On meat, dairy, and the industrialized organic world

It may seem like I go from one fad to the next, but really I am on a constant search to be the healthiest version of myself. Which is why I get so infuriated when I find that some of the things that I have believed may not be completely true. The ‘real food challenge’ did wonders for me because I was already beginning to notice that by eliminating processed foods, yes even ‘organic’, I felt alive again. I had more energy, was able to focus better, and did not crave junk like I usually did when I would eat sugar, white flour, etc. While I was packing for school and preparing a list of food to get at the grocery store so I can continue to eat healthy: tuna, almonds, olive oil for cooking, rolled oats, apples, etc.; I picked up my book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan and began reading the section “Big Organic”. In the chapter he talks about how he, like many consumers, walks through Whole Foods feeling a comfort because he believes that he is buying food that is good for the environment, for animals, for his health. The gallon of milk he picks up tells a story “these cows soak up sunlight and graze on pastures eating only certified organic feed” etc.;..

Taken as a whole, the story on offer in Whole Foods is a pastoral narrative in which farm animals live much as they did in the books we read as children, and our fruits and vegetables grow in well-composted soils on small farms much like Joel Salatin’s. ‘Organic’ on the label conjures up a rich narrative, even if it is the consumer who fills in most of the details, supplying the hero (American Family Farmer), the villain (Agribusinessman), and the literary genre, which I’ve come to think of as Supermarket Pastoral. By now we may know better than to believe this too simple story, but notmuch better, and the grocery store poets do everything they can to encourage us in our willing suspension of disbelief. (Pollan, 137).

Huge organic names like Stonyfield Farms, Cascadian Farms, Earthbound Organic make you wonder though, with these major industries, what do the farms actually look like? We have completely transformed our food system in America and organic is now an 11 billion dollar industry that makes consumers feel at ease with what they are buying. But, when Michael Pollan actually decided to go back to the farms and see what exactly these farms were like, he was just as surprised as most of us would be if we saw it too.

As I tossed a plastic box of Earthbound prewashed spring mix salad into my Whole Foods cart, I realized that I was venturing deep into the belly of the industrial beast Joel Salatin had called “the organic empire.” (Speaking of my salad mix, another small, beyond organic farmer, a friend of Joel’s had told me he “wouldn’t use that stuff to make compost”– the organic purist’s stock insult.) But I’m not prepared to accept the premise that industrial organic is necessarily a bad thing, not if the goal is to reform a half-trillion food system based on chain supermarkets and the consumer’s expectations that food can be convenient and cheap. ….The question is, has that point been reached, as Joel Salatin suggests? Just how well does Supermarket Pastoral hold up under close reading and journalistic scrutiny?

About as well as you would expect anything genuinely pastoral to hold up in the belly of an $11 billion dollar industry, which is to say not very well at all. At least that’s what I discovered when I traced a few of the items in my Whole Foods cart back to the farms where they were grown. I learned, for example, that some (certainly not all) organic milk comes from factory farms, where thousands of Holsteins that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced “dry lot”, eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day. The reason much of this milk is ultra-pasteurized (a high-heat process that damages its nutritional quality) is so that big companies like Horizon and Aurora can sell it over long distances. I discovered organic beef being raised in “organic feedlots” and organic high-fructorse corn syrup– more words I never expected to see combined. And I learned about the making of the aforementioned organic TV dinner, a microwavable bowl of “rice, vegetables, and grilled chicken breast with a savory herb sauce.” Country Herb, as the entree is called, turns out to be a highly industrialized organic product, involving a choreography of thirty-one ingredients assembled from far-flung farms, laboratories, and processing plants scattered over a half-dozen states and two countries, and containing such mysteries of modern food technology as high-oleic safflower oil, guar and xanthan gum, soy lechithin, carrageenan, and “natural grill flavor.” Several of these ingredients are synthetic additives permitted under federal organic rules. So much for “whole” foods. The manufacturer of Country Herb is Cascadian Farm, a pioneering organic farm turned processor in Washington State that is now a wholly owned subsidary of General Mills. (The Country Herb chicken entree has since been discounted.)

I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live little to different from that of any other organic industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the “free-range” lifestyle promised on the label? True, there’s a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old– for fear they’ll catch something outside– and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later. (Pollan, 139-140).

