Monday, October 31, 2011

24 Hours to Kill the "Secret Farm Bill"

I'm blatantly repurposing content from because they're reporting that we have less than 24 Hours to Kill the "Secret Farm Bill" and I want to spread the word so that we all act quickly to protect our own best interests! Your Congressperson and Senators need to hear from you on this issue or corporate agribusiness will win this battle again. Full details:

For the past several weeks, rumors of a “Secret Farm Bill” being hatched behind closed doors in Washington between only a handful of legislators and industrial agriculture lobbyists have been leaking out of Congress. Last week those rumors hit panic mode.
According to multiple sources in DC, the most corporately entrenched Senators and Representatives of the Ag committees are locked behind closed doors on Capitol Hill with agribusiness lobbyists trying to carve up the 2012 Food and Farm Bill in an intentionally hurried process that will kill any needed reforms for protecting family farmers, the environment and improving healthy food opportunities for all Americans.
If corporate greed gets its way, family farmers and food reformers will possibly be locked out of the conversation on reforming food and farming policy until 2017. It’s no wonder people are marching in the streets!
If you think the ghouls of Halloween are serving up a frightening brew, wait until these creepy members of Congress write your Food and Farm Bill behind Closed Doors!

The Four Horsemen of the Farm Bill Apocalypse 

Zombies of the Haunted House:
1. Frank Lucas – (R-OK) Current Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
Lucas is so in the tank for industrial agriculture that earlier this year he proposed a hearing on the “over-regulation of agricultural biotechnology”.
Not surprisingly, during the 2009-2010 election cycle, Lucas received more than $317,000 from agribusiness interests, including $16,000 from Monsanto and $15,000 from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. What do you think they want now?
2. Collin Peterson (D-MN) Former Chair of the House Agriculture Committee
Peterson is widely known as “Cargill” Peterson for his love of defending industrial agriculture and has taken millions of dollars from agribusiness firms during his career; including $19,999 from Monsanto and $21,750 from the American Farm Bureau during the 2010 election cycle.
Vampires of the Seditious Senate:
3. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Rumors point to Stabenow as leading the push for the “Secret Farm Bill” because she doesn’t want to have to deal with crafting this complicated piece of federal legislation during an election year.
If you think Stabenow’s willingness to throw out real reform of U.S. food policy because she doesn’t want the “headache” during an election season, consider the fact that during the 2012 election cycle, from 2007 to now, Stabenow has pocketed more that $483,000 in agribusiness PAC and individual donations and is currently the top recipient of Agricultural Services & Products donations. Priceless!
Kind of gives new meaning to the term, “Perks of the Senate”.
4. Pat Roberts – (R-KS) Senate Agriculture Committee – Ranking Member
Roberts is a known industrial ag favorite, that during the 2009 Senate confirmation hearing of Secretary Vilsack he went so far as to draw an outrageous picture of organic farmers as GQ reading porch sitters. If that weren’t bad enough, Roberts has already grabbed more than $706,000 in agribusiness cash for the 2012 election cycle, including political donations from the National Corn Growers Association, DuPont, Pfizer and Syngenta.

Why the 2012 Food and Farm Bill Matters
There is nothing more essential and personal to us than the food we eat and the water we drink. Agriculture policy dictates the quality, availability and health of our food resources. U.S. food and ag policy is far-reaching throughout the world, determining the fate of all those who eat.
Typically the Farm Bill is conducted every five years, involving a lengthy process of public hearings in Congress and meetings with stakeholders across the country. At risk with this secret deal are vital reform programs of commodity subsidies (already on the chopping block), funding for conservation, organic conversion and important nutrition programs. 
While members of Congress are working to find ways of cutting the budget, the currently proposed cut of $23 billion from the 2012 Farm Bill by members of Congress ag committees and the $33 billion in cuts proposed by the White House should not be made in haste or in any secretive backroom bargain that excludes the voice of the American farmer and eaters while taking advice from agribusiness lobbyists.
In a democracy, we deserve transparency and accountability, and in few places is this more personal or necessary than determining our food policy, where all stakeholders deserve a seat at the table, not simply those with the largest financial interest.
We are committed to this fight now, more than ever - please join us. Together, our voices will create the future we hope for.
Thanks for being a part of the solution and participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Boston Vegetarian Food Festival 2011

