Happy Green Food

Meatless Monday: Winter Squash Risotto with Sage and Parmesan
I have mentioned before how many environmentalist consider vegetarianism the ultimate eco diet. I am all for going vegetarian; my Mother was vegetarian so I grew up eating this way, unfortunately my husband and the rest of the Happy Green Life crew look at me like I am crazy whenever I mention that we should all stop eating meat. In an effort to appease me and to get me to shut up about totally abandoning our carnivorous habits, we have all decided to give up one meat meal a week.
 Starting today we here at A Happy Green Life will start our Meatless Monday! One of our two families will pick a delicious meatless meal to make and share it with all of you. We might not be going totally meatless, but every little bit helps. Remember we learned a few weeks back that if every American cut down their meat consumption by half we would save 645 million global acres of land (that is 484 million football fields). So here we go!! *If anyone has any great meatless meals send them our way we would love to try them!!
Winter Squash Risotto With Sage and Parmesan
Serves 4
 2 ½ pounds winter squash, halved, seeds and strings removed and reserved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon melted
1 quart veggie broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves
1.      Move an oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450. Place squash flesh side up on baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake until tender (about 45 min) Remove from oven. When cool, use spoon to scrape flesh from skins. Discard skins and mash flesh.
2.      Meanwhile, place squash scrapings (seeds and stings) in a medium saucepan. Add veggie broth and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer about 20 min. Strain mixture through mesh strainer into large measuring cup, pressing squash scrapings to extract as much liquid as possible. Return the squash broth to saucepan along with enough water to make 6 cups (you will probably add 2 cups of water). Bring to a simmer, turn off heat and cover to keep broth warm.
3.      Heat 1 tablespoon of remaining butter and the oil in heavy bottom medium saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 min. Add garlic, cook about 1 minute.
4.      Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, add the rice and cook for 1 min. Add wine and cook, stiring often about 2 min. Add 1 cup of the hot broth and cook stirring frequently until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding the broth in ¾ cup increments and stirring often until the rice is creamy (not soupy) and soft but still a bit al dente, about 25 min.
5.      Remove the saucepan from the heat and vigorously stir in the roasted squash, cheese, sage, and remaining butter. Keep stirring until the butter melts. Adjust seasonings, adding salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Enjoy!!- Amanda

The Dirty Dozen
I have a gross confession to make; I never wash my fruit before I eat it. I know there are pesticides on it, my mom reminded me every time I picked up a store bought apple, but I guess I just didn’t care. I think it’s a little bit laziness, a little ignorance and a lot of the thought, “they wouldn’t sell something edible covered in poison.” After I did my research I can assure you I will be washing all of my fruit from now on!
Pesticides do se rve an important purpose. Farmers use pesticide to kill insects, weeds and disease. They stop rats, mice, flies and other insects from eating and contaminating the food and prevent harmful molds and microbes from growing and poisoning humans.  They just aren’t meant to be ingested.
The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that an estimated 10,000-20,000 pesticide poisonings happen each year. The Center for Disease Control reports that pesticides may cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, allergic or neurological symptoms (such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers). In addition to that there are numerous studies linking pesticides to ADD, Asthma, Cancer, and birth defects. These studies aren’t just linking farmworkers who handle the pesticides but regular every day people like you and me who eat fruits and veggies and are exposed.
The Environmental Working Group released a report in 2010 naming the worst fruits and vegetables for pesticide exposure, they have been named the dirty dozen.

The Dirty Dozen
Domestic Blueberries
Sweet Bell Peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported Grapes
The produce listed in the Dirty Dozen were found to each contain 47 to 67 separate pesticides per serving, this was after the produce was cleaned with the USDA’s high-power pressure water system. It is thought that the produces soft skin absorbs the pesticide which results in the high number of contaminates. If you love the Dirty Dozen as much as my family does it is recommended that you purchase it organic or grow it yourself. Why take the chance of exposing your family to harmful poison? And remember to always wash your produce!!

Organic or All Natural
There has been a major debate in the food world on what is better for your body and environment Organic or All Natural. I thought I would put some facts together to help you make an informed decision for your family. Within the past year we have been living a greener life not only to help our health but the environment as well, recently my family and I had the opportunity to visit an all organic farm to do some research on what the big difference is in Organic versus All Natural products and what we found just like any other opinion was a biased view.

In this post we will be going over two of the world most respected and used groups that provide certifications to be labeled as organic or natural. The CCOF: California Certified Organic Farmers and the NPA: Natural Product Association.

The “CCOF promotes and supports organic food and agriculture through a premier organic certification program, trade support, producer and consumer education and political advocacy. From apples to zucchini, from almonds to wine, CCOF is involved in every facet of organics, with over 1,300 different organic crops and products, including livestock, processed products and services.”[i]

The “Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The Natural Products Association represents over 1,900 members accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. NPA unites a diverse membership, from the smallest health food store to the largest dietary supplement manufacturer.”[ii]

While there are not many differences between USDA Organic and USDA All Natural processes, some of the differences are significant. Here is an overview of these differences to aid you in your decision making.

Organic certifications concentrates on the farming aspect. To be labeled as 100% organic you may not use synthetic (non-biological) fertilizer or synthetic pest management solutions in any way. The soil must be tested and have been clean of all synthetic products for a minimum of five years. Organic livestock can only be fed with crops that meet the above criteria. Ranchers may not use any synthetic antibiotics or hormones while the animals are being raised. This is where the organic process stops. Once the Animal or produce is sent to the production facilities it is no longer monitored by the USDA Organic umbrella.
For instance:
· All machinery that touches organic ingredients can be cleaned with steam or bleach.
· The Packaging of organic products can use a wide range of materials including Styrofoam trays, cellophane wrap and other Non-natural materials.
· Organic can also be frozen using conventional methods (slow freezing, below 32° F), which allows crystallization, and the possibility of harmful bacteria that need oxygen to grow like E Coli.

· Organic product is not required to be vacuumed sealed which allows the possibility of other harmful bacteria that need oxygen to live) like salmonella.
This is amazing and shocking to me as a professional chef for over twelve years you would think I would know this type of information.

There is a list of Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic”. While not all of these items are bad they are not organic, isn’t that a contradiction? Here is a link to the complete list to the allowed substances. http://law.justia.com/cfr/title07/7- The only way to ensure you are buying a fully organic product is if it states “100% ORGANIC” on the label accompanied with a USDA and/or a CCOF label. Companies are only allowed to use the term 100% organic if they have met the detailed requirements by the CCOF or USDA. Here is a diagram of what passes as 100% organic and the different levels of organic certification.

Now let’s talk about All Natural product. USDA and the Natural Products Association (NPA) concentrates on the processing aspect of food production through very strict guidelines covering production. The farming aspect of All Natural is similar to Organic in that no synthetic fertilizer and no non-biological pest management solutions can be used during the growing cycle of the crops or raising of the animal.

All natural focuses on the current growing cycle, in other words, there could be trace amounts of synthetic fertilizer or non-biological herbicides still in the soil from previous years of non-natural growing. Fortunately, these are measured in nanograms (one billionth of a gram, 0.000000001g) and have not been shown to have any affects on humans. All Natural livestock can also be fed from crops that have these nanograms of residue in the soil. You are probably asking yourself, ‘how big is a nanogram’? Imagine a grain of rice, this weighs approximately 2-3 grams, now imagine that grain of rice divided by 2 billion, that would be a nanogram.

Once the crop is harvested or the animal is raised and given to the production facility, the strict guidelines of the USDA & NPA continue.
For instance:
· all machinery that touches the product must be steam cleaned and the use of bleach is prohibited.
· In order to receive a USDA or NAP certification only natural products can touch the food like rice paper or other all natural materials during packaging.
· Also, blast freezing is the only method allowed this means the item was frozen at 50° below zero instantly. This prevents crystallization and eliminates almost all anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that do not need oxygen to live) like E. coli.
· Food products must also be vacuum sealed, which eliminates all aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen to live) like salmonella.

I hope after reading this post it helps you realize the benefits of Organic and All Natural. There are many differences, and like all things we must weigh these differences and determine what is important to our families. My family’s decision is leaning towards focusing on All Natural products. We feel that the positive environmental and economical impacts of All Natural outweigh any potential nanograms of residual pesticides in the soil. We like the idea that All Natural is mandated to follow steam cleaning, all natural packaging, blast freezing and vacuum sealing procedures. While, Organic companies can be following those requirements on their own volition, it is not required and without labeling we would not know for sure who is doing what. Either way, purchasing 100% Organic or All Natural products is better than not looking for these types of products because of the high standards that they are held to. We appreciate the CCOF and NAP’s efforts on holding these companies to these higher standards and thus producing better products.
Here’s to Happy Green purchasing!


The Farmers Market
As a resident and chef in California, I feel privileged to have the amazing opportunity to work with some of the best farmers on the planet, the product these guys produce and the impact they have on the planet in incredible.
The farmer’s market day for my family is my favorite day of the week. I get to spend time with my son and wife at this really cool place that has all kinds of amazing looking food. At the same time I also get to instill the fun factor of local food in my son’s life which will benefit him in the long run. I feel it is important for children of all ages to understand that food comes from the earth and not a box. As if the day isn’t already awesome, I also get to have a positive impact on the environment by not using a company that ships food across the world using non recyclable storage containers and fossil fuels. You may say that your small farmer’s market cannot feed the whole city, but if each town would embrace the fact that these amazing farmers will go from town to town bringing their product to you it could – it can’t get much easier than that! For me, it’s a double whammy, I get to bring great food home to cook for my family and make new connections with local farmers for my restaurant.
Cooking from the farmer’s market is a great way to challenge yourself to learn new recipes for your repertoire and experiment with new and different flavors. Even as a professional chef, I am surprised by new and different foods each time I visit the farmer’s market. I deal with food every single day, and I love finding new things that I never knew existed. I also love having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the farmers to see if they grow a specific item that I have used in the past, it is a great circle of education for both of us.
The farmer’s market isn’t just about the produce. You can find the most amazing honey, talk to the bee keeper and find out what kind of flowers the bees pollinated. Depending on the nectar the bee found, each variety has a different flavor, who knew that honey could have different flavors, amazing! You can also find the freshest, local cheese, like Nicasio Valley , they rear their own dairy cows to make their cheeses (are you kidding me, that is sweet!) There are also specialty vendors that do pickling, dried fruits and nuts, local and organic meats and fishes, I mean come on – who wouldn’t want to partake in these fresh and flavorful treats.
Now, you might say that sounds expensive and it can be. But no different than the money we have to pay to keep our parks clean from non-recyclable litter, the city dump, waste management and even medical costs from future health complications. Eating naturally can bring a new meaning to a happy green life.
- Mike