Friday, February 4, 2011

"Organic" Tostitos?

TOSTITOS® Natural Blue Corn Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips

The other day I asked my husband to buy some chips to go with a chili I had made. In an attempt to please me he bought a bag of Tostitos that were labeled as "made with certified organic corn", but didn't have the USDA organic official label on. This made me suspicious so I went to read the ingredients listed : organic blue corn, expeller pressed sunflower oil and sea salt. So no preservatives or other ingredients with mysterious names, good. But why then were they labeled as "made with certified organic ingredients" but didn't have the organic label? The reason is pretty simple. In order to have the organic label a product has to be made with at least 95% or more organic ingredients. If a product has at least 70% of organic ingredients they can claim to be "made with" organic ingredients but cannot display the USDA organic logo. So there is a difference. So I started looking into all the other brands that sell organic tortilla chips, and I noticed that many of them do not display the USDA organic logo. I think the problem might be the oil that they use. For example the brand "Garden of Eatin", that I can usually find at my local jewel store, has two kinds of blue chips: the baked blue chips and theregular blue chips. The baked ones are 100% organic and display the logo, the multigrain don't. Here are the ingredients of both chips:

Ingredients of the baked chips: Organic blue corn, organic brown flaxseed, organic soy grits, organic canola oil and/or organic safflower oil and/or organic sunflower oil, sea salt. 

Ingredients of regular chips: Organic blue corn, expeller pressed oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil, sea salt.

As you can see the only difference is that in the second one the oil is not organic.
It can be very tricky to choose the right product. I am not saying that one product is healthier than the other. They are all chips so after all they are not the best food you could eat and that's it. But if you are eating organic to have a better impact on the planet than you should really pay attention at what they sell you as organic and what really is organic. Bottom line, if the logo isn't there it isn't 100% organic.

New Recipe Blog

I have decided to move my recipes to a different blog from now on. I just thought it would be better organized this way, so this blog is going to be the place where I talk about organic food and sustainable eating but you will be able to find my recipes (organic and non) on my other blog called "What is Gabi Cooking Today". So if you are following this blog for the recipes, I recommend you subscribe to the other one, otherwise, stay tuned here for more discussion!

Door to door organics

Since our CSA subscription ended in October we have been getting our organic veggies and fruit through a new service called Door to Door Organics. They are based in Chicago and their product are not necessarily local ( for obvious reasons) but they have multiple advantages:

  • they deliver right to your doorstep ( which in this weather is a huge plus for me).
  • you can choose many different box sizes AND you can customize the contents of the boxes weekly: this means you can substitute some of the items for other items that are available, obviously the choice isn't unlimited.
  • you can place your box on hold or suspend or cancel your subscription at any time for any reason.
  • the price is reasonable: from 26.99 up to 40.99. We get the "small mixed" box and it is PLENTY for us for 33.99. I compared the prices of the organic items at the store and theirs are lower.
  • you get both fruit and vegetables ( but you can also choose only one or the other).
  • They also offer additional item that you can add to your box by shopping online through their website, like cereal, bread, canned goods etc. all organic and all at prices that are comparable or less than the store and are delivered at your doorstep.
Every month we get to invite 3 friends and they get their first box with a 50% discount, so if anyone is interested just contact me and I will be happy to give you my coupon.
We had a very good experience so far, all the produce was in perfect conditions, the amount is perfect for us and even putting items on hold was very easy. We are still thinking of rejoining a CSA in the summer, because we would like to have local produce again and thus have the freshest possible vegetables with the smallest possible carbon imprint, but we are not sure we are going to subscribe to the same CSA or try a new one, so we are opened for recommendations and suggestions!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Italy and the Quest

Italian food is very good. This much everybody knows, even people who have never been to Italy and have only tasted the american rendition of it can tell you as much. Sometimes though, they say, it can be a little too heavy and eating Italian food all the time would make you super fat. WRONG. American Italian food would make you super fat, sure. American Italian food was created by Italian immigrants who arrived here mostly from a reality of close starvation and found an abundance of food, especially of protein, that they could not have afforded back home. Just like my grandfather, who grew up in a poor family and knew what real hunger felt like, spent the rest of his life obsessed with food and definitely ate more than he should have, this people created a cuisine that is a celebration of the end of hunger. But the Italian food you eat in Italy is not necessarily fat and heavy, although of course it can be. Moreover, Italian cuisine relies on centuries of tradition, and it is incredibly rich and varied. Besides the "holiday dishes" that were prepared only on special occasions, when the family would all get together to celebrate something and involve hours of preparation, we also have a simpler everyday cuisine, food that was eaten by peasants, that relied on what the ground produced on a certain season, on foraging on wild herbs, mushrooms and plants, on local and very seasonal ingredient. That is why I think traditional Italian food is perfect for the quest. I bought a couple of cook books in Italy with the most traditional pasta and soup recipes and I am going to try to adapt some of the recipes to my everyday life. It will make me feel closer to home, but it will also help me with the quest. When these recipes were originally created, hundreds of years ago, sustainable local food was really the only option available, maybe if we go back to our roots we will find out a wisdom that we have lost. Obviously I am going to have to tweak a few things. The produce of Illinois is definitely not the same as Tuscany or even less Sicily. Some products are not available outside of a specific region or town in Italy, but I think it will be an interesting journey, an unexpected turn in this quest that I have undertaken.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: Food Inc

This book is called "a participant guide" to the movie Food Inc. and it is a collection of essays on the topics that the movie addresses. The essays are from a variety of authors and organizations and the topics go from food safety to the exploitation of farmers workers, from the effects of pesticide poisoning to a study of the ethanol policy of the government. What I liked the most about it is that every article ended with some idea or resource on what to do to improve the situation, to get more informed, to change the way things are. Also every topic was always covered by at least two different articles, so that two points of view were given on any given topic. It is a big eye opener and also a pleasant read, one that makes you think and makes you want to know more and do more. I definitely recommend this book, it will change the way you look at a supermarket, I guarantee it.

Our CSA experience - fifth box

This week from the CSA:
- Fennel
- parsley
- Lots of tomatoes
- fresh onion
- Italian beans
I haven't tried the beans yet, I wonder why they call them Italian anyway. We are very happy of the abundance of tomatoes and zucchini. I am canning as much sauce as I can but we alway end up eating most of it fresh, it is just too good! The fennel is still disappointingly small.

Our CSA experience -fourth box

This week from the CSA
- fennel
- onion
- kohlrabi ( we always get one!)
- basil
- arugula
- 7 tomatoes
- cucumber
I have to admit I was pretty disappointed by the fennel. I am used to nice big bulbs, which is the edible part, while these fennels seemed to have only leaves and very small bulbs, thus occupying most of our box while giving us close to nothing to eat. I know I could have used the leaf for tea, but being this hot out you don't really feel like a warm tea. The tomatoes instead where a nice surprise. By looking at them they didn't seem like very good sauce tomatoes, because I usually prefer the elongated ones, with more pulp and less seeds and water, but I have to say they compensated in flavor! I think I never had such a good tasting tomato sauce!