Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Ethivore is taking a break for the rest of the week to enjoy time (and good food!) with family and friends.  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Look for updates on the blog next Monday.  And don't forget to leave your feedback to help me make Ethivore even better!


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe: Piñon Stuffing for Thanksgiving

I am getting excited for Thanksgiving on Thursday!  Looking forward to seeing family and friends, and enjoying my dad's wonderful cooking.  Dad agreed to share his recipe for one of the dishes I look forward to every year- his fantastic holiday stuffing.  Now you too can make it part of your Thanksgiving spread!

Piñon Stuffing
By Jim Madison

2 or three bunches of scallions, thinly sliced
2 sticks of butter (or margarine for vegan option)
2 teaspoons tarragon (crush it after you measure, or use four tsp. fresh chopped)
1 teaspoon savory
1 bunch Italian parsley (enough to make 1 cup chopped)
1/2 cup pine nuts
12 to 14 cups fresh bread crumbs (or about 10 to 12 cups dried crumbs)
A couple of sticks celery, thinly sliced

Melt the butter in a large pan and sauté the scallions until they are limp but not crispy or brown. Add the celery and spices and sauté briefly. Pour the mixture over the bread crumbs, stirring to coat evenly. (If you use dry crumbs, add water first to rehydrate them before pouring the butter and seasonings on.)  Stir in the pine nuts.

Put some of the stuffing in the turkey just before baking and bake the rest for an hour or so in a separate covered pan.

Pass around the table and enjoy!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

What Do You Think?

beans question mark

So, the Ethivore blog has been up for a couple months now.  I just want to check in with you, the readers, and get some feedback.  Which posts have been your favorite?  What types of posts do you find most valuable or interesting?  Do like overviews of food issues?  How-to posts?  Personal stories?  News items? Reviews?  Recipes?  Help me make Ethivore even better- leave your comments and suggestions below.

Thank you!


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recipe: Blue Ribbon Cornbread

For this week's recipe,  I'm recommending you to Kosher Blog's post on Dana Sly's Blue Ribbon Vegan Cornbread.  This Iowa State Fair award-winning recipe uses ground flax seeds instead of eggs to thicken and bind the ingredients.  Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, and Mayo Clinic reports that they “can help reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels — and, as a result, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” 

For this recipe, I bought a bag of whole flax seeds (they store better whole- keep in fridge or freezer), and ground them with a mortar and pestle.  (You can also use a spice or coffee grinder if you have one.)  I also followed one reviewer's suggestion and added 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to the soy milk to make “buttermilk,” and 1/4 cup of corn kernels to make a hearty, chunky cornbread.  The result was moist and delicious, definitely one of the best cornbreads I've had.  Try it for yourself and tell me what you think!

To substitute ground flax seeds for eggs in other baked goods, follow the ratio of 1 Tbsp ground flax seed and 3 Tbsp water per one large egg in the recipe.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on the World Food Summit 2009

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) World Summit on Food Security (WSFS) ended today, after three days of meetings on the best way to tackle hunger. The summit comes at a time when more than 1 billion people around the world are going hungry, but it offers little hope for new solutions to the problem.

The summit was crippled from the beginning by the refusal of leaders from the G8 countries to attend. The only G8 leader in attendance was Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The rhetoric of the summit also offers little cause for optimism. The Declaration of the World Summit on Food Security continues to emphasize increased production, commodity crop production, and technological fixes. Indeed, the endorsement of genetically modified food crops has been made even more explicit than in the past: “We will seek to mobilize the resources needed to increase productivity, including the review, approval and adoption of biotechnology and other new technologies and innovations that are safe, effective, and environmentally sustainable.” The wording of this statement not only confers FAO approval on GMOs but also implies they are “safe, effective, and environmentally sustainable.”

In addition, the Declaration clearly aligns the FAO with World Trade Organization (WTO) priorities: “We agree to refrain from taking measures that are inconsistent with the WTO rules, with adverse impacts on global, regional and national food security.” This means that, while developed countries will surely continue to subsidize and protect their own crop production, small producers in developing countries must compete without protections in an open market. Coupled with the emphasis on commodity crop exports, this approach to food security has proven disastrous in the past. As the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Forum Parallel to the World Summit on Food Security emphasized, producing crops for export must not displace local food production.

