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Organic Pumpkin Souffle, Easy To Make, Delicious To Eat

organic pumpkin souffleThis time of year can be tempting with all the delicious food folks cook up and bring to work. This holiday season, I’m trying out new recipes to see if I can put a healthier twist on some of my favorites. This is the first one, though admittedly, it’s not that much healthier than traditional pumpkin pie – but it IS guaranteed to impress for about the same amount of effort as homemade pumpkin pie. Without the crust, it’s certainly fewer calories and next time I make this, I’ll try a vegan version using organic oat milk instead of the luscious half and half.

Here’s how it started – I got a box of Pacific Foods organic pumpkin puree as a trial and thought I’d do something different. With a quiet afternoon (a rare gift in my world) and a recipe in hand, I looked through my pantry to see if I had all the ingredients. Miraculously, I did. Pumpkin souffle ensued.

Tips for making a great soufflé

  1. Ensure your eggs are at room temperature. Take the out at least 20 minutes in advance.
  2. When you separate your egg yolks from egg whites, ensure there is NO yolk in the whites.
  3. Put the whites in a stainless steel bowl that is clean and has no grease or oil at all.
  4. When you fold in the egg whites, be slow and gentle, it’s worth the extra 10 minutes of effort.
  5. When you put the ramekins in the oven, do not open the oven at all. Trust your oven and your timer.

Ingredients

4 organic, free range (local, if available) eggs

1 ½ cups Pacific Foods organic pumpkin puree (1 box).

½ cup organic sugar + ¼ cup sugar for egg whites

½ cup organic half & half

¼ teaspoon each: organic cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove

½ teaspoon organic vanilla (I use Singing Dog because it has the added bonus of a vanilla bean inside)

¼ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

First Things First

Preheat your oven to 375. Make sure one of the racks is in the center of the oven.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Ensure no yolk leaks into the whites. (Hint: I separate the egg, then pour the white into another bowl and repeat. That way, if one egg yolk breaks, you haven’t ruined all the egg whites). Set egg whites  and egg yolks aside.

Make Your Pumpkin Puree Mixture

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, ½ cup sugar (use ¼ cup here if you like less sweet, more pumpkin flavor), your spices, vanilla and salt. Set aside. If you’re going to use an alternative to organic granulated cane sugar, you might want to experiment with the recipe once or twice. Who needs the stress of wondering if your ‘new’ recipe will turn out properly on a big holiday?

Prepare 8 ramekins on a baking sheet. I usually melt a bit of organic butter (or soften to room temperature) – about a pat of butter size – and grease the inside of the ramekins. Set on the baking dish and set aside.

Preparing Your Egg Whites

Beat your egg whites with the ¼ tsp of cream of tartar. If using an electric mixer (recommended), start off slowly. As the whites firm up, gradually increase speed. When they are still soft but starting to form peaks, slowly (1-2 TBS at a time is slowly) mix in your remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Continue to beat with all the sugar added until the egg whites are shiny and stiff.

Take about ½ of your pumpkin puree out of the bowl (yes, it makes another dirty bowl, but worth it) and set aside. Slowly fold in the egg whites about a ½ cup at a time into ½ the pumpkin mixture. Once you’ve gently folded in about ½ the egg whites, add the remaining pumpkin puree back into the large bowl and continue folding the egg whites in. The more slowly and the more of a folding motion you use, the more air that will remain in the egg whites and the fluffier your soufflé will turn out.

Fill Your Ramekins

Once all folded in, use a ladle to fill your ramekins to just below the rim.

Bake, Don’t Peek

Place in the middle of your oven at 375 for 17 minutes. Do not open the oven, don’t even turn on the light to peek. At 17 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool. As you can see (below), my souffle caved in a bit – I think my oven is just a shade cooler than 375, so next time, I’ll either use an oven thermometer to verify the temperature or leave them in about three minutes longer. Still, I ate one of the smaller ones and it was perfect – so don’t distress if yours cave a bit upon cooling – it happens and it will still taste amazing and even the best will settle a bit.

Serving Suggestions

You can serve immediately – place each ramekin on a small plate, dust with organic powdered sugar (if desired) or an organic cinnamon/organic sugar mix (you can free form this) or organic whipped cream, some mint sprigs for color – your choice! I serve them just as they are and they’re scrumptious!

Happy Thanksgiving  – enjoy these tasty little treats instead of pumpkin pie this holiday season!

Organic pumpkin souffle after cooling (10 minutes)

 

A New Path Forward :: Plenitude

A friend brought over a book the other day – she’d heard about it on NPR. The book is titled Plenitude (Juliet B. Schor) and the basic premise is that our current economic models aren’t working. In fact, the economic and environmental policies in place are worse than not working, they’re steering us for disaster. But unlike so many other authors, Ms. Schor then lays out, step by step, a remarkable path forward.

The author outlines how we can transform our lives, our communities and our planet and actually like it. What amazes me about the book is that Schor doesn’t stick with the gloom-and-doom long, though she certainly will point out data, facts and figures that support her premise. Rather, she continually frames forward and talks about what we can do, how we each are empowered to make change that is not only good for us but is something we ultimately enjoy.

Her premise is that we can’t keep doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect different results – but that we can do new and different things and actually create a better world and have fun getting there.

