Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where's the Beef?

(Or maybe more accurately, where's the beef from?)

For the vast majority of my life I have trusted our government to protect its citizens whether from war, crime, disease, or shady food industry practices. In the case of the USDA and FDA, I believed that inspectors and top officials had the citizens' health and safety as their primary concern and would do everything in their power to protect the consumer. However, since beginning the quest for real food, my eyes have been opened to the power of money and special interests even in regard to our nation's health. Watch Food, Inc. (or do a little digging) and you'll see for yourself that throughout the past several presidential administrations (and on both sides of the political aisle) the top officials within the USDA and FDA have either been previously employed by or been on the legal team for one of the major food corporations. Therefore, I believe that their loyalties are not to the American consumer.

When the food chain becomes so long that we do not know where or who our food comes from and the producer does not know (or care) who consumes their food, we have a major breakdown in food handling and safety. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you understand the dangers of tainted meat (and now even eggs). A few days ago , I saw this article about yet another discovery of E. coli contaminated ground beef. So, do we play Russian Roulette with our meat, or avoid beef altogether? Or, maybe there is another option.

Since my conversion, I buy grass fed beef from a local source. I have met the man who owns the cows and who also consumes this meat. He cares about the quality of his food because his family's survival depends on it.

What's so bad about grain fed beef?

Cows were not designed to eat grain. Our industrialized food culture has trained cows to eat grain in order to fatten them up more quickly and ensure greater profits. There are also a number of health and safety benefits to eating grass fed beef over grain fed feed lot beef. This article does a great job of explaining those benefits.

For a while I thought grass fed beef wasn't an option for us because we don't have a deep freeze and cannot house a side of beef in our fridge's freezer. This particular farm sells beef by the cut, and it isn't much more than what I was previously paying for beef at grocery store (about $1/lb.). For me the quality (and safety) of the meat I feed my family is worth the additional $1/lb!

Shared on Fight Back Friday

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do you know what you're eating?

In light of my previous post, I wanted to share a few things I read yesterday in Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food. Mr Pollan states that for those of us eating a Western diet, 75% of oil in our diet comes from soybeans, and over 50% of our sweeteners are corn derived "(representing about 10% of daily calories)!" He goes on to say that "corn contributes 554 calories a day to American's per capita food supply and soy another 257. Add wheat (768 calories) and rice (91) and you can see there isn't a whole lot of room left in the American stomach for any other foods."(pages 116-117)

And, this is just too good for me to butcher, so I'll just quote him from page 122:
"Since 1980, American farmers have produced an average of 600 more calories per person per day, the price of food has fallen, portion sizes have ballooned, and, predictably, we're eating a whole lot more, at least 300 more calories a day than we consumed in 1985...Nearly a quarter of these additional calories come from sugars (and most of that in the form of high-fructose corn syrup); roughly another quarter from added fat (most is in the form of soybean oil); 46 percent of them from grains (mostly refined); and the few calories left (8 percent) from fruits and vegetables." (He got these USDA statistics from FoodReview, Vol. 25, Issue 3, a publication of the Economic Research Service at the USDA.)

All I can say is WOW!

Honey Nut Granola

I love crunchy foods. Chocolate is better with nuts, I like nut topping on my ice cream, and I love nutty granola. My cousin recently sent me a recipe for homemade granola. I tweaked it a bit to suit my taste, and you could tweak the basic recipe to suit your taste as well.

Here's the recipe I've been using:
2 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
1 c almonds (I prefer whole almonds)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/2 c flax seed
1/4 to 1/2 c honey (I like it with 1/4 c which provides a dry, crunchy, fall apart granola. My husband prefers the 1/2 c version, which results in a sweeter, stickier, bar-like consistency.)
1 oz unsalted butter, plus extra to butter the pan
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c packed brown sugar/turbinado sugar/sucanat

Preheat oven to 350* F and toast oats, nuts, and seeds for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Make sure you at least toast the oats, otherwise they turn gummy/gooey from the wet mixture--I made this mistake last time thinking it wasn't an important step)

In the meantime, combine honey, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and salt in medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.

Once, oat mixture is toasted, remove it from oven and reduce heat to 300* F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture and stir to combine. Turn mixture out onto buttered dish and bake 25 minutes.
You could use a 9"x9" glass baking dish to form bars or I just spread mine out into a thin layer on a baking sheet for loose granola (using the 1/4 c honey version) or "sheets" of granola (using the 1/2 c honey version).

Making this recipe your own:
From what I have read/heard about granola, it is all about the wet to dry ratio. Therefore, you could use whatever nuts/seeds/grains you want, just keep the dry ingredients to around 4 cups. You can even add dried fruit (the original recipe called for 6 1/2 oz, but that isn't really my thing), but don't worry about factoring this into your dry to wet ratio.

Let me know if you make it and what variations you try.

Shared on Real Food Wednesday

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paying Attention to Food Labels: HFCS

My former self would go to the grocery store, go up and down aisles placing all manner of "foods" into my shopping cart. I would see the "heart healthy," "no trans fats," "made with whole grains," etc. labels on the foods and would think "I'm making a good choice" without actually turning the package over to see what ingredients were listed. If you are paying attention to food labels, you will know that it is very difficult to find items in the regular grocery aisles that do not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is in just about everything including juice, soft drinks, breads, cereals, and condiments (many condiments have HFCS listed as the first ingredient!). The Corn Refiners Association would lead you to believe that HFCS is natural and that our body reacts to and metabolizes it the same way it uses regular sugar. However, calling HFCS "natural" is a stretch since it takes quite a bit of processing to produce. As far as how our body metabolizes HFCS, this study reveals that fat cells do respond differently to HFCS than to regular sugar. HFCS has also been found to contain traces of mercury. Either way, as I try to transition our family to a less-processed, more traditional way of eating, I'm going to avoid HFCS as much as I possibly can. This seems to be a growing trend, as many of the larger food companies are beginning to remove HFCS from their products due to consumer requests. I recently noticed that both Hunts and Heinz ketchups are producing HFCS-free ketchup and going back to sugar as the sweetener. As of last week, Sara Lee announced that they will be removing HFCS from some of their breads.
While I'm very happy to see food manufacturers removing HFCS from their products, this doesn't mean I'm going to buy their products. Many of these products will still contain large amounts of refined white sugars, which aren't all that good for you either. The American diet fills us with sugar (in various forms) during every meal, snack, and drink. Most of us don't even think about our sugar consumption unless we're eating dessert, and I think our desserts have to be sweeter and sweeter for our sweet tooth to be satisfied. Once we cut down our sugar intake in everyday foods that we don't think of as "sweet", I think we'll be able to better satisfy our sweet tooth with more subtle flavors.
So, what sweeteners do I use? I'm mostly using pure maple syrup (pay attention to pancake syrups at the grocery store. Most are HFCS with maple flavor), honey, and rapadura/sucanat (unrefined, unbleached whole cane sugar--pictured in the bowl). I do keep refined sugar on hand for certain things, but I don't use it very often.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Not Delivery And It's A Heck Of A lot Better Than DiGiorno

Shared on Fight Back Friday
We've been making homemade pizza at our house for years, but I've always used store-bought sauce, white flour, and pre-shredded cheeses. Now I'm tweaking the recipe to better fit our quest for real food using whole wheat flour, and real (even raw) cheese. Tonight I made a margherita style pizza for myself and a salami pizza for the hubby. For my margherita pizza I used the crust and sauce recipes below as well as sliced mozzarella, some shredded raw colby cheese I picked up at the farmer's market, fresh basil from my own plant, and some tiny little tomatoes (Matt's Wild variety) that I also picked up at the farmer's market. For the hubster's salami pizza, I used the same crust and sauce, shredded mozzarella and raw colby cheeses, and all natural, nitrate-free salami. I would have taken a picture of the salami pizza, but it was completely consumed before I had a chance.

For the crust (This recipe is an adaptation of Bobby Flay's recipe):

3 1/2 to 4 c. flour (I used about 2 c. whole wheat and 1 1/2 c. bread flour)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil

I combine all dry ingredients in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough attachment. Then add water and 2 Tbsp olive oil. I increase the speed and until a ball forms and sticks to the dough hook. You may need to add more flour if the dough sticks to the sides or more water if the dough does not incorporate all of the flour. Grease a large bowl with 2 tsp. olive oil, add dough and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Divide and allow to rest on floured surface 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450*F and place your baking sheet/pizza stone in the oven. After the oven is preheated and/or your dough has rested remove the sheet/stone and (carefully) roll out your dough on the hot sheet/stone. Add desired sauce and ingredients. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

For the sauce (This recipe is Bobby Flay's recipe):
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
28 oz tomatoes (I used one can of sauce and one can of petite diced, but you can adjust according to your desired texture)
Basil or Italian Seasoning to taste (if desired--I actually forgot to add this tonight)
Salt & Pepper (again, I forgot to add this tonight)

Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium heat, add onions and cook until soft , about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in seasonings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HealthIER Chicken & Stars

My girls LOVE chicken noodle soup, particularly the chicken & stars variety. This has also been one of my favorites as well because it was quick, easy, and no one complained when it was served! Then, I began reading food labels. Bye, bye 27-ingredient (not including the ones in parentheses) soup full of modified ingredients, corn starch, corn oil, etc. I decided I would just begin making my own chicken noodle soup, but the girls weren't buying it. It looked different....it "tasted" different. I decided to keep trying. Last week at the grocery store, I noticed a box of pasta (Ronzoni Pastini) that I thought had dots or bits of pasta and I decided to take a closer look. I realized that the bits were actually stars! I must admit that these stars are an enriched pasta product...and even though I'm trying to buy only, or mostly, whole wheat pastas, I decided that my soup made with enriched pasta would still be a huge improvement over the alternative.

My HealthIER chicken & stars has only 6 ingredients: chicken, chicken broth, pasta, carrots, thyme, and poultry seasoning. I cooked the chicken and carrots in the broth until the chicken was cooked through, then I removed the chicken and chopped it into small pieces, returned it to the pot along with the pasta, thyme, and poultry seasoning, and simmered until the pasta was tender.

I made my first batch one evening while the girls were asleep so they wouldn't know it was another one of my attempts to get the to eat better. I packed it in the firstborn's lunchbox the next day and it came home practically empty. It was a hit with the 2-year-old as well, she even wanted it for breakfast.

Lunchbox Ideas for Picky Eaters

This post has been shared on Real Food Wednesday

A few weeks ago, I took the firstborn back to school shopping. We bought a lunch box and all kinds of neat contraptions to keep food hot or cold. I bought all of this thinking she would take her lunch on occasion, but that was before our food conversion. Now that we are making better choices, I knew we would be mostly packing our lunch and occasional eating school lunch. However, she is PICKY. She eats a lot of what she likes, but she doesn't like a lot! It is sometimes difficult to keep menu choices interesting when the list of "approved" items is so slim. She's most adventurous when it comes to fruit, but vegetables are a hard sell. We've just begun week 2 of school and I'm already running out of ideas for her lunches and snacks. Here are some of the ideas I came up with (and I'll be making most of these items myself):

Turkey & Cheddar (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
Roast beef & mozzarella (sandwiches, pitas, etc)
Bean Burrito
Chicken Nuggets
HeathIER chicken & stars soup
Mac & Cheese
Hot Dog (I read that Tori Spelling's mom would put a hotdog in a thermos with boiling water & it would still be warm at lunchtime. We tried that today. Also, I buy Applegate Farms hot dogs that are 100 % beef, antibiotic, growth hormone, & nitrate/nitrite free.)

