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Have You Been to a Fermentation Festival?

 

“I don’t want to go to a fermentation festival,” complained Joaquin, my ten-year son. “I don’t like kimchi or sauerkraut,” he groaned. I reminded him of other fermented foods, which don’t involve cabbage he likes, like salsa, pickles, kombucha and chocolate. He wasn’t convinced, but he and my youngest daughter, Estrella had no choice in the matter. They were going to the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival.

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The truth is I had no idea what to expect. I’d never heard of a fermentation festival, but was intrigued by the idea after studying the health benefits of fermented foods when I wrote the beer chapter for my book, Eat Less Water.

Fermentation dates back to 6000 B.C. Bacteria or yeast, fed by sugar in the food, is converted to alcohol or lactic acid during fermentation. Eating or drinking fermented foods promotes microbial balance in the gut, our largest component of the immune system, making it easier for the body to digest, and absorb nutrients. A healthy gastrointestinal tract reduces inflammation linked to a range of health disorders from allergies to autoimmune diseases.

The fermentation process is likened to microorganisms in the soil. Sugar in roots and plant material feeds microorganisms. A thriving microbial community in the ground increases the availability of nutrients to plants’ and increases the plant’s resistance to disease and pests. It always fascinates me when I see how our bodies mirror nature around us.

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I am hooked on fermentation after attending the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival. Imagine packing mason jars with organic vegetables under a canopy of oak trees on the sun-kissed day in Santa Barbara. The kids loved the hands-on workshops as much as me. We packed jars with cucumbers, garlic, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, and jalapeños. Joaquin even helped stuff jars with cabbage for sauerkraut.

But the best part for all of us was learning how to make fermented soda. Author, Pascual Bauder, introduced the concept of wild sodas. We learned you could make soda from a variety of plants found at and around our homes. Pascual treated us to his drink made from pine needle that surprisingly had hints of tangerine and lemon. In the DIY tent, we learned to make kefir mojito soda. We have our first batches fermenting on our kitchen counter now.

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The end of the festival came too quick. It was too much to see, learn, do and eat in one day. We never made it to the Kombucha Lounge.

“This was the best festival I’ve ever come to, ” said Joaquin while he drank sips of cayenne pepper kombucha and helped me carry out our heavy basket of mason jars full of vegetables soaked in brine.

The good news is the Wild Brew event is in March. So if you live near Santa Barbara, or want to build a weekend getaway around this festival, you will not be disappointed.

 

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia Ramirez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eat Less Water Coming to Bookstores Near You Fall 2017

I hit the send button for my completed manuscript for Eat Less Water (with a little help from my three children)! It took seven years, 16,000 miles of travel and a whole lot of faith to finish. But as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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My book research extended from California to New York, and Illinois to Louisiana to interview over 20 revolutionary farmers and food producers. I traveled nationwide to learn the best techniques to save and keep water on the American farm.

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The farmers I highlight in Eat Less Water are the heroes of the story. They work daily to protect our soil, air, and water like wheat farmer John DeRosier in Paso Robles, California; I’ll never forget our first phone conversation when I explained to him the premise for my book. He said, “You are in for a treat,” I was served a chocolate cake that day. And Dr. Adolfo Murillo, owner of Tequila Alquimia for inviting me into his dining room in Oxnard and patiently walking me through the science of distillation. And to Alfred and Carney Farris, two pioneers in the sustainable farming movement, building their Tennessee soil for 50 years with wisdom and grace. These are only a few of the many farmers who taught me how to choose the best food and drinks to save and protect clean water resources.

I am honored to be published by Red Hen Press, an indie press committed to print diverse voices. I thank God that Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press loved this book after a shot of the “Tequila and Water” chapter I read during a workshop at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. This year Red Hen Press celebrate 22 years of publishing (an auspicious number).

 

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Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia Ramirez

Sweet Home Chicago

Serendipity or destiny?

I once called Chicago home. I attended University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy. It is where I learned to be a researcher, labored over economic derivatives, and got over my fear of math (mostly). At the University of Chicago, I attended my first Creative Non-Fiction class. It is there amongst the gargoyles where I gained the tools to write, Eat Less Water.

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As I enter the final stretch of a four-year long journey of researching and writing the book Eat Less Water, I find myself again on the shores of Lake Michigan. Tomorrow I meet with Helen Cameron, founder, and owner of Uncommon Ground restaurant to discuss her organic beer label, Greenstar Brewery.

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I had my sights on another organic brewery located in the Northeast, but it didn’t come to fruition, it got too hard to coordinate. Guided by the sage words of Carlos Castaneda, I let it go:

“A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”

I wasn’t sure I’d write a Beer and Water chapter. But then, I found Greenstar Brewery, and immediately it fell into place, and my path with a heart led to Chicago.