Here’s what sealed the deal for me – and this is just from the introduction:

…there’s a growing body of research that attests to human adaptability. Newer thinking in behavioral economics, cultural evolution, and social networking…yields a view of humans as far more malleable….As economic actors, we can change, too. This has profound implications for our ability to shift from one way of living to another, and to be better off in the process. It’s an important part of why we can both reduce ecological impact and improve well-being. As we transform our lifestyles, we transform ourselves. Patterns of consuming, earning and interacting that may seem unrealistic or even negative before starting down this road become feasible and appealing.” (Schor, Juliet B., Plenitude, The Penguin Press, New York, 2010, p. 11)

Everyone I know has scaled back in the past few years, re-examining their personal economic models. In part this was forced by so many people losing jobs, homes and investments (or savings). But on the heels of that was a true re-assessment of priorities. Even people I know who were less impacted by this economic crisis than most were looking at their lives and deciding that less was more.

Those actions were driven by necessity – the necessity to survive amidst the upheaval. Schor’s book takes it a step further and shows us how continuing down this new path can lead to a much more rewarding and richer life experience. Plenitude is for those who’ve decided to go down this path and are looking for a few guideposts along the way.

Of course, my viewpoint is that organic farming and sustainable environmental practices are absolutely a part of this new economic model. We can’t fix our economic model until it incorporates cost accounting for the economic fall out from traditional practices. What’s the ultimate cost of the oil spill in the Gulf? It’s not just on the ledgers of BP Oil that this cost will be paid, but that’s likely the only place it’s visible. Schor’s approach is to look at many sides of this multi-sided puzzle and provide a sane set of recommendations as to how we move forward.

I won’t hold it against her that she mentions organic farming but once in the book (p. 22) – she is providing a large-scale topo map for our new adventure, organic being one of the many facets that will bring us back to a sustainable and enjoyable approach to life on this breaktakingly amazing planet of ours.

If you haven’t read this book, grab it as soon as it hits your local library, borrow it from a friend (as I have done) or download it on your favorite e-reader. Buy the hard copy if you must (I am tempted), this one’s a keeper.

If you’re ready to start spreading your sustainable wings, stop by shopOrganic for the best in organic, fair trade and sustainable products. Use coupon code GRGDS and save 10% on your first order.

Shades of Green

There’s been a big flap in the organic world lately regarding the recommendation by a reputable organic association that consumers should buy conventionally grown fruits or vegetables that are not heavily sprayed with pesticides if price is a concern. This was picked up by many national news organizations and has lead to some pretty loud virtual arguments going on. The gist of it was that some fruits and vegetables are heavily sprayed with pesticides and eating conventionally grown varieties is not recommended. On the other hand, this same report said that there were some conventionally grown varieties that were not full of pesticides and that if you wanted to save on your food bill, you could ‘safely’ consume these conventional varieties.

So the discussion has centered around whether or not you should ‘ever’ buy conventionally grown produce. My take on it is this: we each have to make choices that are appropriate for ourselves, our families and our budgets. Life is not black and white, all or nothing. It’s about constantly finding a balance. Whether you go (or have gone) all organic or part organic; all green or part green is something you choose for yourself based on a variety of often complex factors. Clearly, the arguments for all organic, all green all the time are strong – but most of us find some blend, some mix that works in our lives.

From my perspective, it’s about making conscious choices and making incremental improvements over time. If each of us takes whatever tiny steps toward a greener future that work for us, it will make a difference. Is organic better for you, for the community, for the planet? Sure it is, but sometimes we have to make tough choices given the economic realities of our lives. We founded shopOrganic.com, in part, to provide a wide range of organic products at fair prices to people across the U.S. We, too, have to make those choices each day as well.

My hope is that one day we’ll look back on this time and laugh at the notion that we ever sprayed chemicals on food we ate. Still, we have to deal with the economic realities we face and sometimes the cost difference between organic and conventional can be prohibitive for those on tight budgets. I have noticed that the price difference seems to be disappearing on certain products – so smart shopping will help you find organic products at the same (or, gasp, even lower) prices as conventionally grown items in some stores.

I’ll end with two quotes that perhaps sum up this entire discussion.

“It may be necessary temporarily to accept a lesser evil, but one must never label a necessary evil as good.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

- Margaret Mead

Now, go out there and enjoy your day.

shopOrganic – The Blog Begins

For those of you who’ve been following shopOrganic’s ride through the sometimes murky world of e-commerce startups, we wanted to bring you up-to-date. For those of you just joining us, we’ll bring you up to speed quickly.

We formed shopOrganic to address a niche we saw that we were all passionate about – organic products. We’ve been consumers of organics for years, most of us have worked in one capacity or another in the organic world. An opportunity arose to create our own company and so we worked tirelessly (well, we got pretty tired a couple of times – nothing a strong pot of organic fair trade French Roast coffee couldn’t fix) and launched shopOrganic.com in May of this year.

One of the best parts of the process was hand-picking each and every product we carry. We talked with hundreds of certified organic companies, we schmoozed with vendors at Expo West in LA in March, and we looked at thousands of certified organic, fair trade and eco-friendly products (in a virtual manner), then selected the products we are offering. We were already familiar with most of the products, but we came across some interesting new products.

Our criteria were simple: certified organic products, fair trade when possible, always eco-friendly and when a product was all three it was like the organic trifecta. Some products, of course, cannot legally be labeled as organic – water being one of them (which is the weirdest thing in some ways). For those types of products, we looked for all natural, eco-friendly products.

The organic market is growing and even with this economic cycle we’re in, dedicated organic consumers are still seeking out high quality organics at a good price – of course, that’s where we come in. That’s why we’re in this business and that’s what brings us to work each day.

We’re having a great time with this new business and one of the best parts has been talking with new customers. We love hearing from you and you can post to this blog or email us anytime.

That’s the short story of why we exist. More details to follow.

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