Great day for Green Lion: The 2nd annual Green Lion Festival

The Organic Adventurer came back from walkabout and jumped right back into the fray as an exhibitor at last Saturday’s Green Lion Festival.

Ready to go early in the morn!

Ready to go early in the morn!

What a beautiful day to be green too! The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing and some fine people were out to find out more about taking care of this gorgeous planet of ours (oh, and to try free samples at the home brew contest).

Aardwolf Brewery was a great host for the event. They even created a signature brew for it! And there were so many U.S. Green Building Council North Florida volunteers helping out that the day went very smoothly.

Here are just a few of the great vendors who were spread out from the Aardwolf parking lot to the Knights of Columbus parking lot across the street and even inside the Knights’ building!

The UNF Environmental Center…always keepin’ it real!

GastroJax always serves something tasty!

Down to Earth Farm has CSA memberships available!

FreshJax’s new quinoa cookbook is available…and awesome!

The North Florida Land Trust protects Florida’s heritage lands!

The kids who came by our table got butterfly, flower and animal stickers while the adults signed up for our T-shirt drawing (more on that later) and got some information on reducing indoor air pollution, eliminating toxic household substances, energy efficiency, food safety and security, and much, much more.

And, of course, we were thrilled to see that event organizers had not only set up a way for vendors and participants to recycle, but they had also set up a compost receptacle. Yay!

During the festival, we were asked so many good questions. Question answering is what we do, so if you’d like to set up a consultation, please use the Contact page to get in touch!

Finally, if you signed up for the T-shirt drawing, remember that you must respond to the confirmation email you received in order to complete your entry. If you didn’t get a confirmation email, please check your spam folder. If it’s not there, go to our home page and enter the same email you used at the festival where it says “Follow By Email,” and then follow the instructions that appear.

The drawing is on Thursday, so be sure to respond to the confirmation email and complete your entry by then.

Cheers to a great Green Lion!

Team TOA and the nonprofits

Part 2: Gastrofest

In our last post, we told you about helping out a great local nonprofit, River City Eco Foundation, in planning this year’s Eco Fest. Another fantastic organization we’re involved with is soon to be Jacksonville’s newest nonproft: Gastrojax Inc. At One Spark this past April, Gastrojax had much success presenting its project, Gastrofest, which placed quite high among the 610 projects. You can see the final results here.

Gastrojax’s Executive Director, Erin Thursby, doing a demonstration at One Spark.

So what is Gastrofest? Here it is, straight from gastrofest.com:

“It’s time Jacksonville showed the world what our awesome culinary scene has to offer. We need a food fest that celebrates all of it, from fine dining to food trucks, from microbrews to local cookbooks, from vegans to local beef. That’s why we’ve been inspired to start Gastrofest. There have been some food festivals popping up throughout Jacksonville, but none seek to celebrate our food culture inclusively and on a large scale. More than that, we love what North Florida has to offer and we want to show the whole country what we’ve got! We want this to become an event that will bring tourists from other parts of Florida and beyond.”

Here’s a bit more for the audiovisually inclined:

Oh, here’s a member of that awesome culinary scene now: Michael Coutu, of Tapa That, stopped by Gastrofest’s One Spark tent with his Cuban black beans, both traditional and animal product-free versions!

You long-time TOA readers know that we’re about much, much more than food; we educate about and help people make changes related to resource usage, waste, energy, toxins and more. But, of course, food, diet, food systems, and food production are inseparable from those issues and are a huge part of how we humans live, and how we live directly affects our health and the health of the planet.

So when Gastrojax’s Executive Director asked us to be on the board and help bring a comprehensive food festival celebrating Northeast Florida’s gastronomic culture to life, we quickly realized that she, and the rest of the organization, shares our interest in the “local” part of local food; in fresh, healthy food choices; in the state of our food system; and in many other food-related issues. We saw Gastrojax as an extension of our green living consultation work and an opportunity to do some good from within the foodie milieu.

Kathy Marino, of SunRAWise, offers a tasting of her fantastic plant-based cheeses.

So what exactly does Gastrojax’s Director of Vegetable Affairs do? Through Gastrofest and other events, Gastrojax is trying to showcase our region’s food culture, and TOA is working within that to showcase, and hopefully help grow, our region’s environmentally sensitive and health-conscious food culture and to show people, all people, how they can access and love fantastic food while still taking care of the planet and themselves. As such, our role is to involve the plant-based community and its chefs and restaurants; small, local food producers; local farms; and food-related organizations and to enlist their help in accomplishing that mission by connecting them with the public.

