Tag Archives: local

My Grandmothers for Dia de los Muertos

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My Oma wearing a mustache so that I would let her hold me.

It wasn’t until we participated in the Dia de los Muertos city-wide parade with thousands of us dressed as cavaleros that I fully began to realize the importance of bringing the dead into the light for a party and to honor them. Prior to this, it all seemed a bit too spooky, scary.

Lately, the spirit world has felt more important than my rather logical mind has historically allowed. Certainly there are the ghost hunters, and those who do witch-like magic and bring all sorts of woo-woo into the world, but, I believe the spirit world wants us to listen. While I imagine there are all sorts of ways to do this, for me it is allowing space for my heart to swell, open and remember.

Cooking and gardening are incredibly meditative, and with our local food year I have been doing quite a bit more of both. In addition, I have focused on healing my heart after a rather difficult and emotional year. Throughout my daily meditations required by our local food year, I find myself often thinking of my grandmothers through whispers from my heart.

Plant a circle of six zucchini seeds around that hole of compost.

Add a splash of water to those veggies to soften them slightly.

That volunteer plant coming up could end up being delicious!

Caramel? Yes, make caramel from that local honey and dip apples in it. Beautiful.

Try this gorgeous wine! You only live once ūüėČ

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Build a hoop house, it will bring you goodness for months to come.

My paternal grandmother, my Oma, left this world when I was only 6 years old. I do remember her despite being rather young and living 1,000 miles away. I remember the big patio the entire house surrounded, the high ceiling living room with the grand piano, the trampoline and I swear I remember her voice. I have seen plenty of pictures of her including when I was a baby and refused to let her hold me until she decorated her mouth with a mustache to match my Fathers.

In theory, our limited time on this earth together would logically mean she could have little influence, but I feel her a part of me. I often think she would be most delighted by my family’s efforts to do this Local Food Year and she would adore my husband. I imagine her thinking he is awfully smart, although, he could be a tad taller.

My Oma and Opa had an incredible garden, including bananas, figs,¬† apricots, walnuts, persimmons, zucchinis, berries, tomatoes, pomegranates and plenty of citrus. The lemon tree I remember was the first thing you would experience upon pulling through the gates to their Thousand Oaks home. Our big red suburban would park alongside the lemon tree, we’d open our doors and after two days of driving that smell was heaven.

My Oma + Opa also took their six kids on treks through the Sierras. She had this natural sense that we are to tread lightly on this planet, partially from a place of frugality and as a child of the Depression, but I also believe she instinctually knew the importance of conservation. In many ways, this local food journey has made me feel I am following in her foot steps as I dig deeper into  gardening, but also another one of her loves: writing.

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My Oma.

She attended Mills College, where she¬†majored in English with a Philosophy minor and she wrote beautiful poetry. When I was in grade school there was a writing project to create your own book of poetry along with another poet of your choosing. I choose Lucille Allison’s works rather than select a more well-known or frequently published author.

On the other side, my Mom’s mother, who I called simply Grandma and in her later years we all gleefully called Miss Mimi, was a gift who I was able to cherish until right before meeting Xerxes. She was always a character in many ways with a goofball personality, often a twinkle in her eye and a laugh that I can hear easily still bubbling up from my own heart. She was a seamstress, artist, doll maker, potter (I still have a few pieces) and being French Canadian she knew her way around a kitchen with ease and grace. Actually, when I became a Personal Chef, my Mother told me how Grandma had done something similar many years ago and how nearly every meal was inspired by Julia Child.

While my Oma has many recipes I cherish, I feel cooking is where I followed my Grandma’s foot steps. She cooked with¬†love and artistry including perfectly cooked vegetables, but also beautiful desserts such as her brownies, pecan pie, caramels and fruitcake. I grew up having no idea that people disliked fruitcake as it was a treasure in our home. So much so that my parent’s Wedding Cake was fruitcake as well. In addition to picking up her cooking passion, if I am so blessed, I would like to think I have a tad of her goofy sense of humor.

