Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Organic Cooking: Stew, French Style

Once winter sets in for long haul I head to the bookshelf for Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking.  It stays with me until the first of my veggies come out of the garden and I tend to let the garden dictate my meals. I first learned of this treasury of savory dishes from Chef Michelle Cook during one of her memorable Slow Food dinners. Several of us had, as usual, gathered at the beautiful home of Halsey and Michelle Cook for a night of conviviality in the truest sense: a night filled with the best food, wine and conversation. As was often the case at the Cooks', Michelle brought out the pasta press and made fresh pasta to accompany the two stew recipes from Bistro Cooking.

The first stew is Estouffade Provencale. The wonderful thing about this stew is that is so easy to make. It takes two - three days but the time involved is minimal. The second recipe is Gardiane La Camargue (La Camargue's Beef Stew with Black Olives).

Both recipes utilize the technique of letting the ingredients "stew" in red wine overnight which tenderizes the beef and blends all the flavors of the veggies. These recipes were likely made using bull's beef which would be tough but very flavorful and so the overnight treatment would leave the flavor intact but the beef would still be melt in your mouth tender.

Definitely try Michelle's treatment of the stew by spooning over fresh pasta and served with a good, full bodied wine. Also, please, try to find some good black olives as the recipe just doesn't have the same taste when canned olives are used.

Estouffade Provencale

2.5 lbs grass fed stew beef(cut in large pieces)
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 celery rib, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle, 3 cups, hearty red wine
1 bunch fresh thyme
3 imported Turkish bay leaves (available at The Farm Shop)
1 strip of orange zest, about 2 inches, chopped

1. Two days before serving the stew, combine all of the ingredients, except the orange zest, in a large enameled casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Simmer gently, until the meat is very tender, 3-4 hours.
3. Allow the stew to cool down. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
4. At serving time, reheat until the meat is heated through, 10-15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. To serve, remove the bay leaves and the thyme, stir in orange zest.
Yield 8 servings when served over pasta


(Next post, Gardiane La Camargue)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Warming Soup

As the weather is colder and I have a freezer full of pumpkin puree (having roasted six already and two more in the cupboard!), I find myself making this delicious warm pumpkin soup weekly. Paired with a loaf of fresh bread and some cheese, it makes a good simple supper, or served with muffins and fruit it forms a hearty lunch.

Using spices like those in curry powder (cumin, turmeric, etc) is helpful in winter, as those tend to keep the sinuses clear! Many reports also suggest that these warming spices aid the immune system and promote good circulation. In any case, the soup itself is versatile and healthful and perfect for a frosty winter night!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons curry powder
4 cups bone broth
4 cups pureed pumpkin or other squash puree
1 1/2 cups fresh milk
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in large saucepan or soup pot. Whisk in flour and curry powder until blended and bubbly. Gradually whisk in broth until mixed and somewhat thickened. Add pumpkin and milk, stirring to warm. Add rest of ingredients and heat to desired warmth, serve.

Recipe modified from several sources, including recipes on AllRecipes.com, several cookbooks, and my mother's recollection of a soup she ate in Korea!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Naturally Sick Child

My family suffered waves of illness last week, and I found it difficult to maintain a natural/healthy approach. I had some turkey bone broth on hand which, when cooked up with spinach and barley, made a healthy and healing soup for upset tummies. I attempted to make my own saltine crackers from scratch, but that was a colossal fail. They turned out more like thin and tasteless wheaten biscuits. The kids still nibbled at them, and perhaps that is the point of saltines when sick anyway. I attempted to give my 2 year old and almost 4 year old mineral water, but they said it was "too spicy" so I did wind up getting some sprite instead even though it was loaded with sugar and who knows what else.

As this is cold and flu season, I hope I can keep lots of bone broth on hand in my freezer and maybe we can beat the next bug more quickly! In the meantime, I hope you have been staying healthy and enjoying the holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Review - Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul

Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul is a beautiful cookbook full of warm and comforting recipes inspired by seasonal foods and the author's travels around Europe and America.

I most enjoyed the author's essays at the beginning of each section. Her ode to cheese is outstanding. The book also boasts wonderful food photography and a sprinkling of quotes from literature about winter food.

I appreciated the author's interpretation of traditional winter foods using interesting flavor combinations I would not have thought to try on my own. For example, I have never paired red cabbage with cranberries, nor have I thought of using parsnips as a mashed potato substitute. The recipes are all hearty and warming - this can in no way be construed as a dieting book - but a variety of ingredients and foods in season is a healthful way to eat and I think if you're willing to exercise moderation and portion control this cookbook would add a great variety to your winter cooking repretoire.

If you enjoy eating seasonal foods and trying new combinations of flavors, or even if you just like to read pretty cookbooks, I would highly recommend Roast Figs Sugar Snow.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Living a Thankful Life

Last Friday my mother and I took my daughters to the mall to pick up a Christmas present. My three year old, who has only been to a mall a handful of times in her short life, was mesmerized by the Christmas decorations ("Mama! They have snow here and it's NOT REAL!!!") but I was more struck by how quickly my own attitude changed in the atmosphere of acquisition. The day before we had celebrated Thanksgiving together and yet as we walked through the mall I found my sense of gratitude slipping. As I looked at things I had not previously even wanted, I found myself thinking, "Wow, wouldn't life be great if I had...."

There is of course nothing inherently wrong with having nice things or buying Christmas presents, but I think spending too much time longing for more and more things can be the enemy of contentment and simple living. What do we really need? Where should our focus be during the holidays? Can we be thankful for the myriad blessings we have received without constantly coveting more?

We did have fun at the mall and I enjoyed observing my daughter's sense of wonder at the decorations, but most of all I'm glad for the little reminder that I need to cultivate an ongoing attitude of thanksgiving, not merely put it on the shelf until next year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review: Not So Fast

If you're looking for tips and ideas on how to slow life down for your family, you might find Ann Kroeker's new book Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families
helpful. Even if your family has a fairly good handle on your pace and activity level, I think this book would be thought-provoking and useful in clarifying your vision and commitment to simple living. The end of every chapter includes a list of things you might consider or try to slow down and simplify in a given area, as well as testimonials from parents who have decided to live counter-culturally in terms of slowing down and cutting back on activities.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts for Monday

"The hurried life loses its rhythm. It just pushes and pushes with no pauses, leaving barren souls, cluttered with activity but emptied of meaning."


