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Category: food for thought

  1. Thursday, July 9

    Light for Light + An Easy and Important Way YOU Can Help Right Now to Electrify Africa

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    Today I am writing as part of a month-long blog relay for ONE called “Light for Light.” At the end of this post there is a SUPER EASY way for you to do some real good. You won’t even have to click off this site to do it, so lend your voice (and your typing fingers) and help out!

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    When I’m wearing my photographer’s hat, I crave outdoor light. It makes lighting photos easier, everything looks more natural, and the pictures are generally more beautiful and striking. And, for my work as a food photographer, natural light is essential. If I have to photograph something using indoor light, well, I am not a happy camper.

    This week, however, I have been trying to look at indoor light differently. I’ve been looking for the beauty in the “unnatural” light that I so often disdain. Because, truly, that light is beautiful. It is warm. It is inviting. And it gives our family opportunities beyond imagination.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    My children can eat breakfast in the warmth of their own well-lit kitchen, even before the sun rises.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    My children can read, even after the sun sets.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    The orchid in my kitchen glows under the 1 kitchen light we leave on during evening hours to light our way through the house. It is beautiful.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    Our family can enjoy holidays and birthdays and celebrations of all kinds under the lights hanging over our patio, those lights becoming a part of the fabric that is our collective family memory.

    I am truly grateful for this this light that provides so much life after sunset. Yeah, I still need that “perfect” daylight for my food photography, but I will no longer shy away from the “imperfect” light that the photographer in me so often avoids. I will embrace the challenge and be grateful for that light.

    When I traveled to Malawi in May and discovered a world where less than 10% of the people have electricity, I was stunned. To see with my own eyes what life is like for an entire country essentially without electricity, well, it was beyond what I had ever imagined.

    I heard many, many, MANY statistics on the Malawi trip, and they all affected me deeply. But there were a few that really stood out, including this: 8 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa heat their home and cook food using open fires. Inhalation of smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels results in more deaths per year among women and children than from HIV/AIDS and malaria COMBINED. Forget the issue of simply lighting your home, lack of electricity is literally killing people every day.

    The other thing that stood out to me while looking at the homes in the villages we visited were the schoolchildren. Once the sun goes down, studying and reading is out of the question. The fact that my girls can read for hours each night is a luxury. Their head lamps for reading in bed are a blessing.

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynard

    Here’s the cool thing – we can do something about it! ONE’s bill, the Electrify Africa Act, was reintroduced in the House this past month by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).  The bill would help provide electricity to 50 million Africans for the first time, at no cost to US taxpayers

    Let's help electrify africa! ONE #lightforlight #electrifyafrica blog relay | post by @janemaynardLet’s help make everyone’s nighttime merry and bright!

    This same bill did not pass last year and we can’t let that happen again! We need to tell our leaders that we support this bill. Simply fill out the form below and click “sign petition” and you will have helped in a significant way. Thank you!

    I am participating in the #lightforlight blog relay with ONE. Each day this month a different blogger is writing about light and tomorrow Whit Honea will be sharing his thoughts at Dads 4 Change, so be sure to check it out! Here are the posts that have been published so far. They are all beautiful.

    For those of you who would like to read more on the subject, here are some great resources:

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  2. Tuesday, May 26

    Snapshots from Malawi: Teach a Man and Woman to Farm and They’ll Eat Forever

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    Over the last week, every time someone excitedly asks, “How was Africa?” I don’t know how to respond. There is no fast, small-talk response. “Amazing” pretty much covers it, but that word sounds trite and insincere. “Life changing” sounds clichéd, even though it’s completely true. On the other hand, “Malawi was wonderful and joyful and sad and informative and beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring and frustrating and oh so much more” just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “amazing” or “life changing” does. As a writer and extrovert, I rarely find myself at a loss for words. But my thoughts and feelings about my trip to Malawi have rendered me speechless.

