Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Action Alert about new USDA Organic Seafood Standards

I know this is "turkey week", and I had originally planned to post up photos of the beautiful food that came in our Thanksgiving CSA share box from Tantre Farms along with an account of our first trip to a nearby farm to pick up our locally raised turkey. Instead, I feel the urge to alert my readers to some recent disturbing recommendations for seafood to be labeled as USDA-certified "organic".

On November 20, 2008 the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) released its recommendations regarding the production methods and labeling of USDA-certified "organic" fish. There are several highly controversial rulings within their report:
- Fish may be fed food other than 100% organic feed, contrary to the gold standard needing to be met by other USDA-certified organic livestock;
- Fish meal may be used to feed farmed fish that is obtained from wild fish, which has the potential to carry mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants;
- Open net cages can be used, which permit pollution, disease and parasites from open net fish farms to flush directly into the ocean, with the potential to adversely impact wild fish populations, sustainability, and the overall health of the oceans.

I have included a copy of the letter I have written via email to the current (acting) director of the National Organic Program. It is not easy to figure out if these recommendations are already a "done deal", who is the best/correct person to receive comments, or the timetable for comments to be taking into consideration. So if I learn where to better direct feedback so that it will be "counted" and considered before finally enacting these recommendations, I will add that information in a follow-up posting.

I do include information about eating healthy fish in several FAQs on my web site. I have been concerned about healthy fish and healthy oceans in addition to my own health for years, having made my purchasing selections based on the information that I have included on my web site, thus I must admit that I was not on top of these new USDA rulings.

Both Dr. Marion Nestle and one of my brothers spurred me into action. Thanks to them and all of my readers for also caring about this issue and taking your own actions as a concerned citizen both by voting with your fork and pen (well, really your keyboard strokes). Feel free to use my letter as a template, adding in any of your own personal comments as you feel are appropriate.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


National Organic Program
Barbara Robinson, Acting Director
Deputy Administrator
Room 4008-South Building
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0020
Phone: (202) 720-3252
Fax: (202) 205-7808
E-mail: NOPAQSS@usda.gov

Dear Dr. Robinson,

I am extremely disappointed in the November 20 decision by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to accept the recommendations for "organic" fish production that will allow fish to carry the USDA organic label -- despite being raised under conditions that fail to meet fundamental USDA organic principles.

As a consumer and a health care professional who puts value and faith in the USDA organic label, I expect fish labeled as organic to meet the same high standards as all other USDA-certified organic products and livestock. Anything less is a disservice to the organic label and American consumers and will completely undermine both the USDA organic program and my confidence in the entire organic marketplace..

These highly controversial NOSB recommendations allow:
- Fish may be fed food other than 100% organic feed, contrary to the gold standard needing to be met by other USDA-certified organic livestock;
- Fish meal may be used to feed farmed fish that is obtained from wild fish, which has the potential to carry mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants;
- Open net cages can be used, which permit pollution, disease and parasites from open net fish farms to flush directly into the ocean, with the potential to adversely impact wild fish populations, sustainability, and the overall health of the oceans.

These dilutions of USDA's organic standards appear to simply be a marketing decision made for benefit of the aqua-culture industry that needs to "rush to market" a product that is not really fully developed, i.e., an industry looking for a way to quickly take advantage of and realize a profit from consumers who have come to associate the USDA organic standard with a production process that puts a high premium on both the quality of a product and the health of our planet.

At this point, if these weakened standards are actually enacted, I will not purchase or recommend any fish labeled as USDA-certified organic. I will continue to personally purchase and professionally advise (via my book, website, blog, and public speaking) only those fish as reviewed and recommended by organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

I urge you to ensure that the USDA's organic label continues to have integrity and is used only on food produced according to the highest environmental standards. Fish labeled as organic should not be raised on non-organic feed nor in facilities that release waste into the environment. Please stop this very wrong decision from being enacted.


Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, November 21, 2008

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #5

This menu comes complete with photos because I didn’t cool anything on the counter to prevent doggie food stealing (my vet used that terminology), and I remembered to take photos before we ate. We have now had to put childproof locks on two cupboard doors where we put our kitchen trash to keep our dog from demonstrating her new bad habit (and we don't even have meat scraps!)

We enjoyed having our first “guest of honor” at dinner, Amanda Edmunds, the Executive Director of Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI, where our group makes a monthly donation that is used to purchase the healthy snacks for the youth who participate in Growing Hope’s after-school programs. Amanda gave us the history of the development of Growing Hope, plans and challenges for the future, along with it successes to date.