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another resource for seasonal eating

If you don't already read it, may I recommend The Cooks Next Door? The authors (friends of mine) do a great job of highlighting what is in season and how to use it, reviewing cookbooks, talking about preserving foods, and offering fantastic recipes using fresh and natural ingredients.

I have tried several recipes from the website, including pumpkin butter that I made yesterday from another roasted pumpkin. Scrumptious.

What other resources do you use for eating what's in season?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Early Turkey

I cooked a turkey for the first time yesterday (I'm not sure what's going on with the wings, they are askew and it makes the turkey look like a cross between a bird and a crab!) and it was not terribly difficult, just time consuming! I used sage and rosemary from my mother-in-law's garden and we were quite pleased with the results. We are traveling for Thanksgiving this year so I wanted to cook a turkey just for my family in order to have meat and broth for the freezer.

If you get sick of turkey turkey turkey next weekend, remember you can freeze the cooked leftover meat in small pieces to use in soups and casseroles and the like later on. Pretty much any recipe that calls for chicken can be made with turkey instead.

Also don't forget to save the bones for bone broth! I have some simmering on my stove right now and it makes the whole house smell marvelous!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Organic Cooking: What's for breakfast?

Looking for a way to use your pumpkin puree, raw milk yogurt, fresh ground flour, homemade vanilla, cage free eggs and real maple syrup? Try these delicious Pumpkin Yogurt Pancakes!

Pumpkin Yogurt Pancakes

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs from free range chickens
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons sugar or honey
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain yogurt made from raw milk

1. Sift or whisk flour, powder, soda, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, butter, and sugar, then add in pumpkin, vanilla and yogurt. Mix wet and dry ingredients together gently (don't overmix).

2. Pour or spoon batter onto a hot buttered griddle or pan, making circles or shapes as you prefer. After the top is bubbly, flip the pancake over and cook another minute or two.

Note: I mixed several recipes from different sources to come up with this one. I used homemade pumpkin puree, which is not as dense as canned, so if you use canned pumpkin, you might not get exactly the same results!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bread in a pinch

Ideally we would always move with the rhythm of regular bread baking. Ideally we plan in advance and let our sponge rise properly and knead until we get the windowpane effect as Debbie so beautifully demonstrated. Ideally we get this accomplished in time to pack lunches.

Life is not always ideal.

My goal is to stay on top of baking so that we always have bread but never so much that it goes stale. Usually this works. Sometimes it doesn't.

If you're like me, every now and then you get up and pad down to your kitchen only to discover with horror that you don't have enough bread and your husband has to leave for work in 45 minutes. If you're like me, those are always the days when there aren't any good leftovers in the refrigerator and you were counting on packing him a sandwich.

Enter the no frills, cut all possible corners loaf of bread. It's not artisanal and it doesn't have the same excellent taste and texture as proper bread, but it is crazy fast and makes decent sandwiches or french toast in a pinch.

Easy Bread in a Pinch
(Note: this makes two loaves, you can half the recipe if you only need one.)

1. Dissolve 2 Tablespoons of yeast in 3 cups of warm water in your mixer bowl.
2. Add 1 Tablespoon of honey (or brown sugar, or sugar, etc) and 1 Tablespoon of salt, no need to mix in, just dump
3. Add 6 Tablespoons of oil
4. Add 6-7 cups of wheat flour (start low, then if the dough seems to sticky while mixing, add more)
5. Using your mixer's dough hook, mix and knead the bread for a few minutes until it seems like a smooth ball of dough
6. Divide the dough, shape into two loaves, and each loaf in a greased or buttered loaf pan. Cover with a tea towel and set on the counter someplace while you turn your oven to 400 degrees. The dough will rise a bit while the oven preheats. Trust me, this works.
7. Bake the bread for about 20-25 minutes or until it looks goldenish on top like bread looks when it's done.
8. Take the loaves out of the pans and cool on a wire rack with a tea towel draped over them to keep them from getting hard and dry.

Debbie is probably about to pass out from all the rules I broke making this bread, and PLEASE don't think I mean you should do this every day! I just figure if the choice is between my husband getting a homemade lunch or going out to eat, or me packing a picnic for the kids so we can go on an impromptu playdate without getting Happy Meals, this bread is healthier than the alternative.

Ideally y'all are too together to have those scrambling days like I do sometimes, but just in case it happens to you, now you know you can still bake homemade bread!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating the Decorations

One of my favorite things about Autumn is that the seasonal food is excellent for decorating! I love to find interesting looking edible squash and use it to make my home look seasonal until I'm ready to use it to make my dinner taste seasonal. This year I found some really pretty little orange and yellow striped squash (pictured), and acorn squash in an unusual yellow and green pattern that mixed nicely with yellow spaghetti squash. I also procured a gigantic pumpkin that reigned autumnally on my kitchen island for a week or two before I finally got up the nerve to roast it.

Initially I planned to put the whole pumpkin in the oven, but it was nearly too heavy to lift and then I couldn't get the thing wedged into my oven all of a piece, so I resorted to cutting it in half and roasting it in shifts. After about an hour of roasting the pumpkin halves at 350 degrees, I let them cool and then peeled the skin off and pureed the pumpkin. I got FORTY cups of pumpkin puree from the effort! I've been told that puree from large pumpkins doesn't taste as "pumpkiny" as that from a can or from smaller pie pumpkins, however I found the puree I made did just fine in the pumpkin streusel muffins and savory pumpkin soup I have made from it so far. I haven't tried a pie, but pumpkin pie is not my favorite. I know, I'm weird.

If you have pumpkins or squash as part of your seasonal decor, don't forget to incorporate it into your menus before you move on to Christmas decorations! Of course, make sure it was EDIBLE squash that you purchased, not display gourds!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Chez Panisse Cookbooks

Cookbooks are always interesting to read because they spark the culinary imagination and give new recipes to try, but some go far beyond simple cookery and offer a wealth of information on food history, living by the seasons, eating locally, and natural health. The Chez Panisse series of cookbooks falls squarely into the latter category. Each book offers fantastic and useful information as well as recipes that range from simple to gourmet, all using fresh and flavorful ingredients in combinations that work seasonally. Available titles include Chez Panisse Vegetables, Chez Panisse Fruit, Chez Panisse Cooking, Chez Panisse Desserts, and many others.

These cookbooks are wonderful to have on hand if you're supporting local sustainable farming, because you'll be able to craft delicious recipes with foods and herbs that are in season at the same time.  It's helpful to be able to structure menus around whole food in season and to pursue a goal of organic cooking with local foods.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Being Still

I am the kind of person who always has to be doing something. I find it very difficult to just sit. Yet sometimes I think the simplest restorative measure to take in a life that is busy and full is just to be still. Today I sat with my children and we listened to the autumn rain falling on the leaves. We watched the raindrops trickle down the glass of our patio door in interesting patterns. It was peaceful.

What helps you to slow down and savor the world around you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Organic Cooking: Making Bone Broth

I try to keep four types of broth in the freezer so that no matter what I want to make I have the right stock. For the less nerdy of us, beef and veal broth are great to have on hand because veal broth can be used for chicken and lamb. Veal broth is the most nutritious of all stocks because of the higher amounts of collagen which add tons of gelatin and makes the most wonderfully rich stock. If you don't believe me check out this blog for a humorous take on veal stock (also the pictures of stock making are great).

Well back to stock making. Here is the basic recipe:

Organic Cooking: Bone Broth

1. Bones -- raw bones, with or without skin and meat, from poultry, beef, lamb or veal - use a whole carcass or just parts (good choices include feet, ribs, necks and knuckles)

2. Water -- start with enough cold water to just cover the bones or 2 cups water per 1 pound bones

3. Vinegar -- 2 tablespoons apple cider, red or white wine, rice or balsamic vinegar per 1 quart water or 2 pounds bones - lemon juice may be substituted for vinegar (citric acid instead of acetic acid)

4. Vegetables (optional) -- peelings and scraps like ends, tops and skins or entire vegetable
celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley are the most traditionally used, but any will do
(if added towards the end of cooking, mineral content will be higher)

Recipe

Combine bones, water and vinegar in a pot, let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, bring to a simmer, remove any scum that has risen to the top, reduce heat and simmer (6-48 hrs for chicken, 12-72 hrs for beef). To reduce cooking time, you may smash or cut bones into small pieces first. If desired, add vegetables in last 1/2 hour of cooking (or at any point as convenience dictates).

Strain through a colander or sieve, lined with cheesecloth for a clearer broth. Discard the bones. If uncooked meat was used to start with, reserve the meat for soup or salads.

An easy way to cook broth is to use a crockpot on low setting. After putting the ingredients into the pot and turning it on, you can just walk away. If you forget to skim the impurities off, it's ok, it just tastes better if you do. If you wish to remove the fat for use in gravy, use a gravy separator while the broth is warm, or skim the fat off the top once refrigerated. Cold broth will gel when sufficient gelatin is present. Broth may be frozen for months or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Traditional Bone Broth - Food or Medicine?

When the cold weather creeps in it is time for me to make broth.  The warmth and nourishment seem to fit well with my quest toward natural and seasonal living.  I used my last quart of beef broth last week for the sensational, crowd pleasing Shepherds Pie (recipe forthcoming). Something in me just doesn't feel right when there is no stock in the freezer. I have had the severe misfortune some years ago of depleting my stock of stock and being forced to resort to store bought "stock". What an ordeal! What salty, tasteless, flat squalor!

I normally put up at least 52 quarts of bone both broth throughout the winter, one for each week but after reading the article by Traditional bone broth in modern health and disease by Allison Siebecker I may have to double that amount. Her article describes in detail the benefits of bone broth as well as explaining each component of bone broth and its benefits. Here is her list of ailments that are benefited by broth: aging skin, allergies, anemia, anxiety, asthma, atherosclerosis, attention deficit, bean maldigestion, brittle nails, carbohydrate maldigestion, Celiac Disease, colic, confusion, constipation, dairy maldigestion, delusions, dental degeneration, depression, detoxification, Diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, food sensitivities, fractures, Gastritis, grain maldigestion, heart attack, high cholesterol, hyperactivity, hyperchlorhydria (reflux, ulcer), hyperparathyroidism (primary), hypertension, hypochlorhydria, hypoglycemia, immunodepression, increased urination, infectious disease, inflammation, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis), insomnia, intestinal bacterial infections, irritability, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Jaundice, joint injury, Kidney stones, leaky gut, loss of appetite, meat maldigestion, memory, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, muscle wasting, muscle weakness, Muscular Dystrophy, nausea, nervousness, Osteoarthritis, Osteomalacia, Osteoporosis, pain, palpitations, Periodontal Disease, pregnancy, rapid growth, restlessness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rickets, seizure, shallow breathing, stupor, virility, vomiting, weakness, weight loss due to illness, wound healing.

Broth is one of those foods that have been around for centuries and due to our overly busy schedules we have let fall by the wayside, imagining hours of straining and stirring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stock making can be an easy and enjoyable part of natural and seasonal living, if you remember a few key tips.

1. Always use bones from healthy animals
2. The longer you simmer, the more you will pull from the bones
3. Don't boil the stock - just let it gently simmer - don't let it go over 200-220 F
4. Don't leave the lid on the pot
5. Use only organic vegetables
6. Try to use a variety of bones for their different properties

Monday, October 26, 2009

Homemade Bread Baking 101

I have been grinding grain and making whole wheat bread for 15 years and throughout the years I have learned many, many lessons. I believe these tips will work for bread no matter whether you use freshly ground flour or store bought flour but the comment I get over and over is "how do I make my whole wheat bread less of a brick" so the emphasis will be on helping with whole wheat breads.

A few beginning pointers to help you no matter which recipe you use:

1. Allow the yeast to grow with 1/3 - 1/2 of the flour before adding other ingredients
2. Don't add the other ingredients until the sponge has fallen
3. Don't add the oil, honey and salt directly to the yeast mixture - buffer with more flour
4. Use the window test to determine if the dough has been kneaded sufficiently
5. Use the log method to shape the loaf
6. Use a thermometer to test for doneness


4 Loaves of Whole Wheat Bread
(Note: If you are using anything other than a Bosch Universal to knead your bread cut the amounts in half to make 2 loaves instead of 4.)

Put 6 cups of flour, 5 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix for a couple of minutes to incorporate. Shut the mixer off and let the yeast grow in the flour and water mixture (sponge) for at least 30 minutes but I have found that if you leave it until it begins to "fall" then the yeast is ready to jump into action and you will get a lighter loaf. Here you can see the dough at full rise in the bowl
In the second picture, hopefully you can see that once the yeast has expired the sponge will deflate.

Once this occurs I add another 6 cups of flour and make sure that all the sponge is covered by the flour to buffer the yeast from the rest of the ingredients. Salt, oil and honey mixed directly with the yeast can cause the barrier of the yeast cells to break and the yeast dehydrates and dies.