    snapshots from malawi: heifer goats by @janemaynardThe Mtika Family’s Goat Pen

    While I struggle for a good response in daily conversation, there are a few things I always find myself mentioning in these far-too-short conversations. One of those things is that organizations like Heifer International are doing truly transformative work and it’s because of the way they do it that the work is making such a difference. You know that phrase, “Give a man to fish and he’ll eat for a day; Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever”? THAT is what Heifer (and many others) are doing. And it works. I’ve seen firsthand that it works. People are eating every day because of what they have been taught.

    snapshots from malawi: the mtika family by @janemaynardThe Mtika Family

    Our first stop on the trip was at the home of the Mtika family. They live in a small village in the northern part of Malawi and have been working with Heifer for 4 years. Mr. Mtika is a lead farmer, meaning he helps train others in his community with the skills he has acquired through Heifer. I learned so much from Mr. and Mrs. Mtika, both about life in Malawi and about how Heifer works. The thing that stood out most to me, however, was their gratitude for being able to feed their children. When asked how Heifer has changed their lives, they responded that their children no longer go to bed hungry.

    snapshots from malawi: mtika family by @janemaynard

    snapshots from malawi: mr. mtika by @janemaynard

    Here’s the thing about Malawi. Poverty is everywhere. Poverty is the rule, not the exception, and the scale is mindboggling. We learned that for a diet to be considered nutritionally balanced, the goal is to get 6 foods into the daily diet. Malawians on average get only 4.3 foods. FOUR foods make up their ENTIRE diet. Even my most basic recipes have more than 4 ingredients. And, for that matter, the targeted 6 is still meager. These numbers were sobering to say the least.

    snapshots from malawi: cooking oven by @janemaynardThis is Rosie Bamoye, one of Mr. Mtika’s neighbors. She is fake cooking for the camera because she’s a good sport like that. These handmade ovens have improved the ability of these families to cook, including requiring 1/3 of the wood they used to need to cook. Rosie told us that she is herself transitioning from poverty to prosperity because of her goats that were passed on to her by Mr. Mtika. She has since passed goats on to others.

    As a food writer I was excited to try Malawian food. I learned quickly on our arrival that there really isn’t much traditional Malawian food to try. When people would find out I was a food writer they would excitedly ask, “Have you had nsima?” Nsima is a porridge-like food made with corn and water. That’s it. Corn. Water. For the duration of the trip I made sure to eat nsima at every meal where it was served.

    snapshots from malawi: cooking nsima by @janemaynardDorothy Mtika (11) making nsima in the family’s improved kitchen space.

    Gin and tonics are especially popular in Malawi. But even that seemingly fun fact was in reality a sobering discovery – tonic water contains quinine, an antimalarial ingredient. Bottom line: food and drink are quite simply about survival for most people in Malawi.

    snapshots from malawi by @janemaynard

    While visiting the Mtika’s village, a little girl in a grey dress was walking alongside me for quite some time. She had a bright smile that was never ending. I finally stopped to ask if she wanted her picture taken, which she did. Funny enough she would never smile for the camera like she did in person, but she still loved looking at herself on the small camera screen. After the photo she asked me something that I could not understand. I grabbed one of our drivers, who was able to translate.

    “Do you have a water bottle I can have?” was her question.

    I did in fact have one and readily handed it over. The driver was curious as to why this is what she asked for, so he asked her why she wanted it.

    “We use it so we can have lunch at school. We put maize in the bottle and add a little water. By lunchtime the maize is softened and that is what I eat.”

    Oh, this sweet girl. My heart just about burst.

    The driver and I asked her if she would take one more photo, this time holding her bottle. After much prodding we were able to get this one, joyful, smiley shot.

    snapshots from malawi by @janemaynard

    During our time in Malawi we did have delicious food, including fried chambo (a fish from Lake Malawi) and tons of Nali Peri-Peri sauce. I actually came home with 6 bottles of Nali because, apparently, I am crazy for African hot sauce.

    snapshots from malawi: fried chambo by @janemaynard

    snapshots from malawi: nali peri-peri sauce

    Needless to say all that I observed and learned about food in Malawi has been constantly on my mind. It has certainly made me even more grateful than I already was for what I have. And I can honestly say that making my daughters’ lunches each morning has transformed from a chore to an honor.

