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July 13th, 2012

Teaching Kids Where Food Comes From

Groovy Green Livin Organic Vegetable Garden

A while back I made a resolution to eat sustainable, locally grown food as much as possible. I’ve done my best, but it’s next to impossible to grow or find seasonal locally grown food year-round in New England.  When those cold winter months kick in there’s not a lot growing in our area and we have no choice but to depend upon local markets to bring in produce from other places.

I want my kids to know where their food comes from

The supermarkets neatly package our food and everything is ready for immediate consumption.  As we’re going up and down the aisles we generally don’t give much thought to where our food comes from.  Most food travels far to reach us- from another state or another country.  The grocery store knows no seasons-you can buy organic strawberries in December although they were grown in June and corn throughout the year. Don’t get me wrong-I’m very grateful that this produce is available year-round, but I want my kids to understand the difference.

Ways to connect with food

CSA

Many years ago we joined a CSA (consumer supported agriculture). Every week our box is filled with interesting fruits and vegetables grown on a local, organic farm. My kids are interested in what comes in the box each week and it gives us a chance to talk about where the local, seasonal food is coming from.

Farmer’s Market

I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and spent many Saturdays going to the incredible farmer’s market. It happens to be the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. Now that I live on the East Coast I’ve discovered small farmer’s markets while on vacation and larger markets in neighboring towns. Farmer’s market’s can be found through out the world and they range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. When you buy direct from a farmer you’re recreating a connection between the land and the food you eat.

Grow your own

We decided this year to carve out a small garden in our yard and grow some of our own vegetables. HERE are a few photos of  the beginning stages of our garden. It’s extremely small since we don’t get very much sunlight around our house.  But that small patch of land has a few plants that are growing like crazy.

Groovy Green Livin organic garden

I know that our garden isn’t going to be a big producer of veggies and it’s not going to impact our weekly shopping list. Our kids are my motivation for planting a garden. They scan the garden daily looking for something ripe enough to pick. When they had friends over this week they all picked one cucumber and divided it into 5 pieces to share. It doesn’t get much better then that.

Groovy Green Livin organic cucumber

Check out this incredible plant in our garden. My friends on Facebook and Twitter helped me figure out what it is. Can you guess?

Groovy Green Livin organic zucchiniFinally we are seeing small vegetables growing on this gorgeous plant. Can you see what they are?

Groovy Green Livin organic zucchini

Looking for what’s local and seasonal in your area? There’s an app or two for that!

How do you connect with your food? Do you grow your own, go to farmer’s markets or join a CSA?

This post is part of  the another fabulous Green Moms Carnival carnival hosted this month by the wonderful Abbie of  Farmer’s Daughter.  Be sure to stop by Farmer’s Daughter next week for lots of great information on ways we can all work towards becoming more food independent.

April 2nd, 2012

My Appearance on ABC World News and the BPA Decision

Soup can

For those of you who missed the national news on Saturday night, as I did, here is the clip from my appearance on ABC World News Tonight discussing bisphenol A (BPA).

[flowplayer src='http://groovygreenlivin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/go.FDA-Refuses-to-Ban-BPA-Video-ABC-News14.mp4' width=640 height=360]

The FDA’s refusal to ban BPA was a tremendous disappointment.

My interview with ABC World News with Diane Sawyer took place on Friday afternoon, just as the FDA rejected the Natural Resources Defense Council petition requesting that the toxic chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, be declared unsafe and banned from food packaging.

According to Jeanne Rizzo, Breast Cancer Fund President & CEO:

The body of evidence against BPA has been mounting over the years we’ve been calling on the FDA to make a definitive determination on BPA’s safety. Most of us are exposed to BPA every day. In fact, the CDC found BPA in 93 percent of all Americans tested, and the National Institutes of Health point to food packaging, including food cans, which are lined with BPA, as a major route of exposure. BPA has been found in blood and urine of pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns and in breast milk soon after women gave birth. Nearly 200 lab studies show that exposures to even low doses of BPA, particularly during pregnancy and early infancy, are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects later in life, including breast cancer. Studies show that BPA exposure can make non-cancerous breast cells grow and survive like cancer cells, and can actually make the cells less responsive to the cancer-inhibiting effects of tamoxifen, a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer.

In my opinion the FDA’s decision was unfounded and weak. Simply put: BPA doesn’t belong in our food packaging.

What can we do to avoid BPA?

The influx of emails and comments that I have received since this piece aired has confirmed and strengthened my belief that together we can make a difference on this issue and many other issues affecting our health. If we choose not to purchase products that have BPA then the companies will hear our demands and have no choice but to make a change. Perhaps they will follow Campbell’s Soup’s lead and initiate the process of removing BPA because of consumer demand.

Don’t buy from the companies that continue to use BPA in their canned goods.

  • HERE is a great list from Inspiration Green of brands that continue to use BPA and those that don’t.
  • Kathy from Safe Mama has put together one of her fabulous Cheat Sheets: BPA Free Canned Food.

Take action.

  • Join the “Cans Not Cancer” campaign launched by The Breast Cancer Fund urging manufacturers to replace BPA with safer alternatives.

Find alternatives to canned goods.

Avoid canned foods altogether. Join a CSA and enjoy local, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.  Use dry beans and pasta-it may take a little longer to prepare, but it’s worth it!

BPA free may not be safe

Many comments have raised the issue that a BPA replacement might be just as dangerous. While I agree with the concern, we need to take this journey one baby step at a time.

There is no excuse for this. BPA doesn’t belong anywhere near our food.  Please take the time to tell these companies that we are not OK with this.

How do you avoid BPA?

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Steven dePolo/Flickr]

[Video courtesy of ABC World News Tonight]

February 14th, 2012

Eggsperiment: CSA Eggs vs. Organic Store Bought Eggs

Organic Eggs

It’s very rare these days to find a morning when we have no plans. This past Sunday was one of those mornings when we were all home with nothing to do. We decided it would be the perfect time for our much anticipated eggsperiment.

What’s an eggsperiment?

We have been part of a CSA for many years and recently opted in to receive half a dozen organic fresh eggs each week directly from the farm. Prior to our CSA we were buying organic eggs mainly from our local Whole Foods Market. We have quite a few friends and family members who have chickens and have been raving about their delicious farm fresh eggs. Chickens are not in our future so our CSA was the way to go if we wanted fresh eggs. It was time to put the eggs to the test and have a family taste off.

Which eggs were better: CSA or organic store bought eggs?

CSA v. Store bought organic eggs

We whipped up two batches of scrambled eggs-each in a separate stainless steel pan. One was chock-full of organic eggs from the farm and the other filled with organic store bought eggs.

Our three boys eagerly sat down at the table to begin the taste test. We suggested blindfolds-that didn’t go over too well.  They promised to close their eyes with no peeking.

The oldest

We started with the oldest.  The first scoop of egg went into his mouth with his eyes shut tight. His two brothers watched him begin to chew-waiting for a comment. He methodically chewed, savoring every bite. Nothing-no comments, no nothing.  He rinsed his mouth with a little water (we decided ahead of time this would make it very official).  Then he took his next bite.  Again, chewing slowly and swallowing.  He opened his big brown eyes and out came a few words in his deceptively deep voice: “These are the farm share eggs” as he pointed to one side of the plate.  He was right.  We decided to pry a little to see if he had made an educated guess or just a plain old guess. He reasoned that they tasted “fresher and juicier”.  Juicier: an interesting choice of words to describe scrambled eggs. He also noted the farm share eggs were brighter in color, had more white specks and were smaller.

The youngest

Our youngest son repeated the process and made many of the same comments. We probably should have put them in separate rooms to keep the eggsperiment official, but that wouldn’t have been any fun.

The middle

The middle guy had no interest in closing his eyes at all.  He just wanted to eat the eggs-and he did. No comment.

The verdict

  • We all voted and the farm share eggs won.
  • The farm share eggs were quite a bit smaller than store bought eggs.
  • The farm eggs were a bit brighter in color than the store bought eggs.
  • The farm share eggs tasted fresher-I’m not sure how to describe this.  I think you will have to have a taste test yourself.

Overall it was a fun and different way to eat eggs together on a Sunday morning.

Why buy organic eggs? To learn more about the non-toxic and great green reasons to buy organic eggs head on over to Practically Green.

Have you done an eggsperiment? Do you buy organic eggs?

January 11th, 2012

I’m a Stonyfield Yo-Getter

Stonyfield Organics Yo-Getter

Sometimes there’s news that’s just worth sharing. I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected as a Stonyfield Organics Yo-Getter! We are big Stonyfield fans in our house-so it just feels right to align with a company that’s organic and prides itself on green values and initiatives.

The Yo-Getter gig is a new ambassador program through Stonyfield Organics. Through this exciting new group I will be able to bring you all sorts of opportunities from Stonyfield. Stay tuned for giveaways, interesting and educational information on healthy food choices plus more!

Stonyfield just launched a new site, I Will Know My Food, which focuses on knowing where your food comes from. My fridge is featured on the site (yes, my real fridge). I have to admit I was pretty impressed by the amount of food jam-packed into my fridge that day. The other fridges look pretty well stocked too. Our CSA had just arrived so there were plenty of veggies on hand. I can assure you that my fridge looks nothing like that today (need to shop!).

Now the fun part: you can enter your fridge! Click on the “Enter” tab at the top of the Stonyfield page, and then finish the sentence: “I will know my food because…..” There is a spot to upload a pic of your fridge. I double dare you.

What’s your favorite Stonyfield product?

September 23rd, 2011

BPA Strikes Again and This Time at Kids

BPA in canned food

BPA just won’t go away. It has been found on everything from receipts to dollar bills.  In a new report by the Breast Cancer Fund dangerous levels of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) were found in a wide variety of canned foods specifically marketed towards kids. Some of the highest levels were found in Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story soups. A child-sized serving of these soups could result in high levels of BPA exposure. There were even “healthy” companies on the list of BPA laden products- Annies Homegrown and Earths Best Organic.

How are these companies still making products with BPA? Maybe I’m naive-but I’m having a difficult time understanding how BPA is still around. This is not a new topic. It’s one that we’ve been talking about for a long time and the dangers are known and documented.

According to the Breast Cancer Fund-

Exposure to BPA, used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans, has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later‐life diseases.

The president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, Jeanne Rizzo says “There should be no place for toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems in our children’s food. We hope this report will shine a spotlight on this issue and encourage companies to seek safer alternatives to BPA.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m angry.

What can you do?

Don’t buy from the companies that continue to use BPA in their canned goods.

Here are the products that tested positive for BPA

  • Annie’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli
  • Campbell’s Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth
  • Campbell’s Spaghettios with Meatballs
  • Campbell’s Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth
  • Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, Mini ABC’s & 123’s with Meatballs
  • Earth’s Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup

Take action.

  • Join the “Cans Not Cancer” campaign launched by The Breast Cancer Fund urging manufacturers to replace BPA with safer alternatives.
  • Join Moms Rising and tell Campbell Soup Company, Con Agra (maker of Chef Boyardee), Annie’s Homegrown and Hain Celestial (maker of Earth’s Best) to stop marketing BPA to kids.

Find alternatives to canned goods.

Avoid canned foods altogether. Join a CSA and enjoy local, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.  Use dry beans and pasta-it may take a little longer to prepare, but it’s worth it!

There is no excuse for this. BPA doesn’t belong anywhere near our food.  Please take the time to tell these companies that we are not OK with this.  It won’t take long and it will make a difference.

Can you think of any other ways to avoid BPA in canned products?

 

[Photo source/Breast Cancer Fund]

July 14th, 2011

Preserve Summer: How to Freeze Blueberries

organic blueberries

Blueberry season is in full swing here in New England and pints of blueberries can be found at most markets and farm stands. Blueberries are ripe and ready to pick only during the month of July in most places, so now is the time to stock up on your favorite organic blueberries.

organic wild blueberriesThere are plenty of places to find blueberries. We recently stumbled upon a blueberry patch in Maine where the berries are wild and free. There are many other options for stockpiling these plump, sweet berries. Joining a CSA and visiting your local farmer’s market are both great alternatives for buying local berries. Other fun options include visiting a pick-your-own farm stand or finding a random blueberry patch growing naturally in a field.

Blueberries happen to be listed on the Environmental Working Groups “Dirty Dozen” –one of 12 fruits and/or vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue. Try to buy or pick only organic blueberries to avoid high levels of pesticides.

Stock up on organic blueberries when they are on sale and in season, then follow these simple steps in order to enjoy them year round.

FREEZING BLUEBERRIES

  1. Place your blueberries in a colander and remove any stems, leaves and other items you wouldn’t want to eat (sticks, bugs). Rinse them gently in cold water.
  2. Arrange the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet that will fit flat in your freezer. Spread them out so they don’t freeze together. If you have a lot of berries you can stack the trays.
  3. Leave them in the freezer overnight-so they are completely frozen.
  4. Once the berries are frozen solid, use glass containers to store them. Many people use plastic freezer bags or plastic containers, but you know how I feel about plastic. I would suggest glass mason jars for storing your berries.
  5. They can be stored in the freezer for up to two years.

THAWING YOUR BLUEBERRIES

blueberry pancakesWhen you are ready to use your berries-thaw, wash and use them.

To thaw frozen blueberries place the glass jar in the refrigerator overnight. Please don’t microwave them! Also, don’t place your frozen jar of berries in piping hot water-it will shatter.

THE POWER OF BLUE-HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLUEBERRIES

With just 80 calories per cup and virtually no fat, blueberries offer many noteworthy nutritional benefits.

  • Blueberries are packed with antioxidants
  • They are overflowing with Vitamin C
  • Blueberries are filled with fiber
  • Excellent source of Manganese

Now you can enjoy your organic blueberries year round.

Are you freezing fruit this year? Do you have any tips  or suggestions for freezing?

For more information on how to preserve all sorts of fruits and vegetables check out PickYourOwn.org

This post is part of this months Green Moms Carnival on food preservation. The carnival is hosted this month by Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter and goes live Monday, July 18th. Be sure to stop by for lots of great tips, suggestions and thoughts on preserving our summer bounty.

[Photos used under Creative Commons by Kyle McDonald, La Grande Farmers Market, Janineomg/Flickr]

July 12th, 2011

How Does Your Organic Garden Grow?

organic garden

my organic gardenThere’s nothing like picking fresh vegetables from your very own garden. I have been planting a garden with my 3 boys for the past 6 years. I love watching how excited they get as the plants grow. Our garden has always been in the front of our house-the only spot that gets a few hours of decent sunlight. Thankfully, I’m not living in Oak Park, Michigan where planting a vegetable garden in your front yard is apparently a crime.

This year my garden didn’t happen. As much as my kids and my husband begged me to get some plants in the ground, I didn’t get my act together. Even though there’s no dedicated garden space on our front lawn, I still want my children to have a sense of where their food comes from. Fortunately, there are other ways to connect with your local, seasonal food.

If you didn’t get to a garden this year here are a few alternatives that will allow you to enjoy local, summer produce.

  • Plant organic potted tomatoes. This is about as easy as it gets for gardening. Tomatoes organic tomato plantare very hardy plants that don’t need a lot of TLC. Our potted tomato plants started from organic seedlings purchased at our local nursery.
  • Join a CSA.  Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agriculture (CSA) is also known as “subscription farming.” You buy a subscription from a local farmer and you receive a “share” of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit and/or vegetables. Some farmers also offer CSA subscriptions for farm-fresh eggs, and/or meats.  If the farm is close by you can pick up your share at the farm. Most often the CSA sets up convenient pick-up locations in and around the area you live. Our CSA is not close – we are very fortunate to have a neighbor who organized a pick-up location at her house. Each week we receive a box filled with delicious, fresh, local produce.  If you would like to find a local CSA in your neck of the woods take a look at LocalHarvest.
  • Visit your local farmer’s market. If you are looking for fresh produce and other local products, your local farmer’s market is the perfect spot. If you would like to find a local farmer’s market in your area check with LocalHarvest.
  • Micaela from Mindful Momma just tested out a box of organic fruit from FruitShare-seasonal fruit delivered to your doorstep. The company’s mission is to connect organic family farms to consumers who want great tasting, in season, pesticide free fruit. I haven’t tried this one yet, but there’s nothing like seasonal, organic fruit.
  • Whatever form of “gardening” you choose, make sure to involve your children. Healthy Child Healthy world has a great list of tips for organic gardening with children.

Favorite recipe: Joel’s roasted tomatoes (My husband is quite the chef and makes this recipe all the time)

organic grape tomatoes

Ingredients

4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes

1 garlic peeped and in cloves

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  • Preheat an oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place the tomatoes and garlic into a casserole dish and mix in olive oil so that tomatoes and garlic are evenly coated.
  • Bake the grape tomatoes in the preheated oven until the skins pop and start to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Where do your summer vegetables come from? Do you garden?

[Top photo used under Creative Commons from net efket/Flickr]
[Tomato photo used under Creative Commons from Bri Lehman/Flickr]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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Lori on ABC World News

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