Anyone Else Living An Organic Lifestyle?

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From Lisa Barnes

We just received this comment on our blog site:

I have always been a very good eater, but it was only upon becoming pregnant with my one and only daughter that I went organic. She is four years old now, and her and I have never looked back. I can tell you, however, that it has not been an easy road as one might expect it to be. No, not due to overpriced organic food, as it really is usually the same as, or pennies more than conventional, but rather due to the world around me. “Am I the only one who lives an organic lifestyle on this planet?” I ask myself. When I feel this way, I simply take a ride to the nearest Whole Foods and I finally feel at peace, and at home!

It is a sad fact that most of the population has no idea what they are putting in their mouths and that of their children. And, as religion and politics goes, always respecting the other person’s opinions is only fair. But for some reason, people find out a person is following an organic lifestyle and suddenly you become the enemy. They look at you like you are the antichrist who has come to rob their children. I have actually had people speak to me as if they were spitting fire at me for my choice which is shocking as it is not a choice that affects them.

But wait; does it? Yes, I suppose it does as it then shines a spotlight on the possibility that they perhaps are not feeding their bodies or their children in the best way possible. I don’t believe that anyone purposely feeds their children or themselves with the intent to harm, but one only needs to take the time to read a label, do a very small bit of research to get a good, general idea of the best food to eat. The challenge of living organically doesn’t end at the party conversation. Once an organic person steps out into the world it is a challenge. If I don’t have a bag packed of organic food for my daughter and myself, there is no guarantee that we will be able to find orgnanic “on the go” food while we are out and about. Some chains have started carrying a few organic odds and ends. Wawa has stepped up to the plate and they carry probably 3 organic products now. Grocery stores do have an organic “section” which may consist of 1/2 an aisle, but it is outrageously priced and sadly not the best quality.

Then there is the school system. Public or private, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The menus at most schools across the country are horrifying; consisting of hotdogs, tacos, pizza, mac and cheese, a “fruit” cup and chicken nuggets. Does the government or anyone for that matter realize that teaching children to eat well at a young age will save millions in health care down the road? What would be so difficult with replacing that menu with items such as granola and yogurt parfaits, grilled veggie sandwiches on whole wheat bread, pasta salads, real fruit cups, whole grain bars, whole wheat soft pretzels?

One could go on and on with healthier choices than what is offered our children. And finally, to hit home, literally, the dinner table. We, as a nation, have got to take family dinner time back. Too many children are involved in 2 or more sports that take away valuable family time, including the dinner table. Perhaps setting aside at least 4 nights a week where all sit down to eat together, in a meal that was talked about and planned together as a family with healthy elements in mind would bring not only peace to the body but to the home as well. I know that it sounds as if I am coming across as judgemental, but I am not. I realize how much work it is to live a lifestyle this way but I can honestly say that having done it, I could never go back.

Jennifer Murphy
Springfield Township, New Jersey
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Yes, many are trying. I can understand Jennifer’s feelings. Sometimes I want to shout at another parent “how can you be feeding that to your child?!” With all the facts, media, studies, products, farms, experts and more telling us the importance of healthy organic foods for our children and families I wonder “why aren’t more people subscribing?” On the other hand I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and most of the people I meet on a daily basis are doing something for an organic lifestyle and trying to keep harmful foods, chemicals and pesticides away from their children (while also driving hybrids and using the latest green building materials). The Bay Area is not the whole country and for some, achieving an organic meal or school lunch is more difficult.

As an educator I’ve learned that some people just get overwhelmed. By that I mean many people want to be healthy, more environmentally conscious and live a greener lifestyle, but they’re not sure where to start. People also believe it will cost more — either more money or more time. That may be true in the beginning of a change, but will pay off in the end. For instance it will take more time to read food labels at the grocery store, but once you know which products are safe, tasty, and your family enjoys, you can make your list of family staples without thinking or hesitating on subsequent shopping visits.

