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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Food Wars on the Island

Our smallish Canadian city (12,000 souls) is a battleground for the grocery big stores: Costco, Walmart, Superstore, and Sobey's (via Thrifty's, that used to be a Vancouver Island chain in the not-distant-past).
Safeway will be closing May 2014. Read more HERE
Safeway recently opted out, or was opted out when Sobey's failed to follow through on the purchase.  Target (or Tar-jay as I hear it called by the 30somethings who shop there) also has a grocery section, but it is nothing much, mostly American brands we've seen on TV for years and already know are poison.

We have another large store in town called Quality Foods, and in 2012 (I think) it won a national grocery store award.  However, over the last couple of years QF has been receiving  injections of support from the rival SaveOnFoods cartel (aka Jimmy Pattison).  The irony is that QFcame in and set up in the same mall location that had been vacated by SaveOnFoods.  A greater irony is that another rumor has it that the Safeway location is being taken over by The Overweightea-SaveOnFoods.  

Rumors are just that.  I'm just putting out there the speculations that I've heard fired around town.

We're wary in this community.  How will these power moves affect us as consumers on an island where only 6% of our food is reported to be produced locally?  We've already seen cashiers and other grocery retail employees shoved out in a mass, and it doesn't seem like things are looking much better for the Safeway employees.  Someone I know who worked there for many years is leaving, at age 60, without a real pension.    But what about the 'cheap food' thing-- will we end up with aisles of manufactured food-like products, little locally-grown organic items?  I'm not a fortune-teller by trade, but it is scary to speculate about the possibilities.

You can feel things are heating up.  I noted tonight that Walmart has store hours until 11pm every day of the week.  Only the big boys can compete with that.  They have also begun to display their non-food merch in much the same format as Target.  QF is focusing on offering good quality food (a fair amount of organics, gluten-free items, health food items, etc.) with "Manager's Specials" and a daily discount on foods of your own choice.  QF also has an attractive sit-down restaurant with Starbucks and the in-store cafeteria partnering.  Indeed, partnership is a big theme.  Did you know that community groups can use the QF Boardroom for free just by scheduling it a week or two in advance?  Last time we checked, the White Spot restaurant in town, which has a generous-sized room for private lunch meetings, was charging something like a $60 cover charge for that.

All of these stores have a smallish organic products section, and various organic items in their freezers.  Walmart has the least.  They have piles of green organic bananas, though, at 97 cents a pound.  Costco, last time I was there, had NO organic produce, although quite a lot of processed organic items, such as barbeque sauce, cereals, and bulk drygoods like organic chiaseed and coconut palm sugar.  QF and Thrifty's do get local organic vegetables.

The one gem we have in our town for a good selection of locally-grown, fresh, organic produce and a great array of whole foods and other items, is our local "Edible Island Whole Foods Market".  The clerks are friendly and knowledgeable about nutrition.  The prices are a little higher, but you will definitely find a higher quality of food here.  

We are also blessed to have a vibrant local vegetable and fruit-farming community with a reputable Farmers' Market operating throughout the year, and in the growing season on Saturdays and Wednesdays.   Many of us do a little organic vegetable gardening and have a fruit tree or berry bushes either in our yard or nearby.  We are not in risk of malnutrition or starvation here, but we are also not anxious to let go of our current good fortune with a variety of good-quality food.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Catch The Food Revolution Summit

Today I received an email from one of my fave health-conscious, health-promoting physicians: Dr. Neal Barnard.  Dr. Barnard is going to be a speaker this year at the annual FREE Food Revolution Summit that runs online from April 26th to May 4th.

 If you ever have quandaries or questions about the situation with food (haha, who doesn't?), you will find this series of thought-provoking presentations will speak to your mind and your heart.  The first year I tuned into The Food Revolution Summit (moderated by father-son team, John and Ocean Robbins) I listened intently to a couple of presentations talking about genetic-modified organisms (GMOs) and the impact this bio-techno-agricultural nightmare is having in other parts of the world.  I learned that in India, 270,000 small farmers were caught in a desperate debt trap by Monsanto, caused by having to buy seeds at an exorbitant cost to plant their traditionally self-sustaining cotton  crops... and they committed suicide.  Dr. Vandana Shiva (noted scientist, environmentalist and feminist) reported this at The Food Revolution Summit and you can read more here.  If I had heard only that one presentation during the course of The Food Revolution Summit, I would have experienced great benefit.  But, no, there were also about 20+ other presentations from eminent speakers on cutting-edge developments in the area of food.

This year you will have the opportunity to listen to hear 23 physicians, activists, and conscientious celebrities (such as Jane Goodall, Woody Harrelson, Dr. Dean Ornish and Alicia Silverstone) address issues about food to answer questions you might have.  And remember that it is *FREE* so win-- win-- win!  Go HERE to check out the line-up of speakers and topics, and to Register. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The "Swedish" Bike Helmet

I am in the market for a bike helmet because recently I broke down and bought a bike.  I have been considering doing that for a very long time.

True, I walk 5 miles a day and if I need to go to town I can either drive or catch a ride with my hubby.  However, I do want to do my bit for the environment, and bicycling is every so much more eco-friendly than driving a vehicle that runs on fuel (probably more friendly than driving an electric car as well when you consider that the electrical energy is often STILL produced by burning coal).  

So, I chose a bike that is easy for me to get my legs over-- I needed a lower type bar than many I have tried.  I also didn't particularly want to have gears to bother with, that is how old-fashioned I am.  And I like handlebars that are curved in the old school way, as well.  So, here is a picture of me on my new bike (which also has a chain guard that extends over the entire chain-- how cool is that?).  I am going to purchase a basket that isn't so cutesy and pass this one on to my granddaughter.  But, in general, I am ready to rock and roll!

Except for a helmet!!

And we know how important they are to keeping our tofu-soft brain in good shape!

So, I went to the usual places and tried on those stream-lined plastic lids.  I will likely succumb to one, but for now I am "researching".  If you like your helmet, you are more apt to wear it! These are examples of the sort of helmet I would really like (for me & my granddaughters):
Watch how it works:

And a couple of other helmet types that I wouldn't mind owning:
Do you have a helmet you really like?  Share any of your 'bike helmet' stories and/or comments please! :

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Baked Tofu and Spanish Rice- the PERFECT supper!

Fragrant, toothsome baked tofu and spanish (brown) rice!  This combination recipe might have been in Frances Moore Lappe's 1971 "Diet for a Small Planet" but if it was, it likely included some cheese and olive oil.  This particular recipe is LOW fat..... way low......... like, the only fat in this recipe is in the tofu and veggies!  But the flavour....... (oui oui... in Canada we use the tasty French way of spelling flavoUr)........ wow!

And next to the taste is the fragrance of the marinade-covered tofu as it bakes!  Oh yum yum yum-

But on with the recipes!!

SPANISH RICE (6-8 servings)


2 cups dry Brown Rice 
1 red Onion, chopped
1 C. chopped Broccoli, fresh or frozen
3 Garlic cloves, crushed 
1 C. Water 
1 C. organic vegetarian Pasta Sauce (or 6 oz. Tomato Paste)

Salt, to taste

  1. Cook the rice according to directions, or as you normally do
  2. In a wok, or large pot, combine the onion, broccoli, garlic and water, and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until water is evaporated and veggies are tender.
  3. Add rice, vegetarian Pasta Sauce, and salt to the veggies, coating the rice with the sauce.
BAKED TOFU (2-4 servings)


1lb./500 g.(or near that) of ORGANIC, NON-GMO Tofu
2 T. Tamari Sauce or good organic Soya Sauce
2 T. Water or unsalted Vegetable Broth 
2 tsp. Sweetener (brown rice syrup, agave, palm sugar, etc. or 1/8 tsp. Stevia)
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar 
2 tsp grated Garlic 
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh Ginger 
1/4 tsp. freshly grated Black Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C
  2. Put a piece of parchment or foil on the bottom of a small baking pan
  3. Slice the tofu in half across the block (from side to side) and then cut into smaller pieces, carefully fitting into the pan so that they are well-packed
  4. Mix all other items together and pour evenly over the tofu
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes
These two recipes are changed forms of recipes found on the NutritionMD site, part of the sites operated by PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

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