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the lesson in Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”

Chipotle‘s newest thought-provoking film is every bit as good as the last, in my biased opinion, and this time, there’s an app to go with it. I declare myself biased because my husband works for Chipotle, so some may discount my opinion based on that. Thought I’d better throw that tidbit out there right away.

“The Scarecrow,” with it’s simple, clear visuals and haunting remake by Fiona Apple of the song “Pure Imagination” from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” challenges how we think about fast food. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will challenge you to throw off a bit of the denial the next time you take your family to the restaurant with the golden arches. By all means, what you eat is your choice, but no matter your choice (and I’ve been known to make some pretty poor choices), at least understand what you are putting into your body and what the industries you are supporting do to the animals you are eating. There ARE better choices out there. Chipotle is one of them.

Please check out “The Scarecrow.”

The littles and I have watched “The Scarecrow” a couple of times. The first time, I let them just watch it to see what they would pull from it on their own. They understood that it was sad, and they felt bad for the animals.

Porter (6) asked “Why are these Chipotle things always so sad?”

It’s hard to explain it to a six-year-old. You can’t really go into the politics of it all, so I did my best: “They are supposed to make you feel sad, because they want you to feel so strongly that it changes the way you think.”

The second time we watched, I did some commentary and paused it if they asked questions. Porter seemed to understand as I explained that the people are just eating the food, and they don’t know about all of the chemicals in it, and they don’t know how badly the animals are treated. All they see is the cute little store front and the yummy-looking food, so they buy it, and they eat it. What “The Scarecrow” is showing us is what goes on in reality. “Oh, so that’s why you won’t take us to McDonald’s and fast food very often,” he concluded, then asked “but why can’t we just eat the good kind of animals, and why can’t the fast food places use those?…Chipotle does.”

So he got the message perfectly. “Exactly, Porter.” I said. “They don’t because it’s cheaper to buy the yucky stuff, so that means they make more money.”

“That’s just wrong,” he declared. Bingo.

Campbell (4), my little self-proclaimed vegetarian, had a few more questions and had some very strong feelings: “The poor cows need us. And the pigs. And the chickens.” Yes. “Mommy, I want to save a cow.”

I asked her how we could do that.

“We could make a home for it at the farm.”

“That’s a great idea. But we don’t have a farm,” I reminded her.

“So what can we do?” she asked.

“Well, how about we don’t buy the animals from the factories. If we don’t eat many animals, and the ones we do eat come from little farms that treat them right–rather than factories–we’ll be helping the farmers who are doing the right thing. If everyone does that, then the guys that are doing the wrong thing will go out of business and they won’t be able to hurt us or the animals any more.”

She thought for a minute and then spoke again. “But how do we get everyone to do that? Mommy, can we change the world?”

And that’s just the question. Can we?

are animals food? last night’s dinner conversation

We eat meat very rarely in our house. I’m borderline vegan, but I do make meat for the kids a couple of times a week. They can make their own choices when they are older and understand all of the information before them. I let them know why I don’t eat meat, and I tell them why people do. I never criticize them for eating it or tell them it’s bad, but I don’t serve it frequently, either.

Last night for dinner, I made the kids some cod and veggies. They had the greatest conversation with no intervention on my part. (In case you’re new to my family, my son, B, is sixteen. My son, Porter, is six, and my daughter, Campbell, is four.)

Campbell: So, this is fish, but not the kind that swims. That would be hilarious!

Porter: Um. Yes it is, Cam. What kind of fish did you think? Fake fish?

Campbell: So, am I actually eating an animal right now?

The boys: Yup.

Campbell: And they squeeeeeeeeze the eyeballs out so it tastes good?

B: Well, that’s one way to put it.

Campbell: One time, I want to try eating fake animals, because I don’t like eating real animals.

B: You kind-of have. Didn’t you eat at McDonald’s?

Campbell: Oh, yeah! That’s not real food!



my new bible: The Kind Diet

thekinddietJPGA few months ago, I borrowed Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet from the library, and once I hit the maximum number of renewals allowed, I hung onto the book and paid the overdue fees until a purchased copy was delivered to my doorstep. I couldn’t be without it.

As an aspiring vegan for reasons of health, animal protection, environmental preservation, and, well, hell, the love of a good challenge, I find myself turning to The Kind Diet on a daily basis. Silverstone’s book provides coaching, inspiration, and damn good recipes, all free of judgement.

The first half of the book shares Silverstone’s opinions and research about why being vegan is a good choice and how it makes her feel. It is often funny. It’s thought-provoking and approachable, as if you’re chatting on the couch with a girlfriend. I mean, she talks about farts. Good stuff. She discusses the benefits of particular foods and coaches the why and how of making a transition to a vegan lifestyle. I’ve called myself a flexitarian because I’m making mostly vegan choices but still can’t tear myself away from an occasional juicy burger. Since being a vegan can seem extreme and the lifestyle has it’s share of critics, it’s helpful that Silverstone outlines three levels of vegans, and how to qualify: “flirting,” “going vegan,” and “becoming a superhero.” There’s something for everyone!

The second half of the book is full of delicious recipes. Silverstone has introduced me to some new ingredients I never knew existed, which is really exciting. Some of the recipes are quick and simple and have become staples for my family, such as “Christopher’s Cauliflower Steaks.” Some are definitely more time-consuming and labor-intensive, but since Silverstone talks a lot about experiencing the joy and sensuality of cooking, this makes sense. I have to plan ahead a bit more for these recipes, but they are worth it.

I’ve implemented many of the basic tips from The Kind Diet and am working my way through the recipes in the book as a huge part of my journey toward becoming vegan. Plus, it’s a fun read. Everything about it is kind. To learn more about The Kind Diet and the vegan way of life, check out Silverstone’s Web site, The Kind Life.

cow’s milk or almond milk?

I grew up drinking and loving cow’s milk. After breast feeding Porter and Campbell for eighteen and sixteen months, respectively, I happily transitioned them into a morning routine of cow’s milk. My eldest (16), B, has long-loved a tall glass of the stuff with desert every evening. It has been in our lives, and it’s a hard habit to shake.

When my daughter, Campbell, now 4 1/2, first began breast feeding, the doctors suggested I supplement with formula because she wasn’t thriving and she, in fact, was throwing up most of what I put in her. We determined that she had a dairy allergy, so any dairy I consumed was rejected by her body. Without passing judgement on those who choose formula for a variety of reasons, I was personally determined that no formula would enter the lips of my babies. And I knew I could make the sacrifices necessary to make that happen.

So I quit all dairy cold turkey, and I considered it an adventure. It was easy to give up dairy for my child, and it was fun to explore new options. I learned a lot, Campbell did better, and I discovered soy. I thought it a delicious miracle, and considered myself healthier for it. Soy has it’s own issues, which I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say that when I discovered those issues, I decided to take the next step in my journey. Enter almond milk.

Most of the milk I drink is part of my morning coffee. Soy in place of cow’s milk was a creamy, delicious trade, and I felt healthier for it. Soy milk was sweeter than cow’s milk, so I gave up sugar in my coffee. I stuck with it, even after Campbell gave up the breast. I just didn’t enjoy cow’s milk anymore, and it made my coffee taste rancid. The switch to almond milk was a harder sell for me. It just didn’t seem as, well…milky. I tried rice milk and coconut milk and flax seed milk, which were even less satisfying. I finally settled on almond milk about a year ago, and I have since fallen in LOVE.

I have successfully converted my husband to enjoy almond milk in his morning coffee. On his cereal, he uses cow’s milk and almond milk in equal proportion. With desert (taking it straight), he still succumbs to the cow.

B will drink whatever I put in front of him, but, as a teenager, he pretty much fends for himself most of the time. So when I pour him a glass, he’ll happily drink almond milk. If left to his own devices, either because his brain cells have been sucked up by video games or because he likes it better or because he wants to spite me, or because his biological mother tells him I’m a hippy health freak, he’ll pour himself an overflowing glass of cow’s milk. Rebel.

The littles are now consistently drinking a 50/50 blend of almond milk and cow’s milk. I gradually blended their cow’s milk to reach that proportion, and they don’t seem to notice it. But if I go a hair over 50% with the almond milk, it is promptly rejected, and fits are thrown. I’m struggling with just abolishing cow’s milk altogether, or attempting to keep up the transition. They love their milk so. And I love beer. Best not to go cold turkey on either, for now. There might be fits.