    And, when I start to feel emotionally overwhelmed thinking about food in Malawi, I think of the Mtikas and the many other farmers we met. Given the right resources and know-how they have been able to turn their lives around. These parents are now able to feed their families thanks to their own skills and abilities. It is a beautiful thing and is the key to having food “forever.”

    I traveled to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We visited to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by U.S.-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  3. Tuesday, May 19

    Snapshots from Malawi: You Came and Held Our Hands to Bring Us Where We Are

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    I don’t even know where to begin in telling you about my trip to Malawi. The trip was educational and fun, inspiring and disheartening, energizing and exhausting – it was basically all of the emotions stuffed into one week and I’m still kind of reeling from it all. I am planning to do a series of posts called Snapshots from Malawi over the next several months because that is the only way I can even begin to do justice to the stories from the trip.

    snapshots of malawi: gomani village | by @janemayanrdThe village of Gomani

    One of the main focuses of our trip was visiting with farmers who work with Heifer International. Luiza Mzungu, a 47-year-old widow from the village of Gomani, was one of those farmers. I will share more of her story with you in a future post, but she shared a phrase that resonated with me on many levels and is, I believe, the perfect way to begin this series of blog posts.

    snapshots from malawi: farmer luiza mzungu | from @janemaynardLuiza Mzungu

    As Luiza was talking with us about her cows and her life she said, “You came and held our hands to bring us where we are.” At the conclusion of that sentence, Luiza and her neighbors began to cheer and yell with joy. 

    Luiza is right. Heifer did come to Malawi and held her hand, guiding her to greater economic independence and a better life for her family. But the hand holding is not a one-way action. The Malawians we met wholeheartedly welcomed our group to their villages and not only held our hands but grasped them firmly. These people held our hands, looked us in the eye and shared their sorrows and their joys, their challenges and their hopes. They held our hands and taught us things we could never have learned any other way. They held our hands and proved that the world is indeed small. They held our hands and brought us to where we are today.

    snapshots of malawi: welcome to gomani village | by @janemaynardThe Gomani Village Welcome Wagon. Much more interesting than a basket of blueberry muffins.

    Our first night in Malawi was near the capital of Lilongwe, on the outskirts of town. As I lie in bed that night, the quiet was striking. The silence gave me a chance to ponder and wonder about what was coming that week. As morning arrived, the sounds of birds and roosters began to fill the air and I was ready to go! Honestly, looking back on that night and morning, I had no idea what I was getting into or just how profound the week would be. Sure, in theory I knew it would be a “life-changing” trip. But I didn’t know I would hold so many hands. Those hands have led me to a new place and I look forward to grasping your hands to bring you on this journey, too.

    I traveled to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We visited to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by U.S.-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  4. Friday, May 15

    Friday Show and Tell: Farewell to Malawi

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    Hello Friends! Today is my last day in Malawi and I’m about to head off to the farewell dinner. As I expected the week has flown by and I have seen so many beautiful parts of this country, met so many of its wonderful people and learned so many things about the challenges Malawi faces. You better believe I’ll be writing a whole bunch of posts in the coming weeks.

    a visit to lake malawi by @janemaynard

    The Internet has been very spotty all week, so I didn’t end up doing blog posts like I had planned. But I did keep Instagram updated, so if you haven’t been following over there, please be sure to check out the videos and photos I’ve been posting. They are among some of my favorite images ever.

    See you in the U.S. on Sunday! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Oh, and, OF COURSE feel free to share stuff for Show and Tell!

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  5. Friday, May 8

    Why I Am Going to Malawi

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    why I am going to malawi

    When I started college, I chose International Relations as a major, with a focus on developing countries and women’s studies. I stuck with that major right up until graduation and wrote my undergrad thesis about the challenges of creating and enforcing international women’s rights laws. I was very passionate about the issues that I studied and had visions of, well, I’m not entirely sure what my visions were, but I know they involved helping people. From the time I was a child, I was acutely aware of how fortunate I was to be born in the time and place that I was. And I was also always very concerned about those who were less fortunate.

    Surprising myself more than anyone I got married in college (what?!) and we ended up moving to San Diego, where (as a liberal arts major who could write) I started working in the communications department for a wireless company. My work pretty much had nothing to do with what I studied, but I was still interested in those issues and have remained so all these years. And, honestly, my life evolved in a beautiful and wonderful way, through graphic design and blogging and motherhood, bringing me to where I am today

    Three years ago I met Jeannine Harvey from ONE at the Mom 2.0 Summit. We instantly connected on about 500 different levels and have stayed in touch and worked together ever since. Talking with Jeannine about ONE’s goals reinvigorated my interest and concern for the developing world. It has been rewarding to work with ONE over the years, using my platform to inform others about the issues facing our world and specifically developing regions like Africa.

    I can’t even tell you how excited and fortunate I feel to be able to join ONE and Heifer International on this journey to Malawi. For the first time I will visit the continent that I have spent countless hours studying and writing about. I will get the chance to meet and connect with the people of Malawi, a country known as the “Warm Heart of Africa,” and see how foreign aid has and will continue to benefit their communities and families. And then I get to write about it, share what I learn with you, help spread the word to further garner support for programs that are helping people in meaningful ways.

    My dad asked me this week why I’m going to Malawi. “So, you’re going to change the world, huh?” he said. I laughed and said, “Of course!” Seriously, though, I am under no illusions that my visit is going to change the world. I am just one person, but I am one person who can tell other people what I see and learn, and together we can change the world. I really, truly believe we can.

    On my flight from San Diego to Washington, D.C. today I spent about 4 hours reading briefing materials for the trip. At one point while I was reading the information about Heifer International I was overwhelmed with emotion. I literally started crying, which I promptly tried to cover up so that the StitchFix stylist and her husband didn’t see the tears streaming down my face. Just when I thought I had it under control, the tears returned. While I was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer vastness and complexity of the problems at hand, that wasn’t what brought the tears to my eyes. I was crying because I felt overwhelmed at the goodness of humans. Organizations like Heifer as well as governments like that of the U.S. are doing truly transformative work to help others who are less fortunate, others who could not improve their world without help. People devote their lives to these causes and do make a difference. It’s inspiring and beautiful.

    I think it’s easy to sometimes feel like the problems are too big, so, why bother? But the fact is we are all connected in this world, more so than we ever have been before, and it is our duty as humans to help one another. I cried on the plane because, despite so much that is wrong with our world, the desire to help one another burns in enough hearts to be a powerful force. People are living up to their duty of helping others and it is changing the world. I feel honored to be just one small part of that change.

    In preparation for my trip I stopped at RoadRunner Sports to get some socks. (They have great socks.) The man helping me asked where I was going to be traveling and when I told him Africa, his hand flew to his chest and he was physically overcome with happiness. He said, “Oh! Africa! It is my heart!” I learned that he was from Liberia and he was, quite simply, joyful about my trip. It was amazing to me how one small interaction communicated so much.

    I look forward to more small interactions with all kinds of wonderful people over the next week. I look forward to connecting with individuals, hearing their stories, and then sharing them with you. And I look forward to bringing home Africa in my heart.

    I’m traveling to Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We are visiting to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by US funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.

    ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.

    Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

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  6. Friday Show and Tell

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    Happy Friday, everyone! I have a lot to “show and tell” today and a lot to say about my trip to Africa (I’m getting on my first plane of the trip in 30 minutes!), so I decided to split the two up and I’ll be doing a separate Africa post later tonight from Washington, D.C. So, let’s show and tell, shall we?

    netflix chef's table from @janemaynard

    First, I just discovered a new original documentary series on Netflix that I’m loving called Chef’s Table. It tells the story of 6 of the world’s most renowned chefs and I love it. It’s beautifully constructed and the stories are wonderful. I highly recommend it!

