Friday, October 25, 2013

Cashew, Cranberry and Chocolate Chip Bars

These bars make an inexpensive, portable and corn-free healthy snack now that we're back into cold-enough-to-turn-on-the-oven weather.


1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked millet

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil


1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl until well blended.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together vanilla, maple syrup, and oil. Pour over dry mixture, distributing evenly, and then stir until dry ingredients are coated with oil mix.
4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and carefully spread out your mixture into a large bar.
5. Back for 10 minutes, and let it cook for another 10.
6. Pop the cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes and then chop into your desired sizes. Wrap bars individually and keep them refrigerated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights

Today is the sixth annual Blog Action Day, on which bloggers all over the world write about the same theme in order to raise awareness about it. This year the theme is "human rights."

Trying to be a responsible consumer is kind of like singing one of those maddeningly awful kids' songs where you have to keep remembering what got added on in the last verse. You know, the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole and the hole in the ground and the green grass grows all around all around...

I'm really sorry about that. I'll wait while you turn some music on in an attempt to drown out the tune that will be stuck in your head for the next four days.

Anyway, when it comes to eating at a restaurant, for example, there's also a lot to remember if you're trying to be a responsible consumer. You may think you'r totally in the clear once you've found a place you can afford that uses locally sourced ingredients that were grown without pesticides or genetic modification or over-fishing or factory farming, and maybe also runs on solar power and composts its leftovers. You may think that's all there is to it.

But it's not. Those of us who talk sustainable food tend to talk about big picture, long-term consequences, like climate change, and antibiotic-resistant diseases, and how NO ONE KNOWS WHAT'S KILLING ALL THE BEES!!

But there's another thing to make you feel bad about your everyday choices, and it's much more straightforward and close to home: working conditions in the food industry.

Now, the nastier side of where our food comes from has always been tied to unethical treatment of workers in the industry. That hasn't been news since Upton Sinclair's time. But it is an issue that often gets forgotten about or put on the back burner (no pun intended) of the food discussion. Sure, we want to make sure our coffee and our chocolate are Fair Trade Certified, but what about the idea of a fair wage right here in the United States?

It's also not news that that the value of the minimum of wage compared to the rising tide of inflation has been steadily going down for decades, and some of the hardest hit are food workers. At the average American restaurant these problems can range from the eyebrow-raising (servers making $2.10 per hour can easily go home from a slow shift with minimum wage or less) to the downright alarming (undocumented dishwashers be subjected all kind of illegal conditions and pay because they don't exist in the system.)

Wish you could easily find out which restaurants do the best job of paying their workers a fair wage? Don't worry; there's a app for that.

Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, a ten year old organization based out of Manhattan, has made it its mission to "improve wages and working conditions for the nation's restaurant work force." To do this, it has put out a diner's guide, updated every year, with a list of restaurants and how they stack up against labor standards.

The diners' guide now has its own app currently available for select cities that will find restaurants in your area based on search criteria such as paid sick days and opportunity for advancement.

You can also read ROC United's new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru Jayaraman, an expose on just what's going on in the restaurant world. Sounds like a really uplifting read.

What other human rights issues need to be addressed within our food system?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Love Pick-Your-Own Fruit? Try Gleaning!

This post originally appeared at Food Riot.

I've recently discovered that if you tell people you're volunteering, especially if you have to wake up early to do it, you get some serious respect. Everybody assumes you're making a huge sacrifice for the greater good, and that you put strangers' needs ahead of your own convenience.

So don't tell anybody that my most recent "volunteer" activity was actually really fun, OK?

I went with the Boston Area Gleaners to Smolak Farms in North Andover to clean up the last of their peach crop.

Gleaning, if you didn't know, is a practice with thousands of years of history that involved going through a field after it's been harvested and picking up what's left over. Laws in the Old Testament of the Bible state that farmers pretty much have to let the poor glean their fields, and in some cases even leave portions of their crop unharvested for this purpose, in what seems to be an early version of paying taxes toward social benefits.

The Boston Area Gleaners is an organization that schedules trips to participating small farms and donates the produce- all kinds, varying with the season- to local food banks and soup kitchens. This time we were picking peaches, nature's fuzziest fruit.

Due to some mild mis-communication, we ended up in an orchard that wasn't quite done being harvested, and therefore the farmer wanted us to pick mostly "drops," or peaches that had fallen to the ground naturally. The Gleaners don't usually collect drops, since they've gotten flack from food banks in the past for bruised fruit, and drops tend to be close to spoiling or have imperfections, so we sort of compromised by picking from branches that were still on the tree, but broken and not going to be harvestable for long.

Even with the stipulations, it only took five of us about two hours to get nearly four hundred pounds of fruit from dozens of trees, with plenty left over for the volunteers to take home. My bagful consists of sweet, juicy yellow peaches, crisp white peaches, and even some tiny ones that are slightly more tart. Smoothies, cobbler, some sort of cake? I'm not sure yet what they'll turn into, but I'm pretty excited about it.

It was also just nice to get out of the city for a few hours and meet some new people who are into local food. I hadn't set foot on a farm in years, and I'd forgotten how much I like working outside. The quiet, the scenery, the time to clear your head and think about other things while your hands take over the task in front of them, and just soaking up the sun while you can before winter comes. The best part, though, is having something tangible to show when you're finished. Something that serves the most basic purpose.

Do other cities have organizations like this? Do you think there's a way to make this model work on a large scale?