Our Virtual Picnic: An Ecocentric Labor Day Recipe Roundup and Twitter Chat

I contributed to the most recent group blog post over at Ecocentric Blog (my work blog) – Our Virtual Picnic: An Ecocentric Labor Day Recipe Roundup and Twitter Chat. Check it out – there are great recipe ideas for Labor Day weekend from some great cooks.

Mine are oldies, but goodies from my appearance on Jayni’s Kitchen:

Dawn’s Corn and Pepper Frittata with Salsa Verde

The beauty of this frittata recipe is that it can be made ahead and is as versatile and delicious cold, or still warm from the oven. I actually prefer it at room temperature, placed between two slices of bread with some salsa and summer tomatoes! While this recipe calls for corn and peppers, you could easily replace them with other seasonal vegetables, whatever looks best at the farmers’ market. “Corn milk” makes this frittata recipe special, adding a little extra sweetness to balance out the spice from the peppers. Enjoy!

Corn and Pepper Frittata


6 local, pasture-raised eggs 1 small white onion, chopped 1 medium poblano pepper, chopped ½ jalapeño, or other hot green pepper, chopped 2 ears sweet corn 1 cup sharp white cheddar (local, if possible), grated 3 scallions, sliced 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper, to taste

Salsa verde (see recipe below)


In a medium saucepan, saute the onion and poblano and jalapeño peppers in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with a pinch of salt over low heat for about 7 minutes, or until onions and peppers have softened. Meanwhile, cut the kernels from 1 ear of corn and reserve. Grate the other ear on a cheese grater over a medium bowl to create corn “milk.” Crack all the eggs directly into the bowl with the “milk” and vigorously whisk them together — this will help make the eggs fluffy. Add some salt and pepper to the eggs to taste and set aside the egg mixture. Add the corn kernels to the onion and pepper mixture and saute for about 1 minute.

If necessary, add the last tablespoon of oil to the pan (if the pan looks dry) and swirl the oil around the pan. Increase the heat to medium and add the egg mixture to the pan. Add the cheddar and stir all of the ingredients around – spreading them evenly throughout the egg mixture. Place the scallions on top and gently pat down into the egg. Cover and let cook for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Transfer the pan (uncovered) to the broiler and let it cook until the top gets a little brown and the eggs are cooked through. If you feel the eggs might need to cook a little longer, but the top is already browned, put the cover back on the pan and let it sit on the stove top (with no burners on); the heat will continue to cook the eggs. For the rest of the directions, click through:

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12 Reasons to Avoid Conventional Flowers This Mother’s Day and 5 Alternative Gift Options

In a little-known Hallmark holiday back-story, the disturbing nature of which rivals even Valentine’s Day, the woman who founded Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, actually spent the last years of her life fighting against its commercialization. In the short nine years that it had existed, for Anna, the day lost its meaning. Obviously, she lost her fight against the day’s commercialization; today Mother’s Day has become one of the most financially successful U.S. holidays. The 500 carnations (her mother’s favorite flower) that Anna delivered to that original service started a tradition that saw Americans spend close to 2 billion dollars on flowers for Mother’s Day last year alone. Two billion dollars on flowers! In an extremely ironic end to her life, it is said that Anna died penniless in a nursing home, her final bills paid for by the Florist’s Exchange.

Adding insult to injury, that two billion dollars on flowers is not only an ostentatious show of commercialism, but the cut flower industry, with approximately 80 percent of cut flowers being imported into the US, contributes to a serious overuse of pesticides. Because flowers are considered a “non-edible,” the restrictions for pesticide use are not as stringent as they are for food items. This amounts to significant problems for human and animal health and as well as water, soil and air. They are especially harmful to the workers who have to apply them; there are even signs of secondary pesticide exposure for the family members who live with these farm workers (think second hand smoke).

The same interest in transitioning industrial acreage to sustainable food farming, we should also think about transitioning the floriculture industries in the U.S. and abroad. Many companies and third party certifiers are working to improve worker protection and reduce dependence on pesticides. There are other things you could buy to celebrate your mom, but if you’re buying her flowers this weekend (yes, Johnny-come-latelies, Mother’s Day is this Sunday!) it is important to seek out these more sustainable options. The major labels to look for are – USDA Organic, Veriflora, TransFair USA and Sierra Eco.

