Monthly Archives: January 2010

meatless monday recipe: greek black eyed peas salad…

man, oh man, do i love black eyed peas! when i saw this recipe in the new york times, i knew i would have to try it. and it just so happens that i have quite a few red and yellow peppers on hand. so dinner and a few lunches are served!


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the land of milk & money…

i know these last few blog posts have been a lot to “digest” … but it’s important that we all share information and make conscious decisions about the food we eat, where it comes from, and the impact it has on the environment. i don’t know if you were able to watch oprah’s “food 101” show with michael pollan yesterday, but it was pretty amazing! she, like so many others, was shocked and moved to examine her eating habits after watching the brilliant food, inc. in fact, she is offering the dvd on amazon until tomorrow at midnight for $9.99. if you haven’t seen this phenomenal documentary, i urge you to do so – it could be the best $10 you ever spent!

the point of this blog is not to freak you out or make eating such a time-consuming drag that it becomes too exhausting to make good decisions. the point is that we all have to scrape beneath the surface a bit and see if the green claims that these big companies are making are genuine or simply greenwashing. which brings me to the milk…

i’m not a super big milk drinker, but my boyfriend is. thankfully, finding affordable organic milk actually hasn’t been that difficult. but what if that milk wasn’t all the things they said it was? what if the cows weren’t grazing in lovely bucolic pastures, but were confined in CAFO’s? how would i know? the cornucopia institute wants us to hold the office of management and budget (OMB) accountable for regulating the false claims regarding the raising of dairy cows, which are hurting small family farms because they cannot compete with the volume and pricing of the competition:

“With the flattening of demand for organic food, these giant dairies have flooded the market with cheap milk that is now crushing the family farmers who have built this industry,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “These CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are anathema to organic consumers investing in a more environmentally sensitive approach to food production and humane animal husbandry. Ironically, one of the reasons they are willing to pay extra for organic milk is they think that the farmers who produce it are being fairly treated.”

one of the things discussed on the oprah show yesterday was,  will we be able to feed everyone consciously? i’m not a supporter of factory farms, but i understand some people cannot afford to buy organic. i simply don’t want people lying to me about my food – especially if i am paying more to do the right thing and if their lobbying and lying cause farmers who are doing the ethical and moral thing to go bankrupt.

additional reading:

updateUSDA tightens standards on organic dairy, meat

updatewhat the new USDA pasture rule means to you

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a bee CCD…take action to protect the bee…

“If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”

– Albert Einstein

according to the sierra club, since 2005 more than 30% of all honeybees have died from colony collapse disorder (CCD). why should you care? because 1 out of 3 bites of food that you take everyday are related to the hard work and pollination by bees.

late last year, time magazine ran an article, “new clues in the mass death of bees“:

In late 2006, something strange began to happen to America’s honeybees. Colonies that were once thriving suddenly went still, almost overnight. The worker bees that make hives run simply disappeared, their bodies never to be found. Over the past couple of years, nearly one-third of all honeybee colonies have collapsed this way, which led to a straightforward name for the phenomenon: colony collapse disorder (CCD).

This might seem like little more than a tantalizing mystery for entomologists, except for one fact: honeybees provide $15 billion worth of value to U.S. farmers, pollinating crops that range from apples to avocados to almonds. Any number of possible causes for CCD have been put forward, from bee viruses to parasites to environmental triggers like pesticides or even cell-phone transmissions. Despite the Department of Agriculture’s allotment of $20 million a year for the next five years to study CCD, it’s still a mystery — and the bees keep dying.

according to the sierra club, the causes of CCD are still unknown, but there is mounting evidence that new seed coatings are fatal to the bees:

At issue are the nicotinyl insecticides (also known as neonicotinoids) being used in a new way — as seed coatings. For years, farmers have been spraying neonicotinoids onto their crops to stop insect infestation. Now huge agribusiness corporations have acquired patents to coat their proprietary corn seeds with these neonicotinoids. These “neonics” are extremely persistent. They enter the plant and are present in pollen and on droplets of water on leaves.Federal agencies in France, Germany and Italy have already taken responsible regulatory actions to suspend use of these pesticides based on the best available scientific evidence. Strikingly, honeybee populations in Italy immediately rebounded when these chemicals were suspended!

The State of California has required that almost all 282 nicotinyl pesticide products be immediately re-evaluated because of toxic concentrations in pollen and nectar, and high residual concentrations in soil. Unfortunately, the EPA is moving too slowly to take action to suspend nicotinyl pesticides.

their “pollinator protection campaign” urges you to see the documentary, nicotine bees and take action by contacting the EPA’s Steve Owens at <> or call him at 1-202-564-2902 to request a suspension of the neonicotinoid seed coatings until independent scientists verify safety.

you can also plant bee-friendly plants – here is a list from planet green:

honey bee friendly garden plants:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Lavender
  • Bee Balm
  • Zinnia
  • Sunflower
  • Fennel
  • Lamb’s Ears

honeybee-friendly native & wild plants

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Tulip poplar
  • Clover
  • Rhododendron

in recent news, a new survey shows that honeybee colony collapse is declining compared to previous years. but that doesn’t mean that we should rest easy – as long as we allow our food chain to be contaminated by aggressive pesticides (like on the alfalfa that the bees pollinate and the dairy cows eat), then this destruction of our ecosystem will continue. but in this case, it will the smallest among us that matter the most.

additional reading:

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farmer knows best: BPA in canned foods…

planet green just posted this article on the 7 foods so unsafe even a farmer wouldn’t eat them (not sure i understand the headline – are farmers known for eating anything?). i quickly want to post this because one of the items on the list is my beloved canned tomatoes.

The Expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The Reason: Tin cans are lined with a resin that contains the synthetic estrogen bisphenol-A, which has been linked to a slew of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, reproductive problems, and obesity. But that’s not the biggest problem. The acid in tomatoes breaks down that bisphenol-A, leaching it into the food, and not just in insignificant amounts. According to the article, Saal comments that “you can get 50 mcg of BCA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young.” That’s why he’s not touching the stuff.
The Solution: If you love the taste of “canned” tomatoes but prefer to skip the bisphenol-A, select glass bottles instead.

the rest of the list:

corn-fed beef, microwave popcorn, conventionally grown (non-organic) potatoes, farmed salmon, milk produced with artificial hormones, conventionally grown apples – i’m safe with those but my diced organic tomatoes are a staple in my pantry, and obviously won’t be any longer.

a must read is organic grace’s post with a list of well known brands and their stance on BPA in cans.  according to simple steps, buying canned goods from eden foods or in glass or aseptic cartons are safe choices.

update: the huffington post tell us about more everyday sources of BPA in our daily life. and the soft landing baby has two BPA-free tomato recommendations.

update2: care2 has an informative post about BPA and how to limit your exposure. care2 also wrote about what the food companies are trying to do (slowly) to deal with consumer pushback and getting BPA out of our food supply.

update3: treehugger lists 7 companies you can trust to be BPA-free.

living in a modern world, it is a constant journey to stay informed!

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meatless monday recipe: rainy day pantry pasta…

as many of you know, we actually had weather in southern california last week! torrential, endless rain; lightning and thunder; hail(!) and frost(!!). mother nature kept me cooped up in the house and unable to get to the market (i tend to not want to share the road with angelenos when it’s raining). so, dinner had to be something completely prepared from our fridge and pantry. and while this recipe is definitely inspired from the previous meatless monday recipe from zov’s, it was delicious enough to satisfy both of us on a cold and stormy night.

luckily, our freezer and pantry are always stocked with boca burgers and canned organic diced tomatoes (both purchased at costco). in addition, we also always have kalamata olives and feta in the fridge (again, from costco)…i would love to know your thoughts about veggie products like boca burgers or morningstar farms sausages (my go-to “meats” – i know they are processed foods, but because i rarely eat them, they are a good source of flavorful protein for me). anyway, the recipe is quite simple:

1 pack of spaghetti

2 cans of organic diced tomatoes

2 boca burgers (defrosted and cut into little cubes)

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, diced

dried oregano and thyme to taste (i like mine pretty herby, so put in about 1t of oregano and 1/2t of thyme)

crushed red pepper (optional)

sliced kalamata olives

feta to sprinkle on top

put water on the stove for the pasta. begin to sauté the onions in olive oil for a few minutes. add garlic and boca burger and continue to sauté. add the dried herbs and crushed red pepper. once the boca gets a little color on it (you may have to drizzle more olive oil on it as you’re cooking), then add the tomatoes (i don’t drain them). when the tomatoes are heated through, cover and simmer until the pasta is done.

drain the pasta and pile onto a plate, ladle on the sauce, sprinkle the feta on top and dinner is served in about 20 minutes!*

*my apologies for not being the best recipe writer or food stylist!

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kiss my grass (fed beef)…

image from nectar hills farm

my friend dean sent me this article in time magazine about grass-fed beef and the environment, “how cows (grass-fed only) can save the world“. it got me thinking about how things used to be. when we were growing up, my japanese mother would prepare meals that were predominately veggie, with small amounts of meat added for flavor. “special” dinners were rare, but would be when my father’s montana cravings were satisfied with a steak or a meatloaf and some potatoes. cattle were fed on huge swaths of pasture. everything had a peaceful and natural rhythm to it…now, livestock is crammed side by side and end to end in enormous force fed lots – the sound and the smell (and the horrors within) unbearable.

there have been many articles about how unhealthy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are for the cattle, for people and for the environment. feeding cows grain instead of grass is unnatural (only done to cheaply fatten them up quickly) and causes them to suffer from feedlot bloat or acidosis, which must be treated with antibiotics.

the interesting thing about the time article is that two organic vegetable farming experts – eliot coleman, author of the new organic grower, and barbara damrosch, the washington post’s gardening columnist – are going to start raising cattle. why? because they care about the planet:

It works like this: grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across pastures full of it, and the animals’ grazing will cut the blades — which spurs new growth — while their trampling helps work manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich humus. The plant’s roots also help maintain soil health by retaining water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere.

Compare that with the estimated 99% of U.S. beef cattle that live out their last months on feedlots, where they are stuffed with corn and soybeans. In the past few decades, the growth of these concentrated animal-feeding operations has resulted in millions of acres of grassland being abandoned or converted — along with vast swaths of forest — into profitable cropland for livestock feed. “Much of the carbon footprint of beef comes from growing grain to feed the animals, which requires fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, transportation,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. “Grass-fed beef has a much lighter carbon footprint.” Indeed, although grass-fed cattle may produce more methane than conventional ones (high-fiber plants are harder to digest than cereals, as anyone who has felt the gastric effects of eating broccoli or cabbage can attest), their net emissions are lower because they help the soil sequester carbon.

in my research for this post, i came across a pretty informative blog,, and their article on this same topic. as michael pollan says in his interview in the new york times for his upcoming book “food rules: an eater’s manual“,

“eat food, not too much, and mostly plants”

…just like my mom says!

video update: grass-fed beef with emeril!

update: in the interest of fairness, this slate article was sent to me (thanks, jenn!) about grass-fed beef not being immune to e.coli. and although i don’t eat meat, if grass-fed is more humane and healthier, then i will stay on my side of the fence. the one takeaway i would advise to you meat eaters is to cook your beef (grass-fed or otherwise), just to be safe.

update: only grass fed writes informatively  in response to the slate article. a definite must read!

video update 2: this discovery news video shows (in a very short piece) how simple, natural and profitable polyfarms grass-fed farm is. they haven’t planted a seed in 50 years and allows nature to do what it does best.

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the corner on corn…

if you’ve seen the amazing food, inc., you know about the monopoly monsanto holds on corn and soy with its genetically engineered seeds – created to survive their roundup pesticide (it kills everything green except the crop) and requiring no tilling of the soil. they have the corner on the market and intend to stay that way – they go so far as to investigate (many times using threats and informants) and sue farmers who hold back seeds to plant the next season.

now here is this story from npr about monsanto and how they are introducing roundup ready2 yield – seeds engineered with an additional trait that “provides farmers the same benefits as the original roundup ready trait, with even higher, top-end yield potential” (from the monsanto website). the thing is, the patent on roundup ready1 is about to expire and with it, half a billion dollars per year or so in royalty fees. to prevent generic forms of roundup ready1 or other competitors from cutting into their absolute dominance of the market, they are pressuring their licensees to embrace the roundup ready2 trait.

for the first time in two decades, farmers potentially could choose between breaking free of the roundup monopoly (they will be able to save and replant their seeds from season to season in 2014) or even plant non-GMO seeds (although some believe the soil has been so devastated by the roundup pesticide, it will be years before it can grow something different). an additional problem is whether a farmer can even find non-GMO seeds…monsanto has pretty much put everyone out of business through threats and litigation.

according to the new york times, the justice department is looking into anti-competitive issues against monsanto and dupont is suing monsanto in court. dupont had licensed the roundup trait, but then added their own gene – which didn’t make monsanto very happy. recently, the st. louis federal court ruled that dupont had violated its contract with monsanto by adding the gene to their seed, the “optimum GAT”, while under license with monsanto. but it still leaves the door open for dupont to challenge the contract itself on antitrust grounds. it’s big business and it’s going to be a long fight…

update: in related news from

Beginning in 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) took legal action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. The federal courts agreed and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an environmental impacts statement (EIS).

USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. CFS has begun analyzing the EIS and it is clear that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers, or organic dairy farmers seriously, for example, having dismissed the fact that contamination will threaten export markets and domestic organic markets. You can review the EIS here and supplemental documents here.

This is the first time the USDA has prepared an EIS for any GE crop and therefore will have broad implications for all transgenic crops, and its failure to address the environmental and related economic impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences. CFS is spearheading a campaign to make sure all affected parties know and are involved in the public process and have the opportunity to comment.

This is a call to action to all who have concerns about the environmental and economic consequences of uncontrolled nation-wide growth of GE alfalfa, to all who believe in the public’s right to choose to eat non-GE food and the farmer’s right to sow the crop of his or her choice, and to those who care about the impacts of pesticides and invasive weeds on biodiversity and endangered species.

the true food network page has a wealth of information and links for you participate and take action. this is not just about the alfalfa in your salad or sandwich, but the impact of genetically engineered alfalfa on the crops and environment around it, as well as the livestock who will feed on it. the battle against GE alfalfa has been going on for years now and this is the first time the public can have a say in what’s to happen.

update 2: monsanto is suing more small family farms. the organic consumers association is filled with links to action you can take to break monsanto’s monopoly on our food supply, including their millions against monsanto campaign. this petition will be delivered to monsanto and their upcoming court cases.

update 3: send a letter to USDA secretary tom vilsack and prevent monsanto from lifting the ban on roundup ready on alfalfa crops.

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