Monday, June 30, 2008

Get your leftovers signed up with the Witness Protection Program!

I know this is a really stupid title - but follow me along here for a moment. Do your leftovers get eaten or shuffled around and ignored? Does your family avoid them like the plague - or do they pretend they are completely clueless about how to reheat, just to avoid eating leftovers?
Do leftovers check into your freezer, but never check out?
I think many of us are in that boat and here is a way out of this dilemma, because let’s face it - we cannot afford to let leftovers go to waste. They contain pricey ingredients, the work and time you put into cooking them and they are usually perfectly seasoned just waiting to be eaten. They have to be put to use. And here is where the Witness Protection Program comes in. Because we are going to give them a new identity and a new name.

There are three main ways of using leftovers but they have one thing in common, they use leftovers as an ingredient in itself and not a finished meal. Let me demonstrate: Let’s say we cooked vegetarian lasagna - it was a hit, but we made too much. What to do if your family does not go along with your plan of eating lasagna for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next two days - simple - you’ll deceive them. Obviously!

The three ways of hiding leftovers are:

1. Soup; kind of obvious - puree the sucker - add some broth - reheat and most importantly - rename. Vegetarian Lasagna - becomes a thick, creamy soup called “Roman Wedding Soup” - or something like that - the more outlandish the name the better! And the funny thing is - it tastes really good! Cross my heart! I have done this and people were asking for the recipe. Which I did not give them - for obvious reasons - “Well,make lasagna and then put it in a blender.” Right.

2. Make a dip out of it. Also kind of obvious - no reheating and the result is “potluck-worthy” good - again you will be asked for the recipe - I guarantee! Method: stick your leftover lasagna in the blender, add some extra virgin olive oil and blend. Move things along with a spatula if things stick a bit. Cut in some olives or a bit of salsa and serve with tortilla chips or pita triangles.

3. This is my personal favorite because it actually makes a whole other meal out of your leftovers - which is great for the budget. One word - veggie burger. Do you know the ingredients of a veggie burger? No? Relax, no one really does. Because it is very flexible: basically, you need - a bit of tofu - any kind will do - your leftovers - anything from lasagna - can you say “Italian burgers” to leftover Indian food “Kashmiri burgers anyone” will work, and a bit of flour. Method: Chop your leftovers finely - add tofu - add flour or some sticky starch such as cooked rice or quinoa (also a leftover hopefully) - mix by hand, form patties - cook in a good oil - serve with a side salad. They will be the best veggie burgers ever, trust me!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Salad, salad everywhere!

It’s salad mania at the CSA! And it better be - salad is the perfect meal when it is hot outside. Especially when the lettuce is as fresh as the one we are picking up now! Pick ups are getting ever bigger so that it really takes a little planning now to fit everything into the fridge. But that should come as an encouragement for people who are worried about the expense of joining a CSA ahead of time. There will be weeks where you will spend very little on food just so you can complement what you pick up at the farm. And these weeks are practically here. I think it really is important that we give up the notion that we should eat whatever we are in the mood for at any given time and realize that the seasons and the planet are in charge - and when we follow their lead we will eat healthier for us and better for the planet. Okay - *stepping of the soap box* here is the list for this week:

6 heads Lettuce (4 in the share and 2 extra) $8.37
1½ pounds Swiss Chard $8.97
1 pound Kale $2.19
½ pound broccoli $.95
1 bunch mustard greens $1.59
3 heads escarole (2 heads plus 1 extra) $5.07
2 bunches scallions $2.58
2 quarts peas $6.99
2 quarts strawberries $5.00
1 bunch apple mint $1.99
1 bunch pepper mint $1.99
1 bunch parsley $1.39
1 bunch chives $1.99
1 bunch sorrell $1.99
1 handful rhubarb $1.99
1 bunch catnip $1.99
1 bunch sage $1.99
1 bunch oregano $1.99
1 bunch lavender $1.99
Total: $ 61.01

Added to our season’s total so far of $223.66, we get a grand total of $284.67.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What to do with all this Kale!!

Here is a really simple Kale recipe. It uses up huge amounts of kale in no time, which is great for making some room in my overstuffed refrigerator look here
It can be made in advance and keeps well for at least a couple of days.