The World Summit on Food Security also continues to use watered-down, almost meaningless language about the right to food: “We affirm the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, consistent with the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.” It urges countries to adopt the “Voluntary guidelines for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.” This language is used specifically to absolve rich countries from an obligation to aid poorer countries in keeping people from starving.

Despite these continued disappointments, there are a few positive signs in the rhetoric of the WSFS: recognition of the need for continued review of the impacts of biofuels, a few mentions of implementing “sustainable practices,” and a nod to the importance of smallholders and women farmers. However, farmers and other stakeholders continue to be marginalized in the decision-making process. The parallel conference, People’s Food Sovereignty Now!, achieved little attention from or dialogue with the WSFS.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO, ended the summit with his closing statements today. He said that in order to feed a projected 9 billion people in 2050, the developed world would need to increase production by 70% and developing countries by 100%. These projections ignore the massive waste in the current industrial agricultural system. For example, an increasing focus on commodity crops for export has allowed food to rot in warehouses while people nearby starve. We must start thinking of the problem of hunger as systematic and requiring comprehensive social and economic solutions, rather than continuing to focus only on increasing yields.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movie Review: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. takes a sweeping look at all that is wrong with our current food system. The documentary draws on Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, and both authors narrate parts of the film. While much of the information presented can be found in more detail in these two books, the message is important enough to say over and over again.  And the film genre, with its startling and disturbing images, adds a new dimension to the words. Food, Inc. hits all the major points, in a way that feels a little disjointed at first but becomes more and more compelling.

Food, Inc. examines the consolidation of the industrial food chain and the drive to produce more and more for fewer and larger companies.  I was very impressed that the Vice President of the American Corn Growers Association had a role in the film, explaining how government policy encourages overproduction by subsidizing corn so that it can be produced below the cost of production. He talks about the powerful lobbies of the food companies that have an interest in purchasing corn below the cost of production. The film also draws the connection between subsidizing unhealthy calories (in the form of high fructose corn syrup and other corn derivatives) and the skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in this country. I was gratified to hear Pollan acknowledge that there are those who simply can’t afford to eat well, and that policy change as well as individual action is needed.

The film moves from industrial agriculture to factory farming and the horrific conditions of industrially-raised animals. It talks about the spread of deadly E. Coli in the food system and presents the personal story of the mother of an infant killed by E. Coli in his hamburger. The details of slaughterhouse conditions and lack of oversight by government agencies certainly will make you think twice about where you get your meat. Food, Inc. also shows some alternatives, and Joel Salatin, the “beyond-organic” farmer highlighted in The Omnivore’s Dilemma makes several appearances in the film to show us around his farm and share his wisdom.

While trying to get a broad overview of a problem, its easy for disparate pieces to get lost, but this film does a good job hitting all the major points and holding them together. From NAFTA and immigration to the political ties and influence of the likes of Monsanto, to genetically engineered soybeans and bans on seed-saving, Food, Inc. shows how systematic the problems of the industrial food system are and why high-tec fixes alone won’t fix it.

Even though all of the themes in the film were quite familiar, I enjoyed watching it and hearing some of the major players in the field describe the problems. I even had some “WHAT!?” moments myself, such as learning about a company using ammonia to clean its “meat product” for hamburger filling.

The film ends with easy, powerful suggestions for action and a simple message: “You can change the system.” Food, Inc. is out on DVD now, so pick it up at the movie store, download a discussion guide from the website, and invite your friends. To learn more about the film and what you can do, visit www.foodincmovie.com.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Plenty More Fish in the Sea? How to Choose Sustainable Seafood

The Problem
While the old adage says there are “plenty more fish in the sea,” this is not as true as it once was. Overfishing and other poor fishing practices have brought levels of wild fish to extreme lows and destroyed crucial ocean habitats. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, humans have removed “as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and cod from the world's oceans.” Practices such as trawling the ocean floor by dragging nets across the bottom destroy delicate marine ecosystems and also result in “bycatch,” unwanted species of fish, turtles, and marine mammals and birds that are thrown, dead or dying, back into the ocean.  Better management and fishing practices are needed to reduce these damages.

