Sunday, April 27, 2008

End of my organic road

All good things must come to an end. After tonight, I will no longer be posting about organic foods in this Field of Greens blog.

I started posting as an on going project for my online journalism class, The Cat Scan, at the University of Arizona. In a little over two weeks, after four years of assignments and exams, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and political science.

I have learned a lot by becoming a blogger. Before my post, I really had no idea that organic foods actually have to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture. Or that all-natural is actually different from organic.

All I knew then was that I liked eating salad. Tonight, I know that green eating goes beyond things that are the color green — there is fair-trade coffee, organic ranch dressing and more.

And there is a number of places to find it. From the isles of your local grocery store, to Aqua Vita Natural Foods, Sunflower Market, Trader Joe's and Wild Oats. Even Target sells a number of organic products.

I even learned last week that Jamba Juice is now using organic granola in some of its smoothies.

As I've learned, I hope you have learned along with me. And continue to learn after me.

Here are some of my green living related articles not in this blog:
I also compiled a list of food resources that you might find helpful.

My final post does not mark the end of my journalism career. Although I am sure about my future plans, I invite you all to continue reading my work — which is bound to include some green living issues after my enlightening experiences in The Cat Scan.

Visit my personal Web site

Until next time, happy eating.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Raw greens sometimes a waste of green

Almost everything that I eat is cooked in some form.

My steaks need to be practically burnt with absolutely no pink. For my side of vegetables, I like them steamed. And sometimes I even order fried ice cream to top off a meal.

So on Friday, when I set out to incorporate raw foodism — which is a lifestyle that promotes the consumption of mostly uncooked and unprocessed foods — into my diet, my body was surely in for a shock. Raw greens not in salad form can be interesting.

My first venture into unfamiliar territory was a green smoothie from the Shot in the Dark Café, 121 E. Broadway Blvd. I thought about turning back on my adventure of eating raw greens by getting the always delicious orange juice with bananas and strawberries. But I went with cucumbers and sprouts instead.

Let’s say that there was plenty of green left over but it wasn't in my pocket. So after that interesting encounter, I changed my mind. Eating anything raw, not just the greens, would be the new challenge for the day.

When I got home, I decided someone on YouTube had to make something exciting that I could eat on this raw food diet of mine. I thankfully found Raw Allison's recipe for pizza, which is basically all the fixings without crust. Brilliant.

Wild Oats had all the ingredients for the pizza including the unprocessed cheese. But I already had guacamole from Trader Joe's.

I cheated myself for dinner. Instead of trying something new, I decided to simply stick with the challenge at hand by making the most out of the leftover raw pizza. I threw it over some organic baby lettuce from Trader Joe's. And it was delicious.

Throughout the day, I snacked on raw peaches and raw snap peas. And when I was ready to congratulate myself for a job well done, I realized I was also drinking Dr. Pepper so I ended up failing my own assignment.

I'll get 'em next time.

Here's more about going from a standard diet to a raw food diet:

If you're interesting in going raw in Tucson, check out the Tucson Raw Food Meet Up Group for raw food information as well as contacts in the raw food community. And don't miss the Raw Spirit Festival that's happening Sept. 12-14 in Sedona.

Until next time, happy eating.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Green options for your cup

On Sundays, one of my favorite ways to pass the time before the newest Rock of Love episode is to stroll the isles of the nearby Target for things I don't really need. Today the adventure was for a case of Dr. Pepper.

I know — there is nothing organic about high fructose corn syrup. So I also decided to consider healthy beverage to maybe, at least, make me break even in eco karma points.

On the coffee isle, the budget brand Archer Farms offers organic options including a fair trade harvest blend that sits along side a traditional non-organic breakfast blend. Just add a spoonful of organic cane sugar and some organic milk from Wild Oats Market.

Then I moved on to browse the juice isle, where everything any juice conusor could want was within a arms reach. Market Pantry cranberry. Ocean Spray ruby red grapefruit. Welch's grape. Yet nothing organic, nothing all-natural.

Next I moved onto Archer Farms' selections of organic tea. Blueberry, green jasmine and sangria selections on sale for $5.94 (retails regularly for $6.99).

That's about all Target had to offer.

But alas, I decided to buy that case of Dr. Pepper because sometimes you just need an unhealthy dose of high fructose corn syrup. It went well with my fattening potato chips.

And I felt bad about it an hour later. So I decided to Google some organic drink options that I can explore next time I get the urge for anything other than refreshingly bad-for-you Dr. Pepper.