Marinated Kale:

Several bunches of kale
Olive oil
Lemon juice - fresh
Salt and Pepper
Herbs - optional if you want the flavor to take on a certain note

De-stem Kale, which is really easy: just hold the Kale Leaf upside down in a bowl and slide your hand down along the spine of the leaf.
Chop kale leafs quite thinly.
Make a dressing of one half olive oil, one half lemon juice with a generous dash of salt and pepper. You should have about one cup of dressing for every four cups of kale.
Mix everything together well - let the kale sit at least half an hour before serving. As the kale marinates it will lose a lot of volume - so don’t hesitate to use a lot. Enjoy!

P.S: Money saving tip - instead of chugging the stems into your compost you could start a bag in your freezer to hold odds and ends of vegetable debris - this will make an extra cool base for vegetable stock and you will have a freebie to boost the taste and nutritional value of your soups!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Strawberries are here!

Fourth pickup at the CSA. It’s getting hard to carry it all!
The bags are bulging and new vegetables are entering the scene.
First, I can now enjoy fresh broccoli. There really is no comparison to store bought. It almost seems as if the broccoli in the supermarket is a different vegetable all together. The CSA broccoli begs to be eaten raw, it is so tender. The self pick now is picking up. This week I picked two pints of sugar snap peas, and just how a little boy described it who was eagerly helping his mother pick: ”This tastes better than candy!”
Also the aforementioned strawberries are awesome - two quarts worth was today’s yield. I have begun giving friends a head of lettuce or chinese cabbage here and there, so that it can be enjoyed at peak freshness - this acts like advertising for the CSA! And it should!

The list:
4 heads Lettuce $5.58 (2 per share plus two from the extras table)
1 pound Broccoli $1.49
1 pound Spinach $2.49
2 heads Chinese Cabbage 6.36
3 heads Escarole (2 per share plus 1 extra) 5.07
2 bunches Scallions $5.98
2 pints sugar snap peas $4.99
2 heads bok choy $5.58
2 quarts strawberries $5.00
1 bunch oregano $1.99
1 bunch garlic chives $1.99
1 bunch thyme $1.99
1 bunch mint $1.99
1 bunch sorrel $1.99
1 bunch lemon balm $1.99
1 bunch lovage $1.99
1 bunch sage $1.99
1 bunch lavender $1.99
1 bunch chamomile $1.99
Total this week: $ 62.44
So we can add $ 62.44 to our prior total of $161.22.
Our new grand total for the season is $ 223.66. Not bad for one month!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Simple Pasta for Garlic Lovers:

For people who would like an Alfredo sauce without cholesterol and are looking for a way to use tofu.
I served this to a large group of meat eaters, who had no idea they were eating a vegan tofu dish.

I pound pasta - any shape, any kind from 20 cents to $2.69 depending on type
½ onion - minced $0.50
1 head of garlic or more if you dare - not a typo ( I actually used three heads cooking for about 16 people) $1.00
¼ cup olive oil $.75
1 tablespoon coconut oil $0.10
1 bunch fresh herbs - whatever you have on hand $1.99
1 pound silken tofu $1.99
salt & pepper

1. Brown onion in coconut oil. Peel and grate garlic.

2. Add garlic to onion and brown - make sure nothing sticks. Keep moving things around, add a bit of olive oil if necessary. Lower heat if garlic starts sticking.

3. When the garlic is roasted - chop the herbs finely and add to the onions and garlic. Add salt to taste. Then turn off the heat and let the onion, garlic mixture cool.

4. When the mixture is cool add to a blender together with the silken tofu and the olive oil. Blend on high for a minute and return to pan.

5. Heat over medium heat until the garlic sauce is warm. Taste, add more salt if necessary and add ground pepper.
Mix in a big bowl with cooked pasta and serve.

Yield: Pasta for four, as a main dish, with a side salad perhaps.
Cost: Depending on the pasta used: from $ 6.53 to $ 9.02 approximately. You may omit the fresh herbs and replace them with a couple tablespoons of dried.

Insane and Unheard of Ways to Save Money!!!

I know that this is so far mainly a vegetarian food blog, but there are two parts to my blog’s name. First “vegetarian” then “on the cheap”. And “on the cheap” will be the focus of this series. Saving money shopping wisely is only part of the battle. I remember living in Brooklyn a couple of years back, where it was a real pain to see how much of my tight budget was sucked up by toiletries. You know your shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers of all sorts, not to forget laundry detergents and a zillion cleaning products for around the house.
Because quite honestly, I might be a vegetarian, but I do want long, luscious hair, soft,nice smelling skin and clean clothes. Now I know what you are thinking - Here comes the rant about chemicals in cleaning products - and I will get to that at another time. But my focus here is more on budget than on health, at least for now.
So here comes the hook:

What would you say if I promised you to cut your expenses for Shampoo, Conditioner, moisturizer, hand soap, dishwashing detergent, laundry soap and a few others by 50%?
You do not have to buy anything, you can use the brands you love and already own, and you can start saving 50% in the next 2 minutes, or however long it takes you to read this post.

Here it goes: Take any form of soap (hand soap, laundry detergent or shampoo) you have in the house and look at the first ingredient. I bet you dollars to granola bars - it will be “ta-da” “Water”. Sometimes it will be labeled “purified”, “ionized” or my personal favorite “aqua”, like we could not figure out that that means water in Latin. So all you have to do is add more “aqua” and voila your shampoo is half the price. I know this sounds weird, but the added benefit besides the savings are that your shampoo will work better! And just so you know that this is not a typo - your shampoo, detergent, soap etc will work better, will be gentler on the skin, and gentler on the environment.
If you still do not believe that this works think of it this way. Would you ever goop your shampoo straight on your dry hair? Obviously not. So you wet your hair first, but you realize you could just wet the shampoo and get even better results!
My mom, who was a hairdresser when she was young always said that all our commercial soaps, and let’s face it that is what shampoo and all the other products mentioned really are - plain old soap - are way too concentrated. They dry out your scalp, leave way too much residue and don’t really clean all that well.
Now, somehow we have gotten used to the idea, that shampoo is supposed to be a thick gooey mess - and once you water it down it will be quite more runny - but just apply it directly to your hair and not first to your hands and you will not even notice.
Also, it helps to have two bottles. So here is how you do it:

When you run out of shampoo, keep your empty bottle - do not recycle it just yet.
When you buy your new shampoo you fill each bottle about half, top it off with water and stand it upside down - so it mixes well.
There you have it - two shampoos for the price of one. This works really well with shampoo, conditioner and to some extent with moisturizer. Depending on the brand you will have to experiment with the exact ratios. I personally think that the cheaper the soap the more you should dilute it. Milder shampoos already will have more water in them - that is what makes them mild!
I have tried this with “Kiss My Face”, “Jason”, “Mountain Ocean” and others.
So give it a try - tell me what you think…..

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Your fridge does not overflow with greens??? - join a CSA!

My third pickup at the farm and my refrigerator is overflowing!
CSAs usually take a while before things really get going but this year we are off to a great start. There was an extras table - great! and u-pick has also started - fun!

Here is the list:(the prices as always indicate average prices in store right now)
2 bunches radish $3.98
Lettuce 4 heads (plus 2 more from the extras table) $13.49
1 1/2 pounds Rainbow chard $5.00
1 pound broccoli crowns $1.49
2 heads escarole (plus 1 from the extras table) $7.47
1 head chinese cabbage (plus one extra) $7.18
2 heads bok choy $5.58
handful sugar snap peas $1.50
1 bunch sorrel $1.99
1 bunch oregano $1.99
1 bunch winter savory $1.99
1 bunch lemon balm $1.99
1 bunch lovage $1.99
1 bunch mint $1.99
1 bunch thyme $1.99
1 bunch lemon thyme $1.99
1 bunch chives $1.79
1 bunch sage $1.99
So I'll add that to my previous CSA total of $95.83 for a new grand total of $161.22
Not bad for a mere three weeks!

Seasoning 101

Spices and Herbs have been around for thousands of years. They give our food flavor, some of them have medicinal benefits and they are mostly very affordable.
Nothing elevates humble ingredients more elegantly and in a more affordable way than spices.

