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Visit the Cook for Good blog for wildly good cooking tips, money-saving ideas, book reviews, and more from Linda Watson and guest bloggers.


Gardening update: basil success, fall planting

The basil plants I started from the cuttings and roots of a bagged basil plant are thriving. The picture below shows the ones I started from the roots. This was two weeks ago, when I'd already pinched them back a few times so I could use home-grown basil in recipes. Pinch or cut basil stems just above a young pair of leaves to encourage the plant to form two new stems. You'll also slow down the flowering, which tends to make the basil bitter.

It's time to think about planting for fall crops. Remember that

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A weekend of international plant-based menus for a retreat

My mindfulness group is hosting a weekend retreat in September. Participants will get five meals, from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. In keeping with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and his Order of Interbeing, the retreat center will serve all plant-based meals. I was asked to help the caterers come up with appropriate meals.

Thich Nhat Hanh founded the Order of Interbeing, which has as a core insight

our happiness is not separate from the happiness of others

What better way to emphasize our interconnectedness than by serving meals representing people of many nations? You can use these suggestions at home to celebrate our interconnectness or the Olympics, too.

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How a menu makes it ridiculously easy to stay on track

by guest blogger Camille Armantrout

"What's a menu?" someone playfully asked after I mentioned our potato-heavy menu. Oh! I thought to myself,  It is so, so many things--shopping list, anticipation catalyst, and money-saver. It's our road map to an inexpensive local food diet. "Nothing ever goes to waste," I like to say prompting Bob to quip, "Only to our waists."

We didn't always have a menu. Like many, Bob and I used to get home hungry after an eight- or nine-hour day and start thinking about dinner. We'd look in the refrigerator, hoping to come up with something we could make in a hurry without having to run to the store. Or we'd order a pizza. Or open a can of soup and make some sandwiches.

But that was years ago. Now, we always know what we're having for dinner, sometimes several days in advance, and we can have it ready to eat half an hour after we get home.

It started with a few favorites. We love Italian food so Friday night became Itey Nite, eagerly anticipated vanguard of the weekend. Mexican and Asian soon became standard weekly fare. For as long as I can remember, the Sunday night meal involved potatoes and some chicken-like "meat." These days we celebrate Sunday night with KFT (Kentucky Fried Tofu).

Bob has always grown food and after all that work it would be a crying shame to waste any of it, so I developed a robust kitchen habit. Nothing makes dinner easier than rinsed lettuce, chopped onions, roasted garlic, pre-cooked beets, and so on. I'd make salads and bake bread, too. After we stopped eating animals, I started making vegan "meat," too.

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President Obama signs DARK Act. Organic more important than ever.

On Friday afternoon, President Obama broke another campaign promise by signing a version of the Deny Americans the Right to Know act. (Other promises currently on my mind are closing Guantamo Bay, and ending the war in Afghanistan.) This version of the bill:

QR code. What does it mean?

  • Requires labels for some food with some types of genetically modified ingredients. It covers old-school recombinant DNA techniques but not the newer,  more precise CRISPR technology. It also does not apply to animal products, even if the cows, chickens, and so forth ate GM food themselves.
  • Allows companies to use 800-numbers or QR codes  instead of human-readable labels. Imagine making five phone calls for every item you'd like to buy so you could ask the operators about GMO ingredients. The QR codes would be faster, but require a smart phone and Internet access. This discriminates against people who are poor, elderly, or without good internet access.
  • Delays the whole process by at least two years, during which the fight to water it down further will no doubt continue. The Vermont law requiring labels would have gone into effect this month. The new bill gives the USDA two years to draft the standards.

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Shopping at a farmers' market is not an altruistic act

One of my farmers, Elizabeth Haarer of Wild Onion Farms, asked her customers to comment on this odd Washington Post story: For some growers, farmers markets just aren't what they used to be. They are "where true believers could make their weekly investment in the future of local and sustainable agriculture." Yet as the locavore fad passes, farmers are making less money at markets. At the DuPont Circle market, they brought in food trucks to attract millennials, but the millennials admire but don't buy or cook.

Despite this, the market manager says “Our goal is still to support local farmers.” 

Organic farmer Fred Miller at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market

Maybe that's the problem. It's not a

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