I then add 2/3 up honey, 2/3 cup olive oil and 4 ts Celtic sea salt and mix just to incorporate. Add more flour and mix very briefly until you can see that the sides of the bowl are being cleaned up. I usually use around 14 cups of flour total but that will change with the weather. If it is raining I use more. Also the type of flour you use will make a big difference. This takes practice to know just when the dough had had enough flour added but the more you make bread, the keener your intuition will become.

Once I have the correct amount of flour in the mix I knead on med for a full 10 minutes. I then take out a small amount of dough, about the size of walnut, and work it a bit to stretch it out. This is called "making a window" and you should be able to see the strands of gluten developed and the dough will not break. This is your sign that the bread has been sufficiently kneaded. If you try to stretch the dough and it breaks, continue to knead for a couple minutes and try again.Oil a straight sided container with oil and place your dough into the container to rise. A container with marking is best so that you can tell when it has doubled in size. When the dough has doubled punch it down a let it rest for approximately 10 minutes. This makes shaping the dough easier. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and cover with a towel.

When shaping a bread loaf I like to flatten the dough with my hand into a long rectangle and roll the dough into a log. I think this makes for the lightest loaf. It is important to seal the edges by pinching the seams. Place seam side down in an oiled pan.


Allow the bread to rise to about 1 1/2 times its size or until the top of the bread is even with the top of the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes. The best way to know if your bread is done is to insert a thermometer. The bread is ready when you get a reading of 190-200 F.

Turn the loaf out onto a rack and allow to cool. Cutting the bread while it is hot is not recommended as it ruins the texture of the bread and is not good for the tummy either!



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Putting things up

I did not grow up with the concept of preserving food, although my mother canned jams and applesauce with her grandmother. The idea of preserving food while it's in season appeals to me not just because of tradition but because of health and stewardship.

First, fruits and vegetables at the height of their season in your area will be freshest and the vitamins and nutrients in them will be most available to your body. If you buy a food out of season, you can bet it didn't come from close by and that it lost quite a lot along the way getting to you. Preserving foods when they are at their nutritional height is the smart way to be able to enjoy those foods longer than their brief season.

Second, I find that when a food is in season, it is also at it's lowest price. This is the time of year for apples and squashes and pumpkins. You can get quite a lot of food for not much money, especially if you're willing to buy in bulk, as you would certainly want to do to preserve it. Of course apples and pumpkins can be found in one form or another year round, but you'll pay a premium for them six months from now and they won't be promoting sustainable farming in your area.

I may have mentioned before that I don't can (I have very little pantry space and an extreme fear of botulism!), but I do have a stand alone chest freezer that I've been filling up with applesauce (there would be more if we didn't eat it almost as fast as I can make it!), and this week I'm aiming to roast and puree an enormous pumpkin and a huge assortment of squashes of various types. I plan to freeze the puree in one and two cup amounts as that is what most recipes call for. We will love eating the pumpkin and squash in savory soups, baked goods and desserts throughout the winter.

Lots of produce can be frozen or canned or stored in one way or another. It's another way to live by the seasons while also extending them somewhat!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another homemade bread baking reference

I recently found the Half-Baked Beauties blog, which is written by a group of women who are baking their way through a bread cookbook. We're hoping to have some posts soon with lots of pictures about bread baking steps, but you might also enjoy learning from other people's experiences!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Grinding Grain: Is it economical?

If you've considered the health benefits of grinding your own grain into flour, but haven't been sure if it would be worth the extra cost of investing in a grinder, be sure to read this interesting analysis of how one family saved as much in six months as they spent on the mill, and continues to save significant amounts every year.

Did you know you can purchase NutriMill Grain Mills from the farm shop? Talk to Debbie or leave us a comment if you think you might be interested. Christmas is just around the corner and a grain mill would make a fabulous present that would be a gift to your family year 'round.

HT: Money Saving Mom for the link!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Comfort Foods

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is make applesauce. I wash and slice enough apples to fit in my stock pot, add a little water and a cinnamon stick, and simmer it until the apples are falling apart. I then stir it together and, depending on if it's intended as a snack or dessert, I might add a little bit of sugar. Many people can applesauce (if you do that you'll want to make sure you consult a canning resource to make sure you process it long enough to safely preserve it) but I don't have much pantry space so I freeze mine instead. The benefit to freezing is that I have a chest freezer that fits plenty of gallon bags of applesauce stored flat, and also that I don't have to remove the peels. I think the peel in homemade applesauce is the best part!

If you enjoy cooking and preserving apples in one way or another, you might check to see if your local orchards offer price breaks for seconds or drops - those apples are sometimes smaller or not as pretty as the rest, but they are an economical alternative when you're planning to cook them anyway. I have also found local apples for sale in supermarkets this time of year, often quite inexpensively. Once I even found organic local apples for the same price as the ones that were conventionally grown. In those cases I think it is sometimes worthwhile to vote with your dollars and let the supermarkets know that consumers are looking for more local and organic options. You can also make a comment to the produce manager at a store, and perhaps help encourage the store to make small steps toward fresher, local options. In general though I do think it's better to buy straight from an orchard and not bother with the middleman!

Most people think of apples as a dessert fruit for pies and crumbles and brown betties and the like, and those are certainly delicious uses for apples, but apples are also delicious additions to savory dishes like curries. Curried apples and pumpkin is a wonderfully filling and tasty meal for a cold autumn night.

What are your favorite autumn comfort foods?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Organic Cooking: Fresh Raw Milk Bread

Of the several yeast bread recipes I've tried out over the past two weeks, this recipe from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book has been the biggest success. It's not as time intensive as some of the other recipes out there, and the results are wonderful. Best of all, it's designed around fresh raw milk, and you know where you can get that!

