Tag Archives: organic

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate / Salinas Valley Farmland Pix

Quick, what if you don’t know what to make for dessert and you are feeling ultra-lazy? Melt some dark chocolate in a metal bowl floating in simmering water, wash and hull some strawberries and call it a day! That’s the recipe. I served this to some friends – spooning the chocolate over strawberries. Pretty effortless.

Strawberries with Melted Chocolate

And where do strawberries grow? you may be wondering. Why, many grow in the Salinas Valley. Coastal California dominates domestic and international strawberry production with Watsonville/Salinas crops representing nearly half of California’s total strawberry acreage.

Conventional strawberry production is associated with the potential use of methyl iodide. Monterey County, which includes the Salinas Valley, is primarily agricultural and very poor. I was surprised to learn that it is supporting a potential ban on methyl iodide since strawberries enjoy the status of being a billion dollar crop.

This chemical is the subject of enormous controversy  complete with its own government scandal at the moment. The conflict may very well subside: the Strawberry Commission and the state are studying how to grow strawberries more safely without methyl iodide. This could be good news since strawberries have the potential to be cancer-preventing on one hand but would be causing cancer on the other hand if methyl iodide is used to grow them.

Anyways, here are some pix from my recent visit to America’s Salad Bowl. Is it fair that it is so darn fertile as well as stunningly gorgeous?!!? Being there is like stepping into a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Organic Strawberry Plant Closeup

Rows of Organic Strawberry Plants

Ye Olde Barn

Salinas Valley Farmland, against Hills with Clouds

My Grandma’s Cranberry Salad – holiday recipe

People love this salad. It’s my third grandma’s. Red-headed woman from Nebraska. Force of nature. And cook extraordinaire. Here’s my rendition.

My Third Grandma’s Cranberry Salad

  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries;
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts;
  • 3 organic navel oranges, sectioned and chopped broadly after removing pith and skin – save the skin for zest*;
  • 3 Granny Smith or other tart apples, chopped broadly (I like to leave the skin on for color);
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of orange zest;
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar; and
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

Wash the fresh cranberries. Throw out any berries that are discolored or soft. Throw them into the food processor. Put them into a mixing bowl and add everything else. Mix. Be sure to taste-test for sweetness – you might want more or less sugar. Refrigerate overnight (if possible). At least for 4 hours, to let it all come together. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving 2012 Update: check out the sauce for this salad!

Photo credit: a friend’s son took the picture above (and I cropped the picture to make for the extreme closeup effect) at my friend’s 2007 Christmas party, where I served this salad. I think I also served it at their 2006 Thanksgiving!

*I like for these to be organic especially because I am using the zest, and I’m guessing the peel has the greatest potential for exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

Full Circle brand, and a little soapboxing from moi

My neighborhood fancy pants grocery store started carrying Full Circle products a few months back. And how did I live before that? Let’s see, I’ve bought Full Circle cappellini, soy milk, and dried pinto beans. All of these have been perfectly good quality (not just acceptable – but honestly good) at a very decent price – almost always lower than the other organic brands by weight.

Mind you, the Full Circle products are “organic” by U.S.D.A. standards, which farmers establish via a compliance or audit model – the USDA inspects them to see if they meet the standard. These are not as stringent as the California Certified Organic Farmers standard, which is used to establish a high level of quality in order to create a strong brand for certified farmers. The CCOF basically arm-wrestled the State of California into being the vanguard for the organic foods arena in the U.S.A. Hey, I can’t be the only one who thinks the CCOF’s history page is a fun read! The CCOF story touches me because it’s just some people with pie-in-the-sky ideals who made their dreams come true – about vegetables no less!!! The Consumer Reports people have put together a site if you want to learn more about the controversies around organic food standards.

Hey, I grew up in an agricultural town. I saw people working in fields and crops. I know that somebody picked each lettuce that went into my Caesar salad.I don’t always buy organic. But it feels great to support businesses that operate in a healthier way – beneficial for humans and other living things.

OK, jumping off the soapbox now!