Besides the whole ‘Organic’ deal, (and I am talking about mainly industrialized organic foods that travel long distances, in other words processed organic foods) it may be certain food groups that we should stay away from in general. If you’ve read CNN online lately, you may have heard about the “heart attack proof diet”, which Bill Clinton famously stands by. 82% of the people who have been on this plant-based diet have transformed their health and prevented heart attacks in the future. The diet entails eating no meat, dairy, or eggs. You eat only vegetables, fruits, grains, and no added oils, nuts, seeds, or avocado. Now heres where I can’t see myself strictly following this diet; I LOVE avocado, almonds, seeds and nuts. And I think they are good for you. But for those of you looking to change your cholesterol out there maybe this is the solution. One person’s decision to go on the heart attack proof diet: success. 

My main point is that it just seems like the overall theme of the past day of research I’ve  done is that it might be smart to strictly limit, or even stay away from dairy and meat altogether. Since I know most of us aren’t likely to go cold turkey (no pun intended), maybe you could join me in becoming a flexitarian, which Michael Pollan suggests. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/19/becoming-a-“flexitarian”/#more-407 On 100daysofrealfood blog the author talks about her having read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food and how she has now transitioned to become a flexitarian and her family has as well! It just makes sense. She writes,

So becoming a vegetarian doesn’t exactly fit into your lifestyle? Not to worry, because you can still reap the same health benefits as a vegetarian if you, as Thomas Jefferson once said, treat meat as a “condiment for the vegetables.” If you cut back to less than one serving of meat per day you can consider yourself a “flexitarian” with a risk of heart disease and cancer that is equally as low as a vegetarian. (100daysofrealfood.com)

Ellen Degeneres started out as a vegetarian, and then decided to become vegan because she read books like Skinny Bitch and saw documentaries like Food Inc, and Earthlings. Natalie Portman is a vegan after having read the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. The reality is that approximately 50 billion + animals die per year to feed America and meat may not be that great for you. Hormones, antibiotics, are all injected into these diseased animals and then shipped to your grocery store in pretty cellophane wrappers, little do you know what those animals had to go through before they ended up on your plate.

I recommend that if you are going to eat meat, buy LOCAL, humanely raised meat that is certified organic. Stay away from meat that travels thousands of miles to be transported to you, even if it is “organic”.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Michael-Pollan-on-Eating-Meat-Video

Finally, if you’re just as frustrated as I am in learning that even though things are labeled “organic” they actually have a much grimmer history, go by this simple rule: In his simplest form, Michael Pollan recommends: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

http://michaelpollan.com/interviews/michael-pollan-on-the-daily-show/

http://michaelpollan.com/interviews/lunch-with-the-ft-michael-pollan/

Bonne Santé!

Trish

Nanner Bread


photo cred: dedikatedphotography via iphone

The best part about almost rotten bananas? Banana bread! Monday at work we had completely bruised bananas, that were destined to be thrown out before I plopped them in my bag and brought them home. This recipe is absolutely delicious and very easy to make. Instead of sugar, I used agave. Instead of white flour, I used wheat flour. This is amazingly moist and absolutely adorable if you use mini loaf pans (we just happen to have mini ones but of course you can use a regular one!) I know you’ll love this recipe! Above is what it looks like when you take it out of the oven and can’t wait long enough to eat it. Also, try it toasted with creamy natural peanut butter for breakfast!

Nanner Bread (adapted from “How to Cook Everything’s” Banana Bread recipe by Mark Bittman)

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 eggs

2 tbs milk (organic whole milk recommended)

8 tbs (1 stick butter)

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 1/2 extremely ripe bananas

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup + 1 tbs agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease either a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, or 3 mini loaf pans with butter. Mix together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and beat in the eggs and bananas. Add vanilla and [agave, 2 tbs milk] to wet mixture. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients; do not mix more than necessary. Gently stir in the vanilla. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread will come out fairly clean when it is done, but because of the bananas this bread will remain moister than most. Do not overcook. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing  from the pan. To store, wrap in waxed paper.

Enjoy!!