Here are three things I'd be willing to buy:
  • Blue Sky Organic Soda: In appealing flavors like lemon lime and root beer, Blue Sky says its sodas have "no artificial color or flavors, no preservatives and, of course, no caffeine."
  • Shift Organic Energy Drink: It's marketed as a drink that "provides real nutrition and sustainable energy, to help keep you going all day long." Shift is 99% fat-free, with 200 calories per 10-ounce serving, and comes in berry boost, power punch and strawberry banana, so that sounds better than a Slim Fast for sure.
  • Square One Vodka: Square One Vodka is an eco-chic beverage from 100% American rye. It boosts itself as one of the first alcohols certified by the United States Department of Agriculture. At least you can feel good about your eco contributions while you're getting trashed.
But none have the Vegan Vixens like Steaz Organic Energy.

Unfortunately, they don't make me want to try that one.

Until next time, happy eating.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I should have skipped the Bell to skip the uhh

After spending two days on the couch after an encounter with a Taco Bell cheesy beefy melt that went astray, I decided to take a look at the leading causes of food poisoning.

Right there at the top of the list was everything that organic food supporters have been telling me all semester. Regular grains and vegetables, like the ones in Taco Bell kitchens across the country, come with a ton of hazards from the moment they are farmed with pesticides.

But it could have been the ground beef.

Maybe it was even the cheese.

Or there was something about that rice.

Whatever it was, it knocked me down long enough that I did some serious thinking about what I put in my mouth. Could I have gone organic with that burrito instead of opting for the cheap convenience of fast food? The answer is of course, yes.

For about $1.99, I received attitude from a teenager along with a 570 calorie (I know!) tortilla stuffed with cheese, ground beef, seasoned rice and sour cream with lots of hot sauce. All are ingredients I could find in all-natural or organic packaging from local grocery stores.

Trader Joe's sells reduced fat organic cheese in the block, shredded and string format with about 100 calories per-serving.

Wild Oats sells organic whole wheat tortillas with 130 calories per-serving.

Trader Joe's sells ground beef from grass fed cows with 270 calories per-serving.

Whole Foods sells organic rice with 178 per-serving.

Safeway sells Horizon Organics sour cream with 60 calories per-serving.

And organic salsa is everywhere including Target.

Organic foods are "without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives," according to Wikipedia. That means less is left to chance.

And organic beef comes without antibiotics and growth hormones.

It may have cost a little bit more but having back the weekend that my nephew, Callahan James, was born would be priceless. So the next time I stop for fast food, I'll be thinking about what healthy choices I could be making for myself on both the short and long-term.

And maybe, like the following YouTube poster, I could just grow it on my own once I'm through with the college lifestyle.

Fast food is no stranger to food poisoning by the way. And unfortunately, it's a much more serious kind than what I experienced on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.

Until next time, happy eating.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Target's Archer Farms offers organic overload

One of the hardest parts about switching to an organic diet is finding affordable options in a convenient place. But with a couple minutes to browse the isles at a local Target, it becomes a little easier.

The in house Archer Farms brand offers enough reasonably priced options to have a four-course organic (or mostly organic) meal at your kitchen table. Even on a Target shopper's budget.

Here is how to make that a reality:

For an appetizer, there are several options with the first being blue corn tortilla strips with either hummus or salsa. Or try a variety of crackers (everything from Italian herb flat bread crackers to multigrain crackers are offered) with cheese. A healthy but not organic option is fresh baked baguette with sun-dried tomato garlic and balsamic dipping sauce. Each option will run about $5-7 with all the fixings.

Organic farms does not offer salad for the second course. Instead, try a bowl of organic tomato soup. Make it a little fancier without breaking the bank by using some of the appetizer options -- sprinkle either some crumbled chips, crackers or cheese on top. Or accompany it with a piece of bread. The second course will cost about $5.

For the main course, Italian food is the way to go. Archer Farms makes a delicious 100-percent organic spinach and feta cheese pizza on a whole wheat crust. Or try the burgundy marinara sauce with pasta. If you must have meat, cut up some turkey to add to the top. The second course should run about $7-12.

The dessert options are a little more limited. The triple berry pie is delicious but it's not certified organic despite a number of organic ingredients (including frozen blueberries that are also sold on their own). But to top off the meal in an organic way, try a chocolate chip peanut trail mix or mixed fruit trail mix bar. Or maybe an apricot, pomegranate, strawberry, raspberry or tropical real fruit strip. Dessert costs about $3-5.

Wondering what to drink? A $3-4 box of organic fruit sangria tea of course. Archer Farms also offers bottled spring water and bottled sparkling water in a number of flavors.

And even if you don't want a whole meal, Archer Farms makes an abundance of delicious food and drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just browse the food isles of Target (it doesn't even have to be Super Target) the next time you need highlighters, makeup or toilet paper.

Until next time, happy eating.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No shortage of good salad options around town

Salads are an important ingredient in a healthy eating lifestyle. And with Tucson based Chopped and Core, there is no shortage on tasty greens.

