The Trend is My Friend

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition

-by Ronni Arno Blaisdell

I have this somewhat useless talent of being able to pick up on food trends.

I couldn’t tell you the next big fashion statement, or the next hot song, or the way the stock market will go, but if you want to know about where the future of food is headed, I’m your gal.

Back in the day I predicted the passion with protein, the fetish with fat-free, and the curb of carbs. More recently I predicted the organic obsession, the local lure, and the kale craze.

What can I say? Some people read palms; I foresee food fads.

When I became vegan in 2004, the people who even knew what that word meant (and there weren’t many of them) thought I had lost my mind. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked, “But where will you get your protein from?”… Or, worse yet, the people who didn’t say anything and just stopped talking to me, muttering “freak” under their breath as they headed for the nearest burger joint.

But this post really isn’t about whether or not to be a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, or chocolateivore (I made that last one up… all blog posts should mention chocolate at least once). This post is about food trends.

I usually shop at Whole Foods, simply because there are so many wonderful options for me there. Where else can I get a gourmet meal, complete with a fresh salad, a savory hot bar, steaming soup, and some vegan chocolate mousse to top it off (remember, all blog posts should mention chocolate at least once)? But today, it just so happens that another grocery store was on my way home. And, since we only needed a few things, I figured I’d run in there. It had been a while since I shopped at a grocery store besides Whole Foods, and I was pleased with what I saw.

First of all, the “natural foods” section was packed. And I mean, packed! I bonked my cart into someone else’s cart at least half a dozen times. (Although I am great at choosing healthy foods, I’m not so good at cart driving). Next, I noticed that the produce section was bursting with some great-looking, and sometimes organic (!) produce. And better yet, people were buying it! The coffee bar in the store had soy milk. SOY MILK! And, to top it all off, they even had a section for gluten-free products… it was tiny, but it was there! What a beautiful sight!

Of course, Unity’s always been way ahead of its time when it comes to food.  We started with a vegetarian lunch program before vegetarians were hip.  We were sustainable before sustainability was fashionable.  At Unity, families care not only about what’s on their kids plates… but also what kind of plates those are!

Experts say that there isn’t one way of eating that works for everyone, but they can all agree that we should all be eating more vegetables, fruit, and unprocessed foods. And the trend seems to agree! Thanks to national television shows like “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” and countless shows on the Food Network, people are becoming educated on healthy, sustainable foods. Authors like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser are on the best-seller list. “Food, Inc.” and “Supersize Me” are blockbuster films. Everybody’s catching the sustenance subway, and everyone will benefit from that ride.

So what’s next? Here’s my prediction… the future isn’t only about what we eat. The future is about how we live. Being a junk-food vegan, living off of Doritos and Coke, isn’t where it’s at. The future of food will be about health and harmony. Are we eating sustainably? Are we wasting less? Are we embracing quality over quantity? Are we eating real food that is created by nature and not in a factory? Are we treating food as medicine, recognizing that it has the power to make us sick… or not? Have a conversation with your kids about this. Chances are, they’ve got something to say about the subject. Unity students are way ahead of the trend!

Food is not just food. It’s culture and wellness. It’s health and happiness. I believe that as our food choices improve, our communities in general will be more peaceful, our citizens will live longer and better, and our priorities will shift. We’ll choose people over principles, kinfolk over cash, and giving over greed. We’ll not only add more years to our lives, we’ll add more life to our years.

A pipe dream? Maybe. But the trend is my friend. I haven’t been wrong yet.

ronni arno blaisdell portrait

Ronni Arno Blaisdell is a Unity mom to a 7th grader and a 5th grader, a member of the Board of Trustees, and the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee.  Ronni is a Holistic Health Counselor and a writer and contributor to numerous health-related magazines, newsletters, websites, and blogs.

More Ideas for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

-by Ronni Arno Blaisdell and Peter Minde The previous sustainable eating recipes were well received; thank you for reading!  So, we’re sharing more recipes for sustainable eating from Ronni and Peter.  For chocolate lovers, dessert is at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy! Wendy’s Sautéed Tofu
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • toasted sesame seed oil – 2-3 tsp
  • 2 tsp Bragg’s aminos
  • nutritional yeast
Drain tofu.  Grind fennel seeds with mortar and pestle.  Marinate tofu for 15 minutes in the next 6 ingredients (fennel seeds through Bragg’s). Remove tofu from marinade.  Dredge in yeast flakes and sauté at medium to medium high heat.   Cosmic Cashew, Kale and Chickpeas Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon or broth powder
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 bunch kale, central stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced 
  1. Soak the cashews for an hour in hot water or overnight in room-temperature water. Drain. Place them in a blender and add 3/4 cup water, 1 clove garlic, and 1 teaspoon of broth powder (or 1 bouillon cube). Blend at highest speed until completely smooth. Set aside until needed.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, cook the onion until it begins to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the chickpeas, kale, and two tablespoons water. Cover immediately and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the reserved cashew sauce, oregano, and salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to thin. Add the fresh basil just before serving plain, or over rice or quinoa.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s) | Cooking time: 20 minute(s) Number of servings (yield): 4 Source:  Fat Free Vegan Kitchen   Sassy Southwestern Salad
  • 1/2 medium Vidalia or red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cups corn (canned or frozen is fine)
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, or salsa
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 bunch mixed lettuce
Instructions: Mix all ingredients (except for lettuce) together, and chill. When chilled, serve over bed of lettuce.   Swiss Chard Gratin
  • 1 lb Swiss Chard
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin on the vertical
  • 1 ounce grated non dairy cheese substitute (optional)
  • 2 tbs oat bran (or bread crumbs if you prefer)
  • 1 cup vegan béchamel (see below)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Clean Swiss chard and separate stalks from leaves.  Trim and slice the stalks, setting them aside.  Chop up the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the Swiss chard stalks, cooking for 5 minutes.  Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted. Turn up the heat and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, until liquid is evaporated from the pan.  Otherwise, excess liquid will pool in the baking dish. Mix the chard and onion mixture and béchamel sauce in a bowl, then fold into a lightly oiled baking dish.  Sprinkle oat bran and cheese substitute, if using, on the top.  Bake for 15 minutes.   Vegan béchamel
  • 4 tsp safflower oil
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 cup unflavored oat, almond or soy milk
  • Salt, black pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, add the flour.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly.  Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.  The béchamel will reduce somewhat and have a thick, velvety consistency.  Remove from heat.  Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg.   Raw Choco-Cherry Pudding  Instructions:
  • 6 large pitted medjool dates, soaked for 2 hours and drained
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1 cup frozen cherries
Instructions: Put all ingredients in Vitamix or high-powered blender and serve.  

ronni arno blaisdell portraitRonni Arno Blaisdell is a Unity mom to a 7th grader and a 5th grader, a member of the Board of Trustees, and the Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee.  Ronni is a Holistic Health Counselor and a writer and contributor to numerous health-related magazines, newsletters, websites, and blogs.


P_Minde headshot Peter Minde is a father of a UCS 4th grader and a member of Unity’s Board of Trustees.  He is a freelance writer and is studying to become a personal trainer.


Community Coffee: How to Pack a Healthy, Zero Waste Lunch

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

– by Tanya Seaward In February, the Unity Charter School communications committee had a case of writer’s block.  We couldn’t come up with an engaging topic for our March CommUnity Coffee meeting.  Finally, someone suggested “why not ask our commUnity what they would like to discuss?”  Great idea!  We put the idea out there, and got many suggestions in return.  We finally decided to go with Suzanne Dell’Orto’s suggestion of “How to pack a healthy, zero waste lunch.”  At this time of the year, enthusiasm for packed lunches is usually waning, so we thought it would be a great idea to brainstorm some new ideas. We started our discussion with a refresher about what exactly a zero waste lunch is: durable lunchbox, reusable food containers, refillable water bottle, reusable utensils (try a Spork!) and cloth napkins.  Stainless steel or BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic are good choices for containers and water bottles.  We also had some good discussion about the all-in-one and bento-box style lunch kits.   The website Growing a Green Family has some good resources for comparing the different brands available.  Also, thank you to Naomie Quirk and Morgan MacDougall who allowed us to peek inside their Planet Box and Laptop Lunch kits.  Both mom’s reported that these brands were functional, super durable and easy to clean.  The brand Lunch Bots also received honorable mention.  The Vegan Lunchbox, Greenraising, and the Frontier Coop are all great resources for inspirational ideas for a healthy lunch. After we went through the basics of the lunch kit, we turned the discussion to “what to put in it?”  We all agreed that fresh, seasonal, and organic and locally grown (if possible) produce tops the nutrition list, but how to get kids to eat it?  We discussed that keeping lunch fun was especially important for younger kids and picky eaters.  Consider packing foods that have attractive colors, appealing textures, pleasing shapes, manageable sizes, and don’t forget the dips, dressings and condiments.  Also, if your child is tired of sandwiches this time of year, try wraps, fried rice, baked beans, hard boiled eggs, pasta salad, quinoa salad, bean salad or tacos and burritos. I also shared my personal favorite lunch trick – leftovers for lunch!  I usually try to cook extra “thermos-friendly” dishes whose taste and texture don’t break down too much sitting in the lunch box all morning.  I have found that chili, lasagna, mac n’cheese, tortelli, stew, soups, curries, or stir-frys hold up well.  Stacy Havens shared that her friend always freezes these type of leftovers to bring out at a later date; that way they don’t even feel like leftovers! We ended our session with a taste test of one of my kids favorite fast/easy/healthy lunches: black beans, corn and peppers served over brown rice, with salsa and sour cream – Enjoy!   portrait of Tanya SeawardTanya Seaward is a Unity mom to three students; Jeremy, Abby and Theo.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Communications Committee.  Tanya is a Chartered Accountant who enjoys gardening and leisurely rides on her bike (no hills please!).

Recipes for Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability, Uncategorized

[Following are Mindy and Ronni’s recipes from last week’s Community Coffee presentation on sustainable eating.  Below the recipes are URL’s for the cookbooks cited.  Enjoy!  -Ed.]   Recipes Potato Tofu Curry (modified from Diet for a Small Planet)  Ingredients  5 red potatoes, cubed 1 red onion, diced 1 cup greens, chopped (spinach or kale work well) 1 lb tofu 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 tbsp oil 2 tbsp soy sauce

Unity Charter School Community Coffee: Sustainable Eating

Written by Peter. Posted in Health and Nutrition, Sustainability

Mindy Quirk and I were honored to present this month’s Community Coffee on “Sustainable Eating.”  The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines “sustainable food” as healthy food [that] meets current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.  Of course, that’s just fancy talk for a food system that provides healthy food to people today and for generations to come while protecting our planet and the people who live on it.