We had hoped to start discussing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver but had such a lengthy and involved discussion with Amanda about the focus of Growing Hope and the long and short-term impacts of urban and community gardening (which was the focus of the journal article we read this month, too) that we’ll save a full discussion of AVM for our next meeting in January.

Here is our menu for November (again using as many foods from our own garden or the local Farmers’ Market as possible):
• Apple and Kale Spice Muffins (still harvesting kale from our garden, even though we have had many days of very cold weather and snow, apples were from a neighbor’s tree)
• No-knead Whole Wheat Bread
• Roasted Acorn Squash Soup w/squash seed garnish (squash from a local farmer)
• Fall kale and leafy greens salad w/pomegranate seeds (the pomegranate seeds are not local but they are seasonal - enjoy a few as a special treat at this time of year) - you can see the ice on our kale in this photo, which only makes it sweeter!
• Water with lemon and hot green-raspberry tea (tea from ArborTeas.com)


Muffins cooling first on the counter and then on top of the refrigerator (if our dog can get these, nothing is safe!)

* 1-1/2 C organic whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
* 1 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ½ tsp. cinnamon
* ¼ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon grated vanilla bean (or use ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
* ⅓ C honey
* 1 egg
* ½ C sour milk or plain unflavored yogurt (I used the yogurt)
* ⅓ C canola oil
* ½ tsp. vanilla (see above)
* 1-½ C grated apples or carrots (used cored, unpeeled apples chopped in my food processor)
* 1 C finely chopped kale or raw leafy green vegetable (I took off the stems and then chopped the leaves fine in my food processor)
* ½ C each any dried fruit and chopped nuts (optional, but adds a crunch and is also nutritious and yummy enough for a dessert muffin, too!)

Preheat oven to 400.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

In another bowl, mix honey, egg, yogurt, oil, vanilla, apples, kale, dried fruit and nuts.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring just till moistened. Fill 12 typical size greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Made 12 very full muffins.

No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

recipe used from http://www.sugoodsweets.com/blog/2007/03/no-knead-wwbread/

(The metric measurements are more accurate.)

• 3 cups (430 grams) whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur’s white whole wheat), plus ¼ -½ cup more for dusting
• ¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast (or ¼ plus 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast*) - yes I cut open a package of yeast and carefully measured this amount out
• 1¼ teaspoons (8 grams) salt
• 1 ½ tablespoons vital wheat gluten
• 2 cups minus 1 tablespoon (430 grams) water (I used about 1-½ cups to mix the flour the first time and about 1-¾ cup water the second time )
• Cornmeal, ground flax, or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, instant yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended. Keep adding water until the dough is shaggy and sticky, like a stiff muffin batter. It should not be so wet that it’s pourable. You will probably use all of the water, but different brands of flour are more absorbent. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

*If substituting active dry yeast, let it proof in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water (reserved from the total water) for 10 minutes. Add the yeast with the rest of the water when mixing it in the dough.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Liberally flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

• 8 cups vegetable broth (homemade or use vegetable broth cubes)
• 4-5 medium acorn squash (with the more orange color on the skin, the more ripe, i.e., sweeter, the squash will be)
• Salt and white pepper (to taste)
• Olive oil
• 4 tsp whole cumin seeds (I actually used my coffee grinder to chop these up a bit to release more flavor)
• 1-2 Cinnamon stick
• ½# soft or silken tofu (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Halve the squashes, remove the seeds (save to make an extra delicious treat by washing and toasting with salt or any herb seasoning of choice).

Brush the inside of each squash half with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin seeds. Roast for about 45 minutes in a shallow pan or on a cookie sheet until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork and the edges of the squash are golden.

Remove squash from oven and let cool.

While the squash cools, bring the broth to a boil.

Place the cinnamon stick in the vegetable stock and let it boil until you can smell the cinnamon.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the squash out of the skin and put it in a blender or food processor.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the stock, and pour the liquid into the blender with the squash, adding tofu if you are using it.

Blend till smooth (this much soup will need to be done in batches - be very careful not to fill the blender or food processor too full and possibly burn yourself by having hot soup spatter on you).

Serve with toasted squash seeds as a garnish, whole grain bread, and a salad of your choice - yummmmm!!

