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Ever been to a restaurant and wonder how even a simple salad tastes so much better than what you make at home? Chances are, it’s the homemade vinaigrette. Store bought salad dressings, even the supposed healthy ones, are still loaded with oils you don’t want (canola and soybean), thickeners you don’t need (guar gum, xantham gum) and unnecessary sweeteners (sugar). All these additives help to make the product shelf stable, but don’t do much for taste or your health. So what’s the solution? Make your own. Today’s recipe is one of my personal favorites, although both our cumin lime and honey mustard dressings are pretty awesome too. When people come over for dinner, they always ask how we make our dressing and I figured it was time to share.

Making salad dressing is not an exact science. Every time I whip up a jar, it’s slightly different since the ingredients available in my fridge, garden, and cupboard are ever changing. When we first committed to not buying dressing (one of the few resolutions that actually stuck!), we used one of the Good Seasons salad dressing cruets, the type with the measurements right on the glass. We followed the measurement markings, but instead of adding water and the “dressing packet” we sprinkled in fresh herbs instead. Things have evolved ever since, especially with the revelation that our garden produces thyme, oregano and rosemary year round. In preparation for this blog post I measured everything out so I could put together a coherent recipe to follow. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Notes:

While this may drive some of you crazy, you don’t need to be exact with your measurements. I use a mix of red wine and balsamic, but you can use whatever vinegar blend you like. If you adore the sweetness of the balsamic flavor, go for just balsamic vinegar. For all the herbs below, fresh is best, but in a pinch, dried will work. If you use dried, you’ll need a bit more of each since they are are not as flavorful. In order to make this dressing “pop” and taste of restaurant quality, you will need at least 1-2 fresh herbs. If you are picking herbs from your garden or using fresh from the market, make sure to wash them thoroughly by soaking them in a bowl of clean water and letting the dirt sink to the bottom. Always get organic when you can. For the garlic powder, make sure it is pure garlic powder and not garlic salt or a seasoning with extra additives. If you don’t mind the raw garlic flavor, a small clove of garlic put through the garlic press works too. As far as the container, old salad dressing containers work beautifully. Really, any old glass jar will do as long as it has a tight-fitting lid.

 

Balsamic & Herb Vinaigrette

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 tsp fresh Thyme leaves, stems removed, minced

1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed, minced very fine

1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, stems removed, minced

1/2 tsp fresh minced basil leaves or dried basil

1/2 tsp fresh minced parsley leaves or dried parsley

1/4 tsp ground mustard (or 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard)

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp minced shallots, red onion or scallions

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

Chop all your fresh herbs very finely, especially the rosemary. Add ingredients into the glass jar in the order listed above, with the exception of salt and pepper. Put lid on the glass container and shake vigorously until powdered ingredients are fully incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. You can also do this in a food processor and pour in the oil in a fine stream while the processor is running. But this method involves more dishes and special equipment, which may scare some of you off and is really not necessary. This dressing is best after it has been sitting for 4-24 hours in the fridge, but can be used right away. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before pouring on your salad.

Enjoy!

 

Sorry for the poor image quality! Taking pictures of dressing is no easy task. Still wanted to include it as I know many people really like to see the finished product before making something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I desperately wanted Prop 37 to pass. I posted countless Facebook status updates on it, proudly displayed my yard sign, wore a “Vote Yes on Prop 37″ button on my purse, and furiously blogged about it on this very site, but in the end, the money won out. I’ll admit I was pretty down yesterday and feeling a bit lost about where we go from here. Then, I saw this message from one of our followers:

I Woke Up Angry

I’m sure plenty of people are happy that Obama has another 4 years instead of the other guy and his magic underwear but not me. For me these two are too similar (well I’m sure that depends on which version of Mitt you get on any given day) and for me, the only thing I really cared about was PROP 37. I say vote with your wallet!!

These companies will NOT get my money any longer. It will take some time but I will know this list by heart and as difficult as it will be, the Grocery Manufacturers Association will feel my wrath. I may have to drive a little further, plan a little further in advance and pay more, but I will not step foot in or buy from their businesses any longer. My voice is but one, but it’s mine and it will be heard.

You guys keep “fighting the good fight!”

