co-op food

CSA Cooking: Vegetarian Lasagne

I received my first CSA share this past week. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Our family purchases a half share in a local farm (about a 50 minute drive from our home). Once per week throughout the growing season (mid-to-late October here in Northern Utah) the shares are taken to several locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Our pick up point is about a mile from our home.

Surprisingly, this is the first year that I've made the effort to join a CSA which has many benefits, including keeping local agriculture alive and healthy (increasingly important as we reach peak oil) and challenges me to add more vegetables to my family's diet which is great for our health and that of the planet. The upfront cost was about $200 for our half-share weekly box of food.

It turns out our half share is more than my family can eat - at least this week. It might be worth sharing some of the abundance with our neighbors.

This week's share included a lot of leafy greens, among them something called Tat Soy which the sheet that came with our share suggested we use in stir fry -- which we did the first night but there was still a lot of the stuff left.

So today I decided to make a variation of Vegetarian Lasagna with the Tat Soy. This would work well with most cooking greens like spinach or chard.

I'm not into exact amounts for recipes, I'm better at estimation and improvisation. I like to use the oven-ready lasagna noodles.

 I improvised an Italian tomato sauce using a large 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes with basil and a small 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes to add chunkiness. I added this to 3 cloves of garlic that I had minced and sauted in olive oil. To this I added liberal amounts of dried oregano and garlic powder and let it simmer in a medium sized saucepan.

For filling, and to reduce the amount of dairy we would normally consume with lasagna, I used 1 package of Mori-Nu organic silken tofu in shelf-stable packaging. I used a fork and mashed the tofu until it was roughly the consistency of cottage cheese.

For two of the layers I was able to use quite a bit of the tat soy I had chopped up (I removed most of the stems, because I was unsure how they would cook in this dish) and the mashed tofu. For 1 of the layers I also added 1/2 tube polenta thinly sliced and quartered (I recently discovered how fantastic polenta tastes with pasta and tomato sauce and wanted to try it in this version of lasagna). My cheese addiction made it too tempting not to add quite a bit of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses to the top layer.

I found that I had made too much sauce, so I sliced the remaining 1/2 tube of polenta and layered in in a bread pan with olive oil, remaining tomato sauce and grated mozzarella and cheddar cheese and baked it at the same time as the lasagna.

Nature's Pharmacy

A friend recently sent me an email that I thought was wonderful. I'm not sure who wrote this originally, so I'm unable to credit the original author:

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye...and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body

Eggplant, Avocados and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? .... It takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them)

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm cells to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.

Grapefruits, Oranges , and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like body cells. Today's research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. 
mixed berries

Quit it with the Superfoods, already . . .

I don't have a problem with people eating healthier -- I think we all benefit when people do. But lately there's this media trend of naming "superfoods" and suddenly everyone's on the bandwagon . . . and then the prices for those foods go up.

I remember when frozen blueberries cost about the same as frozen raspberries. Then it was named a "superfood" and now it costs more. I'm not sure if increased demand leads to shortages which explain the cost difference, or if food dealers saw an opportunity to cash in on the latest food trend, either way I lose. 

Yes, it's a bit selfish. I've been studying nutrition for years (although I don't always practice what I learn). Most of the things that have been named "superfoods" over the past few years had been a part of my and my family's diet (to greater or lesser degrees) for some time before getting the superfood designation.

Now they've picked a staple at our house as the latest "superfood' - Quinoa. We eat quinoa a minimum of twice per month, usually as a stir fry or in soups. I have in recent months had a hard time finding quinoa in stock in the bulk section of Wild Oats where I had been buying it. Now I'm worried about the price becoming prohibitive as well.

Another concern with trendy superfoods is over-consumption. Salmon is included on many "superfood" lists, but we've heard reports that the oceans are being so over-fished  that the possible consequence is having dead oceans in as little as 50 years. Do we really want to encourage the trend of eating so much of something that it will cease to exist?

The media's recent obsession with superfoods, and the public's eagerness to get the latest, reminds me of the diet industry, especially in the early years. There will always be people looking for the latest magic bullet, not willing to put in the time and effort to make the kind of changes they'd need to make to really reap the rewards they are looking for in those superfoods. 

My rule of thumb (that seems to be verified with almost everything I read about nutrition) is that the closer we eat something to it's natural state, the better. And plant foods are a better bet than animal foods. I think it's a much more productive and balancing to follow that kind of nutritional advice than to try to jump on each and every superfood bandwagon that comes along.


Carnival of the Green #98 -- The Green's To Do List

Welcome to the 98th Carnival of the Green! I'm pleased to host the carnival here on Planet on a Plate. I've hosted the carnival previously on my other blog, Jen's Green Journal (#6, #33,  and #65)

A thank you to the Carnival's previous host -- World is Green. Also be sure to check out next week's carnival (#99) at Ethical Junction (love that blog title!)

Want to post? Want to host? It's easy -- just check out the basics at Treehugger.

There's a lot of things we can do to live a greener life. This week's posts illustrate a pretty clear to do list for us greenies.


1. Buy coffee

But not just any coffee. I almost always buy fair trade and organic coffee, but haven’t thought beyond that. Dr. John Gelbard at Conservation Value Notes points out that there’s one more criteria that the truly green coffee drinker should be aware of: shade grown coffee. Fair trade and organic alone are not enough to promote biological diversity in tropical rainforests. He quotes a fairly recent study that find that "...vegetation variables for shade certification significantly correlated with bird and ant diversity."

To sum it all up, Jon says, “if you want to make sure that your coffee not only (1) won't contain nasty toxic pesticide residues and won't pollute local soils and waterways (organic) and the (2) farmer receives a fair price (Fair Trade), but also (3) has minimal impacts on the biological diversity of tropical rainforests, make sure it is labeled as "Shade Grown".”

There are a lot of things you can do with those Triple Certified used coffee grounds, and on the blog InnStyle Montana there are several ideas listed – 11 of them, in fact. From compost to insect repellent to dye and more.

 2. Keep up on the newest Green trends

Victoria E has an exclusive interview with the “Executive Producer of Portland Fashion Week, the greenest fashion week ever.” Portland is fast becoming an “outlet for cutting edge fashion” of the sustainable kind.

Tiffany Washko remarks on all the green and natural trends - which are becoming more and more mainstream. Her post seems to be an ad for a “Natural Mom PLR” membership which includes membership reviews and articles.

  3. Eat right/Pack right

Michaela at Mindful Momma has a lot of information on plastic wrap in her post this week. Turns out that a lot of plastic wrap is based on PVC (did anyone reading this see the film Blue Vinyl?) and contains a liquid plasitcizer DEHA (Di-ethylhexyl) which is used to make the wrap more flexible. Problem is it can leach and to food and is a possible human carcinogen. Michaela gives us some tips on how to avoid or lessen the impacts of wrap additives – especially important when packing lunch for the kiddies.

  4.Take care of our animal friends

How can we help wildlife in your own backyard survive drought and dry weather? Questions answered with 5 simple tips by Sally and Sadie Kneidel over at Veggie Revolution.

I’m sure that St. Francis of Assisi would approve of those tips, and Don Bosch at the Evangelical Ecologist has posted about St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology the original evangelical ecologist. Assisi “found in all created things, however trivial, some reflection of the Divine perfection.”

6. Take Care of our plant friends

Stephanie at Stop the Ride shows us how to make a basket planter with a thrift store basket, a plastic bag and stapler. An excellent way to reuse that un-biodegradable bag and make something that looks very nice as well.

7. Plan vacations that don't trash the planet

Pablo at Triplepundit asks, “Is it hypocritical for an ‘eco resort’ to offer helicopter transport?” Pablo calculates the emissions and fuel used by taking visitors by van vs. helicopter to Chaa Creek, an award-winning eco-resort in Belize. And while travel emissions can be offset, you can’t really offset the noise pollution and it’s effects on the birds, the locals and the tourists.

And speaking of offsets, Jeanette Kimmel from Intelligent Travel writes that the Carbon Capital Fund, a new carbon-offsetting agency which is a joint offering from the National Forrest Foundation and the U.S. Forrest Service, plans to offset carbon emissions by reforesting areas destroyed by wildfires and other natural disasters. Our forests currently absorb between 10 and 15 percent of our nation’s emissions, so reforesting makes a lot of sense from an environmental standpoint as well as a tourist one.

8. Celebrate life - and all the fun holidays in an eco-friendly way

Halloween is fast approaching, and Tiffany Washko has posted about some eco-friendly Halloween treats on the Nature Moms blog. She also covers decorations, trick-or-treat bags and costumes.

9. Clean your personal space

Adam on the LifeGoggles blog has posted a review of the ecological laundry powder, Aquados. With Aquados a lot less detergent is used, and if Adam doesn’t pack the washing machine too full he also gets a lovely, clean smell as well.

10. The old standby - recycle, recycle

Adam from LifeGoggles posts a photo with a Friend of the Earth – and there’s a plastic bottle in the picture. He makes the point that plastic is very much a part of our lives, even for us greenies.

11. Get that bike tune-up

Coding Grasshoper has done the math and managed to save £1800 and almost 2 tons of CO2 by bicycling to work every day over driving for one year. That’s a lot of cash.

12. Change the bulbs - and be safe about disposal

Chris Baskind at Lighter Footstep talks about 5 ways to safely dispose of a CFL. Compact fluorescent bulbs have such a huge impact on the CO2 we emit, but they do have that trace amount of mercury. (The links Chris provided to me weren’t working when I piecing this carnival together – I hope they are working by the time you all read this)

13. Purchase Carbon Offsets – or not?

Melanie Rimmer at the Bean Sprouts blog has written about controversial carbon offsetting schemes. She illustrates this by posting about a spoof site called – the idea being that every time that cheats on a spouse they can contribute to another couple who will be faithful on your behalf.

While I agree with Melanie that buying and Hummer and then making up for it by buying carbon offsets is really ineffective, I’m not convinced that carbon offsetting is a completely bad thing. Our family has managed to reduce our car usage and purchase offsetting. I like to think of it as an awareness tool and since I can’t possibly cut out driving altogether, I’m glad to be contributing to building wind farms or planting trees than not doing anything  . . .

14. Be Generous

Doris Chua from Organics & Your Health
talks about the website Greenloop which is sponsoring a “click for charity” campaign, organized by the artist Mckenzie. 

Additional (added at 10:30 am MST):
My spam filter caught a submission that I missed -- good thing I cleaned it out this morning! 
Leon Gettler from Sox First posts an interview Triodos Bank executives. Triodos Bank "invests in projects offering social and environmental value." Triodos started in 1980 as a sustainable bank, and I found one fact particularly interesting:

Bas Ruter, managing director of its funds management division said, "Our first fund invested in wind energy after Chernobyl. As a bank, we thought it was not enough to say no to nuclear power if we could work actively on the energy crisis. So we started financing with risk capital in wind energy in Europe." I love this point as in Utah there's a huge debate about building nuke power plants here and out state legislature is hoping to fast track this issue through the next legislative session. 

Thank You!

I want to add a big Thank You! to Treehugger and Kara DiCamillo for continuing to organize the Carnival of the Green and for the opportunity to host. I hope you all enjoy reading it, and please comment on what works and doesn't. Thanks!