My Fall CSA Failure

I love CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). They’re honestly completely totally absolutely awesome. As long as you have two or more really good eaters and lots of creativity and/or freezer space. Let me explain.

The CSA available through the farm market closest to us is a little unusual. This could be because the market itself is a little unusual. Unlike other markets I have been to, ours is in part of a large building and has produce set up in much the same way as a supermarket does. There is a small area with bulk bins of various dry beans and grains, a refrigerated case with cheese, eggs, and tofu. A seafood vendor, salsa vendor, a small cookie shop. Another case of milk, ice cream, and various meaty items. Peanuts. Holistic pet food. Other than the few vendor stalls, the cookie shop, and the little cafe, the only other choice you have for interaction is with the cashiers.

I miss going to each “booth” to talk to the farmers, but I also get why they’d just drop off their harvest to be sold here — it lets them go to other markets or spend that valuable time with families or working.

Anyways. I feel like I rambled and got off track there. So, this market is a non-profit organization, open Thursday through Sunday, selling “local” products. I’m not going to get into defining what “local” means in this case, because I have no idea. I may or may not have had an extremely polite “exchange” on Facebook with their seafood vendor (pre-veg days) about using the slogan “Always Fresh, Always Local” while selling salmon from Alaska. Sorry, guys — this is the East Coast.

There are several types of CSAs out there — subscriptions varying in price based on season, number of people you’re feeding, if you’re wanting organic produce, delivered to your doorstep, etc. Some CSAs package your share so it’s all ready for you to pick up. Ours works a little differently.

We pay our subscription fee based on the season (it’s $190-$250, depending) and go to the market once a week for twelve weeks to pick up the items in our CSA share. It’s a bring-your-own-bag affair, and we choose our own items from the bins. There’s generally a placard there saying “Take 6 apples”, or “Choose 2 eggplant” etc. Smaller items like berries or mushrooms are packaged by weight and you simply pick a container. So it’s really fun in that way. You can choose smaller or larger melons/squash/whatever to suit your needs. If you’re an idiot like me, you pick some of the biggest ones and never manage to keep up.

Some weeks were pretty manageable.

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Others… not so much.

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At the time, I was still eating omnivorously, though trying to stay on top of the CSA share by myself essentially force-converted me to vegetarianism. Not necessarily a bad thing at all. Except I had never really learned to cook with such a variety of produce. It was certainly an education. I was giving away at least half of my share every week and still had roasted squash stuffed in every cranny of my freezer. My produce bins were overflowing with apples.

I had to come up with a solution. One was to start canning. The other was this delicious soup. Even with those stopgap measures, I still managed to fail miserably at keeping up. Learn from my mistakes, but definitely try the soup (I apologize for the lack of photo — this soup isn’t very photogenic, but I’ll try again sometime).

Squash-Apple Soup

  • 1T non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1T EV olive oil
  • 2C chopped yellow onion (1 medium)
  • 1T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 lb roasted butternut squash (1 medium)
  • 2 sweet apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (Gala)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 C veggie or mock-chicken stock
  • 1/2 C good apple cider or juice (Simply Apple)


  • Melt margarine in large pot. Add olive oil, onions, and curry. Cook uncovered on low heat 15-20 minutes until onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping bottom of pot.

    Add squash, apples, salt, pepper, and stock. Bring to boil. Cover. Cook on low 20 minutes, until apples begin to break down. Purée by allowing soup to cool and transferring to a blender or by using an immersion blender.

    With soup back in pot, add apple juice to desired consistency. It should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve hot.

    To roast squash: cut in half, scoop out seeds. Place cut-side-down in 9″x13″ dish in 1/2″ of water. Bake at 350F for 40min. Flesh should scoop away easily from the skin.

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    Accidentally Vegan

    “Accidentally vegan”? What does that even mean? If veganism is a deliberate choice, how can one “accidentally” be vegan? I’ve seen this a lot on vegan forums, in comments, in social media, and it saddens me. Why should it matter how someone chooses to describe themselves or their journey to veganism? The operative word is “vegan”, not the description. I don’t care if you’re a lifelong vegan, or only “occasionally” vegan, or “accidentally” vegan. I don’t even care if you’re just jokingly calling yourself vegan because you had peanut butter off of a spoon for lunch fifteen minutes ago. Thanks for saving some animals. For preventing some suffering. For reducing your footprint.

    What about the other way this phrase is used? You’ve probably heard it floating around at some point or another. “Oreos are accidentally vegan” (at least here in the U.S.). What?

    This is usually applied to common foods, other than produce, which contain no animals or their byproducts in the ingredients, which aren’t specifically marked as vegan or marketed to vegans. They’re usually ready-made snacks, prepared sauces, microwaveable meals, and canned soups.

    Life Cereal? Vegan.

    Fritos? Vegan.

    Nutter Butters? Vegan.

    SuperPretzels? Vegan.

    You’ll notice that most of the products are ones which even health-conscious omnivores will usually avoid. The point isn’t to say, “Hey, wanna go vegan? Eat this!” The point is to get people to look at the labels of the foods they normally buy. After all, if that junk is vegan, what sort of foods might they already be eating that are vegan or almost-vegan?

    The point, you see, is to make veganism more accessible.

    Yes, go ahead and make the argument that the sugar used in these processed foods is probably filtered through bone char, so not technically vegan. I get that. I really do. But you have to let people start small. Give them a chance to make less harmful choices. As they learn and become less intimidated and more adventurous, maybe they’ll make the switch. To be honest, I don’t care if someone uses regular granulated sugar or evaporated cane juice. They’re not eating animals or their secretions. End of story. Once that stops, so will the use of these byproducts. Other, less harmful means will be found. Start small. Have some Oreos. Or better yet, have some of this:

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    Quick Frito Pie

    • handful (or 2 or 3) Fritos
    • 1/4 C vegetarian baked beans

    Place Fritos in a bowl. Top with baked beans. Microwave about 30 seconds to warm the beans. Consume. (If’n you wanna get fancy, top with some shredded greens, onions, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, etc.)

    [Recipe courtesy of Chris H. Holla, bro!]

    Sources:

    PETA. “Accidentally Vegan Food List”. PETA.org. Retrieved February 3, 2013 from http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/accidentally-vegan.aspx.

    The Dirt on B-12

    Vitamin B-12 is a surprisingly complex vitamin. I didn’t realize what I was getting in to when I decided to start digging.

    Let’s start with the basics: This vitamin helps in the formation and health of red blood cells, formation and reparation of DNA, gives us a healthy nervous system, and has the added bonus of lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which has been linked to heart disease. Deficiency in B-12 can lead to pernicious anemia, an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks its own cells, and deficiency-induced dementia.

    High levels of folate can mask symptoms of pernicious anemia while exacerbating the condition. Pernicious anemia requires injections of B-12 to reverse itself. Deficiency-induced dementia will also go away after supplementation. Other signs of deficiency are weakness, fatigue, motor and balance issues, and tingling.

    Where does B-12 come from? Dirt, of course. This vitamin is the only one to be entirely synthesized by micro-organisms. Bacteria in the soil form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, and through various processes, B-12 is formed.

    Animals root or peck in dirt, or eat plant matter with dirt clinging to its roots, thus absorbing some B-12 through their often-complicated digestive process. At least, they would if allowed to roam. Today’s factory-farming processes require supplementation through vitamin-fortified feed.

    Even if humans were to eat the dirt that still clung to our hygienic supermarket vegetables, we would only be taking in very tiny amounts of B-12 — some in a form not useable by us. So, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, for whatever reason, are advised to supplement with B-12.

    This does not mean that omnivores all have acceptable B-12 levels. Persons over the age of 50, people who have had weight-loss surgery or surgery to remove portions of their digestive system, individuals with Celiac Disease, or those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other intestinal disorders should also closely monitor their B-12 intake. These people often lack sufficient digestive proteins called “intrinsic factor” which must be present for B-12 to be absorbed or damage to their gastric lining is preventing adequate nutrient absorption.

    I know, I know. How ridiculously dry is this? Drier than mummy dust (which, presumably, would have some B-12).

    What should you take away from this?

    1. Supplement. There are plenty of veg-friendly B-12 oral supplements. Or, add nutritional yeast to your snacks, smoothies, sauces, etc. But you’ll be eating a LOT of yeast.

    2. Inform your doctor of your dietary choices. Be watchful of any symptoms of B-12 deficiency. A simple urine test can accurately reflect any deficiencies — good news if you’re afraid of needles.

    **As always, I am not a medical or nutrition expert. Consult your doctor for diagnosis/treatment, or when beginning a new diet or supplement.**

    Sources:

    Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12”. ODS. Retrieved January 25, 2013 from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional.

    Trafton, Anne. “MIT Biologists Solve Vitamin Puzzle”. MIT News Office. Retrieves January 25, 2013 from http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/b12.html.

    Ch-ch-ch-chia!!

    Does anyone else hate drinking water? For some reason, if I have more than a few ounces at a time, I invariably start to feel ill. No matter what temperature or how thirsty I am, a queasy feeling starts and doesn’t go away for at least ten minutes. Maybe I’m just a freak.

    When transitioning to a vegan diet, I discovered chia as a substitute for eggs. I like to bake, so of course I thought the slimy slurry was the bomb-diggity. Then, I learned about Chia Fresca, a popular Mexican beverage. It’s basically lemonade mixed with chia seeds, and is touted as an all-natural energy drink. It sounded a little gross to me.

    I’ll admit that the first swig was… interesting. A few swallows later and the chia seeds had all developed a nice coating of gel. It wasn’t long before I had downed an entire pint of slightly lemony water with chia. I waited for the ill effects. There were none. No sloshy feeling. No feelings of nausea. Just nice and hydrated. I filled up my mason jar again, this time nixing the lemon. (Yes, I love drinking out of my jars.) Pretty soon, I had polished off my third pint of water and chia. I think my husband was wondering where my evil twin must have disposed of my body.

    So what about the facts? Ignore the ramblings of a tired nobody and let’s consult sciencey people.

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    For reference, one Tablespoon of dried whole chia seeds is about 12g.

    Worried about iron? Twelve grams of chia seed contains 4% of your iron.

    In one tablespoon of these little seeds is a hefty 5g of fiber. Five grams. That’s almost 20% of your daily needs. Most Americans only manage to meet about 40% of their daily recommendation, so one measly little ounce (28g) will top that at 42% with 10.6g. Add to that the great boost of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids they have, and you’re already sitting pretty in terms of nutrition density.

    That same little ounce has 9% protein, 18% calcium, 30% manganese, and 27% phosphorus. Eh? EH?

    Next time you’re up late at night watching infomercials and a clay head with an adorable green “do” sprouts up (pun intended), you’ll remember to add more of those little seeds to your diet — or at least your lemonade.

    Sources:
    Nutrition Data. “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, chia seeds, dried.” NutritionData.com. Retrieved January 16, 2013 from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2.

    Spectrum Organics Chia Product Label. “Chi Seed”. Spectrumorganics.com. Retrieved January 16, 2013 from http://www.spectrumorganics.com/nutrition.php?pid=277.

    Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow…

    Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
    Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
    Can you or I or anyone know
    How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?
    ~ traditional British & American folk song,
    #1380 in the Roud Folk Song Index

    Well, they would grow — if I didn’t have The Thumb of Death. I can’t even keep plastic plants alive. Needless to say, I don’t do as much growing as I do eating. Why should we eat these little things? What kinds of nutrients and benefits do they have?

    Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious benefit: they’re cheap and can be stored almost indefinitely as long as they’re kept safe from moisture. I have lots of containers of beans, lentils, rice, oats, and other grains (and grains includes pasta!) in my pantry. From a 1-lb bag of beans, I can make the equivalent of 2-3 cans, depending on the type of bean. What’s the trade-off? Convenience. If you want to use most dried beans, you’re going to have to soak them, and then go through the cooking process.

    Bean Cooking Times

    Beans (soaked) Saucepan Pressure Cooker*
    Black Beans 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 8 Min.
    Garbanzo Beans 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 7 Min.
    Great Northerns 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 7 Min.
    Lima Beans, Large 45 to 60 Min. Not Recommended
    Lima Beans, Baby 1 Hr. Not Recommended
    Navy or Small Whites 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 8 Min.
    Pink Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 6 to 8 Min.
    Pinto Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 7 Min.
    Red Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 6 to 8 Min.
    Red Kidney Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 8 Min.
    Soybeans 3 Hours 12 to 15 Min.
    Beans (not soaked) Saucepan Pressure Cooker*
    Black-Eyed Peas 1 to 112 Hrs. Not Recommended
    Lentils 30 to 45 Min. Not Recommended
    Split Peas, Green 30 to 45 Min. Not Recommended

    FUN FACTOID:
    The four major legumes known to ancient Rome lent their names to four powerful and prominent families. Fabius (fava beans), Piso (peas), Lentulus (lentils), and, of course, Cicero (chickpeas).

    So, back to the more fun stuff. Beans and peas (grouped together as legumes, pulses, or seeds) have a high protein content. This is partly attributed to their friendly relationship with certain types of bacteria found in the soil. This bacteria colonizes the root systems of the bean plants, converting the nitrogen found in the soil into a form more useable by the plant. The plant is then able to convert it directly into amino acids, saving energy. These legumes also are very low in fat, usually less than 1g per serving. While comparable to meat in terms of calories, theres a huge difference. The calories in meat comes largely from saturated fats, while the calories in our bean buddies comes from carbohydrates — largely in the form of dietary fiber. Because of this high fiber content and their ability to hold water, beans make you feel fuller faster and for longer. This is why they’re a large component of “slow-carb” diets.

    PRO-TIP:
    Use filtered water to soak and cook your beans and grains. Otherwise, the minerals present may prevent them from becoming tender. 

    Most Americans consume less than 15g of fiber each day — barely half their recommended daily amount (that’s a lot of stopped-up people!). One cup of cooked beans contains about 12g of fiber. Do you remember the benefits of fiber from my kale post? And, of course, we can’t ignore the cancer-fighting properties of the multitude of antioxidants found in oats, grains, and legumes.

    One of the first recommendations of your doctor, should you be told of high cholesterol or blood pressure, is to increase your consumption of oats. This is because of the insoluble carbs which absorb and hold water and lower our cholesterol levels. Whole grains of all types also have this useful ability of helping us maintain healthy blood pressure and weight levels, besides reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes, and certain types of cancers as well as asthma and diabetes (type 2).

    Whole grains like quinoa, farro, and wheat help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as help prevent the development of diabetes and other health conditions. Whole grains are just that — whole. The bran, endosperm, and germ normally stripped away by the milling process are intact. This means that whole grains actually have fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E — nutrients which traditional milled grains either lack or must be fortified with.

    A really cool thing you can do with all these various seeds and grains is to sprout them. You can buy your own and find an online tututial or even buy sprout kits online. Sprouts have a nutritional value somewhere between the seed and the plant — usually higher in vitamin C and lower in calories than the seed form but higher in protein, iron, and the B vitamins than most vegetables. Sprouts of all types have a unique flavor of their own. Some are sweet because of the conversion of plant starch to sugars.

    HI!:
    I just felt like I want to interject something again.
    I hope you have a lovely day — carry on!

    Other than chili or as a side dish, how can you use grains and beans? Easy peasy! Mix them into salads, sprinkle some on wraps, stir them into mashed potatoes, or use them to make snacks and desserts! Black bean brownies and chickpea blondies are decadent yet healthful treats. Or, if you want something more savory, how about some not-meatloaf? Or maybe my Beans & Greens Soup? A great way to enjoy your bowl of morning oats is by taking them on the go. Whatever you choose to do, try a variety!

    Sources:

    Bean Cooking Time Chart: Central Bean. “Cooking Beans”. centralbean.com. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from http://centralbean.com/cooking-beans/#how-to-cook-dried-beans.

    Barnard, Neal. (1993). Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life. New York: Harmony Books.

    Harvard. “Health Gains from Whole Grains”. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/health-gains-from-whole-grains/.

    McGee, Harold. (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner.

    Science Daily. “Health Benefits of Whole Grains Confirmed”. sciencedaily.com. Retrieved January 13, 2013 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070509161030.htm.

    Stamos-Kovacs, Jenny. “Beans: Protein-Rich Superfoods”. WebMD.com. Retrieved January 9, 2013 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/beans-protein-rich-superfoods.

    WHFoods.com. “Oats”. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved January 10, 2013 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=54.

    Dear Kale: I love you.

    All hail Kale! All hail Kale!

    This amazingly wonderful and super-handsome green has really been trendy lately. And I’m okay with that. It’s prettier and healthier than deep-fried-everything.

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    Click the image for a quick greens recipe

    So why all the fuss? Well. Kale has a number of health benefits, besides being absolutely packed with nutrients.

    One of these benefits is as an anti-inflammatory. A 100g serving of raw kale has about 180mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help the body to produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins which are then used to (you guessed it) reduce inflammation.

    Another oft-cited wonder of kale is its content of iron. Calorie per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, which also leads in to its sustainability. Per calorie, it takes nearly 11 times more fossil fuel to raise beef than it does to grow crops. Per pound of meat, 13 pounds of grain and more than 2400 gallons of water are used. That’s a lot of resources to feed something for 2 years just so it can feed us. Kale reaches maturity in a matter of weeks, and feeds on sunlight and rain.

    Kale is also high in calcium, containing more easily-absorbable calcium per calorie than cow’s milk. And let’s not forget fiber, of which animal sources of protein contain approximately zilch. Fiber keeps you “regular” as my grandma would say, and helps lower your risk of heart disease. This green beauty also contains 8% DV of magnesium in a 100g serving, helping your body absorb calcium as well as improving nerve and muscle function.

    Since it’s Flu and General Ick Season, lets not forget about its contributions to our immunity. That same 100g of kale contains 308% of your vitamin A, 200% vitamin C, as well as flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants which help boost your immune system and keep you healthy and sassy!

    Most people are deficient in vitamin K, so it’s worth noting that kale has a whopping amount — like, 1021% per 100g. Let’s say that together: “One thousand twenty-one percent”. Do we need to stop for a moment while you run to your neighborhood grocery to stock your produce bin with kale? It’s okay. I’ll wait right here…

    So what’s with vitamin K? Deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and prostate, lung, and liver cancers as well as leukemia. Its link to brain health problems such as dementia is also being studied. There are actually two types of vitamin K: K1 and K2. How creative. The ridiculous amounts of vitamin K in kale are type K1. Type K2 is further divided into 2 sub-types, but we won’t get in to those. If you want a reliable dietary source of K2, you’ll have to choke down some natto.

    In the meantime, why not slurp your kale in smoothie form?

    Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have training in nutrition. Seek advice from a health professional before beginning any diet, or to diagnose health problems.

    Sources:
    • Mercola. “This Could Be Even BIGGER than the Vitamin D Discovery…”. Mercola.com. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/08/26/this-could-be-even-bigger-than-the-vitamin-d-discovery.aspx
    • Nutrition Data. “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Kale, raw”. NutritionData.com. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2
    • PETA. “Meat Production Wastes Natural Resources”. PETA.org. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-wastes-natural-resources.aspx
    • Zelman, Kathleen M. “The Truth About Kale”. WebMD.com. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale