Join a CSA !

IMG_6384I ‘m always trying to inspire people to make good choices, especially when it comes to eating habits. But, in order to motivate others, I know I need to give a good example.
So a couple of weeks ago I joined a CSA, i.e. a Community Sustained Agriculture program.
What is a CSA? It’s a program that allows people to reap the benefits of eating local, seasonal, high-quality fruits and vegetables and at, the same time, ensure that the farmers stay in the business of growing organic food.

http://www.outeraislefoods.com/csa.html

It’s a very sensible and innovative concept but, if you think, it’s not very different from what we used to do in the past. It’s ironic how, with our constant need to improve, sometimes we change things that are good just as they are. Until a few decades ago, we used to eat only what was in season and only what was local, simply because we had no other choice. But transportation and refrigeration have changed completely our diets. Add the fact that we love quantity, variety and convenience and so were born the supermarkets, brimming with produce that is in-season year round, often comes from thousands of miles away, and that looks so good that it seems fake. And fake it is: genetically engineered, pumped with fertilizers, dipped in chemical baths and waxed to extend its shelf life. Have you ever noticed that apples do not rot anymore? Well, at least apparently. They actually do, but from the inside out. The artificial waxing prevents them from “breathing”, so that their surface remains firm. As it happens, Mother Nature thought about waxing before humans did and apples do produce their own natural waxy coating. Over time, though, untreated apples wrinkle. Who would buy apples that look like these?
IMG_6382
Actually, these apples are still delicious. I bought them eight months ago from a local organic farm and kept them in my cellar. In spite of their appearance, they are still edible. I cut them into big pieces, add water, some raisins, and cook them for twenty minutes. They absorb the water like sponges, plump up and they end up looking exactly like cooked apples bought yesterday. I eat them in the morning with my yoghurt or as a dessert.

IMG_6392After picking up my first delivery from Outer Aisle CSA – what a suggestive name! – and spreading that vegetal bounty over my counter, in my mind I thanked the good people at Outer Aisle for finding the courage to start their distribution network.
CSAs have existed for the last 25 years but where I live there simply wasn’t enough demand to support a CSA. Like all agriculture-related businesses, it’s in fact a risky and not so-profitable venture, but finally the local awareness scale has tipped towards choosing quality vs. quantity, and we can finally afford to have a CSA.

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.

So find a CSA near you and join it today !

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Do it for yourself and do it for the people you love.
Do it to teach your children how to eat right, what is in season and what is not, but also so that they can experience what you experienced as a child when “eating your fruit” meant savoring your neighbor’s juicy peaches or your grandma’s sweet cherries, not drinking a box of juice sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Do it to pass on to your children good habits that will keep them healthy, not only physically but also mentally and morally because processed food might be cheaper and more gratifying than real food but, like any other shortcut in life, they are going to pay later for it.

Swiss Chard with Rice and Poached Egg

This simple and quick recipe combines all you need for a nutritious breakfast or a simple lunch:

  • a leafy green low in calories but high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and rich in minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus;
  • carbohydrates from the rice;
  • proteins from the egg.

I love this dish not only because of its beautiful combination of flavors, but also because the Vitamin C is a poweful antioxidant and the Vitamin K is well known for promoting bone formation and strengthening, making it ideal for middle-aged women (like me).
Ingredients:

(serves 2)  A  V  B  Gf

  • 1 bunch of organic Swiss Chard
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. Evoo
  • 2 organic eggs
  • a few drops of vinegar
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 1 tsp. of sea salt

Wash thoroughly the Swiss chard and chop it into small pieces.  Transfer it into a pot with 2 cups of water, boil it for 10 minutes, and drain it.
Cook the rice in salted water, until al dente (12-15 minutes) and keep it warm.
Meanwhile, warm up the Evoo in a pan, peel the garlic, halve it, remove its green core and sautè it for a couple of minutes into the warm Evoo. Remove the garlic and sautè the Swiss chard for 5-7 minutes.
In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a gentle boil. Lower the heat until the water is simmering. Add a few drops of vinegar and gently break one egg at a time into the water, making sure not to break them. Cook for four minutes.
While the eggs are cooking, divide the Swiss chard onto two serving plates, arranging it to form a ring. Place the rice in the center of the ring and, once they are ready, place one egg on top of the rice, one per plate.
Serve warm.

Raw Quinoa Porridge*

This porridge contains a lot of good protein. It’s perfect for breakfast or as a revitalizing snack after exercising.  

Ingredients:

(serves 2)   A  B  Gf  V

  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp. Chia seeds
  • 2 Apples
  • 1 tbs. Almond, cashew or coconut butter
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1-2 Tsp. rice syrup or agave syrup
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • For decoration (optional): macadamia nuts or pecan nuts or coconut flakes Continue reading

Strawberry Clafouti

Clafouti is a classic French dessert that can also become a very nice brunch dish. Its execution is very simple, yet the result is rich and pleasant.
It’s typically made with cherries (with their pit, so that all the flavor is maintained) but I propose this slight variation because cherries can be still watery at the beginning of their season, while strawberries are at their peak in May and June.
Keep enjoying
clafouti’s light texture all summer long, with different kinds of berries.

Ingredients:

(serves 6)   Sp  Sr  V   

  •  8 oz. of organic strawberries
  • ½ Tbsp. unsalted organic butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 2 tsp. of cornstarch
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. of vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven at 350 F.
Grease a 2-quart baking dish with the butter. Continue reading

Chia Porridge*

Ingredients:

(serves 2)    A  V  B  Gf

  • 3-4 Tbsp. of chia seeds
  • 2-3 dried sulfate-free fruits (like apricots, dates, prunes, etc.)
  • ½ cup of water or rice milk or carrot juice
  • a pinch of cinnamon

Cover the chia seeds and dried fruit with liquid (water or rice milk or carrot juice) and soak overnight.
The following morning add some fresh fruit, the cinnamon and more liquid (water, juice, heavy cream, rice milk, etc.) until you get the consistency you like.
Serve cold.
Chia seeds can be substituted with linseed.

* Recipe by Sonja Bachus

Ideas for breakfast

 If I were a car, I would have one of those old diesel engines that need to be warmed up.
My mornings start slowly, very slowly. I’m so grumpy that my son has given me a fridge magnet that reads “Just plain evil without my coffee.”
It is indeed only after a strong, sweet espresso that I can start to reason, but still not enough to be creative about my breakfast. My upbringing doesn’t help either. In my family breakfast was strictly sweet and most of the time consisted of milk and coffee with cookies. Continue reading

Idli

Three years ago, when I had to change my diet because of some food intolerances, at first I found it difficult to replace the things I was no longer allowed to eat with something that I really liked.
Our appetite is in fact activated by biological triggers as well as by the appeal that certain foods have on us, and by the senses they stimulate. For example, the smell of a cake baking in the oven makes us want to eat a slice of that cake, even if we are not hungry. However, should that cake have a horrible aspect, our desire to eat it would immediately vanish. Continue reading

Quick and easy tortilla wraps

Who isn’t in a rush, raise your hand!
I don’t know why, but things tend to pile up by the end of the week. We find ourselves dashing to finish all the things we didn’t do in the previous four days, to prevent them from spilling into our well-deserved (and always already too busy) weekend.
Come on, it can’t be Friday already! If I look behind, I must admit that – so far – it has been a productive week but, if I look at the ambitious to-do list I jotted down last Sunday night, I need at least an extra day to finish everything. Since I can’t have it, I’ll have to carve out the extra hour I need for mowing the grass before the rain.
How? By cutting my lunch cooking time with my quick and easy tortillas.
Try one for breakfast and one to take to the office for your lunch, or perhaps all four of them for your family dinner tonight.

 Wrap # 1

Ingredients:

(serves 2 people)  A  V  B  Gf

  • 2 white corn tortillas *
  • 2 Tbsp. low-fat whipped cream cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 1Tbsp. Evoo
  • ½ cup pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pinch of paprika
  • 1 pinch of salt

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, remove the flesh with a spoon, transfer into a cup, Continue reading

Zucchini Frittata

 Frittata is one of my lifesaving dishes: it’s quick and easy to make, nutritious, tasty and almost everybody likes it. Moreover, it can be cooked with many different ingredients, making it the ideal dish for any meal, for a picnic, even for a sandwich. It’s inexpensive, can be served warm or cold, and turns into a perfect leftover. Continue reading

Corn cake – Torta Maisotta

Torta Maisotta is a specialty of Piedmont, a region in northwestern Italy. It’s naturally gluten-free, easy to make, perfect for dessert or for breakfast.
For a softer texture, a
dd a cubed apple to its ingredients, like I did.
Serve it with a dab of whipped cream or your favorite fruit preserve.



Ingredients:

(for 8 people)  F  W  V  B  Gf

  • 2 cups of organic yellow corn meal (not too coarse)
  • 3 Tbsp. of organic brown sugar
  • 2 eggs Continue reading