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My Miss Mimi hanging with her bestie Billy.

In her final weeks of life, my Mother asked me to fly out to Virginia to help her and her sisters as they went through the painful journey of saying good-bye to their mother who decided to stop dialysis treatment. It was of course a time of many emotions, but I cooked my way through it, keeping my family fed and making some of my Grandmother’s last meals.

Every night we would pour glasses of champagne, including one for Grammie and we would toast her to sleep. The last time she sat up fully, Grandma and I decided to watch a cooking show together. Rachel Ray was leading us through Twice Baked Potatoes. Grandma turned to me and said “Oh, Twice Baked Potatoes are a fabulous idea! I will have to make those when I am done with‚Ķ ” And then she burst out laughing “Oh! I guess I won’t be here!”

A few minutes after¬†that comment she started to feel deeply uncomfortable, and we quickly got her into her bedroom to lie down so she could rest. Once her cries finally calmed and she appeared to be sleeping, my Auntie Amy and I stayed with her to keep vigil. Curled up in her bed peacefully, Grandma peeked one eye open and said to both of us “Did I scare you!?”
For the love of mercy- she was such a hoot!

Even though I have more memories of eating Grandma’s food rather than cooking alongside her as so many chefs I know got there young start, her spirit is often with me as I cook whispering into my soul, try this, listen for that, smell deeply, taste this, fold with care, whisk with abandon, love it all. She is with me.¬†¬†¬†

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My sweet Grandma and Grandpa.

Several years after my Oma passed away, my Opa found a beautiful lady named Patti who he eventually married and she became my stepgrandmother. We called her Patti Grand, and grand she was indeed. Her first life was in Hollywood, as the wife to Howard Wilson who was a Sound Director whose movies include the Quiet Man. Like my Oma, he passed way too young.

Chatting with Patti Grand, all of us grandchildren were gifted many tales of her attending the Academy Awards, meeting¬†celebrities, and the beautiful places she traveled with each of her husbands. She also taught us how to play poker, and gave me my first sip of Glen Livet. Let’s say, compared to my relatively humble family, Patti Grand brought a bit of glamour and pizzaz to our days.

Soon after meeting Xerxes, and not long after my Grandma’s passing, my Opa became sick and went into the hospital for a brief period. Living only a few hours away in San Luis Obispo at the time, I drove down to LA to be with Patti, cook, clean, and navigate the situation with Opa and the hospital. It was an honor to be there for both of them, to cook them meals they celebrated with love and enthusiasm, but it also gave me ample chit-chat time with Patti where I heard all about her adventures with both Opa and Howard. She lived a colorful life and she cherished it. In her love of the fine life, she also had a handful of recipes I remember and really a rather decadent way of dining and enjoying life in general. This Local Food Year has been incredibly humbling in many ways, but Patti Grand’s whispers are to not be intimidated by the finer things. That price point might feel a bit much for the budget, but enjoyed with love and pleasure it is serving beyond its value.

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My Opa + Patti Grand

When they married, Patti Grand had recently been sick and at 80 years old and my Opa merely 75 years, they would talk¬†about how they probably wouldn’t have many years together. In addition, Patti made it clear that she would be dying before Opa. Instead, they were married for 18 years and my Opa sadly died before Patti, just a few days before my own wedding.

When I dig in to the dirt or face an empty page, my Oma’s influence feels ever present. In the kitchen, when I find myself approaching a meal with an eye towards grace, artistry and a wee bit of perfection my Grandma is closely with me. When I find myself enjoying something a bit extravagant Patti Grand reminds me to stay present with it and not over think whether or not I deserve it. The more I do this work, the more I feel a duty to them, who set the stage that women are strong, capable, unique artists with voices that need to share their ultimate truths whether through food, gardening, writing, painting, dancing, hiking or whatever makes their soul sing.

These women came before me and while they may not have sat me down and given me the step-by-step guide for all of what I am to do for this Local Food Year or even my life, I can’t shake the joy I feel from their distant secrets of how to do so many things. They breath life through messages I feel trickling up through spine, into my heart and out from my hands where I can serve them and their lives by living my own from a place of love, light and continuous creation.

When we celebrate Dia de los Muertos, when we look at how the dead have grandly entered and influenced our life, may we each face it not with the ghoulish nature that so often is projected in our society, but rather with profound respect for we are not who we are without these beautiful people who came and placed their marks own our hearts and their lessons within our souls.

I love you Oma, Grandma and Patti Grand!

With humble gratitude,

Lilly

Look Up from Your Latte and See the Change

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My pumpkin buddy is helping me write today!

In the midst of a hail storm a few weeks ago, my husband ran out to cover the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Meanwhile, I grabbed my scissors dashed out into the darkness and found the one bright orange pumpkin that I kept meaning to pick. Out of the twelve nearly ready for Halloween volunteer pumpkins, I could save at least one, right?

I suspect my husbands efforts were more substantial, at least comparatively, but the pumpkin sitting on the table next to me as I write is rather perfect looking, without a hail pock in sight. Not that a hail pocked pumpkin wouldn’t be delightful roasted down into all sorts of treats, but really‚Ķ Hail comes and for some reason my husband and I fling ourselves out into the elements to save whatever we can, whether there is a rational reason or not.

The pumpkins arrived in our garden as volunteers. No, they didn’t help me weed or mulch, rather they made themselves comfortable in our tended soil, then spurted, grew and spun around the garden that I had an actual plan for. It took a while for me to guess what they might be and honestly it wasn’t until they were round, orange and obvious did I finally succumb to‚Ķ yes, that is a pumpkin. The transformation was well over a month ago, but leaving it on the vine the extra¬†week or so¬†just had this irresistible Cinderella effect and with a ton of other stuff to harvest, I felt in no rush to snip it to freedom until the weather threatened to make it unrecognizable.

Around the time my squash went from random-green-gourd thing to pumpkin, there was another change of season: from regular lattes to pumpkin spice lattes.

Gotta be honest‚Ķ I just don’t get it.

It isn’t because I do not care to drink them, or that I even care if you drink them or not. I actually really appreciate a bit of pumpkin-pie-spiced up food on my plate. Rather my ire is with the fact that a commercial change of beverage suddenly has a greater impact on our society than the fact that actual, real life nature is changing. And it is magnificent.

Why don’t we talk about the smell that ever so slightly lets on that autumn has begun. What about the leaves!? What about the wild temperature fluctuations, because seriously what is going on with that, this time of year?

Instead there is an argument about the joys or annoyances of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I realize this post shamelessly is included in the latter, but please get your face out of your sweet coffee preferences and look around at the actual change of season. It is actually changing. Gasp. And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with a corporation’s marketing strategy either.

Okay. I get it: cinnamon + ginger + allspice + nutmeg + cloves = comfort. I also imagine you do feel a temperature change that makes these spices a bit more inviting. Maybe you have also noticed a leaf or two falling, and at the least you can’t deny the sun is going to sleep a bit sooner than usual. Of course, I have lived places (looking at you Central Coast of California) where the change of season is a bit less dramatic, but even in the places that lack a definable four seasons: change is happening. I believe in my heart, that despite flipping a calendar to a month that ends in ‘BER’ and the appearance of fall’s most fashionable beverage, your internal clock craves feeling in sync with nature’s transition.

For the love of pumpkin pie spice, please just look up from your latte, whether it is in style or not, gaze out a window, and ask yourself “what is actually in season‚Ķ from the earth?”

Now that my friends is where the magic can begin. Pumpkins are just the beginning. What about all of the goodness that is coming to an end: tomatoes in deepening shades of red or simply green and ready to fry, eggplant that will soften soon enough, peppers in various stages of heat or sweetness, the end of summer squash, spaghetti squash, delicata, butternut, apples, onions, pears, carrots, beets, roots, and shoots. This is the time to hit the farm stands, while the harvest is heavy and before farmers start to prepare their land for winter. This is the time to squirrel up the goodness into freezers, cans, jars or at the very least fill your belly with the local stuff before your food once again is shipped from who knows where.

I hope I haven’t shamed my Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers, whomever you may be,¬†the truth is I feel sadness¬†for all of our sake that a corporation has yet again a better marketing plan than Mother Nature. There is only one way we can change that. Look up and then seek the goodness that is growing all around you and let that be your guide this crisp, bliss-inducing autumn season.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

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For Father’s Day this year, Xerxes requested the day to begin with coffee cake. When he made this request, the kids started dancing around cracking up.¬†Cake for breakfast Papa!? Followed by…¬†I don’t drink coffee! I don’t want coffee in my cake!!¬†

The explanation of “It is just a breakfast dish that you eat at the same time you drink coffee” did not seem to satisfy their hilarious inquiry, but once the cake was in front of them, they were gleefully satisfied that it did not contain coffee and was just sweet enough to feel a bit like dessert.

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Since fruit is not exactly easy to find at this point in our local food year, I chopped up a good pile of rhubarb from our yard and let it soak in a little honey bath over night. The next goal was to find a recipe that uses honey rather than sugar as the sweetener. A recipe from the Honey Board did the trick. We also wanted a simple ode to the crumble you see on top of NY Crumb Cakes and that seem to be the final flourish.

Quick tip: As we have baked with honey much more in the last few weeks, one thing I keep trying to remember is to have the oven temperature a bit lower as the color can get dark faster. IMG_5810

Honey Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Inspired by the Honey Board’s Blueberry Coffee Cake

3 cups minced rhubarb
1 cup honey, divided
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose gluten-free blend could work, too!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond

For the crumble:
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, very soft
1/4 cup minced almonds
1/4 cup flour
pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

The night before or about an hour prior, toss together the rhubarb and honey. Place in the fridge to soften and sweeten up.

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Turn on the oven to 350.

Melt the butter. Stir in the honey and milk. Making sure this mixture is not too hot, whisk in the eggs, apple cider vinegar and vanilla. If the honey-butter is hot, place in the fridge until it is closer to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the crumbs by mixing together the softened butter, honey, nuts, flour and spices. The goal is to be able to clump it together, if it is too moist, add more flour, if it is too dry and not coming together add a drizzle more melted butter. Set aside.

Butter the dish for the coffee cake up on the sides until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle with flour and shake around until it is thinly distributed and dump the remaining flour.

Fold together the dry flour ingredients with the honey-butter-egg ingredients and the honey soaked rhubarb. Pour into the coffee cake pan. Spread it out with a spatula until it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top in clumps.

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So happy his coffee cake contains no coffee!

Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Eat hot, cool or room temperature. It lasts a few days as well.

Declare Your Food Independence

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Are you a patriot of the food revolution or a
loyalist to the Standard American Diet? 

Food Loyalist [food loiuh-list]
noun
1. a person who is loyal; a supporter of the sovereign or of the existing food system especially during this time of revolt.

Food Patriot [food pey-tree-uh t] 
noun
1.  a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her local food system and its delicious, sustainable interests with devotion.

As a nation, we have passively given our own diet to a very large system that no longer has our land, our families, our ideology, or even our health at heart.

Our craving to eat ‘right’ is often cleverly disguised by marketing that flashes claims of heart-healthy, fat-free, free-range, sugar-free, gluten-free or natural with very little nourishment or sustenance. This Standard American Diet (SAD) has been on the menu for decades and WE the people are the ones suffering with the growing list of diet related diseases, syndromes and deaths.

For years, I have felt the paradox of a holiday that celebrates our collective ability to stand up for what we believe in, meanwhile the¬†‘American’ food that shapes nearly every backyard party is some of the most suppressive, industrially processed food that we could possibly consume.

Hot dogs. Burgers. Buns. Sugar-laden ketchup. Trans-fat mayonnaise. And plastic tasting vegetables dipped in white mystery sauces.

Why do we celebrate our freedom with¬†this type of ‘cuisine’?¬†

We are not to a point where the Standard American Diet is comprised of real food that nourishes us, that offers fair work to those who produce it, and that is grown within our own local economies. The SAD is not a sustainable food system that will protect us and our children into the future.

Passively consuming the SAD lifestyle should no longer feel like an option for you. It is time to rise up and be a Food Patriot, not a Loyalist. Vote with your food dollars. For every quarter you spend on local + real food, instead of corporate food products, you are sending a clear message that you are ready to embrace your own food freedom.

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I invite you to rebel against the S.A.D. I invite you to
celebrate food with truth! 

As we prepare to watch fireworks and celebrate the bravery of the Declaration of Independence, why not take a break from corporate food for one holiday?

Why not take a courageous stance against a food system that could care less if you lived, died or suffered from what you consume?

Take the 4th of July and claim your right to food that is made on our own land, more precisely on the land as close to you as possible.

Here are my four favorite dishes that are a perfect way to revolt against the food status quo: 

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries + Yogurt Ranch Dip
Grilled Potato Salad
Watermelon Salad
Pulled Pork Sliders

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In addition, here are FOUR ways to celebrate the 4th without the S.A.D. weighing you down: 

  • Shop at a Farmers Market this week! Gather whatever veggie goodness is available and toss it into a beautiful salad, skewer it on to kebabs or grill them whole to stack on to buns.
  • Want meat? Find a local butcher or rancher and see if they sell hot dogs, sausages, burgers or even big slabs of pork (perfect for the Pork Sliders mentioned above!)
  • Find a local bakery! Yes, the bill will most likely cost more than the $2 or less bags than the addictive white flour buns, but I have a feeling you will be in for a treat, especially if you find a new bakery to love in the future.
  • Dessert can be as simple as these Red, White + Blue Berry Necklaces (see photo below) or popsicles made from a puree of whatever local fruit you can find and pour it into the molds.
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Needle + thread bring together strawberries, cherries, blueberries + blackberries for a playful 4th of July dessert!

 

Simplify and defy the food of the 4th of July!

What is on your menu that will blow up the typical ‘American’ party food?

And… if you are ready to go beyond the 4th as you declare your food independence, join the Meal Plan Summer Camp where we make real food happen in your own kitchen!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Celebrate food,

Chef Lilly

Poached Pears with Spiced Ricotta

IMG_9515With Autumn’s official arrival, some people are excited about the crispier air & the changing colors, but as always I am excited about the food. Of course, I am eyeing those winter squash and pumpkins, but at the moment I want to talk about the fruits of fall and how a ting of spice can make magic.

Lately, we have been swimming in apples. We find apple tree owners who are overwhelmed by their supply and we arrive with ladders or small children on our shoulders and lend a hand. We are always happily to adopt your fruit, by the way! Certainly, we feel we are the true benefactors as I haven’t spent a dime on apples in months. My children happily pick them up and start munching at nearly any opportunity. My one-year old isn’t even picky as he picks up apples off the floor that have previously been nibbled on, most likely by him. We certainly feel grateful for these apples.¬†However, lately I have been dreaming about a similar fruit, but with a slightly sexier shape: the pear.

I have this vague but happy childhood memory of canned pears that my Mom would dollop with ricotta and call breakfast. I loved it! That was entirely the inspiration for this simple, yet elegant breakfast.

Poaching in juice is certainly the appropriate way to go if you will be starting your day with this dish, but if you prefer to call this dessert (or a fancy-schmany brunch?) by all means use champagne, riesling, prosecco or any drinkably delicious white wine.

When poaching fruit a low simmer is ideal, but I like to get there quickly by turning the heat high first and I keep a close eye on it. If possible, reduce the hot juice just before you see more than a couple of bubbles burst along the edges of the pan.

After the fruit is removed, blast that heat high and reduce the juice (or vino!) into the most lovely sauce.

There is really only one way to make this dish a more delightful, which is to make a farmers cheese/ricotta from scratch. Stop it. I see that eye roll! What if I told you that making the cheese is probably easier to make than these Poached Pears? Well, you might just have to stay close to this blog, because I will be posting the creamy farmers cheese recipe soon. Although, this one will get you by for a bit, too.

And now… may I introduce:

Poached Pears with Spiced Ricotta
Serves two for breakfast, or four for dessert 

2 pears, cut in half, seeds removed and peeled
2 cups pear nectar or apple juice
1 cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 whole star anise pod, or a 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ideally freshly grated off a whole nutmeg piece
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup ricotta cheese or fresh farmers cheese

Place the peeled and deseeded pears in a saucepan in an even layer. Pour the juice on top and add enough water to just barely cover the pears. Add all of the spices: ground or stick of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Bring up to a simmer over high heat. Reduce immediately to a slight simmer, cover with a lid and cook 5 minutes. Flip over the pears and continue to cook another 5-8 minutes until just barely tender.

Remove the pears, set aside to drain and cool slightly. Raise the temperature on the poaching liquid to high. Reduce for 8-12 minutes until only about 1/2 cup of syrupy liquid is remaining.

Whisk a few tablespoons of the reduced juice into the ricotta or farmers cheese. Serve the pears with the poaching liquid drizzled around and the spiced cheese filling the inside of the pear.

What fruits are you excited about this season?

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly

Trying to decide what produce to eat these days goes beyond choosing a particular type of fruit or vegetable. There seems to be endless controversy about whether you should go local, conventional, organic or what?! In my home, we keep to a basic set of guidelines about what we choose to buy on a regular basis.

1.  Seasonal 

Starting in season means local or organic are actually more affordable and abundant. Organic tomatoes out of season are not going to melt in your mouth the same way they will if sun-ripened on the vine. And it will cost more for that disappointing quality, too. Most groceries meet consumer demand by providing zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and more all year long. Determining what actually is in season can be a challenge. Many groceries have the seasonal items on display in large quantity at a discount, which helps. If you are stumped, Lilly’s Table is designed to keep you cooking and eating seasonal produce through recipes and weekly meal plans.

2. Local

Just as the seasons effect when produce is available, location can open up a new world of possibilities. Support your local economy and get to know your farmer. The easiest way to buy local is through a CSA (community supported agriculture) Farm Box where you buy into a share in exchange for locally produced, beautiful vegetables & more on a weekly basis. Another option is to purchase food from your Farmers Market every week. I do both as the CSA is a magical surprise of goodness every week, while Farmers Markets allows me choice and an opportunity to chat with my farmers.

3. Organic

This is a great next choice when you are not able to get close to your farmer. Keep in mind, organic produce traveling from South America or elsewhere has a huge environmental impact. Also, other countries are not met with the same stringent organic labeling standards as American farmers. Getting produce from another part of the world in a different season means it is traveling quite a distance, making the carbon foot-print larger than buying conventional. When selecting produce with the organic label, do your best to find out where it was originally grown.

4. Conventional

There are times when buying in-season conventional produce makes sense especially if it means eating vegetables instead of eating processed food products. I personally would choose to eat conventional produce over organic food products. Fresh fruits & vegetables, whether or not pesticides are used, are better than not eating them at all. An easy aide for deciding when to buy conventional or organic is the Dirty Dozen. Print out cards or download it to take with you when you are at the store and stumped about which is best. This guide let’s you know the produce that is safest to eat conventionally with the Clean 15 list as well as the Dirty Dozen to avoid.

Extra tip: Check your PLU code stickers on all of your fruits & veggies. If it starts with a 9, it is organic. An 8 is a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), although this labeling is not required so it is rare to see it. Any other number, often just 4-digits, are conventional. I have seen fruit with a big sign declaring it was organic only to notice the PLU stickers on each fruit was conventional. I am sure it was just an employee stocking error, but it is nice to know what you are getting.

We each have an opportunity, several times per day, to vote with our dollars about the types of food we would like to be available. The choice is yours, but when you demand the highest quality produce, while supporting your local economy you are letting the food industry know what you would like to see more of. Together we can all make a beautiful impact on our food system.