Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday Twister - Mainly Cookies



Click on the photo for a larger view of the details. Suffice it to say there has been much cookie making this month (a batch or two I forgot to photograph too). I have been so happy to discover I can grind very small batches of sprouted wheat berries in my coffee grinder. Enough for cookie making and a homemade loaf of 100% sprouted bread.

However, I still would rather have a grain mill of my own! Hope you entered the giveaway!

What about you? What happened in your kitchen last week? Care to share? Join us for Tuesday Twister next week.

For more inspiration see today's list of
Tuesday Twisters and see what's twisting in other real-foodies kitchens.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Real Milk Survey




If you are a real milk drinker (or would like to be one), please take one minute today for a confidential raw milk survey.

Thank you!

Grain Mill Giveaway

The Nourishing Gourmet is hosting an amazing giveaway for a Wonder Mill Grain Mill from The Urban Homemaker. This is a $260 value. Also, just for entering the contest you get to download an e-book on bread making for beginners (a $10 value).

GO ENTER! (Visit the "amazing giveaway" link above, and then follow the link from there)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Challenge: It's Up to You!

I have really enjoyed the monthly challenge series over the last 12 months. This month is the last challenge associated with last December's post about bite-size steps to a nutrient-dense diet. The challenge this month is to take a look at the products you still purchase already made from the store. Is there something you could experiment with replacing? For me it was switching to homemade crackers. Next on my list is my own ketchup. I think if I were to step it up, it might be coming up with my own sprouted grain pasta noodles....but that will be on the back burner for a long while, I think.

What about you? What are you still buying and thinking "I wonder if I could make that?" Somewhere between all the cookie making and gift wrapping this month, give it a try and let me know!

Also, did you find these challenges helpful? What would you like to see more of or less of on this blog? I have plans to spend more time here in 2010 and have ideas on how I would like to develop it, but I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave comments here or to email me at mariannescrivner (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Twister - Soup making and Shrimp Butter



The last two weeks I have been consumed with warding off serious illness. It is a good thing I had taken my own advice and stocked up on stock as soup was the go to meal most of the time.

Here's what I caught on film (from left to right)

Top Row:
One of the last seasonal salads from our CSA box for this year (hosting bell peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, carrots, and field greens with a homemade dressing).
Beet Kvass fermenting (seen with a bowl full of squash, mainly from our garden, and our thankfulness tree in the background)
Kombucha fermenting (mmm, fizzy goodness and giver of needed immune boosting)
Freshly shelled organic walnuts from our CSA soaking in a salt solution (more are soaking as I type, though these are from the farm that provides our delicious raw milk and pastured chicken eggs)

Middle Row:
Oatmeal porridge breakfast feast complete with above mentioned milk and a pot of peppermint tea.
What would have been macaroons if I had enough shredded coconut meat, but instead were meringues with a hint of coconut. Meringues in our home are always sweetened with organic pure maple syrup.
Soup: Winter Root Soup (recipe can be found in Nourishing Traditions) with the exact proportions of ingredients provided in our CSA box that were called for in the recipe. Amazing. Seen here with more homemade creme fraiche and a sprig of thyme for decor.
Bar of carob before being chilled and cut into "chips" (you should be seeing the application of said chips in next week's twister).

Bottom Row:
Soup: Fennel soup (recipe also in N.T.), also served with creme fraiche and with a sprig of fennel for appeal (and content hint).
Fennel soup seen with steamed, buttered and salted Kale, and more of the salad from row one.
Shrimp broth. This was a torturous favorite for the cats. It was a first for me, and a first trip to the Asian grocer down the street with my four year old who declared loudly "Mommy, it's squishy in here!" because the isles are much smaller than in our American stores. There is much more food per square foot!
Shrimp butter, frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in a bag in the freezer (watch for a Creole shrimp casserole next week!)

What about you? What happened in your kitchen last week? Care to share? Join us for Tuesday Twister next week. I always find that photographing my meals helps keep my accountable to make something fresh, nutrient-dense, and attractive.

For more inspiration see today's list of Tuesday Twisters and see what's twisting in other real-foodies kitchens.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Twister 11.10.09

I recently discovered a few food blogs that participate in GNOWFGLINS' "Tuesday Twister" as a weekly picture show of notable things that happened in their kitchens over the last week. Though I have not taken many food photos during the last week, I thought I would start playing today anyway.

First a huge batch of broth, complete with chicken feet. Then, it was soup making.

Pictured left is a Roman Lentil Soup, made with fresh onions and carrots from our CSA box, as well as locally grown lentils, and homemade broth. Served with home-cultured creme fraiche and a sprig of parsley (also from CSA box).

I also made a lovely cream of broccoli that did not get photographed.

Today I will be making another soup recipe, which hopefully I will remember to photograph and share for next week (with the other happenings in my kitchen!).

What about you? What is happening in your kitchen? Care to share? Join us for Tuesday Twister next week. I always find that photographing my meals helps keep my accountable to make something fresh, nutrient-dense, and attractive.

For more inspiration see today's list of Tuesday Twisters and see what's twisting in other real-foodies kitchens.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Challenge: Make Your Own Broth

"Good broth resurrects the dead" - African proverb

The leaves are falling, the air is crisping, and in my house, the broth is simmering. November is an ideal time to start experimenting with your own broth. If there was ever a month in which I could eat soup every day, it is November. Broth is inexpensive to make while adding 5-star richness to the meals you serve at home. It is additionally great on its own to help kick a cold or flu.

I use stock (or broth) primarily for soups and sauces. Any high caliber restaurant does the same thing. If you have fallen in love with a soup or sauce when eating out, it is probably because they make their own stock.

Stock refers to a liquid made for its own sake from whole ingredients (for example making chicken stock with whole chickens and using the cooked meat for something else later), whereas broth typically refers to liquid made from "leftovers". Broth is usually what simmers here because I use leftover chicken carcasses rather than a fresh bird, though I always add fresh feet and necks as well as fresh vegetables (following the bone broth recipes in Nourishing Traditions by Sallon Fallon)

Making broth from your leftover carcasses is economical and adds value to your original purchase. Also, consuming stocks and broths allows your body to utilize proteins better so that you do not need to eat as much meat to gain the same benefit, which can save you even more.

Challenge Level One:

With Thanksgiving approaching, I challenge you to make your own stock and boil down a 5-star sauce from the turkey drippings. With cold and flu season upon us, I encourage you to stock up on stock. Keep it in the freezer to have on hand when the sniffles come. The gelatin and nutrients in broth are also good for numerous other health problems (especially digestive ones).

Challenge Level Two:

If you take the plunge and experiment with making your own broth, write about it! Or if you regularly make your own broth, share a recipe or write a reflection spurred from the simmering brew, and let me know by leaving a link in the comment section.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bucket-Of-Fat Give-away!

Kelly the Kitchen Kop is promoting a give-away from U.S. Wellness Meats for a huge bucket of rendered tallow. This is a healthy fat for deep frying and the secret to amazingly flaky pie crusts. Consider this the first post in a series on getting ready for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

Visit Kelly's post to enter (up to 7 ways to enter), while I keep my fingers crossed that it's me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

October Challenge: Home Brew Kombucha

October usually means more time indoors. It is a darker time in our house and a time of more consistent temperatures as we turn the heat back on. Often October signifies the return of comfort foods and a return to the kitchen after a long summer spent cooking outside and making meals with minimal prep.