Ellen Hiser and Brett Swearingen, of Berry Good Farms, demonstrate a farm-to-cocktail creation using their farm’s produce.

And, as you know from our last post, one of our biggest pet peeves is how environmentally UNfriendly a lot of festivals and big public events can be, so we’ll also be working to make sure Gastrofest is as “clean” a festival as possible. One Spark was a great start. Most of our décor was made up of reused and repurposed items. We used a lot of live plants in our booth décor, thanks to Down to Earth Farm and Berry Good Farms. We also disallowed Styrofoam as a material for food service items; used a cruelty-free, plant-based soap and reusable cloths at our dishwashing station; used waste-minimizing measures; and managed to recycle much of the waste we did produce.

Finally, Gastrojax is going to do a lot of good for Jacksonville. Food festivals are major revenue generators and a big focus of food tourism and all the positive press that generates. We’ve already formed partnerships with many other nonprofits, community groups and businesses. And we already have several events planned or in the works in these months leading up to Gastrofest. The first of those events is on Thursday, June 26—this Thursday! Chef Dennis Chan of Blue Bamboo will be hosting the Damn Good Dim Sum dinner as a fundraiser for Gastrojax. I hope you got your tickets already because it’s sold out, but read the description in the event link anyway to get an idea of the kinds of things we’re working on.

All that healthy, local food at Gastrojax’s One Spark booth made us want to do a little tasting at home. This is a variation of one of SunRAWise’s recipes using their plant-based cheeses.

More dinners and other events are in the works, we’ll be introducing people to Gastrofest at the US Green Building Council North Florida Green Social at Aardwolf Brewing Company at 6 p.m. on August 12…there’s just too much going on to mention it all here, so sign up for Gastrofest news on the website, like the Facebook page, follow @GastroJax on Twitter. And if you’re a fan of food pics or just want to see where to get great food in Jacksonville, check out Gastrofest on Pinterest. Hope you’ll come out and let us feed you…and your mind!

Team TOA and the nonprofits

Part 1: Ecofest, May 17!

“Team TOA and the nonprofits” sounds like a band, doesn’t it?! But no, we’re just really excited to be collaborating with two local nonprofits that we wanted to take a moment to tell you about.

Both organizations, Gastrojax Inc. (as Gastrofest) and River City Eco Foundation (as River City Eco Fest), were creators this year at the huge crowdfunding event in Jacksonville called One Spark, so we’d wanted to tell you about them before that event, but there was just way too much to do! Preparations for One Spark began looong before April. Here’s Eco Fest organizer Joe Crespi promoting the project at a U.S. Green Building Council North Florida Green Social.

Tell it, Joe!

For those of you not in Jacksonville, let’s back up a second and explain what One Spark is. Here’s a blurb from the One Spark website: “For five days in April, Creators from all over the world will light up downtown with projects in art, innovation, music, science and technology. They’ll showcase their best ideas for a chance to access $310,000 in crowdfunds and cash awards, 3.25 million dollars in capital investments and direct contributions from more than 150,000 attendees and backers around the globe.”

Eco Fest’s three-tent palace at One Spark.

And, yes, it really was as big of a deal as it sounds: It lasted five days, there were 610 projects, more than a quarter of a million people came to the festival, which was spread over 20 city blocks, and over $363,000 was awarded, not to mention the individual donations people made!

Live music and an idea/art board made the Eco Fest booth a fun place to hang during One Spark!

Believe me, creators worked hard for every single vote and every single penny. So to all of you who came by to visit, who voted for, and/or who donated to Gastrofest (project #20026) and River City Eco Fest (project #20572), both of these organizations, as well as The Organic Adventurer and the city that both of these projects are going to benefit, thank you!

Crespi pitching the Eco Fest project to the crowd at One Spark.

Now to the nonprofits and the events they will be staging! Let’s start with River City Eco Fest since it’s coming up first—this Saturday, May 17, as a matter of fact. This will be the third year of the festival also known as the River City Challenge, so some of you may already be familiar with it. Here’s a blurb from the Eco Fest site:

“Jacksonville’s annual environmental, music festival and paddle sports race to benefit the River City Eco Foundation returns to Metropolitan Park on May 17, 2014! Come out and enjoy a day chock full of FREE family-friendly entertainment featuring national recording artists, an interactive KidZone, vendor market, our extensive Eco Village, awesome local food from a variety of Jacksonville food trucks, and tasty libations! Following the 6-Mile race on the St. Johns River, we are proud to present an Outdoors Expo which will bring together the nation’s top manufacturers to showcase their product lines. This segment will also feature a variety of workshops and demonstrations throughout the day. We are a group of passionate individuals from all walks of life sharing one common goal: to create a self-sustaining, free eco/music festival to benefit the community.”

Here’s a bit of fun video by Mike Shea from last year’s festival:

This past year, festival organizer Joe Crespi formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the River City Eco Foundation, so that the event would forever benefit the kinds of environmental causes that those involved are passionate about. This year’s proceeds will go to a project near and dear to the hearts of all of us Eco-Heads. Crespi explains:

“The ‘Floating Free’ portion of the River City Eco Festival involves a community driven visioning plan for Exchange Island, one of the only uninhabited islands in the middle of an urban city of our size in the U.S. Ideas for the island include a kayak launch, bike trails, zip lines, primitive camping and swimming. While Exchange Island is a great vegetative feature in our city, the St. Johns River is wide and tidal, leaving only short windows for recreation. Utilizing Exchange Island from the Arlington River allows for easy access to a protected aquatic area ripe for recreational possibilities. Learn more about ‘Floating Free’ on the St. Johns River and all we can do on Exchange Island!” – rivercitychallenge.org

PosterEdit

I don’t know about you, but one thing about festivals that bugs me is how UN-eco-friendly they usually are. At the end of any outdoor festival, all you see is a sea of trash: plastic bottles, cigarette butts, paper, food waste—it’s a mess! So as an event board member, The Organic Adventurer has worked hard, all of us have, to ensure that this festival will be the cleanest one you’ve ever been to.

The UNF Environmental Center has arranged for reusable stainless steel souvenir beer cups. You’ll be quaffing brew out of these beauties for years!

UNFSteelCupEdit

Food vendors will be using recycled and recyclable food service materials, there will be volunteers on hand, including yours truly, to help fest-goers separate their waste at the waste stations, and attendees are asked to not smoke on the grounds. Cigarette butts are hard to clean up and hazardous to wildlife!

Speaking of cleaning up, organizers and volunteers cleaned the festival site recently after another festival was held in Metro Park. We gathered over 100 pounds of trash, keeping it out of our precious river! We’ll be doing another cleanup the morning after Eco Fest, just to make 100% sure that we put on the cleanest festival we can!

Cleaning up Metro Park for Ecofest.

Cleaning up Metro Park for Eco Fest.

One big happy bunch of Eco-Heads!

The Organic Adventurer will also be participating in the Eco Village programming. All of our favorite nonprofits will be out during the day, spreading the word about their important missions. There will be a full day of eco presentations going on: permaculture, river-friendly gardening and more. The Organic Adventurer will present “Top 10 Ways to Lead a Healthier, Greener Life” around 1:00 p.m.

Come with questions!

Sooo, competitions of all kinds, music, food and drink, vendors, product and equipment demos, nonprofits and eco presentations, a theater exhibition, a kids’ zone full of activities, “play”shops (paddling techniques, try a SUP, etc.)…the fun will go on all day long, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, in Metropolitan Park. There’s way too much to list it all here, so visit the website and Facebook page, and I’ll see you there!

Vote for The Organic Adventurer’s recipe

Here at Team TOA, we are so excited to be included in the Beyond Meat weekly recipe challenge!

This week our Fajitas Verdes recipe has been selected to go toe to toe with one of Beyond Meat’s recipes. Savory refried beans, spicy fajita veggies, creamy avocado and, of course, a little not-chicken. It’s delicious, easy, quick and a hit with the whole family!

Fajitas Verdes: A little bit fajita, a little bit enchilada…a whole lotta yum!

We’re doing great so far; please vote for our recipe on the Beyond Meat Facebook Recipe Challenge page by clicking here. Voting ends tomorrow at 11:00 p.m.!

Left! Vote for the one on the left!

Thanks!

Meat Analogues: A tofu, tempeh and seitan primer

One question we get a lot from clients looking to transition to a meat-free diet or just to eat a little less meat is about meat analogues, plant-based foods that are generally thought of as analogous (comparable) to meat in the plant-based diet. Some of our clients have never tasted tofu, tempeh or seitan and don’t know what they’re made of. Many have heard of them from friends or perhaps have had them in a restaurant meal but aren’t sure how to prepare them at home. We’re here, as always, to provide some clarity in what we hope is a simple, straightforward way.

Previously, we discussed tofu and tempeh, which are both made primarily of soy. Today’s topic, seitan (pronounced say-TAHN), is a whole other…well, plant. Seitan is made by rinsing all the starch from wheat flour dough. What’s left is a firm blob of gluten (the protein) that can be cut, shaped, colored, flavored and cooked in an endless variety of ways. That’s the attraction of seitan: it’s the most flexible of the three we’ve discussed in mimicking animal-based products. It can be made to look like shaved meat, strips, chunks, a ham, a turkey breast, burger patties, meatballs, cutlets…okay, you get the idea!

Two different versions of prepared seitan: chunks and strips.

Actually, only certain preparations of wheat gluten are properly called “seitan,” but we Westerners tend to have access to fewer of these products and lump them all together as “seitan,” so we won’t split hairs.

Prepared seitan would most likely be found in the refrigerator case alongside the tofu and tempeh, either packed in water or vacuum-sealed or both. The most common forms are pre-cooked strips or chunks, but large markets will have access to a wider variety.

Prepared seitan vacuum-packed in water.

Prepared seitan chunks (left) and strips (right).

Prepared, packaged, uncooked seitan tends to have a bit of a rubbery texture that takes on more structure as it’s cooked, not unlike chicken. Some people actually stop eating meat because they’re not fans of that texture, so they may not be fans of this type of seitan either. Others are big fans of that “meaty” texture, and so may like seitan as well. This kind of packaged seitan also has a noticeable wheat flavor that mostly dissipates as it’s cooked. We’ve found that homemade seitan (more on this later) has less of that rubbery texture. This is, of course, all a matter of opinion; you may want to do some experimentation to identify your preferences.

So, let’s talk nutrition. Last post, we called seitan the “sinful not-meat” for a reason. It’s the most processed of the three we’ve discussed so far. As a wheat gluten product, it’s not something that someone with any kind of gluten sensitivity would want to eat. It does have the least fat (tofu wins for lowest calories) of the three, but it also has less of the good stuff like fiber, calcium, iron (almost equal to tofu, but about half that of tempeh), potassium and so on. Also, prepared seitan usually has way more sodium.

You can make your own seitan at home as a means of controlling the sodium level and what ingredients are added. As a matter of fact, you can make your own tofu and tempeh at home too, if you’re so inclined. If you do want to DIY, seitan is pretty easy because there’s a shortcut available. Just make sure you purchase “vital wheat gluten” as your raw ingredient, as there are a few different glutens, proteins and flours out there that won’t give you the same results.

Vital wheat gluten, for making seitan at home.

Because of its nutritional profile, we don’t tend to use seitan in the TOA test kitchen. We usually save it for eating-out situations where it’s either the best vegan option on the menu or the one that sounds most intriguing, so the only TOA seitan dish we’ve got a photo of is this stir-fry where the seitan chunks have been coated in organic cornstarch and lightly fried.

Stir-fried seitan.

There’s a fantastic vegetarian restaurant in Athens, Georgia, called The Grit. Their Deluxe Grilled “Steak” sandwich and Seitan Gyro really demonstrate the variety of textures and tastes you can achieve with seitan. This shaved and seasoned version is almost indistinguishable from beef and looks and tastes nothing like the chicken-style seitan chunks in the stir-fry above.

Peeking out at the top left, you can see the beef-style shaved seitan in the veganized Deluxe Philly Cheesesteak from The Grit.

The Grit’s Seitan Gyro also features the beef/lamb-style shaved seitan. For our money, though, the Split Pea Dal was the star of the meal!

And with that, we’ve come to the end of the mock-meat trilogy! Before we wrap up, though, a reader sent in a question about TVP, wondering if it was the same thing as seitan and, if not, what it was. TVP and seitan are, indeed, quite different. Seitan is made out of wheat gluten, whereas textured vegetable protein, or TVP, is made of soy (soy protein isolates, to be specific).

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) needs to be rehydrated and is commonly used as a ground beef substitute or in veggie burgers.

Seitan has more protein, but is not a complete protein in and of itself, whereas TVP is. That doesn’t mean it’s better for you though. TVP is even more processed than seitan, and most of the nutrients are cooked out of it. It also has a high sodium count and contains naturally forming MSG. So, if forced to choose one or the other, we’d go with the seitan.

In the interest of bringing things full circle, we’d like to remind readers again, especially those who are celebrating their participation in No Meat March, marveling at how much better they feel and, perhaps, contemplating going meat-free for good, that you don’t have to eat these meat analogues as part of your plant-based diet. You can get along perfectly fine with beans, nuts, legumes, fresh vegetables, rice and so on. Conversely, even if you don’t end up eschewing meat, putting a tempeh steak instead of a beef steak on your plate every now and then will do your body, the planet and the cow a whole lotta good.

If you’d like to know more about meat substitutes, a plant-based diet, or…well, anything else that affects our planet (and, therefore, your health and wallet) contact us! We’re here to help.