    "a bone to pick" by mark bittman

    Mark Bittman has a new book A Bone to Pick. I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to dig in. I love that guy and the way he talks about our food system. I am really looking forward to reading his latest thoughts!

    albion fit's soulstice retreat

    Remember my friends Liz and Dave who started the activewear company Albion Fit? They just announced their retreat Soulstice and it looks AMAZING. It’s expensive, yes, but it really is a top notch, 5-star, every attendees gets a $1500 gift bag kind of experience. Albion is also offering a group discount if you are interested. Groups of 6+ can each register for $2399 (limited spaces available). Just click on the 6+ discount when you register and enter the code TWFD. And if you go you just might run into me in a yoga class!

    serrano salsa by @janemaynard

    Last thing, one food link for the week! I put together an awesome roundup of salsa recipes for Parade’s Community Table. You should definitely check it out!

    That’s all! (Ha! That was a ton of stuff!) Happy Friday! And don’t forget to share your own finds, links, blog posts, thoughts, whatever!

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  7. Thursday, May 7

    Gluten-Free Coconut Lime Shortbread + Moms Make a World of Difference {Fair Trade Giveaway!}

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    As you know, every few months or so I do a post with Fair Trade USA to help spread the word about the great work they do. This week we’re celebrating Mother’s Day together by sharing the story of a mother from Uganda, giving away a big ol’ bunch of awesome Fair Trade goodies and sharing a fair trade recipe!

    fairt trade gluten-free coconut lime shortbread from @janemaynard #fairmoms

    If you want to read more about what fair trade is, click here. Fair Trade USA says it all a whole lot better than I do. In a nutshell, buying fair trade products means you are supporting farmers in truly meaningful and sustainable ways in more than 70 countries. One of those farmers is Komuhendo Jacqueline, an inspirational tea farmer & me​mber of the Mpanga Growers Tea Factory in Uganda.

    Komuhendo Jacqueline, Fair Trade Tea Farmer from Uganda #fairmoms

    Komuhendo Jacqueline and her family have been growing tea since 2009. She says that the biggest benefit to selling Fair Trade Certified tea is that it has enabled her to pay for school fees for 3 of her children. It has also enabled her family to start sustainable food security projects for their home that can continue for years to come. She hopes to sell more of her tea so that she can send her other 4 children to school.

    Komuhendo Jacqueline, Fair Trade Tea Farmer from Uganda #fairmoms

    Fair Trade has helped Komuhendo Jacqueline and her community in so many ways, including building a nearby well that has provided much closer access to clean water, building a health clinic, providing shelter for workers during the work day, creating a women’s organization that helps empower women to be a more active part of generating income for their families in a region where traditionally men have taken sole ownership of tea farming, and MORE. It’s really amazing the long-term and meaningful ways fair trade has helped women and mothers in this community.

    Komuhendo Jacqueline, Fair Trade Tea Farmer from Uganda #fairmoms

    Learning about Komuhendo Jacqueline’s story has been especially poignant for me this week as I will be flying over her home in just a few days’ time! As I have mentioned, I am traveling to Malawi with ONE and Heifer International this week. Malawi is another country where farmers have benefited from Fair Trade efforts through the production of coffee, sugar and tea, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to meet the people of this country and talk to farmers.

    I could go on and on, but I think it’s time to give away some goodies and share a recipe with you!

    fair trade mother's day giveaway package from @janemaynard #fairmoms

    First, the giveaway. Fair Trade USA will send one lucky, randomly-selected commenter all of the following goodies!

    To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post! (Comments must be posted by Midnight, PT May 18, 2015. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address.)

    fairt trade gluten-free coconut lime shortbread from @janemaynard

    Recipe time! Today I have a recipe for Gluten-Free Coconut Lime Shortbread. In the interest of full disclosure, Nate and Cate did NOT like these cookies. My neighbor Kat, who does TONS of gluten-free baking and loves and cares about food very much, loved the cookies. I personally think the cookies have a wonderful flavor and I do like them. Just know this is a cookie that is meant to be nibbled…coconut flour absorbs fluid better than a sponge, and that still applies even when it’s in your mouth! Sit down with a nice cup of fair trade tea and slowly enjoy your delicious cookie!

