My Thanksgiving Table

Follow me on Twitter Last Sunday, the morning after a hail storm, I walked over to the Farmer’s Market, wanting to get first dibs on farm fresh produce for my Thanksgiving table. What I had in mind was not literal. … Continue reading

October: Unprocessed and No-Single Use Challenge Updates!

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On October 1st, I joined over 350 people on the October: Unprocessed challenge.  Basically, in this challenge we have pledged to give up processed foods for the month. Processed foods are foods that have ingredients that you wouldn’t keep in your kitchen to make food or ingredients that were created in a laboratory. Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients. “It doesn’t mean that you have to be able to make the food — but that the food could be made in a home kitchen by someone who knows what they’re doing.  If it needs high-powered, industrial equipment, or could only be made in a laboratory, then it’s out, ” Andrew  Wilder explained.

At the same time, I pledged to consciously reduce the amount of  new single-use plastic I bring into my life, inspired by Fake Plastic Fish. Single use disposable plastics are product packaging that is used once and discarded. Bags, wrappers, containers, utensils, cups, bottles,  containers, etc. I now question every item that comes in plastic and it’s potential long term benefits or harm. Do I need toothpaste (cap is plastic)- yes, do I need chips from a plastic bag- no!

I am 20 days into both challenges and here is what I have learned so far:

1. If I am not eating fresh homemade meals or using store bought products (ie pasta sauce, soy sauce) to make my meals, I must read the ingredients label carefully. There are  a lot of hidden, unnecessary ingredients in prepackaged/prepared foods. For instance, when you pick up a loaf of bread, you assume the ingredients are just water, flour, yeast and salt. However, if you read the ingredients label you might find 10 other ingredients. Real bread usually comes in a brown bag fresh from the bakery, not pre-sliced in a plastic bag. Therefore, by choosing whole foods over processed/pre-packaged food, I am avoiding plastic.

2. Breakfast is the toughest part of the unprocessed food challenge. I love cereal. I survived exams in college on cereal alone. Sadly, most breakfast cereals are fortified with crap. Even though over the years  I cut out processed cereals, it’s really hard to completely avoid processed ingredients. I started examining what other cultures eat for breakfast. I found that Persians eat feta cheese, dates, flatbread, and nuts; South Indians eat savory dishes such as upma and dosas, Koreans eat rice, soup, and eggs, and Jamicans eat ackee, callaloo, and mackeral. All of these foods are whole foods- whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seafood, and meats. We stopped eating cereals and started eating non-quick oatmeal, upma (Satish grew up with it), eggs (standard for us), and fruits. Cereal comes in a plastic bag inside of a cardboard box. I haven’t bought cereal in the the last 20 days and thus have not introduced new plastic in the form of cereal. Healthier Plant = Healthier Body.

3. We eat a lot more fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit. Fruits for breakfast with nut butters and cheese, fruits for in between meals, and fruits to satisfy the sweet tooth. Fruits do not come in plastic packages, unless if you shop at Costco or Trader Joe’s.

4. No power bars. We only ate power bars when we were 0n the road or lazy. Well 99.5% of the power bars out there are fortified and have unnatural ingredients. Though, Lara Bars are made with only whole food ingredients and don’t claim any health benefits on their packaging. We decided to forgo all power bars due to packaging. It’s easier to eat fruit, which doesn’t come in any packaging.

5. Plastic is everywhere! The barrista will put a straw into my drink faster than I can blink my eye. I have told a bartender that I didn’t want the thin black straw in my drink, yet he mechanically put it in my glass. I have not forgot my reusable grocery bags once! Nor have a succumbed to buying plastic water bottles when thirsty. I carry by stainless steel bottle or use the water fountain.

6. When at the grocery store, I only shop around the perimeter. This is because all whole food ingredients are usually lined around the perimeter of the store and the processed foods are conveniently located in the center. Yogurt, cheese, and milk caps all come in plastic and I have not found alternatives yet.

7. I have started questioning more details whens dining out or grabbing food to go. Does the restaurant make their own sauces or use an industrial sauce? Where do the poultry/seafood/meat come from? Will the “doggie bag” be placed in cardboard to go box or a plastic container? Does the restaurant use disposable utensils or steel utensils? Does the restaurant recycle and compost materials?

8. We are saving money. Fruit and vegetables are cheaper than ice-cream, chocolate, and chips, and they can be used in many ways. We eliminated these items completely and were able to save money on our weekly grocery bill. Also, produce seems to have gotten cheaper at the Farmer’s Market. Last month, I paid $3/pound of heirloom tomatoes, this month I have paid $2/pound. Non-heirloom varieties are even cheaper!

9. Eating unprocessed foods and avoiding single-use plastics almost go hand-in-hand. I have failed several times on these challenges but I am not quitter. First of all, I broke down and had a cupcake made by Elizabeth Falkner at the Blog Her Food 2010 Conference. Dessert is my biggest weakness, but I have been strong and resisted 95% of the time. That is an achievement for me. I have also switched to Mascovado sugar, which is completely unrefined.

This is just a short list of the major changes/observations  I have made on this challenge. Again, I was never big consumer of processed foods to begin with but this challenge has made me more consciously aware.

Plastic collected during week 2: all could have been avoided.

If you just discovered October: Unprocessed, go here to find out more and take the pledge. Don’t worry if you missed the start date! You can start your 30 days today, or simply join in for the rest of the month.

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Eating “Greener” Is Cheaper (via Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!)

This blog was on Freshly Pressed and I wanted to share with all of my lovely readers!

Eating "Greener" Is Cheaper Over the weekend Enviro Girl listened to this report on NPR–“Midnight Shopping on the Brink of Poverty.” She groaned in frustration when the story reached the end.   The low income family featured in the report had finished their monthly food shopping at Walmart with $60 remaining.  The parents of this family of seven planned to spend the $60 at another grocery store on canned vegetables. The myth that fresh food, which is healthier food, is mor … Read More

via Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

October: Unprocessed and No Single-Use Plastics

Twinkies and Meat

Image by blue_j via Flickr

This month I am going to challenge myself by giving up processed foods completely and reducing my consumption of single-use plastics significantly.  Okay, you must be thinking: Nimisha, you are always eating farm fresh food and carrying your own reusable bags and water bottle. What more can you do? The truth is, I can do a whole lot more. If you raid my pantry, you wont find much junk food, but I too eat processed food. And I too use a lot of plastic. And the biggest part of it all is that I do it unconsciously! Unprocessed foods and plastics are so integrated in our lives that we can’t even recognize them.

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Every Party Matters, Every Purchase Matters

TransFair USA hosted a sustainable party to launch it’s new name and brand identity, Fair Trade USA, and kickoff National Fair Trade Awareness Month* last night. Appropriately, the  double celebration  was held at Temple Nightclub- one of greenest nightclubs in the nation. Temple Nightclub combines modern design with decor dating back to the 11th Century, has an extensive composting and recycling program, has an on-site garden for their restaurant, and is energy efficient.



The Fair Trade Month Kickoff Party powered by Trendy Lime featured local artisans who are making a difference for the earth and farming communities by certifying their products with Fair Trade.  Each vendor brought their products for the 250 supportive guests to enjoy, while mingling and dancing to global music. Guests sipped on Fair.vodka drinks created by Danny Ronen. The most interesting cocktail was the  FAIR. Indian Summer, which was made from Numi Organic Ruby Chai Tea infused FAIR. Quinoa Vodka, organic and unfiltered apple juice, organic agave nectar, fresh lime juice and a touch of egg white. FAIR.Vodka is a Quinoa-based vodka and  works directly with communities of small independent farmers that transmit their land from generation to generation.

250 guests came out to support the Fair Trade movement

Fair.Vodka

The party was a high-quality chocolate and tea lover’s dream. The cleverly named Fair Trade company, Alter Eco Fair Trade sampled their Dark Chocolate Quinoa candy bar and even gave away their 3.5oz bars for guests to enjoy later. The chocolate packs a delicious, crunchy punch. The chocolate is made with whole ingredients, not natural flavorings, preservatives, or additives. Alter Eco also sells Fair Trade quinoa, rice, sugar, and olive oil.  Another local chocolate artisan that won my palate was Coco-Zen. Based on the philosophy that all things are connected, Joyce Kushner hand makes all of her truffles using only sustainably sourced ingredients. My favorites were the  Chocolate Chai Spice and the Chocolate Mint (vegan).Other delicious and gratifying chocolate vendors included Divine Chocolates and TCHO.

Alter Eco Quinoa Chocolate

Coco-Zen Truffles

To offset the chocolate, Weaver’s Coffee and Traditional Medicinals provided their beverages for guests to sip on and take home. Weaver’s Coffee provided hand-crafted, artisan coffee and tea, with a bag of roasted beans to take home. Traditional Medicinals had their herbalist on hand to explain the difference between medicine-grade and food-grade herbs. Each guest generously got to take home a box (or two) of their sampler teas. La Yapa sampled two varieties of their “quinoa with a cause.”

The nightclub was also decorated with Fair-Trade plants and flowers!

Guests were also entered in multiple raffles to win prizes from Mark Skin Care, Fair.Vodka, a bamboo box set of tea, HAE Now Fair Trade Organic Cotton Clothing and Tompkins Point Apparel, and Fair Trade sports gear.

*October is the seventh annual Fair Trade Month. Fair Trade Month unites Fair Trade USA’s diverse corporate, nonprofit  and individual stakeholders in more than 100 events, promotions and fund-raising activities across the United States to generate awareness of Fair Trade’s comprehensive approach to social, economic and environmental empowerment and sustainability among farming communities in the developing world. Find out how you can get involved and or what small changes you can make to support the movement here.

 

Fair Trade 101

 

Tea Harvest, Kenya

Image by franz88 via Flickr

 

What Does Fair Trade Really Mean?

Fair Trade provides a fair price for farmers which leads to higher living standards, thriving communities and more sustainable farming practices. It aims to educate and empower disadvantaged producers and connect them to a market, so they too can participate in global trade.

What Are Fair Trade products?

Almost everything you buy can be Fair Trade. The most common items are food products such as: coffee, tea, bananas, chocolate, sugar, rice, spices, cocoa, fruit, nuts, oils,  flowers, and handicrafts. For an extensive list of Fair Trade products look here.

Why Fair Trade?

By buying fair trade products, you are supporting:

  • Fair Prices for Workers
  • Healthy Working Environments
  • Community Development (Schools, Health Care, Electricity, etc.)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Gender Equality in terms of Wages and Benefits
  • Democratic and Transparent Organizations
  • Higher Quality Products
  • Respect

And you are saying NO to:

  • Cyclical, Inescapable Poverty
  • Environmental Degradation
  • Forced Child Labor and Slavery
  • Unsafe, Unlawful Working Conditions

What You Can Do?

Fair Trade can only be successful if consumers (you and I) choose products that are Fair Trade Certified. Supporting Fair Trade is as easy as buying bananas or a cup of coffee. Just look for the fair trade label on the products you buy or ask your vendor if the product is Fair Trade certified. You can raise awareness in your community or just amongst friends and family by talking about Fair Trade. You can also organize events and initiatives in the classroom, office, city, or place of worship.

Club Dine In! has partnered with Fair Trade USA for a mixer to kickoff Fair Trade Month (October) in San Francisco, Ca. If you are in town, please come by and meet us! Each attendee will receive a special box of Fair Trade Tea and sample high quality cocktails, tea, chocolate, and much more! Sign up on Eventbrite or Facebook to save $5 at the door.

 

You can register for the event at: http://fairtrademonth.eventbrite.com/ and share the event with friends on Facebook.

 

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.

Every Party Matters

October is the seventh annual Fair Trade Month and Club Dine In! is excited to join Trendy Lime and Fair Trade USA as a media partner for this year’s biggest fair trade party on September 29th.  Taking place at the greenest bar in the United States, Temple SF,  the kick-off unites Fair Trade USA’s diverse corporate, nonprofit and stakeholders in more than 100 events, promotions and fund-raising activities across the United States. Through these events and celebrations, Fair Trade USA aims to generate awareness of Fair Trade’s comprehensive approach to social, economic and environmental empowerment and sustainability among farming communities in the developing world.

You can register for the event at: http://fairtrademonth.eventbrite.com/ and share the event with friends on Facebook.

You can register for the event at: http://fairtrademonth.eventbrite.com/ and share the event with friends on Facebook

An Econista Baby Shower

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This week I had to skip the Farmer’s Market for my best friend’s (Nafisah) baby shower. Nafisah is a true econista;  she has been working as a manager for Green Citizen for the last four plus years and tries to live a sustainable life as much as possible. (She also met her husband while working at Green Citizen). I wanted to make the baby shower really special for her by catering to her preference. I contacted friend and  fellow blogger, Phantom Floranista, to help me create sustainable flower arrangements to be used as decor at the baby shower. We left early on Saturday morning to get flowers from San Francisco’s Flower Market. It was my first time going there and I was just in heaven at the sight of so many beautiful and unique flowers.  To keep with the color scheme of the baby shower, we picked up locally grown greenish purple Hydrangea, green and purple Spider Mums, and purple branches for about $32. We went back to the Floranista’s beautiful apartment and had a light Iranian breakfast before getting to work. Out of five yogurt containers of varied sizes, tissue paper, net, and ribbon, we created the centerpieces. By turning the yogurt containers (which would have just ended up in the recycling) into vases, I saved a lot of money and made the world a little bit greener. We had flowers left over to make one more arrangement, so we made another for me to take to Eat The Love’s Dessert Party later that day.  The dessert party was beyond delicious, where Irvin Lin (who bakes from his heart) made at least a dozen different, intricate desserts. Stay tuned for a link to Irvin’s blogpost and pictures about the party.

 

The San Francisco Flower Market is large, hosting flowers from around the world!

Can you believe that an ugly yogurt container is under the net and tissue paper?!

We created these beautiful arrangements from just a few materials and $32!

The flowers complimented the buffet table well.

A baby shower just wouldn't be complete without mini cupcakes!

 

I also made macaroni and cheese cupcakes for the baby shower feast. I played around with a recipe from Rachel Ray, and then completely changed it. After making the mac n’ cheese, I realized just how much I loved the classic American childhood dish. However, I was also reminded by how unhealthy mac n’ cheese really is…The cupcake size portions were just perfect to completely enjoy it without guilt. You can find my green mac n’ cheese recipe here.

Mac n' Cheese baked in cupcake shells are perfect for portion size control and baby showers!

An organic-cotton bear for the baby to come.

Did you know that Club Dine In! is on Twitter and Facebook? Follow @clubdinein for daily health, fitness, and social news, recipes and delicious tips! Join the Club Dine In! community on Facebook to connect with like-minded individuals and find out about exclusive Club Dine! events.