In Chicago, my daughter and I are hosted by dear friends, Todd and Geeta, and their three children. We met when they lived near my true home, Oxnard, California (a.k.a. the Center of the Universe.) Geeta Maker-Clark works to change food systems and teaches her patients and medical students how clean, healthy food has the power to heal. They are the only family I know with a labyrinth in the front garden.

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Garden labyrinth (www.eatlesswater.com)

Later today, I’ll tour Hyde Park and the University of Chicago campus with my eldest daughter, Isabella.

Serendipity or destiny? Does it matter? I steep in gratitude to be here now.

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia Ramirez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day-2

4 Tasty Earth Day Recipes to Save the Planet

Food is a delicious gift from planet earth. Celebrate Earth Day with a feast of flavor.

I offer you links to four recipes to eat your way through your Earth Day, including chocolate cake for dessert. But these recipes are a bit different than the standard. These recipes are designed to be action steps to building a healthy environment by encouraging us to reconsider our ingredients.

You will see words like organic, fair trade, dry farmed and pasture-raised. For example, the Stir-Fry recipe calls for organic tofu.While it may seem like no big deal to swap the conventionally grown tofu with the organic variety, it does make a difference to the quality of air, soil and water. Certified organic, non-GMO, fair-trade, and Demeter labels represent a food system that farms without chemicals, signaling to the eater that their food is grown using a system of farming Mother Nature intended.

Four meals alone are not going to save the planet, but you and I together will change the world with what we eat. Be an educated eater.

 

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Press here for recipe

You might also like this article:

This Earth Day Hug a Sustainable Farmer

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia

 

 

Start Eating Less Water Today, World Water Day

Save the Date

Today, March 22, is World Water Day. I told this to my 8-year old daughter Estrella this morning before school. “Congratulations, it’s your day,” she said. I laughed at her response and wondered why then I wasn’t served breakfast in bed.

But this day belongs to all of us. We are water being. It fascinates me to remember how our bodies are composed of 70 percent water, a mirror image of the planet. To honor water is to honor life itself.

World Water Day is a day to recognize how fortunate many of us are to have access to a reliable, clean water source. And it is a day to  remember those who don’t. This photo posted today by Environment America on Twitter explains more than any words why clean water matters.

If 70 percent of all freshwater is used to grow and produce food, then shouldn’t we be focused on food production to save water?

The Environmental Defense Fund tweeted:

If you care about the future of water on our planet, then take a look in your pantry and refrigerator. What farming methods do you support, ones that support and promote clean and abundant water sources?

Support sustainable food, farmers and food producers and start eating less water today, World Water Day 2016.

The following are links to six of my favorite farmers/food brands you can have delivered to your door or found at markets around the nation. These brands represent farming methods that are doing right by water, not only on World Water Day but every day.

Find small sustainable farmers in your area with the Eatwild online directory and shop your farmers’ markets.  I challenge you to start eating less water today!

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Dairy –Organic Valley 

Rice- Lotus Foods

Chocolate- Taza Chocolate

Wine- Benziger 

Coffee- Cloud Forest Hawaiian Coffee

Eggs- Coyote Creek Farm

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia Ramirez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate This St. Patrick’s Day with “Green” Water Food

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by eating food produced with GREEN Water. Not literally green, but food grown with natural rain and moisture.

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This dry-farmed wheat is an example of food grown with “green” water. Photo of In the Grain Farm located in Paso Robles, California

Water footprint researchers assigned colors to water to help differentiate the types of water sources: blue, green and gray. Blue water is sourced from aquifers, reservoirs, and rivers that scribble across the landscape. Gray is water tainted with nitrogen, the run-off from fertilizer and manure. Rainwater and moisture are green. Green water places the least amount of stress on our water systems.

Key terms to look and ask for:

  • Rain-fed
  • Dry-farmed
  • Holistic-managed
  • Biodynamic
  • Pasture-raised

Check out this link to a “Green” Water Quiche and watch a-how-to video with a more in-depth conversation on why our food choices matter more than ever before.

You Might also like these recipes:

Organic Chocolate Cake

Kale and Cheese Omelette

Grilled Pasture-Raised Burgers on a Homemade Bun 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,

Florencia

 

%22Climate change is real. And it is happening right now.%22

“Climate Change is Real”and 5 Things You Can Do About It

“Climate change is real. And it is happening right now,” said Leonardo DiCaprio during his impassioned Oscar acceptance speech. He continued, “It is the most urgent threat facing our species. And we need to work collectively and stop procrastinating.”

 

 

What I’d add to his moving speech is the following:

Climate change is about water. Too much water, too little water, rising water. Warmer temperatures will lead to about eight to ten percent more water cycling around our planet, enough to fill twenty Nile Rivers. Fred Pierce in his book, When the Rivers Run Dry, sums up the effect of climate change simply: “Wet places will get wetter, and dry places will get drier.”

Our global climate has moved into unchartered territory. According to the United Nations World Water Report, our planet will warm anywhere between 2 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit within this century. Warmer temperatures and wetter winters are here now. This week the LA Times reports, “the number of extreme heat days — in which the high temperature exceeds 95 degrees — will triple or quadruple in parts of L.A. County if nothing is done to control greenhouse gas emissions” by midcentury.

Drought areas watch the clouds pass overhead without releasing a drop.  Instead, clouds dump snow and rainfall on already too wet areas. Too common are images of swollen rivers spilling ungracefully into streets, homes and cropland. And snow drifts that look like they are out of a science fiction novel.

What can we “the collective” do about it? 

Food production is responsible for one-third of all greenhouse emissions.  We need to be engaged participants in what we eat. Just as food has the power to rewrite the story of water scarcity on the planet, food production must be an integral part of the conversation in climate change.

 

Climate Change and 7 Things You Can do About It.www.eatlesswater.com

Five action steps you can do NOW. Don’t procrastinate:

1. VOTE the environment. Donate time and financial resources to candidates and propositions that offer solutions to climate change. Like Leonardo DiCaprio said at the end of his speech,

“Support leaders around the world who do not speak for big polluters of the world or big corporations but for all humanity; for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions of underprivileged people who will be most effected, for our children’s children, and for those people whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”

2. Eat organic food. Conventionally raised food is dependent on petroleum for fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Support food systems that keep both microorganisms and fossil fuels in the ground.

3. Support sustainable farmers. Shop your farmer’s markets and/or support sustainable farmer’s nationwide with directories like Eat Wild. This army of farmers around the country are stewards of the land, water and air.

4. Don’t waste food. It takes valuable non-renewable resources to produce food. We throw away half the food produced. Plan and organize your food. And serve smaller portions.

5. Eat less meat. When you do, always choose organic.

Organically raised meats is the better choice because organic rules require animals to be in the pasture  a minimum of 30% of the time.

The best choice, buy meat (from your eggs to red meat) from farms who rotate the animals on the pasture. When animals are rotated on the pasture, the land is never over grazed.

“Let’s not take this planet for granted,” said Leonardo DiCaprio.

There is power in the collective.

Eat less water at the kitchen table!

Be well,

Florencia

eating is an agricultural act

You might like these article too:

Spread the Love and Win Water Saving Swag

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Does Your New Year’s Resolution Include Doing Good in the World? Here are Some Ideas

Decorate With Less Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sing, Dance the Conga Line, and Eat Right with Grammy Nominated Jose-Luis Orozco

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Cover art by Elisa Kleven

 

Get ready to dance! Jose-Luis Orozco, a beloved singer and musician for children, is joined by LA’s top Grammy-Award winning musicians, on his latest album Come Bien! Eat Right! released on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

The album is a mixture of Latino rhythms, from samba, salsa, traditional corridos, performed by members of LA Grammy-winning bands, Quetzal and Ozomatli. But the mission of this album isn’t only to inspire conga lines in kindergarten classrooms across the Americas, but to encourage better eating habits.

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Jose-Luis Orozco (front) with members of from LA-based band Quetzal.

The Grammy-nominated bilingual record is in response to child obesity and escalating diabetes rates, especially among Latino children.

“If you want a lasting life, eat healthy, and eat right,” begins the title song. It continues, “Eat your meals with moderation. Always balance your selections. Eating Well and working out, that’s what this is all about.”

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Illustrations by Eliza Kleven

 

My favorite song is titled, “Water, Agua,” the final track. (Surprised?)

Jose speaks this track, like a poem or a sweet nursery rhyme to the gentle sound of a rain stick. He says,”

A great gift from our Mother Earth is water.

Water is the perfect drink for a long-lasting life!

I drink clean and fresh water with every meal.

Water helps my body absorb nutrients.

Water keeps my body clean and healthy.

Water removes food waste from my body.

Water keeps me cool and protects my vital organs.

Water regulates my body temperature.

I like pure and fresh water!

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A selfie with Jose-Luis Orozco on Ash Wednesday.

There is power in the collective!

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

Be well,

Florencia Ramirez

Why you should give fair-trade chocolate to your valentine: A recipe for chocolate cake

 

 

“Is this slave chocolate?” my son Joaquin asked after he swallowed a big piece.

Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, much of it produced using enslaved child labor. An estimated 1.8 million children are involved in cocoa production in West Africa according to a Tulane University report . This disturbing child slave/chocolate connection led Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and New York Congressman Engel to create the Harkin-Engel Protocol of 2001 (Cocoa Protocol), aimed at reducing child labor in cocoa labor. More than a decade later the practice remains widespread in West Africa.

