Pasadena Learning Gardens

Resourcing communities to create a healthier more sustainable future

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Cooking Bread in a Dutch Oven and Alternative Steaming Techniques | Root Simple

Ok, It’s time to get hip to cooking my own bread.  There was a great event at Grist and Toll here in Pasadena, and so here is an appropriate blog post from my friend Erik – Mr. Homegrown.

Cooking Bread in a Dutch Oven and Alternative Steaming Techniques | Root Simple.

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Food is medicine, even medical schools get it

Listening to NPR this morning and I heard these people sounding like me…

“I think it’s forward thinking to view food as medicine,” he says. “That’s not something that’s really on our radar in medical education. But with the burden of disease in the United States being so heavily weighted with lifestyle disease, I think it’s a very, very logical next step.”


So-called lifestyle diseases mainly spring from bad habits, particularly bad eating habits. Think obesity or diabetes. Piper says the goal of this partnership between New Orleans, Louisiana-based Tulane and Johnson & Wales is to change the way doctors think about food. As far as the program’s creators know, it’s the first time a culinary school and a medical school have partnered like this.

See the rest of the transcript or listen to the story at:

Just What The Doctor Ordered: Med Students Team With Chefs : The Salt : NPR.

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Mediterranean Diet Wins Again

Yet another study is out confirming what most of us already know: The Mediterranean Diet is great for heart health.  The study  participants were given olive oil and tree nut mixtures as a primary focus.  They were also given training on how to eat with generous amounts of olive, fruits, nuts, vegetables and cereals, a moderate amount of fish and poultry, and very little dairy, red meats, processed meats and sweets.  The results: A 30% reduction in cardiac events versus the control group, who was only given advice on eating a low-fat diet.

Important to note is that the Mediterranean Diet is not low-fat.  It’s actually moderate to high fat but it promotes consumption healthy fats and discourages consumption of unhealthy saturated fats like those found in meat.  Additionally, the Mediterranean Diet is about more than just what we eat; it’s about “how we eat.”  Instead of “forcing” our meals down in front of the TV, we should be sitting at the table for a relaxed meal with family or friends and no electronic devices.  This allows you to eat mindfully, actually experiencing how great the food tastes and to know when you are full.  And keep in mind that this diet is not about losing weight.  It’s about better heart health.  Check out more on the study here.  Mediterranean Diet for Hearth Health Gains Momentum.

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Adventures in Eating Well Affordably

I made a very important life decision a couple of years ago.  I wanted to eat better.  Although my diet was okay, there were still too many industrially produced and ultra-processed food-like substances, too many added engineered sweeteners (HFCS and other sugars seem to be in almost everything even when they shouldn’t be – just check out your pasta sauce or bread), too much non-organic produce, too much tainted animal product, and most certainly too much nutritionally degraded long-distance produce from South America, Australia and points unknown.  So I decided to gradually transition as much as I could toward healthier, more sustainably produced and locally grown foods.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, that was all fine and good until I really started digging in.  It was at that point I realized this was going to be expensive.  How was I going to be able to afford all this?  I first took a look at my overall monthly spending across everything.  Wow!  Shocking!  When I finally recovered from that seizure, I found a lot of easy ways to save a bunch – e.g. dropping the land-line, renegotiating cable TV, Internet and newspaper subscription rates, etc.

But we’re more concerned here about how to get good food more affordably.  So my mission over the next year will be to figure this all out.  I’m a little nervous about this.  It will be a lot of experimenting, trial and error, maybe even a mild case food poisoning.  I’ll be documenting my adventures here on the Pasadena Learning Gardens website so you guys can benefit from what I’m doing, learn from my mistakes, and hopefully improve your health and your pocketbook at the same time.

My plan will involve three main strategies:

  1. Finding the right source – Good quality food at a good price.
  2. Buying in a collective.
  3. Producing food myself.

