Tag Archives: organic

Roasted Pumpkin Pie

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pumpkinpies

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.

pumpkin

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!]

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Why organic? I care about farm worker health.

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Organic farming is sustainable, and its products are healthier because they are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. We all agree on those points. More toxins = less healthy; less toxins = healthier. Right?

Herbicides linked to Depression and Suicide in farm workers

Herbicides linked to Depression and Suicide in farmers and farm workers


Current discussions include the debate over the superior (or not superior) nutritional value of organically-grown produce, meat and other products. I have another reason to buy organic:

I care about farm worker health.

When I eat that organic banana, orange or lettuce, I think about the farm worker that cultivates and harvests that food product. When I buy organic, those farm workers are not exposed to dangerous chemicals (hopefully).

In an article available on the PubMed from the Archives of the Environmental and Occupational Health by Payán-Rentería et al (2012) entitled “Effect of chronic pesticide exposure in farm workers of a Mexico community,” 20% of farm workers from Mexico showed acute pesticide poisoning along with other negative effects.

In another article about how well the U.S. government is protecting farm workers from pesticide poisoning, “NIOSH Pesticide Poisoning Monitoring Program Protects Farmworkers,” there is a case study discussing three farm workers who gave birth to children with birth defects linked to pesticide exposure. When I buy organic, I am supporting an agricultural system that protects pregnant farm workers and their children.

It is common sense that exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers poses a health threat to farm workers. This is no mystery. But what is not common sense is how the industrial agriculture spin machine can argue over whether an organic carrot contains equal amounts of Vitamin A when the real issue is much more complex.

When I buy organic, I am supporting a sustainable system that cares about farm worker health. I am supporting a system of life, not illness and death.

Farm worker health should be the number one reason to buy organic.

New England Garden Journal – August Part 2

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August 19th

Yesterday, I posted on the Lemon squash that I grew this year. Now it is time to visit the rest of the garden, all of which survived while I was out of town, but some damage did occur from a storm and deer visits.

Pickling cucumber almost ready for harvest. Now I need the other vines to grow more so I can pickle them.

Pickling cucumber almost ready for harvest. Now I need the other vines to grow more so I can pickle them.

I love my frog and toad friends who live in my garden. Great for natural pest control.

I love my frog and toad friends who live in my garden. Great for natural pest control.

A storm came through Connecticut while I was in Texas and damaged most of my corn plants. Strangely enough, most of them are still alive and growing, just horizontally.

A storm came through Connecticut while I was in Texas and damaged most of my corn plants. Strangely enough, most of them are still alive and growing, just horizontally.

I have corn!

I have ears of corn forming!

Corn plants bent and broken, still growing but on top of my Moskovich tomato plants.

Corn plants bent and broken, still growing but on top of my Moskovich tomato plants.

My sons hadn't harvested a single Suyo Long cucumber while I was gone. This monster will remain on the vine to mature for seed saving since it is too large to eat.

My sons hadn’t harvested a single Suyo Long cucumber while I was gone. This monster will remain on the vine to mature for seed saving since it is too large to eat.

There were plenty ready for harvest in a variety of sizes. There were still several outside -- my hands were full. I have been eating cucumber all day long. Yummy!

There were plenty ready for harvest in a variety of sizes. There were still several outside — my hands were full. I have been eating cucumber all day long. Yummy!

Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans have been feasted on by deer. The only parts of the plants that have survived are at the top of the bean teepee. I will just save what grows as seed for next year.

Cherokee Trail of Tears black beans have been feasted on by deer. The only parts of the plants that have survived are at the top of the bean teepee. I will just save what grows as seed for next year.

Pear harvest will be small. Fruit is small and numbers are few. I have decided to made pear vinegar with most of the fruit. I am still enjoying last year's pear vinegar and would like some to share at Christmas.

Pear harvest will be small. Fruit is small and numbers are few. I have decided to made pear vinegar with most of the fruit. I am still enjoying last year’s pear vinegar and would like some to share at Christmas.

Backyard garden showing spinach, red onions, and my huge zucchini plants.

Backyard garden showing spinach, red onions, and my huge zucchini plants.

My sons didn’t harvest any of the snow peas, either, so they are done. I am allowing the remaining pods to mature for seed saving. I thought about sowing seeds for a fall harvest, but I’m thinking it is too late. Just a feeling. The spinach has also bolted; I have hopes of saving heirloom spinach seeds.

New England Garden Journal – August Part 1

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August 2nd

Remember: You can view all of the photos full-size by clicking on them and then return to the blog post using your back button.

It has been quite dry here in Connecticut with little rain over the summer so far. My organic garden has been doing okay with limited watering, but not producing abundantly. I decided this summer to limit watering and then collect the seeds from the plants that do well. I water deeply and less frequently.

Heirloom Suyo Long cucumber

Heirloom Suyo Long cucumber


I have been harvesting a lot of Suyo Long cucumbers, one or two a day. I still do not have a single tomato growing but I do finally have flowers. Is there time for any tomatoes to reach maturity before cold weather settles in? It will be a race between my tomato plants and nature. I remain optimistic as I contemplate the construction of a hoop house or two for the fall.
Heirloom Moskovich tomato finally blooming

Heirloom Moskovich tomato finally blooming


I have tweeted about my 21-month-old granddaughter spending time with me in the garden. Our favorite thing to do besides jump off the front steps over and over and over again is searching for overgrown snow peas so that I can open the pods up and she can pick out the peas inside, eating them raw. If it is green, this little girl loves it!

I am determined that my grandchildren know where their food comes from. She has helped me pick cucumbers off the vine and then within 10 minutes been nibbling on warm, juicy slices. She has seen my towering corn plants — she loves corn — and, hopefully, will remember those big guys the next time she eats corn.

Early morning sun kissing tall heirloom sweet corn grown intensively in a raised bed - corn is tasseling

Early morning sun kissing tall heirloom sweet corn grown intensively in a raised bed – corn is tasseling


The lemon squash has started producing. I have two pollinated squashes, one almost ready for harvest. I can’t wait to taste this heirloom variety. The zucchini are crowded now, as I expected they would be. Another race, I am hoping I get a harvest to eat sauteed with basil, made into zucchini bread, and for a few jars of zucchini relish.

Lemon squash plants getting ready to spill over into the yard

Lemon squash plants getting ready to spill over into the yard


Open-pollinated Lemon squash -- first fruit of the season

Open-pollinated Lemon squash — first fruit of the season

Heirloom zucchini squash just beginning to form tiny fruit

Heirloom zucchini squash just beginning to form tiny fruit

And finally, tiny pickling cucumbers are getting ready to flower and, after pollination, start giving us lots of cucumbers for making pickles. I am forever an optimist!

Heirloom pickling cucumber forming

Heirloom pickling cucumber forming

Lemon squash, an heirloom summer variety

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I was out of town for a week, left instructions with my 21-year-old son to water and harvest beans, squash and cucumbers while I was gone and came back to a mostly intact, barely harvested garden. No complaints at all.

Lemon squash plants doing well, a teensy bit of powdery mildew beginning and they are certainly producing now.

Lemon squash plants doing well, a teensy bit of powdery mildew beginning and they are certainly producing now.

I came home to seven lemon squash (my son showed me one he had put in the fridge after photographing the six), one quite oversized and the rest perfect for eating. The oversized fruit was certainly not inedible, just had some seeds forming. After cooking, they were as tender as the rest. My only complaint is the lack of sunshiny yellow squash flavor. When reading reviews for this particular variety on Baker Creek Seeds (I got mine at their Connecticut store: Comstock Ferre & Co.), one common complaint was a lack of flavor. I agree with this assessment. I most likely will not grow this squash again. I really miss the deliciousness of heirloom crookneck or straightneck yellow squash.

Lemon squash grown in 1 week.

Lemon squash grown in 1 week. You can see the subtle stripes when I reduced exposure.

Lemon squash and onions sauteed in butter, seasoned with basil and salt.

Lemon squash and onions sauteed in butter, seasoned with basil and salt.

Prolific and easy to grow, Lemon squash did great in my late New England garden. Just doesn't have enough flavor for my taste.

Prolific and easy to grow, Lemon squash did great in my late New England garden. Just doesn’t have enough flavor for my taste.

Sluggish bee in a Lemon squash blossom

Sluggish bee in a Lemon squash blossom

Lemon squash. I recommend harvesting when the size of small or medium-sized lemons.

Lemon squash. I recommend harvesting when the size of small or medium-sized lemons.

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).

Chemical sensitivity, birth defects, diseases

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Toxins in Our Bodies

I read that Glyphosate is found in nearly every human being’s system: babies, toddlers, children, adults, male, female in 18 countries (see Mercola article at end of this post). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in RoundUp, the herbicide used to keep plant material from growing along train tracks, highways, guard rails, and is sprayed on GMO crops in massive amounts to control weeds. Glyphosate has made its way into our nation’s waterways, soil (it is a microbe killer), and into our bodies.

Here is a blog post from Moms Across America with studies linking Glyphosate to all kinds of health issues, birth defects and infertility. Scroll down to the bottom of the MAA post for links to the studies; these are published studies on the effects of Glyphosate on the human body.

Glyphosate may not be a household word, but Roundup* is. You likely spray it on your weeds, or your neighbor does. Your children’s school definitely does. Your city sprays it on your sidewalks and parks and the farmers who grow your food have been told it’s the best thing since sliced bread to spray on the grounds surrounding almond trees, fruit trees, strawberries and almost every non-organic vegetable grown in America. Roundup is the most widely used pesticide in the world, 185 million pounds (1) are used in the USA alone each year and glyphosate is the active chemical ingredient.

Glyphosate isn’t the only ingredient in RoundUp that poses a danger to humans:

“Researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells,” writes Crystal Gammon in her Scientific American article Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells.

Where’s the Proof?

What about the long-term health effects of eating GMO foods? Why are there no published studies proving their dangers?

Many believe an absence of published studies in the US indicating the harmful effects of GMOs to mean that those foods are safe; Monsanto holds the patents on their genetically engineered seeds, and therefore, control the research. They have final approval on what is published about any research conducted on their patented seeds and the resulting crops. As the patents expire (beginning this year) I believe we will begin to see more research results, but still cannot completely trust the results as Monsanto money flows freely to universities here in the US. What happens to a research program when Monsanto threatens to stop the flow of money because of their research? This is how the big chemical companies control research in the US. That and blacklisting researchers who insist on publishing negative findings. It is an ugly world out there for those who want to learn and share the truth about GMOs (or medicine or pharmaceuticals or the environment or government spying — whistleblowers can expect to be blacklisted, banished, investigated by the IRS, sued, imprisoned or eliminated — sounds like a John Grisham novel, doesn’t it).

Chemical Assault — What Can We do?

This is just an example of what our bodies face every day. I have no control over that chemical sprayed on the side of my town’s roads, but I do have control over what I put on my skin and in my hair, and especially what I eat. I didn’t always understand the nature of chemical overload.

My Background

A few years before I became very sick with Lyme disease I broke out in hives. We could not figure out exactly what caused the outbreak, and allergy testing showed nothing definitive — strangely enough — making me think that my immune system was depressed and overreactive at the same time.

I became allergic to cold. I could not pick up a gallon of milk without my hands breaking out in hives. I couldn’t stay outside in the cold air for more than a few seconds of my skin would turn red and blotchy indicating a reaction. This condition is known as Cold Urticaria.

I had another outbreak of hives on my body during the hot months and ended up on steroids.

The kids and I pulled up the living room carpets, I begged my husband to replace our furniture with leather-covered pieces, and we finally starting putting in hardwood floors where there had been carpet. Unfortunately, our bedroom still had the carpet that came with the house and our mattress was about 20 years old. I started sleeping on the leather couch in an effort to avoid another outbreak of hives. Years later, the bedroom carpet was finally gone and replaced with hardwood but my husband would not part with that mattress, so I ended up sleeping on the couch indefinitely (I celebrated the day that my son burned that mattress and headboard, and I bought myself a new mattress and bed for myself.)

Depressed Immune System: Unable to Fight Infection

The bottom line is that I believe that my body was completely overloaded with toxins, chemicals and that I had an immune system that was not functioning properly. I look back and believe that this prelude to Lyme disease set me up for the destruction of my health; my body just couldn’t deal with Lyme and bartonella as well (when Lyme spirochetes die they release a horrible toxin). I also wonder what two rounds of steroids did to my immune system (steroids depress the immune system). All I know is that by the time I was infected with tick-borne pathogens my body was a huge mess. Add in severe Vitamin-D and moderate Vitamin-B12 deficiencies, and I didn’t have a chance.

Scientists are writing about the connection between the gut and the human immune system. Years of ingesting GMOs left my gut a huge mess. Years of antibiotics didn’t help. I needed those antibiotics to deal with the infections but I then needed to restore my gut, to let it heal which I finally did by consuming probiotic-rich foods and drinks.

I have written about avoiding GMOs, the foods that are grown so that they can withstand being sprayed directly with Glyphosate-containing herbicides. I try to buy as many organics as I can afford, which is not much these days with a food budget of about $50 a week for three people.

I have noticed empty shelves where organic foods should be stocked. The demand for organic food far exceeds the supply, so there are shortages. Either that, or distribution is being disrupted by Big Food (they are buying up as many small organic companies as they can right now).

Organic companies owned by Big Food

Organic companies owned by Big Food

Be a Mindful Consumer

Remember: Unless you buy organic, the following foods are most likely GMO:
soy, corn, canola, sugar (not cane), and cotton (cottonseed oil).

What can we do? What can you do? The food supply is a mess. What you find in most grocery stores is not fit for human consumption. Avoid the aisles in your grocery store. Shop the perimeter, buy and cook fresh ingredients, and avoid packaged foods. Buy organic as often and as much as you can.

We eat simply here: plain meat, cooked fresh, as many organic veggies and only organic fruit (when I can find it — I occasionally buy conventionally-grown grapes or peaches), organic beans, quinoa, rice and pasta. I use organic flour, corn meal, popcorn (as a snack), lard and olive oil, organic butter, milk and eggs, organic potatoes and garlic. I have not been able to find organic onions in my grocery store for over a month now. The organic milk and butter are produced by companies owned by Big Food which concerns me.

I do what I can, and know that deep down, something must change in our food production system from stopping the growth of GMO crops to the spraying of dangerous pesticides (remember when DDT was considered safe???). RoundUp and generic glyphosate-containing products are unsafe for the soil and humans. By buying organic, we drive the food production industry to consider safer, healthier farming and growing practices.

So many people are sick. Instead of finding cures, modern medicine treats symptoms. Instead of looking for causes, the pharmaceutical companies keep cranking out more drugs to treat chronic illnesses that seem to have no end. Autoimmune and inflammatory conditions are rampant. We can demand a better food supply by writing to food manufacturers and telling that that you won’t buy Coke or Pepsi while they are still adding Aspartame (toxic to humans) or GMO corn syrup or GMO beet sugar or the crazy cocktail of chemicals that give us those addictive flavors.

We can change the direction of our food supply if we engage. Read labels and think about what you are putting in your body (and the bodies of your children). Be a mindful consumer.

Learn More about GMOs and Glyphosate

Mercola has an article referring to several studies on the toxicity of glyphosate and GMOs: Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated .

Permaculture for the Future

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“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”-Bill Mollison

Common milkweed that I allow to grow in a portion of my back yard attracts and hosts Monarch butterflies

Common milkweed that I allow to grow in a portion of my back yard attracts and hosts Monarch butterflies


We have all seen the words sustainability and permaculture in the news a lot, at least if you pay attention to articles on agriculture, GMO seeds, Monsanto, global warming, and green technology. I can sniff out an article on these topics from 1,000 miles away. I swear, I really can.

Growing thousands of acres of GMO corn, or any single crop, is called monoculture: planting the same crop on the same soil using the same methods year after year after year, depending on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to get as much out of that land as possible for the least amount of money and human effort. Sugar cane, soy, canola, corn, wheat, cotton, tea, and tobacco are all cash crops that are monocultures (the opposite of biodiversity). The soil is not replenished with organic matter, not fed, and allowed to rest as in organic farming. The crops do not complement other crops, fruit trees, berry bushes, water plants, butterflies, and bees. And we can all see that these are farmed by corporations, not family farmers who also raise cattle, grow hay in fields, keep chickens, turn the manure into crops, and so on.

In organic farming, insects actually survive (they aren’t all bad, you know), the soil is replenished with manure and compost, plants are fertilized with fish emulsion and dried blood meal. The land is allowed to rest every few years. Crops are rotated, companion planted, and the soil is a living thing.

Permaculture is a new term being bandied about, consisting of structures, garden beds, orchards, homes and land that encourage green living, growing your own food, with a slower, local economy, decentralized (meaning it stays in the community and doesn’t end up in some CEO’s bonus check).

According to the Permaculture Institute, “permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, develop ethical economies and communities, and much more. As an ecological design system, permaculture focuses on the interconnections between things more than individual parts.”

I know this sounds nebulous. And I know it sounds really hippie-dippy, but deep down it makes so much sense.

Terraced bed -- permaculture

Terraced bed — permaculture


When I turned my ugly flower bed into a terraced vegetable garden I was practicing permaculture. When I added two raised beds, a bean teepee and doubled the size of my front garden, I was practicing permaculture. Taking my kitchen scraps, adding them to shredded leaves and weeds in a pile behind the former goat house is a part of permaculture (and those pallets stacked up near my compost pile would definitely be considered permaculture if I built that two-section compost bin). I am trying to embrace the concept of permaculture on my property as I walk it and search for wild edibles, think about whether I can and should attempt to grow cranberries near the bog, or go forward with planting cattails at the edge of the pond (because they are a great food source and provide shelter for creatures that do not hang out at our pond at present). Choosing to grow heirlooms vs. hybrids is practicing permaculture. The idea that I might be able to trade some of my organic pear preserves or garlic for something my family needs but does not produce is practicing permaculture. Although I don’t plan to add chickens back to my family food production plan, I might be able to trade for eggs this summer. I am allowing wildflowers, wild herbs, and even indigo to grow down at the pond.
Bean teepee -- while the twine must be replaced each year, the saplings will last several seasons

Bean teepee — while the twine must be replaced each year, the saplings will last several seasons


Collecting rainwater, composting, replacing invasive shrubs with something that might make the bees and butterflies happy, planting to reduce erosion, and restore the watershed is practicing permaculture.

Did I pique your interest? You’re sitting on the edge of your seat. Admit it! Take a few minutes to visit the Permaculture Institute to see how you can adopt some of the practices permaculture advocates.

I would be happy if all of my friends stopped buying anything made by Scott (lawn and garden junk), stopping paying the lawn truck to come spray nitrogen-rich, herbicide sprays on their lawns (causing algae bloom in nearby waterways, ponds and lakes, and killing birds), and allowed dandelions to grow in their lawns. Can you imagine a world full of those pretty yellow flowers that can be used to make jelly and wine, bees buzzing around sipping nectar and carrying pollen on their legs? How happy it would be!

Wild violets are everywhere!

Wild violets are everywhere!

Non-GMO Thanksgiving plus Cane Syrup Recipe

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Home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

This is the time of year when grocery shopping for holiday meals and treats becomes quite a challenge. We all have family recipes that everyone wants at Thanksgiving and Christmas, if you celebrate those holidays. And I discovered the kosher foods are not GMO free at all. I will be evaluating common holiday recipes, providing GMO-free alternatives. We must be creative at times, and definitely will need to do a little cooking from scratch. Sorry, folks. (This spoken by a person who cannot make a pie crust from scratch and actually has two packages of store-bought crusts in her fridge. Yes, I confess.)

I will deal with a typical Thanksgiving meal first. Let’s look at a possible menu:

  • Turkey — easy — buy fresh, not frozen, with no injected additives. Local, small markets carry these birds, and you will never buy a frozen turkey ever again after eating one of these birds.
  • Stuffing — Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing and other packaged stuffing mixes contain many GMO ingredients such as soy, canola, and corn. Make your own from organic or homemade bread. Cut into cubes, allow to dry (or toast in low oven). Add your own herbs, and you have herbed stuffing mix.
  • Vegetables — no green bean casserole if you want to avoid GMOs. Steam your vegetables and just butter, or serve plain so people can butter, salt and pepper their own: broccoli, squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans, corn. Or bake sweet potatoes as a nice alternative for each person to butter and top. I make a yellow squash casserole every Thanksgiving using fresh yellow squash, sliced organic onions, organic eggs, organic milk, organic crackers, cheese, salt and pepper. So easy. Candied yams, simple if you use fresh yams (avoid canned), boil, then use real sugar and spices.
  • Salad — I make a marinated salad from hothouse cucumbers, colorful bell peppers, grape tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese making my own vinaigrette marinade. This can be made the day before and is really popular with my kids.
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy. Cook organic potatoes, mash, rice or cream with butter, organic milk or sour cream, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Gravy is so easy made from scratch and takes less than 10 minutes. Pour drippings from turkey into a saucepan, adding flour mixed with a little cold water (I whisk these together in a measuring cup and pour into the hot drippings) — 1 Tbsp organic flour per cup of gravy — boil gently for a few minutes. Season to taste.
  • Pies — I grow my own sugar pumpkins, cooking and pureeing days ahead, then refrigerating. I will attempt to make my own pie crusts this year — I admit to being inept at pie crusts. Use organic ingredients and you will be fine. Avoid canned pumpkin, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. I use organic whole milk when recipes call for evaporated milk — you can use half and half or cream as well. Corn syrup substitute recipes are below. Organic apples make for a delicious apple pie. Pecan pie will require a homemade simple syrup (corn syrup substitute — see below).
  • Homemade rolls — avoid canned and bakery rolls. My bread recipe can be made into rolls. Timesaver: bake rolls a few days before Thanksgiving, double bag and freeze. Take out of freezer early in the morning on Thanksgiving day and pop into the oven to warm up right before dinner is served.

Corn syrup substitutes

For baked goods, such as cookies you can simply substitute 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water for 1 cup of corn syrup.

For other purposes, where you need that syrup, just make your own cane syrup. Learning to make syrup from sugar will be priceless when you are out of pancake syrup or maple syrup and your family wants pancakes or waffles. We make all of our own pancake syrup (even my kids know how to make this and do so regularly).

Cane Syrup – Small batch (makes 1 quart)

2 cups cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)

Cane Syrup – Large batch (makes 2 quarts)

4 cups organic cane sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved; bring to a gentle boil. Cover and allow to boil for 2 minutes (this sweats any sugar crystals off side of pan). Remove lid, and insert candy thermometer; monitor temperature until just before it reaches 240° F. Remove entire pan from heat and place on cool surface. Allow syrup to cool to barely warm before pouring into clean glass 1-pint canning jars. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months.

*Most recipes call for cream of tartar to hinder the formation of crystals during storage. I read that the cream of tartar changes the sugars, though, so I leave this out myself.

Sugar pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin