Friends, family, farmers: Be a part of "The Lexicon of Sustainability"!

Introducing ... The Lexicon of Sustainability from the lexicon of sustainability on Vimeo.

So cool! The project covers important topics like food security, CSAs, farm-to-table initiatives, permaculture and veggie libel laws. Check out the official "The Lexicon of Sustainability" site and also look at Grist's coverage of the project.

Feel inspired? Add your thoughts to the Lexicon site and participate in this exciting movement.

Eat, Drink and Know Your Organics

In an ideal world, organic food would be the norm. But, really, what does that mean? In my graduate class this past week, our readings focused on the consolidation of the organic food industry. I've always been turned off by organic processed food because, well, it's a contradiction to what organics should stand for: promotion of environmental and human health. Despite the saturation of products on the organic market, it wasn't until I saw the graphics by Michigan State University professor Philip H. Howard that I realized how many few options consumers really have.

It's terrific that you've chosen to buy organic, but before you go to the store to stock up, I strongly suggest you look at these data charts. Or you can just print them out and have them at the ready for your next get-together or grocery store invasion (not that I did this or anything...):

This is just one image that provides a glimpse into mergers and "stealth acquisitions," a term used by Howard in his article to describe major transactions made by industry processors unbeknownst to consumers. I like to refer to Unilever's buy-out of Ben & Jerry's, but you'd never know it if you look at the label on the popular ice cream pints.

Prefer to spend your disposable income and calories in liquid form? Microbrews (a white person tenant) offer us a glimpse into the consolidation of the food industry into the hands of a few, even when you think you're supporting local brewers. If food doesn't get the point across, maybe beer will:

So, let's regroup; how are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Thinking, "Well, if organics are bad, what do I do now?" It's daunting information that limit your options, but it serves you well as a consumer. It's up to you to decide where you want to spend your money. And, yes, eating well unfortunately means buying big organic brands to save money for the health of you and your family. For me, it's a matter of investigating and considering the environmental and ethical track records of the larger parent companies. (Do I support a brand owned by a company that also heavily invests in genetic engineering and manufacturers agricultural chemicals?). As mentioned, I stay clear of processed organics; the term freaks me out as a consumer and beginning farmer. And the most obvious solution to ease your anxiety is to support real food, or that grown by your favorite local farmers and producers whom you trust.

#DIYDecember: Stress-free + fancy (last-minute) food gifts

This is a post that I wrote for my insanely creative and crafty friend Alex as part of her month-long project, #DIYDecember, on her blog and Twitter. The initiative includes tips, suggestions and overall good reads about how to be that much more creative and self-sufficient during this festive month. 

Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus/Kwanzaa/whatever-holiday-you-celebrate is just around the corner...and, you don't have any gifts ready. No worries - here are a few no-fuss ideas for those special people in your life:
Chocolate bark
  • Chocolate bark: This is my go-to candy for impromtu get-togethers. It's so easy: Melt some chocolate, add some seeds and dried fruit, a pinch of sea salt and/or your favorite spices, let it set, break into pieces and put in a bag, tin or good ol' mason jar. Check out more details from my blog here. Bark doesn't excite you? Try some of these other healthful candy recipes from The Nourishing Gourmet.
  • Tea/tisane blends: There may be a pill for every ill, but the same can be said for tea AND you can make your own blends for a fraction of the cost! Since people seem to be unnecessarily stressed-out during this time of year - often leading to colds - why not try a blend of dried calendula (medicinal marigolds), nettle, spearmint, hibiscus, red clover and lemon balm? Simply mix in your preferred proportions based on your own tastes or those of the recipient, and store in a tin or glass jar. Gift with a tea infuser and make it pretty with some fabric for the lid and a nice label describing the blend. Your local health food store should carry dried herbs and flowers in its bulk section, with descriptions of each, and there's usually an expert on hand if you have any questions.  If you're a little fearful of the herb world, check out Mountain Rose Herbs for some blend ideas before you make your own.
  • Hot cocoa mix: All you need: cocoa powder, sugar and/or a pinch of sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cayenne pepper. The proportions are 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of cocoa. (Sounds like a lot, but think about all the packaging you save by making it in such a big batch.) If using sea salt and/or spices, add sparingly and to taste. If you want to be fancy, put a vanilla bean directly into the mix to enhance the cocoa flavor. Place in a mason jar - pretty much always the appropriate vessel for any gift. Local milk, homemade almond milk, marshmallows and/or a (thrift store) mug offer the perfect accompaniments!
  • Cookies, cookies, cookies: No slice-and-bake here. Make them from scratch**. My favorites: Teff Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from the amazing Clean Food cookbook), chocolate crinkles, granola bars/raspberry oat bars and, the standard, sugar cookies. Bust out the family recipes and get baking!
  • Dog biscuits: Can't leave out our better halves. Avoid the creepy processed treats from the store and make these. It's also an excuse to get out the cookie cutters. My friend gave me this recipe a few years ago and I've made them ever since. Here's the recipe:
Homemade dog biscuits
1 c. of whole wheat, all-purpose or spelt flour
1/2 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 c. peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower butter
1/2 c. milk (cow or non-dairy) 
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. In a medium to large bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In a smaller bowl, mix peanut butter and milk. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
3. Pour the dough onto a floured surface, shape into a ball and roll out until dough is a 1/4"  thick. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or free-hand.
4. Put cookies onto a lined baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes.
**A note on ingredients: Use fair trade, locally grown and/or organic ingredients when possible. Now is not the time to skimp on quality. Feel good about the gifts you give, not only because you made them but also for the ingredients you've used, which were harvested and produced in an ethically and socially responsible manner.**
  • Make your own recipe book! When all else fails, remind yourself of the adage that it's the thought that counts. Make your own recipe book out of an old notebook or a few pieces of blank paper, a cardboard box for the front and back covers and some yarn, twine or hemp to use as the binding. Include a few of your favorite recipes to inspire a friend or loved one to get in the kitchen.
Alright, time's a-wastin'; get cooking and crafting. Happy holidays!