As you shuffle back into a darker kitchen and spend a little more time actually using your kitchen this fall, I have an easy challenge for you, brew some kombucha. This is an incredibly simple and incredibly healthy drink to make. You can refer to my "ode to kombucha" and preparation instructions or read my additional thoughts on brewing kvasses, but I will also provide some simple instructions here.

You will need:
A glass or stainless steel container suitable for holding a gallon of liquid
A towel
A dark place with a fairly steady temperature of around 72 degrees F (I use a paper bag turned upside down over my kombucha jars atop the refrigerator)

Ingredients:
4 organic black tea bags (or 4 small black tea nests if using Pu-erh)
1 cup sugar (yes, refined sugar)
3 qts filtered water
Kombucha "mushroom" and 1/2 cup starter (kombucha from a previous batch)

You should really use organic tea as it does not contain formaldehyde or any of the other strange chemicals often used in making non-organic black teas. Refined sugar is the best sugar to feed the culture. You also want filtered water because most tap waters contain chlorine, which can kill your starter culture.

Instructions:
Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and completely dissolve. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Let steep until room temperature. Remove tea and pour into fermenting container (or strain into container if using loose leaf tea). Pour in 1/2 cup kombucha from a previous batch and top with "mushroom". Let sit anywhere from 7-21 days. It is ready when it is tangy, slightly fizzy, and has no taste of tea remaining. This will fluctuate depending on kitchen and weather conditions. Once done, pour into jars and place in cold storage.

Each time you make kombucha your "mushroom" will make a "baby", which is simply another layer of mushroom atop the starter mushroom. You can allow these to continue multiplying and they might help your previous batches finish faster. You can also pull the new layer off and pass it onto a friend. To double the batch you do not need a second mushroom, but simply double everything else including the starter liquid.

You can further experiment with adding flavors, once made, and bottling them and letting them have a second fermentation on the counter for a couple of days to get fizzy again. You can also make kombucha with other teas and sugars, however, the recipe I am sharing is designed to give the highest quantity of gluchronic acid, which is what gives kombucha its remarkable health benefits. I cannot speak to the benefits of the drink when not made with black tea and sugar.

Rest assured, the fermentation process transforms the caffeine from the tea as well as the sugar into gluchronic acid, so there is no concern about giving this drink to children. However, I will say that it can have the same effect as black tea in staining your teeth. So if pearly whites are important to you, make sure to drink water afterward, or brush your teeth the same as you would after drinking tea or coffee.

Challenge Level One:
Locate a kombucha culture and take inventory to see if you have the equipment. You can often find cultures from friends who brew kombucha and I have even seen them advertised on Craigslist. However, if you do not have a friend who brews and need a reliable source, Cultures For Health can ship you one anywhere in the US.

Challenge Level Two:
Take the plunge and make some! It is inexpensive and not a large time investment. Besides, you might like it and your gut will thank you. It is also handy to have as we enter "cold and flu" season as it is a significant immune booster and detoxifier.

Challenge Level Three:
If you are already a kombucha brewer, try brewing something else. Try a true ginger beer or ginger ale, or better yet get started on some homemade sparkling apple cider for Thanksgiving next month. Whatever you do, tell me about it here!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

For the Love of Food

Local and organic.
It does not get better.


Lunch


Dinner

Can you name all the vegetables seen above?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September Challenge: Switch to Real Milk

I apologize for not putting the challenge out there earlier this month. The challenge is simple, switch to raw milk (or at least find some and try it). However, I am working on an article that would provide help to locate raw milk near you and reasons why it is worth switching.

In the mean time, do you already drink raw milk? If not, what is holding you back?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Non-Food News

Our third baby arrived on Thursday (needless to say that my menu planning went mainly to waste, though my husband did cook us the roast). Meals every other day from our church will start tomorrow and last for three weeks. As much as I love cooking, eating without preparation is pretty nice too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marination Idea: Flat Steak

This works great for flat iron steak, or any long thin (and tough) piece of meat (seen here is a "round" steak).

Puncture meat all over with a fork. Cover with sea salt, pepper, and whatever herbs sound good to you (here I have used basil just dried from the garden), as well as extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also added some raw apple cider vinegar.

Let sit at least 15 minutes, and up to an hour (but cover with something to keep bugs and dust away).

Broil for 5 minutes and let stand for 5 minutes (based on 1" thickness), or grill for 2.5 minutes per side and then let stand 5 minutes .

You can slice this into steak servings, cut it thin for fajitas, and make sure to save any leftovers for steak Caesar salad later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

CSA Report: 3rd Week of August

Not pictured: A lovely 100yr old variety of muskmelon that was quickly devoured for dessert

Menu Plan Monday

Photobucket

I am trying to restore some routines before the baby comes, so I am launching again into Menu Plan Monday's hosted by orgjunkie.com. Our CSA box came today, as well as our grocery delivery from Azure Standard, so I am working with a decently stocked pantry. However, we are still on a bit of a pantry challenge this summer trying to see how well we can live off the cow we bought last spring, our CSA box, and our weekly trip to the farm for raw milk and eggs. Please keep that in mind as there is nothing but beef, veggies, and eggs on the menu because a lot of our meals look a little like the photo below.


Monday
B: Eggs and buttered toast, raw milk
L: Individual "pizzas" (bread, tomatoes, hormone and nitrate free pepperoni, and mozzarella), plums from the back yard, raw milk, kombucha
D: Burger patties, fresh salad, sauted zuchinni, raw milk
Dessert: Muskmelon and nectarines
To Do: Soak oats for porridge, defrost roast, culture buttermilk,

Tuesday
B: Oatmeal porridge with raisins, cinnamon and nectarines, raw milk
L: PB&Honey, carrots, nectarine, raw milk, kombucha
D: Steak, salad, sauteed chard, raw milk
To Do: Start new batch of Kombucha, soak oats for porridge, marinate roast in buttermilk, soak flour for bread, start new sourdough mother, make quiche & pie dough, start another batch of beet kvass, culture sour cream

Wednesday
B: Oatmeal porridge with raisins, cinnamon, and butter, fresh squeezed orange juice, raw milk
L: PB&Honey, nectarines, carrots, raw milk, kombucha
D: Quiche, Salad, sauted greens, raw milk
Dessert: Nectarine pie
To Do: Soak flour for orange cake, make bread, separate cream cheese and whey, feed sourdough, soak oats for porridge, soak flour for pizza, preserve garden beans and sauerkraut, start beef bone broth, make mayonnaise

Thursday
B: Oatmeal porridge with raisins, cinnamon, and butter, raw milk
L: Grilled cheese, carrots, nectarine, raw milk, kombucha
D: Pizza, potato salad, Steamed salted and buttered yellow wax beans, raw milk
To Do: Make pizza sauce, feed sourdough, soak oats for porridge, cook and begin fermenting orange cake

Friday
B: Oatmeal porridge with raisins, cinnamon, and butter, raw milk
L: PB&Honey, Carrots, Nectarine, Raw milk, Kombucha
D: Roast with potatoes and carrots, salad, sauted zucchini, raw milk
To Do: Soak flour for Carrot Cake, Feed sourdough, soak oats for porridge, make ice cream, make tart dough

Saturday (Soren's 4th birthday party & some friends' wedding)
B: Oatmeal porridge with raisins, cinnamon, and butter, raw milk, orange juice
L: Pizza, potato salad, carrot cake, orange cake, strawberry tart, ice cream, raw milk, kombucha
D: Eat at friend's wedding
To Do: morning: Cook Carrot cake, make cream cheese icing, assemble tart, feed sourdough mother

Sunday
B: Eggs, sauted zucchini, hash browns, raw milk, orange juice
L: Leftovers from week
D: Steak, salad, slow roasted beets
To Do: Soak oats for porridge, feed sourdough mother

Monday, August 10, 2009

August Challenge: Marinate!