Chopped has one location at 4205 N. Campbell Ave and another at 2829 E. Speedway Blvd. At the restaurant, you can choose for preselected salads like my personal favorites the mediterranean (romaine lettuce, feta cheese, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumber, roasted red peppers, with feta cheese vinaigrette dressing for $7.25) and the southwest chicken (romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, avocado, black olives, tortilla strips, tomatoes, black beans, with salsa ranch dressing for $8.95)

Or you can create your own delicious dish starting at $6.75 for your choice of lettuce (iceberg, romaine, spinach or spring mix), five toppings (with more than 40 possibilities ranging from anchovies to jicama to snowpeas), dressing (with over 20 choices ranging from classic chunky bleu cheese to ranch to reduced calorie roasted garlic vinaigrette) and a ciabatta roll.

For another two bucks, you can also choose a protein (with nine choices ranging from grilled chicken to shrimp to baked tofu ) to add another dimension to your greens.

At the Core cafe located in the University of Arizona student union, the process is similar but for $5.49, you can fill a bowl up to the brim with everything from alfalfa sprouts to red cabbage to wasabi peas. And for an additional $1.25-$2, you can add one of eight proteins. Then you select one type of greens (baby spinach, iceberg, mescalun greens or romaine) and finish it off with a dressing (with 24 choices ranging from creamy pepper and parmesan to poppy seed to serrano grape).

Sounds like good eating to me.

Be cautioned that these green staples are night for night owls. Chopped closes at 8 p.m. while Core closes Monday-Thursday at 8:30 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m. and weekends at 6 p.m.

If you’re not into all the options, some of the best salads with pre-determined ingredients can be found at the Paradise Bakery and Cafe, 7109 N. Oracle Road and 845 N. Park Ave. Try the chopped BBQ chicken with romaine lettuce tossed with ranch dressing, corn, jicama and black beans topped with diced BBQ chicken, diced tomatoes and pepper Jack cheese.

Both the traditional Caesar and Greek hit the spot too.

But in a hurry? Most fast food places serve salads but the awards for the best tasting go to McDonald’s premium southwest salad with grilled chicken and Wendy’s garden sensations chicken BLT salad. Both run about $5 and some change.

Remember a key thing about salads is that just because you’re eating one, doesn’t mean that you are eating healthy. Dressings and proteins can add enough calories and fat to make a salad almost equal to a hamburger or fries so choose toppings wisely.

Until next time, happy eating.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Las Vegas strip offers healthy options

LAS VEGAS — The Venetian is known on the Las Vegas strip for breathtaking architecture and of course, the ultra trendy night club Tao. But did you know it also has healthy gourmet cuisine?

The Venetian is home to the Canyon Ranch Cafe, which is a take off of the Tucson-based health spa. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, the cafe serves healthy foods like fresh produce and even turkey meatloaf, all for a moderate price by strip standards.

At the Canyon Ranch Cafe, you can sip on some Tazo tea for $2 or on a strawberry-banana-apple smoothie for $5. For an entree, try buttermilk battered chicken with sweet corn sauce, which gives you 385 calories for $16. Top it off with homemade ice cream for $3.

B&B Ristorante, which is owned by Food Network celebrity chef Mario Batali, also offers healthier dining inside of the Venetian. The restaurants claims to use mostly organic items that are imported from Italy for its dishes, which includes goat cheese tortellon with with dried orange and wild fennel pollen for $24.

Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant offers a California-cuisine menu that "changes daily based on the freshest organic produce," according to It offers a vegetarian tasting with artichoke cannelloni, basil cous cous, squash timbale and portabella carpaccio for $29 or surf and turf filet thermidor with crisp potato cakes, sauteed spinach, scampi shrimp and lobster sauce for $49.

Spago is located inside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

At the Wynn, a swanky hotel that boosts a lot higher limit tables, there are also organic options often available at its nine up-scale restaurants.

Also on the strip near the Wynn, tryout the Captial Grille located inside the Fashion Show Mall. Or for organic sushi Hamada of Japan is open from 5-10 p.m. at the Flamingo.

Looking for something a little less sophisticated? If you can't make it to a local health food store like Rainbow's End, which is a half-mile from Las Vegas Boulevard, you can find some casual but organic dining off the strip like the Go Raw Cafe.

With two locations in Las Vegas, there are a number of interesting options like the gimmie the beet cheese burger with fries for $10.88. The menu says its a "veggie burger made with beets, carrots, sunflower seeds, and parsley, served on living bread with hand prepared catsup, mustard, mayo, onion, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, avocado and almond cheese."

Evos, a "feel good fast food option," is also open in Henderson, Nev., with two other locations coming soon. Also coming soon to Vegas is Pizza Fusion, which offers organic pizza as well as
"gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and lactose-free items" including sandwiches and wraps.

Or if you're looking for something a little less healthy, try the numerous buffets across the city like millions of tourists do daily. Here's a historic look at the Vegas buffets:

Until next time, happy eating.