Category Archives: Real Food

PB&J – peanut butter

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What is more American than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? What’s not to like about the complex carbs in peanuts and the fruit in that jelly?

Well…

Let’s break down this all-American, kid-friendly sandwich.

Peanut butter

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Ingredients:

  • Roasted peanuts
  • Sugar (sometimes listed as dextrose)
  • Molasses
  • Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed, cottonseed and soybean)
  • Salt

Roasted peanuts are cooked using additional oil unless dry roasted. Boiling and dry roasting do not require the addition of extra oils.

Sugar on labels is code for (in nearly all cases) GMO sugar beet sugar. This is a crop that is engineered to tolerate spraying of glyphosate for weed control without damage to the sugar beet plant itself. Beets are a root crop. If the sugar had been derived from sugar cane, it would have been labeled “cane sugar.”

Molasses (less than 2% according to the label) in and of itself isn’t bad if it is made from cane sugar; however, non-organic processed food molasses may be made from GMO sugar beets and can contain additives such as sulfur dioxide (less common today than a few years ago). The source for the molasses in this peanut butter is not listed.

Rapeseed oil — they did not even use the less non-nutritious Canola oil term for this ingredient. Rapeseed is a brassica and is almost always GMO (again, lots of glyphosate). Canola is what is typically sold for human consumption and rapeseed (not using the Canola name) is more commonly used in animal feed.

Cottonseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant which is not a food at all. We don’t eat cotton seeds in any recipes or foods. But oils extracted from cotton seeds seems to be okay according to the agricultural and food industry. Since the majority of cotton grown in the U.S. (and India) is GMO Bt Cotton, it contains a built-in pesticide. Cotton plants also require frequent spraying with a number of pesticides to fend off the many pests that attack crops. This may be the most toxic oil humans ingest.

Soybean oil is extracted from soybeans which is up to 96% GMO in the  United States and Canada. This crop is engineered to tolerate spraying glyphosate for weed control. I highly recommend researching soy to learn of its effects on the human body over time. I don’t recommend this oil.

Hydrogenated means the addition of hydrogen to the oil (a chemical process) until the oils become solid at room temperature. This creates trans-fats in partially-hydrogenated oils, the kind that increase bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol levels in humans. This label says that they are “Fully hydrogenated” which means that they do not become trans-fats; however, Consumer Reports writes that these oils are not good for humans, either.

Here is a short article explaining which oils are healthy and which are not: Bon Appetit’s 3 Best and Worst Oils for Your Health.

Recommendations

Peanut butter is made by grinding peanuts until they become a paste of sorts. The oil separates from the solid if allowed to reach room temperature because peanut oil is not hydrogenated (it remains a liquid). This is as it should be. At this point, the addition of a little salt is all that is necessary to made a delicious and nutritious peanut butter.

Why all of the weird ingredients in cheap peanut butter?

Well, the peanut oil is removed from the peanut paste and sold for big $$$. This oil then must be replaced with something so that it can be spread on bread, hence the addition of the cheaper, and less nutritious, oils which are hydrogenated for shelf stability (the oil doesn’t separate from the peanuts at room temperature).

The addition of sugar is unnecessary but, I believe, creates a food that sugar-addicted consumers will crave more. And, of course, sugar added to nearly anything makes foods more palatable. Sugar is in everything.

There is nothing wrong with the salt. Salt is merely a flavor enhancer and is not inherently unhealthy. High sodium from other additives is unhealthy.

Healthy alternative

You have two choices: buy a natural peanut butter or buy organic; however, even many organic brands of peanut butter contain sugars and non-peanut oils — peanut oil is big $$$ product. This was a huge disappointment to me when I shopped for organic peanut butter.

You want to see this on the label:

  • Peanuts
  • Salt (optional)

That’s it. And, of course, you can always make your own (something I want to try) using a food processor. Some grocery stores will grind fresh peanut butter for you on site.

If you buy natural peanut butter, merely use a butter knife to stir the oil on top back into the peanut paste (yes, it is a little messy, but only takes a minute). I keep my jar in the fridge to keep the oils from separating again. Easy peasy.

I recommend avoiding cheap peanut butters. They are full of GMOs and unhealthy ingredients designed to allow the food to sit on the shelf for months and years. Peanut butter is a wonderful food which should contain only peanuts and salt (optional).

Next will be an evaluation of the jelly part of PB&J.

 

 

 

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Roasted Pumpkin Pie

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Last year’s pies made from home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Every year my sons (and daughter when she is here) declare that my pumpkin pie is the best in the world. I must confess: it is delicious.

Yesterday, after forgetting to get celery and pumpkin pie fixins’ I was planning out my Monday shopping trip to pick up the items I forgot yesterday.

My 20-year-old son buys organic pumpkin puree and keeps it in the pantry as a reminder that he wants me to make pumpkin pies whenever I can.

But I don’t use canned pumpkin puree in my pies.

I use something better: roasted sugar pumpkin.

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Sugar pumpkin ripening

And then it hit me; it is the roasting of the pumpkin that gives it that rich, most amazing flavor.

The years that I grew my own organic sugar pumpkins (above), of course, resulted in the best-tasting pies of all.

But this year I must locate a farm-grown sugar pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pies.

For those who don’t know, sugar pumpkins are a specific variety of pumpkin that has just what it says it has: more sugar in the flesh.

A few years ago I paid $.79 a pound for a sugar pumpkin. I have no idea what it will cost me this week.

Roasting a pumpkin

Prepare the pumpkin

Wash the entire outside of the pumpkin with room-temperature water and a vegetable brush. Dry with paper towels (or a clean cloth towel).

Cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem out, but not large as you would for carving a Jack-o-lantern. You want as much of the flesh to remain on the pumpkin as possible (it is precious, delicious, wondrous).

Cut the pumpkin in half down the center from top to bottom (not side to side). I use a large carving knife for this job.

Scrape out the seeds and strings, leaving as much flesh as you can. Do not be afraid of a few strings remaining.

Roasting time

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

 

  • Large baking dish (13×9 inch)
  • cup of water (or more so there is about 1/4 inch of water in baking dish)
  • 2 pumpkin halves

 

Pour water in baking dish and place pumpkin skin-side up, flesh facing down in the dish. (No need to oil the dish.)

Roast the pumpkin for an hour or more until the flesh is tender. It will change to a darker orange color throughout when it is completely cooked.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes (or until it is cool enough to handle).

Scoop out the flesh. It is easier than cutting off the skin which can result in wasted pumpkin (again, it is precious, delicious and wondrous).

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pumpkin pies made with this roasted sugar pumpkin will knock your socks off. The recipe I use is below (comes from Joy of Cooking 1975 edition – a gift to me from my mom when I was 15 years old).

Pumpkin Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie (so I double the ingredients and make two pies, always).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Pie shell (unbaked) in pie plate.
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 cups cream, condensed milk or whole milk (I always use whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice (I use nutmeg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs

Directions using a mixer: Beat the cooked pumpkin first to break it down a little (I don’t puree it ). Combine all ingredients with a mixer. Pour mixture into pie shell(s) and follow the next part of the directions CAREFULLY:

Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes more or until knife comes out clean.

Serve with fresh whipped cream (whip heavy cream adding in teensy bit of sugar and vanilla after the initial whipping).

Give roasted pumpkin pie a try and let me know what you think.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and Happy holidays to all!

[Use any leftover pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. Yummy!]

Beautiful, edible landscape

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Late spring and early summer in Connecticut can be just as lovely as the first blooms of spring. Most flowers in my yard have yet to open as the early fake spring that occurred in March seemed to actually delay the progression of flora in this region.

I have few blueberries forming, but more blossoms and buds on flowering plants that do not bear fruit. My pear tree has some fruit as well, but certainly fewer than previous years.

I have this partial shade-loving Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) in my front yard, and this year it is completely covered in gorgeous flowers.