In keeping with last December's "bite-sized steps to a nutrient dense diet" this month's challenge is to develop the habit of marinating your meats, especially red meats. August is a busy and lazy month. As such any new "challenges" should be low-key. Marination is not time, nor labor, intensive, but like so many aspects of traditional cooking, it is forethought intensive.

For example, I have a pot roast that I punctured all over with my meat thermometer marinating in homemade buttermilk right now. It has been marinating for nearly two days, and I plan to cook the roast tomorrow. Some things take less time. I typically marinate steaks or ground meats at room temperature in olive oil and vinegar with spices for 15-45 minutes on the counter. Lamb shanks and some roasts I leave in a nice red wine for 12-24 hours.

The science behind marination is that raw and cultured mediums (buttermilk, extra virgin olive oil, vinegars, wine) will start eating, or pre-digesting, the meat for you which leaves less digestion work for your body to absorb the nutrients. Additionally, it imparts flavor and tenderizes the meat making it more satisfying on the palate. Marination is a not-so-secret technique of all good cooks. Biting into something flavorful, tender, and easy on the stomach later leaves any guest wanting to eat from your table again.

There is also creative joy when blending various herbs and spices to compliment meats. One of my favorite discoveries is cumin, fennel, salt and pepper in an olive oil base on lamb or pork chops. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes on the counter and then scrape off the fennel and broil them (or pan fry) for 4 minutes a side (estimated for a 1" thick cut).

Challenge for the month:
Plan for marination. Try something new or use your nose to create a new blend that gets your mouth watering in anticipation. Do you already have a favorite marinade? Please share it!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sauerkraut: How To

Sauerkraut is incredibly simple. I am posting instructions quickly and hope to follow up with pictures soon. We had technical issues this month, so I apologize for how belated this post is.

You will need the following:
A large bowl you can pound in
A pounding pestle (I use the pestle from my mortar and pestle - but I am saving for a real kraut pounder available through our Eugene chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation)
Quart mason jar (you can do larger or smaller depending on how quickly you will go through the sauerkraut once opened)

1 Medium Cabbage
1 Tbsp Caraway seeds
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
4 Tbsp Whey (or 1 additional tbsp salt)

Core and thinly shred the cabbage. I do this with a large serrated chopping knife. I had purchased a mandolin type shredder but found it was more trouble that it was worth and it did not shred fine enough, so I returned it and went back to using my knife.

In a large bowl, combine shredded cabbage, caraway seeds, sea salt, and whey (or additional salt). Pound with pestle or wooded pounder (or whatever else you might find - like a meat hammer), for 10 minutes to release juices.

Place in quart mason jar and press down firmly with pounder/pestle until the juices well cover the top of the sauerkraut (leave 1" of room before the top of the jar as it will expand during fermentation). Cover jar very tightly and keep at room for about 3 days (more or less depending on temperature - ideal is 72 degrees) before transferring to cold storage (like the top shelf of your refrigerator -shooting for 40 degrees). You can eat it immediately after this, but it will also improve in flavor with age (some say it takes 6 months for sauerkraut's flavors to fully develop).

The lovely thing about naturally fermenting food is that your nose will tell you when it has gone bad so that you have no need to fear botulism. Further, naturally fermented foods are full of lactobacilli which enhances the foods digestibility as well as increases the vitamin levels. Additionally, these foods are living and full of enzymes, natural antibiotics and anti carcinogens. These foods will promote health gut flora which is at the foundation of all good health.

For more on fermenting you own foods please take a look at the following links:
Cheeseslave: Ten reasons to eat fermented foods
Food Renegade: How to make Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables
Wild Fermentation
Portland Preserve
Sauerkraut: The Miracle Cabbage
and of course, many fermented recipes can be found in Nourishing Traditions

Monday, July 13, 2009

CSA Report: 2st Week of July


Mystery item:
We have received this several times and still have not figured out what it is. Tastes a little like leafy peas...but we don't know. Do you?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July Challenge: Make your own Sauerkraut

The growing season is in full swing, and we have been delighted by the large cabbages in our farm box the last couple weeks. Now is the time to utilize garden abundance to preserve foods for the winter.

In keeping with that idea, the challenge for this month is to make your own sauerkraut. This is actually a very simple and rewarding task that will also be good practice for other traditional preserving later in the harvest season (I am thinking salsa, chutneys, etc).

This challenge is simple, try preserving sauerkraut traditionally (this means fermenting with salt or whey rather than "pickling" in vinegar). If you are already a preserver, study your harvests (or u-pick options) and see if you can figure out how much you would have to preserve to last you through the next season. I noticed that bulk cabbage is on a great special right now through Azure Standard, and since our own cabbage does not seem to have taken well in the garden this year, a bulk order may be in store this month for us.

I will post a photo-how-to in the next week on making sauerkraut, and you can see how simple it is, even without fancy equipment. I will also share tips for some tasty variations (like latin American sauerkraut).

Other things you are inspired to preserve this month? Please share in the comment section!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healthy Desserts: Quick Compromise Cupcakes

My youngest son turned 2 yesterday. We had just returned from a trip out of town but I really wanted to bring something for celebration to my eldest son's soccer class (filled with lots of mutual friends and little siblings who watch). This gave me about an hour to come up with something. Sadly, not enough time to soak or sprout and grains. However, if a pie can have unbleached white flour for the crust, then surely some birthday cupcakes can have un-soaked, non-sprouted, whole spelt flour.

Quick Compromise Carob Cupcakes
makes 12

Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour (use sprouted flour to remove the compromise! Though be prepared to use more milk)
1 cup milk
1 cup rapadura
1/3 cup carob powder
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract (optional)
1 tsp vinegar

Topping Ingredients:
1-2 cups heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
pinch of stevia powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a hand-held mixer. Divide into muffin tray lined with baking cups and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from tray immediately and let cool on wire racks. In the mean time, whip cream until soft peaks form, add stevia and vanilla extract and whip until cream is quite thick (but not butter). Place a dollop of cream on each cup cake and enjoy!

One of the moms commented on how "organic" these cupcakes look. Organic in the sense of simple and from the earth, not necessarily that they looked certifiable =) I enjoyed the novelty of cupcakes with cream rather than frosting as well, and the kids all thought it was grand (and no one seemed to mind the carob!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

CSA Report: 3rd Week of June

Please forgive the horrible image quality

Flowers and Food!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Healthy Desserts: Lemon Merengue Pie

This is a lovely cold dessert for warm summer nights.

Have a partially-baked pie crust ready (partially bake by placing in cold oven set to 300 for 15 minutes)

In a sauce pan, combine grated rind of 2 lemons, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, and a mixture of 4 tbsp Arrowroot powder with 6 tbsp water. Cook this mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until well combined and thickened (it will not thicken into jelly until it cooks in the pie and cools). Let the mixture cool and then beat in 3 egg yolks and 1 tbsp butter.

Meanwhile, beat 4 egg whites (or more) with a pinch of sea salt until softly stiff. Mix in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2-4 tbsp Rapadura and beat until stiff

Pour lemon filling into the partially baked crust and top carefully with the meringue, sealing in the pie from the crust.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before serving, this pie tastes even better after it has been kept in the refrigerator over night.

Monday, June 8, 2009

CSA Report: 2nd Week of June


Mystery item:
Turns out to be anise flavored Fennel!

Great Give-a-way

New Urban Habitat is hosting a great give-a-way this week. It is for the book The Backyard Homestead. This is a great resource for gardening and seed saving. This book will teach you to maximize the most local food source possible - your own backyard "farm".

Enter for a chance to win!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Challenge: Kick the Sugar Blues

I think summer is the perfect time to wean yourself off refined sweeteners. There are so many lovely and naturally sweet options available. June begins berry season, and I already have plans to do some picking next week. For the U-Pick options in your area, peruse Pick Your Own.

Why kick sugar? Refined sugar is not a food, regardless of how much more "natural" it is than the packaged chemical substitutes. The process sugar cane is taken through to produce that white stuff we Americans are so addicted to is the same process that opium poppies are taken through to produce heroine. This is not a food; it is a drug.

Like all drugs, when you ingest sugar it has profound effects on your body. The moment your body registers that you've eaten sugar, it tells your body to fuel itself on the sugar and carbs rather than burn fat for energy (want to loose a couple pounds for the summer? Cut white sugar and white flour!). Here are some other interesting links on removing sugar from your diet.

Sugar picks you up and lets you down ("sugar blues"). It interferes with clear mental processing, natural energy, and normal body rhythms. It is unquestionably linked as a cause of diabetes (along with refined flour). It is addictive! The more you eat, the more you crave. Further, it does nothing to satisfy. Your body registers fullness on fat content and nutrient-density. Sugary snacks will only leave you hungry for more as your body will not recognize that you gave it something to feed itself. Before you reach for that sweet snack, opt for a big glass of raw milk first, or some buttered toast with honey.

William Dufty's "Sugar Blues" converted me nearly overnight. I literally went through my cupboards and threw away anything with any form of sugar or high fructose corn syrup on the label (ketchup, mayo, cereal, bread, you name it!).

However, I know for many people cold turkey is rarely an option. I had also just discovered I was pregnant with my second child, which was a large motivator for me. As with any drug addiction, it is the first few days that are the most difficult. For me, this is why removing everything from my house was a good first step. You will also need something to replace the sugar. Even if you are still eating far too many natural sweeteners while you transition, they will not give you the same addiction problems as they are actually foods. After you transition you will naturally wean yourself down to healthy levels of natural sweets.

For those not interested in cold-turkey sugar abandonment, this article provides great baby-steps towards transitioning sugar out of your life.

Challenge Level One:
Pay close attention to what your actual sugar intake is for this month. Write it down. 100 years ago the average American ate roughly 5 pounds of refined sugar per person per year. Now, the average American consumes 175 pounds of sugar per year. That is alarming! Read labels on EVERYTHING and make a list of all the places sugar is hiding in your diet (remember, look at the ingredient list, not the grams listed on the "nutrition" panel).

Challenge Level Two:
Purchase William Dufty's "Sugar Blues" or check it out from the library and put it on your early summer reading list. It might change your life. OR Read the above mentioned article on transitioning sugar out of your life and see how many of the steps you can implement in June. Let me know!

Challenge Level Three:
See if you can go the whole month sugar free. Gorge on fresh berries, substitute with raw honey, pure maple syrup, stevia powder, Rapadura, and Molasses. There are candies and chocolates you can buy - but still read the ingredients! Some of the alternate flavors use different sweeteners.

In order to help you this month, I will try to post a dessert recipe each week (or more often!). I will be catering a graduation reception mid-month and will be crafting several desserts for the celebration so it should be easy to share some of that goodness here (though it is likely I will also provide some sugared pies since it is for such a large group and I have not been asked to cater it in the Weston A. Price style).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CSA Report: 1st Week of June


This week's CSA box provided (from left to right in 4 rows)

Top "Row": Red Leaf Lettuce Head, Green Leaf Lettuce Head
Second "Row": Purple Kale, Dill, Cilantro, Chard
Third "Row": Radishes, Garlic Snapes, Purple and Green Kohlrabi
Fourth "Row": Large bag of Spinach, Zuchini, Cucumber, Rainbow Chard

The garlic snapes were new to me. I had to look up "curly long green things" on google, which produced this page that enlightened me and provided recipie ideas.

I thought they looked lovely as as a centerpiece,


But decided they were even tastier as a "pesto"


Raw Garlic Snape Pesto (as per the website mentioned above)
1 bunch garlic snapes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated raw Parmesan cheese

Process garlic snapes and olive oil in food processor until well combined and transfer to a serving bowl. Fold in Parmesan by hand.

Everyone raved about the pesto (children included)! It served as as topping for the roasted chicken last night, and as a sandwich base for leftover chicken sandwiches today. It would also be lovely with chips or crackers and I might have enough left over to experiment with it in a salad dressing for tonight. YUM.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Photobucket

Here is the meal plan for this week after perusing the pantry and our CSA box.