Fresh Raw Milk Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh whole milk, preferably raw milk
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
6 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup more water
2 tablespoons cool butter

Directions:
1. Scald the milk and cool to lukewarm. Stir the honey into the milk.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
3. Measure the flour and salt into a large bowl and stir lightly. Make a well in the flour and pour the milk and the dissolved yeast into it. Stir from the center outward until all the flour is mixed in.
4. Knead vigorously for about 15 minutes. Use the extra water if necessary to keep your hands from sticking to the dough or directly to the dough until you have a soft, elastic dough.
5. Knead in the butter in bits, continuing to work the dough until it is silky.
6. Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in a warm draft-free place for about an hour and a half. After the time is up, gently poke your finger about half an inch into the dough. If the hole doesn't fill in at all or the dough sighs, go on to the next step.
7. Press the dough flat, form into a smooth round, and let the dough rise once more as before, but this time only for half as long.
8. After the second rising, press the dough flat and divide it in two. Round each piece and let the dough relax, covered, for about 10 minutes (this keeps the gluten from breaking down too much).
9. Deflate the rounds and press flat to about one inch, then fold over slowly, pressing gently to remove air bubbles, and fold over again twice gradually shaping a loaf (the book has detailed drawings showing how to shape a loaf - we may need some pictures of this step for a future post!).
10. Place the loaves in greased loaf pans and let rise in a wam place until dough slowly returns a gently made fingerprint. The loaves should arch up over the pans, but not be falling out of the pan.
11. Place the loaves in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue to cook another 35 to 45 minutes.
12. Allow the bread to cool before you slice it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baking Homemade Bread

There's something about Autumn that turns the hearts of bakers to bread. In the past week I've heard from three people that they unaccountably feel like baking bread now, after taking time off from it over the summer. As Debbie pointed out in her post on living by the seasons, there are some thing that just fit the rhythm of Fall - root vegetables, apples, hearty stews, pulling out heavier clothes and blankets and baking homemade bread.

As you may know, the Farm produces certified organic grain (which you can purchase from the Farm Shop of course!) and Debbie is something of an expert in the art of grinding grain into flour and transforming it into delicious loaves of nutritious whole grain bread. Next time you're in the shop, be sure to ask her for some tips!

For the novice, baking yeast bread can be an overwhelming task. You might want to start small and build up some confidence before jumping in to a more complicated recipe. On the other hand there is something to be said for naivete if it keeps you from being intimidated by what other bakers might see as a daunting recipe!

The health benefits of using whole grains in bread are well documented and doubtless familiar to you. By baking your own whole grain bread rather that buying it in the store, you can get the added bonus of eliminating preservatives and additives. For families with wheat allergies or for those who just have a taste for variety, baking your own bread gives you the freedom to experiment with different grains or alternative flours.

Aside from purely nutritional benefits, I'm convinced that baking bread is good for the soul. Fitting the timetable of mixing, kneading, rising and baking bread into your day forces you to think about your schedule and maybe simplify your day a little. The rhythm of baking days helps set a productive but not frantic pace. Kneading dough, as even the newest baker can attest, is a marvelous stress reducer and a good upper body workout. And nothing beats the feeling of serving your family a slice of warm buttered bread fresh from the oven!

We're planning to do a few posts on grain grinding, different bread recipes, and general tips about bread. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and we'll be happy to address them!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Comfort of Fall

I have been in a serious bread groove all summer. I think because sourdough seems like a light, summery bread it has been my bread of choice since spring. So while I sat under the maple tree in the front yard with my bread, cheese and wine, all those single-celled organisms (yeast) sat ignored in the freezer.

I am a big believer in living by the seasons and each fall I bring out all the feather comforters and get them ready for snuggling and cuddling my babies (18 and 12) during the cold, blustery nights. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I am "being attentive to thyself" more than ever and that introspeciont has me seeing some interesting patterns.

Right now I am noticing how my spinning wheel, the comforters and the yeast find their way back into my life in the autumn. I believe that there is an innate "knowing" that has come to be buried under the weight of sitcoms that find their way in to our lives. Isn't it time to shake off the unwanted burdens that are weighing us down and keeping us from doing what we really desire? It can, and possibly should, begin slowly. One step at a time.

In this next series of posts we will explore activities that just belong to the fall. It will warm and comfort you to live closer to the seasons. Try to think of the activities you most think about as the weather begins to change, foods you crave or activities you wish you had time for. Send us a comment for ideas you may have for future posts and let us know how you desire to live closer to the seasons. If you have conquered the pressing-in to live a homogeneous life please drop us a comment to let us in your secrets to living life to its fullest.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Baby Arrabella is Here














Saturday afternoon with no fuss or pomp Arrabella was born to proud mother, Jill. Arrabella is an exact clone (not in the true scary sense) of her beautiful mother. She has a perfect belt and two white socks. We are so thankful to the Dad, Mr. Bigstuff, for his contribution to making Arrabella a reality. In the above photo she is heavy with Arrabella and not in the greatest of moods.

Here is a photo of Arrabella standing for the first time . Mom licks her and cleans her up to be presented to the onlookers Sweet Pea and Dara.

Dutch Belted cattle were brought to the United States by P.T. Barnum as an attraction for his circus. Outside of their unusual markings this breed has the smallest fat globule of all breeds which makes it a wonderful choice if anyone in the family has lactose intolerance. They are gentle, great mothers and produce gallons of delicious milk without the use of grains.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book

The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking
is an excellent and comprehensive guide to learning or perfecting your skills at baking whole grain breads. From detailed instructions for a beginner loaf of whole wheat bread to recipes for Indian breads, sprouted grain loaves and gluten-free baking, this book is hands down the best book on bread I've ever come across. The book features page after page of troubleshooting ideas, explanations of what is going on in each step, and a conversational style that puts the reader at ease and inspires confidence. I only wish I had found this book during the year and a half that I tried (and usually failed) to make good bread out of a temperamental sourdough starter. I learned a lot from reading through the book, and I think I'll get even more from it as I start to try out the recipes.

If you have an interest in baking your own bread, or if you bake bread but aren't yet an expert at it or are just interested in getting even better, this book would be a great resource for you. The author does not require or recommend very many additives (which I find daunting and off-putting in many bread treatises) but does give detailed explanations for why she recommends certain types of flours, differences between store-bought and fresh-ground flours, and the like. I'd heartily recommend this book to you, and also suggest that if you have an interest in bread you stop by the farm shop to talk about it. The shop carries sourdough starters as well as a variety of grains and ingredients that are recommended in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.

Happy baking!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Fermented Vegetable Dish

If you're familiar with Korean food at all you have doubtless tried kimchi, as the condiment appears at just about every Korean meal. When I was in middle school my family lived in Korea for two years, so I developed a taste for kimchi and was eager to try my hand at making my own. Using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, I recently made three jars of kimchi and I'm trying to be patient to wait for it to reach full flavor before eating it!

I noted that the Nourishing Traditions recipe is somewhat different than kimchi recipes I've seen in other sources, so I will have to keep you posted about the flavor. I also elected to leave the cabbage in larger pieces rather than shredding it, because I've never had kimchi that was shredded. The downside to that was it was harder to pound out and there wasn't as much liquid as with the sauerkraut. I hope that won't have a negative effect on the outcome!

