How to Multiply Coconut Milk, Part Two

Let’s say that you multiplied your food dollars three times by buying a 98 ounce can of coconut milk at a wholesale price (please see previous post). But what do you do with all that coconut milk once it’s opened? Naturally, you may worry that it will go to waste. And since grocery store shoppers are conditioned to buying small amounts of food frequently, buying a large amount of food less frequently might feel uncomfortable at first. But don’t worry – The Plenty Method will help you learn how to store the extra. That’s what the “N” in “Plenty” means: “New containers and making space”.

Opened coconut milk keeps in the refrigerator for about a week or two, depending on how cold your fridge is. Store it in the main body of the refrigerator where it is coldest. Since the coconut cream separates from the coconut water, you’ll need to mix it first. The easiest way to do this is to put it in a large pan and gently heat it. That melts the oil and makes it easier to blend. To minimize the number of things to wash, consider whipping up a quick curry (see next post). Then wash the pan!

Estimate the amount you will use before it spoils then freeze the extra. I freeze it in pints. You can freeze the portions in zip-lock bags because they lay flat (wait until the coconut milk is at room temperature before pouring it into the bag). When you finish with the Ziploc bag, you can keep it in the freezer. Then you won’t have to wash or throw the bag away every time you divide coconut milk. If you don’t want to use plastic, try a straight-sided canning jar. These prevent the milk from cracking the glass as the liquid expands.

After the milk thaws out, it curdles a bit. To restore its creamy consistency, blend it for about thirty seconds. If you are interested in the food science around this, check out this Cook’s Illustrated article: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/9034-storing-leftover-coconut-milk. To minimize containers to wash, blend it right in the bag with an immersion blender if you have one. Then dilute to desired consistency and pour the mixture into a glass bottle. Always give it a good shake before using as it does separate.

If all this seems too complicated, you can buy the coconut milk in 13 ounce cans at the restaurant supply store. You can still multiply your food dollars by about twice. But once you know how, it’s really not too much trouble to store a big can. Or, freeze just some of it. Children enjoy helping with this project, especially if they get to drink a hot-cocoa or fruit smoothie afterward. I find that children tend to be motivated by good things to eat, most adults, too!

The wholesale versus retail price of coconut milk in a 13.5 ounce can.

How to Multiply Coconut Milk, Part One

How to Multiply Coconut Milk, Part One

I began working on The Plenty Method in 2008 when I was a planning commissioner for the city of Wilsonville, Oregon. I specialized in food and water because they are so fundamental to life. Slowly, I began to worry that accessing uncontaminated/unadulterated food would become more difficult and more expensive over time. Eating well was a priority, yet a healthful diet consisting solely of organic and humanely food was already cost-prohibitive.

Now, ten years later, I’ve finished articulating The Plenty Method. I’d like to help you learn how to access – and afford – the best food on the planet. Then you can have radiant health and experience more pleasure in life, too. The following is an example of how you can multiply your food dollars when you use The Plenty Method.

Lately, there’s been a lot of mention about how livestock contributes to greenhouse gases. So I’m trying to find non-dairy alternatives for milk. Coconut milk makes a surprisingly good substitute for cow’s milk and cream. The unsweetened concentrate comes in a can and when diluted with water in a one to one ratio, it has the consistency of milk. Use less water and it’s like cream. Coconut milk is creamier and silkier than cow’s milk. When mixed with other foods, the coconut flavor becomes mild or even diminishes. So far, I’ve tried it in my favorite creamy vegetable soup and a béchamel sauce (that I poured over roasted cauliflower). It’s fabulous in hot chocolate!  Use it in curry and smoothies. Feel free to experiment, substituting it in recipes that call for milk or cream.

A 13.5 ounce can of organic coconut milk retails for around $3.59, or just shy of .27 cents per ounce.  At the local wholesale restaurant supply store (where anyone can shop, no license required) a 98 ounce can sells for $9.59, or just shy of ten cents an ounce.  When I buy it wholesale, I multiply my food dollars by almost three times. Multiplying your food dollars will make you feel quite wealthy. Having plentiful amounts of coconut milk on hand feels quite luxurious. Contributing to planetary health by reducing the use of dairy and increasing your purchases of organic food can make you feel happy, too. By the way, the “E” in The “Plenty” Method stands for “Easy-to-find-food-sources”. Our book, “The Joy of Plenty”, will show you how to find non-grocery store food sources so you can easily multiply your food dollars. And if you wonder what to do with that all that coconut milk, stay tuned for the next blog.

