Food for Thought: What is ‘organic’?

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

“Local” and “seasonal,” like “fresh” and “organic,” can mean a lot of different things, according to Jim Gallivan, department chair of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta and author of "The Adventure Cookbook."

To clear things up, Gallivan offers definitions for the terms:

* Local. Local can be defined as having been grown less than a day's drive from where it's purchased. Gallivan says local produce lasts longer, not having spent days traveling across the country or the world to get to you, which also means less resources are used and less air pollution is emitted.

* Seasonal. Today, you can get almost any kind of produce at just about any time of the year. Asparagus in December is shipped in from Peru, where it's in season. If food is not in season and it's not local, it won't have the great flavor you find in freshly picked produce.

* Fresh. If it's local and seasonal, fresh is usually better. But sometimes canned or frozen is a better choice, especially if you're cooking vegetables or fruit, as opposed to serving them raw. For instance, tomatoes are out of season in the winter, so it is better to use canned. Gallivan says canned and frozen produce has typically been picked and processed at its peak. 

* Organic. By definition, organic produce has been grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides while using sustainable agricultural practices. "Natural" is not the same as "organic." Neither is "additive free" or "no preservatives." Moreover, there are different levels of United States Department of Agriculture Organic Certification. So when you shop for organic produce, be aware and read the fine print.

To learn more about USDA Organic Certification, visit

-- ARA

Tip of the Week

Add strawberries, blueberries or bananas to your waffles, pancakes, oatmeal or any other breakfast choice. Or top your whole-grain toast with peanut butter and bananas.


Easy recipe: Cream of Spinach Soup

  • 2 ounces butter, unsalted
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach packed, or 1 (10-ounce) package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream per serving
  • Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the butter and oil together. Add leek and saute until soft. Add spinach and stir. Then add potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

When potatoes are soft, puree all and return to simmer. Add half and half and stir.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and then garnish with sour cream and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve hot or chilled.

Makes 16 servings.

-- ARA/ Jim Gallivan, “The Adventure Cookbook”

Did You Know?

March is National Nutrition Month. Eat fruits and vegetables in a wide range of colors to sneak in extra nutrition this month.


Would you buy it?

Product: Smart Balance Rich Roast Peanut Butter and Omega-3

Details: The natural peanut butter has no hydrogenated oil or refined sugar. It comes in a 16-ounce jar, and each 2-tablespoon serving has 190 calories and 320 milligrams of omega-3, a so-called “good” fat. It comes in creamy and chunky.

Claims: A news release says it’s “made with select whole peanuts that are finely ground and batch-roasted for a creamier, richer taste.”

More information: or 201-568-9300

Comments: We tried the creamy version and were surprised by the rich nutty flavor. “It tastes roasty.” “I like that it doesn’t need refrigeration.” “It’s good, but I don’t care if it has omega-3.”

Would you buy it? Yes, especially if it goes on sale.

-- State Journal-Register (Ill.)

Food Quiz

What is Kibbeh?

A. Stuffed sheep intestines

B. Fried chicken breast

C. Minced meat stuffed inside of fried bulgur wheat

D. Grilled meat with parsley


Answer is at bottom of column

Wise to the Word:Ganache

[gahn-AHSH] A rich chocolate icing made of semisweet chocolate and whipping cream, which are heated and stirred together until the chocolate has melted. The mixture is cooled until lukewarm and poured over a cake or torte. Ganache souffle is made from the same base but often includes a tablespoon or so of rum or cognac. Whereas ganache is used to glaze cakes, pastries and tortes, ganache souffle is generally used to fill them.


Number to Know

477: One cup of crumbled blue cheese is 477 calories.


The Dish On …

“Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen” by Sara Wells and Kate Jones

Sara Wells and Kate Jones began their blog, Our Best Bites, in March 2008. In the past two years, their website has grown to 50,000 hits a day. Sara and Kate, two Mormon girls who love to cook, offer 150 recipes for easy meals and snacks that are fun to make, include healthy, fresh ingredients and are popular with families. They share their tips and tricks (mixed with an abundant sense of humor) and step-by-step, full-color photo instructions for each recipe.

-- Shadow Mountain Publishing

From the Beer Nut’s Blog: Narragansett’s spring Bock

Narragansett has announced the release of its new spring seasonal, the Bock. You won’t miss this beer on the shelf because it’s available in 16-ounce cans that also happen to be bright green.

I’m looking forward to trying this beer –– a good bock can be fantastic. Narragansett’s last beer, the Porter, was a good easy drinking beer, so I’m hoping the new Bock is like that, too.

To read more from the Beer Nut, visit

Food Quiz Answer

C. Minced meat stuffed inside of fried bulgur wheat

GateHouse News Service