I only purchase organic whole (less processed) cow’s milk, so we’re using the best of the worst, and I bake and cook with almond milk when milk is required. There we are.

So the ongoing saga of mind over matter and ethics and the spell of dairy in our lives continues…

This graphic that Allison’s Gourmet posted is a fantastic summary of why almond milk is a much better choice for animals, the environment, and health:Image

I’d love to hear why you choose the milk you do.

i broke down: Shamrock Farms’® new flavored sour cream

A couple of months ago, I was invited to tour Shamrock Farms, a leading local dairy farm. The farm is fairly large, and, as I expressed when I toured, I think that, while at the facility, the dairy cows are treated very well, considering the production volume.

ImageWhen I visited, I was invited to try Shamrock Farms’ newest product, then in development, their flavored sour cream. The three exciting flavors were released into stores this week (I saw them at my local grocery store, so it’s for reals), but my family and I had the privilege of sampling them a couple of weeks ago (’cause we’re just cool like that).

As you may know, I’ve been working toward living a vegan lifestyle, so, yes, I was a bit conflicted about consuming sour cream, not something I frequently do, but in the name of product research and deliciousness, I caved.

The flavored sour cream comes in three varieties: Creamy Ranch, French Onion, and my absolute favorite, Zesty Jalapeño. I thought about making something fancy and complex, but reconsidered. I wanted to taste this new product for what it really was, especially if I was falling off the wagon in it’s honor. So I made tacos.

ImageWe frequently make vegan tacos, but this time, we went vegetarian. I use a “meat-ish” base of tempeh, onion, and taco seasoning, and even our meat-eating friends think it’s delish. They don’t just say that. They actually have seconds. We put on all the trimmings, then topped each taco with a large dollop of zesty jalapeño sour cream.

YUM. I loved this flavor best because it is so flavorful, with real bits of jalapeño, and, well, zesty, as described, but just when you think it’s going to be too spicy, the creaminess mellows it all out. Even our littles loved it!

Shamrock Farms’ new flavored sour creams are currently prominently displayed on a front end-cap in my local grocery store, and I noticed when I was there yesterday that each one had a nice little coupon attached. You can also print a coupon from the Shamrock Farms Web Site. If you visit the site, you can also check out serving suggestions. And if you’re so inclined, enter the “Dip. Mix. Top.” contest.

Enjoy! And if you’re falling off the wagon like I did, don’t feel too guilty. Sometimes it’s worth it!

Disclaimer: Shamrock Farms provided me with sour cream samples in exchange for my honest opinion.

big tipper: my haul from Farmyard

Aren’t big tips just the greatest?

As the owner of Well Minded, I don’t always get a gratuity, but I sure appreciate it when I do. Today I got an awesome tip from a client who is also a friend. She is away for a while, and I’m caring for her dogs, so she was unable to pick up her CSA basket from Farmyard today. Instead, she gave it to me as a tip, and I couldn’t be happier about it! I’ve had the pleasure of testing out some of the gorgeous produce from Farmyard before, as my client friend can’t always consume all she receives, but I’ve never had a whole basket, so I’m quite excited, and already planning what to make with it for the next few days.

I was provided an address and a Farmyard tote to return when picking up this week’s haul. 20130614-143215.jpg

Although I needed my navigation system to find the neighborhood, once I got there, the house was unmistakable. The front yard presented rows of tomatoes, lettuce, squash, and the like. When I pulled up, it was something out of a Norman Rockwell Painting, only modern. Rebecca waived and greeted me warmly. She knew who I was, even though we’d never met. She was collecting some small yellow tomatoes from the garden, and her bucket was overflowing, literally, so I followed behind, picking up the dropped tomatoes that trailed behind her.

She invited me into her home, where her big yellow lab lumbered a welcome just as warm. Rebecca took my tote and handed me a fresh one full of her garden’s bounty. It included a bunch of sorrel, some giant zucchini, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, a variety of small tomatoes, two jalapeños, some garlic, a bunch of apples, and a dozen eggs. Gorgeous! Rebecca explained what I was receiving and even provided a recipe for using the sorrel, something I’ve honestly never cooked with. I’m excited to try it!20130614-143244.jpg

I am especially impressed with the eggs. As a verging-upon vegan individual who loves her eggs, it makes me feel better about falling off the wagon when I know they come from happy, healthy, pampered chickens, which is the case with Farmyard. We’ve considered getting our own chickens because they make great pets and provide eggs, but haven’t taken the plunge quite, yet. I love caring for my clients’ chickens, and often get tipped in eggs, Little House on the Prairie-style. 20130614-143305.jpg

The kids just loved the jewel-toned eggs and couldn’t keep their hands off of them. They are beautiful.