Kimchi
1 head cabbage, cored and shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1/2 cup daikon radish, grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey

Place ingredients in a bowl and pound with a wooden mallet or meat hammer to release juices. Place in two quart-sized jars and press down with mallet or hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

Note: Kimchi is also available at the Farm Shop if you'd like to try it!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Make Your Own Sauerkraut!

If you're making your own yogurt, you can make your own whey by straining the yogurt through a thin dishcloth or cheesecloth layered over a colander placed over a bowl. The resulting yogurt will be thicker like Greek yogurt, or if you leave it long enough will become an even thicker yogurt cheese which can be used like cream cheese in baking or for spreading. With the whey you strain from your yogurt, you can make your own fermented vegetables. Let's start with sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut*

1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey

In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with wooden pounder or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices. Place in a quart-sized jar and press down firmly with pounder or meat hammer until juices come tot he top of the cabbage. Be sure to leave AT LEAST one inch between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for three days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut may be eaten immediately, but will improve with age.
As you can see in the picture above, a whole shredded cabbage starts out looking like a whole lot more than will fit in your quart jar, but once you've pounded it a bit it really will fit. Be sure you leave that inch of space - I had liquid leak out of my first jar because I didn't leave enough room for the fermenting process!

I lived in Germany for two years while I was in high school so I have a high appreciation for sauerkraut, but even if you're not used to eating it be assured that there are many ways to enjoy adding this condiment to your diet. You can use it on Reuben sandwiches, serve a small amount on top of a roast or pork chop, or use it as a nice accompaniment to sausages and potatoes. My aunt, who has never cared for commercially-produced sauerkraut, found she quite liked sauerkraut made in this traditional way, so even if you think you don't prefer the taste of sauerkraut, you might give this traditional version a try!

Ideally you should keep fermented foods in a cool dry dark place at about 40 degrees, like a root cellar. If you don't have a root cellar, the top shelf of your refrigerator will work fine!

The Farm Shop carries a number of supplies that will be helpful to you in making your own fermented vegetables. At the shop you can find butter muslin for straining yogurt or you can buy whey if you don't care to strain your yogurt. The shop also carries sea salt, and a variety of cultured vegetables if you want to try them before you decide to make them!

*Recipe taken from Nourishing Traditions (affiliate link)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Health Benefits from Cultured Foods

Did you know that you can preserve vegetables without freezing or canning them? Cultures all over the world use the process of lacto-fermentation to preserve foods and aid digestion. German sauerkraut, Russian pickled tomatoes and peppers, Korean kimchi, and Indian chutneys are just a few examples of foods traditionally made by converting sugars and starches into lactic acid, which is a natural preservative and inhibits putrefaction.

When traditional fermented foods entered the mass market, food producers typically left lacto-fermentation behind in favor of cheaper and faster methods of preservation, using vinegar for brine and then pasteurizing the product which eliminates all the beneficial effects on digestion. This is unfortunate, because lacto-fermentation offers a wealth of health benefits in addition to being a preservative.

The process of breaking down starches and sugars in lacto-fermentation renders the food highly digestible, and increases the amount of bio-available vitamins and enzymes in the food. Lacto-fermentation also provides the food with several antibiotic and anticarcinogenic properties, and promotes intestinal health.

The good news is that making your own fermented foods and condiments is quite simple! Stay tuned for most posts this week on how you can make your own sauerkraut!

Note: Information for this post was taken from Nourishing Traditions and the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Website Up and Running and a New Look for the Blog

If you read the Windy Acres Farm blog in a feed reader or via email, you may not have seen our new look! Both the main farm website and this blog have gotten a fabulous facelift and we would love for you to check it out.

Windy Acres Farm website

Windy Acres Farm blog

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching up with our bodies

Today as I barreled down the road on my "leisurely" walk, the story of the Missionary and his African guides came to mind.

On his first trip to Africa to set up a mission in a remote portion of the country, a young, driven missionary met his guides in town. "How long will it take to get to the village?" he asked. "Seven days" came the reply from his guide. "Well, we'll make it five" stated in the missionary in no uncertain terms.

Throughout the next few days the missionary drove the group of villagers hard, resting little and barely stopping to eat. He refused to unpack the entire camp either to eat or to sleep. The trip was meager even though they had plenty of provisions. On the fifth day when the missionary rose early to get a good head start on the trail none of the villagers would rise to pack. Frustrated the missionary demanded that everyone pack the provisions and head out on the trail but no one moved. Finally he demanded from the guide "why won't you listen to me, we are close to the village and we have made very good time. We have saved ourselves two days of traveling."

The wise guide made his reply. "Good Sir, we have obeyed you these five days, but we have moved too fast. We can not hear our spirits calling us. We must wait here and our spirits will catch up to our bodies then we will go to the village together."

Doesn't it seem as though this world tells us to move faster, ignore what is before our eyes and to look forward to things that are not yet here? Our spirits are calling but if we are lucky we only hear the faint whisper and if it has been so long since we actually slowed down that we barely recognize the sound. Maybe our Great Great Grandmothers knew the sound. Maybe it is missing completely from our lives and our souls cry out for what we have never known.

Today, don't just eat, savor. Don't just hear, listen. Don't just pray, commune. Don't just survive, live.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More reasons to love maple syrup

In addition to being an excellent natural sweetener and far superior in taste and quality to knock-off grocery store syrup, real maple syrup offers excellent health benefits.

A mere two teaspoons (and don't tell me that's all you put on your pancakes!) of maple syrup contains .44 mg of manganese, which is 22% of your daily need for that mineral. Manganese is critical in maintaining a healthy immune system, is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory aid, and helps to control cholesterol. A serving of maple syrup also contains .55 mg of zinc, another immune system booster and aid for reducing cholesterol and lowering risk of prostate cancer.

As we head in to cold and flu season, it's good to know that using maple syrup as a natural sweetener can also boost our health!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Organic Cooking: Use Your Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a nourishing whole food and is a great addition to your organic cooking arsenal.  When you buy real maple syrup from local producers, you not only improve your family's diet, you also support sustainable farming.  Eat Local!

Arugula and Pear Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cups arugula leaves
1 pear unpeeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (3 ounces) blue cheese crumbled

In a small bowel,whisk together the maple syrup,mustard,vinegar,salt, and pepper. Whisking constantly,slowly add the oil; set aside. Arrange the arugula on individual plates and top with the pear and cheese. Drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Vanilla Ice Cream
















3 egg yolks (be sure you use good quality eggs from a local farmer who raises healthy free range chickens…I would not recommend eating raw eggs from the grocery store)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2-3 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon arrowroot (looks like cornstarch only it’s better for us)
3 1/2 cups heavy cream/whipping cream, preferably from raw milk, but for sure NOT ultra pasteurized
dash Celtic Sea Salt

Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to instructions.

