The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Farmers Market Cooking – the Right Way August 3, 2010

As you know, I’ve had several forays into farmers market cooking. It is usually sporadic, however, and often involves potatoes. They keep well and need nothing more than olive oil. But lately I’ve been seriously lagging, mostly because all the farmers markets close at five. Five! Unless I make it there on Saturday or Sunday, well, than it’s off to Whole Foods, or – even lazier – my corner grocery store for pesticide laden produce from California.

I’m a bad person. I know!

Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself I signed up for a cooking class with the owner of Home Cooking NYC, Jennifer Clair. The menu was composed almost entirely of farmers market goodies, save the lemon, sugar, salt, and flour. Hmm, maybe the butter too. But really, it was a very small percentage wasn’t fresh from the stalls.

Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable. In contrast to my last cooking class, which was long on knife technique and short on instruction on high quality ingredients, Jennifer was all about getting the best stuff. She talked about the meaty wonderfullness of heirloom tomatoes, the robust flavor of fresh garlic, the dense nutritional value of farro (an “uber grain” she called it), the merits of salt, and the demerits of processed food, how to store various fresh herbs, and the importance of choosing sustainable fish and humanely raised meat.

In short, she imparted a gold mine of information about how to cook and eat healthfully. She agrees with Michael Pollan on many points, including the fact that Americans devote a too small percentage of their budget to food. “I spend most of my money on food,” she said. As someone who enjoys paying $4 for an heirloom tomato so she can bite into like an apple, she was definitely telling the truth.

So what goodies did she demonstrate? Check out these photos of the fresh ingredients before they were whipped into munch-worthy shape by Jennifer:

Fresh Tomato, Fennel and Corn Relish over tilapia fish. Lightly floured and tossed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, tilapia is an easy cook – it holds together well and is always a good choice for the cook who is conscientious of depleted fish stocks.

Roasted Ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes, basil, and – a untraditional addition which really amped up the flavor – kalamata olives, all spooned over farro. A great choice for this time of year, ratatouille brings together a bounty harvest of mid-summer flavors. It may be a “peasant dish” but it tastes like royalty.

Magret duck with a summer fruit compote. Seeing that the Columbia farmers market near me has no chicken, but has duck, I was grateful for this recipe. It combines savory duck, with sweet fruit in a way I didn’t think possible. It wasn’t quite as good as the duck from Bobo in the West Village, but that is a really, really high bar. You can also try the compote over chicken or pork, or mix it up with other fruit, even apples. Tasty!

The empanada and the peach pie met, fell in love, and had a little bastard child called “hand pie.” It’s got it’s momma’s good looks and it’s daddy’s money, and it’s flaky, buttery crust encases a sweet fruit filling that will knock you out. Did I mention it was yummy?

The end result was a family-style lunch that was just the right amount of filling, and good conversation with other aware foodies from NYC and Connecticut.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t reproduce her recipes here, well, a. it doesn’t do them justice, and b. I don’t want to steal her thunder! I highly recommend Jennifer’s classes. Find more here, including private lessons in the home and lessons in her home kitchen in the Hudson Valley.

P.S. It’s National Farmers Market Week!


A Non-Toxic Manicure and Thrift Shopping July 23, 2010

Ugh, so sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week. But I’m back, and this will be the first of several backlogged posts.

Saturday was catch-up-on errands day. You see, I had to finally get rid of some old clothes. I cleaned out my closet months ago with the help of a stylist, and even after one trip, there was still an impressive pile on the floor of cast-offs. I poured it all in a couple of reusable bags to take with me.

The whole city was hot, muggy, and inhospitable. My air conditioner labored to keep my room comfortable, and we had all the lights switched off so we didn’t blow a fuse in our old apartment. As I got my stuff together to run out the door, I decided at the last minute to switch bags. “It’s too hot to carry a leather purse,” I complained to Vicki. The idea of having black leather touching my skin, even if it was a thin strap, was gross. I poured everything in a cotton shopping tote, picked up my stuff, and took off for Brooklyn.

I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it to the cool air conditioning of the subway, and drenched again when I emerged into the hot sun and walked two blocks to my destination: Beacon’s Closet. I gratefully pushed open the glass door to the air conditioning.

Beacon’s closet is great, because it’s such an easy process to consign your clothes.

1. Dump your bags full of clothing and accessories with the girls in the back.

2. Either leave and go home, or go shopping on 5th Ave for an hour while they go through your stuff.

3. Pick up your voucher for store credit or cash.

If you decide to just go home, they’ll donate everything they don’t take to charity and you can come back another day for the voucher. If you decide to come back, you can take back all the clothes they don’t want. So easy!

So I left my unwanted stuff with a hipster girl with a brassy blond pixie cut and went to get my nails done. I found a place only a block away and popped in.

Now, a word about getting your nails done: It is not good for you. I mean, it’s great if you want to stop biting your nails (that may or may not be a problem for me) but in reality, a nail salon is a viciously toxic place, with toxins that have been linked to birth deformities, cancer, and liver damage. About this time last year, I made the trek down to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to get my nails done at a green salon, but lets be honest – it’s just too much to ask me to be on the train for an extra hour for a manicure. (There are other salons who use organic nail polish, but none of them are anywhere near the Upper West Side or even Mid-town.) So I came up with a solution: bring my own stuff!

Priti is a great line of nail polishes and nail polish that…well, I’ll let them explain:

Priti Polishes have been formulated without Toluene, DBP and Formaldehyde, all known carcinogens and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. They are fast drying, chip resistant, and super glossy.

As much as I like O.P.I. and Essie nail polish, I like my health more, and these Priti polishes really do the trick. Oh, and you can find them on Amazon, among other places. I had come prepared with pink nail polish, a top coat, and nail polish remover in my bag, and as I slid into a seat at the table, I took them out and put them on the table. “Can I use my own?” I asked the nail technician. She nodded as she took out her various sterilized tools. Then she took a cotton swap and began to soak it with blue liquid. I slid my nail polish remover forward and indicated it. She paused, quizzically, and with an expression of curiosity unscrewed it and soaked a new cotton swab, then set to work.

While she was  pushing up my cuticles and soaking my fingertips, I was able to study the ingredient list on the “fancy” lotions displayed next to me, so when she reached for a bottle I was prepared to turn down the offer of a hand massage. I can’t say for sure there were toxins in there, but if I need a chemistry teacher to identify it, then I don’t use it. It’s a rule that has served me well.

I could just imagine what the technician was saying to her neighbor as she giggled in Korean. “What is this silly white girl doing? Man, do we get some crazy hippies in Brooklyn.” No matter, the woman getting a pedicure next to me and I had a great discussion of the merits of bringing our own polish, and, God help me, Birkenstocks.

When she was done applying the last layer of polish, she picked up my stuff and settled me in the cancer causing UV nail dryer. When she walked away I subtly turned off the light switch and settled for a blow dry.

All prettied up, I stopped by a smoothie shop. I quizzed the girl behind the counter to establish that no extra sugar is added or syrup, and then ordered a pina colada.

It came in a styrene cup.

ARG! I just can’t win! It was too hot to get mad though, so I stopped outside the door to pet a cute pooch and headed back to Beacon’s Closet. I still had time to kill when I got back in, so against my better judgment I started to peruse.

I actually didn’t think I would find anything. Beacon’s has weird criteria for what clothing they pick. They usually turn down 75% of what I bring them, but they do keep some fairly ugtastic items. I guess I’m just not hipster enough to understand what is “fashionable”.

Despite this, I found several cute items:

One very fashionable (a la Refinery 29) Dooney & Burke long-handled leather purse in perfect condition, $25

One gorgeous maxi dress in bright tropical colors with neckline embelishments, $19

One adorable vintage bow tie for Mike to wear to the Jazz Age Festival on Sunday (post coming!), $9

Even minus the clothing I ended up buying, I netted $14. New clothes, AND money. I should clean out my closet more often!


I Am NOT a Guinea Pig July 21, 2010

How many times have I talked about the toxic chemicals found in nail polish, lotions, and even receipts?

It’s not just these things, chemicals that can cause cancer and  mess with your ability to have children are found in stuff we touch and handle every day, like floor carpet, baby bottles, and food cans. It’s gotten so bad that they have found toxins in umbilical cords. That’s right, we’ve poisoned our babies  before they even make it out into the world. Good ol’ American ingenuity.

If by now you are saying “WTF? Isn’t someone supposed to make sure this doesn’t happen? Why are companies allowed to poison us?” You are on the right track.

As it stands now, companies are allowed to come up with all sorts of crazy stuff, and put it on the market, with no proof that it is safe. You would think after all that asbestos and lead craziness, the government would get wise and think, “Hey, maybe some man-made chemicals should be tested before we put it in insulation, paint, and food containers.” Unfortunately, it’s impossible for the EPA to keep up with the thousands of chemicals out there on the market.

Go to to voice your concern and help push new regulation through congress to make it the responsibility of manufacturers to prove their products are safe before they can be marketed.


Ask Your Dr for Alternatives July 15, 2010

Filed under: health,Tips — Alden @ 6:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes you shouldn’t always blindly follow your doctor’s directions. And I’m not talking about homeopathic medicine and natural remedies here in lieu of science. Please take your prescriptions. Well, unless you are 300 pounds and diabetic. Then some weight loss might do the trick. But I digress. What I’m saying is that if your doctor tells you to do something that seems like it might clash with your eco-minded values, just explore your options.