Trish

Summer Heirloom Tomato Soup

I’m biased, I know, because I happen to have these heirloom tomatoes on hand. So, of course I would say that they are better than yours or that you absolutely must go get them. But, really, if you’ve ever had a good tomato vs. a store bought one (that probably traveled thousands of miles, and was pumped with who knows how many chemicals just to get to you), or even an apple from an orchard vs one from the store, you’ll know that quality really does matter. A lot. These tomatoes are so darn good I could eat them as if they were an apple!

Yesterday when I visited our local farm stand I got 2 heirloom tomatoes. Today they were just so ripe and dying for me to eat them that I had to devise a plan. How could I best make these little fruits steal the spotlight? It was super simple, and I have no doubt you can tackle this challenge. There’s a golden pot of delicious tomato soup at the end of it!

Summer Heirloom Tomato Soup

Makes 4 servings, but really only serves 2 because you’ll both want seconds!

Ingredients:

2 local heirloom tomatoes (they are especially ripe and delicious this time of year) (about 4 1/2 cups diced tomatoes)

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp sea salt + freshly ground black pepper (1/4 tsp each)

1/4 cup pure extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tsp basil leaves (I used dried, you could add more if it is fresh)

2 tsp thyme

Here’s what it looks like before it turns into a delicious soup! (note: this was my 2 serving version so you’ll only see one tomato!)

Taking center stage we have our delicious heirloom tomato, with olive oil, garlic, thyme, sea salt, nutmeg, pepper, basil closely by its side.

Core, halve, quarter, and dice the tomato, set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat add your olive oil. Depending on whether or not you want roasted garlic or a stronger garlic taste, either add you garlic to the olive oil now (roasted garlic, milder taste) or wait until after the tomatoes have been cooked (stronger garlic taste). Add the tomatoes to the olive oil.

You’ll see the juices starting to steam and get ready to boil, that’s good. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes until the tomatoes are “broken” and add your spices.

See that? The heat is doing the work for you, it’s already resembling a soup! Now add the garlic (if you’re making it like I made mine today, I love garlic). 

Yum yum yum. When it looks like this you’re finished. It should be piping hot and ready to go!

With Quinoa: If you’ve decided to add quinoa to your soup, it’s very simple to do. When you are about to make the soup just throw 1 cup organic whole grain quinoa in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover until all the water is gone and you’re left with translucent quinoa (about 14 minutes total).

Quinoa is a powerful little grain because it is a great source of protein and fiber. Adding it to the soup gives you a great complete meal because you have your protein, your carb, and your fats (from the olive oil). This is perfect on a nice summer’s day!

P.s. You know how I was saying you should make more than 2 servings? Well when I was enjoying my soup, I realized someone else was too!Guilty.

Crazy sister, and she says she doesn’t like healthy food!

Happy Monday!

Trish

Local Farm Stand Love

Today I discovered my newest love. The local farm stand we have just 15 minutes away, Haskell’s Farm Stand “SIW Vegetables” in Chadds Ford, PA. My friend Paige works there so I went by to see her, and ended up buying all of this! Plus another pepper, more blueberries, 3 more donut peaches, and half of that green tomato you see here (yes, I ate them all before this picture was taken). The quality of the produce is just unbelievable; I gave my mom a piece of the tomato (and she doesn’t even like tomatoes!) and she asked immediately how to get to the place. We both wish we knew about this earlier. The corn just got picked this morning and there were lines out to the street for this fresh produce. Oh and I know I just mentioned the donut peaches briefly above, but seriously, have you ever had a donut peach!? They have been given their name because of their shape and size, but also because they are so incredibly sweet you’d think you were having dessert. I am obsessed, they are officially my new favorite fruit. It’s a white peach as opposed to a yellow peach, which I prefer anyway, and the best part is that since they are so small the juice doesn’t really have time to ruin your outfit because you can plop it in your mouth just in time. Now, I know not all of us are lucky enough to have this particular farm stand right near their house, but I do know for a fact that you are lucky enough to have a farm stand near by. You just might not know it yet. I got everything you see here (plus the stuff I ate) for $44. I splurged a little, but I think it was a pretty good deal actually.

Also, I’m not sure if you can see it very well, but there was a farm on the way to the farm stand that had these adorable little baby goats grazing on grass! Next time I’ll get a better picture, but this was taken from the car on the way.