As I started the car, Porter chomped into a freshly picked apple, which was satisfying to us both.

What a wonderful first experience we had at Farmyard. We’ve been considering signing up for a CSA for quite some time, and this might be just the thing to send us over the edge!

farm life is not as simple as it seems

My daughter and I were invited to spend a simple day at the farm–Shamrock Farms. I’d been there once before, about four years ago, just a few weeks before my daughter was born. I remembered it fondly and was excited to go back, but I was also a bit nervous.

Since I’d last been there, our family has made a lot of lifestyle changes. We exercise regularly, we mostly don’t do processed food, we don’t buy paper towels, and…we make more vegan choices. I’m not able really to define it, but, well…I have no idea what I’m doing. I just know that I’ve watched my share of inspiring, influential documentaries, and there I was, confused at a dairy farm.

Shamrock Farms was as delightful as I’d remembered. Every staff member we came in contact with was a pleasure to meet and treated us as if we were old pals, which stands to reason, as the farm’s philosophy is to treat it’s customers like friends and it’s employees like family.  The facility has been family run since 1922, and was begun with a few hand-milked cows and local delivery of fresh milk in glass bottles. Ah, the good ol’ days.

We boarded the tram and got “MOO-ving” for a tour of the working farm.


Even though it is the largest family-run dairy farm in the southwest with over 10,000 cows, Shamrock Farms “loves” their herd, and set out to show us how. Since the farm produces milk and related products, all of the cows are female black and white Holsteins, and referred to as “the sisters.” When not being milked, the sisters spend their time in the “Desert Oasis, where luxurious spa treatment produces quality milk.”


In the Desert Oasis, the sisters have plenty of shade from the intense desert sun, and their shelter is complete with misting fans, something I wish I had in my own back yard. Heat stress will reduce the milk the ladies produce, so they are kept quite comfortable. Their oasis has areas where they can roam free, which seemed to have more than ample space. It is equipped with feeding gates to enhance their dining experience by keeping things non-competitive at feeding time. They can choose when to eat and when to roam…when to bask in the sun, and when to chill in the shade. They seemed calm and happy.


Dining in the oasis.

Our tour guide shocked us with statistics about what it takes to produce the milk we drink. Each day, each sister eats 100 pounds of food and drinks thirty-five gallons of water (about a bathtub full). This fuel allows the cow to produce thirty pounds of waste and 8.5 gallons of milk. Every cow. Every day. The good news is that Shamrock Farms recycles the cow waste into fertilizer to grow their food, and they also use recycled water.


Their diet consists of different types of hay with vitamins and molasses (for taste) mixed in. Maintaining their “café” is a big job. The sisters eat 90,000 pounds of hay each day! The variety they eat depends on their dietary needs at the time, and Shamrock farms provides them with variety, which is important in any diet.


The café.

We made a pit stop at the kids’ adventure area, where the little ones were given a chance to wiggle and play. They also had the opportunity to hook their fingers up to one of the milking machines used by the farm. As described, the experience was gentle, like a massage, which was a relief to all. The kids got to go down a cottage cheese slide, among other dairy-themed adventures.



As I mentioned, the last time I visited the farm, my daughter wasn’t quite born. We took a family photo on the stationary cow that day (the protrusion in my mid-section is Campbell).


Family photo at Shamrock Farms, December, 2008.

And, then, the other day, I forced Campbell atop the same cow. As you can see, she loved it.


This one is no longer captive in my mid-section.

I’m going for the triptych, so she’ll have to pose again when she’s sixteen.

Moo-ving on, we next visited the “milking parlor.” We saw the sisters file in calmly, be milked by the gentle massaging machines, and then leave just as calmly and orderly as they arrived. I found it interesting that there are a few “type-A” cows in every herd who lead the other sisters into the milking parlor in the same order every time. If we ever doubted their intelligence…


The sisters taking their places to be milked.

The sisters all seemed quite calm while they were being milked, a process they undergo twice a day, every day. Our tour guide told us that they receive a shower before each milking, and that the whole process of showering and milking, from start to finish, takes between 4-7 minutes, only.


The “milking parlor.” Markings on the sisters’ backs may indicate any health issues, how many times they have been pregnant, or whether they are soon going into heat.


Eye contact. Makes you think.

There are some special areas for cows with particular needs, such as a “maternity ward” for mama cows. The soon-to-be moms stay in the ward beginning three weeks before their due date, and are also provided an after-birth care area with other new moms. It is a place where they can be monitored closely by staff veterinarians. Their care includes a “manicure,” (hoof treatment), which any new mom can appreciate.  Considering the farm sees thirty to forty births per day, this component of the farm is crucial, as is the “nursery,” where all of the new babies go. The babies are bottle-fed from the start, first with their own mother’s colostrum, and they are bucket-weaned three to five days after birth. They stay in very small, individual pens for approximately two months, in order to keep them safe and ensure that they get proper nutrition. They are then moved to a larger pen with a small herd, and then gradually move into larger pens with more sisters.

Beginning at about age two, the cows have between four and six babies (one, very occasionally two at a time) during their lives at Shamrock Farms, which is usually about seven or eight years.

Shamrock farms has a “traditional” herd and an organic herd. The organic herd can not be treated with antibiotics or added hormones (the traditional herd does not have added hormones, either, which is nice), and their food can not be treated with pesticides. Unfortunately, many organic herds suffer because though a cow may be very sick, they are not treated with needed antibiotics. Their milk production is valued more than their comfort, so they are left to suffer and sometimes die so that they can stay “organic.” Not so at Shamrock Farms. Since they have both an organic herd and a traditional herd, they are able to treat a sick organic sister with antibiotics, if needed, then simply move her to the traditional herd. Shamrock Farms really does seem to care about their animals.

The main difference in the organic herd, aside from the lack of antibiotics, is in what and how they eat. They have access to pasture 180 days out of every year, and there are no pesticides whatsoever in their food. Many times we don’t think about pesticides being in our dairy, but what goes into the cow affects what comes out, so it’s important to make sure you understand where your food comes from and what goes into it, every step of the way.

All Shamrock Farms Cows are born and remain on the farm for the duration of their calf-producing, milk-making years. As dairy farms go, I believe Shamrock Farms is one of the best. The animals seem happy and healthy, and they are treated better than other large dairy farms I’ve researched. That doesn’t take away the inherent problems in dairy farms, which is a topic for another time, but can’t be ignored. Yes, any animal that does not produce milk, which include all of the males born and the females beyond cow-bearing years, are collected by the meat broker. “The circle of life” is how it was decreed by our tour guide (of course, this was not actually part of the tour, but something I asked on the side). Regardless of my beliefs, whatever time the cows spend at Shamrock Farms is as good as it can be.

The people at Shamrock Farms pulled out all of the stops for us, and we even had the opportunity to try one of their soon-to-be released products, flavored sour cream, due out in June. The newest addition to their product lineup is a result of focus groups and consumer feedback.


The lineup.

The flavored sour cream will be quite versatile. “Dip it. Mix it. Top it” is the message they want to communicate. There will be simple applications, and the sour cream should be an exciting enhancement to recipes, as well. The sour cream will come in three flavors: ranch, french onion, and–my favorite–jalapeño. For dairy-consumers, this is a healthy alternative to highly processed dips and dip mixes, as they are minimally processed with no added hormones and are locally made (for those of us in AZ). They will come in 12-ounce tubs and will be priced about the same as regular sour cream, about $2..99. It was fun get the inside scoop on a product that isn’t available yet in stores!

We had a great day at Shamrock Farms. I would highly recommend checking out your local dairy, and if that’s Shamrock Farms, all the better! Their hospitality makes you feel like you’re back in the 1920’s when the farm began, while their technology and ideas are ahead of their time.

Above all, please educate yourself about the quality of the food you put into your body, and know how the animals who make–or who are–your food are treated.

Disclaimer: I was invited to visit Shamrock Farms and received a complimentary day of activities, but all opinions are my own.