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  1. Friday, March 22, 2019

    Plant-Based Eating Hack #2: Finding Milk Alternatives…with a little help from your friends!

    Time for another plant-based eating hack, don’t you think? Okay, so, you want to start replacing dairy with more plant-based options. And starting with milk seems like a good idea. But then you go to the store and THERE ARE SO MANY MILK ALTERNATIVES that your head starts spinning, you grab your usual gallon of milk, and walk away in a cold sweat. Here’s the thing, finding milk alternatives is kind of hard for a few reasons. First, there are just so many to choose from. Second, if you do buy one and then hate it, suddenly you have a whole carton of “milk” that either you suffer through or end up wasting. Today I have a suggestion for finding milk alternatives that is not only helpful but fun. Gather your friends and do a milk tasting together!

    Alternative milk tasting party with friends in a kitchen

    Last week I hosted an evening with a group of friends and coordinated a milk tasting. I created a sign-up list with around 10 different types of milk alternatives. We all pitched in, brought one to share, then held a tasting. My friend Laura kept notes on people’s reactions to each product and we discussed our thoughts at the end of the night. We other delicious foods, too, much of it vegan and all of it vegetarian. Plant-based goodness galore!

    10 milk alternatives set up for a milk tasting party

    I wish that I could tell you there was consensus and that XX milk is the best one, but there wasn’t! Everyone’s tastes were very different and every single type of milk we tried had people who loved it and hated it. Which is why the milk tasting party became even more genius once we were actually doing it – since we do all have different tastes, it was really awesome to get together and try out so many different milks at once. We could figure out what works for our own tastes then go home and just buy that type of “milk” from now on. Plus, people could take home the carton of milk that was their favorite, leading to less waste!

    Line up of 10 different milk alternatives

    Even though we didn’t have strong consensus on the products we tried, I do think it’s worth sharing Laura’s notes. We tested the unsweetened versions of each “milk” since we were looking for a cow’s milk alternative for multiple uses. I neglected to put pea protein milk on the list, which I’m regretting because that one is supposed to be great. I’ll have to try it on my own (wah-waaaah). Take all these comments with a grain of salt because, as you’ll notice, many of them contradict one another. That might be the most surprising outcome of the night was how different we all taste things! Please note that where it says “my” or “I” in the comments below, those are quotes from my friends. Only the comments italicized and in orange are my personal opinion.

    • Hemp: favorite, I drink it every day; neutral flavor; can taste plant base; chalky; bland; watery; grainy
    • Flax: silkier; creamier; good texture; watery; neutral flavor; my new favorite
    • Oat: smooth; sweet; closest to milk; thicker; best so far (Jane note: oat is my personal favorite and what I use daily – I think oat milk had the highest approval rating of the night! Note: Most oat “milks” taste great, but the brand Pacific Organic is awful, do not buy that one!)
    • Coconut: watery; dirty water; bad after taste (Jane note: I don’t love coconut milk that comes in a carton, and some canned coconut milks have a weird flavor to me. That said, Thai Kitchen’s canned coconut milk is FANTASTIC and that is what I use in oatmeal, coffee and for cooking.)
    • Macadamia: texture is good; bland; watery, like skim milk; really good
    • Almond: tastes like almonds; refreshing; fresh; good; fabulous (Jane note: my friend Chelsea made her almond milk from scratch, which is why it was so freaking awesome, but if you find a good brand I think the comments would still apply!)
    • Cashew: tastes cashew-y; good texture; sour; good but not great; my favorite that I use in coffee every day
    • Soy: taste like edamame; simple and easy; after taste; actually, better than I was expecting
    • Rice: too sweet; can’t believe it’s unsweetened

    A note on sugar content. Oat and rice milk both have naturally occurring sugars, although rice is higher than oat, and both rice and oat have less sugar than regular cow’s milk. Most of the other milk alternatives had 0 grams of sugar.

    Voila! Finding milk alternatives isn’t as bad as you think, as long as you get a little help from your friends. Have fun!


  2. Friday, March 15, 2019

    Megan O’Rourke, Sustainable Agriculture Professor at Virginia Tech, Shares Her Thoughts on Organic Farming (Ep. 51)

    Episode 51 Podcast Header: Interview with Megan O'Rourke, PhD, on Organic Farming

    In episode #51 of the podcast, I get the chance to interview Megan O’Rourke, professor of sustainable agriculture at Virginia Tech. If you’ve been following my Eat Well, Heal the Planet posts this year, you know Megan! She’s our resident scientist, providing all kinds of great info around food, farming and the environment. In case you missed it, yesterday we published a post with a quick guide for mindful food shopping as well as Megan’s thoughts on the current state of organic farming. Today’s podcast interview builds on that article. Megan is a fantastic resource and I am delighted to share her with you! 

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Click the play button below!
    • Via an app: Search “This Week for Dinner Podcast” on your favorite podcast app (iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, Spotify, etc.).

    Other Stuff!


  3. Thursday, March 14, 2019

    A Quick Guide to Mindful Food Shopping Choices + Thoughts on Organic Farming

    For quite some time now I have purchased mostly organic food, my reasoning being that it was better for the environment and biodiversity. As I’ve started doing more reading about different diets and their impact on the environment, questions around organic food keep coming to mind. I turned to our resident expert, Virginia Tech sustainable agriculture professor Megan O’Rourke, and asked her what she thought about organic. That simple question led to several conversations, a podcast interview, and Megan writing her thoughts on organic for us, which I am sharing below in this post. The bottom line? Yes, organic has benefits, sometimes environmental. No, it’s not clear cut and as easy as saying that buying organic is the best choice. As with pretty much anything related to food and the environment, it’s complicated!

    As Megan and I talked, I asked her if it would be possible to make a quick reference guide for people who want to be mindful about what impact their food is having. Megan agreed and gave me an excellent list of things to think about. I turned it into an “If…Then…” list, which highlights a few values around food and some of the choices you can make to support those values. 

    Chart with "If, Then" statements, providing a quick guide to mindful food shopping choices

    Since there are no easy answers, for our family I’ve decided to concentrate on reducing our consumption of cow products (both meat and dairy), focus on more plant-based eating and buying our food as locally and seasonally as possible. Megan, as you will learn in her article below as well as in our podcast interview that will publish tomorrow, really likes to focus on buying food locally and growing foods that make sense for where she lives, thereby reducing the need for chemical interventions. As you look at the “If..Then…” list I encourage you to identify those values and choices that make the most sense for you and your family. If we are all making efforts where we can, we will make a difference! 

    Why organic? What is the real impact? Is there a real impact?

    By Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech

    There is a lot of confusion about organic agriculture, so Seufert et al. published a review paper in 2017 describing what science does and does not know about the real impacts of organic agriculture. They broke down the impacts into three broad categories: environmental, productivity, effects on farmers, and effects on consumers. They then subdivided these broad categories into 26 specific metrics of public interest and compared the relative impacts  of an acre of organic land to an acre of conventional land. Interestingly, the authors assert that we basically don’t know anything about 10 of the metrics of interest. These include effects on soil erosion, water use, pesticide leaching, and farm wages. In fact, we only have high certainty about a few things. Fortunately for consumers, most of our certainty revolves around organic produce quality, such as lower pesticide residues and higher phytonutrient, mineral, and vitamin content than conventional agriculture. Scientists are also pretty certain that organic land produces lower yields but higher profitability than conventional production, while improving the soil and providing habitat for wildlife.

    But, here’s the spoiler. While I am a sustainable agriculture researcher with lots of facts and figures at hand, I almost never buy organic myself. Why?  I have both rational reasons and emotional reactions to the current state of organic agriculture that guide what I do. Let’s start with the rational reasons. 

    With grocery store organic, I don’t really know what I’m getting. Grocery store organic is often far from the bucolic small farm dream we imagine. Organic produce is much more likely to come from a megafarm in California than from your local family farm, and these megafarms simply practice chemical substitutions. Any poisonous chemical derived naturally and approved by the National Organic Program can be used in organic production. For example, some heavy metals like copper, which accumulate in the environment, are used extensively in organic production. Other pesticides, such as pyrethrums extracted from chrysanthemums, are allowed in organic production while their synthetic cousins, pyrethroids, are not. Synthetic fertilizers are not allowed in organic production but organic fertilizer companies mine bat guano from Chile and ship it up to California. Bat guano has essentially the same chemical properties as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. When it comes to organic meat, I find the rules about organic meat production unethical. Organic farmers cannot use antibiotics on sick animals without the animals being deemed nonorganic. This can cause animals to suffer and be culled early instead of being treated humanely (which, by the way, is allowed in European organic practices).

    Now on to my more emotional responses to the current state of organic. Perhaps one of my least rational reactions to buying organic produce is that I find it bourgeois. While I am solidly privileged middle class in reality, my gut feels like buying organic is spending money excessively. Furthermore, the scientific benefits of organic produce are not significant enough for me. For example, while organic on average has a higher nutrient content in side-by-side comparisons with conventional food, this health benefit pales in comparison to simply eating more vegetables and a greater variety of produce. Also, as a scientist, on the whole I trust the capacity of science to make life better for us. For example, there was a time when I was skeptical about genetically modified crops, but now after talking with countless farmers, I appreciate how GMOs (which are banned in organic foods) can improve farmer health and reduce their exposure to insecticides. I also think that pesticides used responsibly can be like tiny miracles. When we are sick, we go to the doctor and get medicine. When plants get sick, they need some medicine too. While pesticides can be overused, I don’t prescribe banning them. We use chemicals all the time to make our life better and easier, so why shouldn’t farmers be allowed synthetic products in their toolbox?

    Another issue I have with organic is the bureaucracy. Organic farmers need to pay money, keep extensive records, and allow regulators onto their farms to inspect every aspect of their operation. As a natural rebel, the idea of allowing a stranger to nitpick about my choices of production would drive me crazy. I’ve talked to farmers who can’t pass inspections because they used landscape cloth around their blueberry bushes as that was not considered organic enough. When my husband and I had a CSA farm years ago, we did not certify organic because of the cost and bureaucracy. If you have $5000 in gross sales or less you can claim organic; otherwise you cannot market with that label. We took the Northeast Organic Farmers Association “Farmers Pledge” to market under. We pledged to grow organically and to respect workers’ rights. The national organic standards say nothing about worker conditions, pay, or labor rights.