I find another problem with starting a more organic mealtime is the threat of failure. Many clients have told me they never started to make their own baby food because they wouldn’t be able to do it all the time. I say “So don’t. Just make it this time”. Everyone needs to do what works for them, their family, and their lifestyle. Just try to make the food once. I find most people realize how easy and convenient it can be and then they continue. There’s no need to feel guilty if you substitute a jar of food for homemade baby food one week. You’re doing your best and should feel good about those small changes and efforts.

Speaking of changes and efforts here are a few websites that may be able to help some get started with small changes and efforts to a more organic table and lifestyle. These are also helpful resources for those looking to do more.

Find a farmer’s market and CSA in your city and state here at LocalHarvest.com.

Learn about how you can help school lunch programs with the Appetite for a Change Campaign.

Get small everyday tips for making your life greener at IdealBite.com.

And of course continue to read and blog with us here! We love hearing from you.
~~

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Shopping with Children

From Lisa Barnes

My son enjoys going to the grocery store and always has. In the beginning he travelled up the aisles with me in an infant carrier. Later he moved to the cart. And now he walks and even pushes his own cart at some stores.

My daughter being 15 months old does not enjoy the store. Or maybe she enjoys it too much. If given the opportunity she will race through the store, looking back at me laughing and shaking her head no while I ask her to take my hand. If she’s in the cart it’s a constant opening of new foods as she screams and eats her way through the store. (bananas, mini bagels, cereal, cheese sticks, dried fruit, etc).

I seem to frequent three grocery stores in addition to farmer’s markets. It’s hard to avoid this multiple store dilemma. I hear this from other moms too. There’s Trader Joe’s for good buys on cereals, crackers, organic sunflower butter, nuts, dried fruits, and some Niman Ranch meats. Then there’s Whole Foods for produce, fish, bulk flours and grains, cheeses, whole wheat fig bars (we’re all addicted) and all else we’re in the mood for. Then finally there’s Mollie Stone’s for convenience items and “oops! I forgot to get,” since it’s right down the street. My children like the stores for other various reasons…

Mollie Stone’s has the mini shopping carts. Since my son was 3, he’d enthusiastically ask on the way to the store “can I push the little cart?!” Who could say “no”? He goes in and gets it himself, says hello to the baggers and checkers and joins me in the produce section. It’s cute. Of course I think this because I’m his mom. Sometimes the other shoppers aren’t as amused. At first he was not great about staying on one side of the aisle and letting people pass him (acting like a race car in the final lap). Now he is 4 and is a pretty experienced cart driver.

Whole Foods is all about tasting everything. They usually have a variety of samples which both kids must have. Each portion must be the same size as well. For example if my son thinks the pear slice given to his sister is a millimeter larger than his he says “How come I got the small piece? I’m bigger than she is.” Then there’s the cheese department. One day the “cheese man” (as my son refers to him) asked him what kind of sample he would like “string or fancy pants?” My son replied loudly “fancy pants!” To get my son and daughter to stop eating the lovely aged cheddar samples, I of course bought some and said “look we’ll eat more at home.” This little taste cost about $18.

Trader Joe’s is about the balloons for my daughter. She usually gets one and then somehow unties it before we get to the car, and says “bye bye” as it fades away in the sky. My son likes the proximity of Trader Joe’s to the pet store, which can be visited if we have a good shopping trip.

Finally the easiest and most fun place to shop is the farmer’s market. If only the farmer’s market sold paper towels and wine — maybe I could eliminate one of the grocery stores. It’s so much more pleasant to shop outdoors, smell and taste all the lovely produce and do it at my own pace. Although the rainy season is approaching.

Needless to say it’s sometimes difficult to take children to the store (and keep your sanity). Rarely do I take both kids on a large shopping trip. I salute those moms with one child riding in the seat, one riding in the cart and a third strapped to their person. I don’t know how you do it. Here are a few tips when shopping with children:

  • Be mindful of time. Your child is more likely to melt down if she is tired.
  • Do not shop on an empty stomach. You and your children will want to eat (and buy) everything if you are hungry.
  • Try to enlist their help. Children will be more focused on getting the job done if they’re helping and contributing.
  • Make up games. If your child is restless try to ask him questions about what he sees. Have him count, identify colors, shapes and foods.
  • Bring distractions such as a favorite toy she can play with while riding in the cart.
  • Keep little ones seated. Accidents happen when children are left unattended or allowed to stand in the cart.
  • Make a list. Is is easier for you to remember things if you’re being distracted by your children.
  • Give it time and be patient. Tasks with children always take longer.

See you in the check-out line!
~~

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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First Fish For Baby and Organic Fish Sticks For Kids Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

First Fish For Baby

This is an easy way to prepare fish for your baby or toddler. Because of the mild and “non-fishy” taste, tilapia is a good introduction to seafood for a little one. Fish can be thinned with reserved cooking broth, or mix with plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a more creamy texture.

Makes 2 servings

1 cup organic vegetable broth
2 (4-ounce) white fish fillets

Heat broth in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until simmering. Add fish fillets. Broth should not cover fish, but come up about halfway. Simmer fish until opaque, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Fish should flake easily with a fork. Remove fish from pan and mash with a fork to desired consistency, or puree with some of the cooking liquid in a food processor.

Tip: No bones about it. Be sure to check fish carefully for small bones before feeding to baby. Fillets have fewer bones than steaks.
~

Organic Fish Sticks For Kids

Forget about frozen sticks with imposter fish and fake breading. Your child deserves the real thing. Use a mild white fish for this recipe. Serve a variety of dipping options such as ketchup, malt vinegar, and tartar sauce.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup organic milk
1 cage-free, organic egg, slightly beaten
1 cup toasted oat cereal
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound skinless, boneless fish fillets (halibut, cod, or tilapia)
1/4 cup expeller pressed canola oil

In a shallow dish beat together milk and egg. Put cereal in a food processor and pulse into crumbs. Or place in a self-sealing plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. On a flat plate, combine cereal, flour, and salt. Cut fish into 8 equal pieces. Dip fish pieces into milk-egg mixture, and then dredge in cereal mixture to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish sticks to pan and cook until brown and crispy outside and cooked and flaky inside, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, turning with a spatula. Reduce heat if there is too much splattering. Pat fish sticks with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

Tip: Everyone has Os. I’ve discovered that every household with a child under five years old has some brand of toasted Os cereal. You’ll be surprised how well your child’s favorite cereal performs in recipes that call for bread crumbs, stuffing, or even nuts.
~~
Also see: Baby Food Has Come A Long Way

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Organic Rosemary Castle Potatoes Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

I call these castle potatoes, because while traveling with my mom in England we had dinner in a castle that served these wonderful potatoes. I came home and was inspired to re-create the dinner and remind me of the trip.

Makes 6 servings

2 pounds small organic white new or fingerling potatoes (about 24), scrubbed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with foil. Cut potatoes in half and place in a plastic self-sealing bag. Pour olive oil over potatoes and move bag to coat potatoes. Transfer potatoes to prepared pan. Bruise rosemary with back of spoon or mortar and pestle to release oil. Sprinkle salt and rosemary over potatoes and stir to mix. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until potatoes are brown on the outside and tender inside.

Potato Facts: The United States produces about 35 billion pounds of potatoes annually. Americans consume about 126 pounds per person per year, on average — far more than any other vegetable. Unfortunately, 65 percent of the potatoes consumed are not sold fresh, but in convenient forms, such as french fries, which add sodium and fat to Americans’ diets as well.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Diamond Organics
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Food Additives and Kids (ADD and ADHD)

From Lisa Barnes

I wanted to share this article with those parents who are dealing with children diagnosed with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. There are many nutritionists and parents who have written about the effects of diet and specifically eliminating additives and preservatives on children’s behavior and learning abilities. Now there is a study about the role of food additives and how common food additives and colorings can increase hyperactive behavior in a broad range of children. You can read the entire article here in the NY Times. It is certainly a preliminary study, but hopefully one that will raise the discussion of additive warnings, food labeling, and eliminating certain foods containing these additives in schools.

However there is a quote that bothered me…

“Even if it shows some increase in hyperactivity, is it clinically significant and does it impact the child’s life?” said Dr. Thomas Spencer, a specialist in Pediatric Psychopharmacology at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Is it powerful enough that you want to ostracize your kid? It is very socially impacting if children can’t eat the things that their friends do.”

