Well, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is being televised but that isn't exactly what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what's going on right here in our backyards. For some of us that literally means in our back yards. Slowly, often painfully so, people are realizing that the food they purchase may not be the best possible quality and it's certainly not the best possible price. In spite of being world famous for our cuisine, New Orleans has been designated as a food dessert. In other words, too many people have too little access to fresh, healthy real food. Some neighborhoods don't even have grocery stores and what's offered at most corner stores is not what a family should eat all week. Well, some people are just tired of it and have begun to look outside of the corporate food system for what they need.
Recently, Thad, our children and I met some people who are really food revolutionaries. Nat Turner and the rest of the farmers/educators from Our School at Blair Grocery have created a beautiful oasis of self sustainability in the Lower Ninth Ward. They saw that food needs weren't being met and decided that the best way to address the issue was to create a system that is fair, healthy, natural and local. What they're doing is really simple but that's what makes it so revolutionary. They, like many local growers, have eliminated unhealthy, unnecessary practices from the food growing process. On top of that, they are training young people to recognize what really goes on with most of the food that is available to us, creating an awareness that encourages them to step out of the corporate food system by learning to grow food locally.
It was a pleasure for us to see other people with whom we share a similar mission. Check them out and see for yourself what a positive impact the food revolutionaries from Our School at Blair Grocery are having on our community.
Some days there is just too much to do in too little time. Honestly, most of my days feel like that. Busy parents can't always find the time to prepare a healthy home cooked meal. What? Are you surprised to hear that from someone who is constantly encouraging everyone to eat more fresh produce and locally grown foods? Yes, we're healthy eaters but Thad and I don't know any magic tricks that add hours to the day so sometimes we have to take shortcuts just like everyone else. The difference is we've gotten a little more creative with our shortcuts. So, when I still have 3 loads of laundry to wash, a book report to help with, research to do and a blog to write I am no position to make garden vegetable lasagna with whole wheat pasta, homemade tomato sauce and all natural cheeses. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely able to toast bread. I need something quick, easy, inexpensive and somewhat healthy and our Garden Pizza works every time.
No I do not make my own dough, although a friend recently gave me a bread maker and I'm looking forward to trying new recipes. I neither use my own tomato sauce nor do I purchase top quality, hormone free cheese. I purchase a refrigerated plain cheese pizza from that ridiculously large chain store that begins with a W. Yes, I shop there. I can't afford to purchase everything locally - yet. So I take a quick trip to the enormous store and grab a cheese pizza. Sometimes I even let the kids talk me into getting a pepperoni pizza. Then we take it home where I slice all kinds of veggies from the garden, put them on a plate and let the kids get to work. They think they're actually making their own pizza as opposed to just topping it. My middle child even suggested we open a restaurant and sell our pizzas. That's how much they love it.
So let's review. Need a healthy meal without inciting a mutiny at the table? Pizza definitely tops most kid’s favorite foods list. Need a cheap meal? A large cheese pizza costs about $7.00 and if you have a garden your toppings are free. If you don't have a garden you should think about starting one. But until then just let the kids pick some of their favorite veggies from the produce aisle or better yet, visit your local farmers market and keep some fresh veggies around. Need to keep the kids occupied? Give them the very important job of decorating...err, I mean topping the pizza. If you have an older child you might not even have to cut the veggies or put it in the oven which means less work for you. Yaaayyyy! Garden Pizza works every time!
A recent Purdue University study found that there are pesticides on many fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section of most grocery stores. I don't think that information comes as a surprise to anyone but did you know that pesticides were also found inside fruit after it's been peeled. You may also be surprised to know that pesticides were found after rinsing fruit for at least ten seconds. Now I am the last person to discourage people from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but I do want to make people aware of what happens to their produce before it reaches the grocery store shelves. Please click here to view the entire report. One way to be sure that your produce is pesticide free (and affordable) is to grow it yourself. Contact Sheaux Fresh to help get you started.
Thad and I have been told that our children's eating habits and preferences are strange, unusual, different and even weird. Some have even told us that it's mean to feed them the way we do. Still, most people that we know say that they wish their children or grandchildren would eat the foods our kids eat. Are you wondering what our kids eat that others don't? It's simple. More than half of the food they eat is what I call old fashioned food. By that I mean they eat food the way it was prepared before fish sticks, chicken nuggets and lunchables were invented.
Now I want to be very clear about something. My kids like fast food. I like some fast food. If I didn't know better I'd eat Wendy's french fries every day. But I do know better and I've seen what happens to children who are allowed to eat any and everything they want. They grow into adults who have a difficult time making good decisions about food and they often raise their own children with the same bad habits. So, although are allowed to eat hot dogs (we prefer certain brands over others) our children are not allowed to demand hot dogs instead of whatever other food has been prepared. If I make grilled chicken with a spinach salad and a pasta salad, that's what they eat. Whether we're eating out at McDonalds, Sonic, Juan's Flying Burrito, Salu', Thanh Thanh or Nola, we have no problem getting them to eat the food that is served. In fact, they prefer the sit down restaurants over the fast food places.
Part of our success in getting them to eat all kinds of foods is attributable to the fact that we prepare and eat healthy food in our home and they've all been introduced to several types of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other wholesome foods at a very young age. On top of that, they were not introduced to junk food until they were older and even then, it usually came from a source outside our home. I remember spending time during the holidays at my aunt and uncles home when our oldest child was about 18 months old. My uncle offered her a small, chocolate candy bar and she tried it. After he gave it to her my uncle asked me, "Does she like chocolate?" I told him, "I don't know. She never had it before." I didn't freak out about it because it was candy during the holidays and my uncle was just being his regular, sweetheart self. She (and Thad and I) had all kinds of "treats" that week but when we returned home our eating habits returned to normal. I'm not saying you have to give your kids steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus at every meal. I'm just saying they should be so accustomed to eating vegetables that it's no big deal. You can dice up all kinds of veggies, cook them in pasta sauce and serve it with spaghetti. You could slice fresh veggies and get the kids to help you put them on a take and bake pizza. Add vegetables to your lasagna or baked macaroni. You can even mix some into your eggs in the morning. After a while your children will be so accustomed to eating a variety of healthier foods that people may begin to call their eating habits strange, unusual, different or weird too.
OK, it's been three weeks since I last posted a blog and I apologize for the delay. I have so much to say but I haven't had much time to say it so I'm just going to try and do some catching up in the next few weeks. So, first things first. The last post was about organic pesticide recipes so I'm going to share the results of our little experiment.
The first mixture I made was very simple. I cut the lower leaves from a tomato plant, placed them in a glass jar filled with water and left it in a window to steep for a few days. Then I sprayed it on my little garden, which I use as a test garden. I didn't notice any difference in the amount of insects on the plants and quite honestly, I didn't expect to. That recipe seemed a little too easy and too tame to kill or repel anything and as far as I can tell, it did neither. So I moved on to the next one.
This is the one I was excited about. The recipe called for crushed garlic and cayenne pepper, which made me want to sauté some shrimp instead of destroy some insects, but I digress. The garlic and pepper steeped in the window for the same amount of time as the tomato leaves. I strained the spicy water into a spray bottle, added about a teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of dish soap and filled the bottle with more water. Then I shook it all up and headed out to my little garden. This one worked! I didn't see any bugs and the mixture was diluted well enough to prevent the cayenne pepper from burning the plants. (Yes, cayenne pepper can burn your plants so use it sparingly.) This recipe did the job well enough to earn a promotion to Thad’s BIG GARDEN!
The final recipe called for rosemary and olive oil. I put the rosemary in a glass jar, covered it with olive oil and once again, left it in the window with the other mixtures. Afterward's I poured the rosemary infused olive oil into the spray bottle and added water and two drops of dish detergent. Then I shook it up and sprayed it. It smelled great but I don't know if it killed or repelled anything because quite honestly, I had grown bored with the entire experiment.
In conclusion, although I want to get rid of bugs without coating my plants with poison, I think we'll stick to store bought organic pesticides and repellents. I'd much rather use my garlic, cayenne pepper, olive oil and rosemary for organic recipes that we can eat.