A few tips:
If you have the choice always buy whole seeds and grind on a per need basis - a dedicated coffee grinder does a good job. For herbs grow your own fresh plant if you can or buy fresh herbs if they are affordable - you usually do not need a whole of a fresh herb to make a big impact on flavor and you can keep the unused herb in the refrigerator or freeze it for later.
Try to buy your spices or herbs in the health food store in the bulk spice section. Make sure the store has a high turnover. Spices, especially ground ones, die very quickly. If the flavor does not hit you in the face as you open the jar - stay away - no matter how much dead spice you will add, it will never improve your dish.
Storage: glass jars are best - buy little spice at a time - store away from sunlight and heat.
I will present all spices in one list wether they are seeds, barks, roots or fruits.

ALLSPICE: its aroma is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves hence the name; it is an important ingredient in the Jamaican jerk seasoning but also works with sweet dishes.
ANISE SEED: smells and tastes like licorice; used very much like fennel, adds a fresh note
BASIL: there are many varieties, sweet basil most common; wonderful aroma notes of cinnamon,clove and anise with a citrus finish. Do not store fresh leaves in the fridge since they will turn black. Keep it in water on you kitchen counter like a bunch of flowers.
add fresh basil at the end of cooking and keep the leaves almost intact.
BAY LAUREL: use fresh or dried, mild flavor, sweet, similar to nutmeg. Bay laurel is milder and more subtle than california bay - you can tell them apart by the scalloped edges that only true bay laurel leaves have.
CARAWAY SEED: warm flavor with notes of anise,fennel and mint - strongly aromatic sweet but tangy; not for everyone
CARDAMON: either ground or in seed - crush seeds prior to use to release flavor
warm cinnamon like flavor - less woody - pungent and intense - both for sweet and savory dishes
CAYENNE PEPPER: a type of ground chilies - little aroma but provides heat - on a scale of hotness from 1 to 10 most cayenne ranks about 8 - so use with caution!
CELERY SEED: its flavor is somewhere between grass and bitter hay - tasting - you guessed it - like celery. It is quite potent so use with caution.
CHERVIL: member of the parsley family, used similarly - less flavorful part of the french fines herbes blend
CHILI: there are more than 300 types of chili - the most common varieties are ancho, chipotle, habanero Hotness levels vary so experiment carefully! Whole dried chilies other than spicing up your level are also great in your storage jars for whole grains - put in whole chili in the jar and grain moths will think twice about ruining your precious grains. Just make sure you take the chili out before you cook your grains!
CHIVES: part of the onion family; always add at the end of cooking try to use fresh; grows wild in many areas
CILANTRO: wonderfully pungent aroma with notes if citrus, use very much like parsley and keeps equally well in the refrigerator
CINNAMON: one the most beloved spices, used often in sweet foods but is also a prominent ingredient in the Indian spice mixture garam masala; aroma is sweet, earthy and peppery.
CLOVES: one of the most intense of all spices cloves should be removed before serving a dish - since biting into one can be unpleasant; used both in sweet as well as savory dishes; flavor is very aromatic warm think gingerbread
CORIANDER: the seed of the Cilantro plant - warm, aromatic flavor with undertones of sage and lemon. Use both with sweet and savory dishes.
CUMIN: related to parsley - not to be confused with caraway seed. Dry roast before using to bring out the lightly spicy, bitter and earthy aroma.
DILL: feathery leaves of the dill plant; add at the end of cooking or use raw
DILL SEED: seed of the dill plant, gives a flavor somewhere between anise and caraway, quite potent - use cautiously
FENNEL SEED: aroma somewhere between anise, licorice and mint; quite sweet good for both savory and sweet dishes; saute seeds before use to release flavor
FENUGREEK: very pungent, somewhat bitter - flavor of maple syrup; found in most curry blends and in the African berbere spice mix - dry roasting eliminates the bitter over tones
GINGER: fresh ginger should be stored in the refrigerator; it does not have to be peeled before cooking; it comes in many forms fresh, pickled, ground, crystalized; it has a spicy, warm and sweet taste that can be quite powerful
HORSERADISH: very powerful root from the mustard family; an ingredient in cocktail sauce it is prized paradoxically for its strong irritating, some say cleansing, quality along the nose and throat; usually consumed cold
JUNIPER BERRY: main flavor component in gin it has a pine like, citrus, bittersweet taste used in sauerkraut and many Scandinavian dishes