The Plenty Method helps you learn how to multiply your food dollars

Half the Truth is a Lie, Part Two

Let’s continue reading between the lines in the advertisement that Bayer/Monsanto placed in The New York Times on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 (please see previous post). The corporation placed this ad in response to the negative publicity being generated from the 11,200 court cases winding their way through the legal system. The plaintiffs allege that Roundup/glyphosate causes Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of cancer.

The advertisement states “Independent regulatory agencies continue to assess glyphosate-based products and conclude they can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. These include not only the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but also the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Australian, Canadian and Japanese regulatory authorities, as well as the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization Meeting on Pesticide Residue (JMPR).

That’s quite a lineup of societal authorities, very convincing. But . . . . let’s read between the lines to reveal what the ad doesn’t say. Remember, a lie can be told by omitting the other half of the story, the contextual framework. Here is what Bayer/Monsanto doesn’t want you to know:

That one of the tactics agribusiness uses is to infiltrate regulatory agencies and other institutions around the world with their own executives. These people then become high-level officials in the regulatory agencies/institutions that oversee the agribusiness industries. Then these executives use their power to influence the agency’s policy and regulations. Other terms for this are “regulatory capture” and “revolving door”.

Keep in mind that governments create regulatory agencies to act in the public’s interest and to protect the public’s health.  When the corporations capture the agencies, the commercial interests of big business (via lobbying groups) become primary and the public’s interest and health, secondary.

Bayer/Monsanto also doesn’t want you to know that they genetically modified food so that it can withstand increasingly strong applications of Roundup/glyphosate. Now the pesticide’s residues are appearing in many foods. Roundup is being detected more and more in our water, air and soil. It’s everywhere.

We need more people to recognize the deception and destructive dynamics these large corporations use to keep us blind and unremittingly under their control. Then we can say a loud and resounding NO to this unethical use of power that represses and disregards the public’s voice. We can say NO to government captured by corporate power. We can do this by refusing to buy the corporation’s products. In the case of Bayer/Monsanto/Roundup, this means avoiding genetically modified food and if possible, buying organic food instead. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is that, we, the people, can speak truth to power, one buying decision at a time.

Half the Truth is a Lie, Part One

A couple of weeks ago when I was thumbing through The New York Times, I couldn’t help but notice the blue and white full-page advertisement placed by Bayer/Monsanto in defense of Roundup/glyphosate. The heading reads “Let’s talk about Roundup® herbicides”. Oh no!

The company is launching a campaign to convince the public that the pesticide won’t harm our health. When big corporations see their profits are threatened, (please see previous two posts for explanation of this) they launch massive campaigns designed to manipulate the public’s opinion. These campaigns will be filled with propaganda and disinformation, including paid ads disguised as news meant to create doubt. An unsuspecting reader might read these ads and be convinced the stuff is safe enough to drink in a martini every night. And the corporation certainly doesn’t want you to know that most GMO food has been modified to withstand increasingly strong applications of the stuff, and that the pesticide is showing up in our food, soil, water and air with increasing frequency.

But here’s the thing: a lie can be told via a “half-truth”. It’s lying by omission. It’s lying by presenting only part of the story and omitting the full context.

So knowing that, let’s read the ad between the lines:

“Glyphosate-based herbicides, which include most Roundup® products, are among the most rigorously studied products of their kind”. What they don’t want you to know:

That the chemical companies hire scientists to do the research necessary to get pesticides approved by regulators,[1] so the scientists are bought and paid for by the chemical companies. This naturally creates a conflict of interest dynamic, because the scientists will feel duty, obligation and loyalty to the authorizing power over them. The scientist might feel pressure to conform to the company’s objectives and standards. Under this pressure, the researchers often skew the findings, fail to question fundamental premises, and suppress awareness of contradictions so that the results favor industry profits over the public’s health. Then when agribusiness companies answer questions about pesticide safety, they can claim with authority that decades of scientific studies have shown the chemicals to be safe for human use and that no credible scientific evidence exists otherwise.

As you can see, it’s all in the family – at least in the feudalistic one, where the corporations are the overlords. So now you’ve read between the lines and you know more of the truth than you did before.


