Monday, June 6, 2011

My ever-increasing dietary restrictions. Or, why is it so hard to find kosher organic food?

Cross posted in Kosher Cuisine

Finally, after almost two months, here's the promised story of my transition to buying organic. I have this post that I saw posted on this Facebook Page to thank for motivating me to finally write this. It's going to be long so I'm going to divide it into sections. Here goes:

My first shopping trip upon going organic

I was already going to Whole Foods for most of my grocery shopping, so I continued there. I thankfully live within walking distance of the Whole Foods at Roosevelt Square. The only difference was I had to look for that "USDA Organic" symbol, besides looking for a kosher symbol. Basically, I'd apparently made my food life twice as complicated....Or so I thought. See, several items I'd been getting for their other health benefits, such as Rena's juice-sweetened puffs, my favorite vegetable broth, and these yummy tortilla chips were already organic. Other items, such as milk, eggs, and salsa, were easily found in organic versions.


My main struggle that trip was finding crackers that would be acceptable to my husband but also healthy and organic. He had been used to eating a specific variety of Triscuits but unfortunately they are not organic. To complicate matters, there were for some reason two sections with crackers, which I didn't know at first. In the first, small section I found exactly one brand that was kosher and organic....but otherwise not up to my dietary standards. I thought, these can't possibly be the only crackers in the store! I asked an employee where I could find crackers, and she directed me to another aisle. Phew! Here I had some trouble as well. I found so many organic crackers but they weren't kosher. Finally I found one called Mary's Gone Crackers that was labeled both organic and kosher. Fun name, but were they healthy? Yes, whole grains and no sugar. I brought them home to hubby....Yum! :) 

P.S. The next day I found other crackers called Two Moms in the Raw that Rena and I liked better.


Organic versions of my usual fruits and vegetables are readily available at Whole Foods. However, I decided to join an organic CSA that would deliver to my door, just for convenience. Full Circle Farm packs up a box for us every week with organic produce from their own farm and partner farms and delivers it to our apartment at some point on Thursday nights or early Friday morning. I love it because I don't have to think about my weekly fruits and vegetables if I don't want to, but if I want to change anything there's a window of opportunity. I could also tell them never to give me something if I don't want it. Customer service is great, always responding to your questions and comments. They'll even give you a credit if you're not completely satisfied with all your received produce, if you ask. They even called a couple weeks to make sure I got my box, since the deliverymen couldn't be buzzed in. All this for $46 a week, for a family order. I always end up buying other fruit because hubby and Rena eat TONS of fruit (and I barely get any!). Also there are a lot of greens, which sometimes spoil before I get to use them all. This is good, though, because I'm encouraged to get used to using more greens.

Also I love that it comes so close to Shabbat so I get fresh produce for Shabbat! :)


I wanted to make a meat dish for Friday night Shabbat dinner right after my organic transition, but I couldn't find any locally. Help! I resorted to making a vegetarian meatloaf in the hopes that hubby wouldn't even realize it was fake. Funny thing was, I realized as I went to serve it that it happened to be April Fool's Day, so even if he figured it out, it would just be an April Fool! Well, he didn't, and not only that but it came out awesome and he said it was deli-quality meatloaf! :) Unfortunately when I made it next time it didn't come out so good -- I think I just got lucky the first time because tofu isn't usually the best thing in the world -- so after that I just got regular kosher ground meat. As for chicken, for the following Shabbat I went online to search for kosher organic meat, as QFC only rarely has Empire Organic chicken. I tried ordering but they wouldn't even process my order for a single chicken because shipping costs would have been exorbitant! I'd promised hubby chicken for Shabbat so I had to run to QFC and get a regular kosher chicken. Hubby also likes when I get the precooked kosher chickens but unfortunately those aren't organic either. I once tried making General Tzo's Tofu in the hopes that hubby wouldn't realize it was tofu not chicken, but he could totally tell the difference because it didn't come out good. My only hope of avoiding non-organic meat of any kind is to make it to QFC right when they've just gotten a shipment of Empire organic chicken. They get so little so rarely that it's snapped up immediately. They supposedly get it every two weeks on Mondays, but last time I was told it was coming on Tuesday and then it was late. I've basically given up on that. In short, I'm resigned to eating non-organic meat, at least while living here in Seattle. If it were just me I might go vegetarian, but I can't do that with my hubby who goes nuts after just a few days without meat.


According to my Internet research, wild-caught is really the best way to go, even better than organic fish. So I called Whole Foods again to find out what wild-caught fish they had and found a recipe accordingly. I've also gotten wild-caught canned tuna and salmon.


I had a big problem with cheese, as there didn't seem to be any available locally that was both kosher and organic. Initially I tried making my own but I could only make a soft cheese which is simple and doesn't need rennet, a thermometer, etc. I made Paneer cheese. Hubby and I liked it for a bit but then he got tired of it. I spent more long hours on the internet, and it turned out that a couple brands, including Tillamook Cheddar that's found at Whole Foods, were actually organic and kosher thought they didn't advertise that on their packaging or website. Though it's a bit annoying that I can only get cheddar but no mozzarella, parmesan, or others, I can't complain too much because I do get to have cheese. There's also kosher organic cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc. I love the brand Nancy's because it tastes good and it's cultured. Also Nancy's sells giant containers of yogurt which is wonderful because my husband is currently on a fruit-and-yogurt kick. (Please note, not all Nancy's products are organic so you have to make sure the package says organic when you buy.)


I had been using Truvia, but it's not organic. Also I'd heard that it can actually make you gain weight because your body is tricked into producing unneeded insulin which is stored as fat. So I experimented with various sweeteners. I'll go into more detail in a separate post, but for now suffice it to say that there's no lack of natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup, in organic versions. 


I bought kosher organic grape juice that I'd finally found at Whole Foods awhile before that. However, my husband requested wine. I could not find a wine that was both kosher and organic so I resigned myself to getting Israeli wine. If it wasn't organic, at least I could support Israel with my wine purchase instead of Kedem.

Whole Foods actually had kosher organic matzah and matzah meal that were also whole wheat, amazingly enough, so that was that.

Hubby requested a couple of things -- horseradish and marshmallows -- that simply did not exist in kosher and organic versions. I complied like a good wife.

Other food wasn't a problem; I just had to make sure everything was up to the strict standards for Passover, i.e. nothing with leavened bread.

Gotta draw the line somewhere

At this point, I still accept food that someone gives me, is provided free at an event, etc. even if it's not organic. I'll eat Noah's Bagels still, for example, if someone else pays. I admit that free food is a weakness of mine, but it's also important to me to not look a gift horse in the mouth. As it is, my husband has local relatives who don't keep kosher, and it's hard enough for them to give us food that's ok, without making them also give us only organic food. I'll also use up non-organic food I had from before my transition, and I'll also use something non-organic that I bought accidentally. It's still food, an it's important to me not to waste.


While organic food has become important to me, and indeed most of the food I eat nowadays is organic, sometimes something else that's important to me trumps my desire to eat organic. I don't want to beat myself up over not eating 100% organic. As much as I can do is good. I don't have to throw in the towel when I encounter a snag.

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