Finding An Organic Balance | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Finding An Organic Balance

The very day after I got my driver's license, my mother handed me the keys to her forest-green minivan and gave me a grocery list. I thought getting my license would allow me to visit the local coffee shop whenever I wanted, have Saturday lunch with friends and never have to wait three hours after ballet class for a ride. My mother, however, thought it meant her days of playing chauffeur for my numerous siblings and making grocery store runs were over.

As was usually the case at age 16, Mom's wishes outweighed mine. I spent many an hour pushing a grocery cart in the local organic-foods supermarket. With a grocery list in one hand and my mom's credit card in the other, I had no qualms about racking up a $300 grocery bill in one cart.

It was, after all, organic.

Because of my early experiences with buying organic food with someone else's money, I was in for a reality check when it came time to buy my own groceries. I realized that I couldn't afford to pay my rent and eat all organic foods. Something had to give.

Just the other day, I met a friend of mine for an after-dinner drink. When she wasn't flirting with the bartender (he ignored me; he must have noticed my wedding ring before he noticed how hot I am), we talked about everything from psycho bosses to PETA. One topic that came up was organic food.

We both lamented about how expensive it would be to eat entirely organic, and we griped about how we were probably taking years off our lives by eating foods grown with pesticides and hormones. Then she said something that really made sense. She said that anytime she was going to eat the "skin" of something, like a tomato or lettuce, she would buy organic. Anything that could be peeled, she would buy non-organic.

It made me realize that the most important thing is to find a balance in the foods we buy. If you can afford to buy all organic and choose to do so, more power to you. But if you aren't able to, the important thing is to make as many healthy choices as you can. Even at big supermarkets, you can make choices to buy whole grains, lean meats and fresh vegetables, and most even have a few organic options.

Try to choose foods in their simplest forms. Instead of buying baked beans in a can, for example, which are full of sugar and preservatives, pick up a package of dried, uncooked beans, and make your own recipe. Not only is it much cheaper, but you can control how much salt and sugar is in the food.

Choose pastas, breads and cereals that are high in fiber and low in sugar. Avoid the boxed pasta and rice mixes, and just buy them plain. Again, it's all about controlling the amount of extra stuff that goes into what you are cooking. You can't do that if everything is already pre-mixed.

These recipes are good for you, whether you buy your food at the boutique organic market or Kroger. If you can use organic ingredients, put organic asparagus, fresh herbs, carrots and red pepper at the top of your shopping list.

Asparagus with Roasted Shallots and Cranberry Vinaigrette

10 shallots
2 lbs. asparagus
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cranberry Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup cranberry juice
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives or parsley
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the tough ends off each end of the shallots and asparagus, then toss them in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Pour the tossed vegetables into a baking dish and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

While the shallots and asparagus bake, combine the ingredients to make the cranberry vinaigrette. Remove vegetables from oven and drizzle with cranberry vinaigrette.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Carrots, Red Peppers, Rice and Capers

2 small acorn squash
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups long grain rice
4 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
2 cups baby carrots
1 large red pepper, sliced
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp capers, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut squash in half; remove seeds and pulp. Place into baking dish filled halfway with water. Sprinkle squash with salt, pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or until squash flesh is soft.

Meanwhile, place rice and 4 cups chicken broth into saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Let rice simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place baby carrots, red pepper, red onion, garlic and 1/2 cup chicken broth into food processor. Blend until pureed. Add pureed vegetables and capers to cooked rice; mix.

Remove squash from oven; drain water from pan. Spoon vegetable and rice mixture evenly into each squash half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Previous Comments


This reminds me of a time when a friend and I were in new health food restaurant in Oklahoma and she ordered the free-range shrimp. I always thought that was funny... I digress... Anyway, in actuality, I wondered about this for some time - which foods are better organic? and which foods would be OK not to buy organic. There is a great website and they have a document that covers all of this. You might find it interesting...


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