Here's my snack list:
Cereal Mix
Graham Crackers
Frozen fruit

I would love to hear any other suggestions!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Backyard Harvesting and How to Make a Pita "Puff"

This year I planted a small garden in the flower bed along the back of the house. I started out with bell pepper, okra (a southern staple), squash, and a potted tomato plant. Unfortunately, my squash plants fell victim to an infestation of the infamous squash bug! I was only able to harvest a few squash before the plants stopped producing and died off. The bell pepper plants have done fairly well. They've produced quite a few bell peppers, but the peppers are a little on the small side. My okra, on the other hand, has THRIVED! The plants are now taller than me! The pods grow so quickly that I have to check them everyday or they'll get too big and become too hard to slice. I didn't check on the yesterday and might have even skipped my visit on Friday. My husband was outside working in the yard and brought in a couple of okra pods that were at least 5-6" long and said there were more. To my surprise (and delight) the longest okra pods were still soft enough to slice! Here's what I picked today:

I also made more pitas tonight (per the firstborn's request before packing lunch in the morning). Last time, I cooked them for 3 minutes as the recipe indicateS. This time I decided to leave a few pitas in for a couple more minutes. I opened the oven door and discovered that my pitas had puffed! I was so excited that I called for my husband (who thought that something was wrong) to come see my puffed pitas! They deflated after taking them out of the hot oven, but still have the pocket I was hoping for.
Can you see it?!?!

Pita Loaf

My previous attempt at finding our bread of choice resulted in a decent loaf of bread, and was initially accepted by the girls. However, the firstborn began to tell me she didn't like the bread and I assumed it was because the result was more dense than storebought, so I kept my eyes peeled for something light & fluffy (while still using at least half whole-wheat flour). We liked the Pita Bread so much that I decided to see if it would work as a loaf bread. And, IT DID! I am extremely happy with the results. It produced a nice crust, a soft, light, and fluffy crumb, and has a hint of sweetness. Another bonus is that there are only a handful of ingredients and almost everyone has them in their pantry already.

Pita Loaf (adapted from Pita Bread)
3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups unbleached white all purpose flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey ( I used local honey)

1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening (When I made the pitas, I used light olive oil because I didn't want it to have an overwhelming olive oil taste. This time I wasn't paying attention and used extra virgin olive oil. I was a little concerned that we would be able to taste the difference, but I didn't notice a difference at all. So, feel free to use either oil.)

Mix together all dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients using a wooden spoon until a ball forms. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.
Once a ball has formed, place dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes ( I don't think I kneaded quite that long because the dough was pretty sticky and I stopped kneading when the dough stopped cooperating).
After kneading, place dough in a bowl that has been lighly coated with oil. Roll dough around until it has been coated with the oil on all sides. Cover with a damp towel and set aside until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
After the dough has risen, place the dough in a buttered loaf pan. At this point, I broke the cardinal rule of bread making....I immediately popped the pan into the oven....without letting it rest! It still turned out great, but I think if I had let it rest it might have risen a little more and been a taller loaf. Next time I will let it rest in the pan for about 40 minutes.
Bake in a 350*F oven for approximately 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kid Tested, Mother Approved

Now that school is in session and I'm pushing homemade lunches over cafeteria food, I have to find things that the firstborn will eat. She's the picky one. Her idea of a vegetable is fried okra, or carrots in chicken noodle soup. Fruit, on the other hand, is her real food of choice. As long as I have plenty of fruit choices on hand, I feel like she's getting the vitamins and minerals that she would otherwise get in vegetables (I'll post soon about the raw applesauce I've been making). And, she's usually happy with turkey and cheese, with or without bread. However, she hasn't cared for any of the bread I've made recently and I have vowed not to buy any more bread with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). A friend of mine sent me this recipe for pita bread. When I told Madeline how she could stuff her turkey and cheese into the pocket of pita bread, she was sold on the idea, now we just had to test the taste of the bread.

Pita Bread

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white all purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey ( I used local honey)
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening (I used olive oil since it is the most traditional oil used in making pita bread---and I'm trying not to use shortening or any other vegetable oils...I'll get around to posting about this in the future.)

**Refer to the original post for recipe instructions**

My bread did not puff up like the photos shown in the original recipe post (nor were they as nicely rounded), so I was immediately concerned that I had messed up the recipe (maybe it was because I used whole wheat flour). However, once cut in half, the pitas pull apart easily to produce the pocket I was hoping for. I tried a bite while it was still warm and I thought it was delicious. I gave the firstborn a bite and she immediately said "yum!" This has become the bread that she asks for and she has packed a pita sandwich twice this week. The result was an extra soft, moist, fluffy, and slightly sweet flat bread. I'm debating trying this dough to make a loaf of bread. I'm not sure how it will turn out and I'm afraid it might overflow out of the loaf pan while baking, but I'm thinking of giving it a try. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Crock Pot Yogurt

About a year ago, I saw a Facebook friend's comment about homemade crock pot yogurt. I was intrigued, but never took the initiative to make it myself (and I was afraid of a soured milk smell wafting around the house, but my fears were unfounded...there is no spoiled milk smell). Also at that time, I wasn't thinking about a food conversion, and store bought (even highly sugared) yogurt was fine with me. However, as I started reading labels, and paying attention to the foods I'm feeding our children, I decided homemade might be the most cost-effective way to provide healthy yogurt for the girls. As I said in a previous post, we're going through a batch (it makes about a half-gallon) each week. It immediately became the firstborn's snack food/breakfast food/anytime food of choice. Here's the rundown on how to make it (click here for the real recipe):
1. Heat a half-gallon of whole milk in your crock pot (with lid) on low for 2 1/2 hours (but don't use ultra-pasteurized as UHT (ultra high temperature) milk won't firm up. Where I live all organic milk except Publix Greenwise milk is ultra-pasteurized so make sure you double check.) .
2. Unplug or turn off your crock pot and wait for 3 hours (don't remove the lid).
3. Scoop out 2 cups of warmed milk and mix with a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (I've been using a whole cup...not sure what difference it makes). Return this mixture to the crock pot and stir.
*You can either buy a cup of plain yogurt (try to get one with multiple cultures. I used Stonyfield Farms the first time because it has 6 active cultures) or after the first batch, you can reserve a cup of homemade yogurt to use on the next batch.
4. Return the lid to the crock pot and wrap with a thick towel to insulate. Allow to sit for at least 8 hours. Voila! You've made your own (healthy) yogurt.

The result is a little thinner than most store bought yogurt (although if you've ever bought Stonyfield Farms' Yo-Baby it is about the same consistency). I've heard it will continue to thicken the longer you allow it to sit, but I'm not sure how long is too long as far as spoilage is concerned. And, you'll notice the whey on the top, which I mix back into the yogurt. I make sure to scoop out some to use as my starter the next time as well as some extra that I use instead of sour cream. Then, I stir in some vanilla and a little sugar, although I think I'll start using honey in the future. Depending on the firstborn's mood, she'll eat it just like this or with fruit mixed in. I've also started blending it with fruit in the blender and pouring it into Popsicle molds, which the girls think is really cool to eat "Popsicles" for breakfast. The original recipe says it can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days, but ours is always gobbled up before then.

Another thought: Haven't tried this but my friend says she uses unflavored gelatin to thicken her yogurt. I assume you would need to put the gelatin in while it is still pretty warm.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Farmers' Market Finds 8/7/10

The girls and I (along with my friend and her baby girl) headed off to the farmers' market on Saturday. I decided to step out of my comfort zone (after some encouragement from my friend) and purchase the eggplant (I bought more than just these 2, but ate the others for dinner tonight). I loved that they were small and not too fleshy. The lady we bought them from told us she slices them in half length-wise, drizzles them with olive oil, and grills them or roasts them in the oven. We grilled mine tonight. I realized I'm not a huge eggplant fan, but they weren't bad and I'll try them oven roasted next time. I also got some small onions because I'm the only one that eats them and I hate wasting a large onion. The girls picked out the apples. Not the prettiest, but they tasted good. I thought they would be in the family of a granny smith or something, but the lady said they were golden delicious. The first born starts kindergarten tomorrow and will be taking one of the apples as well as some of our homemade yogurt for her snack.
Again, my most exciting purchase of the day was meat! The lady from Little Red Hen Farm was there and I ordered 5 lbs. of chicken breast that is pastured, never given antibiotics or hormones, and never fed GMO grains! I'm loving buying our meats directly from the farmer! Can't wait to get a deep freeze so we can buy in bigger quantities, especially since they stops processing their chickens during the winter. They will also begin selling pork in the fall and I'm planning on purchasing from her because her bacon is uncured and cheaper than the other guy's. I'll probably start buying my eggs from her too!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm Afraid I'm Becoming "That" Mom

I never thought I'd be anywhere remotely close to being "that" mom. I thought "those" moms were quirky at best, and somewhat of a quack at worst. However, today I realized I am leaning toward becoming "that" mom.
Today was my firstborn's meet the teacher day for kindergarten. She is so excited, and I am too! We have all of her school supplies and bought all kinds of neat containers that will keep her food cold or hot when packing her lunches. She's excited about eating in the cafeteria as opposed to eating in her classroom like she did in Pre-K. She's even memorized her student ID (a 6 digit number) that she must enter to "pay" for her cafeteria lunches. However, with all of my new convictions and awareness to our industrial food system, I'm concerned about her eating school lunches. Within our back to school packet I came across the form for free or reduced price lunches. The first 2 sentences say "children need healthy meals to learn. [our county] offers healthy meals every school day." Then I was looking over the menu this evening and noticed things like corn dogs, rib-b-que sandwiches, etc. But, I think what I thought was the worst was the "funnel cake" on the breakfast menu. I thought funnel cake was fair food, not part of a "healthy" school menu. Soooo...after looking over the menu and in the interest of not being "that" mom, we're planning to let her choose a few days she wants to eat the school menu (thankfully there a ton of days she won't like either of the offerings anyway) and we'll provide our own lunch most of the time. We are also required to provide a snack for her each day (or if we forget she'll receive one out of the "snack box," so we just won't forget) and I'll plan to pack something that is found in nature or consisting of "real" ingredients. And, we're planning on letting her do "Ice Cream Thursdays" with the rest of the class. So, maybe I'm still quite a ways off from being "that" mom.
So far I think we're doing pretty well with our feet-first jump into the real foods movement. We had a few products in the freezer that weren't organic or grass-fed and I must admit we finished those off....I even admit that tonight we had hotdogs (but from now on I'm buying the kind in the organic section without nitrates/nitrites!). This week, I made stovetop mac & cheese and it really was a hit! I baked more bread from the Healthy Bread in 5 book. This time I tried the Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread and even made buns/rolls in addition to the loaf. I also made another batch of crockpot yogurt, which I really will have to blog about next because the girls are eating about a half gallon per week (NOT A JOKE!). And, tonight, I made a delicious peach crumble (the original recipe is for organic peach crumble; mine wasn't completely organic, but still consisted of all REAL ingredients)! Tomorrow morning, we're planning on eating some of the bacon I picked up at the market on Wednesday and will probably head back out to the market to see what else we can find (I hear there are quite a few more vendors on Saturdays)!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Farmers' Market Finds 8/4/10

We went to the local farmers' market this morning. This is our second Wednesday in a row and I'm loving it! Haven't been able to make it on a Saturday yet, but I've heard there are twice as many (or more) vendors on Saturdays. I bought local wildflower honey, two ginormous cucumbers, tomatoes (I have a plant, but the last two ripe ones were eaten by some critter and all the others are still green), a cantaloupe (which will be gone tonight once the hubby gets home and cuts it open), and my most exciting purchase....pork.....from a local farm! This pork was pastured, not given any steroids, hormones, or antibiotics and I bought the pork from the man who owns and raises the pigs. Today I only bought a pound of bacon and a shoulder roast, but I hope to buy much more from him in the future and once we get a deep freeze maybe we can even buy in bulk. I spoke to him briefly about this option, and he even mentioned us coming down to the farm to see the pigs. After watching Food, Inc. and as I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I'm learning more and more about how our industrial food system is cloaked in secrecy. I love buying local, knowing that I can go directly to the source and see how they are treating their animals (also known as my food). I love knowing that the money I pay for my food is going directly into the pockets of the farmer to provide for their family instead of helping some CEO becoming richer and richer, while the farmer grows poorer and poorer. Check out www.localharvest.org to find farmer's markets in your area.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Meeting with the Kroger Execs

