Carol Ekarius is a freelance writer who lives in the mountains of Colorado with her husband, Ken. They live off the grid, raise animals, and have a large, organic garden. Carol has become an advocate for spreading awarenes about how chemicals are impacting our health. She writes on a variety of topics related to her lifestyle and helping the environment, including her blog, Toxic Burden. I’m delighted to have her as a guest blogger today to share how she makes an effort to avoid toxins in her food.
You Are What You Eat
By Carol Ekarius
If health is like a three-legged stool, with environmental exposures, lifestyle, and genes representing the legs, then food is the seat, overlapping all three legs. So, food seems like an important topic to cover here. Ken and I prioritize the food choices we make in this order:
Our first choice is to grow a fair amount ourselves, organically. Due to where-and-how we live, this isn’t as abundant a portion of our food supply as it once was: when we farmed we grew about 85% of what we consumed! But we still manage to grow several bushels of potatoes and all the garlic we consume (which is saying something since I love cooking with garlic). During the summer the garden supplies us with a wide mixture of goodies and we even grow greens and herbs in the house to help us through the long winter months. Last year we added a banana tree to our indoor plants, and though it won’t produce fruit for at least five years, I’m hopeful it will someday. In the meantime, it’s a cool looking plant! Our own little flock of laying hens supplies most of our eggs.
Our second choice is purchase from local growers. We can buy local grassfed meat from several nearby ranchers. We try to hit farmer’s markets or farm stands when the hitting is good, and give preference to farmers who are seriously employing sustainable practices. With seasonal purchases, we often buy a larger quantity and store it or use it in recipes that can be frozen for later use (think tomato season=spaghetti sauce or salsa). This week, for example, Ken brought home a bushel of Golden Delicious apples from Cañon City.
When we need items that aren’t available by method one or two, our third choice is to shop at the small natural food store in a town about 30 miles away when we go there for errands, or if I am in the city, I hit Whole Foods or Wild Oats on my way home. I stock up on canned goods, some produce during periods when its low or unavailable, dry goods, coffee and tea, and the like.
Once in a while I go to a major grocery store, like City Market or Safeway, but its actually kind of rare. When I do, I still give preference to organic and natural products.
I can just about hear some people saying, ah, you are a yuppie. I can’t afford to eat that way. To which I say, poppy cock! We are not rich. We drive old vehicles, we don’t take expensive trips, and we live very frugally in most ways. But, food is just too important to our health, and our pleasure of life, to eat badly. Everyone can grow some food, even if it’s in pots on a deck or in a window, and the food you grow yourself is wonderful and very economical. Buying directly from area farmers and ranchers is often far less expensive than the grocery store. For example, the bushel of apples cost just $15.00, and will last for a long time.
Buying real food, and doing some food prep, even at Whole-Foods prices, is less expensive than eating out or buying highly processed foods. However to make eating organically and naturally economical does require a return to the kitchen, but food prep doesn’t have to be hard, or take a huge amount of time. I don’t have a large, fancy kitchen with all kinds of gadgets; hell, I don’t even have a dishwasher. Yet I cook dinner from scratch almost every night of the week. I’m big for searching out easy recipes that taste good and don’t take too much time, nor too much cleanup!
So here’s a recipe that I found in the latest issue of The Joy of Cooking cookbook (if you can only afford one cookbook, then Joy is what you want!) that epitomizes my cooking attitude, and was decadently delicious: Baked apples with sausage.
Wash the apples and cut the top half-inch off so the top is flat. Core the apples, then scoop out some additional pulp so the apple is about 1/2 inch thick all the way around. Chop the pulp fine, place in bowl, and mix the pulp well with some sausage. Sprinkle brown sugar or drizzle maple syrup into the apples and over the apples, then stuff with the sausage/pulp mix. Bake 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
I used five apples and two large links of hot Italian sausage, stripped from the casing. You can use just about any kind of sausage. It was perfect for two of us, beyond delicious, and the prep time was only about 15 minutes. How can you possibly beat that?
Carol Ekarius’ blog, Toxic Burden, focuses on how chemicals affect our environment and your health.