Toasted Squash Seed Garnish

Wash the seeds in a colander, removing as much of the squash “goo” as possible. Shake dry. Spread on a cookie sheet (I used a sheet of parchment paper) and sprinkling toasting with salt or any herb seasoning of choice. Bake in a 350 degree oven 15-30 minutes until dry and toasty. Be careful not to burn. I chopped the toasted seeds with various fresh herbs from my window herb garden in my small food processor. This garnish is also great sprinkled on a green salad.

I’ll close with the blessing read tonight, one specifically pertinent since it is giving thanks for a soup and all the beauty and sacredness that went into making the meal as it enriches our life.

I am an Indian,
I think about common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun,
which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
our animal brothers,
who gave of themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The great Spirit takes care of me.

~~ John Lame Deer (1903-1976)

During the week before Thanksgiving, I always give thanks for another year of life, my family, friends, health, joys and enrichment. The surgery for my first breast cancer was the day prior to Thanksgiving in 1984, so this year I will be giving thanks for beginning my 25th year after that very challenging time in my life (it was actually somewhat startling to “do the math” and realize that many years have passed). Of course, being a childhood cancer survivor, I have been fortunate for far more than 25 years, but still, I have started to think about how I might mark the specialness of having the gift of life for these past 25 years when I was able to be involved with my two sons growing up to be very special young men. I have not decided what or how to celebrate that milestone yet, so family, friends, and readers, if you have ideas for me, I’d love to hear them!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cancer Survivors: Take the "package" deal!

I have been following the research for many years led by psychologist Barbara Andersen, PhD who has been leading the Stress and Immunity Breast Cancer Project at The Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has been following a group of 227 breast cancer survivors with stage II or stage III disease observing various outcomes in the women who had intensive group education on various coping strategies and support after diagnosis compared to a control group who did not receive this additional intervention.

Soon after diagnosis, half of the 227 participants were randomized into the intervention group, which met weekly in groups of 8 to 12 with a clinical psychologist. During these weekly sessions participants learned progressive muscle relaxation for stress reduction, problem solving for common difficulties (such as fatigue), how to find support from family and friends, health behavior change tips for exercise and diet, and finally, how to deal with treatment side effects plus keep up with medical treatment and follow-up. After four months of weekly sessions, participants then met monthly for eight months. Earlier published research articles demonstrated that, compared with the assessment only arm, the intervention group improved across all of these outcomes, plus immune system indicators were also enhanced.

What this new study demonstrates is the best evidence to date that a psychologist-led intervention program that teaches multiple strategies for coping with the changes and challenges after a breast cancer diagnosis improves overall health and quality of life and also increases the chances of longer survival. The women in the intervention group, which by now have been followed for 7-13 years with an average of 11 years, reduced their risk of breast cancer recurrence by 45% and reduced their risk of dying of breast cancer by 56%.

This study will be published in the December 15, 2008 issue of Cancer. The abstract is available to read on-line.

There are many important points about this study:
(1) Focusing the study on those women with stage II and stage III breast cancer helps to define additional strategies for improving outcomes for the largest group of breast cancer patients. Studies that include stage I and/or stage IV diagnoses are very difficult to interpret and apply to general clinical practice.

(2) Even for women who did die from breast cancer, those in the intervention group lived longer than those who received the appropriate medical care and were simply psychologically assessed at various points after diagnosis. (an average of 6.1 years versus 4.8 years)

(3) Participants in the intervention group also has a lower chance of dying from causes other than breast cancer, such as heart disease or other cancers. Again, even among those women who did die of other causes, the ones who were in the intervention group lived for an average of 6 years versus 5 years compared to those in the assessment only group.

(4) This study was actually designed to study recurrence and survival in contrast to the older studies published in the 1980-90's which observed some survival advantages in patients receiving psychological intervention but those earlier studies had multiple research design flaws and thus could not be considered strong evidence that such therapy would improve survival.

(5) While the researchers found that patients in the intervention group who had the greatest reductions in distress and physical symptoms were those who practiced progressive muscle relaxation most frequently, the intervention group clearly received a "package" of strategies for coping with the multiple challenges patients face following a cancer diagnosis, including information and support regarding lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise for improving overall health. An intervention and approach of this type should no longer be considered "complementary" medicine but represents "integrated" medical care and should be included for all patients as a component of comprehensive cancer care.

(6) The other important point of this research for patients to use for a take-home lesson is don't wait until life becomes unmanageable to seek out stress reduction information and support along with other lifestyle changes and coping techniques to get you through what may be the most stressful event of your life. Seek out support such as this study provides EARLY after diagnosis. Get your medical options chosen and then take on the other challenges. You are in charge of the biggest fight of your life, for your life, and it will take more (much more!) than surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy to achieve wholeness and wellness after cancer.