This is a silly little example, but this morning I had an appointment at the dermatologist. I just have a tiny little red dot on my cheek that seems to be permanent, and I wanted it gone.

The dermatologist, Dr. Persaud, was super nice, and after zapping my annoying little red mark, she told me to apply Aquafor twice a day for a week. I thanked her and headed out to the reception area. Then I thought twice and popped my head back in.

“Um, can I use anything besides Aquafor? Maybe something more natural?”

She thought for a second and said, “Sure, olive oil would work great.”

I mean, why not just say that in the first place? I would have gone out and bought Aquafor, which comes in a little plastic tube, and is made from petroleum. And I would have used it for a week and then thrown it away. Now instead I will pay zero dollars, won’t put a whole slew of gross ingredients on my skin and won’t waste the resources it took to make it, package it, and ship it out to New York City. That’s a win.

So yeah, just ask questions in your doctor’s office. That’s all!


Food Washing: Like Greenwashing, but grosser June 22, 2010

Have you read In Defense of Food yet? If you have, then you know the injecting Froot Loops with calcium and vitamin D doesn’t do bumpkus for your health. I mean, that should be obvious. But apparently it doesn’t take much to convince people that it’s OK to feed their kids sugary cereal and Wonder Bread for every meal.

The healthiest and happiest people know that in order to get your vitamins in minerals, you should just go ahead and eat whole foods: fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and humanely-raised meat. Science doesn’t fully understand how vitamins nutrients interact to help or hinder each other within the body. So pulling out one vitamin and saying it might prevent cancer is like saying holding hands and singing kumbaya might prevent a war.

Tell that to the food industry. Now that people are starting to become dimly aware that you need to eat healthy to lose weight, food companies are flailing about, trying to make their crap offerings appear not-so-bad. According to this post on ecosalon, there is nothing to prevent a packaged food brand from making all sorts of crazy claims. Do women actually believe Crystal Light will boost immunity. Guess what drains your immunity? Chemically derived sugars. Wait, isn’t that what Crystal Light is made of?

Ok, sorry. I’m being harsh. Sometimes we just want an excuse to eat what we want to eat. You better believe that if Reese’s said “Made with Real Peanuts!” I would be like, “Hell yeah, that counts as my vegetable for the day!” But still, I think we should be aware of what kind of messages are being used to manipulate us.

Read the post for more goodies like:

  • “Lightly sweetened Frosted Mini Wheats, which are 20% sugar by volume
  • Healthy Choice minestrone soup, which is only “healthy” if you eat half a cup, their recommended serving size. The actual bowl is twice that, and packs a huge punch of sodium.
  • Rice Krispies boost immunity. Really Kellogg’s?

The FDA has only gone as far as to send warning letters to some of the offending parties. In absence of any sort of regulation, I’ve given you a five step process for sorting through the claims of food manufacturers.

1. Read all labels carefully. Keep a look out for claims like “reduces risk of cancer,” “lowers cholesterol,” “weight challenge,” or anything similar.

2. Laugh heartily.

3. Set box back down, walk to the outside aisles of your grocery store.

4. Fill bags with fruit, vegetables, bulk grains,  and freshly butchered cuts of lean meat.

5. Go cook something. Anything. Stick a potato in the oven with olive oil. Throw some brown rice in a pot with soy sauce and chopped onions and carrots. Whatever, just don’t believe a word of what those fools tell you.


ADORABLE ALERT: Pocket Guide to Produce Pesticides June 21, 2010

Can’t afford to buy everything organic, but still concerned about pesticides on your produce? Carry this adorable guide in your wallet, which tells you the dirty dozen of pesticides, and the cleanest too!

(Click the image to download)


Mmmmm, poop in your bottled water June 16, 2010

Let’s assume that you don’t mind paying a dollar or more for bottled water. And then let’s assume that you don’t really care about the millions of bottles floating in the ocean right now. Maybe this will get your attention:

“…bottles have been found to contain mold, sodium hydroxide, kerosene, styrene, algae, yeast, tetrahydrofuran, sand, fecal coliforms and other forms of bacteria, elevated chlorine, “filth,” glass particles, sanitizer, and, in my very favorite example, crickets.”

It’s because the testing standards for municipal water are extremely stringent, while those for bottled water are much less so. In fact, even if they discovered fecal coliforms (that’s poop, you guys) in bottled water sold at your local Sam’s Club, there might not even be a recall. You would never know you drank poop.

[via BoingBoing]

PS. They’ve found fecal coliforms in soda machines too. Maybe you should stop drinking soda as well… just a thought.