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The crocuses are popping up, the days are longer, and it’s time to do some cleaning! Spring also brings new opportunities for cleaning up our food choices and having some fun doing it. At Toxic-Free Future, we love to talk about food and how it feeds our souls. We even cook staff dinners together sometimes, which allows us to share our skills in the kitchen. The results are amazing! Here are some tips we would like to share to spring clean your food choices, prioritizing fresh produce, safer seafood, and healthier products! 

Roast cabbage with an herb salt and olive oil—skip the pesticides.

Now is the time to find some amazing organic savoy cabbage at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. A simple way to prepare it is to roast it in the oven in a cast iron pan. It turns out divine. Simply core the savoy cabbage and quarter it, place it in the pan, drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and sprinkle it with rosemary herb salt, like Seasonello. Cook for 45 minutes to one hour at 400 degrees until soft and a little brown on top. Serve with some organic protein like smoked paprika chicken breasts. This cabbage recipe, created by our deputy director, Marlyn Twitchell, is catching fire among our staff

We prioritize these fruits and vegetables for buying organic because they have the most pesticides: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherries, tomatoes, hot peppers, kale, and collard greens.

Try sardines on saltines and a little lime to eat safer fish.

Fish is good food and eating a variety is key. Our executive director, Laurie Valeriano, is passionate about fishing and loves wild salmon, red snapper, and grouper. But for spring, her favorite lunch includes some good quality sardines packed in EVOO on saltine crackers with a squeeze of lime and a fresh salad. 

In general, good choices to limit toxic chemical exposures that build up in fish (e.g. PCBs, mercury) are wild caught, fish with shorter life spans, and smaller fish that are lower on the food chain. Examples include wild salmon, Pacific sardines, Pacific cod, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Also, check local fish advisories issued by health departments that will tell you which fish should be limited due to toxic contamination.

Try some dried beans and avoid plastic-lined canned food.

For our staff who work in Seattle, our favorite dried beans are from a farm in Eastern Washington called Alvarez Organic Farms. All of the beans are delicious, but the white beans, in particular, have the creamiest, smoothest texture. Soaking overnight makes the beans cook faster and can be done in a slow cooker for around four or five hours on low with big cloves of garlic and salt. Saute up some kale or escarole in EVOO and garlic, add the beans, and you have a delicious dinner!

This approach eliminates the need for cans, which are lined with plastic chemicals like bisphenols, vinyl, or polyester.

Transform your kitchen to a plastic-free zone.

It is easier to try to avoid all plastic than to figure out which ones are safer. And frankly, because the majority are made from fossil fuels and contribute to climate change, we are better off avoiding plastics altogether. 

Some of our favorite ways to phase out plastic include: 

  • Choose wood cooking utensils and cutting boards
  • Opt for beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap 
  • Use reusable, washable dish cloths instead of sponges 
  • Put leftovers and dry goods (e.g. sugar, chips, flour) in pretty glass containers and mason jars that make it easier to see when items are low. 

And, of course, we all carry our stainless steel water bottles everywhere!

Cook with friends and family and enjoy and learn from each other!

The research shows that when we eat with others socially, we can be happier and more satisfied with life! A quick survey of our staff proves this. Daniel will never forget learning how to make vegetable pancakes from a friend’s Vietnamese grandmother and learning about her life in Vietnam. Megan loves doing themed dinners: a favorite is Hawaiian, where she made loco moco for dinner and butter mochi for dessert, and Cantonese hot pot and egg tarts. And Melissa, Kathleen, and Eddy like potlucks, trying new dishes, sharing recipes and stories, and laughing with friends!