The chocolate I offered my son was not “slave chocolate” but Fair Trade Organic Chocolate I found at Trader Joe’s for under 2 bucks a bar. The chocolate is certified by Fair for Life.

Fair trade certification ensures workers are paid fair wages and provide good working conditions. Fair for Life, certified companies must comply with several environmental criteria that include water conservation and ecosystem management in addition to being certified organic. Fair Trade USA is another certification organization that requires both fair wages for workers and environmental responsibility.

Fair Trade USA reports on their website that Ben and Jerry’s is committed to purchase only fair trade ingredients for all their delicious ice creams and Nestle announced it’s Kit Kat to source Fair Trade cocoa in the United Kingdom. It is a start, but we got a long way to go.

This is where  we come in, you and me, who buy 58 million pounds of chocolate on Valentine’s alone. Together we can end child slavery in Africa AND support farmers who grow cocoa sustainably with our purchase of fair trade certified chocolate. Ask your favorite chocolate brands to purchase fair trade chocolate on their Facebook page. Companies like Nestle and Cadbury purchase fair trade chocolate for the UK market. Why not for the U.S. market? I want a fair trade certified Kit Kat. Don’t you?

Check out these websites of chocolate brands that offer fair trade chocolate and ask for fair-trade chocolate options at your favorite market.

Alter Eco
Dagoba Organic Chocolate
Divine Chocolate Love the label. So pretty.
Equal Exchange
Theo Chocolate You can buy chocolate by the case for a discount
Taza Chocolate Chocolate with a Mexican twist. This chocolate can also be purchased bulk.

Now for my favorite chocolate cake recipe. This is the recipe that I used to make those pretty little cupcakes dressed in blue pleated paper cups pictured above.

Free-Trade Chocolate Cake
(Adapted from One-Bowl Chocolate Cake from Martha Stewart Living)

3/4 cup unsweetened fair-trade cocoa powder (Equal Exchange sells this as Baking Cocoa)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose organic dry farmed or rain fed flour
1 1/2 organic fair-trade sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (preferably from a pasture-raised hen)
3/4 cup organic low-fat buttermilk (I like Organic Valley. It is coop of small family dairies across the U.S.. This brand can be found at large and small grocery stores. If not at your grocery store yet, ask and ask again.)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons organic oil like vegetable or canola
1 teaspoon organic pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep) dusted with cocoa powder. If making cupcakes, butter the muffin tin just the same unless you are using cupcake paper cups. I found that one scoop of batter using a ice cream scooper works perfectly for each cupcake.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a big mixing bowl.

Beat ingredients together with a mixer on the lowest setting or with a whisk until just combined.

Add all the wet ingredients into the same bowl. Beat until all combined and batter is smooth about three minutes with a mixer and a few minutes longer when mixing by hand.

Divide batter into both pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cupcakes do not take as long to bake. Check if the cupcakes are done after 20 minutes.

Note: to remove the cake from the pans with ease, you must let the cake cool off completely. This takes at least 15 minutes. While you wait make the frosting (frosting recipe to follow). Place one of the cakes on a cake plate. Frost the top of the first cake. This will be your yummy center. Place the second cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake. I like to decorate the cake with fresh berries like blueberries or blackberries when in season…organic of course.

Chocolate Frosting
I love this frosting. The sour cream gives it a nice little twist. I have found that young kids are not as big on the slight twang to this frosting. When I am baking for a younger crowd I will replace with a butter cream frosting. If you are making cupcakes you can half this recipe.

makes four cups

2 1/4 cups organic powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened fair-trade cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 Ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted organic butter, softened (Organic Valley also makes butter or some farmers markets sell butter)
9 Ounces bittersweet fair-trade chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 Cup organic creme fraiche or sour cream

Sift together dry ingredients and combine in one bowl.

In a larger bowl beat together the cream cheese and butter at medium speed until smooth.

Gradually add the sugar-cocoa mixture into the cream cheese and butter mixture and beat until combined.

Pour in the melted chocolate.

Add the sour cream or creme fraiche and beat until all combined.

The Water and Organic Food Daily-Subscribe

What if your newspaper gathered articles most important to you? It is what Paper.li does. Paper.li curates online content relevant to you from media outlets of all shapes and sizes.

My newspaper is a collection of articles on organic food and water issues delivered to my email inbox daily. Today’s paper includes articles such as “Why Organic Food Might Be Worth the High Price,” and “Organic Baby Foods: Some Facts you Must Know” to name 2 of the 40 articles featured.

The Water and Organic Food Daily

I invite you to subscribe to The Water and Organic Food Daily too. You can view the paper and subscribe with this link.

I’m still not sure about the name of the paper. Do you like it? Or do you have another idea?

P.S. Share or comment on any post in February and automatically enter to win some water conservation swag.

There is power in the collective!

Eat less water at the kitchen table.

Be well,

Florencia