Well, it wasn't really a meeting (since they just happened to be in the dairy section when I was) and they weren't really executives (more like a shift manager or store manager, although, I don't know who they were or what title they hold other than they were dressed in slacks and wore a tie and had a nametag). I was there looking for cream or half and half for my coffee (I've quit using my beloved liquid non-dairy creamer since it is just about the most unnatural "dairy" product out there) when I realized that EVERY single organic milk product, as well at the nonorganic creams, half and halfs, etc. were all utra-pstuerized! Not a single one of them was just plain 'ol homogenized, pastuerized. The Kroger guys could tell I was spending way more time staring at the case than their normal customer and made a comment about the variety of products they carry. I decided that since I had their attention, I would ask them why they only variety they carry is this case full of worthless milk product...except I didn't say that. I merely asked why all of their organic and even nonorganic was ultra-pastuerized (with the exception of their regular store brand milk). They were apparently surprised by this as well. It seems they had never even noticed this was the case. Then they proceeded to tell me what I already knew. Ultra-pastuerization extends the shelf-life (by months even...months!!! Milk SHOULDN'T last months!). They also said it might be due to state laws since many of these products cross state lines. So why do I care if it is ultra-pastuerized, you ask? Ultra-pastuerized or UHT (ultra high temperature) milk is heated to 275 degrees F, which kills over 99.9% of the bacteria found in milk (both the GOOD, and bad stuff). What is left is basically just white liquid. Liquid that has an extremely long shelf life for milk, up to 3 months or more. Liquid that doesn't even need refrigeration. In fact, there was an entire display of Horizon Organic individual serve ultra-pasteurized milk unrefrigerated as I entered the store.
The purist wouldn't even drink pasteruized (heated to 161 degrees F) milk, or homogenized (which keeps the fat content equally distributed throughout the milk) for that matter. The purist would drink raw milk, and I'm quickly moving that direction.
However, I was pleased that the Kroger guys took my contact information and said that they would find out if it was possible to carry items that are not utra-pastuerized and let me know.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Healthy Bread

I first heard about Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day from SortaCrunchy. The concept is that you only have 5 minutes of hands-on time with the bread on any given day; around 5 minutes to prepare the dough, and 5 minutes of prep time the day that you want to bake it (of course more time is necessary for rising, resting, and baking, but you're not actually doing anything with the bread while this is happening). While at the library this week I decided to get the book and give a few of the recipes a trial run before investing in the book. All of the recipes are written to half or double in order to make as many loaves as you like and the dough is stored in the fridge until ready to use. Oh, and there's an entire section of gluten free recipes as well. The first recipe I tried was their master recipe (the loaf of bread pictured on the cover), and I'll blog about it another time, but it didn't quite turn out like I had hoped, most of which was my fault so I will try it again. This time I went with the recipe for Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. This recipe only calls for 9 ingredients, none of which are corn-derived. They also provide instructions for making hotdog and hamburger buns from this dough (the Publix hamburger buns I bought yesterday had 17 ingredients, not including the extra 7 listed under "enriched flour bleached." This recipe is a keeper since Matt and the girls liked it! Guess I'll invest in the book after all!

The Quest for Real Food

Our family has just begun a new journey. A journey to REAL food. A journey that takes us out of the supermarket aisles consisting of boxes upon boxes of fillers, additives, and unpronounceable chemicals that our culture has led us to believe is food. This journey will prove challenging at times and I'm not sure where we'll finally end up. But, I believe we will be healthier and happier in the end.

I've known for a long time that our American diets aren't really good for us, but I'm recently finding out just how BAD these foods are for our bodies. We're not necessarily going organic, or health food. We're going Little House on the Prairie, using ingredients my great-great grandmother would have recognized. Eggs, butter, milk....not maltodextrin, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. I'm realizing that I'm going to need to make things myself if I want to keep these (and other) ingredients out of our foods.

The first step was reading food labels....and more labels...and more labels and choosing the one with the least processing, least artificial ingredients, or even choosing not to purchase the product at all. My first real food purchase was organic maple syrup. No more high fructose corn syrup masquerading around as pancake syrup for us.

So here's the challenge, pay attention to what you're feeding yourself and your family. Read the ingredients label, and do a little research to understand exactly what all of those abbreviations mean.