- Just Some Random Guy

At the bottom of his note was link to a list of all the companies that contributed to the No on Prop 37 campaign:

Continue reading…
 

Today, I will walk into an auditorium. I’ll be greeted by several senior-aged volunteers who proudly manage my polling place. They’ll hand me my ballot and direct me to that plastic booth where I’ll fill in the bubbles and cast my vote. As an American and a Californian, I consider voting my right and my duty. When I make my mark for Senator, School Board Member and the President of the United States I am sending a message and making a choice. Yes, the system is flawed. Yes, I wish politics wasn’t so slimy and smeary. But at least I can be part of the process.

I am extremely nervous for tomorrow. As a proud Californian, I will be waiting with fingers and toes crossed to see what happens with Prop 37.  Will California once again be the progressive leader for the nation? Will we be the first state to require mandatory labeling of GMOs? I hope we’ve done enough to pass this historical law.

If you haven’t already done so, vote. Unless you’re in a swing state, I understand the “my vote doesn’t count” mantra that many of us deal with when talking about the presidential race. But when it comes to the propositions and local leadership, my vote and your vote absolutely does count.

Join me today. Let’s make history and hopefully, I’ll be celebrating Prop 37′s victory with a glass of local Syrah this evening.

PS. In the off chance you are still undecided about Prop 37, please visit www.CARightToKnow.org.

Chloe’s California Quiche

This is a guest post by Chloë Gladstone. Know of a food blogger, nutrition guru, farmer or passionate storyteller who may be interested? Contact us or provide details in your comment.

 
I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, and I was vegan for 16 years. While my views about the best diet for me have shifted somewhat, one thing has not changed since I was a child: a fascination with food and how it affects our bodies, our planet, and our relationships.

In addition to being vegetarian, my family always had a garden, and I remember the exquisite pleasure of walking barefoot among tomato vines that were taller than I was, feeling the prickly hairs on the stems tickle my nose as I leaned in to smell the ripe tomatoes, and biting into one like an apple, the sun-warmed juices running down my chin. My parents grew their own sprouts, made their own tempeh, and banned processed sugar from the house. When I went to public school, I got teased about the “bird seed” (honey-covered sesame seeds) in my lunches, but I also convinced several friends to taste (and enjoy!) my homegrown sprouts dusted with nutritional yeast.

When I became vegan at age 12, I thought it was a way to make a sacrifice for the health of the planet, but I found after many years of reliance on soy foods that my body was suffering. I was also alienating myself from other people, especially when I would travel and have to refuse food offered to me without being able to explain why. I felt like the costs in terms of my own health and my relationships were too high.

In the last five years, I’ve returned to a passion for locally grown whole foods. My partner and I are members of a CSA and we try to visit the farmers market every week. He eats meat, but his choice comes out of careful thought and I respect it. He is an importer of equitably traded vanilla beans from Madagascar, and he thinks a lot about food and how it relates to social justice and the environment. I know our diet differences will spark some spirited debates if we have children, but that’s also important to me—constantly questioning what we believe. I love hearing about what people eat and why.

Many people in the U.S. think it’s a luxury to spend time choosing and preparing our own fresh food, but I think it’s the opposite. It feels as if our “luxuries” have removed us farther and farther from our food sources, and this is part of what’s making us so unhealthy. I’m guilty of this too—I often prioritize other tasks over shopping for and eating healthy local food, but I feel so much happier and more energized when I’m paying attention to my diet. I get sick less, I sleep better…and hence I have more time and energy to spend on the rest of my life!

If you think you don’t have time to shop at the farmer’s market and prepare food from scratch, try to eliminate one non-essential activity from your life (Words with Friends, anyone?) and spend that time focusing on food in a way that makes you feel good. I think the most important thing is that we simply pay attention to what we eat. Putting a little bit of focus on what you eat is guaranteed to improve your diet. (This is partly why it’s so crucial for everyone in California to vote Yes on Proposition 37, which will help us to be informed about what we’re eating). For an interesting perspective on U.S. food issues and our lack of attention to what we eat, check out The Sun magazine’s interview with Joel Salatin, the founder of Polyface Farm.

Here’s a recipe we came up with during our endless experiments with vanilla. I love this recipe because you can get all the ingredients from trusted local sources. It was the most popular dish when we cooked brunch for 18 people recently. It also fills the house with lovely smells. Don’t be afraid of including vanilla in a savory dish—it’s very subtle and delicious!

 

Chloë’s California Quiche

For the crust:
2 c. (packed) grated raw potato (from 2-3 peeled potatoes)
1/4 c. grated onion
1/2 t. salt
1 egg

For the filling:
1/4 c. caramelized onions
1 ear fresh sweet corn (kernels cut from the cob)
1 small vanilla bean
1/4 c. creamy goat cheese or other cheese of your choice
4-5 large eggs
3/4 c. half & half
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the crust ingredients together and press the mixture into a 9-inch pie tin. Bake the crust for 30-40 minutes. You can brush it with a little vegetable oil if it looks like it’s drying out too much. If you’re worried about the edges getting too browned, you can cover them with tin foil.

While it’s cooking, mix the eggs and half & half. Add salt and pepper as desired. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and using the tip of a knife or a spoon, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds (the “caviar”) out of the pod. Add the seeds to the egg mixture and whisk to distribute evenly.

When the crust is done, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 350F.

Spread the quiche fillings (reserving a bit of the cheese) along the bottom of the crust, then pour in the egg mixture. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and then put half of the vanilla husk in the center of the dish (for decorative purposes—the husk is too tough to eat!). Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm, and serve with a farmers market salad.


About the author:
Chloë Gladstone

Chloë Gladstone is a writer and doula living in Oakland, California. She is also on the board of directors for Green Branch, a mobile children’s library focused on social justice and environmental issues.


Troy Roush agrees with the majority of Californians who believe consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. He is in favor of Prop 37 and supports required labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). None of this is moving until you find out that Troy is a farmer who grows GMO corn and soybeans. Surprised? I definitely was. Here is Troy’s quote from this 90 second video everyone should see:

“As a farmer, I invite labeling, I encourage labeling, I’d love to see labeling. Labeling is a win for farmers and a win for consumers.”

Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? I love his practical and direct way of looking at this complex issue. Please share and make sure all your California friends, family and colleagues vote YES on Prop 37 in November.

For more information on California Prop 37, visit http://www.carighttoknow.org/.

“Whole Foods Market supports California’s Proposition 37 requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods by July 1, 2014 because it has long believed its customers have the right to know how their food is produced.”

This honestly shouldn’t be news. The fact that a health food store like Whole Foods wouldn’t support mandatory labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is preposterous. Or is it?

Whole Foods Market announced this week that they are in support of Prop 37. They even created this nifty green image to show their Prop 37 love. My question is, what took em so long?? With election day only weeks away, Whole Foods should have been on this wagon months ago.

Turns out that while they do support Prop 37, they have a few reservations. Specifically, they think the upper limit for processed foods containing GMO ingredients should be 0.9% instead of the 0.5% in the proposition. Their reason? To keep it in line with “the long-established international labeling standard.” Secondly, Whole Foods was hoping for California Attorney General Office’s oversight. They explain their fear in the press release:

“…manufacturers could be compelled to label products with ‘May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering’ even if it is not the case to avoid costly litigation and protect themselves. This could result in consumers receiving inaccurate information, which is contrary to the intent of the proposition itself.”

The CA Right to Know camp has responded to the costly litigation claims, in general, by saying,  “There is no reason to believe companies will violate the law as most companies honestly label their food for calories, fat content, allergy risks and other information consumers want to know, whether or not that information is favorable to product sales. One can expect that companies will comply with the law and there will be little if any need for lawsuits.”

Regardless of their few reservations, I am quite frankly relieved that Whole Foods has supported Prop 37. This is an issue close to my heart and one that I expect certain companies to embrace.

Be Food Smart is a proud supporter and partner of California Right to Know and Yes on Prop 37. To learn more about Prop 37, visit: CA Right to Know.

Image Source: Whole Foods Market

 

 

 

The California Right to Know campaign sent its partners this ad from the No on 37 camp today. If you are just tuning in, Proposition 37 is an initiative in California which would require genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labeled. For obvious reasons, the giant food and beverage companies and GMO seed producing companies like Monsanto, oppose this Prop and are spending millions trying to defeat it. With all that money, it’s downright funny that this ad was the best they could come up with. In all honesty, would this ad ever sway you to think labeling GMOs was a bad thing? What is the deal with the huge steak and unrecognizable can of dog food? This ad is so confusing I barely understood what they were trying to get at. If this is the best they got, things are looking good for mandatory labeling in California.

To see the full article and witty response from the Right to Know folks, click here.

Photo via the CA Right to Know blog