If you talk to any of these parents who have children with ADHD and they’ve changed the child’s eating habits and thus altered the behavior, they would certainly say it makes not only “an impact on the child’s life” but of that of the whole family. And the idea that children will be ostracized for not eating preservative laden foods?! Is this a doctor suggesting we should all succumb to peer pressure for the risk of our children’s health and well being?!
~~
Also see: Organic foods, nutrition, and health key facts
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image: NewsTarget.com
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Got Squash? (Organic Zucchini Bread Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

Over the summer we went to drop off my son at preschool and sitting on the table was this large item. It looked like a zucchini, but a crazy overgrown, super zucchini. The teacher said one of the students brought it in from his grandfather’s organic farm. The kids loved seeing it and lifting it. It weighed almost 20 pounds! I asked what was going to happen to the zucchini and the teacher said nothing and offered for me to take it. I of course was happy and couldn’t wait to cut it, cook it and create with it.

My son wanted me to make Zucchini Bread. This seemed like a good idea and fun to share with his class (since I took the school property to make it). I carefully washed the giant and prepped everything else for the bread. I figured I’d cut the zucchini and grate it last, since it was going to take some work. That was a mistake. When I cut into the squash it was very hard. It was unlike any zucchini I ever cut. But then again I’d never worked with a 20 pound zucchini. Still I found it odd that it was so hard. Zucchinis are part of the summer squashes, thus the skin is thin. As I was trying to get a knife in and out I realized this skin was much more like a winter squash. Getting in further I saw that the seeds inside were not edible like a zucchini but hard like a pumpkin.

Speaking of pumpkins I figured I’d roast the seeds. Then I cut and steamed some of the flesh. I discovered the flavor was more like that of acorn squash. Then I did some research, on the internet, searching for a squash I didn’t know about. I couldn’t find any new varietals, but maybe that’s a question for Gene. Given my research and testing I think the closest thing was either an acorn squash that disguised it’s shape as a zucchini or a crazy green banana squash.

Anyways I had to rethink my zucchini bread. I salvaged my measured zucchini bread ingredients and made banana bread instead. However here’s the recipe for the “kini” bread we were hoping to make…

“Kini” Bread Recipe
Add a little green to your child’s diet without them realizing it’s a nutritious veggie in there. The recipe was inspired by my cousin Karen who made it for a family brunch gathering. This is a great bread for a large gathering, to slice and pack in a lunch or bring to a school bake sale. This makes enough for 2 loaves so you eat one today and freeze the other for another day, or make one for your family and share the other with friends. It also works if you halve the recipe and just make one large loaf.

3 cups organic zucchini, grated
4 cups organic whole grain wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cage free, organic eggs (use two eggs if cut in half)
2 cups organic sugar
1 cup organic expeller pressed canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest

Grease two 4 x 8 loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine zucchini, flour, salt, powder soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a medium bowl beat eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and zest. Make a well in the center of the zucchini mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the well and combine with a rubber spatula.

Divide dough equally into prepared baking pans and bake for one hour or until gold and cooked throughout, using toothpick test.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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“Mommie, what does a chicken say?” (Roasted Organic Herb Chicken Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

I have a difficulty talking about animals with my children when I am cooking. My son now asks questions when he sees meat. Things like, when looking at a steak “did this come from a cow?”, or when looking at a whole chicken “where would the head be?” or when looking at a whole fish at the market “is he looking at me?” Yes, I enjoy being a carnivore, as does my son, when we’re enjoying a meal at the table. However it is difficult before the animal part becomes a “meal”.

He knows not to play games about pretending to shoot or kill things (like some of his school mates). But when I start to explain a chicken’s feathers are plucked after it’s killed, he yells “you shouldn’t say kill Mom!” So I find it hard to explain. Then he asks “does the plucking hurt?” Plain and simple the chickens are killed for us to eat them. They simply don’t fall over dead from exhaustion or old age. But then he wants to know how they die. I certainly don’t want to go into details of animal killings with a 4 year old. Plus to be honest I don’t like to think about it myself. I try to tell him that organically raised animals have better lives, eat better foods and are happy – but the punchline is, they still are killed.