Monday
B: Scrambled Eggs and toast, raw milk
L: PB&Honey, carrots, raw milk
D: Roasted Chicken with gravy (little bits of liver hidden here), Fresh green salad, Sauteed Kale, Raw Garlic Snape Pesto, raw milk.
Dessert: Lemon Merengue Pie
To Do: Soak peanuts, begin buttermilk marinade for roast, marinate stew meat, make pie crust + extra for later, soak oats

Tuesday
B: Oatmeal porridge (with butter, cinnamon & raisins), raw milk
L: Chicken sandwiches with garlic snape pesto spread, carrots, raw milk
D: Potluck! Contributing "all day" beef stew and a large green salad
To Do: Begin dehydrating peanuts, soak flour for buttermilk bread, feed sourdough mother, soak oats

Wednesday
B: Oatmeal porridge (with butter, cinnamon & raisins), raw milk
L: Chicken sandwiches, carrots, raw milk
D: Beef Roast, Mashed Yams, Sauteed Chard, Green Salad, raw milk
To Do: Make Buttermilk bread, feed sourdough mother, make coconut "white fudge", soak oats

Thursday
B: Oatmeal porridge (with butter, cinnamon & raisins), raw milk
L: Roast beef sandwiches, carrots, raw milk
D: Spinach Quiche, Green Salad, raw milk
To Do: Soak wheat berries, make yogurt, make homemade dill mayonnaise, soak oats

Friday
B: Oatmeal porridge (with butter, cinnamon & raisins), raw milk
L: Quiche, Salad, Raw milk
D: Burgers, Steamed Kohlrabi, Green Salad, Raw milk
To Do: Rinse and continue soaking wheat berries, start new batch of Kombucha, soak flour for pancakes

Saturday
B: Soured Pancakes, raw milk
L: Fritattas, raw milk
D: Leftovers from week with Green Salad and sauteed Chard, raw milk
To Do: Make zarathustra crackers, make creme fraiche

Sunday
B: Eggs and toast, raw milk
L: PB&Honey, raw milk
D: Burritos, Rice, Cilantro salad, raw milk
To Do: Soak rice in AM, soak oats

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This post is participating in Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.org
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

CSA Report: 4th Week of May

CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where local farms and CSA programs abound. When I lived in Portland, I discovered that CSA's fill up by January at the latest. Here in Eugene, there is a bit more time, but they still fill before the growing season begins. If you live anywhere near farm land, I would wager there are farms doing CSA near you. For a helpful place to start looking, check out Local Harvest.

Their are many lovely perks from being a part of a CSA. I LOVE supporting my local farms, eating local produce, and eating seasonally. I enjoy having new vegetables to master in the kitchen (who knew we all LOVE the parsnip). This is real food grown naturally by the real earth. It is nutrient-dense, and it tastes superior to it's off-season, non-organic counterparts. Additionally, it is fresh, it doesn't travel far, there is not much packaging and it is cheaper than buying from the farmers market or grocery store. If there is an abundance of a harvest, you enjoy a share of that surplus (my fingers are crossed for this to happen with strawberries this year).

The drawbacks, for those thinking about switching, is that you are at the mercy of the farms harvest, if a crop fails, you absorb that loss along with the farmer (though I have never experienced that), further, you are constrained by what is seasonal. Most americans have lost all connection with eating foods according to season (instead have we have substituted sports to feel in tune with the changing seasons?), so for someone transitioning to CSA for produce, it might be a major change to your menu repetoir (like our current abundance of lettuces). The biggest hurdle, for people with limited cash flow (like ourselves) is that most require payment for the season up front. However, do not let that deter you, for farmers are realizing that the more they can work to divide up the payments, the easier this is on gaining customers. We were fortunate enough to find one here that allows you to pay week by week, though it remains a full season committment to do so.

This week we received:
A large bag of field greens
A large bag of spinach
A flat-leaf kale
Rainbow chard
Bunch of baby parsnips
Bunch of various radishes
Head of red leaf lettuce
Bunch of parsley
Collection of chive blossoms
A cucumber
Head of celery

I meant to take lovely photos of each of these items, but our box comes right before dinner on Monday nights, and many of the items get chopped up so fast there just is not time. I will try to be more dutiful with the camera next week.

Right now we are swimming in lettuces while I am really the only one in the family who enjoys them (actually, my eldest enjoys salad too, but he can only eat so much as a nearly 4-year-old. my two-year-old is still missing his back molars, so lettuce is a challenge. Husband will eat salad, but begrudgingly unless it's Caesar, though last nights was rich with bacon and sharp raw cheddar, which helped). I am glad that we began getting our CSA boxes before planting our garden this year (I was previously disappointed we did not plant earlier), as my original growing plans included many lettuces. We have now decided not to grow any lettuce, trusting the CSA box to keep us amply supplied with salad greens, and relying on the garden to supply me with harvests I can preserve for winter (and lettuce will not keep).

There will be more on the garden coming soon. Hopefully next week I will get back to Menu Plan Mondays which will be mapped out once we receive our harvest box.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nutrient-Dense Bread Making: A Compromise

In Sally Fallon's lovely cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, she offers a compromise for bread makers: Yeasted Buttermilk Bread. The flour is soaked, but the recipe still calls for yeast.

Yeast is a compromise because "active dry yeast" and the wild yeasts in the air that create a sourdough are not the same. Think of this difference: sourdough can take 4-12+ hours to double, and does not get punched down. That is because there are significantly less powerful yeasts at work. Further, many people use a packaged instant yeast for their bread making, which I have just discovered uses GMO's!

However, for someone transitioning to traditional foods, jumping straight to sourdough can be difficult both for flavor and for texture. Further, sometimes you need to make bread in between your sourdough cycle. We have found the Yeasted Buttermilk Bread to be delicious and easier on the stomach for my 2-year-old than commercially sprouted breads (you might note that I do not have any photos of the two loaves whole....we cannot resist this bread fresh from the oven, not even long enough to take a picture!).

Another perk: it is so easy!

Quick Directions:
Soak 4 cups whole grain flour (I use spelt) in 1 - 1.5 cups buttermilk on the counter for 12-24 hours (24 is best).
Place 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast in 1/4 cup warm filtered water with 2 tbsp honey. Mix well and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add 1 tbsp baking soda + 1 tsp sea salt to the yeast solution and mix well.
Divide soaked flour in half. Place half in food processor and combine with 1/2 cup whole grain flour (again, I use spelt), and half of the yeast solution.
Repeat with the other half of the soaked flour. Then slightly knead halves together and let rise in a bowl for 2 hours in a warm place.
Punch down and slightly knead (or process quickly again in the food processor in halves), divide in half, shape loaves, and place in buttered loaf pans. Let rise another 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
Place in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn out and let cool on wire racks. Enjoy!

Alternately, when you form your loaves, you can form them into about 24 little balls and stuff them into a 11-inch spring form pan for delicious yeasted buttermilk rolls.

When I was having sourdough starter issues here at the new house (which now seem to be resolved) I was making these buttermilk loafs every other day much to the satisfaction of the whole household and anyone who stopped by.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It is Menu Plan Monday again. However, we are leaving for Portland in the middle of the week so the "plan" will be limited. The plan from Thursday night on will be to find inexpensive, nutrient-dense, GMO-free (as much as possible) food while living out of a hotel room for 5 days. Ha! Good luck to us! (and yes, I will be packing as much as I can to bring with us)

Monday

B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: PB Honey, carrots, apples, raw milk
D: Meatloaf, green salad, raw milk, kombucha
To Do: Feed sourdough mother, start beet kvass, soak oats for cookies, soak oats for porridge, dehydrate oats for cookies

Tuesday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: PB Honey, carrots, apples, raw milk, kombucha
D: Roast chicken, rice, salad, raw milk
To Do: Feed sourdough mother, make oatmeal cookies, soak oats for porridge

Wednesday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Chicken soup with rice, raw milk, kombucha
D: Quiche, green salad, raw milk
To Do: Make sourdough, soak oats for porridge

Thursday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: PB Honey, carrot sticks, apple slices, kombucha, raw milk

PACK FOR THE WEEKEND: Raw milk, Beet Kvass, Sourdough loaves, leftover chicken, raw cheese, butter, leftover quiche, carrots, apples, bananas, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Another Contest!