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Kousa Dogwood in front yard. Growing around the Kousa Dogwood are lowbush blueberry plants and Sassafras trees.

The white parts are bracts, not petals. The actual flowers emerge from the bumpy green center.

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Over the years, I removed most of the cultivars on my property, allowing the native plants to grow. But this small tree is too beautiful to destroy.

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Four white bracts are the background for the tiny flowers that will emerge before the fruit ripens into a beautiful red color.

The bumpy fruit from the Kousa Dogwood is listed as edible. I never thought to taste them. I might try to make jelly this fall.

GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Dips and Spreads

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GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Dips and Spreads
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Homemade Salsa

Tortilla, potato and pita chips cannot show up on Super Bowl Sunday alone, can they? And if you want people to eat what’s on that veggie platter, you better have something good to dip those veggies in.

Here are some of my favorite dips.

Salsa

I usually spend a little extra and purchase organic salsa or make my own. Here is my recipe for a Fast and Easy Salsa.

What’s wrong with conventional salsas? There are usually one or two potential GMOs in salsas: corn and vinegar.

Southwestern style salsa contains corn kernels, and they might be the recently-approved GMO sweet corn.

Vinegar in an ingredient list means white vinegar made from GMO corn.

Guacamole

This is such an easy dip to make that buying it seems silly (I did not check ingredient lists on premade guacamole so I don’t know if it contains GMOs).

  • Cut two ripe avocados in half, remove pit. Scoop fruit into mixing bowl.
  • Mash well with a fork
  • Add
    • salt
    • pepper
    • garlic powder or fresh crushed garlic
    • lemon or lime juice (fresh, please)
    • cumin (sorry, I don’t measure)
  • Special ingredient: 1-2 tablespoons of hot salsa
  • Serve immediately

Other Dips

French Onion Dip with potato chips is a tradition in my house for Super Bowl Sunday.

Non-organic sour cream-based dips contain MSG, corn syrup, vinegar, and other GMO ingredients. Glutamate is the worst offender in these dips (I cannot eat glutamates). Buy organic or make your own.

Onion Dip Recipe

  • 1 16-ounce container organic sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder or finely minced fresh onions (yellow onions can be hot)
  • Dash of dried dill or parsley; rub between hands to release flavors
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. This really does taste better the next day. Adjust salt and onion powder to taste.

You can add roasted peppers, roasted garlic, red onions, or anything you like to make your own custom dip for chips or crudités.

Faux Goat Cheese Spread

I love goat cheese, but it is crazy expensive here in Connecticut. Hey, if you can afford it, buy it. It is delicious and healthy.

I discovered that if I drain organic yogurt (flour sack cloth overnight hanging over a bowl to catch whey), I end up with this delicious yogurt cream cheese that begs for the addition of dill, garlic, onion, or roasted red peppers.

Combine yogurt cheese and flavor addition, wrap in plastic wrap or place in a glass canning jar and refrigerate overnight.

This is delicious spread on Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free, GMO-free organic crackers, cucumber slices and crudités.

Did I mention that this spread contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics)? Bonus!

(Use the whey in smoothies, baking or fermenting.)

Hot Dips

screenshot paula deen dip recipeI love the Food Network spicy spinach and artichoke dip. I substitute ground red pepper and a teensy bit of apple cider vinegar or my homemade pear vinegar for the hot sauce in recipes. Other substitutions include caramelized onions for the artichoke hearts (which can be expensive) or roasted garlic. Be creative.

The main problem with this recipe is the mayonnaise. I buy non-GMO or organic mayonnaise. Target was the first store to carry my favorite mayo, but now my local grocery store carries it as well.

Just Mayo from Hampton Creek is Non-GMO Project Verified, egg-free and absolutely delicious.

Or make your own mayonnaise. I make one mayo from the egg yolks and then a white mayo from the egg whites. I use a hand blender with a whisk attachment and drizzle the oil in to create the emulsion. The key is to add mustard, vinegar, etc. to get the flavor YOU want.

