February is the month for romance, but it’s also a time to think about keeping your heart in tiptop shape. After all, the heart pumps vital nutrients and oxygen throughout our bodies, and is arguably the most important organ in our system. Why not devote an entire month to reflect on its importance and how to keep it working well for the long haul?
Possibly the most important key to maintaining a healthy heart is exercise. Running, walking, swimming, hiking, or other aerobic activity keeps your body strong and your heart young! Coupled with exercise, it’s also extremely important to follow a healthy diet. For example, the American Heart Society recommends at least two servings of fish each week, to ensure you’re getting enough heart-healthy omega-3s.
Because fiber is known to significantly reduce cholesterol levels, it’s important to choose whole grains over starchy white stuff. Steaming, baking, or grilling meats is a great way to avoid uncessary fats; and you should especially focus on eating lean meats.
Finally, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables– especially organic ones!— can lead to a healthy heart.
Here’s to staying young at heart this February and beyond!
In today’s world we absorb unwanted toxins, which can limit our body’s potential. Juicing floods our system with powerful nutrients and antioxidants that eliminate toxins by providing nutrition on a cellular level. Doing a juice cleanse is a great way to take control of your health by detoxifying your body and resetting your relationship with food. January is a perfect time to cleanse, as we focus on renewal and rejuvenation.
When embarking on a juice cleanse, it’s important to prepare yourself. In the days preceding your cleanse, you should be sure to drink eight glasses of water and to only eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and eggs. Once your juice cleanse starts, make sure to take good care of yourself. Use your juices as meal replacements, and try not to eat anything else, as it slows down the juice cleansing process. If you feel you must eat, stick to organic fruits and veggies or soaked nuts and seeds. And remember: continue to drink lots of water. Don’t over-exert yourself and make sure to take plenty of time to relax.
Lucky for you, fresh, healthy, 100% organic juices are available at our very own Alfalfa’s Market Juice Bar. We’ll juice everything for you and also blend up a nutrient-dense smoothie to help curb your appetite. We have various cleanse programs to pick from, ranging from the one to seven days in length. We’ll make your juice fresh and ready for you to pick up!
Alfalfa’s juice cleanse offers the variety needed to support the body each day, as it relies on just juice. “The Nutrifier” combines eight ingredients into one perfectly balanced juice. The kidney-supporting citrus helps to push out unwanted toxins by acting as a diuretic, while the ginger warms and stimulates the digestive system, and fruits and vegetables round out its overall nutritive properties. “The Mighty Cleanse” is packed with eight varieties of greens, all strong in flavor and bitterness, which help detoxify the liver and bring homeostasis to organ functions. “The Beet of Life” is rich in flavor and color! By nature, it is satiating for the stomach and the heart, because it promotes blood circulation and oxygenation. Finally, “The Night Cap” is truly satisfying. It helps to curb hunger at the end of a day of cleansing and is packed with protein, fiber, and raw sweetness. All of these drinks combine to help detoxify, relax, rejuvenate, energize, and renew the body.
Did you know that oats have been proven to reduce cholesterol levels, and therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension? They also have special antioxidants called tocotriencols, which aid in the production of vitamin E. Those who are looking to control blood sugar levels can eat oats, because they slow down digestion and prolong the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. This property of oats also makes them good for people who are trying to control their weight, because they feel fuller longer. The phytoestrogen compounds in oats have been linked to decreased risk of hormone-related diseases such as breast cancer. In addition to all these benefits, oats are also rich in carbohydrates, making them perfect for runners and other athletes. For those who have a gluten sensitivity, oatmeal is a perfect part of a balanced diet, because oatmeal is naturally gluten-free. Finally, be sure to make your oatmeal the old-fashioned way and forego the instant kind, as these kinds usually have added sodium and sugar.
With all these amazing benefits, it’s hard to pass up a nice warm bowl of oatmeal on a winter morning!
Because holidays are full of baking treats for family and friends, I thought it was time to step up my cookie baking skills. So I grabbed a copy of The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando and set to work in the kitchen. For the first time in my life I made cookies that were three-dimensional and not flat semblances of what cookies should be. For the first time, too, I learned about the basic chemistry behind baking – i.e. use butter that is warmed by sitting out on the counter all day and not nuked to boiling in the microwave. I learned this and many more tips in this colorful, organized, and beautifully designed cookie book. After reading The Cookiepedia, you’ll be the semi-professional hobby baker you always wanted to be!
