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The Dangers of Consuming GMO Foods

2 Dec

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) have been all the talk in recent news, especially with Proposition 37 that was battled for in California. If you are unfamiliar with GMO’s I can give you a little background on this man-made creation. GMO’s are generally plants or crops that have been specifically created for human and or animal consumption that have had their molecular structure/make-up biologically altered. These laboratory plants were developed to enhance desirable traits in a crop such as resistance to herbicides and increased nutritional content of something that naturally may not carry certain micro or macronutrients. Sounds like a good idea, right? Not so fast.

Traditionally, plant enhancement takes place with conventional plant breeding, which is a slower process and results can be less discernable when compared with genetically engineered plants that can be quickly and accurately replicated with a desired trait. Surprisingly, genes can be transferred from plant to plant and with genes from non-plant organisms. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) is a bacterium that creates crystal proteins that attack and damage/break down the cells of the gut in insects and larvae.  B.t. genes have been added to corn crops as a “natural” pesticide. It sounds like a freak science experiment. If this bacterium is harmful to insects, you have to question what it does to humans in any amount, right?!

Reasons why companies are in support of GMO’s and the biotechnology industry:

-Pest resistance

-Herbicide tolerance

-Disease resistance

-Cold tolerance

-Drought tolerance/salinity tolerance

-Nutrition

-Pharmaceuticals

-Phytormediation (An example is a poplar tree that has been genetically modified to clean up heavy metals from contaminated soil.)

Reasons for criticism:

-Potential harm to other organisms

-Reduced effectiveness of pesticides

-Gene transfer to non-target species (i.e. superweeds…yikes!)

-Allergenicity (i.e. gene from peanut into a soybean could create new allergens in peanut allergic people.)

-Growing concern of effects on human health

-Economic concern for small farms and/or third world countries if seeds become “patented” or if they create “suicide gene technology” and seeds will be sterile after only one growing season.

I start to sweat just talking about the potential problems. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion…but GMO’s scare me. Who are we to think we can play with mother nature? When you consider the reasons companies are in support of GMO’s it all leads back to less work, more product, more MONEY. Irreversible damage to our food supply, environment, and even health could result from the continued use of these man-made “foods”.  Many products, especially processed products, contain some form of a GMO. The FDA considers GMO foods to be Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). The FDA views GMO foods to be substantially equivalent to the real whole food, so at this time they do not require companies to identify on a label when a GMO is used in a product.

There is SO MUCH to talk about when it comes to GMO’s, but I just wanted to do a brief introduction…I could go on and on all day. I’m sure you will be hearing us talk about this again soon, but in the meantime further educate yourself on what you are putting in your body. I don’t know about you, but I want to know EXACTLY what I am eating.  You’d be surprised at what companies (even “natural food companies”) use some form of GMO’s in their products.

The Non GMO Project has verified non-GMO companies and products you can support…along with LOTS of great information. The Cornucopia Institute also has a wealth of information to sift through. The movie Genetic Roulette is a great movie to watch about GMO’s… be sure to check it out. If you were unaware of GMO’s before this I hope you have a chance to read more about their use. It’s so important that we make informed decisions about the food we are putting in our body and are aware of the companies we are supporting when purchasing products.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and concerns regarding GMO’s.

 

This post and recipe was shared on Whole Foods Wednesdays, and Real Food Wednesday.

 

Canned Spaghetti Sauce

15 Oct

This past weekend was a weekend with no plans. Never happens. I love those kinds of weekends more than anything in the world. I even had a little time to do some canning.

Nic and I had been postponing lazy about preserving of our last batch of tomatoes from the garden. Sadly, our crop didn’t turn out that awesome this year. I thought it would be a good year because our plants had a lot of flowers that sprouted into tomatoes, but it seems like the summer went from scorching hot to chilly. My little tomato babies weren’t able to ripen.

From the tomatoes that our garden did produce, we turned into spaghetti sauce. Lovely, delicious sauce. I use a recipe that I got from Nic’s Aunt Tracy (thanks Tracy!). In all honesty, I’m not sure if this is a family recipe or if it comes from a cookbook, so I apologize for not citing it any further. In my searches, I have not found a recipe just like this. It is amazing, flavorful, and easy to make (the chopping just takes some time). Nic and I tried canning this year for a couple of reasons. It won’t overrun our chest freezer since we do buy many things in bulk and freeze other items from our garden. And also, I’d like to get away from storing as many things in plastic as possible. That said, we have made this recipe for 4 years now and this is the first year that we are canning it. The sauce freezes great! If you can find glass containers to freeze your sauce in, awesome. Otherwise, look for BPA free plastic containers.