Advertisement in The New York Times, Wednesday, March 27, 2019

[1] Danny Hakim, “Scientists Loved and Loathed by an  Agrochemical Giant,” New York Times, December 31, 2016, accessed at  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/31/business/scientists-loved-and-loathed-by-syngenta-an-agrochemical-giant.html

Goodbye, Corporate Feudalism

I don’t generally consider myself to be a political type, yet I can’t help but feel encouraged about the conversation I see shaping up among the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates.  Many are outlining a plan to revitalize rural America by breaking up agricultural monopolies and restoring competition in that sector.

Finally, someone (Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and John Delaney) is acknowledging the damage done to rural America from industrialized farming practices and hyper-consolidation in agribusiness. Independent farmers, the backbone of our rural economy, are finding that their profits are rapidly disappearing. This is because big monopolies now control the cost of everything involved in the entire food production process. This process begins when a farmer plants a seed and ends when a shopper plucks an item off the grocery store shelf. Farmers are getting strangled from both the buy and sell sides of transactions. The inputs monopolies control the prices of the products the farmers buy to grow or raise food: seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, etc. On the sell side, the processor/distribution monopolies control the prices paid to farmers for their crops/livestock. These monopolies make it increasingly difficult for farmers and ranchers to run profitable businesses; they drive up the price of food for shoppers.

Is that too long and complicated? Then how about this, in two simple words: corporate feudalism. A difference between now and centuries ago is that the overlords aren’t the aristocracy; it’s the corporations.

I felt another glimmer of hope that turned to excitement after I read the best summary on corporate feudalism that I have ever read, written recently by the Open Markets Institute.  It’s titled “Food and Power: Addressing Monopolization in America’s Food System”. They propose suggestions about how to solve this problem on pages 12-16, take a look! We can mobilize as a society to support these policy changes and transformation can occur. Check it out here: https://openmarketsinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/190322_MonopolyFoodReport-v7.pdf

It will take a lot more than breaking up agricultural monopolies to restore economic vitality to rural America. It took fifty years for those monopolies to develop and it may take that many years to undo them. Still, dissolving them is a step in the right direction. The coming tsunami of job loss due to automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and software are enormous headwinds. So I approach the subject of breathing life into rural America with cautious enthusiasm. 

This upcoming election season presents a fabulous opportunity for discussion and debate. I hope Republican candidates will also join this conversation to weigh in on the issue of hyper-consolidation in the agricultural sector (and other sectors, too). I look forward to lively dialogue and bright lights shining in dark and dreary corners.

A Glimmer of Hope

My faith in the American government has been somewhat restored. And it feels invigorating, like a breath of fresh, floral spring air filling up my senses. I haven’t felt such a glimmer of hope about our government in years. Oh my, did I ever need that!

Why am I feeling optimistic? Because of the Bayer/Monsanto/Roundup trials (please see previous post). Apparently there are 11,200 other similar cases waiting to go to trial. So, we can expect this topic to be circulating in the news for quite sometime.

But this is more than just a news story. The stories reveal a deeper truth: that the United States’ judicial system is inadvertently taking on the role of protecting the public’s health, because the appropriate regulatory agencies have failed to do so. Everyone plays a role in this current situation. The regulatory system holds regulators in a vice-like grip of science versus politics, and economics versus health. The public’s demand for inexpensive food and the government’s desire to decrease hunger by making cheap food available contributes to the problem. Ethical considerations prohibit testing pesticides on humans. Regulatory agencies around the world are infiltrated with executives from the agribusiness industry so there are conflicts of interest. All this results in an ineffective and fundamentally flawed regulatory system.

The primary regulatory bodies that oversee the public’s health – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture – have all been emasculated to one degree or another because the corporations greatly influence government functions at every level. The fact that 11,200 cases are now working their way through the courts reflects the failure of our regulatory agencies.

The cases are also a testament to the brilliance of our founding fathers. Their genius created a checks and balances system that preserves the integrity of our government. The trials demonstrate the moderation of power in action between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government. Unfortunately, the regulatory agencies are under the jurisdiction of the executive branch so they can, and have become, highly politicized.

The downside of the judicial system acting as regulator is that they can respond only after the fact, after the damage has already occurred. Judiciary is reactionary, not proactive.

But who was it that said “better late than never“? I’ll take that breath of fresh air and hopefulness over nothing at all.

Supercide Me, Bayer/Monsanto!

“I read the news today, oh boy” (to quote the Beatles).