    For me, organic was great for learning about pests, which I love doing, but I will no longer farm organically at home starting this year. You can either stick to just growing what grows well in your area without spraying and watch your crops lose 50 percent plus yields, use organic chemical substitution, or use lots of physical barriers that create loads of trash (which only works for certain plants anyway). I now see no hope in growing an orchard on the east coast without spraying something. I saw total losses year after year. That’s my new challenge this year – to manage my new orchard well by picking a crop with as little pesticide as I think I can get away with.

    These are some of the reasons why I personally don’t buy (or farm) organic. For me, I would be most inclined to support organic if I perceived a substantial environmental impact, but I’m not convinced of this with the modern industrialization of the organic industry. If I were to prioritize my organic purchases to avoid pesticide residues, I would focus on organic versions of the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. (Click here for the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.) For me eating as locally as possible and eating less meat makes a bigger difference, so that is what I focus on. We all have different reasons that are important to us when considering what food to buy and give to our families – having information can help us make the best choices to support our values and also make a positive difference in the world. 

    Quick Guide to Mindful Food Shopping Choices

    For Your Health and the Earth’s

    • If you do not want GMOs in your food, then buy organic.
    • If you want to reduce your personal exposure to pesticide residues, then buy organic or at least buy “The Dirty Dozen” organically.
    • If you want the most nutritions versions of produce, then buy locally and seasonally.
    • If you want the highest quality, most delicious produce, then buy locally and seasonally.
    • If you worry about the working conditions of migrant farm laborers, buy locally.
    • If you want to help conserve biodiversity, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, cut out or cut back on dairy and meat (shift from beef to pork to poultry).
    • If you want generally nutritious food at the best price, buy conventional produce and cook (this is better than eating processed organic food).
    • If you want off-season produce, buy conventional produce (there are many fraudulent organic imports).

     


  4. Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    2019 New Year’s Resolution: More Plant-Based Eating

    Each year I pick a New Year’s resolution that ties what I do in the kitchen with some sort of positive environmental impact. (Click here to see past years’ resolutions and related posts.) My 2019 resolution is no different: more plant-based eating. This goes beyond just eating less meat and I have lots of ideas for making this year’s resolution a success!*

    Fresh produce, oat milk and canned beans for the 2019 New Years Resolution for This Week for Dinner More Plant-Based Eating kick-off post

    Over the past year, due to some health reasons, I’ve really changed how I eat (there’s another post about that experience coming soon!). One of the changes has involved finding dairy substitutes. I haven’t given up meat completely, but I have started looking at more plant-based options. Looking for milk alternatives kicked that process off for me and really got me thinking about more plant-based eating overall.

    So why should we care about plant-based eating? Bottom line: animal-based food takes more of a toll on the environment (especially food coming from cows). When you talk about vegetarianism or veganism, many omnivores get nervous and feel like it’s just too hard to make that kind of switch. But focusing on more plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go vegetarian or vegan. There are lots of ways to incorporate plant-based foods and ease yourself into a new way of eating. In addition, looking at where the highest environmental impacts are in the food system and then adjusting from there can have a really big impact, beyond just plant-based foods.

    For example, take a look at the chart below (data taken from an article published in Nature assessing land use changes and climate change). It is both surprising and unsurprising. First, a vegan diet clearly has the smallest negative impact on the environment. But what pops out at me is the impact foods sourced from cows have. A vegetarian that eats dairy has a larger carbon cost than a person who eats poultry and eggs but skips dairy and beef. That is excellent food for thought.

    Chart showing the carbon costs of different diets, with vegan having the smallest carbon footprint

    As I was getting ready for my resolution, I came across a journal article published in Nature. I turned to my friend Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Production Systems at Virginia Tech, with some questions I had. Megan and I have known each other since middle school (in fact I introduced her to her husband of 20+ years!). As Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, Megan examines the value of biodiversity in agriculture and the environmental impacts of different food systems. Megan’s interest areas include sustainable agriculture, organic production, international development, land use change, and agroecology. She has extensive international and policy experience working with the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service as the organization’s climate change advisor. In addition, Megan studied farming systems and deforestation in Cambodia where she worked for the United States Agency for International Development as their senior climate change advisor.

    Dr. Megan O'Rourke of Virginia Tech in CambodiaThat’s Megan on the right! This is a photo from when she was in Cambodia. Image Source: Virginia Tech

    As Megan and I got to talking about food issues, I felt like I just couldn’t keep her to myself and, lucky for us, I convinced Megan to contribute to the blog. Now I get to share Megan and all the awesome stuff in her head with you. Welcome, Megan!

    Over the next year (and hopefully longer) I will share tips and tricks for more plant-based eating and Megan will offer her expertise. I’m really excited about this year’s resolution and for you all to join in on the journey.

    To kick things off, here’s a little something from Megan (she does a good job of filling in between the lines of the chart above):

    Recent research is showing how eating a plant-based diet may be good for slowing climate change. You may be thinking, what does a plant-based diet have to do with slowing climate change? Everything we eat has a carbon cost and some foods have lower carbon costs than others. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is what traps solar energy and causes things to heat up. The total carbon cost of food includes how much carbon is directly emitted during production from inputs such as fertilizers, tractor fuel and pesticides. It also includes an opportunity cost for using the land for agriculture.

    The carbon costs of agricultural inputs are pretty straight forward to wrap our heads around; growing stuff takes energy and releases carbon. But understanding carbon opportunity costs is a bit trickier. Think about a forest and a corn field. The forest has much more plant mass than a corn field and stores more carbon, so cutting down a forest to grow corn has a large carbon opportunity cost. If you think about how much land and inputs are required to produce beef (about 2 acres per cow) compared to corn (2 acres for about 20,000 lbs) you start to realize that eating beef requires a lot of land and has a much larger carbon cost than eating a plant-based diet. In fact, one pound of beef has a carbon cost almost 75 times higher than a pound of corn and 40 times higher than a pound of rice. In addition, not all animals are created equal.  The carbon cost of beef is 14 times higher than chicken and nine times higher than pork.

    When we start to compare different diets, we also come up with vastly different carbon costs.  If we compare a typical western diet with a 50% less meat, vegetarian, no beef or dairy, and vegan diets, we find that a vegan diet has the lowest carbon costs.  The total carbon costs of each diet are about 9, 6, 5, 3, and 2 tons of carbon dioxide per year, respectively.

    Now does this mean that everyone should run out and become vegan?  Well, maybe. Climate change is one of the most serious environmental threats facing our planet. But there are, of course, many other things to consider. Lifestyle and proper nutrition are important personal choices. Preference for local foods is another. Animals can be produced on dry hilly grasslands in places like Oklahoma, which are terrible for growing many plant-based foods (remember the dust bowl?). Environmental impacts besides carbon should also be considered. Many more species of birds and plants and insects can coexist with livestock on grazing lands compared to in the typical monoculture crop field. While this new research makes a compelling argument to shift to a more plant-based diet, it’s one more data point to help us make informed choices and navigate our complex food system. — Dr. Megan O’Rourke, Virginia Tech

    *In case you’re wondering. Last year was the first time I completely failed at my This Week for Dinner new year’s resolution. I had planned to learn how to can food. Well, I did not can one piece of food last year. Not one. Nate canned some peppers, so at least a little bit of canning happened in our house. So, nevermind, I totally completed the resolution…by proxy! 😉


  5. Friday, November 9, 2018

    Friday Show & Tell: Wild Kratts Live, Imperfect Produce, Native Deodorant and Oatly Update

    Happy Friday! I have a few things I want to share with you, so I think it’s time for Show & Tell!

    Wild Kratts Live

    Wild Kratts Live Show with the Family

    A few weeks ago we had the chance to take the kids to see the Wild Kratts Live 2.0 show, (big thank you to PBS Kids for the tickets). My kids love the Wild Kratts (even Cate who is pushing 14!). Nate and I kept the show a secret and surprised them the day we went. When we arrived we discovered we even had VIP tickets, which meant we had the chance to meet the Kratt brothers after the show. It was such a fun day!

    Chris and Martin talk with my kids at the Wild Kratts Live show

    If you have kids that like Wild Kratts I definitely recommend the live show. The show itself was adorable and the sound of children’s laughter was non-stop. Owen (7) was completely engaged the entire time. Cate decided that watching all of the little ones in the audience was as much fun as the actual show. Meeting the Kratt brothers was awesome. Chris and Martin have boundless energy and are so kind, speaking to each child individually and really taking their time with all the kids. We walked away from the experience in a great mood, with positive feelings and happy hearts.

    Meeting Chris & Martin at Wild Kratts Live

    Click here to check out the tour dates and locations!

    Imperfect Produce

    In my ongoing effort to make the food I buy more environmentally friendly, I recently started ordering from Imperfect Produce. In terms of environmental impact, the very best thing we can do is buy local. After that, buying food that would otherwise go to waste is pretty awesome, too. Imperfect Produce sources “ugly” and surplus produce from farmers and producers and then sells it at a discount to customers. The box of produce is delivered to your house each week. I love their mission since wasted food is something I think about all the time.

    Infographic explaining how the company Imperfect Produce works - they source imperfect and surplus fruit from farmers and deliver directly to customers

    I am absolutely loving Imperfect Produce. There is minimal packaging and all of the produce we have received has been awesome and delicious. Each week an email arrives reminding me to customize my box. You can choose from whatever they have in stock that week and there is both conventional and organic produce. In addition, it tells you were each item is grown. The website is so easy to use and my new system works great: I keep a list on my phone that tells me what will be coming each Friday from Imperfect Produce so that when I go shopping at the farmer’s market and grocery store each week I don’t overbuy anything.

    Imperfect Produce is expanding across the country and San Diego was one of their latest additions. Click here to visit their website and see if Imperfect Produce is in your city. I highly recommend them! (Note: Links to Imperfect Produce in this post are referral links. If you sign up using this link you and I both get a $10 credit. I have no relationship with Imperfect Produce other than being a customer and once you are a customer you can refer people, too!)

    Native Deodorant Update

    Remember my new favorite deodorant? I’ve been using Native for over a year now and still love it. In fact, I’m kind of addicted and have never had such a large stash of deodorant before. Their scents are just so great! Anyway, Target started carrying Native. Woohoo! Keep an eye out next time you visit Target!

    Oatly Update

    A few months ago I sang the praises of Oatly oat milk. Since then Oatly has become nearly impossible to buy because it’s just so darn popular (with good reason!). They had a day a few weeks ago where you could buy one case on their website. It felt like buying tickets to a concert – I had to set a reminder on my phone and it sold out within 20 minutes (I succeeding in getting a case!). I have confirmed with the Oatly team that they are building a factory here in the United States that will be opening in early 2019, which means pretty soon it will be much easier to get Oatly. I CAN’T WAIT. Good work, people. Keep the demand up! We want Oatly everywhere!

