetically Modified Organisms. Rest assured as well, that if you choose NOT to eat organic foods, you are more than likely eating genetically modified corn, soy, and/or wheat. Thanks to lobbyists that work for the chemical companies in question, the food industry is not forced to tell you that their foods contain GMO's, as long as they do not use the Organic label.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I am not a fan of non-fiction books but I don't think I have ever enjoyed a book more than Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In this book, the author describes how for one year, her family ate only what grew in their farm or in the farms nearby. We don't live in a farm but after reading this book, I decided our family could at least do its best to buy most raw food we eat from chemical-free local farms. We also made the decision to use these raw foods to prepare any other foods that we were accustomed to consume that are considered 'processed'. I don't pretend we are as ambitious as Barbara Kingsolver and her family, but I think we have made great strides toward making decisions about our food that are better for us and our planet in just a few weeks. So, what exactly are we eating these days? Here are some of the things that we are buying/preparing ourselves:
  1. We are buying as much raw foods as we can eat each Saturday at our farmer's market. In the current season, this includes carrots, salad greens, beets, radishes, squash, brussels sprouts, etc. in addition to some meat and cheese that come from local, grass-fed animals;
  2. We are buying everything else mostly at Whole Foods. For example, organic eggs produced by pasture-raised local chickens, organic (hormone and antibiotic free) local milk, butter, and cheese (more on dairy later), whole flour, rice, other grains, and some additional meat at Whole Foods;
  3. We are making our bread. Have you ever read the ingredient list from the bread you buy at the grocery store? I challenge you to find a brand that has only wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt;
  4. We are making our own chicken stock;
  5. We are making our own crackers;
  6. We are making our own jam;
  7. We are making our own ice cream;
  8. We are making our own cookies;
  9. We make our own pizza; and
  10. I have started drying tomatoes now that they have come into season - they taste just like sun-dried!
As the weeks go by, I will post the challenges we have faced to achieve all of this. We both work and our kids play select sports so there is not much time left in the day to do much baking (challenges abound). However, I will tell you one thing: When we ate dinner last night at a restaurant and our kids let us know that the pizza we make is much better than the one we were served (which was not cheap), it made it all worth it!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Wake-Up Call

It is a tradition of mine to try to watch at least most of the motion pictures that are nominated for an Oscar before the big night. This year, I attempted to also watch the documentaries that had been nominated. Although my family has been buying mostly organic products in the last three years or so, nothing could have prepared my husband and I for how we felt after we watched Food, Inc. I had long ago suspected (out of common sense) that pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides were detrimental to our health. Here is what I did not know:
  1. How our food is produced these days is driven mainly by the fast food industry, an industry. The fast food industry wants to be able to sell food cheap. In order to do this, farmers are pushed to grow as much food as possible and as cheaply as possible. Do you really think that corners are not cut in order to achieve this? Why do you think that it is cheaper to buy a burger than a head of broccoli, for example? Production of broccoli is not subsidized by the fast food industry. Cheap meat is.
  2. I did not know that farmers have been tricked into buying genetically modified seeds and that that most seeds that farmers sow these days are owned, sold, and controlled by the same chemical companies that sell the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that I had decided long ago had no place in my home.
  3. I did not know that some chemists from these same companies, now work in the same government entities that are supposed to keep our food supplies safe. Conflict of interest? You bet!
So, this was my wake-up call. My wake-up call to start getting informed about what exactly I am eating and feeding my family. Although I had taken the right steps in that direction when deciding to buy mostly organic foods, there was still much to be learned. Since Food, Inc., I have read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Maria Rodale's The Organic Manifesto. The purpose of this blog is to chronicle how my family has changed the way we eat so that we are eating mostly organic, local, and seasonal foods and to document the joys and challenges we face as we make our departure from cheaply-produced, nutritionally-compromised, conventionally-grown whole and processed foods. To encourage others to realize what we have known all along: When we produce anything as fast, easily, and cheaply as possible, there is always a price to pay later. The question is, when it comes to our food, what is the cost?