A Rebuttal- Cult of Organics

The other week I read a post on BlogHer called The Cult of Organics.  Although I consider myself a moderate voice when it comes to food politics and beliefs, I still took umbrage with it. I’m sorry that the author got condescending reactions to her food choices, but I believe there are plenty of good/viable reasons to choose organic foods– some of the time.   Money is an issue for me but I still buy organic milk.  I buy organic strawberries.  But, I don’t buy only organic foods.  I choose which foods I buy that don’t need to be organic and those which do.  I might pay more for some of these choices, but it’s a price I’ll pay now so my children don’t need to pay it later with their health.  I guess I also consider myself a “food snob” because I care about and enjoy food; it’s a big part of my life.  I am not part of a cult but an informed consumer, who is concerned for the long-term effects of pesticides, over use of antibiotics and uncertainty of GMOs on my children’s well-being. 

It may be surprising, but I am also the mom who allows my kids junk food, occasionally,  and I let them drink a soda when at a party, and I also throw a frozen pizza in the oven when I need   to.  But when I choose most foods, they are healthful and often times, made at home.  I think lumping everyone who buys organic or chooses to make homemade-from-scratch foods in as “elite” or “food snobs” doesn’t give the author credibility as a moderate voice.  I don’t think I’m hostile to people who choose non-organic versions of foods, but I found the article to be hostile toward those trying to educate others about them. 

Even if you haven’t read studies, articles or books on pesticides in foods (like those with endocrine disruptors); pollutants that have gone into our rivers and oceans affecting the flora and fauna; bee colony collapse; cancer causing ingredients that are banned in other countries; rises in autoimmune diseases, allergies and neurological disorders; children starting puberty younger;  or the rises in obesity, you can often see the difference in organic over conventional fruits and vegetables… a potato that’s not organic won’t sprout eyes but will just go rotten.  Or how about those ginormic strawberries that are perfectly, uniformly red, but lack a true strawberry flavor? And do you really want to buy your food from the world’s largest herbicide company –which is also the largest seed company?

I will choose antibiotic-free meats because food-producing animals are being given more antibiotics than humans as the norm to prevent illnesses that better living conditions could solve.  Those antibiotics get into our foods and water and we are getting close to an era where antibiotics will no longer work for us humans.  I don’t mean to be fearmongering and sensationalist, I am just trying to say sometimes organics are the best choice.  (In my parents’/grandparents’ day there was no such word as organic food there was just food, because then there was a fraction of pesticide/herbicide use and no GMOs.) As far as Jayson Lusk’s arguments against organics in Food Police go,– he doesn’t dissuade me, I’m not in it for most of the reasons (mostly economic) he gives.  Many studies giving out favorable information on conventionally grown foods are funded by food companies who grow the food, they not only fund the studies but consequently benefit from the dissemination and promotion of those very studies.   

I will not buy berries, apples, spinach, celery, potatoes or corn that are not organic (or at least locally produced without GMOs and most pesticides).  But I will buy broccoli, cauliflower, peas, avocados, mushrooms.  I am not a cultist or someone who is extreme.  I am an informed consumer.  My children’s milk is usually organic and always without hormones.  And the one thing I am not is rich.  Far from it.  I struggle, especially because my husband has been unemployed since January and was basically working for free for several months before that.   But I will forgo movie outings, dining out, new clothes,  cleaning people, and expensive salon trips to put the money into our food choices. 


Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe's - just a little bit more expensive.

Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe’s – just a little bit more expensive.

And I will buy frozen foods.  Even some canned foods.  And many of the “Food Police” (Pollan, Bittman,  Nestle, etc) actually do say if it comes down to it: buy vegetables and fruits in any way over not buying them at all.    If you’re looking, I find that Trader Joe’s is a great place to not only find well-priced foods but also those that are free of GMOs, artificial colors and other harmful ingredients.   Choosing to join a CSA actually saved me money and I was introduced to many new and different foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.  And those foods are pesticide-free– bugs are hand-picked then squashed.  So it’s possible to buy organic foods on a tight budget.  

I try to share information on how to prepare foods that are healthful and convenient.  I love cheap food but realize there are prices to pay.  For me it’s the whole economics — health and wealth are the factors in my decision making. I also think it is worth the extra money. Sometimes.  So, sure, let’s have some reasonableness.  Just realize us “food snobs” or those you claim are in an organic cult aren’t always the ones with the hostility.  Want to find quick ways to cook healthy foods?  Search through my blog; it’s got plenty of ideas and many of them take short-cuts so they’re convenient. You might also find my popular pizza that takes so little time but is actually pretty healthy.

So, let’s get along but understand, tolerance goes both ways.  

My pickiest eater now

Thank you to all my 50,000+ followers.  Thank you for following me.  Thank you for understanding my purpose.  I hope I help you or others.  

Just for the record… it’s been really difficult with my youngest son lately. He’s my pickiest eater.  Getting him to eat a variety of foods has been really challenging in the past couple of weeks.  Actually seemingly overnight he’s gone off some of his old favorites (salmon, seaweed, mushrooms, cheese) so I’m not cooking/serving most of them right now. Instead of trying too hard with lots of different foods, I am going with healthful foods I know he will eat.  

So for his health and our sanity I am serving mostly the following foods: broccoli, sugar and snap peas, green beans, celery, carrots, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, pears, yogurts, milk, and fairly plain salads.  He’ll eat other things apart from these fruits and vegetables as well, but really limited considering the rest of the family— brown rice, pasta (plain), chicken, baked white fish, couscous, hummus, peanut butter, steak, lamb. 

He won’t eat soup, chili, stew, stir fry, and most foods that are a one pot meals. Last week was difficult since that’s mostly what I made.  Makes it challenging but I am still making him eat a little of the food if I’ve made it.   I figure just like he is “off” certain former favorites and not liking things mixed, he will eventually come back to a greater variety if I don’t push too hard, but remain firm.  I remember when I was his age taking a dislike to the cheese on pizza and sauce on spaghetti, but I got adventurous again not long after and my mother didn’t push.  Instead of any possibility of a fight, most of this week I am cooking things I know he’ll eat.

As a child I remember going to some friends’ homes where the mom made my brother and I eat the overcooked zucchini and squash.  Big-seeded, mushy, thin-cut vegetables are not appealing to many young kids. I held my nose and choked it down.  My brother sat at that table all night.  We wouldn’t touch them for years.  Now, it’s a different story.  I think if the vegetables are cooked right they are more appealing, but it’s not a guarantee that they’ll pass muster.  Also if you push too hard, if you aren’t flexible, it can backfire.  It’s a fine line and not an easy thing to decide.  Being firm yet flexible. Not giving in every time, but understanding when you must bend the rules.  So making sure the alternatives aren’t full of sugar and that his dietary needs are met.  Thankfully he still loves his broccoli. 

And now to prepare for another storm.  Hopefully we won’t lose power in this one because no power equals no heat or water (hot or cold). 

Is there anything you wish to know?   A recipe I didn’t share?  A story you’d like to share or something you wish I’d share?  Let me know!

The Fruit & Vegetable Pusher

Our kids’ school year just began the other day and I have decided to try something different to help our elementary school students eat more fruits and vegetables.  At the last school year’s PTA meeting I had been given the idea to get some parent volunteers to come in to help the first graders get through the lunch lines on those first few days of school.  Although they’d had a run-though of what to do/expect at the end of their Kindergarten year, it could be overwhelming for the wee ones when returning after their long summer break.  I decided to use the opportunity to do a little coaxing when it came to the fruits and vegetables.  Unfortunately our school lunch provider doesn’t automatically give the kids those, they usually just offer them.  And not only are they just offered, they are in small plastic containers (except a couple of whole apples, oranges or bananas) that are set in a bin the kids have to reach to get (which can be tough for the smaller ones). 

So, I organized my volunteers to gently persuade all the kids (grades1 through 4) to take as many of the small containers as they’d like by telling them what’s in them and to say, “which one would you like sweet red peppers or coleslaw… or both?” instead of just saying “would you like some vegetables?” And if they refused try to convince them they needed their vegetables and fruits for a well-rounded meal, to be strong, to be smart, to be healthy.  Whatever they could think of that would work.

Interestingly I found that the lunch ladies hadn’t planned on the kids taking so many of these containers of vegetables and fruits as we’d run out during service for each grade every time in the first week (they were prepared but in the walk-in inside the kitchen — where I wasn’t allowed to go).  Continue reading

Fried Rice– perfect for using up leftovers

One wonderful way to use up leftovers is to make a stir-fry.  And a fabulously delicious and nutritious stir-fry is fried rice (home made anyway).  We used up scrambled egg from breakfast;  rice, a bit of vegetables and a few scraps of pork from dinner.  This is adaptable depending on what you have left over or in the fridge.  Ours was colorful with plenty of yummy vegetables and delicious flavors from the ginger, soy, sesame and garlic.  It is also quick to cook— it’s just chopping that takes any time. 

It’s best to use cold rice for this, so if you need you can always cook the rice then chill it before adding it to wok (or in my case, my Dutch oven).

Fried Rice

2-3 cups jasmine or basmati rice, cooked and chilled

pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu (I used about 6-8 oz pork)

2 eggs scrambled, chilled

handfuls of chopped vegetables:

    broccoli, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage

½ cup peas (defrost if frozen)

½ cup edamame (defrost if frozen)

½ med onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ inch piece ginger, grated

1½ Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2½ Tbsp canola, sunflower or grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

sea salt (if needed) & ground pepper

handful of cilantro, chopped

Blanch for a couple of minutes any vegetables that need longer cooking time like broccoli, carrots and peppers. Set aside and chill.  Add the canola oil to a wok, sauté pan or other appropriate pan, and once hot add the onion cooking for few minutes.   Add the garlic and meat until almost cooked through.  Add remaining ingredients except rice and cilantro.  Let vegetables soak up flavors then add rice (breaking apart and lumpy bits). Stir often and adjust seasoning (soy, sesame and pepper) to taste.  Cook on medium-high heat for about 3- 5 minutes.  You’ll want to make sure you don’t overcook the vegetables so they lose color or nutrients.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve immediately and enjoy!


My kids loved this.  The colors are vibrant, the taste is yummy and there’s a few of their favorite vegetables and a couple of not-such favorites they might actually eat since it’s all blended together.

Soup– stealthy vegetable vehicle

A way of sneaking in those pesky vegetables that some picky eaters refuse to eat on their own is to put them in soup.  My kids are pretty good at eating most vegetables so I don’t need to puree the veggies but anyone with ultra picky kids can choose to do that.  Even without pureeing it, since the vegetables get cooked in the broth they’ll get many of the nutrients even if they’re not eating the actual vegetable from the soup.   And with all the wonderful organic stocks and broths readily available to buy, making soups can be fast and painless.  It’s quick, easy, tasty and healthful— what more can you ask for?  And, don’t have enough of something for a full meal or want to use up left-overs; soup is a great medium. 

Here’s one soup I made in less than a half hour last night.  I decided last minute to make it a dinner and movie night, but not with pizza.  I had a little of this and that.  I mixed vegetable and chicken broth to give it a rich flavor.  I had some left over chicken breast (but not enough for much, so I thawed some tenders too). I decided to add some small meatballs (frozen, from IKEA— yes, Ikea, the furniture-in-box place) that made it into a sort of Italian Wedding Soup. I didn’t feel the need to add onions or celery since I used the prepared broths.  The chicken is very tender not only because of the cut, but also since it’s poached in the broth.


Chicken, Kale, Bean and Meatball Soup

1 quart organic chicken broth

1 quart organic vegetable broth

4 chicken tenders, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped

2-3 organic carrots, sliced

3/4 pound mini star-shaped pasta

1 can beans (pinto, cannellini, kidney)

2 tsp dried oregano

10-15 small meatballs

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot pour the two broths and bring to a low boil.  Add kale, carrots and chicken.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes before adding pasta, meatballs, oregano and beans.  Cook 10 minutes then add cilantro and cook one more minute. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper). My two eldest sons loved the soup and my youngest ate it but didn’t want the kale, even though he likes kale on its own.  I didn’t push and just let him try to eat it without (a tough task!).  I loved it too and both my eldest son and I had it for lunch today.

Tall Tales

I was so happy last night when I served the kids dinner and there were no complaints or whines.  Actually there were exclamations of delight from my youngest son, “Snow peas!” and “Mushrooms!” — music to my ears.  They all dug into their bowls of stir-fried vegetables with rice noodles with true pleasure and bit of hunger.  “No snacks, it’s nearly dinner time.” really worked.   Maybe the late afternoon hike helped.

The glee that my three year old exhibited reminded me of how I got my eldest son to try mushrooms when he first refused.  He was in preschool and loved Power Rangers;  even though he’d never seen an episode of the TV show, he knew how they moved, their names, etc.  It’s almost like osmosis how they learn about superheroes before they’re old enough to see them in action.  Anyway, I just told my son that mushrooms were Power Rangers’ favorite food.  Wide-eyed with joy and holding in his fork the food that his heroes liked, the previously distrusted fungus, he eagerly tried it.  And he liked it.  I know mushrooms can be tough for adults let alone kids, especially those who grow up with canned ones on pizzas, the texture can be a turnoff.  And, yes I lied to get him to try it.  But to me it was worth it.  There were no pleadings of “Just try it, I really think you’ll like it.” or “Please?  Just one tiny bite.”  He just thought if it’s the Power Rangers favorite food it must be good.  I mean, Popeye the Sailor loves spinach, so why not Power Rangers liking mushrooms?   Funny, I don’t want to hide the vegetables so the kids don’t learn to like them for their own flavors, textures and colors, but I have no qualms about spinning a yarn to get them to eat them.

Our dinner last night had some frozen vegetables and a side from Trader Joe’s.  I was down to just a couple of skinny pieces of kale, very little beet greens, a pepper, carrots and lots of tomatoes (which I was kind of sick of) from our CSA bin.  We did also have leeks, but I am saving those to make scalloped potatoes with leeks and shiitake mushrooms tonight.  So I pulled out a Trader Joe’s stir-fry package— mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, carrots and soy beans.  I steamed the beet greens I’d stripped off the stems and cut across a few times, then repeated with the kale.  I didn’t want any bitterness from them to change the flavor of the stir-fry, that’s why I did them separately.  I then put the rice noodles in to cook while I chopped half an onion, 2 garlic cloves, fresh ginger, a greenish-reddish bell pepper and a couple of carrots.  So in my pan I heated the sunflower oil, sautéed the onions, then garlic, carrots and peppers. Added the ginger, stir-fry package, kale and beet greens.  To this I combined with 2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce and 2 tsp sesame oil.  I cooked stirring the whole time for a few minutes while the frozen vegetables softened and heated.  At this point I added the cooked and drained noodles and stirred it all up until it was well mixed.  It was ready to serve. I’ve served similar dishes lately, but each one is a bit different, depending what we have in stock.  The vital part was that it was healthful and delicious.  

While I was cooking this I had steamed in the microwave some Trader Joe’s frozen Gyoza dumplings.  I served them as an appetizer and alongside the stir-fry with a side of tamari and sesame oil (6 parts soy, 1 part sesame oil).  Easy and quick,  plus they all ate it eagerly.  No tales necessary.

Ginger Garlic Roast Pork- Part 2 (Stir Fry)

I think I have some time before I start the laundry (ha! ha! ha!) so that I can write down the rest of the Pork recipe.

Before the pork is taken out of the oven (say 20 minutes before) start cutting/chopping the following veggies:

Stir Fry Veggie Mixture

1 onion sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 peppers of different colors (red, yellow, orange, green, purple)

1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise then into smaller pieces

1 container organic white mushrooms or shiitakes, sliced

2 carrots, julienne

1 bunch or package of baby spinach

(or throw in whatever veggies you have that would go nicely with following)

2 or 3 chunks of the Roast Pork from Part One, cut into bite sized pieces and fat removed.


1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp tamari soy sauce

1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup water until smooth

handful cilantro, chopped

2 cups pork juices or 2 cups of chicken stock

Optional: Kafir lime juice or leaves

            Nam prik pao (Thai chili sauce) to taste

            Coconut milk in sauce or cook rice in one part coconut milk one part water

            Put rice on.  Sauté onions for few minutes then add garlic until done.  Add pork juices (without the fat) and cook for a few minutes.  Slowly add, while stirring, corn starch mix.  Add carrots and cook for another few minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables and pork.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add cilantro and serve over rice.  Cooking vegetables this way retains their nutrients as they just go in the sauce.   

All three had been tasting the pork when it came out of the oven.  When my husband served it in the sauce with the veggies that’s when my middle son lost it.  He said it was because we added spinach and I reminded him that he likes spinach. He said “Not anymore.”  But it was over so quickly and he ate all of it and really loved it!  He was even taking individual spinach leaves and dropping them in his mouth!  When asked if it was good, my eldest son said, “No, it’s great!”  My youngest didn’t want to speak he was so busy eating!

Part 3

A few days later I used a part of the leftovers (a cup or two) in another stir fry I made with the pork, beet greens, chard, zucchini, carrots (cut “in circles” per my son’s request), carrot greens, broccoli and mushrooms. I made a similar sauce but no corn starch and with Thai basil and parsley.  I was going to use peppers too, but the only ones I had were extremely hot.  I sautéed the mushrooms with the garlic.  My youngest kept picking out all the mushrooms.  Not because he didn’t like them but he wanted to eat them first and asked everyone else for theirs.  It was vibrant and tasty.  This time around my middle son stated that he wasn’t going to eat it.  I said, “This is dinner.  You need to eat.  Come on and join us.”  He did.  And again he loved it.

When my husband got home we were already eating.  I put a bowl out for him and my youngest proceeded to eat that too.  I think he was foraging for mushrooms.