Perhaps more useful than cultures (for those who are not home culturers), how does free non-GMO beef sound? The No GMO Challenge site is offering a giveaway to win $100 worth of meat (or anything else from U.S. Wellness Meats).

Check it out and sign up for the 30-day no GMO challenge (a requirement for entering the contest).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

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This is the first week I am participating in the Menu Plan Monday blog carnival. I am hoping to do this weekly and have this replace the "A week in my kitchen" reports (which I have neglected this year). For other menu planning inspiration visit the link above.

Monday

B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Roast beef sandwiches, apple slices, carrot sticks, raw milk
D: Roast Chicken, rice, green salad, raw milk, kombucha
To Do: Soak rice in AM, feed sourdough mother, soak flour for buttermilk bread, make yogurt, start beef broth, soak flour for pizza dough, start new kombucha batch, soak oats for porridge

Tuesday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Chicken sandwiches, apple slices, carrot sticks, raw milk, kombucha
D: Potluck Night: Contribute pepperoni/veggie pizza and CB Pineapple pizza, raw milk
To Do: Make bread, make more pure yogurt starter, feed sourdough mother, soak oats for porridge

Wednesday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Chicken soup w/rice, apple slices, raw milk, kombucha
D: Steak, green salad, garlic/broccoli/onion mashed potatoes, raw milk
To Do: Soak garbanzo beans, feed sourdough mother, soak flour for bread, finish beef broth, soak oats for porridge

Thursday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Steak Caesar salad, apple, kombucha, raw milk
D: Bacon/Feta/Spinach Quiche, green salad, french onion soup, raw milk
To Do: Cook garbanzo beans, feed sourdough mother, make bread, make yogurt, soak oats for porridge

Friday
B: Banana, soaked oatmeal porridge with butter, raisins, and cinnamon, raw milk
L: Quiche and soup leftovers, raw milk, kombucha
D: Liver & onions, green salad, steamed veggies, raw milk
Dessert: Homemade ice cream
To Do: Soak flour for pancakes, make hummus, feed sourdough

Saturday
B: Soured pancakes w/pure maple syrup, eggs, raw milk
L: BLTs, apple, carrot, and cheese slices, raw milk, Kombucha
D: Leftovers from the week, raw milk
To Do: Make sourdough

Sunday
B: Soured pancakes w/pure maple syrup, eggs, raw milk
L: PB Honey, apple, carrot, and cheese slices, raw milk, kombucha
D: Meat Loaf, salad, steamed veggies, raw milk
To Do: Soak oats for porridge

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Challenge: Make Your Own Bread!

Home baked breads are a delicious treasure and a huge way to save money.

There are two brands of bread I approve of from the store. Both are sprouted and do not have sugar of high fructose corn syrups added. One is from Alvarado St. Bakery, and the other from Ezekiel 4:9 (which, unfortunately, does use soy). Both are usually priced $4-$5.50 per loaf! When I make bread at home, I usually spend $1 or less per loaf on the ingredients and there are no compromising additives.

Even if you are not ready to take the plunge to fully soured flours or sprouted grains, making your own bread is a great baby step towards a healthier diet as well as a step towards creating extra grocery money which you can redirect towards choosing organic, non-GMO foods.

Challenge Level One:
Make bread this month, any bread recipie that catches your eye.

Challenge Level Two:
For those of you who already make your own bread occasionally, step it up and spend the whole month making your own bread each week.

Challenge Level Three:
For those of you who already make all of your own bread, try making a true, traditional sourdough bread. I have previously given instructions for real sourdough, but I will be adding more bread recipes and tips as the month progresses.

If you take the challenge on any level and/or blog about doing it, please comment here and let me know!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yogurt Review & Update

I have been meaning to post about my yogurt adventures for weeks now. I apologize!

Cultures For Health
was so kind as to send my two yogurt samples, a Viili and a Matsoni. I was so excited to make raw milk yogurt that would be thick! The instructions tell you to start by making a "pure" starter, which requires pasteurizing some milk. This is required so that you do not have the naturally occurring, healthy bacteria in the milk competing with the culture for the yogurt.

So, I brought a cup of milk to 160 degrees


Then let it cool to room temp and separated it into two jars, labeled of course.


Then I mixed in the cultures and topped the jars with a paper towel (my cheesecloth was being used elsewhere).


Then I placed them in the oven with my oven light left on. They are far apart to avoid cross-contamination (though truly, I don't know if this is still too close since it is an enclosed space). I also traded their positions about half way through so that they would get the same heat (the top left being closest to the light).


After a day or so (I think it was 18 hours), they looked nice and thick with nothing running up the sides when turned. Oh I was excited.


Then, as per instructed, I let the cultures finish culturing with lids in the refrigerator for 6 more hours. Then I added the prescribed amount of starter to plain old cold raw milk from the refrigerator, and covered the jars in the same way, and placed them in the oven in the same way as the starter cultures with the oven light on. After 12 hours or so (it was left overnight), I had jars that looked like this:

Notice the separation at the bottom of the jar? I wasn't sure if this was okay. I used some cheesecloth to drain it a bit, and hoped for the best, but it was not thick like I had hoped. It sufficed for soaking oats for porridge.

I presumed that the oven light made it too hot for the cultures. So I used the rest of my starters to try again. This time leaving the oven light off.

(Now, I should mention, the instructions say that you can leave these on the counter in a warm room. However, there really are no warm rooms in my house if the weather is cold, as similarly, there are no cool rooms in my house if the weather is warm. Further, the kitchen is actually the draftiest place in our house. So, that is why I keep using my oven as an insulated space. Perhaps your house is warmer and you can just put them on top of your refrigerator.)

Well, this time I left the jars for 18 hours, and even closer to 24, and it looked like nothing happened at all. Just milk. Not a hint of thickness nor of separation. Ug. It happened over a couple cold days here, and perhaps it was just too cold to grow the cultures?

I really do believe making yogurt at home is simple and easy. I used to do it in our old house (though not raw). This house seems against me. I have trouble with my sourdough here as well. I do have high hopes that the summer will make things easier on me. Further, I am in the middle of attempt three at counter top yogurt. Wish me luck! I will update you as soon as I can.

If you have any tips, or if you have taken any of the dairy challenges this month, please share!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day and The No GMO Challenge

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
~Native American Proverb

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I am taking the Earth Day "Just Say No to GMO's" challenge this month. More truly, I am taking this challenge for the rest of my life, and have already been living it for quite some time. However, it is nearly impossible to avoid if you eat out, or ever need a convenience food. So, for the next month, I will even be ruling out those exceptions.

Think that GMO's are no big deal, since the FDA approves of them, right? Cheeseslave and Food Renegade have already posted great info today on GMO's, so rather than repeat them, I suppose I will share this old quote from Accidental Hedonist instead:

"Once upon a time, in order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto's growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto's researchers put the report together. Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen.

The result? Monsanto approved its own report.

Doesn't that fill you with [feelings of] safety and joy?"