    4.3 from 3 reviews
    Gluten-Free Coconut Lime Shortbread
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    A very flavorful, gluten-free shortbread cookie. Eat in nibbles, no big bites!
    Author:
    Serves: 7 cookies
    Ingredients
    • 6 tablespoons fair trade coconut flour
    • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened to room temp
    • 2 tablespoons fair trade unsweetened shredded coconut
    • 2 tablespoons fair trade agave nectar
    • 2 teaspoons lime juice
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
    2. Mix all ingredients very well using a fork or pastry blender. Make cookie balls out of ~2 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Roll in your hand, set on a a parchment paper or silpat lined cookie sheet and gently press the cookie flat to about ¼" thick.
    3. Bake for 10 minutes.
    4. Let cool completely before moving off of the cookie sheet or they will crumble.

     

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  8. Wednesday, March 18

    In the middle of a story…

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    in the middle of a story by @janemaynardPictured: My husband Nate skating with our 3-year-old son Owen

    One of the most beautiful things I ever read was the eulogy given by Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson at his funeral. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, the text is published on The New York Times and I highly recommend reading it. There was one thing in particular that Mona said that has always stayed with me.

    “We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”

    In the context of Mona’s eulogy, she was talking about how, even though they knew they would lose Steve to cancer, his death was still unexpected. That is a powerful sentiment and she phrased it perfectly. No matter the age or circumstance, death always comes in the middle of a story, in fact many stories.

    Just one week ago today a 19-year-old young man I knew took his own life here in Carlsbad. I didn’t know him really well, but I knew him well enough to know what a kind, friendly, and great kid he was. He comes from a large family that is now grieving a loss that I cannot begin to comprehend.

    The day after Klay died, a few friends and I delivered a bunch of supplies to the family – drinks, snacks, breakfast and lunch foods, paper plates, etc. We texted beforehand and told them they could just open the garage and pretend we weren’t even there. Of course we did see some of the family members and talked a bit with Klay’s amazing mother. I won’t go into details, but spending those few moments with that family so soon after their loss has changed me. I can’t quite put into words what that change is, but it is real and profound.

    Klay suffered from depression and his depression won the battle. Almost exactly five years ago our dear friends’ nephew Brian also took his own life, also at 19 years old. Brian suffered from severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and lost a similar battle to Klay’s.

    As I sat through Klay’s funeral yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of Brian’s funeral five years ago and the heartbreaking similarities between the two. I couldn’t help but think of loved ones in my life suffering from similar struggles. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for these two wonderful young men that have touched my life. And I couldn’t help but feel incredible sadness for their families and loved ones.

    I also walked away from yesterday’s funeral knowing that Klay was loved unconditionally by many, many people, that Klay left behind beautiful memories, from making music to diving to skateboarding to simply being who he was day to day. Klay’s father’s words painted a picture of a life with his son that was familiar to me because it is so similar to the life I see my husband experiencing with my son.

    As happens every time I witness or experience a loss, I thought of Mona’s words. Death always comes in the middle of the story. Sometimes the stories are shorter than we had hoped, but the good, even glorious, news is that there was a story. A beautiful if sometimes painful story. The trick is to appreciate the stories we are given, the stories that we get to be a part of, even when we are aching so desperately for more.

    These experiences always give me perspective, but this week in particular has been especially poignant. And, while I’ve always lived a life that tries to savor each day, I am now really trying to focus on the stories of which I am a part, appreciating my life’s stories even though I know they will not last as long as I want, and loving them even more for that fact.

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  9. Thursday, February 26

    Friday Show and Tell + ONE AYA Summit

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    Happy Friday! I have a TON of great food links for you today, but before we get to that I wanted to talk about something dear to my heart. Last October I had the chance to attend ONE’s AYA Summit in Washington, D.C. I have yet to write a post about the conference because there is just too much I want to share. I’m planning to do a series of recipes posts to tell the stories, but until then…

    ONE AYA Summit from @janemaynardPictured: Ginny Wolfe (ONE), Patricia Amira (The Oprah of Africa…she was AWESOME.)

    Video from the AYA Summit has been posted on Flipbook. Click here to see the videos (you’ll need to set up a Flipbook account – it’s worth it!). I don’t even know where to tell you to start, but all of it is fascinating/informative/inspiring – that I can promise!

    One of the women we heard from, Marquesha Babers, wrote a post for the ONE website. Please read it. Marquesha is an amazing young woman I was blessed to meet at the summit.