“Monsanto Ordered to pay $80 Million in Roundup Cancer Case” (The New York Times)
“Bayer Keeps Roundup Faith After Losing Second Trial” (Bloomberg)
“Jury Awards Over $80 Million in Roundup Exposure Case” (Wall Street Journal)

In case you haven’t read the story, here’s my annotated version:

In a trial against Bayer/Monsanto, a US jury awarded $80 million to a man who developed Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after prolonged exposure to Roundup. The jury found glyphosate/Roundup to be a substantive factor in causing the cancer. They also found Bayer/Monsanto to be negligent by failing to warn the public of the weedkiller’s cancer risk and failing to properly research the safety of its product. The trial is thought to be a bellwether case, helpful in determining the fate of 11,200 similar, pending cases. This and a similar case last August are historic and precedent-setting cases.

Or, an even shorter version: Bayer/Monsanto has been taken to the whipping post. The American judicial system is increasingly taking on the role of protecting the public’s health.

Bayer/Monsanto is not entirely at fault here. Over the past 40 years since regulators approved glyphosate/Roundup, the company has responded to the public’s demand for inexpensive food and the government’s desire to prevent hunger. But as so often happens, greed sets in, ethics go out the door, and corruption takes hold. The company has clearly crossed a line, or several lines.

My physician, Steven Rotter, MD and I wrote a short, free, downloadable book called “Supercide Me: how pesticides are making us sick and what we can do about it”. Our goal was to quickly give readers the back story of the glyphosate/Roundup issue to expand their understanding of it. Then we will be better equipped to mobilize and create the kind of change we’d like to see. We are introducing a new word – “supercide” into the English language. This word describes the chronic, low-dose exposure to pesticide residues in food and the environment. This word will make it easier for people to talk about pesticides’ effects on health and to warn others about it. When you read this short book, you will understand why eating organic food has become mandatory, not optional. You can download it here: https://thejoyofplenty.org/books/supercide-me/

Please let me know how you like it! I’d love to hear from you.

My Grinch Story

Something profound happened recently on my quest to make the high-quality food necessary to maintain optimal health affordable for more people.

One misty December morning, I was writing away at my desk, tortoise Kat on lap and red china teacup in hand, wearing what I always wear when I write: my long black velveteen housecoat, leggings, and a puffy down jacket (I live in a cozy but sometimes drafty cottage). I hadn’t taken a shower yet and barely combed my hair. From my desk I can peer out a small window that frames the lane in front of the house.

That morning from my small window I see a sheriff’s car pull up in front of the gate. Two officers step out of the car, and I step out onto the porch. After brief and polite introductions, they inform me that they have a warrant for my arrest.

Oh.

I was allowed to make one phone call (to my neighbor, “I’ve been arrested, please feed Kat.”) I hurriedly put on my shoes, grab a coat and my purse, am escorted to the car, put into handcuffs and buckled into the back seat. The officers were firm but kind. I did not feel threatened or afraid; no adrenalin was shooting through my body that I was aware of. Along the way, they read me my Miranda rights.

After a twenty minute drive, we arrived at the county jail. And there I had a razor sharp view into a world I had not ever seen up close and personal, no, not in the bubble of my insulated life. A world I had been increasingly curious about because it seems to be expanding in the landscape now.

I spent nearly thirty hours there (time crept by slower than forever), going in and out of various cells, and talking with at least fifteen young women, maybe more. These were some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, despite the fact that some had missing teeth, unkempt hair, scars on their thin arms. Wearing our prison blues, there we were stripped down to our raw, sincere and humble true selves.

Over and over, I heard different versions of the same story. Of inmates who had suffered severe abuse or trauma as a child or young adult. A friend offers drugs to ease the pain, addiction sets in. Somewhere along the line they are abandoned by friends and family who have done all they can to help and can do no more.  Many have young children, placed with relatives or in foster care. Some are homeless. Several were there because they had missed a court date (which results in another charge). I heard of the logistical difficulties a homeless person has of getting to court. No money or a way to charge a phone to get a bus schedule.

The dialogue was sincere and honest. “Have you ever been in love?”, a young woman thoughtfully asks. In a split second I wonder, “If I thought I was, but then decided I wasn’t, does that count?” After a long pause, I reply by saying “Yes, once, but he died.”

“My child was my only hope. And they took her away.” ”My father murdered my mother when I was three.” “My mother drank when she was pregnant; I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.” “I was caught stealing food after my food stamps ran out.”

An inmate going through withdrawal wails with piercing screams. “Get the doctor!”  But “medical” is busy that day. I sit beside her, reassuring her that she is not alone, feeling helpless like she does. Many inmates tell me they wish they could do better; some are tired of the long wait to get into treatment facilities.

At night in a dorm with about 15 bunk beds, I attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with four other inmates, all of us sitting on a lower bunk. They want to know what I’m addicted to. After giving them the annotated version of my story, one of them says, “Oh, it sounds like you are addicted to helping people.”

I hadn’t thought of it that way.

No words describe the tenderness and care these women showed to me during my stay there. The experience was rich with intense connection and sharing. With no cell phones or other distractions such as superficial social media, there was a certain level of presence that I don’t often experience in my day-to-day life. Yes, I’ll take that.

Two days after I’m released, I’m driving down the freeway. Suddenly a primal scream accompanied by a flood of tears gushes up from the empty space deep inside of me. It’s explodes with that “hurts-so-good” kind of pain. Am I the Grinch whose heart grew three times that day? And then found the strength of ten Grinches more, plus two? Or am I the tin man, who knows he has a heart because it is breaking?

I’ll definitely take both.

Thank you, Santa.

Afternoon Delight

 

Yesterday I fell in love with a carrot.

It happened when I picked up my first share of winter vegetables provided by a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm down the road. What a lovely surprise it was to walk into the old barn and see a gorgeous display of unusual vegetables, some that I have never eaten before, such as a black radish and kohlrabi.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to try a shiny, freshly dug carrot. This exquisite carrot was like no other I have ever tasted. Suddenly the world stopped as this sweet carrot catapulted me into a total being experience. All my senses were filled with excitement and joy. (Later that night, I found myself feeling sorry for all the people in the world who would never be able to experience a carrot like this. Then I wished everyone could.)

Laura, the farmer, mentions that the variety is Hercules. Oh. That explains it. A divine, God-like carrot. A perfect infusion of firm, strong flesh, smooth skin and indescribable taste mingled with spirit. If paradise had a flavor, this would be it. Sweet, like heaven! As I devour this carrot, it leaves me wanting more … and more … and more. Carrot, you’re my hero!

The carrot’s sweetness, Laura tells me, comes from the winter’s cold. Do they sit in the soil trembling? Is this why I felt a shiver go up and down my spine with the first bite? Do they store the summer sun and, in their resting state, concentrate energy? Yes! Every cell of my body knows this.

I will toss a few into a Greek salad tonight, to commemorate this awakening. And my body will delight in this incredible gift of nourishment and bounty of blissful sensations.

PS The Latin name for carrots  is Daucus carota and you can get the seeds here:  http://www.johnnyseeds.com/vegetables/carrots/main-crop-carrots/hercules-f1-carrot-seed-2735.html

The Disappearing Bolognese

Over the years, I’ve dialed back my expectations about Christmas and unplugged from all the frenetic rushing around that often accompanies it. Ironically, the more I do this,  the more I enjoy it. I love to create spaciousness around the holiday, which gives me the time and inner peace to notice the procession of simple, quiet pleasures that are plentiful this time of year. Joyful little things such as light in all its softer forms: flickering candles, twinkling lights and sparkling glitter. The darker days encourage me to slow down and this gives me time to notice and savor these small moments.

My favorite holiday tradition is making a double batch of Marcella Hazan’s classic slow-cooked bolognese sauce in my big copper kettle. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/marcella-hazans-bolognese-sauce-50063585. When served over quinoa pasta or spaghetti squash and topped with genuine parmigiano-reggiano cheese, it makes a splendid, easy meal to serve guests. I purchase the parmesan via The Joy of Plenty way at half the retail price and buy the beef directly from the farmer. I use organic ingredients too, which definitely kicks the eating experience up a notch. This is six-star cooking at its best.

My favorite memory of this sauce occurred in 2007. I assembled it in the early afternoon and instructed my then 16 year old son to stir it every 30 minutes while I was at a wine tasting party. William had just purchased the very first iPhone and set the alarm to ring every 30 minutes. So, I left confident knowing that the sauce was going to bubble away in good hands.

When I came home at five, I checked the sauce. It was two-thirds gone!! Apparently every time William stirred the sauce, he ate some. Oh oh. Lesson learned: don’t leave sauce stirring in the hands of a hungry teenager!

I don’t quite remember what happened next. I have a vague recollection of going to the grocery store and buying cooked prawns and cocktail sauce or something.

To this day, this memory frequently drifts across my mind and I still chuckle. Ho Ho Ho.

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers!