Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I won't have internet access over the holidays so I'll take this chance to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and happy new year. See you in January with an update on December's organic challenge!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A World Without Miracles

I'm over at Life as Human today pondering miracles, magic, and the Christmas season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

When to Buy Organic

Wagon Wheel
Tractor. Barbialla Organic Farm. Tuscany. 
Andrea Paterson. 2010
There has been a lot in the news recently about organics and why it may be healthier for all of us to choose organic foods more often. The Pesticide Action Network of North America just released this article about the connection between pesticide consumption and dementia:

Of course, even with all the research pointing to the dangers of pesticides, GMOs, and hormones in meat the bottom line is that it's not always feasible to buy organic. If you have to choose which produce to buy organic the following list from can help. Some produce absorbs more chemicals than others. And some produce are simply sprayed with more chemicals than others. So if you can only buy a few organic products each shopping trip this would be the place to start:


Apples absorb more pesticides than any other fruit. Around 36 different chemicals have been discovered on them. There were as many as seven different chemicals found on a single apple. Therefore, it makes good sense to only purchase these from an organic source. Alternative options for these would be tangerines, bananas and watermelon.


These are also among the most contaminated fruits you can buy. If you cannot buy these organic, rather opt for kiwifruit or pineapple.


These have also been known to absorb far more chemicals and pesticides than other fruits.

Baby Foods:

Babies and children have developing immune systems, so it's very important for them to be exposed to as little pesticides and chemicals as possible. Wherever possible, purchase organic baby foods, or better still, make and puree your own, using organic fruit and vegetables.


These may be hailed as a superfood, but this only applies if they are organic. Tests have shown them to be contaminated with as many as 52 different pesticides.

Dairy Products:

Most cows consume grain that contains chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics. Wherever possible, try to source organic dairy products. Or better still, 100% raw milk and cheese will be 100% healthy and nutritious, unlike the pasteurized versions.


These contain as many as 33 different chemicals and pesticides. If they are not available as organic, safer alternatives would be papaya, watermelon and mango.


These have been ranked as one of the most contaminated fresh foods.

Bell Peppers:

Because these have a very thin skin, they absorb pesticides and chemicals very easily. Should they not be available as organic, safer alternatives to these would include peas, cabbage and broccoli.


These can contain as many as 17 different chemicals and pesticides. They are also very high in fructose, so they should be consumed in moderation. Safer alternatives include kiwifruit and raspberries.

Spinach and Kale:

The leaves of these two vegetables are capable of absorbing as many as 48 different pesticides, so it is very important to only use the organic varieties. Safer alternatives would be cabbage, broccoli and asparagus.


Potatoes have been known to absorb as many as 37 chemicals and pesticides. Safer alternatives to these would be mushrooms, eggplant and cabbage.

Winter Squash:

These have also been known to absorb Dieldrin from soil.

Green beans:

These unfortunately rank high on the contamination list, with as many as 60 different pesticides being used on them.

Meat Products:

Organic meats are always healthier, as they contain no growth hormones and stand little to no chance of containing any pesticide products.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Organic in Vancouver

Over time I've found some great organics that can be readily found at reasonable prices in many Vancouver grocery stores. I thought I would provide a list of some of my favourites:

1. Corn is one of the products that is most often genetically modified. However, Nature's Path makes organic corn flakes (that are also gluten free!) that come in eco-friendly bags. I also buy Que Pasa corn chips made from organic corn and non GMO canola oil.

2. Milk replacements are always difficult for those with dairy allergies or vegan diets. Happily Silk Soy milk is organic and I just discovered So Good Organic Coconut Milk which sells for about the same price as soy milk minus the potentially dodgy effects of over-processed soy! Yay!

3. No one wants to go without chocolate. Denman Island Chocolate is a local BC company that produces delicious organic dark chocolate.

Sticking to food principles doesn't mean a life of deprivation. There are great products out there. Sometimes it just takes a bit of digging.

Felt for the Holidays

Hello blog readers.

Today I'm over at Life as a Human discussing my  love of needle felting and how it just might be the solution to last minute Christmas gift making panic.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choice of Chickens

As suspected I have already run into some major challenges with my Organic Project. There I was, standing in the Choices Market, staring at a selection of whole chickens. There was the certified organic chicken that priced in at about $24 for a rather small bird and there was a "specialty" chicken that came in at $18 for a slightly larger bird. Of course, both of these prices are higher than the $12 I'm used to paying for a conventional, battery farmed chicken so I set about discovering what the differences were.

Conventional Chicken:
  1. Factory/Battery farmed.
  2. Likely given feed laced with hormones and antibiotics to promote faster growth and to counteract the high risk of disease that accompanies the horrific living conditions of these animals.
  3. Feed is likely contains GM ingredients and may even contain animal byproducts and other things that chickens would not normally eat.
  4. Not likely a local meat product
Specialty Chicken: The "Specialty" label doesn't mean anything in and of itself, but reading the label revealed the following:

  1. Local BC chicken raised on a family owned farm. This is a bit vague as it didn't say anything about what sort of farm it was. It could have been a family owned factory farm for all I knew!
  2. Chickens fed a natural diet of grains grown on the farm with no strange byproducts--but feed could have been GM. There was no information about the GM status of the soy and corn these chickens were given amongst other things.
  3. Chickens were not fed antibiotics or hormones.
Organic Chicken

  1. Certified organic which means no GM feed, no antibiotics or hormones.
So I had a bit of a conundrum. After much debate I went with the "specialty" chicken as a compromise. It fit my local criteria and was at least free of hormones and antibiotics if not GM feed. Farm conditions were vague but I had to balance cost as well and the specialty chicken was more affordable. I figure I did better than conventional but not as well as fully organic so at least it's a start!

In the meantime I made a huge batch of borscht which was quite cost effective though doesn't contain fully organic ingredients. The vegetables and broth are organic but the meat isn't. Again, it's a balancing act and compromise is going to be necessary to meet both philosophical and budgetary goals. I figure if at the end of this experiment I save money and at least reduce exposure to chemicals, toxins, and GM foods then I'm doing pretty well.

Finally, here's my organic tip for the week: Buy cabbage! Cabbage is a very good deal. It's nutrient dense, goes a long way in filling out a soup, and even organic cabbage is quite cheap. You should be paying under a dollar a pound for cabbage, even if it's organic. It's an underestimated vegetable that is flavourful with a good crunchy texture if not overcooked.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oraganic Challenge: Day 1

Well here I am on the first day of my organic challenge. One of the ways that I'm hoping to buy organic while still cutting down on my food bill is by considering the nutrition:cost ratio of the foods I'm buying. I'll try to buy foods that are the most nutrient dense for their price. I'm pretty sure that soups will be on the menu a lot since you can put basically anything in soup and make it taste delicious. Broths are inexpensive if you make them from scratch using leftover bones and scraps from dinner. You can save those limp and unappetizing vegetables that have been hanging out in your crisper as well. Rather than throwing them out store them in a plastic bag in the freezer and then throw them into your broth for enhanced flavour and nutrition.

I made up a soup the other day using ingredients that were on hand, cheap, and filling. The soup has lasted an entire week--that's six lunches for me and soup for both M. and I at dinner on about three nights for a total of 12 meals (and that's keeping in mind that M. can put away 2-3 times the amount of food I eat at dinner!)


Duck carcass including organs with some meat still attached. I had a duck cooking adventure a few weeks ago and saved the leftovers for making soup.

bag of frozen veggie odds and ends (carrot bits, potato peels, limp green onions etc.)

Put the duck (or chicken or whatever you're using) into a large stock pot and completely cover with water. Simmer for at least an hour. Then add the veggies and simmer for at least another half hour. Remove the veggies and the bones and season your broth with whatever spices you like. I found my broth was a little bit bland so I added one liter of prepared chicken broth to fill it out. Once the broth is done you can throw in whatever other ingredients you have. I added the following:

1 purple cabbage--cabbage is great for you and quite cheap

1 bag of yellow lentils--beans are a good, cheap source of protein

A chopped onion (fried first in some of the duck fat that I saved)

1 can of tomato paste

2 leeks--chopped

a dash of hot chili sauce and a bunch of other seasonings in proportions I can't even recall.

I admittedly made this soup before starting the organic challenge so not all of the ingredients were organic (in particular the duck was not organic so that's big time cheating). But the principle holds--soup will be a staple in the future as I try to find ways to use the ingredients that I can source.