    Girl Rising Panel at the ONE AYA Summit from @janemaynardPictured, left to right: Holly Gordon (Girl Rising), Patricia Amira, Danai Gurira (Playwright and, yes, Michonne on The Walking Dead), Marquesha Babers (Poet)

    If you want to DO something right now to support ONE, click here! One of the reasons I love ONE so much is that they aren’t asking for our money, they are asking for our voice. Right now you can send a letter to your congresspeople urging them to reintroduce the Electrify Africa bill. It’s super easy and will make a difference.

    Okay, on to some delicious food!

    deconstructed chicken club from @janemaynard

    This week on Babble I shared a recipe for a Deconstructed Chicken Club. I’m finding that deconstructing foods is one of the best ways to get my kids to eat it!

    On Parade’s Community Table I have 2 posts this week!

    fast and healthy snacks for nursing moms from @janemaynard

    And, lastly, if you’re pregnant or have just had a baby, be sure to visit the Solly Baby Blog to get ideas for Healthy, EASY Snacks for Nursing Moms.

    Show and Tell time! Please share your own stuff!

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  10. Thursday, September 11

    Inside the McDonald’s Machine

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    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    This post is sponsored by McDonald’s. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    In May, McDonald’s flew me to Chicago to visit their headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. I sat down for 60 minutes of discussion with some of their leadership team, including the senior directors of marketing and management. McDonald’s understands that they have a polarizing brand and they are making efforts to reach out to people who have neutral or negative opinions about the company (people like me!) to engage in a dialogue. When they first approached me about potentially doing a sponsored post on my blog involving an interview with members of the leadership team, in all honesty my initial reaction was “no way.” But I thought about it a lot and decided that this could be an excellent opportunity to talk with decision-makers at the company, ask them direct questions and hear what they had to say (as well as maybe get a chance to share my thoughts around their business).

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    I feel strongly that what we do in the kitchen has a strong impact on Mother Earth. My New Year’s resolutions always involve an environmental goal that’s directly related to how our family eats. I also try to cook at home as much as I can to feed my family a nutritious and balanced diet. But guess what? We also go to McDonald’s. Not all the time, but we go. Cate doesn’t like McDonald’s and normally doesn’t order anything (she’s well-versed in the concept of monoculture farming but also does not enjoy the food). Anna and Owen, however, love McDonald’s, and it’s a special treat for them when we go. That said, on the occasions that I visit McDonald’s, questions and concerns about sustainability and our food system are constantly swirling in my head.

    *

    When my girls found out that I was going to interview people at McDonald’s, I asked if they had any specific things they wanted me to talk about. They both said they wanted me to ask McDonald’s to please put baby carrots in the Happy Meals. I shared our family’s wish with Chef Jessica, so I’ve done my duty. Even though McDonald’s does not accept unsolicited advice – “Jane Maynard’s Requests” was not on the “How a Product Is Developed” infographic they shared with me – if baby carrots ever do appear in the Happy Meal, the girls and I are totally taking credit!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    On to the interviews! Here are the folks that I had the chance to talk with, both in person and over the phone:

    • Justin Ransom, PhD, Senior Director, Quality Systems, Supply Chain Management
    • Erik Gonring, Manager, Global Government Relations & Public Affairs
    • Chef Jessica Foust, RDN, Director of Culinary Innovation
    • Cindy Goody, PhD, MBA, RDN, LDN, Senior Director of Nutrition
    • Darci Forrest, Senior Director Marketing, Menu Innovation Team

    In my discussion with Justin and Erik, we talked about food sustainability and supply issues, which have always been my biggest concerns with McDonald’s and other big food brands. I learned from talking with Justin and Erik that when McDonald’s looks at sourcing, there’s a triple bottom line that’s defined by three Es: ethics, environment and economics. Those three factors drive how the company sources their food. One interesting takeaway that I learned – and something that I honestly hadn’t thought about before – is that McDonald’s wants to get their food from sustainable sources, because they need those supplies to not disappear.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Erik gave the example of the Filet-O-Fish, an iconic McDonald’s item. At one point, the company learned that they were contributing to the depletion of the cod supply off the Atlantic coast. This problem had ethical, environmental and economic implications. McDonald’s knew they had to make a change, especially since they needed a long-term fish supply in order to continue serving the beloved sandwich. After years of work, McDonald’s USA has reached a point where all of the whitefish they use is sustainably harvested, and McDonald’s was the first national chain to serve whitefish sourced from a Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fishery.