Awesome SWAG, right? That bag is my FAVORITE! 
James and I had a great time at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival yesterday. It was my third time and I'm glad we went with a strategy this year! The free annual festival sponsored by the Boston Vegetarian Society is awesome but can get very crowded, so I bought the preview hour tickets for $5 each so we could beat the crowds and not spend the entire day fighting for samples of mock meat (as a rule, I avoid mock meat, but it's fun to try every once in a while). We got to the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center at 10:00 and quickly started making our rounds through the exhibits before heading upstairs to hear a talk and watch a cooking demo. The festival is all weekend, so if you didn't make it yesterday, you have until 4:00 today to go check it out! 
We started off by sampling some sunflower butter at the Whole Foods table. I actually just bought a jar of the same stuff at Shaw's this week. I love sunflower seeds in my oatmeal, so figured I'd give Sunbutter a try. Is it me, or are sunflower seeds becoming the next big thing? I even talked to the guy who made the new Sunflower Seed Milk that just hit the shelves at my local Whole Foods. I bought a box as soon as I saw it last week but haven't opened it yet, so I sampled some at the festival and it was SO good! The girl next to me said it was the best nondairy milk she had ever tasted and I concur!
We discovered Authentically You! Powersnacks handmade by Lara Amaral and tried just about every delicious variety before deciding to buy one Triple Berry Walnut and one Ayurvedic.
Lara makes Authentically You! Powersnacks! by hand
Lara was so warm and friendly and told us about how close she came to death in early 2010. When she was released from the hospital, she decided not to go back to corporate America and instead decided to sell her delicious snacks.
Then we headed upstairs for a nutrition talk, but we were too late to snag a seat. The house was packed, so we hovered by the door long enough to catch a few a few of Dr Greger's pearls of wisdom, mostly about the toxicity of all animal products, even eggs and fish, which I like to occasionally enjoy. I'd love to hear more about what he has to say and will try to peruse his website, soon.
Packed house for Michael Greger, MD
I knew I wanted to see Chef AJ's cooking demo. After Tal Ronnen's demo last year, I knew the cooking demos were not to be missed. I'm so glad I went to this one. In addition to learning a ton, Chef AJ was over-the-top entertaining!
Front Row Seats to Chef AJ's Cooking Demo
She made a Black Bean soup and a Kale salad. Both were super easy to make and tasted delicious. She has a YouTube Channel full of entertaining video recipes!
Before and After the Demo, AJ Serenaded Us!
Chef AJ preached a lot about eliminating the Evil Trinity (salt, oil, and sugar aka SOS) during her demo. I fully agreed with her preaching so I didn't mind it. She talked a lot about The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health, which has been on my to-read list for a long time and The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, which I listened to on audible and highly recommend!
She danced around like a crazy person.
After the demo, during her second song and dance routine, she LICKED James' forehead! I'm not even joking. She sat on a few laps and then came up to us and LICKED James' on his forehead.
She preached about eating whole foods while cooking
She didn't saute the veggies in the soup in oil. Instead, she just added them whole to a pot of boiling water. Red onions, sweet potatoes, rainbow chard, and bok choy were thrown in the pot whole (or halved) and boiled. Then she added a few cans of black beans and some chipotle powder and her secret ingredient, sun dried tomato powder. No salt, no oil. Whole foods only. Immersion blended at the end. Absolutely delicious.
I bought a copy of Chef AJ's Unprocessed after her awesome cooking demo. She signed it!
After the demo, I met Chef AJ outside the demo room. I bought a copy of her book, Unprocessed: How to Achieve Vibrant Health and your Ideal Weight, which she signed. I'm so excited to cut out more SOS  using some of her recipes!

Other highlights from the festival include:
  • Trying a bite of Cafe Indigo's Carrot Cake
Really Yummy Carrot Cake
I can't wait to wear this!
  • Finally trying a slice of Peace o' Pie Gourmet Vegan Pizza
  • Finding out how to tare my own containers at Harvest Co-Op when I shop from their bulk bins 
  • Talking to vegetarian publishers, like the folks at the Vegetarian Resource Group
The brains behind the Vegetarian Resource Group
  • Not learning about sprouting. This was the low-light of the festival. I remembered the sprouting people being there last year and was excited to learn about sprouting. I really want to start, but the guy who was there this year just wanted to sell his $100 self-watering sprouting contraption and he wasn't conversational or helpful at all. I was so eager to learn, but he just handed me a laminated card about his sprouting machine to read and barely answered any of my questions. Do you sprout? If you have any tips on sprouting, please drop me a line!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Met my Favorite Cookbook Author, Terry Walters!

I Arrived in One Piece!
I don't usually use recipes. When I cook, I tend to cook on the stove and I improvise a lot as I go, but I do turn to cookbooks when preparing ingredients I'm not familiar with and love to page through cookbooks for inspiration. Even though I don't use them often when preparing dinner, I have a strange addiction to cookbooks and out of all of the cookbooks I own (I've lost count), Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You and Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes by Terry Walters are my absolute favorites.

Terry self-published Clean Food before it got picked up by Sterling Epicure and Clean Start followed shortly thereafter. The recipes in both books are organized into the four seasons with some that work any time of the year. Terry shares plenty of judgement-free tips for healthy eating in both books.
Me and Terry! I hung out with her for over an hour!
In addition to referencing her books religiously, I also stalk Terry on her Facebook page and tweet her a lot of my clean eating questions, which she takes the time to answer! I knew I'd get to meet her at some point, but when she tweeted earlier this week that she'd be doing a cooking demo and book signing at KitchenWares on Newbury St, I rearranged my schedule, gathered up my books, and made it a date! I got there a little late, but thanks to the nasty fall rain that's been drenching Boston this week, the store was slow.

Terry was chopping an onion when I arrived and I helped stir the ingredients as she chopped the celery, hakuri turnips, garlic, and parsley that went into the Red Lentil, Turnip & Parsley Soup from page 94 of Clean Start. Add to that some diced tomatoes, great northern beans, mirin, red lentils, and veggie stock, and a delicious dinner was served in no time! I had this strange craving for parsley on the rainy drive in to Boston, so this soup really hit the spot.
Terry serving her Red Lentil Turnip, & Parsley Soup
Terry and I chatted about career paths, kombu, our similar 'dump and stir' cooking techniques and proper soak and rinse oatmeal preparation while she cooked. She signed both of my books and I even got a few details out of her about future projects (which I promised not to spill the beans on). It was such a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. I'm so glad I saw that tweet!

If you like eating healthy food and want to learn more about maximizing the nutritional value of your food and eating seasonal, locally sourced produce, Terry is the expert. Clean Food doesn't have any pictures, but it's a beautiful book nonetheless and is much more than a cookbook! There's a very approachable introduction to clean eating, with easy to follow guidelines for what to stock in your pantry and good descriptions of some of the ingredients you might not be familiar with (like kombu, teff, and mirin). I reference Clean Food all the time and love rereading the introduction for refreshers on proper grain preparation.  Clean Start is full of beautiful pictures and has less obscure ingredients, so if you don't have a health food store near by or are new to cooking seasonal vegetarian food, it might be a better place to start (hence the title!). What I love about both books is how judgement-free they are. Terry just wants you to eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains. She doesn't tell you what not to eat, but rather how to prepare the stuff that might come in a CSA box in a healthy, balanced, and delicious way. She has kids, so knows how to make healthy foods appealing to picky eaters, and is conscious of food sensitivities and allergies as well as busy schedules!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dinner at Red Lentil

I've been dying to go to Red Lentil for a while. It's one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in the Boston area and has been personally recommended to me by a handful of people, so when James and I were looking for somewhere to take his mom for dinner on Sunday, I couldn't help but suggest it. 

We started with an order of the Grande Nachos 
Organic corn tortilla chips, topped with refried black beans and jalapeno jack cheese, baked and topped with fresh Pico de Gallo, house made sour cream, fresh guacamole and sliced jalapenos.  $9.00 (substitute vegan cheese for $2.00)
Grande Nachos
The nachos were great, although a few chips were a tad overcooked. They were layered perfectly and most of the chips had enough toppings to go around. They weren't greasy or stale (unfortunately, those characteristics are true of many restaurant nachos, right?)

Feeling a bit ambitious, we also ordered a side of the Belgian Sweet Potato Fries as an appetizer. They were delicious, but I didn't want to fill up before dinner, so I only had a few. They were served with a tangy BBQ sauce. I'm always trying to figure out what the best dipping sauce is for sweet potato fries. Honey Mustard? Whipped butter with maple brown sugar? Some kind of yogurt or sour cream herbed dip? I'm determined to come up with the perfect recipe, but sadly, this BBQ sauce wasn't the magic sauce to end the search. It's OK, though. I'm happy to keep looking! (suggestions welcome!)  :-)

Belgian Sweet Potato Fries

For my entree, I ordered the Butternut Squash Polenta. 
Grilled polenta, oyster mushroom ragout, warmed sesame asparagus drizzled with cilantro sunflower seed pesto.  $13.99

Butternut Squash Polenta
I really enjoyed this dish, despite the fact that the other flavors in the ragout overpowered whatever butternut squash might have been present. There was no way I could finish it after the nachos and a few bites everyone else's meals, so I packed about 1/2 of it up for lunch this week. 