Canned Spaghetti Sauce

24 cups quartered tomatoes, washed with no stems*

6 cups diced onions (1/2 red, 1/2 white)

5 1/2 tsp diced garlic

1 cup & 2 Tbsp olive oil

3 – 12 oz cans of tomato paste

3/4 cup chopped red peppers*

3/4 cup chopped green peppers*

6 Tbsp dried oregano

6 Tbsp dried basil

6 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp black pepper

3/4 cup sugar

6 big bay leaves

Blend or food process (the immersion blender works great for this!) tomatoes into small chunks. Mix all ingredients and tomatoes into a large soup kettle. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Do not let the sauce burn on the bottom of the pot. Remove the bay leaves and pour into sterilized jars. Proceed to can using the water bath or pressure canner method and let cool.

Update: If you choose the water bath method for canning, you must add 2 Tbsp of lemon juice into each quart of sauce to ensure safe canning! We added the lemon juice to the batch you see in the photo below and you cannot taste the addition. Totally delicious!

 

All of the ingredients have been mixed together and the sauce isn’t quite to boiling yet!

Cooked for 1 hour and ready to be canned!

I have not used a pressure canner before, nor am I familiar with that process. The notes on this recipe that has been passed on to me say you would process pints for 20 minutes at 11-12 pounds and quarts for 25 minutes at 11-12 pounds. Please use your discretion. Since we have a glass top stove, we processed ours using the water bath method for 45 minutes on the grill.

This recipe makes 20 pints or 10 quarts of sauce.

*We don’t even mess around with peeling or deseeding our tomatoes. There are a lot of nutrients in the tomato skins that I don’t want to miss out on and I don’t mind the seeds. If you are using an immersion blender to puree your tomatoes, you won’t even notice that the tomato skin is in the sauce. We grow San Marzano’s in our garden which are meatier than other tomatoes and totally perfect for sauces. If you can, find a meatier tomato for this recipe. Also, this recipe calls for green and red peppers, which are great, but I have also used banana peppers. They work just fine too. Essentially, I use whatever is available from our garden at the time I’m making the sauce.

If you try your hand at making this recipe, I hope you love it as much as I do. Not only is it the perfect way to use up tomatoes in the garden, but once you have the sauce made I love being 10 minutes away from a homemade meal. We always keep spaghetti noodles on hand and whether we have some ground beef in the freezer or not, it’s the perfect meal. We have also used the sauce in a pinch when we don’t have pizza sauce on hand. Just run a small amount of it through a fine strainer so that it is a little bit thicker than spaghetti sauce to smear on a crust.

This spaghetti sauce can also be used for a gift for the coming holiday season. Wedge a beautiful jar of your homemade sauce in a gift basket with some lovely whole wheat spaghetti noodles, a wedge of Parmesan cheese, and a gift card to your local bakery. Your gift recipient can pick up a fresh loaf of bread to round out the meal.

What goodies did you can this year?

This recipe was shared on Fat Tuesday.

Ice Cube Herbs

4 Oct

As our garden winds down this season, we are meticulously preserving anything that we can before we shut her down for good. It’s kind of like a full time job. The veggies dictate our schedule these days and when things become ripe, we hop in the kitchen. Today’s food preservation task was an easy one. Love that.

One of my biggest pet peeves is having to buy a full container of fresh herbs and only needing just a pinch for a recipe. What a waste. I’m pretty good at meal planning around what we have in our pantry and fridge, but I’m not that good. I had to figure out a way to not let those delicate little flavors go to waste.

We have a couple of ice cube trays that are never used because we have an ice maker in our freezer. (Click here to find BPA free ice cube trays!) Preserving small amounts of food in ice cube trays is super easy and those little cube cups are the perfect size for things like baby food, small amounts of juice, coffee cubes for iced coffee (watered down coffee is not okay), and fresh herbs.

Tonight, I plucked a few handfuls of parsley and thyme off of the big bushes that we have out on our patio. I chopped them up and filled the ice cube holes half way and then then filled them with water. Pop them in the freezer and you are on your way to preserving those fresh flavors and not letting any extras go to waste. If you don’t mind having your ice cube trays tied up, you can keep your herbs frozen right in the trays. If you want to free them up for other freezing opportunities, pop the cubes out once they are frozen solid and throw them in freezer bag and back into the freezer. Make sure you label the bags so you know the date of freeze and the contents. Little green ice cubes will likely all look alike in the freezer. Then, when a recipe you are making calls for just a tablespoon of this or that, pop the herb ice cube right into the dish your cooking. No need to defrost ahead of time.

I used ice cube trays to freeze portions of the pesto I made with our fresh basil. I also purchased a bottle of beautiful, organic prune juice to give to Lyla. We might have fed her a little too much banana a few weeks back and she got a bit backed up… I only wanted to give Lyla a tiny bit of juice to get things going but I didn’t want the rest of the juice to go to waste. I pulled out the ice cube trays to freeze small amounts of the juice to pull out a cube at a time, if needed.

Anything besides water that you freeze in your ice cube trays?

Sunday Funday: Collins Style

18 Sep

As I’m writing this post, it’s a lovely Sunday afternoon at the Collins household. Nic and I are out on the porch; I’m blogging away, Nic is doing some reading for school, and Lyla is down for a nap. It’s going to be a busy fall for us. Nic is going back to school for Education Administration and he is involved in just about a million things where he teaches. Because we are so busy (and have a baby now, technically a toddler!), we don’t get much time or full days anymore to spend in the kitchen. Today we accomplished making four recipes, two of which included preserving food from our garden. Love it. I guess I loved it so much and was running around like a crazy person trying to get things done, that I forgot to take pictures. Sorry ‘bout that.

I started out the day with pumpkin pancakes for us. This was Lyla’s first experience with eating pancakes and I was, of course, super excited about them because the recipe included pumpkin. It might be 80 degrees outside today, but September=Fall=Pumpkin love. The recipe was delightful and it made a large enough batch for us to have a few and freeze the rest. Breakfast for the week! Click here for the recipe.

Next on our list was canning spaghetti sauce, made with the tomatoes and peppers from our garden. We have made this sauce for the last three years. Easy peasy, just a lot of chopping involved. This year, though, our hearts were set on canning. After a lot of time on the computer researching the process, buying water bath canning supplies, figuring out we couldn’t water bath can on our glass top stove, and researching the importance of adding enough acid to our product…we had a (hopefully) successful canning day! I’d love to give you the instructions on this process, but I’m going to leave that to the experts. I’m still new at this and I don’t want botulism for you, or for me. The last time I had canned was in high school. Long time ago. I had won the Family Living Award for crying out loud! I can could sew and can cook! I should be able to can a freaking jar of sauce!

NEXT! Basil pesto. Lyla was down for her second nap by this time, so time was of the essence. When you have babies in the house and if you are anything like me, you buzz around like a busy bee during nap time. Then I can cozy up with Lyla when she is awake and enjoy that the rest of my stuff is done (well, sometimes). I followed Joanna’s pesto recipe that she posted earlier this summer. I noticed that our basil was starting to head out and I didn’t want all of those beautiful leaves of flavor to go to waste. So I busted out the food processor and got to work. I created several servings of pesto that I popped in the freezer for winter weeknights when I don’t want to spend anymore time on dinner than the time it takes to boil some noodles. I can just smell the time I’m saving already…

The other recipe I made today, which was easy and perfect for the season: Slow Cooker  Harvest Stew. By Paula Deen? What? I know what you’re thinking. Lots of butter. I am a huge fan of butter, but this recipe surprisingly had none at all. This stew is absolutely loaded with fall veggies (and a granny smith apple!), chicken broth, and apple cider. We didn’t even eat any of it today, just dished it into containers to have lunches ready for the rest of the week. Meals ready for the week? Be still my heart. One note about this recipe: either I didn’t chop my veggies up small enough, or the cooking time is way off on this one. I cooked this on low for 8 hours before the potatoes were soft and delicious. This recipe is also perfect for little mouths. The size of the chopped celery, sweet potatoes, squash, onion, Yukon Gold potatoes, and granny smith apples were perfect for Lyla to pick up and eat (I just strained the liquid from her portion). She gobbled it up!

Nic and I were just reflecting on the wonderfulness of food preservation, especially of the food that comes from your own backyard. Whether you are canning, freezing, or dehydrating, there is nothing cooler than being able to do a little grocery shopping in your own basement or pantry. The money you can save is something to marvel at and being able to run to the grocery store just to stock up on a few items, but have the makings of a nutritious and well rounded meal with the rest of the items you preserved, well the thought of that makes me very happy. Don’t have a backyard garden? No problem. Look for produce at the farmers’ market towards the end of it’s season. Chances are it will cost less and those super ripe tomatoes are the perfect candidate for spaghetti or pizza sauce.