LAVENDER: part of the mint family; sweet and floral flavor with some mint overtones; use sparingly since it is quite intense if fresh
MARJORAM: flavor very woodsy and mild with a hint of sweetness; not to be confused with oregano; blends well with dill,basil,thyme and parsley
MUSTARD SEED: the familiar condiment starts out as this seed - the flavors cannot be released until cold water has been added, it takes about 10 minutes fro the flavor to release - it is simple to make your own mustard and should be tried; mustard adds a spicy zest
NIGELLA: often confused with black sesame - nigella seeds are peppery with a hint of oregano
NUTMEG: warm aroma, slightly spicy with a sweet overtone; used for both sweet and savory dishes; add little at a time since it can bitter up a dish
OREGANO: the herb note in pizza seasoning; very fragrant, flavor can be almost spicy; use fresh when available can be added at the beginning of cooking or the end
PAPRIKA: made from ground sweet red pepper, it colors foods orange; spiciness ranges from harmless to quite hot because chilies are sometimes added in the grinding process
PARSLEY: curly or flat, should be bought fresh; it has a light, fresh aroma and is often used in breath fresheners; keeps well for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, just don’t let it get wet.
PEPPER: the most famous spice after salt; famous for its sharp and spicy aroma; different colors including black, white, green and red are available with slight variations in flavor and taste; buy whole berries and grind on demand - the difference in flavor is worth it - adds sparkle and vibrancy of flavor without too much heat
PEPPERMINT: cool favor, tastes like you guessed it ‘mint’
POPPY SEED: while opium is derived from the unripe seeds, the mature seeds used for cooking have no narcotic qualities; slightly sweet and somewhat nutty - they can be used in desserts mixed with sugar or to thicken and flavor sauces
ROSEMARY:part of the mint family; looks and tastes like pine; needs to be cooked to release flavor - so do not add last minute to your dish and crush leaves so they release their flavor.
SAFFRON: the world’s most expensive spice - although only a tiny amount is really needed to give off its sweet, earthy and spicy flavor. Saffron’s odor is a bit unpleasant - although it dissipates in the cooking process. Most famously found in the spanish paella.
SAGE: a warm,woody fragrance and taste that enhances the flavor of otherwise bland dishes; dried sage is quite intense so add sparingly, fresh sage leaves can be quite large so you will need very few to get the full flavor; add at the beginning of your cooking with oil
SESAME SEEDS: different colored hulls produce red, yellow, brown or black sesame seeds, they are the basis for tahini, the middle eastern paste; to fully release their very mild flavor they need to be lightly toasted; add for texture more than flavor
SPEARMINT: quite fruity and less minty than peppermint; goes well with sweet and savory dishes; easy to grow in your garden
STAR ANISE: beautiful spice, one of the spices in Chinese five spice mix; has a warm, woody flavor and is very sweet
TAMARIND: a unusual sour taste that combines well with either sugar or chili; it is an ingredient in the English Worcestershire sauce.
TARRAGON: strong herby flavor, bittersweet reminiscent of anise; sometimes available fresh; one of the herbs in the french mix called “fines herbes” - the others are chives, chervil and parsley. These are the only herbs it combines with well
THYME: note of citrus and mint, very mild; should be added early on in the cooking process to release flavor
TURMERIC: dyes everything bright yellow, including your hands; important part of curry blends; earthy, mustardy taste with a hint of ginger and orange, slightly bitter
VANILLA: second most expensive spice after saffron; sweet, fruity perfumed taste with smokey overtones; the most exquisite form of vanilla is the whole bean - a long sticky strap, that has to be slit open to scrape out the seeds; if you don’t want to bother with that you can also purchase vanilla flavor. However I discourage using imitation vanilla since it is made from industrial by products and has absolutely nothing to do with the real thing; do not refrigerate vanilla beans they will mold - one inch of vanilla bean equals about one teaspoon pure vanilla extract.


These are basic recipes - have fun and make your own variations! Also don’t fret over the exact amounts of each ingredient - because in each and every recipe while they more or less agree on the ingredients the ratios of one spice to the other seems to be quite arbitrary. Therefore I have listed ratios but take them with a grain of salt! ;-).
Pastes have to be refrigerated dry spice mixes do not.


2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
4 each whole cloves
¾ teaspoon whole cardamon seeds
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
10 small red chilies, dried (or less if you don’t want that much heat)
½ teaspoon grated ginger
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons paprika
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

Toast over mild heat: first seven ingredients, watch like a hawk, so nothing burns. The seeds will be ready when you can smell their aroma. About one to two minutes.
Let the toasted seeds cool. Grind the red chilies in coffee grinder. Mix the ground chilies with the cooled, toasted seeds and grind again.
Mix in remaining ingredients - and fill into glass jar with tight fitting lid. Store in refrigerator. Time: about 10 minutes Yield: about 1 cup.

4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons cayenne powder or adjust to your liking
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
Mix all ingredients - store in glass jar away from heat or sunlight.
If in season, add fresh thyme or oregano during cooking to add interesting notes.


One of the most popular spice mixes on earth. Most people actually believe it to be a spice not a spice mix. As per usual experiment - but here is the basic plot:

2 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
2 tablespoon pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon cloves, ground
1 tablespoons turmeric
½ tablespoon chilies, ground or to taste
½ tablespoon fenugreek seeds, ground
½ tablespoon mustard seeds, ground or to taste

Put all spices in dry pan and roast over low heat until the release scent. Let cool and transfer into dry glass jar. Keeps for weeks - but make little at a time for freshness.


Classic French combination of fresh parsley, chives, chevril and tarragon.


Chinese spice mixture: of equal parts
ground cloves
ground fennel seed
ground chili pepper - adjust hotness to taste
ground cinnamon
1 star anise

Blend and store. Keeps really well - no need to refrigerate.


A lovely spice mixture added towards the end of the cooking. Hotness as always depends on individual taste.

black pepper

Use all the spices in whichever form you have them and blend to your hearts content. There are endless variations and you should really experiment with the ratios.
Blend in a blender and keep in a glass jar - no need to refrigerate.


1 cup olive oil
½ cup mild chili powder
1 tablespoon mint dried or fresh, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried garlic powder or 3 cloves finely minced
½ tablespoon ground caraway
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon ground coriander
½ tablespoon salt

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
Pour half a cup of olive oil in blender and add wet ingredients (garlic and/or mint). Blend thoroughly.
Add dry ingredients and blend slowly. Scrap sides of blender so nothing gets stuck and slowly add rest of olive oil.
Transfer to a clean glass jar. Put a layer of olive oil on top. Keeps up to 2 months in fridge: Yield: 2 cups Time:10 minutes


French Mediterranean spice mixture of equal parts dried: marjoram, rosemary, thyme with light touch of lavender and/or fennel seed.


2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed or more to taste
1 red chili or more to taste
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
4 tablespoons sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup or other sweetener
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup lemon or lime juice
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar

Heat oil - saute first seven ingredients up to and including cinnamon. Add one ingredient at a time until you have a paste. Careful that it doesn’t stick! Let cool.
Transfer paste to blender and add other ingredients. Blend and transfer to clean glass jar. Keeps in refrigerator for up to a month. Time:10 minutes Yield: 1 cup

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The trouble with Granola Bars

While shopping the other day at the health food store, my son sneaked a box of granola bars by Cascadian Farm into the shopping cart. He did it right before checkout - and of course I just let it go and the granola bars made their way into our house. And then it made me think - had it been a box of chocolate chip cookies, chances are I would not have given in so easily and he probably would have known better than to try.
So, what is the difference between a granola bar and a cookie, really? The truth - absolutely nothing. It is just a matter of perception. Granola bar - good. Cookie - bad. Basically, the whole thing boils down to a PR problem for cookies.