James ordered the Mexican Pizza.
Black bean, mango, red onion, fresh avocado, corn, mozzarella and queso fresco topped with fresh cilantro.  $12.00 (substitute gluten-free crust for $3.00. Substitute vegan cheese for $2.00)

Mexican Pizza on Gluten Free Crust sans Cilantro
I really wanted to try it and have been cutting back on wheat, so he was kind enough to order the gluten-free crust. It was really good and I really liked the texture of the dough and crust. 

His mom, a meat-eater, ordered the Shepherd's Pie and LOVED it. 
Layered mashed yukon gold potatos and sweet potato, soy sausage, corn kernel, onion, seasonal vegetables, spinach, baked and served with vegan cashew gravy and maple balsamic. Drizzled with cilantro sunflower pesto. $16.00

Shepherd's Pie
She couldn't finish the large portion either, but she was so excited about the leftovers that she couldn't stop talking about having them for dinner on Monday night after the long trip back to Long Island. 

I felt compelled to try dessert since I knew I'd be writing a blog post (and since they had a gluten free cake on the menu), so we tried the Vanilla Raspberry/Blueberry cake. The berries were fresh and the cake was rich. 

Vanilla Raspberry/Blueberry Cake (Gluten Free) 
When the waitress saw me snap pictures of our plates, she asked if I was a food critic (I wish!). I told her I wrote a food blog and she (and the rest of the staff) were really excited to hear all about it. The manager, a super-friendly gal named Liz who is also a blogger at Vegan Food Rocks, came over and we talked a few times throughout the meal. She let me grill her on the sourcing of the ingredients and while I was a little disappointed to hear that they don't seem to source directly from local farms, they are very conscious about supporting local businesses and sourcing sustainable and organic produce. 

Overall, the service was fantastic and the food was delicious. It was a bit more indulgent than I typically eat, but I'd certainly recommend Red Lentil and will be back

Red Lentil Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant

If I could give Red Lentil any advice, it would be to fill the window boxes with fresh herbs instead of flowers. Rosemary, thyme, and sage are all attractive and hardy herbs and would add a really nice touch on the way in to the restaurant. In addition to the visual appeal of the fresh herbs, the restaurant would probably save money on sourcing fresh herbs and get better quality ingredients from their windowsill than they could from a distributor, grocer, or even a local farm. I'd also suggest more seasonal variety in the menu and ditching ingredients like tofutti vegan cream cheese. Sure, it's vegan and tastes just like cream cheese, but that doesn't make it healthy or sustainable. Last time I checked, it was chock full of ingredients I don't let in my kitchen. That said, nobody's perfect and Red Lentil is a great place to bring omnivores who are opposed to eating a diet of straight vegetables and beans. 

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Sprouted Quinoa with Cannellini Beans and Fresh Veggies

Here's a super quick, easy, and delicious dinner recipe that is jam-packed with nutrition! You can tell I threw together a bunch of random ingredients I dug out of the fridge, but it just goes to show you that stocking a few basic pantry essentials (like canned beans) can make a dinner appear out of nowhere in under 30 minutes!
You can make this into a soup by adding carrots, celery, onions, & broth
1 c sprouted quinoa (or regular quinoa or brown rice)
2 c low-sodium vegetable broth or water
3/4 c frozen peas
1 c tomato sauce
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, strained and rinsed
1 cup kale, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
dried oregano, salt, and pepper to taste
fresh parsley and/or basil, if you have it
The Line-Up
Cook quinoa per package instructions (typically 1 c quinoa to 2 c liquid). I usually use a rice cooker for grains, but opted for the stove on this one because quinoa cooks in 15 min on the stove and I wanted to keep it to one pot for easy clean-up, but wanted to heat the rest of the ingredients, too. While the quinoa cooks, gather the rest of the ingredients and chop your kale and zucchini.
Add the peas, please!
When the quinoa is almost done cooking, add the frozen peas, stir to combine, cover, and let simmer another couple minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, beans, kale, and zucchini. Stir to combine and add additional liquid if the contents of your pot seem dry (you don't want it to burn!). Continue to cook over low heat until everything is heated through.
Eat all the colors of the rainbow!
Turn off the heat and fold in chopped fresh parsley and/or basil. Spoon into a bowl. Garnish with a sprinkle of your favorite grated cheese and/or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and dig in!
This protein and fiber packed dish should fill you up in no time!

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