Farming fish can be harmful as well. Industrial-scale aquaculture often results in pollution and the destruction of natural habitats, as well as the escape of farmed fish and diseases into wild fish populations.  Industrial aquaculture usually concentrates on raising large, predatory fish species, which are fed smaller, wild-caught fish, intensifying the impact.  However, some fish farmers are coming up with ways to minimize these negative outcomes and even contribute positively to habitat restoration and city water treatment.  For more information on innovative and ecologically sound aquaculture practices, see Senior Researcher Brian Halweil’s Worldwatch Report on Farming Fish for the Future.

Eating seafood raises concerns not only about the environment but also about human health.  Fish is usually viewed as a healthy food because it is a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health.  However, many fish, especially predatory species, have high concentrations of mercury and other toxins.  Fish can ingest mercury, industrial chemicals, and pesticides from contaminated water; fish that eat other fish end up with much higher levels of these toxins in their bodies.  Ingesting mercury and other toxins can be harmful to human health, especially for more vulnerable people and pregnant women.

What You Can Do

As an ethivore, how can you minimize negative impacts on your health and the natural environment if you want to eat seafood? It is hard to speak in generalities since so much depends on the practices of the particular fishery or farm supplying the seafood. However, it is usually better, both for the environment and your health, to eat smaller, non-predatory species that do not require many other fish to support them and do not concentrate toxins as much. Try to choose seafood like tilapia, carp, and shellfish over tuna, salmon, or shrimp.

The best way to find out about a particular species and fishing/ farming practice is to consult a consumer guide before going to a grocery store or restaurant. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” and the Environmental Defense Fund’s “Seafood Selector” are both excellent, well-researched guides. Both organizations have searchable databases online, printable quick guides, and downloadable guides for your mobile device. They also have specific guides for choosing sushi.  Monterey Bay Aquarium’s pocket guides are region-specific, making it easier to identify sustainable local choices. That organization also has a new “Super Green List” of fish that’s good for your health and the ocean.  Environmental Defense Fund has a useful Fish Substitutions page with suggested alternatives to the “Eco-Worst” choices that are similar in texture and flavor.

Another way to identify sustainable seafood is by looking for the Marine Stewardship Council label at the store or on your restaurant menu.  MSC certifies fish from wild fisheries that meet its standards for maintaining sustainable fish stocks, minimizing environmental impact, and effective management. You can also check which products are certified on the website.

All of this may seem like a lot to think about, but these organizations are making choosing sustainable seafood as effortless as possible.  Download a guide today and carry it with you.  It will come in handy the next time you're out to eat or standing at the seafood counter in the grocery store!

If you found this guide helpful, be sure to check out last month's Quick Guide to Consumer Food Labels for Meat, Dairy, and Eggs.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009


If you haven't discovered Freecycle yet, or haven't taken the time to check it out, I strongly encourage you to do so!  The Freecycle Network™ is a grassroots, nonprofit movement that connects people giving things away for free.  It works on the idea that "one person's trash is another one's treasure"- people list usable items that they no longer want, and people who need these items can respond and pick them up.  I've seen everything from firewood to TVs to baby bottles listed.  I recently joined the Arlington Freecycle group, and am anxiously awaiting a light fixture that I will rig up to supplement natural light for growing plants indoors!  I've also given away several things that were gathering dust in my closet.  There are 4,852 Freecycle groups all around the world, and membership is free.  Join a group today, clean out your closet or garage without contributing to a landfill, and maybe even discover a treasure of your own.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recipe: Quinoa and Black Beans

If you haven't cooked with quinoa before, this is a great recipe to try it out!  Quinoa is a small, very protein-rich grain, full of good vitamins and minerals.  It can be substituted for rice or couscous in many recipes, and has a slightly nutty flavor.  Before cooking, quinoa should be soaked for about 30 minutes to an hour to remove saponin, which can make it bitter and harder to digest.  (Some people prefer not to soak quinoa or to soak it for much longer periods, but I've found 30 minutes to an hour to be a good balance.)  You'll probably need a mesh strainer to drain the rinse water after, because the grains are so small.

Uncooked quinoa

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, soaked and drained
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2/3 cup cooked black beans (or 16 ounce can, rinsed and drained)
1 (16 ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

• Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
• Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
• Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and tomatoes. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

This recipe is good hot or cold, and leftovers make great lunches.  I hope you enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Humanity’s Unique Status and What It Means for Life on Earth

Last fall, 100 scientists issued an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report stating that 1 in 4 mammals face extinction—in other words, 25 % of mammals are threatened.  What are the causes of loss of biological diversity?  Why should we care?  What are activists concerned about biological diversity doing and what should they do to stem this loss? 

Humanity: The Problem
    It is clear that humans are to blame for the current extinction crisis.  Both Stephen Meyer and E. O. Wilson place the calamity squarely on the shoulders of humanity. Wilson says that “human overpopulation” is a root cause of all the other factors in the loss of biological diversity: “habitat loss,” “invasive species,” “pollution,” and “overharvesting.”  Meyer names these same forces in only slightly different terms: “development, agriculture, resource consumption, pollution, and alien species.”  The forms of humanity’s impact are many, but the heart of the matter is simple: humans are everywhere.  Although Wilson says that Homo sapiens “is a species confined to an extremely small [ecological] niche,” the truth is that humans have proven to be remarkable versatile, colonizing all but the most inhospitable areas of the globe.  Most of this adaptability, as Wilson points out, is a matter of our mastery of technology, a function of our intelligence and ingenuity.  At the beginning of The End of the Wild, Meyer describes “weedy species” as “adaptive generalists—species that flourish in a variety of ecological settings, switch easily between food types, and breed prolifically.”  In the terms of this definition, humans are the consummate weedy species.  Humanity’s resourcefulness and genius have allowed it to adapt to myriad habitats around the globe and to multiply to fill these spaces; however, humanity reaches even further than this.  When humanity cannot adapt to local conditions, it assimilates the landscape to itself instead.  Throughout the last 10,000 years, humans have dug up the land, selectively cultivated plants to being eaten by people, re-routed rivers, and moved mountains.  Humankind has re-inscribed the face of the earth to such an extent that it is currently in danger of writing large swatches of the life on it out of existence.  Do we care?

Why Why We Care Is Not Enough
    So it is established that humans, with our vast ingenuity and versatility, are the cause of the extinction crisis underway today.  Many people are worried and are sounding the alarm for others to get concerned as well.  However, the reasons a person has for caring about the loss of biological diversity will affect what s/he is willing to do about, what s/he sees as a reasonable solution (if there is one), and which causes of the problem s/he is willing to acknowledge and address.  If the argument against the loss of biological diversity is not given the proper frame, the steps taken to address the problem cannot yield long-term solutions.  Many of the arguments as to why we should care do not lead to genuine resolution.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Farmers' Market Love

I am lucky enough to have the Arlington Farmers' Market just a couple blocks from my apartment every Saturday morning.  It's open year-round, and is a producer-only market (no re-selling of other people's goods).  The vendors' farms have to be local to within 125 miles of the market.  They sell fruits and vegetables, free-range meat and eggs, cheese, mushrooms, and homemade goods like pasta, bread, pies, and jam.  Going to the farmers' market is a great way to get fresh, delicious food and to interact with neighbors and local farmers.  A wonderful Saturday morning activity!

Cabbage as big as a car!  (Just kidding, but still a very impressive cabbage!)

(These chickens weren't actually for sale, just advertising upcoming eggs!)

Here's my haul this week. I went with $25, and came back with all of this, including a little change:

There are tons of farmers markets all over the U.S.!  Find one near you using the search box below.

Image courtesy of LocalHarvest.org

Enter Your Zip Code or City:

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Recipe: Dad's Nutty Granola

Today I want to share a delicious granola recipe cooked up by my father:
4 cups old-fashioned oats
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar 

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
3 Tbsp canola oil 

3 Tbsp water 

1 cup each of almonds and pecans
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch of ginger

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees F.  Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside.  Mix oats, brown sugar, nuts, salt and spices. Bring honey, oil, and water to a simmer in a saucepan or microwave.  Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine.  Pour mixture onto prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes. Stir.  Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 to 30 minutes longer.  Let cool.  (Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.)

My batch was gone much faster!  I also crushed the nuts up a little before adding them to make pieces of varying size.  I hope you enjoy this granola as much as we do!

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finding Your Thanksgiving Turkey

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it's time to start thinking about where you're going to get your bird. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the bounty of the earth and enjoy the company of family and friends, so it is a great time to think about making food choices that support health, animal welfare, and the environment.  Instead of just heading to the supermarket for a factory-farmed turkey, why not connect with a local farmer to find a bird that has been raised sustainably and treated well?

You might also consider buying a "heritage" turkey.  99% of turkeys raised in the U.S. are of one breed, the "Broadbreasted White," which has been bred to suit industrial agriculture with its unusually large breasts.  The Food and Agriculture Organization says that these birds are unable to reproduce naturally and would die out within a generation without artificial insemination conducted by humans.  Without genetic diversity, the turkey population is also susceptible to being wiped out by disease.  Heritage turkey farmers are trying to bolster genetic diversity by raising various traditional turkey breeds, such as the Beltsville Small White, the Jersey Buff, the Narragansett, and the White Midget.

Here are some resources for finding your perfect holiday turkey:

Local Harvest allows you to search the Turkey Shop for organic, pastured, and heritage turkeys for pickup or delivery from local farms.

Using the advanced search option on the Eat Well Guide, you can search for turkeys with various characteristics (pasture raised, organic, vegetarian-fed) and find farms, stores, and butchers near you.

In the Midwest, you can find heritage turkeys from the Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch Consortium, made up of several farms in Kansas and Iowa.

 A turkey that has been raised sustainably and treated humanely not only looks and tastes better but also, as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal, can be a great conversation starter to introduce family and friends to the idea of being an "ethivore."

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to Stock Your Pantry

It’s easy to reach for a take-out menu when you feel like there is nothing to eat in the house, or that cooking would be too much of a chore. But when you keep some staple foods on hand, you can whip up an easy dinner as quickly as the delivery person could get to your door. Cooking fresh, wholesome foods at home is better for your health, your budget, and, ultimately, the environment. Here is a guide to what I keep in my kitchen. These basic ingredients can be combined in a number of ways for easy meals, or supplemented with a few more unusual ingredients to yield fancier cuisine.

Brown rice
Rolled oats
Whole-wheat couscous
Whole-wheat pasta

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Give a man a heifer... feed him for a lifetime!

I recently received Heifer International’s holiday gift catalog in the mail, which got me thinking again about the creative way this organization is addressing world hunger. Heifer International is a nonprofit dedicated to providing livestock to impoverished families all over the world. It works with people in poverty-stricken areas to develop goals and action plans based on community-identified needs. It then provides resources and training, preparing people to receive a gift of live animals. The animals can be anything from water buffalos to chicks to honeybees, depending on the location and particular need. Heifer International calls these animals “living loans” because each family that receives aid promises to give one of the animals’ offspring to others in need. In addition to providing fresh milk and eggs for consumption or wool or offspring for sale, these animals become part of a sustainable land management plan by contributing natural fertilizer for the fields and biogas for cooking and heating. Families are taught agroecological techniques for caring for the land, which help conserve the natural environment and renew soil productivity, increasing crop yields. Heifer International also provides veterinary training and teaches families how to care for the animals’ well being. By integrating charitable giving, sustainable practices, and animal welfare in a solution to hunger, Heifer International exemplifies “ethivorous” thinking!

Consider asking for or giving a donation as a holiday gift this year. Browse the online gift catalog here.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

What's In Season?

With fall in full swing, the grocery stores around here are brimming with bright orange pumpkins, colorful winter squash, and rosy apples, reflecting the bounty of nearby farms.  But the shelves are also stocked with more well-traveled items like oranges and grapes.  For people who are trying to keep their environmental impact low, as well as those who just enjoy eating fresh, flavorful food, selecting produce that's in season is the best choice.  And while it's easy to tell that oranges don't grow on trees around here, it can be harder to sort out which greens and veggies are in season at every moment.  Fortunately, there are some websites that make finding out what's in season in your particular location a snap, without complex charts.  One good site is the Natural Resources Defense Council's Eat Local page.  You can search its database using the box below.

Another great resource is Epicurious' Seasonal Ingredient Map,which lets you choose the month and then click your state on a map to see a list of in-season food items.  Each item also links to a page with tips on how to select, prepare, and store that food, as well as providing recipes.


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