Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Last Word on GMOs

Last rant about GMOs for the month, I promise! So, to review, we’ve talked about what GMOs are (as they relate to food), a little history on how they’ve come to completely infiltrate our food system, and just a few of the potential dangers. I wasn’t even able to get to all the dangers….like how the herbicide Roundup is showing in RAIN in Mississippi. This is toxic stuff and it’s being used so much that it’s getting into clouds and rain. I digress.

The most important part about all of this is what action you can take to avoid GMOs. It’s much easier said than done, but our true power….if any of this has upset you as much as it upsets us….is in our wallets. Vote for the food you want created by buying it and more of the same will be created behind it. Buy GMOs, they’ll make more GMOs. Avoid GMOs and they won’t. The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy Organic. If you ate a 100% Organic diet you will be 100% GMO free. They can’t even feed Organic animals GMO feed.

Now, if you actually want to eat out and not cook completely at home, the next best option long-term is to demand that GMOs be labeled. 93% of Americans agree they should be labeled. If you’re motivated to help, join the movement here If you don’t have time for all of this (many people don’t), but still want to try and avoid them, here’s a good guide for what ingredients to avoid. It’s very complete.

I started to write about debunking the pro-GMO myths, but as I dug into each one it all came back to the same thing – there’s no credible research to support it! I looked for it. The only credible research out there is proving the dangers. Even Monsanto’s research showed it’s dangerous, so Monsanto threw it away. No proof of higher yields, no proof of agriculture in previous inhospitable land, no proof of saving any lives anywhere. It just doesn’t exist.

by Mason Arnold, founder and Cookie Monster

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Zucchini Hummus

I am in awe of anyone who is able to work through the copious amounts of zucchini we are (still!) getting every week in the Local Box. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables, and yet once we get past a certain point in the season, I find the need to hide it in my food.

zucchini hummus

This hummus was inspired by a local raw-food restaurant. As it turns out, zucchini hummus is big in the raw-food world, so you can feel extra virtuous eating it. Plus it helps eliminate that possible bean-on-bean overload you might get from eating things like falafel with hummus. I love the bright flavor, and considering I have zucchini on hand more often than chickpeas, this might be my new go-to dip-slash-spread.

When you are selecting zucchini to use, in this recipe size doesn’t matter. However, if using a larger squash, discard the seeded center and use only the outer part. You can peel if you like, but I like the flecks of color the skin adds to the hummus.

zucchini hummus

Zucchini Hummus
makes approximately 1 cup

2 cups diced zucchini
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Blitz everything together in a food processor until smooth.

The zucchini will create excess liquid, so be sure to stir the hummus to reincorporate before serving.

Local Box Meal Plan 10/24 – 10/28

Is it just me, or does it feel like we’re stuck in the longest summer on record? I I’m going to the Fall Harvest Festival benefiting Urban Roots on Thursday, and I wonder if it’s fate that a cold front is scheduled to blow in that very day. Maybe Central Texas will finally get a break from summer weather!

I will definitely be taking a break from making dinner on Thursday night, since there will be free organic & local food and drinks at the Festival, plus carnival games for the kiddos.

Tickets to the Fall Harvest Fest are $30, and all the proceeds benefit Urban Roots, a wonderful local charity that helps improve the lives of young people through sustainable agriculture in Central Texas. Since Greenling is a presenting sponsor at the event, we have 3 pairs of tickets to give away. If you’d like to go on Thursday night, leave a comment on this post, and I’ll contact you via email to get you the tickets. I’ll give tickets to the first three folks who comment, and anyone can purchase additional tickets through Urban Roots’ website or at the door on Thursday night. Kids under 12 years of age get free admission and do not need a ticket.

All the fun on Thursday means I’m aiming for quick and easy dinners the rest of the week. All of the meals in this week’s menu go from Local Box to table in under 45 minutes! Here’s what we’re working with:

  • Asian Pears- Lightsey Farm
  • Apples – Top of Texas
  • Asian Greens Mix – My Father’s Farm
  • Butternut Squash – My Father’s Farm
  • Watermelon – Gundermann Acres
  • Grapefruit – G&S Groves
  • Assorted Bell Pepper – My Father’s Farm
  • Chard, Kale OR Bibb Lettuce – Fruitful Hill OR Comanche Oaks
  • Green Beans – The Farm Patch

Meal One: While I cook a little brown rice, I’ll stir-fry the green beans and bell peppers with a little garlic and onion. Cut up watermelon will make a quick and healthy dessert.

Meal Two: The watermelons coming in the Local Box are HUGE. There will be enough fruit to serve watermelon as a side dish for two nights, and to make this chilled Watermelon Soup with the rest. The soup takes 15 minutes to put together, but needs time to chill, so I will make it in the morning and let it hang out in the fridge while I’m at work. The ginger in the watermelon soup will pair nicely with this Asian Greens Salad with Ginger Dressing, another 15-minute recipe.

