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Updated List on Most Contaminated Produce

I’ve spoken about this handy guide before, but the Environmental Working Group just updated their Dirty Dozen list for 2009.  They’ve reissued their convenient pocket guide, which you can stick in your wallet and take to the grocery store to easily identify the twelve most contaminated and fifteen least contaminated fruits and vegetables.  For those who want to limit their exposure to pesticides without breaking the bank, it’s a good place to start!

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On Peanut Butter Apple Oats, Organics, and the Economy

My scalp cringes whenever I hear a middle-class person opining that organically or sustainably produced food is too expensive to be practical (right before said person biffs to Starbucks to drop $3-6 on a caffeinated beverage) or when I hear any garden-variety personfolk bloviating about how it’s cheaper to eat at a fast food joint than it is to eat at home.

Neither of these assertions is necessarily true.  Can they be?  Certainly.  However, that depends largely on what organics you are buying and what types of dishes you are preparing at home, including how many prepared ingredients you are using.  For whole foods vegetarians, especially whole foods vegans, they’re often false.  I don’t even need to address the “hidden costs” of factory farmed produce, dairy, and meat (through environmental damage, taxpayer-funded subsidies, etc.) to prove that.  Case in point?  How about breakfast?

The Unicyclist has been on breakfast duty for the last couple months, something which has allowed him to develop our favorite everyday oatmeal: Peanut Butter Apple Oats.  Today, out of curiosity, I dug up receipts, a food scale, a calculator, and I crunched the numbers to find out how much this tasty, filling dish was costing us. Are you ready?

3 oz. conventional rolled oats from the bulk section at Whole Foods (for .79/lb) = .15

4 oz organic apple bought in a five-pound bag at Whole Foods for 4.99 = .42

1 c Trader Joe’s organic rice milk, at 2.69 for 8 servings = .34

1 T Trader Joe’s organic peanut butter at 2.99/jar = .11

1 T farmer’s market apple butter at 5.00/jar = .17

Add a cup of water (for those of you keeping score to make this in your kitchen, that’s 1 heaping cup rolled oats and 2 cups liquid, plus a diced apple), combine well, cook until creamy and piping hot, and you have breakfast for two people and one Hippo for the grand total of $1.19, or less than sixty cents.  If we’d gotten the organic oats (at about $1.60 in the bulk section, which we skipped because they were out last time we were at the store), we’d have doubled the cost of our oats, which would have upped our total bill to…$1.34.  Again, we’re feeding two people and a 10-pound dog on that. Go ahead and compare that to a fast food breakfast value menu.  I dare ya.

If you’re on a tight budget, embrace the bulk bins.  No, seriously.  Cozy right on up to them.  Snuggle a little if no grocery store employees are watching.  Then stuff a bag with its contents and cart it to the register because dry beans and grains are some of the most affordable items you can pick up, even when they’re organic.


Before You Gobble Your Gobbler: The Real Deal on Turkeys

Thursday is fast-approaching.  Welcome to Thanksgiving 2008.  Or, as it’s also known, Turkey Day.  Is it just me, or is that an odd nickname?  It makes it sound like of fun, poultry-based activities intended to honor the noble turkey, even though it’s more like “The Day All Turkeys Must Die.”

Imagine if the same was true of other holidays so named, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Yeesh.  Okay, extreme, but do you get the aforementioned weirdness now?

If you’ve not seen the video of Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving while others are being slaughtered on camera right behind her, perhaps you should take a gander.  While it’s rife with irony (and innuendo from the interviewer at times—”programs on the chopping block”?), it does bring up an issue that I want resolved. And no slight on Governor Palin, here.  This is far bigger than either this interview or the governor herself.

Can someone, ANYONE, out there please explain the whole “pardoning a turkey for Thanksgiving” thing?  I know how it started—that’s not my question.  I really don’t get the rationale.  Frankly, making a PR opportunity out of pardoning a specific turkey while encouraging the deaths of countless others seems to smack of a sick sort of humor.  It’s only because so many birds will wind up on dinner tables for the holiday that marking one to have the chance to die a natural death is remotely noteworthy.  This is particularly true when you consider that the president/governor/other public figures in question fully intend to have a turkey at their family dinners, just not that particular one.

“Heh heh heh.  Yous guys is all invited over for dinner, if you know what I mean.  But hey, I gots a heart, so…you there, with the feathers and the red bobble on your noggin, you gets to go free.”

Seriously, wha?

Watch the drama of the pardon unfold on an episode of the West Wing, shown here.

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Monday Entertainment: The Meatrix

Okay, so it’s been around for a while, but it’s amusing.  What can I say?  I’m on the road again, busy lady, reading like crazy on the airplane so I have loads of exciting new stuff to post for you.  Anyway, this animation is from Sustainable Table.  Check it out.  (Yes, they do have sequels.)

And in the lineup for the near future, you can expect a review of Food Security for the Faint of Heart by Robin Wheeler, the nitty gritty about the modern turkey, holiday recipes, and so much more! I’m in Wisconsin…cheese for everyone!  Huzzah!

(Except for the vegans, of course.  I’ll get you folks some baby rice popcorn from the farm down the way.  So good!)

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Guest Blogger: Kirby’s Mom Talks Turkey…and Stuffing, and Cranberry Sauce…

Note from Laurel:  On Saturday, my momoo called me up, somewhat flabbergasted by her experience doing her Thanksgiving shopping.  She was surprised and upset by what she found when she actually read the labels on what she was buying.  As I listened to her, I thought, “This would make a really good post.”  And so my first guest column was born.  The following post was written by my mom, also known as Kirby’s mom.  (That being her adorable four-legged daughter with dog breath.)  Mom, thanks for being a good sport.

Pretty, no?  Also cold.  This is why I live in Arizona now.

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How to Read a Label, Pt 2: The Big Fat Deal

I’m going to be honest here.  Because I really do like things simple, trying to figure out which processed foods I could buy if I cared about fats was pretty much the deal-breaker for all processed foods.  It turned out that it was easier to make my own food than to decipher a lot of the information on fats.  Seriously.

Basically, when you get into fats, things get slippery.


Puns aside, I will do my durndest to boil this information down to the bare essentials.

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How to Read a Label, Pt 1: Fiber and Sugars and GI, Oh My!

Here’s something that shouldn’t come as a shock to you (not least because it’s one of my favorite talking points): Processed foods are generally a bad idea.  Even when you think they’re a good idea, they probably aren’t.  You’re better off skipping the heavily-processed cheese-filled crackers and the store-bought cookies, and you’ll also benefit from making your own pasta sauce and soups.

In an ideal world, maybe we’d have all have the time and energy needed to be make our own bread and paint the Mona Lisa.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot going on.  Sometimes, you really want chili, and you forgot to plan ahead and soak the beans, or you just don’t have the 20 minutes you need to pressure-cook them.  So…canned beans.  Should it be done?

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Looking for a Local Harvest

It’s game day here at the Simple Spoonful! Woot! Here’s how to play: Print out a blackline world map with all the countries. Now, truck yourself over to your nearest large chain grocery and take a good look at the produce section. Pay special attention to the stickers on the produce or the information on the plastic clamshells in which the berries or tomatoes come. Every time you can identify where the produce is coming from, you get to color in that country (or state, in the U.S.) on your map. You might have to ask a produce worker where certain things are coming from if you can’t tell–try it! It’s fun.

Oh–just to boost the fun factor, let’s say every time you find something grown in your home state, you get an extra 500 bonus points.

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