Thursday, March 31, 2011

Farmers' Market or CSA

It is Spring. It is time to start getting some really wonderful fresh, locally grown produce week after week. However, one question remains:
Should you shop at a Farmers' Market, or should you subscribe to a CSA?

First, let's begin with a quick explanation of each for any newbies out there.

What is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture, abbreviated CSA, is a direct relationship between you, the consumer and a farmer. It is called "community supported" because this direct relationship is shared with other members of your local community. At the beginning of the season (or before it begins) you pay a subscription fee to become a "share holder" in the farm for the season. This money helps pay for the costs of running the farm and the farmer him/herself. Each week during the growing season you will receive your share of the crops.

What is a Farmers' Market?

A Farmers' Market is a place where local farmers gather to sell their crops to the public. Depending on the location, availability of farmers and demand some Farmers' Markets can open multiple times a week. They are usually held in open, public spaces such as parking lots (my closest farmers' market is held in the parking lot of the Staten Island Mall).

What Are The Benefits of Each?

I imagine there are benefits to farmers as well, but as I am not a farmer myself, I will speak only from a consumer point of view in terms of the perceived benefits in supporting either one of these methods for sustaining your healthy habits.

 The CSA is built upon a close-knit community of like-minded individuals.
  • In my local CSA, in  addition to the subscription fee you do also have to help out each week with distribution, in other words, do your share. I think this is a fantastic way to build relationships with the people involved, as well as build a greater appreciation for your food. 
  • In terms of what you receive at each pickup, the CSA can build in a sense of adventure in your cooking repertoire. Each box/basket/bag may fluctuate in terms of what they contain, so you can be sure that you will be trying new things throughout the season!
The Farmers' Market is built upon a diverse group of farmers looking to share their goods with as many people as they can.
  • My Farmers' Market is not as large as the one in Union Square, Manhattan (of course!), but each week there are at least three different produce stands there representing at least three different farms. It is a diverse group - one that focuses heavily on vegetables, one that has fruits (with the added benefit of sharing their baked goods from their bakery) and a stand (or two, depending on the week) frm smaller farms that have cool and interesting finds.
  • In addition to produce stands, there are occasionally stands sharing meat, poultry or fish products (my local CSA does not offer this, I do not know if others do).
  • In short, the Farmers' Market offers choices each and every time you visit.

How Do You Decide?
There is a reason why both of these methods for obtaining your fresh foods have been increasingly growing in popularity over the last couple of years: they are both great options! The decision will have to come down to personal preference and circumstances. Here is a list of some things to consider and actions to take in order to make the right decision for YOU:
  1. Meet with the members and the farmer of the CSA you are considering. This should not be difficult to do, most CSAs have a meeting before the season begins for this exact purpose. You will be spending a season with these people and supporting this farm - Are you a fan of their crops? What do the other share holders have to say about previous years' yields? How often did they have to shop in addition to their share just to make meals? What happens if there is a bad season due to weather, drought, etc.? Are there any other obligations held by share holders beyond the financial commitment?
  2. Check your schedules. Are you available during the times of a CSA pickup? Are you available during the times of your local Farmers' Markets? How long is the season (this is a question for either) - in other words when does all the fresh goodness end?
  3. Are you looking for Certified Organic? If you are, then this may be an issue. You must talk to your farmers - either at the market or from the CSA - many farmers are not "certified organic" for a number of reasons. If this is a non-negotiable for you, then you know this is not for you. However, I would suggest that you engage them in a discussion about why they are not certified. For some farmers it is just about what the certification process costs.
  4. What kind of cook are you? This, I think, could be a real decision maker for some. In a CSA you are giving over control of your weekly produce ingredients to the magical mysteries of "what's in my box??" Most farmers can give you a pretty good idea of what's coming, but it may not be exact. If this idea terrifies you, then a CSA may not be the right idea for you. 
  5. Where do you want your money to go? I hope you are always asking yourself this question when buying food, but in this case, it is really a face-to-face exchange. When you become a share holder in a CSA you truly are a part of something - your money is literally part of what is making that farm function. While the same could be said of the money you spend at Farmers' Markets, I personally feel as though a deeper connection is borne of the agreement between a farmer and a share holder.

NOW is the time to decide. CSAs run out of spaces nearly instantly, so if this is something you are considering tonight is the night to have the discussion with your family before the decision is made for you. Local Harvest is a fantastic resource to find the CSAs and Farmers' Markets available near you. Real Time Farms is also building a database of Farmers' Markets (this site creates an even richer experience than Local Harvest by adding videos, blogs and other "real time" media about each farm - if your market isn't listed there yet, you should contact them!).


So what's your take - CSA or Farmers' Market? 
Do you have an experience that can help us make our decision?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Moves Monday Run Down #4 (from The Hummingbird Project)

Do Something Month is coming to a close. In this final week of March, I, like the hummingbird, kept up doing what little I could in my corner of the world. It wasn't much, but I feel like my contributions will grow into larger, life-long actions that will influence my family and friends and who knows who else beyond that realm!

Composting is something our house has needed for a LONG time!

I am declaring myself a composter. Honestly, I know I still have a lot to learn, but I am actively collecting my kitchen scraps, bringing them to my bin outside which is layered nicely and my garbage has been reduced. In fact, just the other night, when my husband and I were out we return to a typical scene - a garbage bag strewn across the floor, chewed through, with various items taken out and explored through. The culprit? Buffy, the beast.
She's a beagle, she can't really help herself and she was taught by Chewy, who passed away in 2009. Anyway, as I got to the routine of cleaning up, which didn't seem that bad my husband said, "Well this is one huge benefit of your composting!" He was right! There was nothing but boring garbage in the bag - no food scraps, nothing messy - she basically went into the bag because of some old deli container my husband threw away, and she was kind enough to lick up every trace of whatever the heck it was he had in there! B.C. (you know, "Before Compost") there would have been potato peels, apple cores, melon rinds, strawberry tops, etc all over my kitchen floor, in the living room and, perhaps, even buried in Buffy's bed!

Gardening on the horizon with total appreciation (finally!).

I may even get started with this today. I purchased a nice planter for a small herb garden along with some herb seeds (I have basil, oregano and cilantro). I bought sunflower seeds, too. I am not sure where I want these yet (mom once grew them on the side of the house), but I really look forward to their growth. As for my husbands resistance to growing food in our yard, well, we had a very interesting exchange on Saturday:
Me: I saw this cool book that is all about gardening and homsteading. I think I am going to get it.
Hubby: Oh yeah?
Me: Yeah. I thought it was awesome because it talked about everything from planning your gardens all the way to canning and preserving which I don't remember anything about. I would just love to be able to can my own tomatoes.
Hubby [putting XBox controller down]: Wait... What do you mean? We can do that? OH WOW. I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT.
Me [smiling/laughing]: How do you think my grandmother was doing it back in Palazzo Adriano?! Why do you think I want to grow my own food so badly? THINK of how DELICIOUS it would be!
And for some reason, after all of these years, after so many long, arduous conversations about growing our own food he finally gets it.

Turning out the lights enlightened me.

This past Saturday my husband and I participated in Earth Hour 2011. It was not a public gathering, but, instead a small act in our own home. The experience drove us to a simple evening together over a book. It was wonderful, relaxing and gave me much to think about in terms of my own abuse of electricity on a daily basis. I wrote a complete post about our experience, including candle-lit pictures called Lights Out for Mother.

What's something YOU DO that we can replicate in order to make great changes from small moves?

*If you think you might be interested in writing a guest post about any action you took during Do Something Month, please feel free to e-mail me at

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Day of Action

The Rally for the Right to Know
For those of you that follow Searching for Sustenance's Facebook Page, you know that today was the Rally for the Right to Know all over the US. While the event in Washington DC is still going on (it is running from 11am to 3pm), the New York City rally at City Hall had a shorter event time from 12pm to 1pm.

I am ashamed to say, I missed it. I had to rely on mass transit since my husband was working, and when I realized it was nearly 11:30am and I was still standing on a bus stop in Staten Island with no signs of my stupid bus that would then take about an hour to get me where I was going, I admitted defeat. I now have a $20 MetroCard burning a hole in my pocket and a raging headache from spending my time reading about homesteading and composting in the Barnes & Noble next to the bus stop (I am NOT supposed to read regular books because this is, inevitably, what happens!). I am looking forward to hearing, seeing and reading about what went on at City Hall and all around the US. I do hope there were large turnouts everywhere.

Here are some things you can do about GMOs and Monsanto so you can still be a part of this action:
Earth Hour Beckons...

After I complete my virtual actions, I am going to redirect my disappointment in myself into some productive energy trying to figure out what to do tonight for Earth Hour 2011. I have always loved the idea of Earth Hour and have long thought it would be something to do once a month, instead of just once a year, however, like everything else in my muddled mind, it often gets forgotten until the Earth Hour season springs up again.

This year, however, the Earth Hour cause seems even more relevant to me not only on a compassionate note, but now on a financial one as well. The amount of electricity being used in my home, month for month has been greater this year than it was last year. I have been checking my bills closely and noting it. Sadly, this falls on one pair of shoulders: mine. The only difference between this year and last year is the fact that I am now home from work on medical leave.

I had an electrical epiphany when I took my ASAP Pledge for the Baglady in week one of the Hummingbird Project - I was not turning off my computer EVER. Beyond that, the television is on more during the day, I think I have more "wall warts" than ever and, of course, I put lights on from time to time!

Here are some of the things I am thinking about doing in preparation for Earth Hour, during Earth Hour, and beyond:
  • Make a power-outage list. It seems the only time I ever truly realize how much I use electricity is when I lose it! To sit down and really think about what can and can't be used in the event of a power-outage will give me a good place to start to think about what changes I can make.
  • Assess the list. Are there anythings I can be doing differently? Do I have things plugged in 24/7, that I only use once in a while ("wall warts")? Am I making the best use of the natural light in my home?
  • Pull out the candles and matches. Put them all in one place. Growing up we always had one spot for all of these things (the power in this neighborhood used to go out like crazy in the summer), now, I am not really sure where they are!
  • Play more board games. My husband and I love to do this, but always forget because we have all of "our shows" to watch - isn't that sad? Well, enough is enough!
  • Get the leashes and flashlights out - let's take the dogs on a nighttime adventure! They would seriously love this and who knows if we will run into a opossum!
  • Get a blanket (and, in this weather, unfortunately, I would still need a coat!) and drive down to the beach/park/ferry. We have an amazing view of the Verrazano Bridge from our beach and the night sky is so clear down there as well. In fact, there are a number of fantastic places to go on this island to go check out some amazing views. The view of Manhattan from the ferry is unbelievable.
  • Convince my husband to read aloud to me by candlelight.  I think he might do this, and it is so much fun!!
  • Check out the Earth Hour website for more ideas! I noticed that the official site has a link to find your local Earth Hour website, so that seems pretty cool!
Questions for you:
Did YOU get out to one of the rallies today? If so, how WAS IT?
What are your feelings about genetically modified foods? Do you think they should be labeled?
What are your plans for Earth Hour?
What is the one thing you would miss most if you had to live without electricity?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Think About This Thursday

Watch this

Scary, isn't it? Then TAKE ACTION HERE

Now, take a look at this:

And recognize that Nestlé is trying to do the same thing in Oregon. TAKE ACTION HERE.

What else should we be thinking about today? Do you have information about another action we should be taking?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thank You, Dr. Oz from this Gluten-free Chick

I am CERTIFIED Gluten-Free (My Doctor Says So!)

I have been gluten-free since June 2010. I didn't want to be gluten-free. I didn't care that I might lose weight, but I was told I was "intolerant" and that gluten was making me sick. Sick is one thing I really don't like, so I took gluten out of my diet.

As I took the gluten out of my diet, the weight melted off of me. For this reason many people - friends, acquaintances, co-workers and family - who were not quite interested in any other treatments I have received from any other doctors started asking questions and lots of them. It did not take me long to realize that the people that had all the questions were the same people that have always been looking for the next stage in their battle of the bulge.

Why Is Gluten-Free Becoming SO COOL??
Now that I have been living gluten-free and am always on the hunt for information and tips for this new lifestyle I keep stumbling upon websites, books, "professionals" all touting the new weight-loss trend: gluten-free. I can not deny that I lost weight when I took gluten out of my diet, but I have always felt when that happened that the weight I lost was more of a reaction lost - I felt like my body was no longer reacting to something it couldn't handle.

I didn't lose weight, I healed.

I have tried to explain this to others. I have even explained that eating gluten-free can be less healthy than a standard diet if you are not careful, but people do not hear me, they only see me. I was, therefore, overjoyed when I saw that the first segment of Dr. Oz's Show today was dedicated to the "Gluten Myth."

Dr. Oz Chimes In About Gluten

The first part of the video (Gluten Myth Part 1) begins with a brief description of the protein gluten. Dr. Oz and Dr. Mark Hyman discuss the reasons why some people need a gluten-free diet, and how even when medically necessary it can be unhealthy if not approached correctly.

Gluten-free Can Totally Be Fattening

The doctors are then joined by Samantha Cassidy (Gluten Myth Part 2) from Good Housekeeping (Dr. Oz is on the cover of the April 2011 issue which will also address the Gluten Diet) to discuss the three reasons gluten-free labeled foods can make you fat. In short, the three reasons are
  • they contain more calories
  • they contain less fiber
  • they contain more refined carbs
This is why it is especially important to avoid boxed foods and, instead choose more whole foods or, as we've been saying as of late: EAT REAL FOOD. (Yes, I note the irony that this is coming from the same person who wrote a post all about gluten-free cereals yesterday!!)

The Dr. Oz/Dr. Hyman TWO WEEK Plan To Determine if You NEED to Be Gluten-free

In the final portion of the Gluten Myth segment (Gluten Myth Part 3), Dr. Hyman walks us through a healthy looking gluten-free diet. Not one of his options include something that was labeled gluten-free, instead, he selects ingredients that are naturally so.  He says that in order for you to determine if gluten might be the culprit in your weight and in other ill feelings, you need to eliminate it COMPLETELY for two weeks to see how it feels. When you reintroduce gluten, if you start to feel not-so-good, then you know you need to talk to your doctor about getting a blood test.

I think this is a very good idea for people to try. I had no idea I had this intolerance and I know my life has changed because of my knowledge of it. I miss gluten, but the trade-off is worth it. If you aren't feeling well, there is no harm in trying it for the sake of your own health, but please don't do this just because you are trying to lose weight. There are far too many deliciously healthy food items that can help you in that fight that you would have to eliminate just to be gluten-free! (Check out the Gluten-free Diet Plan provided on Dr. Oz's website!)

Do you have a gluten intolerance or know someone who does?
Have you thought that gluten-free was a sure-fire path to weight loss?
For you gluten-lovers out there - what do you think you would miss most if you had to go gluten-free?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gluten Free Chex Cereals

It's Tuesday, so, for me , that means I have a Twitter party tonight. I signed up for it a number of months ago, just to see what a Twitter party was all about, but I had not considered the consequences of participating in a Twitter party hosted by MultiGrain Cheerios every week that the season of The Biggest Loser Couples is on.
This box arrived this Saturday.
I keep "winning" boxes of MultiGrain Cheerios (I am up to my fifth box now). Don't get me wrong, I love free things, but I can't eat Cheerios - they have gluten in them... big time. So, a couple of weeks ago I asked during the twitter party when Cheerios would be making their own Gluten-Free cereal line. The response was simple - you need to go try all of the Gluten-Free Chex cereals out there for you.

That was true. It was something I was planning to do anyway, so I decided my next cereal purchase would be a Gluten-Free Chex Cereal.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Chex

There is something about cinnamon that simply screams breakfast to me, so, when I saw my options, I decided the first Chex cereal I wanted to try was the Cinnamon one!

Upon opening the box I was overwhelmed with the delicious aroma. The taste of the cereal was delicious and brought me back to my childhood memories of waking up early on Saturday mornings with my little brother to watch Muppet Babies and the rest of our Saturday morning line-up.

This was fun for its nostalgic sense, but I immediately recognized it for what it truly was: sugar! I grew up on Fruit Loops, Honey Smacks and Cocoa Krispies - this cereal was just as "fun" as those cereals. Needless to say, I loved it!

As a long term addition to my pantry, I think I would have to say that the Gluten-Free Chex will definitely find a home as a sometimes snack when I am looking for something sweet. I haven't explored any of the Chex mix recipes yet, but I did eat them plain, without any milk while watching a movie one night and that was enough for me.

Gluten-Free Corn Chex

After my sweet introduction to the Chex cereals, I decided that my next purchase should take a more mundane path. I purchased the Corn Chex.

It wasn't until I actually started eating this cereal that I made a discovery about my own life-long cereal preferences: I don't really like "corn" cereals all that much, but I do love crunch!

As I ate the Corn Chex I was reminded of my grandfather's daily breakfast: a bowl of Corn Flakes with a half grapefruit. He lived for 96 years on this and seemed to legitimately enjoy it, so I have tried Corn Flakes a number of times figuring it was one of life's big secrets to longevity.

The Corn Chex had the same basic corn flavor as the Corn Flakes, with a little more crunch and a but more airiness (I think from all of the holes). As a personal preference, this is not my favorite Gluten-Free Chex, but I think it would be awesome for anyone who likes corn-based cereals and could also probably be lots of fun with some berries!

Gluten-Free Honey Nut Chex

Not too long before finding out I had to cut gluten out of my diet I had my taste of Honey Nut Cheerios. Oh what fun they were! All the years wasted!! I was an avid plain Cheerios lover, but I had never explored the alternative brought to me by that silly little bee. When I saw that Chex had a Honey Nut variation, I knew I should not make the same mistake again - I would try them right away to know what my options were.

The honey is evident in every spoonful (as it should be) and, for me, makes this cereal a little bit better as a finger food than in a bowl with milk. I opted to write this post before trying any Chex mix recipes for any of the cereals I purchased, but I can definitely see the potential in this cereal.

I was surprised, at first, to find that this cereal has more sugar in it per serving than the Cinnamon Chex cereal, but I suppose that is due to the honey.

Gluten-Free Rice Chex

Once I had my epiphany about my lack of love for Corn flavored cereals, in general, I started to wonder, "What do I like, then?" And then it came to me, and it really was no surprise: RICE. Well, really, in terms of cereal it was rice and wheat, but one of those, medically, had to go. 

I was excited about getting the Gluten-Free Rice cereal, figuring it was exactly what I was waiting for! It kind of was. It is plain rice crunchiness. I do like it (I still miss my Special K) and will most likely have this cereal in my pantry quite often.

Since it does not have any overpowering flavors of its own, I do imagine that this will also be a fun addition to a Gluten-free Chex Mix.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chex

As I mentioned above, I was a big fan of Cocoa Krispies as a child, so chocolate flavored cereals are tasty treats that intrigue me. I was really looking forward to this part of my taste test. Each time I went back to my grocery store I searched up and down, but it could not be found!
I have not given up, but I did not want to hold up this post as I continue my quest! I SHALL FIND MY CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST TREAT!! ...and then I will return to share my findings with you, since that is the real reason I am so desperately looking for it!


Overall Favorite for 
  • Every-day Cereal: Gluten-Free Rice Chex
  • Yummy Snack Fun: Gluten-Free Cinnamon Chex
  • Chex Mix Ingredient: Gluten-Free Rice Chex (**this is based on an impression only, no tests were performed in this category yet)
Least Favorite: Gluten-Free Corn Chex

Have you tried the Gluten-free Chex Cereals yet? What are your impressions? Which is your fav? DID YOU FIND THE CHOCOLATE??

*If you are interested in The Biggest Loser/MultiGrain Cheerios Twitter Party head over to twitter when The Biggest Loser begins tonight and follow #MGCheerios. Here is a tweet from MGCheerios, inviting all in the twitter-verse:
Join us next week when @BiggestLoserNBC airs Tues at 8 PM ET on @NBC for more ways to help become the BL at Home #BL11 #MGCheerios

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Moves Monday Run Down #3 (from The Hummingbird Project)

The third week of Do Something week seemed as though it might not be as productive as I had hoped. My health was not on its best behavior, but the moment that it decided to come back to me - I pounced!

I played in the dirt! 

After spending Saturday night running in and out of my house trying to catch a glimpse of the Supermoon we were promised, I awoke on Sunday ready to get into my garden! Here's what got done:
  • The Dirt Emerged When I went outside I found my "garden" was covered in all types of death. Dead weeds, some debris from all of the wind as of late and a pot with a dead blueberry bush in it. I grabbed a rake and freed the dirt! It was beautiful! The soil is so dark and looks AWESOME. I have not yet explored the soil testing process, but I will be shocked if there is anything wrong with this stuff. It smelled wonderful.
  • The Compost Bin is Erected After seeing all my hard work, my husband treated me to my very own compost bin. The details of the entire event and first filling of the bin is laid out in the post My Composting Adventure Begins! Long story short: I am a full-fledged composter now!

Visit the official Earth Hour Website
 Each year we are called to unplug for one hour on March 26th. It is the one big DO SOMETHING of March that is pretty simple to do and, as physically dark as it may seem, enlightening. We will definitely revisit this idea later this week, but I wanted to remind you today so you could start making plans for your weekend.

How did your third week of DO Something Month go?

What would you like to do during this year's Earth Hour?
Remember that the Hummingbird Project is a  MONTH LONG challenge, so join in ANY time!
What's something YOU DO that we can replicate in order to make great changes from small moves?

*If you think you might be interested in writing a guest post about this (or even Earth Hour), please feel free to e-mail me at

My Composting Adventure Begins!

It began with a bin.
Isn't it cool?
My husband took me to Home Depot and purchased it for me (because he is awesome and he loves me) and then he even put in together for me. After watching him do this, I think I could have done it myself, but after spending the morning cleaning out my gardening space I was more than happy to let him complete this task!

The bin was large (120 gallon capacity) and empty.
I was a little bit intimidated by all this space.
I decided I needed to refer back to the composting video I found so helpful to get the "recipe" for my "garden lasagna":
I now have this screen-capture from the video saved on my iPhone for easy reference.
So I grabbed the bag of "brown" that my husband gathered from next to our shed. and added my first layer.
This was super easy (and fun)!
Then, I went around my backyard gathering some neglected flower pots and planters that had various annuals or failed growths in them, so I could use their soil. (I wrote a post about one poignant find in one of the pots on my other blog, Rivera Runs Through It, for a memoir meme.)
There was some pretty rich soil in those pots.
Finally, it was time for the GREENS - my kitchen scraps!! I ran into the house to gather my container and two gallon zip-lock bags full of collections. Then, I decided it was the perfect time to do a thorough excavation of my refrigerator. Here is what I came up with:
There's lots of stuff, but I could help but think about the stuff that didn't make it because I had thrown it away by mistake!
Finally, it was time to complete the "lasagna" to help keep the odor contained. Another layer of soil.
And another layer of brown. However, the bag of browns from next to the shed was not enough!! Luckily, I have a magnolia tree in the front of my house that grows like a weed and needs major trimming from time to time.
This branch actually broke off from the weight of the snow this winter and I saved it.
I did not even use half of the magnolia branch, so it will come in handy next week when I come back to add more to my compost!
Final layer for now and SO MUCH MORE SPACE to go!
I closed up the lid and got the hose to "water" the compost. I'm not sure if I added enough water, that is something I will have to watch. But otherwise I feel like I am well on my way to a mini garden cook.

It is funny how being excited about composting affects so many aspects of my life.
  • I want to be more organized when I go through my mail so I can shred the non-glossy mail for more "brown" materials.
  • I am thinking about my meals in terms of what kind of compost contributions they make. This really has me thinking about whether or creating a "Compost Diet" (eating only things that produce "green" compost waste is the one way to think about healthy, responsible eating.... maybe/maybe not??)
  • I want to dust mop my entire house and brush my dogs like crazy because that, too, according to certain sources is more "brown" materials.

For more information about the bin I purchased, here is a link to the company's website:
E-Composter by GardenViews

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Can Hunger and Obesity BOTH Be Problems In Our World?

Something really strange is going on in our world. Obesity is a problem, we all know it, we can see it and the media reminds us of this day after day. However, at the same exact time hunger continues to be an enormous problem. No one can deny either of these facts, but they become even more intriguing when the data collection happens.
According to Ellen Gustafson's TEDxEAST talk in May 2010, the number of hungry people and the number of overweight people in the world each count up to be about 1 billion! How is it possible to view these as to separate problems? They are both about food!

If you have not seen Ms. Gustafson's TED talk yet, I think it is worth a watch.

Once you have watched and you are ready to see how the 30Project has grown so far, then here are some links for you to check out:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

59 Food Related Infographics

I love infographics. They tend to speak volumes with less words and more visual impact. There is so much to discuss here - almost every single slide in this presentation can be a post all on its own, but for now, I figured I would share the entire set with you so you could personally hone in on those that speak to you on first sight.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Joy of Being Fed

I think that "thank you" is sometimes not strong enough to express the gratitude for a home cooked meal. I know that the term Soul Food has connotations of its own - a flavor, a culture, heck there's even a movie! - but when I have had the experience of a home cooked meal prepared for me I am hard pressed to find a better expression than "soul food" to encapsulate how it truly nourishes my being.

This is my phone life right now.
Yesterday I had a long and difficult day. I spent the entire day on the phone with various bureaucrats in my union, my human resources department, and bill collectors who have suddenly appeared with questions about my grandmother's essentially non-existent estate. This is exacerbated by the fact that the only phone that functions appropriately in my home is a land-line, corded phone. So I spent the day, like it was 1982 on a chair in the middle of my kitchen trapped until each called ended. It is actually kind of funny now that it is over.

I ate a hard boiled egg and a bowl of cereal all day, that was it. Ridiculous, I know, but true. There was time for little else, because when my husband got home, we had an appointment to go to. Another stress I was not looking forward to. Needless to say, with all of this, dinner was not something I had thought about. In the midst of our meeting, my husband had to excuse himself because his cell phone rang. I thought it was strange, but it must have been justified...

As we left (not sure if we were more or less relieved than when we entered) he explained that the call was from his mother and he got nervous because she called twice in a row. I understood, and then he said the magic words,

"She cooked for us."

It was as if the entire insanity of my day melted away. I was saved! Food was coming my way - good food was coming my way and for no other reason than she loves us and she has extra. Soul food.

We had pork chops, rice and beans and a salad. It might as well have been the food of the gods.

I say thank you a thousand times over, I was the dishes, I say thank you some more, but is the message received? Is the sentiment conveyed? How does one truly show one's appreciation for a meal?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Starting Small To Make Big Changes (A Hummingbird Speaks)

This is our first-ever guest post from Jen who blogs over at The Misadventures of Mrs. B which includes cooking, fabulous writing and some irresistible food photography!

Hi, everyone! I’m so glad Nicole offered the opportunity for me to be here today so I can share my Hummingbird ideas with you and hopefully pick up a few tips as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been the type of person to say “Oh, I’d love to do that” or “I really need to make a change in my life” or “I wish I had the discipline to keep up with a plan for change”.  It’s the story of my life, truly.

That’s why I was so pleased to read about Nicole’s Hummingbird Project.  What better time to start than right now? And thinking of it as a project, and as a way to effect lasting change in my little family and (ideally) throughout the world, makes it that much easier to not only stick to it but to make it fun!

Most of the changes I’m working on deal with nutrition and stretching our food dollars.  The fact is, it may take a little more time to make something from scratch but the result is something I can eat with confidence – after all, I know exactly what went into it.  There are no hidden additives or fake colors or “natural flavors”.  It’s all real.  Besides, there’s a sense of pride in knowing that the bread we’re eating came from my hands.  Same with any baked goods (why grab a muffin at the coffee shop when I can bake my own over the weekend to eat all week long?) and even pasta.  There is just nothing like homemade pasta.  The fewer steps a product takes between production and my mouth, the better.

I’m already working on my herb garden! Last year I planted flat parsley and sweet basil.  This year I’m expanding to include dill, thyme, chives and oregano, too.  My husband is sweet enough to be building boxes for me to start my own vegetable garden as well – I can’t wait to plant! I’ll definitely be starting small – tomatoes are on the list but I’m looking for any ideas on something a beginner like me can grow with ease! Thoughts, anyone?

Other changes I’m working to implement:                                                                                             
  • Carrying a large insulated cup to work – if I feel like stopping off for coffee on the way in, I just present my cup rather than using one of theirs.  I hope that it catches on amongst the people I see waiting in line every day!
  • Drinking from a reusable water bottle rather than constantly buying and discarding plastic bottles.  This is something I see people doing around the office all day long – not to mention using a paper cup for a single drink of water and tossing it out immediately.  Wasteful!
  • Being more diligent with my recycling – now that recycling rules have loosened a bit in my area and everything can be included in the same bin, it’s easier to remember.  I admit that I haven’t always been a smart recycler in the past.
  • Learning about green cleaning products.  It’s fascinating what you can do to lessen the amount of potentially harmful chemicals in your home! It’s an education for sure.

I know that there are so many other changes to be made, and this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  But it’s easier to start small, isn’t it, rather than getting overwhelmed.  At least that’s what I tell myself! I hope to document my progress on my blog – at least when it comes to cooking and gardening.

I’d love to hear any tips or suggestions from those of you who read this for ways to improve (and tips on gardening, since I’m a newbie)!

Thanks, Nicole, for having me here.  You’re an inspiration.

About Jen:
Jen blogs over at The Misadventures of Mrs. B, where she shares recipes, ideas and stories from her life while trying to maintain a sense of humor about the whole thing.  You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter or email her if you would like to be a part of the misadventures or just to pick up a sinful new recipe.

March Moves Monday Run Down #2 (from The Hummingbird Project)

After a fantastic first week in my Hummingbird Project, I simply knew that week two couldn't possibly reach or exceed the high expectations, however, I at least tried to maintain some stance of consistency in my efforts. I continued to work at projects that I began in the first week of "Do Something Month" while only adding one new feature to the list for now.

Things This Hummingbird is Still Working On:
  • Composting My kitchen scraps bin in filled and I keep on jamming it. I have not yet made a decision on my outdoor composting yet - pile? bin? digging a hole? I don't know, but I really must make a decision soon!! I have not heard back yet from my composting workshop man, so a follow-up e-mail is due.
  • My ASAP Pledge (see last week's post to learn about the ASAP post) I have continued to shut my computer down every single time I walk away from it ever since taking the pledge. In addition, due to this fact, I realized this morning I can actually use the light switch in my office again without fear of shutting the computer down in the middle of some important post!
New Move in the New Week: 
I tried contacting every person who wrote a comment on one of the Hummingbird Posts discussing their great inspiration for things they wanted to do for the month of March either through e-mail or on their own blog (if they had one) to invite them to write a guest post about their own actions. I am really excited about this because I think there are SO MANY awesome ideas out there that we can all get some inspiration from! Interest is growing by the day, so stay tuned for some fun and diverse content coming your way.  

How did your second week of DO Something Month go?
Remember this is a MONTH LONG challenge, so join in ANY time!
What's something YOU DO that we can replicate in order to make great changes from small moves?
*If you think you might be interested in writing a guest post about this, please feel free to e-mail me at

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Then Something Sprouted...

One year ago today, A Seed Was Planted... and with it, this blog was born. March 12th is my blog-iversary!

I can vaguely remember the day, a Friday night, when I wrote that first post. It was the end of another long week, I was battling for my career life at school and well-aware that I was feeling sicker and sicker by the day. The more I listened to my new audiobook (Eating Animals) and remembering all those books that I had read before it, I knew I wasn't helping matters with what I was eating. My life has dramatically changed since that day, and the epiphanies I had in the first weeks of writing this blog count for a large part of that shift.

At the time I was writing straight out into the big wide-empty. I wasn't sure anyone would ever see my blog, read my words or share my sentiments, but it seems that seed that was planted that day has grown into a seedling of its own. I am a better and healthier person because of Searching for Sustenance and am forever grateful for having this little space in the blog-iverse to continue to grow. For those who have joined this search with me I am forever grateful for the support and the company!

In a search just now to find a nice picture of a seedling to add to this post, I found a beautiful poem that, in many ways, expresses how I feel about this blog as it grows in my mind everyday. It is called The Seedling and it is written by John McGrael. I simply love it.

The Seedling

A Poem by John McGrael

One night while I was dreaming,
A tree grew in my mind.
Though little but a seedling,
I took refuge in its pines.

On the morrow, cold and dreary, whilst walking through my thoughts,
My eyes stuck on a seedling, so I walked towards its lot.
Then my thoughts were thinking, "how strange, this could not be...
For I am in a city, yet this seedling grows on green!"
But O, I looked around me. I looked upon an open field!
Its as if my thoughts were running, through a mystery revealed.
I found my sanctuary, in the field my mind had found.
I took refuge in it's flowers, and the seedling's soothing sound.
I would visit this place often, the depths of thought and seed.
My thoughts had learned to think, and in those thoughts was peace.

That evening walking home, through the city, from the dreaming;
I felt like I was leaving from; my home, the field, the seedling.
I felt as if this city bound me, that I may never soar.
When a raven perched upon a bush, whispered to me, "nevermore".


That night I was the dreamer,
The tree grew more and more.
Its leaves forever greener,
Echo "nevermore".

Again whilst I was dreaming, I walked into the field,
The seedling now a gentle tree, a mystery revealed.
I slept upon its branches, and ate its fruit with ease.
I marveled in its aura, I listened to its leaves;
And then I knew the mystery, that had been revealed.
For it was in the leaves, and it was in the field.
As long as I was with them, I was as carefree as the breeze.
Nourished by their scent, I could live among the trees.

Now conscious, walking through the city, I took asylum in the thoughts.
I could not stay within this city, I needn't live for naught.
So in my mind, I left the city, went to the field where I could soar.
For now I understood, the city bound me nevermore;
And when I made this realization, the tree grew towards the sky.
Now a mighty fortress, and a beauty to the eye.

So now I walk the city, with conscious thought and word.
From my mighty fortress, leaves echoing the bird.
And in this sweet asylum, in this sacred lore;
There is a sweet raven, whisp'ring "nevermore"!

© 2009 John McGrael

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday's Food Finds

All week I am all over the Internet blogging about food, commenting about food, reading about food and finding tons and tons of stuff! I simply can NOT dedicate a single post to each individual find, so here's what I am going to do: I am going to give you a CliffNotes version of some foodie finds that I think you might all be interested in, so you have stuff to read and tinker with over the weekend! Here it goes:

Food Web Sites and Tools
  • two foods Here is a neat little tool for food nutrition comparisons. Let's say you are faced with almonds and cashews and you don't have a particular craving for one over the other, but you are curious about the nutritional facts run-down for each. Enter two foods. Type in each type of nut and click "Compare!" here's what you'll see:

    Casabella Silicone Cutting Board, Set of 4
  •  Casabella Cutting Boards (set of 4) One concern in a kitchen is cross-contamination. To be honest, this is not something I ever thought of before I started watching all these chefs on TV - I had one cutting board that I washed in between uses. I am not a big fan of lots of stuff cluttering up my kitchen, so when I found these cutting "boards" I was super happy. They are super skinny, flexible and take up less space than my old cutting board! They have to be hand washed, but their bright colors and cute graphics make them so easy for me to use and keep straight! If you are looking into purchasing separate cutting boards for poultry, beef, fish and veggies, I highly recommend this very durable and affordable option!
Food Reads
  • The perils of food nutrition and research This post from Marion Nestle on her Food Politics blog addresses issues that arise in all arenas of research - poorly designed studies, misread data and highly elevated claims. I taught Statistics before going on my medical leave and often take for granted that people can decipher the difference between a good study and one that can be thoroughly misleading. It is unfortunate that our media does not filter this for us. All "studies" should first be questioned: Who ran this study? Why did they run this study? How did they collect this data? ...I think you get the idea. For now I will leave you with Dr. Nestle's article, but we shall revisit this topic on the Searching for Sustenance blog!
  • Eco-farming Could Double Food Output of Poor Countries, Says UN One of the huge arguments for industrialized agriculture is that it feeds the world. It is argued that the technology brought to the land is, in many places, the only hope. Well, the UN brings up some contrary evidence reported here. Excellent information.
Good Food (Recipes)
  •  Raw Chili Cheese Fries My husband and I discovered our deep connection with chili cheese fries on our first vacation together to Walt Disney World - they were amazing! Since seeing the light about the insanity of our ways (we were eating them all the time after that vacation), we have cut out this delectable treat. When I found Poppy's recipe from her first adventure at a Raw Foods Class this week on her From Fried Chicken to TOFU blog, I knew I found something I would have to try and share.  So, I am getting my shopping list together, but let us know how s goes if you get to it first!
  • The Homemade Twix Bar (...because I can't). OK, OK I know... I am usually preaching all wonderful kind of healthy stuff, but this would be HOME-MADE - that has to count for something! And I would really like to live vicariously through you! Twix are one of my favorite bars and with my dairy-free/gluten-free life, I have also been Twix-free! Kim at Incandescent Blue Flame is the one who exposed me to this torture earlier this week. I forgive her, but it was rough at first ;)
  • Rally for the Right to Know on March 26, 2011 in Washington, DC  is getting organized. Millions Against Monsanto - RALLY FOR THE RIGHT TO KNOW - Genetically Modified Foods need to be labeled! Saturday, March 26, 2011, 11am - 3pm on The White House Sidewalk. The mission: Spread awareness of genetically modified foods and Monsanto's increasing monopoly of our foods. To get involved, either visit their facebook page, or e-mail
  • Protect Food & Water Safety Funding
Do you have a food website, tool, food read, recipe or food fight you think I should check out and share with the readers of Searching for Sustenance? If so e-mail me at!

It Can Just Get Washed Away...

Do you appreciate your food?

How much of last night's meal ended up in the trash? What about this morning's breakfast?

Do you know where your next meal is coming from? What about next week's?

We have the luxury of talking about about food choice right now, but as I watch the tsunami in Northern Japan I am reminded: it can all just be washed away.

If you have not yet seen the footage, here is one station's coverage of the farmland being swallowed by the deluge.

What if that is your food? What if that is your land?

Where does their next meal come from?

I am sure global efforts are mobilizing to ensure these people will get their sustenance, but "food choice" is a factor that has no priority in this context.

For those of us that remain unaffected and unscathed by natural disaster at this hour, let us take this moment to truly appreciate our food, our choice and, of course, our safety.

Thoughts, prayers and well wishes to all that have been affected by natural disaster this season.

(This post has long been on my mind with all that has been happening in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, local flooding here in the US and, now the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and throughout the Pacific.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ah.... Plastic Wrapped Bananas! What Will They Think of Next?

There was no question in my mind, I HAD to share this with you. Yet another sign that the food industry might just be losing it...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro - Pantry of Shame
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thank you, Mr. Stewart. Thank you.

Dr. Oz Speaks Up About Energy Drinks

I have never been a big fan of caffeine. I don't drink coffee. I very rarely drink tea. I stopped drinking soda years ago. For this reason I am extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine. I know how dramatically caffeine can effect one's mood, energy level, and focus because any time I do have caffeine those effects are amplified through me. Even with my anecdotal evidence, I usually hold back on preaching against caffeine because I know my case is an extreme and not one that most can relate to. However, when the topic of energy drinks come up, I feel like someone needs to say something.

With that in mind, I was very happy when watching The Dr. Oz Show this week that the topic of the dangers of Energy Drinks was raised. In the last couple years I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of energy drink cans being toted around by my high school students. This began to concern me greatly.

Kristi's Story 
A woman named Kristi came to Dr. Oz to ask for help with her 16 can a-day habit.She readily admitted that she believed she was addicted. She had turned to energy drinks at a time when she felt her children needed her at her best (right after a divorce) and then found it difficult to function without them. Dr. Oz chimed in right away saying that he did, in fact, believe, that these drinks are like a drug (I couldn't agree more!).

What Does the FDA Say

Here's the problem: drinking an energy drink is not just like having a cup of coffee, in some cases one can can have at least three times the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee! Here is a graphic shared on the show:

This chart compares what the FDA recommends (400mg/day or about four 8 ounce cups of coffee) as a person's maximum daily caffeine consumption to what Kristi was consuming on a regular day (up to 16 cans of energy drinks per day). She was consuming at least three times the amount recommended. Yes, she is an extreme case, but it's the "at least" I keep mentioning that worries me.

The Secret Unregulated Caffeine

Those ingredients listed on top of the energy drink bar: "guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, cocoa" are all found in energy drinks as well and they all ADD caffeine to the drink, however their caffeine contribution is not added into the amount of caffeine reported on the label! Therefore, when you drink an energy drink you are getting even more caffeine than you thought based on the label. How much more? (Here's the scary part...) Who knows?!

How Bad Can It Really Be?

So, you may be wondering, if you are not addicted, what's the big deal? In general, buyer beware. These products lead to addiction. The "crash" one feels after the extreme energy has many reaching for a second can and with these unknown levels of caffeine, too much caffeine can happen pretty rapidly. Too much caffeine leads to caffeine toxicity. Dr. Oz invited Dr. Samantha Heller (dietitian) on the show to explain what a recent study found in both adults and adolescents overdid it on the energy drinks. Here are some of the results they found:
  • liver damage
  • kidney failure
  • heart failure
  • seizures
  • heart attacks (including one 23 year old with a heart attack)
  • death
Next Steps for Kristi and Any Other Caffeine Addicted

Upon hearing this news, Kristi's fear was visible - she did not want to die because of some silly energy drink addiction. However, Dr. Heller advised her to not go cold turkey. She explained that coming off caffeine, will be just like coming off any other drugs and, if she did so too quickly, she would experience extreme withdrawal. Here was her advice for coming off an energy drink addiction:
  1. Reduce energy drink consumption one can at a time.
  2. Replace energy drinks with more natural and "safer" forms of caffeine to help slow down the process. Some ideas: coffee yogurt, tea, especially white tea (since it has some nice antioxidants!)
  3. Eventually work down to the FDA recommended amount of caffeine per day, or lower.
To add to this, I this it is important to have a supporter in your corner whenever you are trying to break an addiction - whether it is a close friend, a spouse, relative or internet buddy - tell someone about what you are trying to do and ask them to be your "rock", to be your reminder as to why you are doing this just in case you have a cruddy day and you need outside motivation!

To watch the Dr. Oz segments yourself, click the links below:

Energy Drink Addiction, Pt 1. 

Energy Drink Addiction, Pt 2. 

To read more about Caffeine Toxicity, check out eMedicine's Page on Caffeine and Caffeine Toxicity

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Food Inc. Discussion Guide for Teachers

You've seen Food Inc. The message was crystal clear to you and so important. You want others to see it. You want others to think about it. You want others to learn from it. Well, you are not alone - the people at Food, Inc. agree wholeheartedly with you and, with that in mind, they partnered up with The Center for Ecoliteracy and Participant Media to design a discussion guide to use alongside the film in classrooms around the country and world.

Click the image to download.

I received an e-mail about this guide this afternoon and as soon as I downloaded the the guide and started reading it, I knew I hit educational resource gold! The guide is separated into nine chapters, each to go along with a segment of the film. Each chapter has a focus question that the discussion for that lesson surrounds, multiple discussion questions, an activity and a reflection. The educational philosophy of this guide is to use the Socratic method - one that teaches through questioning. It is a fabulous technique, especially for such thought-provoking and discussion building topics such as food and its industry.

Here is a list of the nine chapters, with the corresponding film clip length and the focus question for that lesson to give you a little taste of all of the rich discussion material provided in this guide:
1 FAST FOOD TO ALL FOOD (running time of corresponding film segment 12:52)
Focus Question: Do animals have the right to a certain quality of life?

2 A CORNUCOPIA OF CHOICES (running time of corresponding film segment 7:54)
Focus Question: Do people have the right to know what is in their food?

3 UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (running time of corresponding film segment 13:56)
Focus Question: Who is responsible for keeping our food safe?

4 THE DOLLAR MENU (running time of corresponding film segment 5:12)
Focus Question: Should access to healthy food be a right for everyone?

5 IN THE GRASS (running time of corresponding film segment 13:44)
Focus Question: When deciding what to eat, how much should we consider the workers who pick, process, and transport it?

6 HIDDEN COSTS (running time of corresponding film segment 8:00)
Focus Question: Does it matter to you which food companies produce your food?

7 FROM SEED TO THE SUPERMARKET (running time of corresponding film segment 10:07)
Focus Question: Should companies be able to own the DNA contained in plant seeds?

8 THE VEIL (running time of corresponding film segment 7:59)
Focus Question: Should a company have the power to decide what information to give consumers about the food it produces?

9 SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM (running time of corresponding film segment 7:07)
Focus Question: What individual or collective actions are you willing to take to improve our food system, and what would be their impact?
 Writing as a teacher in this moment, I can tell you that one of the fantastic things about the design of this guide is the flexibility of it. Each chapter is a lesson in and of itself - there is nothing saying that these nine chapters must be done in order, or that they even have to all be done if your schedule/curriculum does not allow. After reading this all the way through I can imagine it in so many different realizations - a two-week unit, a long-term class project (Food Fridays for nine - ten weeks), or even an after school activity for an environmentalist group! There is nothing more powerful to students than activities that a re RELEVANT - how much more relevant can you get than what they are eating every single day?!

I know of many teachers that love  to teach using the film Fast Food Nation, I also know that many of my students were getting kind of sick of "the McDonald's movie" because they had seen it so many times! This is why I really like this guide: 1. it is something different, and 2. it takes the time to truly focus on the issues raised in the film in a way that is so much more powerful than watching the movie, beginning to to end and then having a discussion about it!

So here it goes:


Download this guide and give it to one of your kid's teachers that you think would appreciate it!

 Download this guide and bring it to a teacher that you think will respond to a request to teach more about food (even if they can't fit it in this semester, think of what a great thing you are doing for the students who come after you!)

I haven't forgotten about you!! Check out those focus questions!! Intrigued?! Well, have you ever been to a book club meeting where people sit down and discuss a books major points together? Why not download this guide and set up a Food Inc. Club to discuss this movie with a group of food-conscious friends who then can decide, together, what kind of actions you can take for food!

...I think I made my point.

Enjoy the guide. Enjoy the film. Enjoy the discussion. Enjoy your food!

Here's my reaction after The First Time I Watched Food Inc.

Which focus question/chapter do you think is the most important one to discuss? Why?

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