Anything you love preserving at home? Should I plan hospital visits for when we eat our canned spaghetti sauce?

Jalapeños Fooled Me

10 Sep

I was so pumped the other day to make a batch of hot sauce. It was a quiet Thursday night at our house and I was sipping on a Sprecker cream soda. Love. Earlier in the week I had lined up all of my hot sauce ingredients on the counter so they would be rocking ready for when I had the time to whip it up. I had counted out 20 jalapeños and I thought that for sure this hot sauce would have a nice bite to it. Another step closer to living off the grid. Life. Goal.

Let me paint you a picture of one year ago this week. Our daughter Lyla was just two weeks old and since I was still in some serious pain and on the mend from birthing a child, Nic was in charge of harvesting our garden and prepping the goods for freezing, sauces, recipes, etc. I was sitting on the couch in our family room on my millionth round of feeding Lyla that day when I looked over to see Nic finishing slicing up the cayenne and seranno peppers. He was not wearing any gloves.

Me: How’s that going for you?

Nic: My hands are on fire.

Nic spent the next three hours whining (I’m sure it was painful), with his hands soaking in milk. Expensive, organic milk. I think he burned (no pun intended) through an entire gallon of milk that day just trying to get his hands to stop burning. Poor guy. Also, there was no passing off Lyla to Nic for the rest of the day. I wasn’t about to let my two week old baby be touched by someone who’s hands were saturated in the oils from hot peppers. Yeesh.

So you can imagine how careful I was when I went about making this recipe. I was wearing gloves to chop the peppers, was super careful about cleaning up where I cut my peppers, I practically kept my eyes closed while stirring the peppers over the hot stove, and kept a towel enclosing the bowl when I pureed the peppers into a sauce. So here is the recipe.

Jalapeño Hot Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil

20 fresh jalapeños, sliced (do not remove the seeds)

1 medium yellow onion, minced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 tsp salt

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar

Heat the oil over medium/high heat in a large sauce pan. When the oil is nice and hot, toss in the peppers, onion, garlic, and salt. Sauté for about 8 minutes, until the onions are beginning to become translucent and the peppers are softening up. Add the water and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let this mixture cool to room temperature. I ran out of time, so I threw the pepper mixture into a bowl, tossed it in the fridge, and came back to it the next morning. I love recipes that can be done in stages when I’m short on time.

Using a food processor or immersion blender, puree the pepper mixture until it is smooth, adding the vinegar slowly throughout the blending process.

I poured my sauce into a clean canning jar and sealed the lid tightly. This sauce will stay good in your fridge for up to 6 months.

The moment of truth came when I made a delightful little taco salad and topped it with my freshly pureed hot sauce. I gave the sauce a little finger dip and lick to test out the hotness. Nothing. So I sucked down a whole spoonful. Nothing. Not even the tiniest bit of a bite. It tasted good, but it was not spicy in the slightest. My hot sauce needed hot sauce.

Nic came home that night and we dissected one of the fresh jalapeños. Even a large chomp of these peppers with the seeds wasn’t hot at all. By now I’m thinking…What is wrong with the soil in our garden? Did I not leave them on the plant long enough? Did I cook them too long? Are these not even jalapeño peppers?!?!?!

Oh, they are jalapeños. I tracked down the seed packet and found that they are called “Fooled You Jalapeños”. Yeah, fooled me indeed. Fooled You Jalapeños are apparently a type of hybrid jalapeño pepper that has virtually no heat. It’s like eating a bell pepper. They are beautiful peppers that look like their spicy family member, but they are just not at all hot.

Even though the recipe I made did not turn out as I had intended, I’m sharing it anyway. My mom loved the hot sauce just as a mild green salsa, so it’s great on tortilla chips. While this “hot” sauce doesn’t add any heat to the dish when you use the type of peppers I used, I thought that it had really good flavor anyhow and it would be a great addition to any type of mexican dish.

Lesson learned this week: If you want to make hot sauce, don’t use “Fooled You” Jalapeños. And….I’ll be taking a closer look at the pepper descriptions when I buy my seed packets next year.

Anything in your garden this year turn out different than expected?