In an attempt to branch out from making my usual aforementioned two-dimensional chocolate chip cookies, I chose to bake Stacy’s Pistachio cookies. Since her cookie recipes are organized into genres such as: fruity, spicy, fancy, nutty and seedy etc. it was easy for me to choose; I’m a nutty seedy kind of gal. The recipe was very straightforward and included simple ingredients most of which I could easily find in the bulk section of Alfalfa’s, saving me money and time. Since I followed all of the directions and learned some basic baking chemistry in the “ABC’s of cookie baking” section, I baked cookies that came out fluffy, chewy (how I like them), even and craggly – yes that is a real adjective used in the book. Although the pistachios turned the dough a slight greenish hue and many wondered what was really in them, these cookies won most hearts over – this is saying a lot considering I work in an office filled with Boulder “foodies.”
Any of Stacey’s recipes can easily be made 100% organic or gluten free by simply using all organic ingredients or Pamela’s Gluten Free flour. So, if you are looking for a beautiful and whimsical gift for your favorite baker or cookie monster, check out Stacy Adimando’s Cookiepedia!
It’s that time of year again! Snowflakes, tinsel, office parties, crowded malls with no place to park, and cold, short days. For many it is a time of stress—be it financial, emotional, or mental.
So let’s take a moment to reflect upon the true spirit of this time of year and remember that no matter where you live or what your denomination is, December is a wonderful time to show gratitude and appreciation for those in your life. When showing true appreciation for people, nothing beats a homemade gift. The best gifts are often very simple and inexpensive, and don’t require expert baking skills or workshop full of Martha Stewart’s minions.
If you would like to take the gift to a more personal level, make something that is a family recipe. It does not have to be fancy. It can be as simple & homey as your Mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, but including the recipe & a little story about where it came from takes the gift to a new level. Your family traditions may now live on in other families!
How to get started
Tailoring your homemade gift to fit your time & budget is essential in keeping the project stress-free & fun. If you organize yourself with the list below you can make any modifications (cost, size, schedule) before getting deep into the project. Some ideas are better in theory than reality (i.e. an ingredient may not be in season or may be prohibitively expensive).
- Make a list of who gets what (consider family vs. individual, perishability, dietary restrictions, etc)
- Determine portion size & how you will package the gift
- Calculate your ingredient & packaging cost
- Decide how much you need to make
- Buy your packaging or gift bags before you start the project
- Take your time shopping the sales & searching for the hard to find ingredients. This helps to manage your time and make the project cost effective.
- If you choose to give a recipe or story along with the gift, print it now and keep in a convenient place
If you are beginning your own tradition of homemade gifts & need some ideas to get started, below is a list from simplest to most involved that will hopefully provide you with some inspiration. Website links are provided for idea purposes only, no guarantees!
- Chex mix
- Homemade granola
- Nut brittle & barks (try this bittersweet chocolate bark or this pomegranate bark)
- Spiced nuts
- Flavored popcorn seasoned with truffle salt & Parmesean cheese or chipotle & maple syrup (try this recipe for homemake cracker jack or this one for cheesy popcorn)
Getting Just a Little More Complicated
- Homemade cookies
- Pickles & chutneys (try this recipe for quick pickles; or, come to Alfalfa’s to get your refrigerator pickle kit that makes 16 pints of pickled veggies overnight)
- Mustards (very customizable; try this recipe)
- Flavored Vinegars (a wonderful way to capture the flavor of the season)
- Ice Cream Sundae Basket (hot fudge sauce, caramel, and toasted nuts)
- Homemade marshmallows bundled up in a cute mug filled with hot chocolate mix make the perfect gift
- Salt or sugar scrubs scented with essential oils
- You can make homemade bath salts using Epsom salt or another coarse salt, tossed with a handful of dried flowers & a few drops of essential oils. These can be customized for each person on your list. (Hint: Alfalfa’s sells many essential oils & herbs in our wellness department!)
- Make your own soap or candles: it’s really quite simple & the materials are readily available at any craft or hardware store.
If December slips by and it’s just too late to get started for this year, never fear. Experiment with just a couple recipes & take notes for next year. Or choose a simple but meaningful handwritten note, because even though it’s a cliché, it really is the thought that counts!
Happy Holidays, a delightful New Year to you, & thanks for being part of the Alfalfa’s Community. We so appreciate YOU!
This holiday season, most of us know to steer clear of conventional turkeys. Though they’re surely less expensive than organic or natural turkeys, there’s almost no question that conventional turkeys have been given growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO-feed. Not to mention, these turkeys have also been raised in confined spaces or other inhumane conditions.
If you’d like to get a truly better turkey this holiday, you’ll need to choose a natural, organic, or heirloom turkey. But what are the differences between these three labels?
The turkeys we eat today little resemble those that the first American settlers ate. Luckily, many turkey growers have revived “American Heritage” turkeys, which are increasingly popular each year. These birds typically have darker meat and smaller breasts, because they haven’t been bred to satisfy the American palette, which prefers lighter breast meat in general. It’s important to note that heritage turkeys only specify the breed, and don’t ensure that the turkey has been raised humanely, or with an antibiotic or GMO-free diet. For that reason, it’s always best to buy a heritage turkey that’s been organically raised, or at least raised by a grower you know and trust.
If you’re a more price-sensitive shopper, natural turkeys are probably the best way to go. Consumers should be aware that the word “natural” doesn’t mean much. So when buying these birds, shoppers should need to ask questions about the turkey’s diet and living conditions. After all, “natural” turkeys can still be treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, and raised in confined spaces. Customers should always read the fine print when considering their “natural” options.
The best option of all is to always buy organic. This ensures that the bird was not fed GMO feed, because it is required to eat an organic diet from the day it’s born. Therefore, buying organic birds supports organic grain producers around the country and, by extension, supports a healthier ecosystem.
At Alfalfa’s this year, we’re proud to offer organic heritage turkeys, along with GMO-free natural and organic birds.
Farmers, especially organic farmers, have faith in the predictability of nature—spring will follow winter, healthy ecosystems will operate in balance, and waste matter, properly managed, will become nature’s richest fertilizer and bring new life. But farmers must also contend with nature’s most unpredictable extremes. Northern Colorado’s farmers have seen years of arid drought, hot summers and nearby forest fires, but it’s safe to say that few of them have seen the kind of historic, late-season rain and flooding that we saw in September. As one unusually gray and misty Tuesday turned into days of unrelenting hard rain, Boulder County was changed, putting farms as well as homes, roads, and lives at risk.
Some farms emerged mostly unscathed but feeling for the entire community. “We were spared the unfortunate consequences that others were not,” said Paul Cure, an owner/farmer at Cure Organic Farm, “and our thoughts are with those who were affected in Boulder and Weld County.” Flooded roads limited access to and from some farms while flooded fields washed away late-season crops for others. Farmers’ markets were canceled and stores were closed, or operating with limited power, water and workers. September, usually a celebration of Colorado’s bountiful late summer harvest, demanded a different kind of community spirit this year—neighbors helping neighbors in the most trying and unexpected circumstances.
Natural disasters also ask us to think more carefully about farm and food security. Research such as the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial, which Rodale says is America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic versus conventional farming, has shown that organic outperforms conventional farming methods in years of drought. It seems likely that, in the long run, organic farming’s priorities of biodiversity and soil health may also help farms recover more quickly from flood damage.
When roads are washed away and access is limited or even eliminated, as we saw with some mountain towns, local foods and farms, ranches, dairies and bee colonies, small producers and community-minded markets all become not just a vital part of the community but an absolutely essential one. When crops and gardens are at risk, the presence of many varieties of plants increases the chances that some will survive. When waterways are polluted by potentially toxic runoff, it’s a reminder that chemical-dependent farming (including genetically modified crops designed to withstand greater amounts of pesticides) has extensive consequences that cannot always be controlled.
In short, all of the benefits of sustainable and organic farming methods become more apparent and more valuable when nature goes to extremes. In times of greater need, we have even greater reason to thank our neighbor-farmers, our food producers and suppliers, and all the advocates working hard for organic and sustainable food systems.
How to Help
- Buy regularly from Colorado’s organic farmers and producers, whether directly or through markets like Alfalfa’s with a commitment to organics and the community.
- Consider a donation to the Family Farm Disaster Fund, established by the national nonprofit Farm Aid to help farmers surviving weather-related crises. Farm Aid is aware of the flood situation and ready to help. Farmers in need of help can call 1-800-Farmaid or visit the Farmer Resource Network.
- The Colorado Farm Bureau has also established a fund to help farmers and ranchers in all of northern Colorado. According to the website, “100 percent of the funds will go directly to aiding these producers as they face the aftermath of this disaster. This flooding has led to a large impact within the agricultural industry within these areas, including damaged fields, stranded livestock, damaged facilities and infrastructure, including roadways and waterways.”
Elaine Lipson is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (Contemporary Books, 2001), a consumer guide to the meaning of organic and the benefits of organic foods and farms, and former organic program director for New Hope Natural Media. She lives in Niwot.
by Paula Hocherl, Alfalfa’s Assistant Front End Manager
One of the farming and food industry’s most critical fights is the one against the giant biotech companies and their genetically modified seeds. These companies are genetically altering the DNA of the food we eat. Americans are ingesting GMO corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, papaya, zucchini, alfalfa and sugar beets without a clear idea of the possible ramifications. Nearly 88% of corn and 93% percent of all soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. These ingredients are in over 70% of our processed foods. Conclusive studies have not been conducted us to understand the potential medical and environmental impacts these crops.
Monsanto, the mightiest of the biotech giants, has persuaded the US Government to not require labeling for GMO ingredients in our food supply. Currently 40+ countries around the world require labeling of GMOs or have a flat-out ban on the production and use of GMOs. The European Union banned the cultivation and sale of GMOs ten years ago. Two states–Maine and Connecticut–have voted ‘Yes’ to require a mandatory label of GMOs.
Alfalfa’s Market was founded on the belief in providing the highest-quality organic and natural foods for our customers and we want to help you make the best food choices. In the absence of federal or state regulation we have decided to take it upon ourselves to label GMOs at a company level. To ensure all new products are GMO-free our Purchasing Director, Shelly Burke, requires each vendor to provide verification of the raw material used in each product. If the vendor cannot provide proof that their ingredients are non-GMO, the product will not make it to the shelf. “There are a lot of companies who are currently changing their ingredient statements to move in the direction of all non-GMO ingredients,” Burke states. “It’s exciting and a pretty big deal on their part”. There are a few products on the shelf that may contain GMOs, and we have carried these products since the store opened. Due to customer demand we continue to carry these products with signage stating “may contain GMOs” informing the customer and allowing them to make their own choices about the foods they eat.
How can you make the choice to avoid GMO’s? Choose organic every time. As defined by government standards, a certified organic ingredient or product cannot be genetically modified. Read food labels, purchase organic products and look for the third party certified Non-GMO Project label on products. Vote with your dollars and support your local organic farmer.
Hundreds of braided garlic bulbs lie drying in the shade as oinks, quacks, and a honeybee buzzsaw fill the air at Cure Organic Farm. A rebel rooster sounds off, unwilling to limit his crowing to dawn at the acreage east of Boulder.
On a warm, late summer morning, full-time farm manager and mom Anne Cure simultaneously directs work in the field while getting paperwork ready for the regular “broccoli audit” from the folks who certify the farm as an organic operation. They track a crop from seed to purchase. She is not concerned about retaining the certification.
Cure has been an organic endeavor almost from the moment Anne and her husband Paul started farming in 2005. “We were able to get organic certification for our land the first year,” she said, because the land had been so well-treated by earlier farmers including a local legend, John Ellis. “They used to farm organically before it was ever labeled that way,’” she said.
The farm’s customers care whether the food is grown locally as much as they do about organic certification. “They want to know where and how the food was grown,” she said. For CSA (community supported agriculture), the link is strengthened because they must come to the farm to pick up their share of the produce.
“At our booth at the farmers’ market I’ll hear our members point to us and say ‘This is my farm.’ That’s great to hear,” Anne said.
Cure currently grows about 100 varieties of organic vegetables and flowers on 12 leased acres. Greens including chard and kale, roots from beets to shallots, as well as haricot vert and eggplant are still coming in from the fields. “But September is all about tomatoes around here,” she said. Anne makes a panzanella (bread) salad almost every day for the farm family using the ripest, sweetest tomatoes and is planning on freezing, canning, and drying more.
A few precious pounds of honey will also be harvested soon from the farm’s vital beehives and available at the farm store along with their farm-raised chicken, duck eggs, Berkshire pork, and Rambouillet lamb.
When Anne and Paul say they focus on being local, they really mean it. Besides selling in season at their farm store and the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, the farm supplies 190 families who are part of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You’ll also find the greens and vegetables mentioned by name on the menus of notable eateries like the Flagstaff House, Frasca, and The Kitchen. Everything produced by the farm is used within 50 miles of the farm, and the only grocery store that sells Cure organic produce is Alfalfa’s Market.
Anne Cure and Alfalfa’s go back a long ways. “I shopped at the original Alfalfa’s when I was a student at Naropa,” Anne says.
“Before the new store even opened they reached out to the organic growers in Boulder and we talked to the produce buyer about our farm.” That close relationship with the community of local organic farmers, ranchers and food producers has only grown, she said.
‘What inspires me to grow organic is that it’s the closest to mimicking nature. It focuses on diversity in the field which is healthier for the farm and the consumer.”
The future is always now when you work on a farm. “Farmers are always thinking three to five years ahead, planning what they will grow,” she said. In order to spread the word about organics, sustainability and to entice a younger generation of growers, the Cures give tours, offer classes and dinners, host farm interns and stage a kids’ farm camp every summer.
On this particular day, the future of organic looks bright at the Cure’s home on the farm. Georgia, the Cure’s always smiling older daughter, already gets it.
“She heads to the kids’ vegetable patch and tells me ‘I’m going to harvest from my garden,’ Anne said with a wide smile.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Cure Organic Farm Store (southwest corner of 75th and Valmont in Boulder) is open through December 15. Upcoming classes at the farm include Jam Making (Sept. 14). For information on the CSA, volunteering opportunities, farm tours, and summer farm camps, visit cureorganicfarm.com
A TOMATO TIP FROM CURE ORGANIC FARM
How to freeze whole fresh tomatoes:
Wash tomatoes. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time as needed. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.
WHAT DOES CERTIFIED ORGANIC MEAN?
“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”
- Source: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop
To be honest, the idea of organic food was not always that appealing to me. I associated it with higher prices and a shorter shelf life than conventional food. When you’re raised with lots of processed foods and junk foods it can prove difficult to give organic food a fair shot. Growing up in the South did not make it any easier. Food was food. There was no significance given to how it was grown or where it came from. Several years ago, I decided to stop buying into hearsay and all the health food stereotypes and do a little research of my own.
First and foremost, there is a lot of information out there on organic food, and its practices and certifications, and it can appear overwhelming at first. So let me share with you the things that I’ve learned over the last several years.
- The people who grow my food care about me and my health. I appreciate the fact that the people who are growing and cultivating my food could choose an easier and more industrial path for growing their produce. They choose not to use synthetic pesticides or chemicals to help grow their food often at a higher cost to them. Chemicals that historically have been shown to have environmental consequences. If organic farmers are willing to invest a little more in my health and my food, then I can too.
- Growing organic food encourages other humane practices. I work in the coffee and juice department at Alfalfa’s Market and in that world we throw around terms like fair trade, direct trade, and organic when it comes to coffee. Typically a company that sells organic coffee is often treating the farmers who grow their coffee beans fairly with sustainable importing and wages.
- Eating organic makes you feel better. Your body is not taking in highly processed ingredients and preservatives that are difficult or dangerous for your body to process and break down. You can definitely distinguish between an organic food versus one that may be genetically modified or doused in pesticides. Additionally, it is encouraging to know that my dollars spent on organic food are supporting sustainable farming and environmental practices.
- Nothing beats fresh. Organic food is often the best tasting and freshest food you will find. There is an emphasis on getting the food to you in the best condition possible as well as from local farms if possible. That way you can enjoy your food the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
September is organic month here at Alfalfa’s Market so stop by our store and see what all you can learn about organic food!