    I also inquired about organic and local sourcing. Justin said that 14,000 restaurants using local and/or organic ingredients is a challenge. Taking into account their high standards for quality, safety and consistency, McDonald’s has to minimize risk in their supply chain, which makes organic and locally sourced foods difficult to implement. I understand this on a logical level, but it’s still a concern for me. I asked Justin if he was at all optimistic that, in the future, we could source foods in more sustainable ways at this scale. Justin said he is. Honestly, I don’t know that I am, but I’m glad someone is.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    We also discussed waste. On the customer side, I asked about recycling and compost bins in restaurants. Erik said that when there is infrastructure to support recycling and composting, typically they get on board: restaurants in cities including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Austin have recycling bins, and many of those markets also compost organic waste behind the counter. But he also stressed that customer behavior is the biggest challenge when implementing these systems. On the supply side, I learned that the bulk of the waste at a restaurant happens behind the counter. McDonald’s recycles their corrugate and cooking oil in many restaurants, which makes up to 40% of that behind-the-scenes waste. The company is also taking actions like phasing out polystyrene coffee cups and joining the How2Recycle label program to make it easier for customers to recycle away from the restaurant.

    The biggest takeaway from my discussion with Erik and Justin is that McDonald’s won’t compromise on their final product. The McDonald’s fry is a good example of this. Justin said that the taste of McDonald’s fries must remain consistent around the world. This means that McDonald’s only uses a handful of potato varieties from specific regions of the world. I was told that identifying new varieties is a long and arduous process and McDonald’s would never allow customers to notice a change in their fries. For me, this is a perfect example of how our demand for one specific product leads to problematic farming practices. If there were more room for variation, we wouldn’t need to farm such limited varieties of potatoes. When there is such a high demand for just a few crops, those plants are susceptible to pests, which in turn necessitates the use of either GMOs – which McDonald’s made clear that they do not use – or pesticides. Industrialized monoculture farming, where you grow un-diversified crops, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our demand – what we will or will not buy – directly impacts how food is grown.

    *

    In my discussion with chef Jessica, nutritionist Cindy and marketer Darci, we talked at length about the menu, how it’s developed and efforts around nutrition. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion:

    • When a new product is rolled out, it takes anywhere from nine months to four years to develop, from conceptualization to finally being sold in restaurants.
    • McDonald’s has reformulated a long list of their ingredients, from the Big Mac bun to nuggets, to contain less sodium.
    • McDonald’s is working on a set of initiatives for their top nine and top 20 markets to be fulfilled by 2020 that include, among other things, increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are served, as well as offering more salads and produce as options with meals.
    • Taste is key. McDonald’s won’t sacrifice when it comes to taste and is completely focused on serving customers what they want and will buy.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    The Arches, a full-service McDonald’s restaurant in the corporate office building.

    A lot of the issues that I have with McDonald’s and our food system in general map back to the consumer. For instance, I asked Darci why McDonald’s peels the apples in their Happy Meals. (I really wish that the apples were not peeled so that my kids would at least have the option of eating better.) Darci explained that McDonald’s serves apples that way because it was the best balance they could find of serving a product that parents would feel good about giving their kids but also one that the kids would eat, based on testing prior to the product launch. Corporations as large as McDonald’s have a social responsibility and should take a leadership role, but purchasing power is also incredibly important when it comes to effecting change.

    *

    So did I learn anything new through this process? Yes. Did I get some answers that weren’t completely satisfactory? Yes. Did I get some positive answers I wasn’t expecting? Yes. Could I have asked questions all day long? You bet. And do I still believe that we, the consumers, are at the root of the food system and that we can make a difference? Yes!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Let me know in the comments section below: if you could ask the McDonald’s team one question, what would it be?

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