Here is what Monsanto claims on their website about their own ethical standards:
“Challenges that arise in the course of our business can be resolved consistent with all applicable laws and regulations, and with our high ethical standards, and still allow us to meet our business objectives if issues are identified early, addressed cooperatively, and solved thoughtfully.”
- Monsanto's Code of Business Conduct

Interesting that the only specific foundation they have for ethics in business is that they comply with laws and regulations. This is interesting since their own lobbying dollars and other forms of bribery are what influence may of those laws and regulations - and then they use the same staff in a revolving door with the FDA. How is this objective!?

Here is an interesting history I recently found on the company, and here is what wikipedia offers.

I cannot find it at the moment, but Dr. Mercola also had an article a while back about a new "mystery" disease that caused blue, white, and some other color long plastic threads that would come out of (and tear through) your body. The only good explanation for this condition is GMO's as they disrupt and modify cellular function (that is, after all, the objective of their use in the food supply).

GMO's are awful for the environment and dangerous for you. Take this challenge with me! The best way to know what you are eating is to make it from scratch, however, you can still avoid GMO's by purchasing organic prepared foods. Start reading labels. Know what you are eating.....after all, your body can only be built by what you put into it.

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This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday blog carnival hosted by Cheeseslave. For other stories, anecdotes, recipes, and posts relating to Real Food, go check it out!
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Giveaway Winner Announcement!

Thank you to all who participated in Prepare To Eat's first giveaway and thanks most especially to Cultures for Health for the prize package.

I am excited to announce that Terri is our winner.

For everyone else, Cultures for Health will be offering 10% off all products (except the already very low price of their Excalibur dehydrators) for Prepare To Eat readers for the next week. Please use the coupon code P2E during checkout. The coupon will expire on April 23rd.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cultures For Health Give-Away for Prepare To Eat Readers!

Right now I am in the middle of preparing my yogurt starters for making raw milk yogurt, complements of Cultures For Health, and I am looking forward to giving you a full review as soon as the yogurts are done.

While you wait, I am pleased to announce that Cultures for Health is offering a special giveaway for Prepare To Eat’s readers this month in honor of the "Culture Your Own Dairy" challenge! The winner will receive a buttermilk culture, any yogurt starter of his/her choice, AND any sourdough starter of his/her choice mailed directly to you. This is a $39 value!

What does sourdough have to do with culturing your own dairy you ask? Nothing really, but it is a good preparation for next month's challenge, which will be to make your own bread.

Cultures For Health

If you are interested in culturing your own foods (kefir, sourdough breads, yogurt, buttermilk, kombucha) Cultures For Health makes locating a quality starter culture simple. Their cultures and starters are priced fairly, and they even ship internationally (aside from Kombucha). They offer 5 different yogurt starters, 17 different sourdough starters, as well as water kefir grains, kombucha mothers, buttermilk starter, dairy kefir grains and other supplies. If we were all neighbors, it would be easy to pass these treasures along as once you establish your culture it will keep for years (with good care) and you will be able to share. Though better than getting them from a neighbor, Cultures For Health includes comprehensive instructions for using your starters.

The Prize

* Buttermilk Culture
* Yogurt Starter of Your Choice
* Sourdough Starter of Your Choice

How to Enter

Anyone can enter, including international readers. You have up to 5 chances to enter, so please up your odds and enter multiple times!

First, visit Cultures for Health and sign up for the giveaway there, look around, then let me know which yogurt starter you would love to win and which sourdough starter makes you excited for next month's challenge.

For more chances to win,

* Blog about this giveaway with a link to this post and send me the link.
* Post about this giveaway on a message board or forum and send me the link.
* Mention this giveaway on Facebook and let me know
* Stumble this giveaway and let me know
* Tweet this giveaway and let me know

This should provide you with 6 possible entries!

The Announcement

The winner will be selected randomly by Cultures for Health next Friday afternoon (the 17th) and I will announce that winner shortly thereafter. Your prize package will be shipped by Cultures for Health directly!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our First Whole Cow!

Monday evening we picked up our first entire cow's worth of beef. We had bought an 1/8 of a pastured cow a year and half ago, and simply showed up and took our box of beef. It lasted us 3 months.

When the farm where we purchase our pastured eggs and raw milk mentioned that they had a cow left a few months ago, I jumped and told her we'd take the whole thing (planning, of course, to split it up with some other families). My hope is that 1/2 a cow will provide us with beef for the year.

In case you've ever wondered just how much meat you'd get from one pastured Angus, I thought I would post the breakdown here, along with costs.

To begin, typically you agree with a farmer on a price per hanging weight of the cow. As it hangs and ages (typically over 10 days or so) the meat shrinks. I think this is because the fat dries out, so the less fatty the cow, the less weight lost (but we all love beef fat and think it is good for us, so I was not looking for a lean cow).

Our cow had a hanging weight of 527 pounds and we had agreed to a price of $2.50 per pound hanging weight. The butcher said that our cow only lost about 25% of his weight (which was on the smaller side of weight loss?). That brought our grand total to $1,317.50 for the entire cow, which figures to about $3.33 per pound on average (though it also depends on your actual packages, some of my groupings have averaged under $3 a pound). Mind you this is for local, natural (not technically organic due to a some of the feed they get during winter), mainly-pastured beef. The equivalent in the grocery store would likely range from $5-$25 a pound depending on the cut. I am also unsure if the weight even includes all the items listed below under "other" as many people would not request those items.

What does that include, you ask?

Here's a photo of our upright freezer. I actually had already taken out a 1/8 portion + a little extra before the photo was taken, but you can see that it was full! I would say that 1 full cow just barely fits into a standard upright freezer.

This was our full inventory:

Tenderloin 3
Short Ribs 5
Stew Meat 6
Ground Beef 121 (1lb packages)

Roasts (3-4 pounds each)
Rump 3
Sirloin Tip 4
Cross Rib 4
Heel of Rump 4
Beef of Bone 6
Chuck 12
TOTAL ROASTS 33

Packaged Steaks (1.5" thick, 2 to a package)
Tri-Tip Steak 2
Flank 2
Sirloin Tip 6
Rib 8
T-Bone 8
Sirloin 9
Round 17
Tenderized Round 17
TOTAL STEAKS 69

Other
Liver 6
Heart 1
Tongue 1
Oxtail 1
Soup Bones 9 packages
Dog Bones 4 large bags (these would not have fit in the freezer, but gratefully, they were not for us)

We found out that a few of the other organ meats (sweetbreads, and perhaps something else) have to be requested before the animal is killed. I think they have to be harvested immediately, and it also depends on the age of the animal. So, for this time, we were unable to get them.

I requested our steaks 1.5" thick. Theoretically, we might have had "more" individually cut steaks had I requested them 1" thick, but I find it easier to prepare juicy rare steak if it is 1.5" thick, and then, hopefully, you might have leftovers to slice and add into other dishes (like a steak-strip Caesar salad). The lovely thing about coordinating buying an entire cow, is that I got to make those decisions! I also had to attempt to fairly divide the portions up (into 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and two 1/16 portions) and hope that our friends are all happy with their spoils.

I may have also found a contact for doing something similar with lamb (though our food budget will be quite tight for a while after stocking up!). In the past, I have also been part of bulk, direct-from farm, organic, pastured chicken buying. If you can find groups doing this, or take on the challenge of finding a good farm and other interested real foodies, it will certainly save you money and provide higher-quality meat in the long run. Spring is a great time to do this, as many people have a tax return to work with (however, the coordination work must take place earlier - during winter), but there are certainly animals being butchered all year round, so don't think you've missed out.

For contacts in your area, see the side bar of resources, or perhaps better yet, contact your local chapter leader of the Weston A Price Foundation.

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This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday blog carnival hosted by Cheeseslave. For other stories, anecdotes, recipes, and posts relating to Real Food, go check it out!
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

How-To: Creme Fraiche

This is Creme Fraiche the very easy way:

Ingredients:
Start with a pint of the best quality cream you can find (NO ultra-pasteurized cream). If you have it raw, all the better, but it is spring and the cream content of our milk is going down as the cows are now on pasture, so I cannot part with the cream from my milk.


Then, you are free to add 1 tbsp of either good quality commercial creme fraiche (as seen above), creme fraiche from a previous batch (so save some from this batch you are making), good quality commercial buttermilk, or your own homecultured buttermilk.


Mix it well, and cover it tightly.


Place it somewhere consistently warm for 20-24 hours, then chill (I have mine covered and labeled with a small paper bag on top of my refrigerator to help trap the heat as our kitchen is drafty).


The finished thick creme.


See, truly thick (I let mine go a few hours over 24 as well, so it's a bit extra thick).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Challenge: Culture Your Own Dairy

This month's challenge is to culture some of your own dairy products.

Here are some examples of what I have in mind:
Creme Fraiche
Buttermilk
Yogurt
Kefir
Cheese
Cream cheese

One of the things I love most about doing traditional food preparations myself is that it allows my little inner scientist some laboratory space. One of my girl friends mentioned how much she enjoyed stopping by my house because the kitchen was always filled with so many random "science projects". This is micro-biology at it's best.

For example, a recent picture of the top of my refrigerator (a warm spot in my house) holds lacto-fermenting beet kvass, Kombucha brewing in a large jar under the paper bag, a sourdough mother, oats soaking for the next morning, and I believe a buttermilk flour mixture soaking for another bread recipe.

But this month is about dairy. While there is a lot of good quality dairy available (at least here on the west coast), it is often quite pricey considering how inexpensive and easy it is to do at home.

Challenge Level One:
Just do some small "science project" and report back. Here are some recommendations on the easy scale:

Cream Cheese and Whey:
Line a strainer with a tea towel or a couple layers of cheese cloth and place over a bowl. Then dump in a quart a good quality yogurt and let the whey slowly drip out into the bowl for a few hours. Then get a wooden spoon and tie up the ends of the cloth around the spoon and let it hang and drip further. When the dripping stops (perhaps another hour or two), you are done. There is deliciously sour cream cheese in the cloth, and a supply of whey in the bowl. You can use the whey to soak your oats (since you're all soaking grains for breakfast now right =)) or for something more adventurous like lacto-fermenting some fruits or vegetables or making beet kvass.

Homemade Creme Fraiche
1 quart good quality cream (raw is best, but pasteurized will do - never buy ultra-pasteurized)
1 tbsp commercial buttermilk, or homemade whole milk buttermilk, or commercial creme fraiche, or creme fraiche from a previous batch (see how many options you have!)
Place cream in a clean glass container and add the buttermilk or creme fraiche. Stir well, cover tightly and place in a warm spot for 20-24 hours, then chill.
This is so simple and SO much cheaper than purchasing creme fraiche at the store.

Creme fraiche is a delicious topping for soups, "Mexican" food, and anything else you might ordinarily use sour cream to top. It is also a lovely base for quiche and several cakes (again, where the recipe might call for sour cream).

Challenge Level Two:
Make your own yogurt, and perhaps forgo buying yogurt from the store ever again (this is my own plan starting this month).

There are varying degrees of challenge to yogurt making, mainly depending on whether you are trying to make raw yogurt or not. I have failed and succeeded several times, and hope to thus be able to give good pointers.

The concept is rather simple, especially for non-raw yogurt.
Heat 1qt milk to 180 degrees, let cool to 110, then stir in 1/2 cup good quality yogurt (from store, or from previous batch), place in a glass, enamel, or stainless steel container and let sit in a warm oven overnight (warm = 150 degrees, or an oven left with the pilot light on). In the morning it should have "set up" and be thick, you can transfer to cold storage. For thicker yogurt you can soak up the extra whey, or tie it briefly in cheese cloth at the end to remove the whey.

I have had a harder time with raw milk yogurt. That is because you only heat it to 110 degrees (enzymes begin to die at a wet heat of 117 degrees - "coincidentally" the same degree point at which the nerves on the end of your finger will tell you a liquid is hot to the touch). Then you do a little yogurt starter dance by removing 2tbs of the warm milk and adding 1 tbs of of the yogurt. You stir well and place this in a wide mouth mason jar. Then you add 2 tbs + 2 tsp yogurt to the jar and stir well. Then you place this in a consistently warm place (95 degrees, like a dehydrator) for 8 hours and transfer.

The difficulty with raw milk yogurt is that the milk cultures war with the yogurt cultures, and sometimes the milk wins. Thus you have some kind of cultured milk, but nothing resembling the thick, creamy yogurt to which we are accustomed. Also, sometimes I have attempted to create too warm an "dehydrator" (by filling mason jars with boiling water and placing in a cooler with the jar of cultured milk) resulting in a weird separation of curds and whey (but not the desired "curds and whey" of nursery rhymes). This was because I have also had too cold a "dehydrator" resulting in it not setting up at all after 8 hours. Alas, raw yogurt has eluded me. I actually have had some success with a compromise of heating the raw milk to 130-135 and then letting it cool to 110 and then adding a dried yogurt culture and letting it sit 8-12 hours in an oven with the light kept on, but I have not kept this up to see if the culture remains intact batch after batch with this method.

To my glee, for "Culture Your Own Dairy" month, my new affiliate, Cultures For Health, has send me two dry yogurt cultures along with wonderfully comprehensive instructions for making it raw. Armed with these new cultures I can start fresh as well as provide you with a review of their product. I will be providing a photo how-to, as well as a review complete with a tasting panel that includes more judges than live in my house.

In case you are wondering what an affiliate means for this little blog, it means that if you were to decide to order something through Cultures For Health, and you did so by clicking on the little button on my side bar, I will actually get a percentage of the sale. Fun for me, but also, it is a company making cultures with traditional methods and without added "stabilizers" so I am happy to promote them.

I hope you'll have fun with this month's challenge. I also have planned an interview with cheese maker extraordinaire Scott Catino, who will hopefully give us novice home-dairy-culturers some tips on making our own cheeses at home. I think cheese making would count as taking the challenge to a third level.

Further! Stay tuned as my affiliate, Cultures For Health, is also generously providing Prepare To Eat with a free culture for one lucky reader. I will have info on the contest/giveaway later this month.

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