If we look closely at said Cascadian Farm Organic Chewy Granola Bars -we see that the first, third, seventh, eighth, ninth, eleventh and fourteenth ingredient of the eighteen ingredients listed, is sugar in some form. Maltodextrin, rice syrup, tapioca syrup, malt extract and my personal favorite “naturally milled sugar”. As opposed to unnaturally milled sugar? I guess “natural” just makes anything sound better. At this point it might be interesting to note that Cascadian Farms is owned by “drum roll please” General Mills - the brains behind such delightful products as “Cinnamon Toast Crunch”, “Lucky Charms” and “Trix”, all of which are also sold as bars of some kind or other. I rest my case.
So our delightful cookie, moonlighting as a granola bar, has 12 grams of sugar if we take into consideration, that the whole bar weighs 35 grams, we just managed to eat something that was 34 % pure sugar - naturally milled, or not. 34% sugar may not be so bad if you know you are eating a dessert, but a granola bar is supposed to be a snack or an in between meal, that fuels us until the next meal comes along. The terms granola bar and energy bar seem to be almost interchangeable. Energy bars are supposed to give you, well energy and endurance, right, and they are good for you, right? Well, next time I watch the New York City marathon I’ll try to hand some “granola bars” to the runners - let’s see maybe I get arrested for trying to sabotage the race…..

2nd Pick-up at the CSA

Second pickup was another success. Having been a member in different CSAs for almost 15 years, I know that they start off relatively slow and then the pace changes to a furry, where you can almost not handle the thought of having to bring home another 10 pounds of tomatoes etc. But still, I think the bags are quite full now - the quality is of course amazing, and I can't wait until the self picking begins!

Here is the list for this week:
2 heads of lettuce $2.79
1 bunch edible flowers $1.99
1 bunch winter savory $1.99
1 bunch chives $1.99
1 bunch lovage $1.99
1 bunch thyme $1.99
1 bunch oregano $1.99
1 bunch sage $1.99
1 bunch tarragon $1.99
1 bunch mint $1.99
1 bunch sorrel $1.99
2 bunches radish $3.00
2 heads of bok choy $5.58
3 pounds of kale ( there was extra)$14.94
1 1/2 pounds baby lettuce $5.98
$52.19 Woohoo!
It is really satisfying to see that something that feels so right also makes economic sense!
When it comes to the kale - I went with the average price per pound - between the big chain store and their price per pound of $1.99 for organic kale, and the health food store price of $3.99 for a bunch, that weighed in at half a pound. Note also that the big store only advertised the price of organic kale and did not have any available both times I checked.
So I am penciling in $52.19 for this week's haul and the total for the season is now $95.83!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shopping - a tutorial!

1.Never leave the house without your tools. They include in order of importance:
a. Your current shopping list
b. The list of foods you already have at home
c.The Organics Dirty Dozen Guide
d. Your Shop Journal - which is a little record book of what you buy most often and how much does it cost in other stores - without your journal, comparisons are really an exercise in memorization.

So you really have to have a game plan - What are you and your family going to eat for breakfast , lunch and dinner for the next seven days. The list should be as realistic as possible - plan in social engagements, children birthday parties , sports or cultural events - everything that could influence your food intake for the next seven days. Keep in mind you should plan around foods you already have in the house, so the first step has to be evaluating your list from last week - to see if some recipes did not get made - and you have to transfer them over to this week.

2.An often heard rule: Don’t ever shop on an empty stomach.

3.Try to shop alone. I know this is hard on moms but maybe you can trade baby sitting with a friend so they can get their shopping done in peace as well. Spouses need special mentioning - some of them are great, some horribly distracting and some are just the worst impulse shoppers ever. Bottom line if they are not helpful they should not come. You really need your concentration!

4.Shop the bulk food section first. This should be the backbone of your diet.

5.Be aware of false sales and sales that prompt you to buy things you did not want to buy. Consult your shopping journal to see how much of a good deal the sale really is.

6. Always look at the top and bottom of big supermarket shelves to find similar products often cheaper. General rule is: what’s on eye level is usually most expensive.

7.Also in big supermarkets you want to stick to the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where you will find the food that is worth eating. Your produce, dairy or undairy etc.

8.Always bring a calculator - some cell phones have one built in, or in a dollar store or a Staples you can find some with a niffty clip to hook to your shopping bags. The calculator is necessary to compare prices per unit not per package. However if math happens to be your forte, you can do all those fractions in your head!

9.Buy only what you will use soon - food storage can be tricky - unless you have enough room and you stock up on staples.

10. Be realistic and buy only what you and your family will eat. Try to have fun, but also keep in mind that if the last three time you bought “tofu” it was not used chances are, unless you had a huge mind boggling awakening you will throw it out again. Don’t ever forget it is about choices. There are perfectly happy vegetarians out there who never eat tofu. Not me though - I love the stuff!