Don’t fall for this Big Food deceiver which is not GMO-free:

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Smart Balance Mayo is NOT Non-GMO. The label is deceptive.

The label on Smart Balance mayo states that it contains “Non-GMO Oil.” Lovely. But what about the GMO sugar and GMO vinegar? Other concerning ingredients include modified food starch (could be made from GMO corn) and TBHQ (a questionable preservative).

Bean Dip

Combine:

  • 1 can of black refried beans
  • 1/4 cup hot salsa
  • 1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice
  • More grated cheese to sprinkle on top

Stir and either bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until hot or microwave for a few minutes.

Serve with organic tortilla chips.

And for those veggie platters, you need a tasty, non-GMO dip that doesn’t contain glutamates.

Veggie Dip

Simply add what you would like to organic or Non-GMO mayonnaise:

  • Onion powder gives it a ranch dressing kind of flavor
  • Garlic powder, fresh garlic, or roasted garlic
  • Dried  and fresh herbs such as dill, chives and parsley
  • Finely chopped red bell pepper
  • Ground red pepper for a spicy zing or a little hot sauce
  • 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar or other non-GMO vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon or lime juice
  • Ground mustard powder or organic mustard (non-organic prepared mustard often contains GMO vinegar — read labels). I favor Dijon Mustard.
  • Salt and pepper (optional) to taste
  • Add milk and/or sour cream until it is the consistency you desire

Refrigerate for an hour or overnight to meld flavors. Taste before serving and add salt to taste.

 

GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Beverages

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GMO-free Super Bowl 50: Beverages

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Ready to head to the grocery store to stock up on junk food and beer for Super Bowl 50? Here is a simple guide for ensuring that your food and drinks are GMO-free.

Anything labeled as Certified Organic is GMO-free. It’s supposed to be that simple. GMO-Awareness has an article that declares that this is not always the case. There are non-organic products that are GMO-free.

Non-GMO Project is a great resource for finding what you want. Visit this site before making  your shopping list.

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And just because your favorite product is not on this list doesn’t mean that it contains GMOs. Let’s be fair to the companies that produce naturally GMO-free products who have not gone through the time and expense of Non-GMO verification.

Beverages

Beer, ale, stout and lager

Beer producers are not required to label ingredients. How do we know what is in our favorite brews? Good question.

Buy organic.

I read that many of the local microbreweries source non-GMO ingredients. I would need confirmation. We need ingredients listed on alcoholic beverage labels.

Non-GMO brews

Peak Organic Brewing Company produces a variety of ales, stouts, IPAs, etc. that are GMO-free.

Reported by company:

Updated 2-1-2016: Guinness responded to my inquiry and stated that “Guinness does not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. Guinness’ ingredient list is short: malts, barley/roasted barley, hops, and water. We do not use any GMOs in any of our products.”

I confess that I am a Guinness Extra Stout lover. I was thrilled to receive the information above. No, this is not legally binding, nor is it an affidavit or proof that Guinness products contain no GMOs, but until there is legislation requiring labeling of alcoholic beverages, this will have to do.

Liquor

Liquor is challenging. Apparently there is some governing body that declared that no alcoholic beverages can be labeled non-GMO.

I have started emailing individual companies asking them to verify whether their products contain GMOs. If enough of us did this, they would be forced to address the issue (and maybe source non-GMO ingredients).

Tequila: any of the 100% agave should be non-GMO. Mixto tequilas use a sugar syrup, but there is no ingredient labeling on tequila, so is the sugar from sugar cane or GMO sugar beets? It doesn’t say.

Best to avoid the mixto tequilas such as Jose Cuervo Especial and purchase organic varieties such as Republic Tequila. Reposado and Anejo tequilas are made with 100% blue agave even if they are not certified organic.

Gin & Tonic: It might not be the gin in this drink that is GMO, though we don’t know for sure.

Most tonic water contains corn syrup (over 80% of corn produced in the U.S. is GMO) or artificial sweeteners. Look for organic tonic water or one sweetened with agave syrup or real cane sugar. Remember, if a label says “sugar” that means GMO sugar beets; it must read “cane sugar” to be non-GMO for certain.

I just use sparkling water with nothing added myself.

Organic gin is the only way to know absolutely, positively that you are not getting any GMOs in your gin (though I have emailed Hendricks asking them to verify that they do or do not use GMOs in their gin).

Vodka can be made with grain or potatoes. I purchase organic or potato vodka (though GMO potatoes are grown in other countries, so might be best to avoid these).

Since I make a lot of my own extracts, I keep a bottle of vodka in my pantry at all times. I have emailed Luksusowa to ask whether their vodka is made with GMO potatoes. Poland banned GMOs, so probably not, but I want to confirm.

Non-alcoholic beverages

Soft drinks are mostly to be avoided except for organic or some small brewing companies such as Virgil’s Cream Soda. I personally buy Virgil’s for my kids. They are delicious.

Fruit juice, coffee and tea are fairly simple to divide into GMO and non-GMO by simply reading labels, right? I recommend referring to the Non-GMO Project list for these.

All commercially-grown, non-organic Hawaiian Papaya is GMO. That is the only GMO fruit so far (although GMO apples have been approved).

Since many juices have additives, it is safest to buy organic or buy 100% fruit juice juices.

Coffee: unflavored ground and bean coffees do NOT contain GMOs. Powdered instant coffees and teas, however, can by the inclusion of GMO sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup solids. Avoid instant coffees and teas especially those that contain artificial sweeteners.

Coffee flavorings and creamers contain GMOs unless organic. Avoid liquid and powdered creamers. I use Non-GMO almond or coconut milk and raw agave syrup in my coffee, though I often drink it black.

Store brand powdered coffee creamer ingredients:

  • Sugar (GMO)
  • Vegetable oil (GMO)
  • Contains one or more of the following: Palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, soybean oil (GMO)
  • Corn syrup solids (GMO)
  • Soy lecithin (GMO)
  • Natural and artificial flavors (may be GMO)

One exception to unhealthy coffee creamers is the one below which seems strange nestled between two creamers that are full of GMOs and other unhealthy ingredients. The “Natural Dairy Creamer” contains dried non-fat milk. That’s it.

Oh, in our house, we add heavy or light cream, half and half, or, in my case, unsweetened almond milk to coffee and sweeten with cane sugar or raw organic agave syrup.

Tea bags get a little complicated with all of the fancy flavors out there. I buy only organic teas or Non-GMO Verified teas. Loose leaf tea is available in health food stores.

Avoid powdered tea mixes due to GMO sugar and artificial flavors and colors. Same for drink mixes, sports drinks, etc.

Bottled iced tea? Sigh. Brew your own tea and add healthy sweeteners and even fruit or lemon if you like. The ingredients listed on bottles of iced tea drinks are concerning.

Bottled water: many of the flavored waters are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and/or corn syrup. And all that plastic. Try to avoid bottled water.

Make your own flavored waters with tap water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Cucumbers, berries, lemon, lime, and so on make great flavored waters. Just add the fruit or veggie and let it sit for a few minutes. If you want it sweetened, add a little organic sucanat, cane sugar, organic raw agave syrup or raw honey (no grocery store honey unless listed as raw).

Kombucha: one of my local markets now has a Kombucha bar. I can purchase a half-gallon of Kombucha using reusable glass bottles. This is a great option.

Conclusion

It takes a little work, but it is not difficult to serve and enjoy GMO-free beverages.

I will update this post if and when I hear back from brewers and distillers.

Texas farmers market: Cedar Park

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Cedar Park Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lakeline Mall, south side parking lot. This farmers market declares that it is “Producer Verified,” which is important.

Cedar Park Farmers Market just north of Austin, Texas. Lots of great vendors and visitors at 9 a.m. when it opened.

Cedar Park Farmers Market just north of Austin, Texas. Lots of great vendors and visitors at 9 a.m. when it opened.

One of the first things I did when I settled in after arriving in Austin was go online and search for local farmers markets. Thrilled to find one on Saturday mornings just down the road from my mom’s house, I informed my family and put the event on my calendar.

Of course, Texas is experiencing very hot weather this week, but I was determined to go no matter what. Accompanied by my step-dad’s brother, I arrived and sensed the most amazing energy. Farmers markets are usually like that. Vendors who care about sustainability, growing organically, and providing an alternative source of food and local arts is the norm at most of these weekly events. If your local farmers market doesn’t have this positive energy (I feel kind of strange using that terminology, but it is appropriate), find a new one. Drive a little farther, checkout the farmers market in the next town over, but keep trying until you find one that fits your personality and shopping needs. Then connect.

Talk to the vendors. Ask how they grow that or make that or process that. I have encountered only one farmer vendor in Connecticut who didn’t have good answers to my questions, and that made the choice simple not to buy from that vendor. After a little digging I also discovered one vendor at the Cedar Park Farmers Market that mislead me when questioned.

Now to meet some of the vendors:

Can we say Buddha’s Brew Kombucha? Oh yeah! Locally fermented and sold directly to the public, you can’t go wrong. They need to work on their website, though, as it took entirely too long to load on my desktop computer.

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We picked up a couple of melons from the market vendor pictured below, a muskmelon and a hybrid seeded watermelon Stars and Stripes, a Seminis hybrid (hate knowing that I bought anything associated with Seminis – Monsanto), but the grower said it is delicious and I didn’t know the seed source until I started researching for this blog post. Darn if we had so much food that I didn’t get to taste the watermelon. The muskmelon was amazing!

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There is nothing wrong with hybrids. You just cannot save the seeds and grow a true fruit from a seed saved from a hybrid fruit. Hybrids are NOT genetically engineered.

I love to find interesting heirloom varieties of veggies at Farmers Markets and save the seeds. It doesn’t always work as most veggies need to be very mature making them inedible in order to collect mature seeds. But sometimes you can save seeds from veggies especially tomatoes.

Who doesn’t love olive oil? How about Texas-grown organic olives? Who knew? Texas Hill Country Olive Company organic olive orchard is located in Dripping Springs, Texas. They offer free tours to groups of five people or more with their specialty blend olive oils and balsamic vinegars. As do many vendors at farmers markets, Texas Hill Country Olive Company hires people to work at their booths. Sounds good to me. Providing weekend jobs to young people? Excellent.

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Meet Stephanie Bradley, fine artist according to the paper fan that she gave me when I visited her booth and raved about her pottery. I love succulents and I love hand-thrown pottery. Her pots were intriguing. I wanted one so badly. I have her information as she offered to ship anything that I liked. Stephanie is located at the Red Falcon Studio, 943 E. 52nd Street, Austin, Texas.

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And as I researched for this blog post I stumbled upon a few YouTube videos of Stephanie Bradley singing the blues and playing the guitar. What a treat!

 
I just love the name of this vendor: Prickly Pair Flowers. And to see the couple standing there looking so serious . . . too funny! Lovely booth.

Prickly Pair flowers

Prickly Pair flowers

Farmers markets build community. Become a part of yours.

One a month: going organic and GMO free

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I have begun tweeting about choosing organic food items to replace chemically farmed food items. I challenge everyone to make a permanent change, one item each month. FlourSackMama.com’s #GreenGoesMainstream movement has picked up momentum while shoppers and consumers choose more organic foods.

Buying organic does much more than avoid genetically engineered or genetically modified ingredients, though. Buying organic supports a sustainable farming system that ensures that the soil and the planet stay alive. Instead of spraying life-killing herbicides such as glyphosate (RoundUp) and 2,4-D (which also kill micro-organisms in the soil, not just weeds), organic farmers and growers must follow a strict set of guidelines that keep the soil alive, keep the planet alive, and help keep humans and wildlife alive, including bees and butterflies.

What do you normally buy when you stock your pantry or walk through the grocery store? Do you pick up a few things after work each day? What are your pathing habits through the grocery store? Up and down the aisles or perimeter? Non-GMO shoppers are typically perimeter shoppers. There isn’t much we will buy on those aisle shelves except in the organic section (my grocery store places few organics beside chemically-raised food products).

When I began the switch to GMO-free foods, I discovered that buying organic ensured no GMOs. It was a simple solution to a problem: chemically farmed food ingredients in mainstream food products are not adequately labeled to indicate that they contained GMOs.

Big Food Fights GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association which has this plastered on its .org website (see below), spends millions of dollars to ensure that consumers do NOT know what products contain GMOs every time a state tries to pass a labeling initiative.

Lobbying organization for Big Food wants to tell us the truth about GMOs? I think they want to suppress the truth starting with stopping labeling initiatives.

Lobbying organization for Big Food wants to tell us the truth about GMOs? They pour millions of dollars into campaigns to suppress the truth by stopping labeling initiatives.

The facts about GMOs are just beginning to emerge in spite of an industry that, through its patents, has hindered independent research into the safety and sustainability of growing and consuming genetically engineered or genetically modified crops. Monsanto has controlled published research results on all of its patented GMO seeds and crops until patents began to expire last year. They had the final say on what could be published. How in the world is the truth to emerge from such a system?

Article: AG says more campaign money hidden in I-522 fight. Not only did the GMA and its financers pour money into stopping the GMO labeling initiative in Washington state (and California, Vermont, Connecticut), but they are now being investigated for illegal money laundering activity while doing so. Talk about dirty!

Making the Switch

Making the switch to one organic item a month ensures that the change becomes a habit, one that you can afford. Consumers making small, permanent changes in buying habits can make a huge difference. I have always believed that the real power rests in the buying power of the people.

Buying chemically raised foods supports chemical companies and the poisoning of the land. Buying sustainably-raised, organic foods supports an industry that cares about the land and all that depend on it for their very lives, including the bees, Monarchs, wildlife, and humans.

Make one change a month (or week) to withdraw support for chemically-raised food products and show support for organic farmers and growers. Oh, and don’t forget to go green when you purchase cleaning products (or just use vinegar and baking soda like I do).

Going gluten free

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My new neurologist recommended that I go on a gluten-free diet to see if it will alleviate many of the symptoms that I struggle with daily which include joint pain, foggy head, memory problems, cognitive difficulties, muscle pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and more.
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I have considered going gluten free in the past because of how I feel after eating wheat. I do not feel very good after eating bread, even made with organic whole wheat flour. I have gluten-free flour mixes in my pantry that I have not attempted to use. I nibble on Gluten-free crackers, nuts, and dried fruit because I feel better when I eat those foods. But I have never taken the plunge.

This will not be an easy journey. My food budget is about $15-20 a week right now. There is not much gluten-free I can buy for that amount of money. I can, however, use what I have in my pantry, and try to live on almonds, peanut butter and eggs. I am hoping that my garden produces abundantly. I still have quite a bit of my homemade pear vinegar for pickling and cooking.

One concern that I have is B-12. While I am doing okay right now, whole grains are a great source of B-vitamins. I will need to do research into finding healthy sources of vitamins that I might lose by going gluten free.

This will be quite a journey. I will try to record and share my successes and failures, and should start a food journal (not online) along with recording symptoms.

I love a challenge, and I especially like the idea that many of my debilitating symptoms could be alleviated by dietary changes. Here’s hoping . . .

Kids and real food

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I feel so accomplished right now.

I am watching The F—- Word on Hulu (F is for Food), and a commercial for “new and improved” Hot Pockets came on. I looked at my 14-year-old son and said, “We should make some homemade hot pockets.”

He looked at me and said, “Why, when we can make real food?”

I am so proud.

My 21-year-old has been learning about nutrition, probiotics, how the body works, and what foods are truly healthy and which are not. He still likes junk food (though he is trying to quit) but drinks organic herb tea and has a small serving of organic yogurt every day along with cooking and eating real food.

My sons know how to make basic meals using basic ingredients. They know that any food labeled as low fat will have added salt, sugar, MSG or one of its lookalikes, and most likely be high in calories and low in nutritional value. They know the value in eating real, whole food.

I am so proud.

Tuna Salad sans Mayonnaise

Standard

When I decided to avoid genetically-modified foods as much as possible, one of the big challenges was what to do about mayonnaise? For the price of a gallon of mayo at the wholesale club, I could get a tiny pint of organic mayo. Ouch!

Why not eat regular mayo and salad dressings? They are all made with genetically-modified oils such as canola, soy, and corn (usually called vegetable oil). These oils come from some of the largest GMO crops in the United States, and are all sprayed with massive amounts of glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp. It has been discovered that one of the inert ingredients in RoundUp is also dangerous to the health of human cells. So, I do not buy foods that are made with or contain GMO oils.

I admit that I have made my own mayonnaise in the past, but I never liked how they tasted. Something was missing. Since making my own vinegars from fruit (because white vinegar is made from GMO corn), I might try to make mayonnaise again in the future. My current solution is to keep a jar of organic mayonnaise in the fridge for sandwiches only, and make recipes that typically contain mayonnaise without that ingredient.

Sorry, but I must also discuss canned tuna as well. What do you think would be in a can of “Premium Chunk Light Tuna in water?” Tuna and water, right? Some brands contain MSG in disguise, and others contain this innocuous-sounding ingredient: vegetable broth.

Store-brand tuna with vegetable broth

Store-brand tuna with vegetable broth


What could be wrong with vegetable broth? It is made from soybeans. Yep. Soy. The majority of soy grown in the United States is genetically modified, up to 85%. Darn, darn, darn. If you read labels, you can find canned tuna that does not contain GMOs, but you will pay a high price. Just know that they are out there, and are never the inexpensive store brands or even the major tuna brands we all grew up with as children.

Tuna, jalapeno pepper, onion, pickles, agave, mustard, pear vinegar, salt and pepper

Tuna, jalapeno pepper, onion, pickles, agave, mustard, pear vinegar, salt and pepper

I discovered that you can make a tuna-salad-like sandwich spread with pretty much any meat, and probably with tofu (but I don’t eat tofu because I try not to eat soy). Just cut the meat up, shred it a little bit if possible, and combine all the ingredient like you would for tuna salad. I always keep back the chicken breasts for just this purpose when I roast a chicken. Yummy! So you can just not eat tuna if you like (though I get cravings for it once or twice a year and must indulge). Adjust your herbs and spices a little bit for different meats, and you are good to go.

That brings us to my dilemma: how do I make tuna salad without that zingy, yummy mayonnaise flavor and creamy mayonnaise texture? Let go of the tuna salad paradigm. Just let it go.

Here is what I came up with. Feel free to experiment with adding different herbs, spices, and ingredients to yours. I admit that I fermented my own pickles and fruit vinegars, and only buy organic mustard.

Ingredients:

1 – 5 oz. can of tuna, drained (if you bought one with vegetable broth, you might consider rinsing the tuna)
1/8 cup of chopped pepper (bell, Italian, jalapeno, sweet, spicy, whatever you have on hand)
1/8 cup of finely chopped onions
1-2 tsp. non-GMO vinegar (Braggs or homemade)
1/2 tsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped pickles or pickle relish (organic or counter pickles)
1/8 tsp. cumin (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix thoroughly and use as you would any tuna salad. Delicious on a whole grain tortilla, on top of a green salad, toasted with provolone cheese or a good white cheddar. Sandwich hint: store tuna in a separate container from bread and make sandwich right before eating to avoid soggy bread or tortilla.

Sweet, spicy tuna salad without mayonnaise

Sweet, spicy tuna salad without mayonnaise