Meal Three: This meal’s a wildcard since I don’t know whether we’re getting kale, chard or lettuce. I have pasta and a jar of spaghetti sauce as my secret pantry weapons! If we get kale or chard, I’ll chop it and boil it with the pasta for instant spaghetti and greens. If we get lettuce, I’ll serve spaghetti sans greens, and make a side salad instead. Either way, we’ll finish off the watermelon for dessert.

Meal Four: By the time that cold front blows in, I’ll be craving something warm at night. This quinoa with roasted butternut squash, pears, apples and pecans will be just the thing. Depending on how sweet the grapefruit is, we’ll have it plain as a side dish, or juice it for a nightcap of greyhounds.

GMO Series cont. – The Dangers of GMO’s in Food

I started to write about the dangers of GMOs in food and quickly got overwhelmed. There is so much happening in the world about which we have no idea. I broke the dangers down to 3 major victims – Environment, Humans, and Economies and one philosophical.

Environment – First, the primary GMO foods were created to withstand herbicide and pesticide applications. Naturally, or rather, completely unnaturally, this has led to the application of 318 million additional pounds of toxic chemicals onto our land than would have been even possible before GMOs. Most of these chemicals are known carcinogens, known persistent environmental pollutants, and known to wreak havoc on ecosystems. These GMO plants are showing up in the wild, eaten by animals, and work their way up the food chain with no idea their effect. Well, some idea of their effect because studies prove them to create ulcers in pigs and hair on hamster tongues. Also, over-application of pesticides has led to super-weeds and super-pests. They have to put down stronger and more toxic chemicals (creating new GMOs to resist them) and some don’t die at all. Last major point is GMOs and the associated chemical applications reduce bio-diversity in all eco-systems.

Humans – The obvious danger is the increased exposure to herbicides/pesticides – both the workers with acute exposure, and to everyone else who eats the foods. It’s indisputable that these herbicides/pesticides end up in the food. Environmental Working Group tests produce every year and publishes how many/which pesticides/herbicides show up in our food. Beyond that, studies are piling up showing that our bodies don’t recognize these GMOs as food and try to reject them. Evidence is mounting that this plays some role in the explosion of food allergies. There are also studies showing direct damage to organs (including studies done by Monsanto, the maker of the GMOs).

Economies – Monsanto won’t let you save seeds from GMO crops. You have to buy them every year. For rural farmers this is a huge burden. But that’s just the beginning. They can’t stop GMOs from spreading naturally in the wild. But if they find it on your land they sue you. The Future of Food is a great movie about this and how it has decimated farming communities.

Lastly, Humanity – The ultimate victim. Monsanto was the first company to OWN LIFE. They can’t control it or stop it from evolving on its own, but they OWN it. If life is not sacred, the implications are quite profound. How long before they own you? Next week I will address the false propaganda about the benefits of GMOs in food. We have received negative feedback to these articles citing supposed world-saving benefits, but nobody has responded to my challenge to produce evidence of the benefits. We’ll also chat about how to avoid GMOs.

By Mason Arnold, founder and Cookie Monster

Meet Jim & Kay Richardson, Farmer Hero and Local Turkey Extraordinaires

Jim and Kay Richardson of Richardson Farms know how to treat turkeys right (and cows, pigs, and chickens, and even a few ducks). The animals pursue happiness on the range, in mobile pens, and in as happy a circumstance as nature can provide on their 200-acre farm near Rockdale. That’s western Milam County about four miles west of the Williamson County line.

Richardson provides all of Greenling’s local turkeys for the holidays – and they are a hot item: they sell out by early November, and the difference between serving a happy, local, free-range bird opposed to a processed, shipped, frozen gobbler cannot be described until you have tasted the difference.

But Jim, a veterinarian that practiced in Bowie, Texas for 25 years, says the real difference is the quality of life the turkey enjoys. They’re raised in mobile pens, moved just about every day, fed alfalfa and other homegrown grasses, and they’re a perky bunch.

“These can fly about six feet off the ground and then they come back,” Jim says of the broad-breasted white turkeys that gather at the edge of one of their mobile pens, curious about a new visitor. Jim described the challenges of keeping the poultry safe in a free-range environment – challenges including skunks, hawks, coyotes, and the weather.

Richardson Farms also has free range chickens, many very large, what Jim calls “a big chicken.” In quality and size and taste, the chickens rival his turkeys.

“We grow the feed and grind it here,” Jim says as his grandson Logan shows off the eggmobile and his chicken coop. Logan has a serious dislike for the skunks and particularly likes the blue eggs from the Americana chickens.

“Blue is my favorite color,” Logan adds.

The turkeys live together in pens with both females and males. The males have distinctive markings, including snoods angling over their beaks and a mottled skin over their face and neck that changes color according to their mood.

The mobile turkey pens are arranged all across the farm, which is ringed by a line of trees – one of the elements that led Jim and Kay to buy the property in 2001. They planted row upon row of Live Oak, Red Oak, and Mexican White Oak back then, and he says he hasn’t lost a tree, despite the longest Texas drought on record. And it’s a straight-up, dry land farm – no irrigation. Richardson raises wheat for flour, zucchini, popcorn, corn, and other vegetables, but his main focus is the quality of life of his livestock.

As Jim peeled off some his own homegrown hay for his baby pigs to keep warm despite a coming cold front, he explained his philosophy about raising animals.

“They really want to be friends with you. They’re kind of like the turkey. The turkey wants to be your friend, too,” he says. “The dang chickens don’t have enough sense to be friends… You know, we never are ugly to them, and we try to just make them have the best day of their life every day.”

That kind of loving care is what makes Richardson Farms turkeys the best of the best.

by Cody Garrett, Ham Hustler

Garlic Chive Compound Butter

Compound butter is one of those things that sounds incredibly fancy, yet can be prepared in only a few minutes of hands-on time. Practically anything can be added to butter to make it distinctive, from bourbon to berries. What you add helps determine the final use – maple bacon butter is divine on top of waffles, while this garlic chive butter is a great topper for grilled steak or buttermilk biscuits.

compound butter

When determining what ingredients to include in compound butter, it is important to make sure you don’t add too much liquid – after all, you want your butter to be solid when cold. Because butter has a mild flavor on its own, only small amounts are needed to pack a punch. In adding herbs, it works best to have them be quite dry. You can hang or oven dry herbs before adding to butter, but when it comes to these fresh garlic chives from our Local Box, I knew I wanted the full, fresh taste.

compound butter

Garlic Chive Compound Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients until well blended.
Lay out a sheet of parchment paper, plastic wrap, or freezer paper. Scoop butter onto paper, forming a basic rectangle shape.
Fold the paper over butter, tucking tightly to help form the butter into a log. Press against the ends to form a tight bundle. Roll up the rest of the paper around the butter and twist the ends to seal. Place in freezer for 30 minutes, or in fridge for at least two hours.
When ready to use, unroll and slice!

You can add as much or as little herbs as you like, but make sure to taste as you go along to ensure you don’t overpower your butter!

Local Box Meal Plan 10/17 – 10/21

Fair warning: I’m getting fancy with this week’s Local Box menu.  I am attending two potlucks this weekend, and I’m showing off our local bounty with some special finger foods and small bites. This week’s produce lends itself especially well to hors d’oeuvres, but you could also stretch those appetizers into full meals by adding some easy side dishes.

Here’s what’s coming in the Local Box:

  • Asian Pears- Lightsey Farm
  • Apples – Top of Texas
  • Fuyu Persimmons – Lightsey Farm
  • Multi-colored Radish Bunch – My Father’s Farm
  • Summer Squash – My Father’s Farm
  • Bok Choy OR Chard – Fruitful Hill Farm OR Comanche Oaks
  • Italian Cucumber Melon – Tecolote Farm
  • Broccoli Crown – Engel Farm
  • Shallots OR Okra – Fruitful Hill Farm OR Bradshaw
  • Sweet Potatoes – Gundermann Acres

Menu 1: Grilled persimmon bruschetta combines creamy goat cheese with grilled wedges of sweet persimmons on French bread. For my potluck, I’ll grill the persimmons ahead of time, and plan to assemble the rest of the bruschetta at the party. A quick salad  of cucumber, broccoli and radish slices would round the bruschetta out into a full meal.

Menu 2: This apple rosemary brie pizza makes a quick and easy appetizer, especially if I use a store-bought pizza crust. Doubling the portions and adding a side of sauteed okra with garlic would stretch it into a dinner, too.

Menu 3: I am taking this cucumber, apple and pear salad to a gluten-free gathering this weekend. If I have enough produce to double the recipe, I will serve the salad again as a dinner with some grilled bratwurst. A note about the cucumbers from Tecolote: Italian cucumber melons are a very mild variety of cucumber that is shaped like a softball or a melon. You can peel and cube this cuke just as you would the English variety.

Menu 4: The bok choy from Fruitful Hill Farm in this week’s box are enormous. One whole head of bok choy could easily feed a family of four, as in this Stir-fried Bok Choy recipe.

Menu 5: I’ve always heard that radishes and squash grow well together in the garden, so why not try them together on my plate? Sauteed summer squash with radishes looks like a pretty easy way to prepare the veggies together. I bet grilled chicken or grilled sweet potatoes would make an excellent companion.