Category Archives: On Food

Sticking to the Season: Farmer’s Market Madness!

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Hey Lauren, I know it’s a little weird because what’s in season for me over in California has not yet reached the Mid-west. I’ve been going to farmers markets here, and I’m still blown away by the variety of fresh local produce that is already here! To give you an idea:

  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichokes
  • Fava beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Spring peas
  • Green garlic
  • Spring onions
  • Oranges
  • Fennel
  • Kohlrabi
  • Nettles
  • Lettuce, mustard greens, arugula & spinach
  • Radishes
  • Herbs: basil, chamomile, mint, lavender, rose geranium, thyme
  • And much more….
My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

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Tropical mint green tea

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Farmer’s fava beans

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Succulent strawberries and local walnuts

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Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Eating whole tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Fragrant basil bunch

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Mint from my windowsill

Mint from my windowsill

Radishes from SMIP farm

Radishes from SMIP farm

Free range happy cows

Free range happy cows

Farmers market on Skyline

Farmers market on Skyline

Local Vendors

Local Vendors

My window garden

My window garden

New growth from my windowsill garden!

New growth from my windowsill garden!

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Filed under Local, On Food, Seasonal

Back to Nature: A look at the Paleo Diet & Agave Cookies

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Farm visit on Vashon Island, WA (March, 2013)

I’m not a big fan of diets, but I thought I would share this with you. Mom was encouraging me to take a look at this food documentary, especially with my newfound food sensitivity and long-time interest in healthy eating. Now, I’ve herd a lot of fuss about this Paleo (or Paleolithic) Diet, which supposedly is one of the healthiest diets around and mimics that of our caveman ancestors who led hunter-gather lifestyles. Ok I’m intrigued…but not sold.

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The documentary presents research that shows how a diet from the Stone Age that that primarily focused on meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit and nuts actually helped us humans reach our full potential and stay lean, strong, and smart. On the flip-side, it reiterates what we have heard for so long, that our modern-day diet of processed, refined and carb-heavy foods make us sick, fat, and lazy.

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My morning oatmeal

Now I don’t know about following this diet too strictly. It seems a little crazy to overlook all of the amazing, creative and delicious food options out there. Yes, being healthy is one thing, but aren’t we supposed to enjoy our food, get playful with it, and be a little bad sometimes? (That’s just my opinion- but strict diets can work for some people). Having said that,  I am a big fan of eating whole, nutritious foods and I do think there is something to say for trying a different approach to eating if it makes you healthier, stronger, and more active. Especially  since now there are so many people with food sensitivities (like me) that go undiagnosed, diets like this one can be useful for people trying to figure out what foods may be troubling them, and what they could do without.

Healthy lunches

Healthy lunches

Here’s what mom had to say about it:

I hope you have a chance to watch the Perfect Human Diet, which is not in reference literally to returning to the Neanderthal diet but that we can learn much from that time as to what kept humans from having the same prevalent diseases we are afflicted with today.  Their stressors were different, their access and life styles were different, exposure to things and people were different, etc.  But, their level of exercise and quality of diet (fresh, local, meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) was admirable.  The lesson: we evolved and our brains became more sophisticated because of this.  It’s hard for us now to have all the choices and expense variables to consider, but we have one life and a good brain to figure out what limits we’re willing to live with to gain a longer quality of life.  Remember also, it takes one person to create a movement, or at least affect a few around her, and for the better if sound. -Mami

Horay for healthy snacks

Horay for healthy snacks

I TOTALLY agree with this by the way! about being healthy to get the most out of life and figuring out what limits we’re willing to live with. So I still think this documentary is worth watching because there’s always something to learn and if it helps get us a little closer to our quest of healthier and happier lives, then its done its job!

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Strawberry season. YUM!

Speaking of natural eating, I have a recipe to share! These oats & agave jam cookies are made with natural ingredients and whole grain flour that make them the perfect snack to boost your energy during the day, for tea time, or as dessert. I made them special for a friend who has diabetes, but I gobbled my half right up. So yummy. The recipe I got from My New Roots “Sugar-free Thumbprint Jam Cookies”.

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Oats & Agave Jam Cookies

2/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup warm coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole grain flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp. organic, all-natural cornstarch
Scant 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Zest of one lemon
Your favorite jam or preserves (I want to make these with fig jam next!)

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Preheat the oven to 350F, rack in the top 1/3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl pour the warm, melted coconut oil over the honey and whisk in the vanilla extract. In a separate medium bowl combine the flour, oats, cornstarch/arrowroot, sea salt, baking soda, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture to the honey and stir until just combined. Let the dough sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir once or twice again – the dough should be quite stiff.
Roll the dough into balls, one level tablespoon at a time, and place an inch or so apart on the prepared baking sheets. These will spread. Use your finger or the back of a very tiny spoon to make a well in the top of each ball of dough. Fill each to the top with 1/8 teaspoon of jam. I tried to make mine into heart-shapes for the fun of it.
Bake for 7 – 9 minutes or until the bottom and edges of the cookies are just golden. Don’t over-bake.

Serve with tea or pack in your lunch for a quick afternoon snack.

Happy and healthy eating!

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Filed under Blogs & Books, Desserts, On Food

Farm Day & Fresh Produce

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On the drive up to the farm in the morning. Cows everywhere, even on the road.

Yesterday I drove to SMIP Ranch, the organic farm I worked at over the summer. SMIP an acronym for sic manebimus in pace, Latin for “thus we will remain in peace”. It really is one of the happiest and most peaceful place I know of, and just a day there, can transform you. They cater to local high-end restaurants that highlight their heirloom varieties of organic produce. One of the chefs from the Village Pub (http://www.thevillagepub.net/) has even described the farm saying: “The place itself is so dramatically beautiful, when you walk into it, it’s awe-inspiring.” The pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the picture.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Woodside-chef-s-cuisine-rooted-in-boutique-ranch-2606497.php#ixzz2PWyTpDqv

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It’s been a while since my last visit, because of my crazy work schedule this winter, but I was reminded of how much I love having my hands in the dirt and being in this beautiful setting for a day thinking about food and having the most wonderful conversations with the couple who runs the farm (and the only two permanent workers– I still don’t know how they do it).

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Depending on the season they’ll have me help with forming the beds and getting them ready to plant, planting, weeding, shoveling compost, harvesting, and packing boxes for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Since its early Spring, they are getting ready for some serious planting so yesterday we were shoveling a lot of compost onto the beds and applying nutrients (like nitrogen and phosphate– I like to think of them as multivitamins) to the soil. There are more dreamy things than shoveling compost and having the smell of chicken feathers and bone meal on your hands, but it gives me a greater appreciation for the end result- fabulous, nutrient-rich, tasty food!

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After working for 7 hours and taking a 1 hour break for lunch in their adorable barn-style house, I felt totally renewed. I left with handfuls of fresh mint, a few bunches of heirloom radishes, four garlic bulbs, a large bunch of fresh spring onions, a bag of heirloom mixed greens, and a nice mint plant (below).

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My new mint plant!

 

I also got about 15 different kinds of seeds fro them to start my own spring garden (ie. melons, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, okra, spinach, kale, tomatoes, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, beets, onions, etc). Since I don’t have a garden myself, I’m starting some of the seeds indoors (for about 4-6 weeks) until they are a few inches tall, then I’m going to transplant them into a friend’s garden so they can grow to full size. At that time I’ll plant the other root vegetables and heartier seeds that can be planted directly in the soil (like the beets, turnips, onions, carrots, lettuces, chard, kale, etc).

Starting the seeds in my apartment: Cucumber, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, tomatillos, and spinach

Starting the seeds in my apartment: Cucumber, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, tomatillos, and spinach

Last night I had my friend Fernando over to eat some farm fresh produce. We grilled the onions on my cast iron pan with a sprinkle of sea salt until they were soft and sweet, ate the radishes sprinkled with salt and chili pepper, and made bunches of mixed baby greens sprinkled with a mixture of chili pepper, salt and dehydrated lime and wrapped with prosciutto which we ate with aged manchego cheese. We also had some leftover whole-wheat pasta with pesto sausage, chicken and shrimp that we made the night before and added fresh oregano. And of course fresh mint tea after dinner. Simple and absolutely delicious.

A batch of produce I brought home in the fall

A batch of produce I brought home in the fall

Since my schedule is a lot less hectic this Spring, just working at Stanford part-time and a trip to the East Coast for my birthday, I’m going to try to make my visits to the farm more frequent. They recently got bees (30,000) at the farm to pollinate and also use for honey! So, I’m excited to try some of the honey when it’s ready and also fish in their pond which is stocked with fresh sea bass- they recently caught a 2-pounder! I’ll keep you posted on my garden project.

Happy Spring!

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P.s. Lauren, Good news. I finally figured out how to make my pictures larger! Just drag and drop instead of upload. Couldn’t be easier. Just took me some time to figure out. Anyway… hope you’re having a great week. I loved the graphic novel idea. Maybe that would make a good bday gift? : )

 

 

 

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Fight the Food Fight

Hi Lauren!

So the theme of my post today is food justice. These issues are fresh on my mind after doing the food justice urban hike-a-thon this weekend with CAGJ to raise funds for the new book. I learned so much about my local food shed and the amazing work communities are doing to take back their food systems and promote social justice, self-reliance and strengthen their local economy!

What You Need to Know about Food Justice

Terms

Food: For people who advocate for food justice, food is seen as a basic human right. Good, safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in adequate quantities is fundamental to sustain a healthy life and promote human dignity. For more see: http://www.viacampesina.org/en/

Food Justice: Food Justice is when communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally appropriate and grown locally with care for the well being of the land, workers and animals. People practicing food justice leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities and a healthy environment. For more see: http://justfood.org/food-justice

Food Sovereignty: A term coined by Via Campesina, namely, the claimed “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces. The policies surrounding food sovereignty encourage people to take back their food system. For more see: http://www.viacampesina.org/en/

Sustainable agriculture: Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities. For more see: http://www.sustainabletable.org/intro/whatis/

Some Issues in Food Justice

Food desserts: Areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, which are most prevalent in low-income, minority neighborhoods and communities. These deserts are linked to diet-related health issues and obesity due to an abundance of fast food and processed foods and supermarket shortages. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, 23.5 million Americans currently live in food deserts, including 6.5 million children.

Agricultural subsidies: Large agri-businesses get fixed prices from the government ($60 billion in 2008) for food production, making staple foods (like wheat, corn, and soybeans) unnaturally cheep. Not only has this had serious health consequences for Americans, making the least nutritious foods most affordable, but it has destroyed the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world and increased starvation for the international poor.

Farm worker rights: The primary goal of industrial farms is to maximize profits, even if it threatens the well-being of farm workers, the men and women who help bring food to our tables. Workers on industrial farms and those in the food-processing industry are often subject to hazardous working conditions and unfair labor management practices. Also, immigrant workers generally face hurdles in asserting their legal rights, due to limited English language skills, poverty, and lack of familiarity with the laws and regulations governing their work.

GMO crops: There is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of genetically modified organisms in our food system. From the lack of seed sovereignty and crop diversity that goes along with GM crops, we have witnessed everything from hundreds of farmer suicides in India to issues of toxicity and patent problems, putting many smaller farms out of business.  However, there is also a flipside in the debate on GM crops, which is that they can improve the shelf life and the nutritional quality of food, feed the world’s poor, and lead to more effective bioremediation and disease treatment.

How to get involved

The Farm Bill that will set policy for the next 5 years is currently under debate, so contact your local reps, join the fight with a local nonprofit or your community, and make your voice heard in any way you can! If these issues surrounding food, health, social justice and dignity are as important to you as they are to me, then be the change YOU wish to see…

 

Rosemary Rice & Beans

Fresh greens

Rice

Black beans

Roasted veggies

Fresh parsley and rosemary

Rinse greens and prepare rice with a large stem of rosemary. While heating beans, grill or roast veggies. Arrange greens on bottom, add rice and vegetables, and top with lots of veggies. Place lots of fresh herbs on top. Would also pair well with roasted chicken, grilled/steamed fish or fried tofu! Enjoy and remember, fight the food fight! XO

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