Not to mention my 1 year old daughter likes to make animal noises. So when I’m trying to avoid the subject with my son, she’s in the backround saying “mmmmmmooooo” or smacking her lips like a fish.

I’d love to hear any suggestions from other’s dealing with such curiosity. In the meantime here’s an easy roasted chicken recipe for the whole family. Is the correct sound “bock, bock,bock” or “cluck, cluck, cluck”?
~

Roasted Organic Herb Chicken
This is an easy weeknight meal, with lots of weeknight leftover possibilities. Cooking an entire chicken provides something for everyone – dark meat, white meat, sliced, or enjoyed right on the bone. You can even puree breast meat for baby.

1 organic broiler chicken, (3 to 3 ½ pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Be sure giblets and innards are removed. Place chicken breast-side-up on oiled rack in a shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, juice and thyme. Brush over chicken. Roast chicken, uncovered in oven for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours, basting halfway through cooking. Cook until flesh is no longer pink and juices run clear.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Oh Rats! A Fun Foodie Movie – (with Organic Ratatouille Pasta Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

I rarely get to the movies, and when I do it’s now to take my almost 4 year old. His first trip to the cinema was to see Cars. He loved it as did my husband and I. Since we saw Cars, last year, I’ve been secretly waiting to see the next Pixar movie …”Ratatouille“.

I do not like rats. I don’t really like anything that scurries. That even includes squirrels. But a rat with taste, who wants to be a chef and lives in Paris? I thought it was a clever premise and wanted to give an animated rodent a chance. Although I didn’t want my son to like him too much and ask me for a pet rat.

As the movie’s opening became closer I read articles about the painstaking process of getting food to look appetizing in animation. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines our obsession (especially the Bay Area’s) with food and years of training the Pixar team went through. Not computer or graphics training, but culinary training. And not just by anyone – but Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry. To me this sounded like a great job perk. The team also traveled to France to see how a true Michelin star restaurant kitchen was set up. I really wanted to see the movie now.

I was so eager to see the movie, we went the first week it opened. My son hadn’t even heard of it, but when I said we could go to the “big movie theater”, he was ready. But it wasn’t just families with children in the audience. There was a large contingency of adults without children. And while these people may have been Pixar fans, I think they were mostly foodies. Even the teaser before the movie included a new movie entitled “No Reservations” (remake of Germany’s “Mostly Martha”) which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as chefs.

As far as I was concerned, all the animation and food training paid off. I loved the movie. I even loved Remy the rat. Any rodent who decides to walk upright because he doesn’t want his paws to get dirty so he can taste good food, is o.k. with me. The story was sometimes above my son’s head. But it was his second trip ever to the “really big screen” and he enjoyed it. Actually, he liked Collette, the motorcycle riding woman chef (played by Janeane Garofalo).

I wonder how many of us who were in the theater are now recipe testing ratatouille dishes that can compare to the way Thomas Keller created it to be animated for the movie. Those lovely, steaming stacks of well placed vegetables… I’m just afraid it won’t live up to the beauty and perfection of computer animation. Please share if you’ve discovered the great noveau ratatouille recipe. In the meantime, here’s a ratatouille pasta recipe from my book:

Organic Ratatouille Pasta

Traditional ratatouille is a French recipe of stewed eggplant and tomatoes. This version adds a few other vegetables and serves as a chunky sauce for kids’ favorite pasta.

1/2 medium organic eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 2 cups

1 medium organic zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 1 cup

1 cup (6 ounces) sliced organic mushrooms

1 medium organic red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound favorite pasta shape (penne, wagon wheels, rotelle)

Sauce:

½ cup Pomi chopped tomatoes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil. Toss vegetables, oil, salt and pepper in prepared baking pan, so vegetables are coated by oil. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender.

Combine sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vegetables and sauce to pasta and toss to combine.

*Ratatouille Pizza. What do children like better than pasta?…Pizza! This sauce works great on top of pizza too.
~~
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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