So for starters, I want to talk about store-bought foods that may seem healthy and cheap but really aren’t.  I first looked at some of the stuff I was buying regularly at the store and calculated how much it was costing me per serving.  That’s when I realized how expensive a lot of it actually is.  Case in point: Iced Green Tea.  I love iced tea, especially green iced tea.  I used to buy about four 33.8 oz. bottles of Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Green Iced Tea per week, preservatives and all, for $1.49 each.  (Don’t get me wrong – this TJ’s tea is pretty good from a health and cost perspective versus most of the competition, but I can do better.)  I typically get about three servings per bottle and I drink at least two servings per day.  So at $0.50 per serving, I was spending $1 per day or $30 per month on green iced tea.

Iced Green Tea

Iced Green Tea

On a trip to 99 Ranch Market, I took a look at the basic green tea in bags like the kind you get at Chinese restaurants.  They had regular green and Jasmine green for $3.29 for 100 bags (I think there was one that was even cheaper).  After tasting a few kinds, I settled on the Jasmine green, which tastes great and I don’t need to use any sweetener.  I brew about one gallon each week (slightly less than the amount in the four bottles per week I used of the TJ’s stuff, which was my weekly addiction) using eight tea bags per gallon.  And I do it directly in the refrigerator so no need for hot water.  (I let it brew overnight and it tastes great.)  The tea bags alone cost about $0.28 per gallon while LA DWP charges me about half a cent for the water.  The water filter on my faucet maybe runs another penny or so per gallon in terms of cartridge costs.  Total Cost: somewhere around $0.30 per gallon for my green tea, or less than $0.03 per serving – versus $0.50 with the premade stuff.  So I turned a $30 per month habit into one that runs less than $2 per month.  And I avoid the preservatives.

Some additional thoughts if you’re going to do this on a regular basis:

  •  Avoid sun-brewed tea.  It can easily harbor bacteria and you really only can store it a day or two.
  • For regular brewed tea, I’ve read it can last in the refrigerator in an airtight container as long as two weeks but more often I read that it lasts 4 – 5 days before turning and starting to taste stale.  Note that this is if the tea is unsweetened.  If it’s sweetened, much shorter, maybe a day or two at the most.  If you put a sprig of fresh mint into the water while it’s brewing, it can last a day or two longer.  And it will also keep longer if you put it in the fridge immediately after making it.  The less time any food spends at room temperature, the better.
  • I actually brew it in the refrigerator thus no hot water.  I brew it overnight.  I’ve read that it can last about 3 – 4 days so I brew about 2/3 of a gallon at a time.
  • Make sure to clean your tea jug or bottle regularly with soap and hot water – or run it through the dishwasher.
  • There are many great ways to flavor or sweeten your tea.  Check out for some great ideas.  But remember, when you sweeten it the shelf life will be shorter.

So try out green iced tea for starters.  It’s really easy.  And check back next week.  It will be even more ambitious.  We’re going to try fermenting.

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What should I eat?

I’ve been reflecting on this for years and am finally getting a handle on it. First, to paraphrase Michael Pollan in Food Rules, our western diet has led to an unacceptable increase in many health issues. We don’t know enough about how our body uses the complex combinations of food each of us chooses to consume, and tranditional diets, regardless of being protein, fat, or carbohydrate dominated do not lead to many of these health issues.

I’ve come to believe that back in the days where generations of people stayed close to home, that microorganisims in the soil that facilitae nutrient uptake in plants, the plants themselves, and the microorganisims in animals and us, coevolved in a way that created a system that worked amazingly well, and that we’ve found hundreds of ways to break this system…

However I am, like many, such a mutt that I come from many places and Thomas Woolf was right, you can’t go home.

So I’ve found three nutritional models and am convinced the truth lies somewhere in the space between them.

Fist is Joel Fuhrmans model of Nutrient Density

Nutrient Density.

such that we should always maximize the nutrients and fiber we get in a calorie of food and this leads us to eating a largely plant based diet with few animal or highly processed products.

Second is the model of local and seasonal produce

Third is the model of living food – fermented, sprouted, etc.

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A Recipe for Simplifying Life: Ditch All the Recipes –

This is great. In particular the section on cooking veggies. She buys a load and goes home and prepares them all, some for today and the rest for the remainder of the week. I’ve been food processing my carrots and beets into shreds that I put in everything but never thought about it like this…

A Recipe for Simplifying Life: Ditch All the Recipes –