Here’s what I got:

1 pint blueberries

1 pint donut peaches

1 bag lettuce

3 bulbs garlic

4 california avocados

4 ears fresh picked white corn

2 heirloom tomatoes

1 red tomato

1 container Bobbi’s homemade mild garlic hummus (I splurged with this ($6.45) but man was it worth it!)

2 green bell peppersAnd a newfound love for farm stands.Happy local eating, farm supporting, and good health!p.s. Check this out, if you live in the area and you want fresh vegetables and fruits, you can sign up for:

Community Supported Agriculture
If you live in the Valley and like fresh vegetables, you may be interested in giving SIW’s CSA at try. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. H. G. started it in 2001 and here’s how it works. You pay to join. As a member you will get H. G.’s farm fresh food once a week (Tuesday or Wednesday) throughout the growing season which is from late June through mid October. You’ll get a little of everything that’s in season. You’ll also get a 10% discount on anything additional you purchase. Interested? Give H. G. a call at 610.388.0656.

blog: http://siw-vegetables.blogspot.com/

bonne sante et bonne appetit!

xoxo

Trish

Green Monster Sandwich/Salad

You’re probably saying to yourself, “This is not a sandwich”. Well, you’re right. Since I’ve been on this food plan, I don’t always have bread on-hand, nor have I really craved it much either. So today after my trip to our local farm stand in Chadds Ford, PA (which by the way I can’t get over! [see other post]) I made this little pile of deliciousness, that I will call a sandwich, but really turned out to be more of a petite salad for me.

There’s something about the combination of fried egg, avocado, and tomato that just screams comfort food. Southern restaurants often have fried green tomato sandwiches on their menus, and I just watched an episode of Paula Deen the other day where she made one with cream cheese on grilled toast. When your fresh produce is this good though, you don’t really need all that added stuff. This completely does the trick.

Green Monster Sandwich (without bread)

1/2 California Hass Avocado

1 slice heirloom green tomato (local… or a natural one you have on hand from the store)

1 cage free egg, fried in olive oil

about 7 pieces fresh local lettuce (you can’t beat it, it’s so fresh and tender!)

pinch freshly ground pepper

about 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, for drizzling on top

In a skillet, add about 1 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the egg. Poke the yoke of the egg with a knive to break it. On a small plate, place fresh lettuce, then the large slice of tomato, then the fried egg, then the sliced avocado in a pile (in that order). Sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over salad. Serve immediately.

If you’ve chosen to go the sandwich route, simply pile all of the following like you did for the salad. I recommend a delicious whole grain/multigrain seed and nut bread. Try Trader Joe’s California Style Protein Plus bread, my favorite. Or, even better, bread from your local bakery or homemade bread by you! Even a whole wheat tortilla will really be fabulous! The world is your… you get the idea.

What’s good about this Green Monster?

Pretty much everything!

Lettuce: fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C

Olive oil: monounsaturated fat: great for brain development, heart, tissues, skin, age defying benefits. Olive oil may significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels (LDL=bad HDL=good). It can even lower circulating LDL levels and prevent cholesterol from hardening. Plus, we all know that Crete has the highest average life span, and what do those Cretans eat? Fruits, veggies, fish, and yes, plenty of olive oil!

Avocado: once a luxury food only for royalty, these provide a powerhouse of nutrients including lutein which is great for maintaining healthy vision, and when added to salads avocado more than doubles the absorption of carotenoids, antioxidents linked to lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Avocados are fiber rich, and are great sources of vitamin K  (to help clot blood), potassium (to help regulate blood pressure), and folate (to protect the heart). (Journal, 135).

Egg: protein, vitamin K, beta carotene

I hope you’re loving summer food as much as I am!

xoxo,

Trish

sources:

G. Zhao, T.D. Etherton, K.R. Martin, S.G. West, P.J. Gillies, and P.M. Kris-Etherton, “Dietary Alpha-Linolenic Acid Reduces Inflammatory and Lipid Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men and Women,” Journal of Nutrition, 134 (2004):2991-2997.

N.Z. Unlu, T. Bohn, S.K. Clinton, and S.J. Schwartz, “Carotenoid Absorption from Salad and Salsa by Humans Is Enhanced by the Addition of Avocado or Avocado Oil,” The Journal of Nutrition, 135, no. 3 (2005): 431-436.