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For our christmas party, my brother and I made a Pomegranate Panna Cotta. It was perfect for the holidays - a slightly tangy pomegranate syrup contrasted by an ultra creamy vanilla custard. YUM. My brother and I got the heavy cream from the Redding Terminal Market. When we opened it up the color was completely different than the heavy cream my mom had bought from Shop Rite, which made me think: Just how important is organic dairy?

Normally, I am of the opinion that buying organic is generally better because 1) you can be sure that what you are buying is free from chemicals, additives, hormones, antibiotics, etc, 2) you are reducing your environmental footprint, and 3) you vote with your dollar and increase the demand for better quality food.  However, the cost of organic milk has been rising over the past few years and is at least double (sometimes triple) the cost of non-organic milk.  So it begs the question of if it is worth the extra price?

Should you buy organic dairy?

Before I delve into the topic further, I will say that the key principle of buying organic is it is more beneficial to buy organic with the items that make up the majority of your diet. For example, I eat tons of kale and berries, but I rarely consume dairy. So for me buying organic kale and berries would make more sense than buying organic dairy. 

There are really two ways to look at this topic.

1) Organic milk from industrial-scale producers (i.e Horizon) vs. conventional milk

From an animal treatment perspective, industrial scale producers of organic milk still keep their cows in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), very rarely let them feed on a pasture, and subject them to the same stressful conditions as factory farms. In essence, these dairy cows are diseased and depressed just like their conventionally farmed counter parts, but are just not loaded up with antibiotics. Environmentally, industrial scale producers of organic milk are still creating the same amount of waste and pollution, even if they are marginally better by eliminating antibiotic/hormone use. 

From a health perspective, all milk, conventional or organic, is tested for antibiotics before being sold to the consumer. Many people are concerned about traces of the growth hormone (rbST) in conventionally farmed milk, but there are conventional producers of milk that do not administer the growth hormone to their cows. Of course, the cost of non-rBST treated dairy is typically higher, but the premium is not as high as organic dairy. Also, organic milk is ultrapasturized to increase shelf life. There has been some evidence to suggest that the high heating temperatures of ultrapasturization actually reduces the quality of the milk and removes some of the nutrients. 

If given the choice between organic milk from industrial scale producers and conventionally farmed milk, I would say that the premium of organic milk is not worth the benefits.

2) Organic milk from small-scale family farms or co-ops of family farms vs. conventional milk

Small-scale family farms generally have better practices, as a result of having the means to allow the cows space and land for pasture. Small-scale farmers tend to the land better, produce less waste, and have a human connection to the farm. However, being certified organic is a huge expense and takes time. 

If you find a small scale farm that is producing quality milk, but isn't certified organic don't rule it out. The cows on that farm might have even more grazing time than those on the farms that are certified, but the farmer might not have been able to chalk up the expense to get certified. This is why I think buying dairy from farms where the cows are grass fed is the best option. Although it may or may not be organic, you can ensure the cow was at least a happier cow than the cows that were unable to graze. In addition, grass-fed has it's own health benefits (higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and CLAs). 

If given the choice between organic milk from small scale farms and conventionally farmed milk, I would purchase the milk from the small scale farm.

In my opinion, the order basically goes like this:
Buy grass fed over organic and conventional.
If you can't buy that or it's too expensive, buy organic from a family farm over conventional.
If you can't find that or it's too expensive, buy conventional non-rBST treated milk.

If you want a quick resource to see if the organic milk you are buying is worth it, The Cornucopia Institute has a great scorecard of organic dairy producers which you can find here. If you are interested in more information, they also have a great paper on Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk.

 
 
I decided I should probably get into sports to get ready for my move to Boston, so I am supposed to be watching the Eagles v Giants game right now. But it seems like I picked the worst game to start, since neither of the teams have gotten past the 50 yard line for most of the first half. Whatever, I'm just going to write this blog post instead.

Before I moved out, Rachel and I got a chance to make these awesome baked plums. They are SO easy and heavenly. I think that if you bake any fruit with honey, it will turn into dessert gold. We ended up topping it with a little bit of yogurt and cinnamon, and it was perfection.

Finally, touchdown Eagles! Maybe they sensed that people (namely me) were getting bored, and decided to finally make some good moves on the field.

 
 
This weekend Rachel and I made a feast to honor our last weekend together in the apartment. We made two of our favorite go-to sides: Curried Cauliflower and Japanese-style Cabbage Salad. We also made a main dish with fish since Rachel is Kosher and I like to know the source of my meat. It usually takes a situation like that for me to cook fish. When I first started the paleo diet, I tried really hard to get into fish, but I just can't. Fish is just overwhelmingly fishy sometimes.

The Japanese-style Cabbage Salad is super easy to make. It doesn't even require any cooking. You just mix some ingredients together and throw in some pre-cut cabbage, and you are good to go! The Curried Cauliflower is delicious and super easy to make, but you have to give the cauliflower sometime to cook down. The Israeli BBQ fish had a very strong tamarind flavor to me. I've never cooked with tamarind before, and it's a very unique flavor.

 
 
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Today was my last day of work. It was totally bitter sweet. A part of me was excited for the new opportunity and move to Boston, but then a part of me was sad to leave a place where I had gotten so comfortable and made so many friends. It's especially sad because Megha, one of my really close friends from college has been working with me for the past two years. We used to be notorious for taking coffee breaks, roaming the halls, and going on vacations together. But it is time to move on, and keeping with the bitter sweet sentiments of the day, I thought I would make a blackberry cobbler - using the sweetness of the honey to balance out the bitterness of the blackberries.

This cobbler is such a crowd pleaser. I've made this before for a family party, and if I can please 20 Indians with a sugar-free/grain-free dessert, you know it's a winner. I also made one for Rachel (my roommate). She couldn't reheat it because our oven is totally jank, but apparently it still tasted heavenly even when served cold! 

For this cobbler, I got the ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket. The blackberries are from Phillips Farm, the egg was from Central Valley Farm, and the honey was from Andrew's Honey


 
 
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I am totally a summer girl. Even though my birthday is in October, I really should have been born in the summer. I love everything about it: the smell of garbage in the New York summer air, the hot stickiness of the furnace-like subway platform, and the crazy homeless people at Union Square Park. Ok so maybe those things suck, but you know what, I don't care. You know why - because with summer comes a laid back attitude, people watching, summer dresses, Central Park picnics, sunshine, weekend getaways, and best of all, summer fruit. NOTHING is better than summer fruit. Strawberries, watermelon, lychee, peaches, mango...need I go on. 

In honor of the end of summer, I thought I would make Almond Coconut Pancakes with Strawberry Butter. Even though they didn't come out very round because I realized after I made the batter that I didn't have a spatula, they were beyond delicious. Honestly, I wanted to whip up another batch right after I devoured the first. 

Serve this baby up with a side of pastured nitrate-free bacon, and you've got yourself a well rounded meal. Maybe not, but tevs, summer is over. I might as well indulge while I can.


 
 
Rumor has it, I am moving to Boston. Shocking, I know. This weekend my friends decided to take me to the basement of Penny Farthing to show me what my life in Boston is going to be like. They are mean, and I may or may not have had a mild panic attack. So to make it up to me, they took me to do one of the most New York things possible: fancy cocktails and pork buns at Booker and Dax, part of Momofuku Ssam. I  am a huge Momofuku/David Chang supporter. Chang is known for supporting small local farmers and using nose-to-tail dining at most of his restaurants.

This weekend has been filled with so much food and fullness, I just wanted something light and vegetarian for dinner. So I decided to make falafel, but instead of the garbanzo beans I used cauliflower (adapted from I Breathe...I'm Hungry).  The original recipe calls for frying, but since I wanted to avoid frying, I cooked them stove top and then finished in the oven.  It tasted surprisingly very similar to real falafel!

 
 
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For me, the hardest part of eating healthy has always been finding healthy ways to snack. At work, we have a snack bin full of Oreos, Dirty Chips, Nutrigrain Bars, 100 Cal Snack Packs, etc. If I don't bring healthy snacks to work, I am at risk of succumbing to that tempting little bastardly bin. 

It's hard to keep it fresh though. I get bored of fruits and nuts all the time; I want something new and exciting. While my brother and I were growing up, we would always say we wanted something "new and exciting" when my mom asked us what we wanted to eat. Now that I have to feed myself, I am just like fuck "new and exciting." Some days I consider myself lucky if I manage to get scrambled eggs on the table.

Kale chips aren't exactly new to the scene, but they are most definitely exciting. The crispiness slash slightly bitter taste to them is what creates the excitement. Don't you think? And another plus is that they are super easy to make.