    That’s all I got! Have a great weekend!


  6. Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    2018 New Year’s Resolution: Learn How to Can

    If you’ve been reading my blog for longer than a year, you are probably aware that each year I make a New Year’s resolution that supports my overall goal to Eat Well and Heal the Planet. Food production has a huge impact on the environment and I love finding ways to do our part in the kitchen. Usually my resolution is easy to figure out, but this year I’ve struggled a bit with settling on something. Then, this morning, lightning struck: canning!

    2018 New Years Resolution: Learn How to Can @janemaynard

    I’ve always been scared of canning. First off, I don’t know how to do it and was scared of messing up. Second, I was being lazy about learning. Third, I was being lazy about actually doing it. 😉 But this year I am committing to at least learning how and then going from there!

    Last year Nate started gardening. He learned a lot and is ready to do the whole gardening thing even better this year. Over this past year, as produce was harvested in our backyard, our only options were to freeze the food or eat it, otherwise it went to wast (and we all know how I feel about food waste). While I’m really good at freezing stuff (yeah, I’m totally bragging…I mean, it takes great skill to throw something in a container and toss it into the freezer), for some foods freezing doesn’t work. And for other foods canning is just plain delicious. Also, I store a lot of bread and jam in my freezers, so I am limited on freezer space. Since I had NO CLUE about canning, it was simply not an option. This year, however, is going to be different.

    2018 New Years Resolution: Learn How to Can @janemaynard

    For years I’ve been watching my friend Aimee from the blog Simple Bites can food like crazy from food they grew in their backyard. She is really inspiring and I think those years of gawking at her skills have finally sparked me to give it a try. I’m going to start with Simple Bite’s Canning 101 guide. I’m actually excited, albeit a bit nervous.

    If you are a canner and have any tips, please share them in the comments! And if you are a canning virgin, perhaps consider joining me on the journey. I promise to report on how my canning efforts go!

    Here’s to another year of happy, earth-friendly eating!


  7. Wednesday, June 28, 2017

    How Shopping at My Local Farmer’s Market Reinvigorated Life in the Kitchen…and Got Our Family Eating Healthier!

    This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association Healthy For Good movement. The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.

    Local Tomatoes from Cyclops Farms | Photo from @janemaynard

    My new year’s resolution for 2017 was to cook more. I know it might seem strange to have a food blogger make this her resolution, but the fact of the matter was I had let cooking take the back burner (pun intended!). So, as 2017 kicked off, I decided to really focus on cooking again. And that focus has worked and made me a much happier person as a result.

    2016 was a rough year for several reasons that I won’t get into, but it really is no surprise that making dinner wasn’t a top priority for a good portion of the year. We were eating out a ton, which always makes me uneasy because I know we’re consuming way more calories, fat and sodium than we should be eating. There were a lot of pancake and cereal nights, too. I’ve made peace with how dinner went down in 2016 and have told myself “everything in its season.” But I am also feeling so good about the fact that I’ve been in the kitchen more this year, even during times that get especially busy.

    Cyclops Farms in Oceanside, CA | image from @janemaynard

    One of the keys to the success of this year’s resolution has been shopping at our local farmer’s market each week. There is a farmer’s market every Wednesday (all year!) in my town and after 3 1/2 years into living here I had never visited. I KNOW. It’s just so weird because things like farmer’s markets and CSAs make me so happy! So, as part of the resolution to cook more, I started going to the market each week. We also discovered a small, organic farm smack dab in the middle of a nearby neighborhood that is perhaps the happiest place in San Diego, with devoted shoppers and restaurateurs carefully selecting their produce each week.

    I cannot tell you how AWESOME this change in my life has been. First off, it’s fun telling my friends that I am going “to the market.” They think like I sound like a European grandmother and never quite know what I’m talking about.

    Cyclops Farms in Oceanside, CA | image from @janemaynard

    Beyond sounding like a European grandmother, going to the market each week has kept me much more in touch with what food is in season at any given time and our meals have reflected that natural seasonality more and more. And I love buying local – most of the farmers represented are located in my town or neighboring communities. I love knowing that our family is having a positive environmental impact through buying so much more of our food close to home.

    There’s been another unexpected benefit of going to the farmer’s market each week: my cooking has gotten more fun and creative. As you know, I’m totally about planning a weekly menu. My shopping list is always built around that plan and I rarely stray from the list when I am at the store. Going to the farmer’s market has gotten me to have a little more fun with our meals and add a bit of flexibility to the planning. Yes, I go into the market with a list, but I also let the fruits and vegetables that happen to be there that week drive what we eat. It’s made cooking fun and creative. (If you’re looking for a little creative inspiration before your next shopping run, consider shopping and serving the rainbow!)

    And, of course, the biggest benefit has been that we are eating way more homemade food, which is just plain healthier than takeout and most restaurant foods. I have been meaning to write this post about my new farmer’s market habit and the American Heart Association finally gave me the kick I needed to get it done. I am so happy to share my experience as part of their Healthy For Good campaign (did you know it’s National Fruit + Vegetable Month?), which encourages us all to Eat Smart, Add Color, Move More and Be Well.

    Remember that rough year I had in 2016? It kind of got me down. I felt uninspired and the stress of everything definitely caused me to rely too heavily on eating out. This post from the AHA about unhealthy eating as related to stress really spoke to me, especially numbers 2 and 6! I am telling you that this new focus I have had on nourishing myself and my family through food has been transformative. Yes, I still feel stress. Yes, I am still getting over some of that 2016 nonsense. But taking the time to focus on food has been amazingly uplifting. Plus, getting outside and walking for my grocery shopping sure has made life happier, too!

    I’m sure you’re wondering if I get all of my food at the farmer’s market…and the answer is no! First I hit the farmer’s market then pop over to my local grocery store to get other staples that weren’t at the market. I’ve never really loved food shopping, but now I look forward to it each week!

    So, that’s the update on this year’s resolution to cook more. The farmer’s market is my new happy place and I love the effect it’s had on our eating and on my life in general. And it’s totally helping me keep my new year’s resolution.

    Happy cooking!


  8. Sunday, January 1, 2017

    Week 519 Weekly Menu + My 2017 New Year’s Resolution – Cook More!

    Happy New Year!

    Eat Well, Heal the Planet: This Week for Dinner 2017 New Year's Resolution - Cook More!

    Today I’m combining the weekly menu with my annual New Years Resolution post because they are closely related. Let’s talk about the resolution first then get on to the weekly menus, shall we?

    Every year I choose a resolution that helps our family to Eat Well and Heal the Planet. For 2017 my environmentally-friendly kitchen resolution is to, quite simply, cook more. And while the goal itself may seem simple, the reasoning behind it is more complex.

    This will be my eighth year where my New Year’s resolution is focused on how my behavior in the kitchen impacts the environment. These past seven years have been awesome and the resolutions have truly helped me become more conscious than ever about how my food choices impact Mother Earth. It’s been a transformative process for me and I hope my journey has had a positive impact on others, too.

    Last year our family’s food-environment resolution was to Waste Less Food. I started a compost bin, which is still going strong, and we’ve tried really hard to, well, waste less food! One of my biggest takeaways last year was that eating out was our family’s biggest source of food waste. Not only did more food get thrown away when eating out, but there was so much more garbage per person with takeout containers and the like. This is contributing factor #1 to this year’s resolution to cook more.

    Eat Well, Heal the Planet: This Week for Dinner 2017 New Year's Resolution - Cook More!

    I don’t want to jump on the whole “2016 was the worst” bandwagon, but I will tell you that, for personal reasons, 2016 was at times quite challenging and I cooked less this year than I have in probably a decade. I was dealing with SI joint dysfunction for much of the year, and then I had a crazy car accident in November, just as the holidays got going. Plus, you know, life is busy. Work, kids, etc, etc, etc…we all know how it goes. As a result, this year found me in the kitchen far less than usual. Making dinner became a source of stress and something I thought I didn’t have time for. By the end of the year, my decreased levels of cooking have really had me down. The last two weeks I’ve been cooking a lot more. I visited our weekly farmer’s market for the first time. I’ve thought a lot about my relationship to food and what it means to me. This is contributing factor #2 to this year’s resolution…so let’s talk about the resolution itself!

    I want to cook more! I want to feed my family better. I want to feed myself better. I want to care about my food again. I want to enjoy the cooking process. I want to be inspired by food rather than stressed by it. I want to go to my local farmer’s market and be inspired by the local, seasonal ingredients I find each week. And I want to help the environment – the best way I can do that in the kitchen is to simply COOK MORE.

    So, that’s the goal! Less eating out. More cooking. More getting back to the love of food and savoring the time it takes to prepare it.

    Are you with me? Are you already there? Share your tips if you are! And, in case you missed it, I wrote an article for Mom2.com in October where I shared my friends’ tips for cooking dinner every day, even when life gets crazy. There is some good stuff in there, I highly recommend you check it out!

    And now my first menu of 2017! Note: we are still going to eat out, but I’m limiting it to once a week! I will continue to post menus every weekend and hope you all will continue to share yours in the comments! I am beyond grateful for the interaction we have here on the blog and your menus are a true inspiration week after week!

    This Week for Dinner: Week 519 Weekly Dinner Menu, Including FREE Printable PDF & Ingredients List from @janemaynard

    MONDAY:
    Homemade pizza (as per the kids’ request!) – Margherita and Honey Goat Cheese

    TUESDAY:
    Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Green Salad Topped with Grilled Chicken

    THURSDAY:
    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

    FRIDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out night

    SUNDAY:
    – Roasted Vegetable Egg Scrambles and Smoothies

    Click here or on the menu graphic above to access this week’s free printable PDF of the menu and ingredients list!

    Your turn! Please share your menu in the comments…simple, fancy, whatever! And if you have any thoughts about this year’s resolution, please share those as well! Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!


  9. Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    Vote for Clean Air and a Happy Earth This November!

    Hey, guys. I don’t get political here on the ol’ blog. I believe all sides of all issues have valid arguments and, well, this is a food blog and not really the place to hash out those issues and arguments. But you do know that I care deeply about the environment and write about environmental issues all the time. In addition to caring about the environment, I am a firm believer in the idea that every little bit helps and that all of our cumulative small actions lead to big change, hence a focus on my blog over the years on things like cutting paper towels, composting and eating less meat.

    Clean Air Moms Action - Pledge to Vote for the Environment!

    In case you weren’t aware, there is an election in two weeks. (Hahahahaha! I am so funny!) I am not publicly backing any candidates or telling you which way you should vote. But I am excited about voting and have gotten more involved on the local level this year than I ever have. I am really excited to turn in my ballot and have loved talking with my kids about the election. I was recently approached by the Clean Air Moms Action to see if I’d be willing to encourage the same excitement among my readers and I was like, YES! And, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I also want to encourage you to consider clean air, environmental factors and climate change when you vote.

    I am not a one-issue voter, but if I was, the environment would be that issue for me. I feel like this election season (and society at large) is like Game of Thrones. In Game of Thrones you have all these warring and competing political factors, all vying for power, all doing anything and everything to get that power. But while that squabbling is happening, “winter is coming,” i.e. literal winter but also those scary glassy-eyed White Walkers that the politicians don’t even believe exist. For me climate change is that proverbial winter. We are concerned with all these other issues while the environment, the one thing that is absolutely crucial to our survival, gets largely ignored. Rising waters are eating away at our coastline (interesting NY Times report here and Wharton podcast here). Drought will not go away. CRAZY WEATHER (no links necessary!). All of it is happening, and yet the presidential debates barely touched the issue, with 82 seconds in the first debate, one question from the audience for the second debate (go Ken Bone!), and two seconds in the third debate, despite the fact that “How will you address climate change?” was the fourth most popular question submitted to the Open Debate Coalition. What the WHAT.

    Okay, obviously I have a strong opinion about all of this, so I’m going to cut myself short and just ask you to think about the environment when you vote. I’m not asking you to make it your one issue (although I’d be cool with that! ;)), I just want you to give it some good consideration. The changing climate is impacting food production and so much more. Let’s get ahead of the problem and make some positive changes, starting with our elected representatives and ballot initiatives!

    There are tons of great voter guides online, partisan and non-partisan alike, where you can find out where candidates stand on this issue. If you’re a fan of the Sierra Club, you can view their endorsements on this page. Seek out good resources and learn all you can. Vote as if your child’s health depends on it…because it does!

    And if you are feeling as pumped up about this issue as I am, go to Clean Air Moms Action and pledge to vote!

    We live in an imperfect yet great country and I am grateful for my opportunity to participate in our democracy. Happy Voting! Happy Earth!

    This post was produced with support from Clean Air Moms Action.


  10. Monday, April 18, 2016

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth from @janemaynard

    Earth Day is just around the corner! As cheesy as this may sound, every day is Earth Day in our house. I know, I know. CHEESE. But it’s true. For the last 6 years, my new year’s resolutions have all been centered around helping Mother Earth by making changes in how our family eats and cooks. As I look back on those years, I can see how much better we’ve gotten about a lot of things and I can also see how those resolutions have really gotten me (and my kids!) to be constantly thinking about how our actions are impacting the environment. The best part is that it’s all been easier to do than I thought it would be!

    When I say that I am constantly thinking about how our food system impacts the environment I am not exaggerating. I think about environmental food issues all the time. I regularly read articles and reports about the environmental impact of the food industry and I love getting the chance to talk with food companies of all kinds to find out how they produce food, what they are doing about their carbon footprint and more. This year I’ve already talked with at least 3 different food companies regarding sustainability and have gained so much insight into how food companies think about sustainability and what they are doing about it.

    One of those companies I’ve met with is General Mills. I visited their headquarters this past January, where I participated in a small Q&A session with the president of the cereal group as well as a one-on-one conversation with Catherine Gunsbury, director of sustainability and transparency at General Mills. My talk with Catherine was awesome and I got all kinds of great intel out of her. We also discovered that she and I are kindred spirits – we are both obsessed with not throwing food into the trash (obsessed). I spoke with Catherine on the phone again this week, at which point she filled me in on General Mills’ latest annual Global Responsibility Report. We talked about General Mills’ goal to sustainably source 100% of their top 10 ingredients by 2020 (and what that means) as well as General Mills’ commitment to achieve zero waste going to landfill at 100% of their global production facilities by 2025 (they are at about 6% now and making good progress). If you want to read more detail about what General Mills is up to in terms of sustainability and social responsibility, click here.

    As I’ve spoken with many food companies over the years, both big and small, and really mulled over all the issues surrounding food and the environment, I’ve been encouraged to see that a lot of these companies really do care and are working hard to turn the ship that is our food system around. One of the other big things I keep coming back to is how powerful consumers are. If we as consumers demand better food (and packaging and production and everything else!), food companies will continue to deliver better food (and packaging and production and everything else!). Like I said, the food industry is a large ship and it will take a lot of work and time to turn it around, but I have faith we can all contribute to that process. It can feel daunting, but if we all keep on keeping on, we can make the world a better place and ensure our food sources will be sustainable for generations to come.

    So, what are some of the things we can actually do in our daily lives to help that process along? To celebrate Earth Day this week, I’d love to share ten things our family has done in the kitchen over the years to have a positive impact on the environment. Some of these tactics are more involved than others, but none of them are difficult and all of them make a difference! And, before you let yourself feel overwhelmed by the list, I promise these are things our family does every day. I’m about the laziest cook you’ll ever meet and I’ve still been able to follow these steps! For me the key to success is to keep it simple and realistic and focus on working on a step-by-step basis.

     

    1. Eat Less Meat.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Eat Less Meat | Sweet Potato Bacon Pizza from @janemaynard

    My first official what-we-eat-and-how-we-eat-it-affects-the-environment resolution was to eat less meat. Per capita meat consumption has increased significantly over the last several decades. In fact, if we all switched to natural, pasture-raised meat, there wouldn’t be enough land to support our demand. The natural resources that go into producing a pound of meat versus pretty much any other food is significantly more. Reducing meat consumption across society would have a huge positive impact on the environment! So, how do we do that?

    For our family we did not go vegetarian, we simply cut back on the amount of meat we ate week to week. I experimented with vegetarian recipes that incorporated beans because our family likes beans. I chose recipes that made it easier to spread out the meat I was using so I could use less meat overall in that meal, like salads with just 1 or 2 chicken breasts for the whole family. I thought cutting back on meat would be so hard, but it wasn’t, and I think that’s because we took a moderate approach that was realistic for our family.

    (Pictured above: Sweet Potato Bacon Pizza, where very little meat is used…and dinner is still filling and beyond delicious!)

     

    2. Cut Back on Paper Towels and Napkins.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Cut Back on Paper Towels & Napkins from @janemaynard

    I honestly thought cutting out paper towels would be impossible, but it was EASY. I swear. The trick is to buy a big stack of towels and to have them in a very accessible place in the kitchen. The only time I use paper towels now is to soak up grease. Click here to read more about our family’s system that’s made living without paper towels no big deal. Our family also only uses cloth napkins. They go in with the normal laundry and it hasn’t been any extra work. Quick tip: my favorite cloth napkins are the cocktail sized napkins – they are perfect for everyday use!

     

    3. Use Less Plastic.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Use Less Plastic from @janemaynard

    This was a multi-year goal for me and one I am still working on. Reducing plastic use is hard because it is everywhere, especially when it comes to food products. The good news is that all that plastic gives you ample opportunity to tackle the problem! Maybe start by eliminating one-time plastic use items, like throwaway food containers and baggies. Then slowly replace plastic storage containers with glass, and so on. And, don’t forget the classic bring your own bags to the grocery store! One step at a time is the way to go with this goal!

     

     

    4. Recycle Even More!

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Recycle More from @janemaynard

    I know most of us recycle a lot already. But I also know a lot of us don’t realize just how much we can recycle. For example, I learned just 3 months ago that the cereal bags inside the boxes for General Mills cereals are recyclable! Upon closer inspection I discovered that the bottom of the boxes told me that very fact, I just never bothered to look. Now I check all food packages much more carefully to see what packaging is recyclable! I also took the time to visit my waste management company’s website and reviewed their recycling list. Did you know you can recycle aluminum foil? The list goes on and on!

     

    5. Waste Less Food.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Waste Less Food from @janemaynard

    This is my 2016 resolution and it’s a big one. It’s amazing, though, how simply being mindful of food waste has automatically decreased the amount of food our family throws away. For example, I am so much better about using leftovers now. I’ve also discovered that a lot of our food waste happens when we eat out, so I try to adjust our takeout orders accordingly. There are just so many ways to decrease food waste and paying just a little bit of attention is a simple way to make a big difference!

     

    6. Compost.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Compost from @janemaynard

    Composting is related to my food waste goal and something I just started doing this year. I’ve always been scared of composting (actually, terrified), but now that we’re composting it’s seriously no big deal. I have a bowl on my counter where I toss compostable items, which I dump each night in our compost bin we have out in the yard. Total added time to my daily routine? 1 minute. Easy peasy! And, if you’re lucky enough to live in a community that picks up compost with regular trash pick up, then composting is even easier. Be sure to research what your town has to offer!

     

    7. Don’t Throw Food in the Trash Whenever Possible.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | No Food in Landfill from @janemaynard

    This is also related to numbers five and six, but I think it’s worth a specific call out. Did you know that when food decomposes in the landfill, it puts off significant amounts of greenhouse gases that would not be emitted if the food was composted naturally? Keep food out of the landfills by putting it in the disposal or compost pile. There are some items that can’t go in compost or down the sink, but that list is small. This is an easy way we can all make a difference!

     

    8. Buy Food in Bulk.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Buy Food in Bulk from @janemaynard

    Buy food in bulk to cut down on packaging and encourage cooking! But keep those food waste goals in mind”¦don’t buy more than you will use. And don’t forget to utilize your freezer! I’ve found that my freezer has been a great friend both in reducing food waste and allowing me to buy more foods in bulk.

     

    9. Reusable Containers for Food Storage and Packing Lunches.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Reusable Food Containers from @janemaynard

    When I started cutting out plastic, I bought a bunch of glass food containers. I recycled a few of the old plastic items, but kept the good quality ones, which I use when I run out of glass. I’ve forced myself to stop using plastic wrap for covering food in the fridge, too. I’ve also switched to reusable lunch food bags for my kids’ lunches. Washing them every day takes a bit of time, but nothing crazy and it’s definitely worth saving all those plastic bags from going into the trash!

     

    10. Join a CSA.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Join a CSA from @janemaynard

    There’s nothing like joining a CSA to help you eat more locally and seasonally! Plus being connected to local farmers can teach you a lot and really connect you to your community. If a farm share is too expensive or simply too much food for your family, consider splitting it with a friend!

    I hope this list isn’t daunting but instead encouraging! If you have any questions about any of these tips, let me know! And, as always, if you have your own tips or tricks for implementing any of the steps above, please share!

    Today’s post is sponsored by General Mills.