The enhanced longevity data from this study is very, very important, however quality of life outcomes such as improved mood, decreased fatigue, or better sleep are equally important outcomes. No cancer survivor I know would ever consider research to be "soft" or unimportant if it showed an intervention improved many aspects of quality of life, i.e, real life. In fact, there are situations where it could even be argued by any reasonable person that a longer but miserable or difficult life may not have been worth the effort and multiple costs of undergoing cancer therapy.

I titled this post "Take the package deal!" Unfortunately, it will be the unusual cancer center that has such an extensive education and support program for all of their patients included as an automatic part of the cancer care offered at that center. However, nearly every single cancer center I have visited offers many types of support programs for their patients. In addition, the American Cancer Society offers a program called I Can Cope and many communities have support organizations such as Gilda's Club or The Wellness Community that offer multiple types of support classes as a few examples of support available.

So right now, my real message to all those with a cancer diagnosis is to SEEK the "package" deal, which includes information and strategies from many types of oncology team members (social workers, psychologists, dietitians, nurses, chaplains, etc) for stress management and lifestyle alterations (diet, exercise, smoking cessation), spirituality, and counseling for the many problems that often surface with such a stressful life event.

In fact, don't wait, but make some phone calls to find out what support is available in your area, and then run, walk, bike, skate, jog or even skip on over to get started. The rest of your life is waiting!!

Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Andersen, her colleagues, and all her funding sources for believing in and supporting this research of critical importance to all cancer survivors.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Bruschetta in a Jar" morphs into a chutney!

Home from traveling late last night, attended a GREAT presentation this morning on Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg (more on that in a future post), tired, without much fresh food in the frig, uninterested in making a trip to the grocery store even though I'm fortunate to have three of them only one mile from my home, too tired to even go out to eat, stalling about whether my husband or I will make supper and what we will actually eat, casually flipping through a new cookbook I purchased today called The White Dog Cafe Cookbook by Judy Wicks and Kevin van Klause when I see a recipe that gives me an inspiration using our own "fast food"!

Earlier this fall my husband and I made a recipe called Bruschetta in a Jar when we still needed to find a way to use all the tomatoes we harvested from the 61 plants we had in our community garden. I saw a recipe called Derby Day Leg of Lamb with Tomato-Mint Chutney in the White Dog Cafe Cookbook. I knew we had some lamb still frozen that was left over from our Easter dinner (which we served with incredibly delicious homemade chimichurri sauce). When I looked closely at the recipe for the tomato-mint chutney, I realized that I could take a 8-ounce jar of our "bruschetta in a jar", add 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves (while outside this afternoon, I noticed that some of the mint patch right next to our house had not frozen yet) and 1 teaspoon sugar or other sweetener and have a pretty close approximation of the tomato-mint chutney recipe.

I quickly put some rice in the rice cooker (one of my favorite "gadgets"), got some kale ready to braise (10 cups of kale, with large stems removed and torn into small to medium size pieces, cooked down to 2 servings), my husband got the lamb out of the freezer and brought up a jar of the bruschetta from the basement, I went outside to cut some mint (38 degrees and sprinkling, which makes it feel like 28 - brrrrr - back to typical November after our gift of several really warm days last week), removed the green leaves, washed the mint leaves and patted them dry, chopped them fine with a chef's knife, then added the chopped mint and sugar to the tomato mixture to let the flavors mingle while the rice cooked.

Our meal came together quite easily, and only 45 minutes after putting the rice in the rice cooker, we were enjoying our supper of lamb, basmati rice, braised kale with garlic, balsamic vinegar, and black sesame seeds, along with the tomato-mint chutney. The small amount of chutney that we did not eat was added to some of the left-over rice for a future meal. More "fast food" - Yum, yum, yum!!!

The White Dog Cafe Cookbook is dedicated to organic family farmers, whose stewardship of the land and respect for the lives of farm animals preserves a way of life that brings us nourishment and good health. We eat very little meat and also choose to only consume meat when we know the animal has been humanely raised in a manner that promotes sustainable food systems, and thus, we are grateful for the farmer who raised the lamb we ate last Easter and tonight in addition to all the organic farmers who grew the food we ate for our supper tonight.

Here is the blessing we chose tonight:

Blessed are you, Lord.
You have fed us from our earliest days;
you give food to every living creature.
Fill our hearts with joy and delight.
Let us always have enough
and something to spare for works of mercy
in honor of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Through him, may glory, honor, and power be yours forever.

~~Fourth-century Christian prayer

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, November 3, 2008

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #4

I think I could summarize this meal as "a bale of kale" (actually my husband Dick came up with that great phrase). I did try to incorporate kale into every course and was originally successful. Regretfully, this post comes without photos for two reasons: our dog ate the spoonbread while it was cooling (yes, my dog ate 3/4 of the 9x13 pan!! - arghhhhh) and then we actually ate everything else before I got photos. I've learned my lessons: leave nothing on the counter to cool if I am out of view and take photos before we eat!

Here is what we ate or should have eaten:


3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 onion, chopped (about 1-1/2 cup)
1-1/2 cup chopped carrot 
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
12 cups vegetable stock (homemade if possible) 
7-8 cups or so of chopped kale (de-stemmed)
freshly ground pepper
sea salt (optional) 

Put the first five ingredients into a large soup pot (it will have to be able to hold the kale too), bring to the boil, cover and then simmer until the root vegetables are cooked - around 20 minutes, but test to make sure. Puree the contents of the pan in a blender, in batches if necessary (or use an immersion blender). You may want to or need to add extra stock or water - it all depends on the size of your cubed veggies, the size and shape of your pan, and the heat at which you choose to simmer, but extra liquid will come out of the kale when it is added.

Return the partly made soup to the cooking pot, add the chopped kale, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the kale is tender (be sure to not overcook to keep the leaves bright green).

Taste for seasoning and serve with a salad and some whole grain bread.


Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Ingredients
1 pound kale (about 2 bunches), thick ribs and stems cut away
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch sliced green onions (white and green parts)
1 cup white corn (about ½ of a 15 ounce can), drain and rinse off the salty liquid (freeze the rest for future use)
1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar (or roast 1-2 fresh red sweet peppers, or use some that you roasted and froze yourself during the summer)
1 garlic clove, minced (optional, depending on what else you are serving - I omitted this since the soup had garlic added as did the bread slices for the kale-bread salad I served)

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)
1 teaspoon salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 large eggs
½ cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used ~¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes)

Recipe Direction
Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; cool. Squeeze dry. Finely chop kale (I chopped the kale in my food processor).

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, corn, red peppers, and garlic; stir 3 minutes. Mix in 1 1/2 cups kale. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F at this point. Spray 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick spray (I use a small piece of wax paper to evenly spread the non-stick spray over the bottom and sides of my baking dish).

Whisk 2 cups water and cornmeal in bowl to blend. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in cornmeal mixture. Stir until mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Be VERY careful at this stage. As the mixture thickens, it will start to “pop” and a splatter of batter may just burn you! Cool slightly (I only let it cool for ~1 minute).

Whisk eggs in large bowl to blend; gradually whisk in warm cornmeal mixture. Stir in kale mixture, cheese, and hot pepper sauce. Transfer to prepared dish; smooth top. Bake until set and golden, about 35 minutes. Test with a toothpick in the middle of the dish. Serve warm.

Trust me! This spoonbread is (was!) BEAUTIFUL. Boo-hoo (I confess I was both heartbroken and mad to come home from the Farmers' Market to find this major "oops".)


1 head romaine lettuce - wash and tear into bite size pieces (7-8 cups)
Kale - wash, remove tough steams and cut into thin ribbons to make 3-4 cups
Add other fresh, raw veggies such as various colors of cherry tomatoes, red pepper pieces, cucumber pieces, etc.
Add ~2 cups cooked dried beans, rinsed and drained (I used flageolet beans, which I soaked and cooked the day before I made the salad.)
Rub garlic over dry bread slices (whole grain baguettes, cut into 1 inch thick slices) - toast, cool, then cut into 1-inch cubes. (1 small baguette or whatever you have on hand - 3-4 cups)
Combine all ingredients except bread. Toss. Add 4 Tbsp. olive oil, then 2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar. Toss all.
Then add bread cubes about 15 minutes prior to serving. Toss all.
Add a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss again prior to serving.

(4) Kale Chips

Without the spoonbread to serve, I quickly and easily made a tray of kale chips to serve as a little appetizer for my friends to try while everyone arrived. Most had not tried these before, and I remember finally saying "WAIT! Leave some for xxxxxx (I forget who)." Yes, they are that good. Give them a try. Fresh kale will be available for many weeks yet, and locally grown kale will taste even better than usual if you live in an area that has had a good frost like we have had in Michigan. :-)

For this book and journal club discussion, we took a break from reading a major book and instead viewed and discussed both a DVD documentary entitled "What will we eat?", made by a Michigan film-maker Chris Bedford who produces advocacy films and videotapes to help farmers and consumers promote the transition to a humane, sustainable local food economy in addition to reading and discussing the research article by the Cornell scientists who are evaluating how much land is needed to optimize local production of diets containing various amounts of meat, dairy, fat, and calories from plants and plant products.