Whipping up half to all the cream and folding in the other ingredients helps to keep the ice cream from freezing rock hard.

Chocolate Ice Cream Variation

1/2 cup real maple syrup
3 egg yolks from free range chickens
3 1/2 cups heavy cream from raw milk
1 1/2 Tablespoon organic cocoa powder
dash sea salt

I think I liked chocolate the best, but they’re both dreamy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What is the Difference Between Maple Syrup Grades?

A simple search on the Internet with this question brings up some of the most amazing and incorrect answers imaginable. I read articles that told how there were two different processes for making syrup and that the process used for making A syrup stripped it of all of it's nutrients. Someone posted that Grade B contains insect parts and A does not. The advice was all over the map so let's try to make some sense of all this information.

How Does Maple Syrup Get The Grade?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assigns grades to the maple syrup sold in the the U.S. These grades are: Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. The grading of syrup sold in the United States is voluntary (like USDA Beef Grading).

Grade A syrup is very light in color and has a faint, delicate maple flavor. It is usually made earlier in the season when the weather is colder. Many people use this grade for serving on pancakes. It is also widely used for making maple candies. I use it for pancakes and also for making things like any ice cream that shouldn't have an overpowering maple flavor.

Grade B, sometimes called Cooking Syrup, extremely dark in color and has a stronger maple taste as well as hints of caramel. Because of its strong flavor, this is predominantly used in baked goods.

I have found that small farmers who produce maple syrup stick to the same formula - Light and Medium Amber becomes Grade A and anything below is B. Once the syrup takes on a bitter aftertaste it becomes C. Most farmers though just stop producing at that time because you really have to have a lot of syrup for a large bakery to pick up your Grade C.

How to Use Maple Syrup

In general, maple syrup can be substituted for granular sugar in baked goods by following these rules of thumb: For each cup of granulated sugar, use 1-1/2 cup of maple syrup. Reduce other liquids in the recipe by about one-half. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of maple syrup. Decrease oven temperature by 25°F.

I hope this has helped to clear up some questions regarding grading. The bottom line for me: I keep both grades on hand and use the A for pancakes and for any cooking where a strong maple flavor would be out of place. For everything else, I use B.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Book Review: Nourishing Traditions

If you only own one book about the natural/organic/whole food lifestyle,
Nourishing Traditions should be that book! It is an indispensable resource for organic cooking and natural living.  Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation wrote the book, which includes recipes, history, nutritional information, explanations of the hows and whys of whole food, and more. You will find this book to be an incredible resource in your kitchen, and an informative reference in your pursuit of a natural living. Even if you don't normally enjoy reading cookbooks cover to cover, you might find yourself compelled to do so with this volume.

If you have this book in your home library already, what are some of your favorite recipes or natural living tips from Nourishing Traditions?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Grass fed meat may actually be the bargain

If you haven't yet seen Time Magazine's recent cover article The Real Cost of Cheap Food (August 31, 2009 issue), I would recommend it to you. I thought the article was well done for the mainstream press, and although many of the statistics and facts cited will probably be old hat for most readers of this blog, the fact that the media is devoting more positive coverage to sustainable farming and humane and healthy methods for raising animals for meat will hopefully have a positive affect.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Maple Syrup - How It Is Made

Maple Syrup begins as sap in a maple tree. The sap is harvested in the spring when temperatures rise into the 40s during the day and cool off into the 20s at night. It takes a very special place for the conditions to be just right.

The sugaring season, as it is called, can begin as early as late January in Southern Kentucky and ends in late March. The season usually lasts about a month whenever it begins, but it can be extended if the weather is right.

Trees are tapped using a drill to make a small hole. A spile is inserted into the hole and the sap drips out if conditions are right. The sap either drips into a bucket or flows down a special tube to a holding tank. Drop after drop collect until there are gallons upon gallons of sap. Many gallons of sap are needed to make just one gallon of maple syrup. It can range from 35-50 gallons of sap, depending on how much maple sugar there is in the sap. All maple syrup has the same amount of maple sugar, but the maple flavor can be different as we shall learn.

The sap is collected into a large holding tank and from there is fed into the sugar house (the place where the magic happens!). In the sugar house, it is systematically poured into an evaporator (pictured here). Maple sugar evaporators are specially designed to 'boil off' hundreds of gallons of water very quickly and so the sap is concentrated into maple syrup. This is called 'boiling down'.

The evaporator works by first 'pre-heating' the sap so that it is almost boiling. This is done by making use of the steam that is already coming off of the evaporator. A series of pipes works the cold sap through the hot steam under the hood at the rear of the evaporator. The rear portion of the evaporator is where most of the serious boiling takes place. There are groves in the pan that drop down into the heat source below (fire, oil or otherwise). These give the pan more surface area and so the boiling is more fierce.

As the water is boiled off and the sugar becomes more concentrated, the sap moves toward the front of the pan. There, the sap becomes syrup and is 'drawn off' into a pail or some other container before it is filtered. The syrup at this point contains nitre or sugar sand. This needs to be removed from the syrup or it will have an off taste.

Once filtered, the syrup is put in bottles or containers and sealed until someone opens it up to enjoy a sweet treat!

In early January we will start to watch the weather and take a trip out to the farm for anyone interested in seeing full process. We have just received another, and probably our last, shipment of maple syrup until the new syrup is harvested. We have both Grades A and B in stock in quarts and half gallons.  Buying local maple syrup is an excellent way to add a whole food to your diet and also support local farming.  Eat Local!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Maple Syrup

There are times when I get so disappointed in the success of media hype and food masquerading that I could just... scream. Not much is sadder that the marketing campaign against maple syrup and how we have been duped into believing that the imitation is better than the real thing. I have had several women give me recipes for "maple syrup" consisting of corn syrup, sugar, imitation maple flavoring (ouch!) and water. When I tell them that this is not real maple syrup, that real maple syrup is a whole food and does not need a recipe, they seem surprised. We seem to have "cut off our heads to save our pocketbooks"!

I am always amazed at the wording used to describe the imitation syrup and how it is touted as being healthier with less calories than the real thing and, surprise, surprise, it actually tastes better.

Here are the ingredients to Aunt Jemima's Original syrup; CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVES), ARTIFICIAL AND NATURAL FLAVORS, SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE.

Here are the ingredients in real whole food maple syrup; MAPLE SAP

I am trying to count how many of Michael Pollan's rules for eating that this "food product" breaks.

1. Don't eat anything with more than 5 ingredients

2. Don't eat anything with ingredients you cannot pronounce (even my spell checker didn't recognize 3 of the ingredients) or don't know

3. Don't eat anything your grandmother would not recognize (come on, no real maple syrup oozes like that)

4. Don't eat anything that contains high fructose corn syrup.

5. Don't eat anything that won't rot.

It so saddens me to hear mothers tell me that their children will not eat real maple syrup. Many mothers resort to emptying the Mrs. Butterworth's container and filling it with real maple syrup because their children will rebel other wise. I have a customer who's children will tell me that they hate maple syrup when they have, unknowingly been eating only real maple syrup for years.

What are we doing to this younger generation when they refuse to eat the real thing because we have trained their palates to prefer what is sweeter and gummier? There are groups on the Internet that suggest that the public does not want real maple syrup and that taste tests show that people prefer imitation over the real thing. The general comment is not how good the imitation version is but that it is what they grew up with and it gives them a "comfort feeling".

Over the next few days I will post information on REAL maple syrup so that you will know the real skinny on why maple syrup is such a healthy product and how to use it in your kitchen. We will examine the different grade, cooking tips and recipes.

So I'll close this post with a rule of my own,

7. Don't eat anything that tastes disgusting, even it you grew up with it.

We have several great maple syrup producers in the Southern Kentucky region and we are trying to support them and keep them in business. Otherwise....it Mrs. Butterworths for us all!!!  Eat Local!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is Barbara Kingsolver's memoir of the first year her family experimented with eating ONLY locally-grown foods. In order to abide by their agreed-upon rules, she and her family began growing more of their own food on their land in Virginia, and became much more connected to the sustainable farming and animal husbandry of their region. The family learned to eat food in season and grew more adept at preserving food for use during the winter. Each section of the book describes one season, how the family procured food, ate, and preserved in that season, and includes recipes they liked for seasonal foods. Interspersed in the narrative are Kingsolver's thoughts on the importance of local sustainable farming and the health benefits of eating locally-grown foods, as well as sidebar articles giving the perspectives of her husband and daughter on the year-long experiment.

In addition to being a memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle also contains a wealth of interesting and useful facts and tips for organic gardening and notes about the history and importance of different foods. Although Kingsolver espouses some political opinions and conclusions that might not be in line with those of all readers, for the most part the book was useful and inspiring.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Any Questions?

Is there something you've always wondered about farming, raw milk, organic food or natural living but never asked? Anything about the farm that sparks your curiosity and makes you want to know more? Please feel free to leave a comment with your question or concern and we'll gladly answer it, either in person or in a future blog post. Ask away!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Simple Living: Renew Your Mind

In the pursuit of simple living, it's important to remember why exactly you're attempting to slow down and lead a more deliberate life. Often growing your own vegetables, hanging out your laundry, baking your own bread and other valuable simple pursuits take up a bit of time and it's easy to find yourself getting too busy being simplified!

Every schedule can use periods of built in, productive down time. I think one of the most rejuvenating forms of rest is reading a good book. If fiction is your preference, good literature abounds and can afford you the opportunity of thinking about different places, times, and sorts of people. Perhaps you always wanted to read the classics and you could give yourself a little bit of time each day to become acquainted with the canon of great literature. Alternatively to fiction, or perhaps interspersed with it, you might take time to research a new skill or a topic of particular interest to you. We hope that some of the book reviews we've offered on this site might be a good jumping off point for you to learn more about natural living, and there are other books we have enjoyed linked in our Amazon page.

Whatever you decide to read, we think that taking a little time to renew your mind and pause to sit with a good book is a good investment in simple living. If you run across books on natural living, supporting sustainable farming, organic food or the like, please feel free to leave us a comment - we're always looking for good book suggestions too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cultured and Fermented Foods

If you're interested in trying cultured or fermented foods before you decide to try your hand at making them yourself, the farm shop carries sauerkraut and cultured vegetables already made the natural, wholesome way! These wonderful traditional foods will help to build your family's immune systems and provide a whole host of other health benefits.

If you're new to cultured and fermented foods, be sure to let us know what you and your family think, and how you integrate these foods into your diet!

Monday, August 10, 2009

What To Do With Whey

I have recently begun straining my homemade raw milk yogurt to get a thicker product by placing a colander over a large bowl, lining the colander with a thin towel (cheese cloth would be even better for the task), and letting it drain, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. The whey that drains into the bowl is also a useful food product.

What do you do with whey? I have used it with great success in baked goods like pancakes and muffins, enjoying the slightly tart flavor. You can also use whey in smoothies, or as a healthful drink when sweetened slightly like lemonade.

I'm planning to use whey this fall to make my own fermented fruits and vegetables. Inspired by an article on the Weston-Price Foundation website and Sally Fallon's excellent book Nourishing Traditions, I think I will try my hand at making lacto-fermented chutney and kimchi.

The process of lacto-fermentation, aided by the addition of whey, has wonderful health benefits as it aids in digestion and supports the immune system.

If you're interested in using whey in baking, for drinking or for making your own fermented foods, you can also buy it by the quart at the farm store. Let us know how you like it!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Eric Brende Interview



If you've read Better Off or were just intrigued by the idea of such radically simple living, you might be interested in the above video clip of a recent television interview with the Brendes, who now live in St. Louis and are applying their idea of simple living to a more urban setting.

HT: Like Merchant Ships Tumblr Page

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Better Off

In his excellent book Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, Eric Brende, then a MIT grad student studying the costs and benefits of technology, undertook an 18 month experiment with his new wife to leave Boston and go live in a Mennonite community without electricity, gas, or modern conveniences. The book is well written and full of great stories that will be of particular interest to you if you are pursuing simple living.

The real strength of the book, in my opinion, is Brende's discussion of his thought processes on the philosophy of technology. His measured and throughtful approach is both insightful and piercing as he suggests new ways to think about the impact technology makes on our lives for good and bad. Brende concludes that technology is not inherently evil, but that in our day and age, technologies that are supposed to be making our lives easier are more often than not making them harder when you really consider the expenditure of resources, your stress and lack of true leisure, and so forth.

Better Off is a compelling and entertaining book, and I highly recommend it.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.