Local, sustainable and/or organic flowers are possible to find, so start looking! And remember the more locally you can purchase them, the better.

Where to get local, sustainable and/or organic flowers?

  • Farmers’ Markets (Find one near you at EatWellGuide.org)
  • Farms/Farm Stands
  • Your yard, a neighborhood lot, a friend’s or family member’s garden

Online options for flower delivery?

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Toxic Strawberry Pesticide Pulled From Sale The US

In a proactive business move, Arysta LifeScience Corporation, the manufacturer of methyl iodide also known as Midas, pulled the controversial pesticide from the shelves on March 20, 2012 due to “economic viability in the U.S. marketplace.” With the majority of the Midas market being in California (88 percent of the domestic strawberry market), the continued attack on the toxic product, and limited use due to strict regulations against application near homes, businesses and schools, the market for Midas was not looking good. The discontinuation of the product went into immediate effect and they were asking farmers to return unused portions.

The suspension of sale was applauded by environmental groups, farmers and individuals who have been actively working for years to ban the product. Originally approved by the EPA in 2007, and  believed to be a good replacement for methyl bromide which was banned in 2005, Midas had never been used heavily due to many concerns from the scientific community from the beginning. And due to California’s own Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) approval process, methyl iodide hadn’t been approved for use in that state until 2010. The pressure to find a replacement for methyl iodide grew as California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a former organic farmer and assistant director for the California Department of Conservation, Brian Leahy, as the new director of the California DPR. And a new research partnership between the DPR and the California Strawberry Commission was created to look for alternatives to using fumigants – even before methyl iodide was officially pulled from the market. The partnership will dedicate $500,000 over the next three years.

It is interesting that while so many people worked to ban the toxic fumigant – called one of the most toxic chemicals on earth, others worked hard to make it available for sale. From the Arysta’s press release, “Arysta LifeScience Suspends MIDAS in the United States” –

The company would like to express its gratitude to growers, researchers, business partners and supporters who helped MIDAS® achieve U.S. EPA registration and registration in 48 states. LifeScience will continue to support the use of iodomethane outside of the U.S. where it remains economically viable.

With no access to methyl iodide, and methyl bromide being phased out (but accessible under a critical use exemption (CUE) possibly through 2014), farmer’s are looking for a less toxic but effective alternative. From the VCReporter: “Existing alternatives, such as chloropicrin and metam-sodium, have not been as effective as methyl bromide, said Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission. In Ventura County, she said, many growers transitioning away from methyl bromide have found plant diseases they haven’t seen before, which is an obvious threat to the county’s No. 1 agricultural export.”

Transitioning to organic crops are an option, but obviously not a quick fix or something that many farmers feel is viable. Addressed in this article in NewsObserver.com, Dwindling choice of fumigants imperils strawberry profits, “Conventional growers say organic farmers can’t match their volume. Carolyn O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, questioned whether there was enough farmland to make strawberry production viable using only organic methods. For one thing, she said, rotation requirements would put land off-limits in some years. Strawberries would no longer be the plentiful and affordable product consumers know now, AmRhein said.”

What’s in Season? Sweet Potatoes

Unless you’re in southern California, the farmers’ market is certainly sparse these days. Pea shoots and some other early spring favorites are surely right around the corner but for now, at least here in NYC,the pickin’s are slim: we’ve got meat, dairy, apples (lots of apples!), root vegetables and some good looking sweet potatoes.

What’s a Sweet Potato? It’s a perennial tuber root with leaves and flowers too! You can eat the leaves, but by the time we get them in the winter, the roots have been stored for months and the leaves are long gone. And just to clarify, a sweet potato is not related to a potato or a yam, but is its very own thing  – strangely enough, it is in the Morning Glory family!

Where do they come from? Domesticated  an estimated 5000+ years ago in Central or South America, sweet potatoes are now grow in the US mainly in warmer states like North Carolina, Mississippi, California and Tennessee. They are often grown in other countries too (China is one of the biggest exporters), so look for locally grown sweet potatoes at your farmers’ market, or regionally grown at your grocery store.

Varieties? Hundreds! The long and tapered root is sometimes small, fingerling potato size, but they can grow quite large. The skin is smooth and comes in many different colors – yellow, orange, red, brown, purple and beige. The most common flesh color is orange, but can also range from shades of white to a brilliant purple.

Season? Sweet potatoes don’t like frost. They are harvested from August to October and then stored for us to enjoy through the winter.

Dirty Dozen or Clean 15? Sweet potatoes rank #13 on the Clean 15 list from the Environmental Working Group’s shoppers guide to pesticides in produce.

Nutritional info? Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, they can also improve blood sugar regulation.

From the World’s Healthiest Foods website:
1 cup of baked Sweet Potato has 102.60 calories and many vitamins and minerals: vitamin A438.1%, vitamin C 37.2%, manganese 28.4%, vitamin B6 16.5%, tryptophan15.6%, potassium15.4%, fiber 15%, vitamin B5 10.1%, copper 9%, vitamin B 38.5%

How to cook them? Grilled, baked, mashed, roasted, steamed, boiled – they are extremely versatile. Soup, au gratin, chips, veggie burgers and more recipes than you will ever have time to try show up when you Google “Sweet Potato Recipes.”

Recipes: I tried out this sweet potato recipe from the wildly popular Healthy. Happy. Life. blog – this recipe alone was shared on Facebook 472 times! I just made the burgers (see the slideshow above), but check out her post to see how beautiful they look with the Cilantro Jicama Fiesta Slaw! The burgers were very easy to make and tasted delicious. They were a little bit denser the next day, and even more “patty” like. The jalapeno added a nice kick!

Black Bean Fiesta Burgers
vegan, makes 5 burgers

1 1/2 cups black beans, drained/canned (unsalted)
3 Tbsp fine bread crumbs
3/4 cup baked/mashed sweet potato
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro – including stems
1/3 cup diced white onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chopped garlic
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 jalapeno, diced/de-seeded
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast – or use more bread crumbs
a few dashes of chipotle powder or cayenne for extra heat


1. First off prepare the Fiesta Slaw according to the directions. Chill in fridge until ready to add to burgers.

2. Whip up your “special spicy sauce” – set aside in fridge as well.

3. Next up, prepare the burgers. Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor. You can also mash well by hand – but a fp is a tad faster. Next, hand-form burger patties with the mixture and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. I like to roll my burgers in a touch of bread crumbs so that they have nice crisp edges.

4. Bake your burgers at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before assembling burgers. The last 5 minutes of cooking – add your burger buns to the oven to warm/toast them.

5. Assemble those burgers! Warm bun, spread of special sauce, tomato, onion, optional avocado, burger, fiesta slaw and finally another slather of the special spicy sauce on the top bun.

Serve! Enjoy the fiesta in your mouth!

Want more sweet potato? The Kitchn recently sent out this tasty round-up of sweet potato recipes.

Where’s the Love Hershey? On Chocolate and Labor (Part II)

Maybe February should be “Child Labor Month.” If you read Chris Hunt’s blog post “Where’s the Love, Hershey? On Chocolate and Labor” last year, or if you’re familiar with the atrocities that take place in cocoa fields in the Global South, then you will know that child labor is a reality in the chocolate industry today. And with Valentine’s Day just past, and close to 60 million pounds of chocolate sold for that one day, child labor issues are an urgent topic now and until they are reversed.

Last year, Chris “I don’t really care much about chocolate [gasp!], and I think Valentine’s Day is mostly a lamentable shakedown perpetuated to promote superfluous consumption” Hunt’s post stated that even if you don’t care for chocolate and/or Valentine’s Day, you probably DO care about child labor. And it turns out that while big chocolate companies (including Hershey’s) have acknowledged for years that child labor exists, and many even signed the “Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products,” also known as the Cocoa Protocol which addresses child labor practices, there are still major labor abuses occurring.

A couple of weeks ago we watched Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano’s “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” a scary and eye opening documentary about child labor in Africa, focusing on the Ivory Coast, which is responsible for more than 40% of cocoa production globally.  The filmmakers went in with hidden cameras and exposed the denial of government officials in the Ivory Coast. They showed us how the families were tricked into thinking that their children might have a better life (many living in terrible poverty in Mali). They filmed frightened children being smuggled across the border and they found many children working in the cocoa fields. Often these children are abused and never paid or educated. My heart ached – even though I know that child labor exists, the reality was hard for me to witness. This direct film brought clarity to the problem for me and I imagine for many others too. For a more detailed review of the film, please read Tom Philpott’s Bloody Valentine: Child Slavery in Ivory Coast’s Cocoa Fields in Mother Jones, February 14th.

After viewing the film, I was lucky to get the passionate filmmaker U. Roberto Romano on the phone. He helped me start to understand the Cocoa Protocol. In 2001, it was signed by Hershey’s, Nestle, Kraft, Cargill and many, many others as a voluntary commitment to become child labor-free by 2005. In reality it was a way to avoid government regulation and also to avoid media scrutiny. But that 2005 date came and went and a new deadline date was set for 2008 (then to only decrease child labor by 50%). In 2008 the International Labor Rights Forum published a report called “The Cocoa Protocol: Success or Failure” showing that there had been no notable change.

“The original intent of the ‘protocol’ has not been achieved, and consumers today have no more assurance than they did eight years ago that trafficked or exploited child labor was not used in the production of their chocolate.”

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I love Pinterest!

I have been pinning away, pinterest.com/dbrighid/ (a place where you can virtually pin your favorite things on a bulletin board), and realized how cool it would be to share all of our favorite sustainable things at work. So, I started a Pinterest page for Sustainable Table, pinterest.com/eatsustainable/. It’s been really fun – books, movies, other orgs, recipes and more. I was quoted in this article on FoodAndTechConnect.com about our new Pinterest page:

Eating Your Way Through Pinterest

Dawn Brighid, Project Manager for Sustainable Table, explains, “As we are just getting started with Pinterest, it’s an exciting new space for us to share ideas. It allows us to highlight/pin things that are of interest – and make them easily accessible to everyone on the site (I heard 10 million users?). While we have favorite books, movies, organizations – we have never had an easy way to let others know. Pinterest allows us a place to keep track for ourselves and others. We can also highlight pages/blogs from our sites that feature information that is of interest to others learning about sustainable food – and hope that they pin them to share with others.”

It was reposted on Forbes.com too! Read the whole article here: Pinterest for Food Brands, Startups and Organizations.

Announcing our e-cards… Show some love!

Valentine’s Day is all about love – for our partners, lovers, teachers, families, friends – you might even show some love for your co-workers (note to my fellow Ecocentric bloggers: I’ll take some cookies!) on February 14th. But you know who doesn’t get much love on Valentine’s Day? Mother Earth.

Most Valentine’s Day gifts aren’t created with sustainability in mind. Valentine’s Day is second behind Christmas in card sending, close to a billion globally. Those heart shaped cardboard boxes filled with chocolates number in the tens of millions. The chocolate, flowers, jewelry and even fancy dinners contribute to more waste, toxins and bad labor practices – more in the spirit of the martyrdom that sparked the holiday than the modern love-in we associate with it these days.

It doesn’t have to be this way! With a little sustainable forethought, some DIY spirit and a bit of extra time (did you know that almost all Valentine’s gifts and cards are bought just hours before the 14th?), we can turn this day into the true love fest that it should be.

Gifts like organic flowers, farmers’ market cookies, recycled cards, responsible jewelry and farm-to-table dinners  will bring love not only to your special someone, but also to the people who helped make your gift possible.

OK, OK – let’s be realistic. Of those who participate in Valentine’s Day, it is said that 70% give cards. We don’t all have the time to turn that old magazine, some yarn and dry pasta into a card capable of winning over our Valentine’s heart. But there are options and we have some good choices for you right here. Send an environmentally friendly Valentine’s Day e-card to your sweetheart – professing your love for them AND Mother Earth.

Send an e-card to your Valentine now!