Two points of hearty discussion revolved around the fact that this research study did not evaluate the land required to produce a healthy and nutritious vegan diet nor did it take into account any factors related to the costs associated with conventional agriculture or food product production (i.e., where do the soybeans need to be shipped to be processed into soy milk or soy oil and what are the costs involved with that production and shipping to the consumer?). Still, this type of research is a necessary first step in the complex process to develop an understanding of the methods that are really necessary to produce a local/regional sustainable food system that is able to provide both access and affordability of a healthy diet and foods to all citizens in any particular geographical location.

Inspired by the The Ethicurian blog and its definition of an "ethicurian" as someone who seeks out tasty things that are also produced in a manner that is sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical — SOLE food, for short, we have officially named our dietitian book and journal club The SOLE Sisters Book Club.

I read two short food blessings that evening:

Oh Lord, that lends me this life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

~~William Shakespear (1564-1616)
From The Second Part of King Henry VI, act I, scene I, lines 19-20

To all else thou hast given us, O Lord,
we ask for but one thing more:
Give us
grateful hearts.

~~George Herbert (1593-1633), a clergyman in the Church of England

Try your own meal using a "bale of kale" and let me know what you made!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Local Foods and Heirloom Tomato Tasting

Here is a good memory, already nearly two months old! Ann Arbor's Project Grow, a non-profit organization that promotes organic community gardens in Ann Arbor, MI, has a tasting of a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes grown by gardeners in the area. More than 120 varieties were grown with nearly 60 varieties available to taste at the event, which was held in conjunction with Ann Arbor's HomeGrown Food Festival, our first annual celebration of locally-grown foods.

My husband and I were helping with the tasting, which was VERY popular. After nearly two months with very little rain, the skies opened up that day with heavy rain. Thus we were very very glad to have the tent protecting us, the tomatoes, and the steady stream of tasters, who showed up completely undeterred in their full rain gear.

Everyone had a chance to vote for their favorites. My husband and I grew 20 varieties with our 61 plants (we were the slackers! some people grew more than 60 varieties in their garden!) Our tomatoes are now all eaten, canned, or dried. We made a ton of salsa this year thanks to a recipe from good friends in Madison, WI. We also made our own "Zesty Italian Sauce" using a recipe from our neighbor in Illinois, "Bruschetta in a Jar", using a recipe I found on the blog of my friend who writes the Mother's Kitchen blog, dried more cherry tomatoes than I can probably eat in a year (but will enjoy trying!), tomato-vegetable paste which I both froze and dried, our version of a tomato-vegetable juice that is to die for!, I have probably forgotten something plus jars and jars of canned tomatoes. We are set for the winter!

Lastly, we are drying and saving seeds from these heirloom plants, thus already thinking about spring planting and starting the season all over again. The tomato plants are out of the garden, composted, the beds turned over, cleaned up, and garlic planted for next year. So far my husband has planted about 200 cloves of 4 varieties, both stiff-neck and soft-neck, with space for about 80 more cloves. And we have more garlic to eat than even we can do. In fact, I finally remembered a recipe for garlic soup broth from my very very old Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks that I have pulled out to make for the first time (for some reason I never had the courage to try that recipe in the 70's).

I just found out about a friend recently diagnosed with cancer, which brought back so many memories of the deep fears and hopes with my own diagnoses. I do believe that one can only understand hope after really experiencing deep, deep fear, pain, or loss. Our garden is our sanctuary, a place to dig deep in the earth and also to dig deep working through those fears, at least temporarily set them aside and maybe eventually be able to let them go, being replaced with the hopes for tomorrow and beyond. I hope my friend finds his sanctuary (it may be his music) as he goes through his treatments, the waiting, the worrying, and all the many tomorrows still ahead for him. I send all my best wishes for health, healing, hope to him and his family.

I'll end with this beautiful Gaelic blessing of peace for the spirit of all cancer survivors plus all those facing fear, loss, or pain for any reason. I understand, and my heart reaches out to you.

Deep peace
of the running wave to you,
Deep peace
of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace
of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace
of the shining star to you.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD