Soaked AND Fluffy: The Biscuit Triumph

A recent challenge for me has been trying to figure out and conquer the world of sprouted and soaked grains in an effort to make our beloved grain based baked goods easier to digest and more nutrient dense. I am at heart a perfectionist with my baked goods. Transitioning to Whole Wheat only for my baked goodies was rather painful until I figured out ways to keep it from being dark, dense and coarse. Now the increased challenge is to somehow preserve the textures I think of as normal and expected. There won’t ever be anything 100% like white bleached flour biscuits of Philsbury fame but the general ballpark is my goal.

First of all I had to figure out a type of whole wheat that would work. My all purpose whole wheat of choice is a hard white winter wheat called Prairie Gold. I’ve been told by someone that owns a substantial homemade bread making business that no matter how great the variety of grain is the quality can vary to an extreme from one year to the next. He buys small batches of several of his favorite varieties every year and whichever one is best for that year will then order by the pallet load. Since it never occurred to me that there could be quality variations like that by harvest I am very thankful that the pallet of wheat I bought and stockpiled was a good year. Remember me mentioning that buying in bulk has ended up being what I do for a lot of items in order to save in the long run? A side venture of ours last year was ordering two pallets of wheat. We sold about half of it at cost to local friends and family to defray the amount we had in it and also to cut down on how much we would have to stockpile. I am very grateful to now have a few years worth safely stowed away in 5 gallon food grade buckets. A post for another time will be how to safely store bulk grains in buckets without the use of expensive oxygen eaters.

So back to texture management. After finding my all purpose wheat of choice I had to figure out how to get it ground down fine enough. This boiled down to finding a grinder that has a super fine “pastry” setting. While there are some breads that need the course grind for that hearty country texture and flavor that just isn’t what I desire to use in a pie crust or with cookies. Even with the Pastry setting on my grinder I still sift the flour through a super fine mesh strainer. It’s more fine than a sifter is. This catches all the “hull” particles that tend to be a bit bigger than desired and the end result is a super fine, pale flour that is as close to unbleached white flour as you can get and it still qualify as whole wheat. My adventure in multi grain cooking is in it’s embryo stage so I don’t have much experience yet to share about that yet. Maybe in a couple of months!

Even with my almost white wheat flour my soaked biscuit experiments have ended up being flattish with a tough and chewy texture. Not bad if that is what you expect from a biscuit. I want fluffy AND soaked! How hard can it be to achieve fluffy??? Very hard, for me anyway. Today wonder of wonders I had soaked biscuit triumph. And wouldn’t you know, consistent with my luck in life (or maybe that should read: fly by the seat of my pants and forget all about documenting anything when I’m inspired) I didn’t write down a thing I did or measure any of it at all. I’m going to write up what was done from memory though so that maybe…hopefully…one day I can replicate these marvelous creations.

First of all I dumped all the flour I had on hand ground up from a previous project into a ceramic bowl. In hindsight and guesstimating I think it was in the ballpark of 12 cups but I couldn’t be sure. I then added the last bit of my store bought, all natural buttermilk (with live cultures) and mixed it in. It was dryer than what is ideal for soaking flour so I added a few dollups of plain whole yogurt. Mixed this into something that resembled the consistency of a very thick, dense, dough. Basically to the point where all the flour was barely in contact with moisture and then patted it down in the bowl and covered with a damp hand towel. Into the pre-warmed oven it went to spend a lonely night. The plan was to get up the next morning and bake biscuits but I didn’t end up getting to them until early afternoon. Into the base of soaked “dough” I put 2 sticks of grassfed butter diced into small cubes with sea salt sprinkled on top. A few interruptions later involving an employee that ran off the Interstate in our super rare TN snow storm this afternoon I came back to the dough and the now room temp butter. You homemade biscuit connoisseurs know that one of the cardinal rules of good biscuits is that the butter stays cold or else any chance for excellent texture is ruined. Refusing to give up hope yet still quite distracted I plunked the whole thing,  bowl, dough and butter together into the fridge where it chilled out for about two hours. Retrieving the now thoroughly chilly dough and butter blob I tried figuring out how I was going to work in the baking soda, baking powder and the smidge of rapadura or (gasp) white sugar I always add to my biscuits.  It’s the secret ingredient to end all secret ingredients and part of me is more than a little horrified that I just wrote that out on a public blog. The dough texture from soaking didn’t seem to need any extra moisture and if anything was a wee bit on the moist side for biscuits. Debating on whether or not to pull out the food processor I finally decided against it, worried that if I used a food processor or the Bosch dough hook mixer it would over mix and activate the gluten which could be very harmful to the desired fluff.

Sprinkling a bit of flour out on a cutting board I dumped the blob out on it. In a small bowl on the side I mixed some extra sea salt (figured I hadn’t sprinkled enough on the butter earlier) about a tablespoon or so of Baking Powder and probably in the ball park of 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda. To this I added a couple tablespoons of flour so it would be more spreadable. Something I learned about good biscuits long ago is that contrary to what many cookbooks tell you  “knead a few times before rolling out” is that you never should knead whole wheat biscuits. If you are using a super low gluten flour you might be able to get away with it but with a full gluten bread flour it’s just too risky. Instead the method that is most effective is to gently “fold” it over on itself and pat down flat. In this way I sprinkled several layers of the leavening mix and “folded” it in.  This also finished distributing the butter lumps more or less evenly throughout the blob. Halving the blob I gently patted out the first half. That is yet another tip, never ever “roll” the dough with a rolling pin. It’s too forceful. After a few foldings take your hands and just pat it out until it is the desired thickness. Grabbing a kitchen glass that does double duty as my biscuit cutter I began to extract the biscuits from the blob. This leads me to yet another tip: Do not twist as you cut out biscuits. Straight in, straight out. Twisting motions on the sides can keep biscuits from rising to their true potential. A properly cut biscuit should look like this on the sides.

Cheesy Soaked Flour Biscuit, perfectly cut side

Cheesy Soaked Flour Biscuit, perfectly cut side

I slathered some Organic Extra virgin Coconut Oil on my stainless steel insulated cookie sheet and laid out the first biscuits. Yet another tip (tired of those yet??) Put your biscuits close enough that they can touch. Biscuits rise better pressing up against each other rather than spread out all on their own all over the pan.


Soaked Flour Biscuits

With the second half of the blob I decided to try something I haven’t tried since I moved to TN. In NM back when I used to think I was exceptionally healthy by cooking with organic unbleached flour I made a creation using green chilles, sharp cheddar cheese and a dash of cayenne resulting in biscuits that tickled the heat and flavor lovin’ palate of MyMan. Getting my hands on decent green chilles is impossible here in TN but I decided to try the cheese twist with these biscuits anyway. I folded in a couple of cups of sharp shredded cheese into the blob before patting it out flat. Once flattened I lightly sprinkled the top with the lightest of dustings of cayenne. You can see the rather largish lumps of butter in the blob really well in this shot.

Cheesey Cayenne Biscuits

Cheesey Cayenne Biscuits

The Cheese biscuits were put on the pan with their plain compatriots and were promptly slid into the oven that was a flaming 425 degrees. My goal was to speed the baking time up because traditionally soaked flour goods require quite a bit longer to bake than their unsoaked counterparts. My theory was if they started off at a higher heat it might speed the process up. They still ended up taking close to 40 minutes to bake vs. the 20 or so my normal whole wheat biscuits take.  After the first 15 minutes or so I backed the heat down to 350 out of concern that they would get too well done on the top before the insides were done.

Confession: Yes, I am one of those cooks that compulsively checks the experiment every five to ten minutes. I can’t help myself. That’s why it’s called a compulsion. That miiiiight have something to do with why my baked goods average needing an extra five to ten minutes of baking time compared to every other baker out there regardless of what oven I use. (ahem) This time my frequent progress reports put a bigger and bigger grin on my face. They were RISING. They were FLUFFY. Finally I couldn’t bear it and pulled off a segment of one of the outlying biscuits. Oh.My.Goodness. It tasted just as good as it smelled and looked. Perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside with an incredibly fluffed interior flavored with the generous gobs of butter that resulted in a velvety softness in every bite.  As MyMan said later they are truly the “Biscuits that eat like a meal” Especially the cheesy ones. If anything they over-rose and grew beyond their bounds. I’m totally Ok with that. In hindsight the dough was probably a bit on the moist side of perfection. I’m also Ok with that as well but will file it away as something to modify slightly in the future.

Documentation of the tastiness.

Fresh Soaked biscuits fresh out of the oven with golden brown, crunchy tops

Fresh Soaked biscuits fresh out of the oven with golden brown, crunchy tops

Close up of cheesy golden biscuits

Close up of cheesy golden biscuits

Fluffy, moist layers created by folding

Fluffy, moist layers created by folding

If I am ever able to replicate this with actual measurements and other helpful and specific odds and ends like that I shall do another post in a more concise form. If anybody uses these general guidelines and actually measures and experiences success PLEASE pass it back to me! I’ll be forever grateful. =D  In the meantime, I think it’s time for a bowl of beans and another buttery biscuit.

Thinking in Shades of Green: The Never Ending Monologue

In a past life I was very active in the Republican Party and would be classified as a classic conservative, right winger, fundamentalist and whatever other title seems appropriate. Needless to say, earth friendly anything hasn’t traditionally been a leading issue for that political side of the house. However a verbal emphasis given to fiscal responsibility and dare I say it tightwadism has been. Interestingly enough as my lifestyle has become more and more “green” over the past few years I have realized that taking responsibility for the earth’s resources as a consumer doesn’t mean that you are anti business, anti budget, anti american economy at all as some of the right wing rhetoric would have you believe. To the contrary when done wisely and prudently going green can be very compatible with tight budgets. A core principle of the natural/alternative grassroots movement that is happening right now is to support local, small businesses. As a small business owner at I am particularly appreciative of the effort that it can sometimes take for an individual to go out of their way to support the quality of small business vs. the convenience and or price point of big business. But this blog isn’t about politics or political views. It’s supposed to be about food. Bear with me, I’ll get to food eventually.

Going green for me has been a huge learning curve. The concepts of the green shades that have crept into my life here and there are not new at all they are old and most of them based in centuries of common sense traditions. Concepts I’ve been exposed to in my lifetime by my Grandparents and even my parents. Their importance however has been lost in the face of an increasingly overwhelming world where an easy button for everything is all we wish for and convenience is the watch word of society.

By some standards I haven’t even begun to arrive at green but one baby step at a time I think I’ll get there. Check back in with me in a few years when I have the solar powered hobby farm of my dreams.  Thought I would share some of my least painful and basic lifestyle changes. Some would disagree that these are purely green and they would be correct. The pursuit of a health restoring and maintaining lifestyle from a nutritional standpoint has been far more compelling than either caring for earth’s resources or a budget. That is the overwhelming motivation that will come through in many of these points. But, I think you will discover as I have, that many healthy choices, are green choices and are also budget friendly choices. Given enough time and sufficient little things changed from what the normal frenzied consumer based American lifestyle is there are dozens of symbiotic relationships and crossover benefits that begin to emerge. This is a fairly recent and altogether delightful discovery for me personally.

Cloth diapers have been a HUUUUGE learning curve for me. I have to say in spite of the lure of the fluffy cuteness in all sorts of patterns all created to highlight the utter adorableness of the infant they adorn I was not a fan. Being the avid…Ok ok…Compulsive reader that I am some references that some fair skinned babies more frequently beginning to have troubles with disposable diapers passed before my eyes.  Assessing the gene pool that our poor kid was being created from I concluded that something inbetween glow in the dark and marshmallow would probably be the dominant pigmentation so figured that taking some precautions might not be a bad idea. Not knowing the first thing about cloth diapers and finding the terminology baffling I bought a lot of what I thought sounded like a great deal on newborn sized diapers off of craigslist.  As it turns out I was really grateful to have that particular little bit of obsessive preparation in place. We ran through every brand of disposable diaper out there and ended up with cloth like it or not because it was the only thing her skin would tolerate without breaking out into a horribly painful and red rash. As time went by I became more and more of a fan and learned through trial and error what prefolds vs. AIO’s vs. Pockets were and the various merits of aplex vs. snaps.

Don’t ever get a seasoned cloth diapering Mom started on hemp vs. cotton vs. bamboo vs. microfiber vs. any combination of any of the above unless you wish to be sucked into the black hole that is the cloth diapering world. Unlike the plastic pants and pins of my parents generations cloth diapering options are genuinely limitless now and are generating enough interest that if you are smart about it you can get a decent collection of high end and user friendly stuff while keeping the budget not only intact but actually freeing up some extra cash. This is one of those win win win things to do. It’s great for the environment (think about all the landfills being spared the bags full of your kids plastic wrapped waste) It’s great for the budget even with one kid but the savings sky rocket if you use them with a second. Last but certainly not least I am personally convinced it is the optimal health choice for the baby as well. Disposable diapers are increasingly toxic and it explains why more babies are unable to tolerate them than in times past. Well, that combined with increased environmental senstivities due to being born to parents with chemical overload.  Sorry, rabbit trails are a must this late a night.  Back to Diapers… Use an high efficiency washing machine and line dry the diapers and the impact on the environment will be even less for those of you that care.  I leave you with my last and final point on the whole diaper subject. Nothing is cuter on a baby than cloth. Nothing. See photos below for evidence.

Cloth Diapered Toddler

Doodles in Haute Pockets One Size Fits All pocket diaper

Tin Tin baby sporting green Fuzzi Bunz

Tin Tin baby sporting green Fuzzi Bunz

Glass So this may seem basic and overly simplistic but one of the most green things I’ve done in the past year is to go plastic free. The Tupperware was given away, the plastic canisters disposed of. In their place I invested in several sets of (very much on sale) Pyrex glass with snap on lids, gallon wide mouthed jars with lids, and save every glass container with a lid that comes into our posession. The main driving force of this decision was in an attempt to remove the hormone disrupting properties that leach from plastic into our foods (particularly plastic anything that is heated) so that my body could begin to hopefully regulate itself without the negative extra components mixing things up. I can’t really claim that this one has been a boon to the budget. By biding my time and stalking some good deals at the ed of the day I’ve pretty much broken even with what decent quality plastic stuffage costs. I still use food grade five gallon buckets to store my bulk/dried items in. My primary concern is that anything that is enzymatically or bacterially alive in a liquid base like Kombucha, or food items that will be heated and cooled and or stored long term need to be in glass. All for health reasons. I think there is sufficient general knowledge out there regarding the manufacturing process of plastic that I don’t need to cover that ground yet again here in regards to the Environmental impact. So, I chalk Glass up as a win for two out of three. Health and Environment. Neutral on Budget.

Garden The foodies among us quiver with delight at the mental image of garden fresh produce. The budget minded beam benevolently at the savings a garden can afford and the environmentalists delightedly chortle about the positive impact of bio dynamic gardening. This really leaves just the black thumbs among us to still be convinced that a garden is a worth while waste of time, er, I mean, wise investment of resources. Being the shamed possessor of a black thumb myself and a badge carrying member of the Exclusive Excuse Clubs of “I don’t have enough space for a garden” and “My soil is poorer than Haiti” please believe me when I say you have my utmost sympathies and understanding. However even for me the effort of a garden outweighs the staggering frustrations and failures. Some success can be managed with some creative problem solving and at the very least it gets you outdoors and active which counts as a plus on the Health front even if the veggie garden never actually produces anything more than nutrient dense weeds.

Kitchen I am convinced that nothing is more healthy, beneficial to the budget or earth friendly than getting re acquainted with the kitchen. Kick the microwave out. Welcome the Toaster oven in. Seriously. Unproven and as of yet anecdotal and theoretical serious health ramifications aside a microwave just makes it too darn easy to cheat with food. The preparation of genuinely from scratch food (No, this does NOT include Duncan Hines. Seriously people. Mixes do not count as homemade, it’s cheating plain and simple. Got that?? Some exceptions allowed. It’s my blog. I can do that) is a lost art and along with the flavor, fellowship and textures that have been lost we’ve also lost the knowledge and ability to prepare our foods in ways that our bodies can actually access the health sustaining nutrients inside.

As oblivious as most of us are to this reality there are actually compelling and scientifically viable reasons for many traditional food methods of preparation as time consuming as they were. There are the right ways to prepare certain foods that unlock the full range of nutrients in such a way that our bodies can easily utilize them. Neutral methods that neither unlocks their full potential nor blocks it off and then the really bad terrible horrible awful way of treating food that basically blocks off our bodies ability to access anything there and actually utilize it in a helpful way. The worst effects of the poor methods is that it actually mutates the food on a basic cellular level so that it not only fails to support health it actually harms it. So that covers the Health front of things. For the Budget, cooking from scratch = less time eating out and less out to eats = less money spent. Unless you are eating off of the McDonald’s Dollar Menu in which case I have to wonder what on earth you are doing reading a blog like this in the first place.  As for the Green impact of kitchen re prioritization if done correctly it can be enormously beneficial. Mostly in regards to how it is supplied, stocked and how energy resources are managed and maximized. Details, tips, tricks on that is another mammoth post for another occasion.

There are many more areas of Green improvement in my life that have evolved over the past few years but my brain is weary and you my dear reader have successfully toughed through somewhere in the ballpark of 2000 words according to the handy dandy word counter that WordPress provides. That’s a lot. Way too much. I apparently like to see myself type. Probably almost as much as I like to hear myself talk. At least I’m easier to tune out in text than in cinematic full color glory with the audio cranked up.  Be glad it’s a text blog and not a video blog.

Until next time,

The Crunchy Sorta, Kinda Conservative

Steph Tallent

How to have a cow and eat it too…

In response to my very first (ahem) and only topic request thus far I’m going to ramble a bit about the logistics of purchasing beef in bulk. And bulk means anything from a whole cow down to 1/4 of a cow.  I’ll share what little I’ve picked up from our particular experiences.

First of all verify the quality of the (hopefully) Steer. Breed plays an important part in meat tenderness and flavor. Angus are the long touted golden standard in beefy excellence but there are some really fantastic European/American beef breed crosses now that is the absolute best beef I’ve ever sunk my teeth into. This is something that should be discussed with the source of your cow. If it is a steer from a home farm situation with a sketchy genetic history it might be worth passing over in favor of a more tried and true gene pool.

Here are a list of questions that are personally great things to know. I probably sound like a blithering idiot but I choose to think of myself as an educated consumer thank-you-very-much.

Farmer Questions:

  • How old is the steer?
  • Has this steer ever been on antibiotics?
  • What for? How long ago?
  • What has it’s diet been like?
  • Has it been finished off on grain?
  • How long?

(If it is a home operation without much experience in growing out beef cow’s the following can be important to verify)

  • Will this be a steer or a bull? (Word of friendly caution here: You do NOT want bull meat! Gross gross gross)
  • How old was the calf when he was turned into a steer? (Ok so that one might be just a little bit dumb, however, if he got his full on adult hormones in gear before the snip snip took place it could mess up the flavor of the meat)

Butcher Questions:

  • How long do you let it “hang” for? (I’ve received conflicting reports about hanging time lengths and flavor/tenderness variances. Some say the bones give it a stronger flavor and that hanging it longer is wasteful due to how much meat has to be scraped off. This is something to do some personal research on and decide what you really want.)
  • Is there any extra charge for the bones, cracking the large ones and cutting them down to soup pot sizes?
  • Do you offer sausage or pre flavored blends for your ground beef?
  • Are they MSG Free?
  • Do you have an ingredient listing that can be reviewed?
  • How much extra is the cost for the sausage, or pre seasoned mixes?
  • Can I get the hooves and internal organs?
  • Will there be any extra charge for them?

The most recent 1/2 a cow we got was a new experiment for us. It is a grassfed Jersey steer. Very tiny. Was not not finished off on grain. The taste is different and a bit wilder and well…I guess “grassy” than what we have been used to. The jury is still out. The previous steer’s we have gotten were usually 3/4 misc. American Beef Breeds and 1/4 to 1/2 a really fascinating Italian breed Marchigano. What makes this such a great breed is that it exhibits double muscling occasionally. This supposedly accounts for exceptionally tender, falling apart meat with superb flavor. I cannot speak as an expert only as a consumer of approximately 4 of these cross bred cows and they are without a doubt the best meat we as a family have ever put in our mouths. These cow’s were finished off on a few days of grain at the Butcher’s feed lot before they were processed. Even so the amount of fat was approximately the same as the little Jersey.

Can anybody else add any helpful information to someone new to the concept of “bulk” beef ordering?

Coming soon photo’s, descriptions and reports from my very first venture into the world of uncooked meats. My friend Liz and I began our first attempt at it with the Raw Korean Beef Recipe from Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. We didn’t quite have all the correct ingredients so improvised a bit…Ok, well, a lot more than a bit. 😀 If the modifications are successful we’ll post the details incase anybody else wants a successful variant of that recipe. The thin strips of beef are currently marinating in it’s highly flavored and acidic bath. This little venture has me particularly nervous because I am bringing it to serve to some 50 individuals at our local Weston A Price Chapter Meeting tomorrow night.

This is violating my normal pot luck rules on multiple levels. First of all the inviolable “Never EVER under any circumstance serve a brand new, untested dish to strangers” and the second one that I didn’t even realize I had until tonight as I poked a stray piece of raw meat below the surface of the marinade is “Don’t serve raw meat to strangers.” Maybe it should actually be “Don’t serve raw meat to anybody.” Without testing this on a dog, or a cat or some other living thing it is rather a nerve wracking thing to contemplate. I am hoping and doing more than a tiny bit of praying that nobody get’s food poisoning from this tomorrow! Hmm. Thinking I should perhaps bring my every handy canister of activated charcoal and Peppermint Essential Oil with me. Just.In.Case. One really can’t ever be TOO well prepared!

To anybody attending tomorrow you have my advance apologies for any indigestion suffered. And yeah, I’ll have a glaringly obvious warning, I mean, label for the dish so nobody has to venture into such scary realms unwarned.

Until Next time!

Steph Tallent

Note from Nancy

A dear friend of mine wrote a lengthy and educational note in response to my MoneyMoneyMoney post of a few days ago . I think it deserves it’s very own post!  Nancy is a veteran of healthy eating and has been in my mental Hero’s Hall of Fame for quite a few years now.  She also recently became our local Weston A Price Chapter leader.  Below is Nancy’s note.  Enjoy!

Hi Stephanie!

LOVE your enthusiasm!  This will be a fun blog to follow.  We’ve been privileged to sample some of your concoctions, so I know you’re up to the task!

Just as I’ve learned everyone’s definition of what constitutes a “family-safe movie” is relative, so is people’s perception of being “financially tight”.  There are those of us who would love to buy in bulk but don’t have the cash flow to do so.  From my experience in that mode, I will add to your bargain-gathering ideas:

Make friends with gardeners.  They get overwhelmed with their abundance and will be glad to unload extra produce (especially cucumbers and tomatoes!) on you.  They’ll also love to have you “glean” when they are sick of picking and dealing with green beans, etc.

For healthy meats: Make friends with hunters.  I put a tiny sign on the bulletin board of a country store where hunters register their kills.  It said, “If you don’t want to fool with the deer you just got, our family could really use the meat.  We’ll do the processing.  Call 123-4567.”  Hunting season just concluded, and we were given SEVEN deer, just from that little note!  (Even if you live in an apartment, you can do this.  Hunt down a private stand of trees somewhere to skin and quarter the deer. Stick it in a large cooler and do the rest in your kitchen.  There are guide books for this, but I still just fill our freezer with “mystery hunks” in ziplock bags.  Works fine in the crock pot!)

Even in many suburban neighborhoods, one can keep discreetly a couple of milk goats (I suggest Alpine.  Nubian goats “talk” a lot.  Both have lovely butterfat and sweet milk.)  This would entail bringing in lots of hay and maybe some freshly fallen branches full of green leaves (for treats), being diligent with herbal wormers, and an area the size of a small backyard.  Bucks (man-goats) stink, but does (lady-goats) are quiet and gentle and clean.  They could be taken for a “fling” at a goat producer’s when breeding time came.  This would provide raw milk and wonderful compost!

Same goes for chickens.  Google movable chicken pens online.  Great photos of backyard chicken pens designed so they can get fresh grass and bugs everyday!  And you get fresh eggs and meat!

A drive to the area outlying a city will usually reveal a local meat processor or two.  I’ve found they often will have bones for free or cheap.  You can ask to reserve them when they know the animal was grass-fed.  Healing bone broths for soups and cooking liquid for grains are the result!

In hardwood parts of the country, late summer/early fall woods are full of hickory and black walnuts.  They’re a pain to pick out, but nuts are so expensive, it might be a good source.  Country roadsides and old fields often offer blackberries and elderberries the birds will eat if you don’t.  (Just be sure it’s not a polluted or sprayed area, and wash them well.)

One more: Get a book on eating from the land.  Especially in the springtime, the land is ABUNDANT with green edibles!  I’m still learning this art, but last spring, we made delicious smoothies in the blender with plantain, chickweed, clover, violets, and more along with avocado and other odds and ends thrown in.  A good blender breaks down the cell walls of the greens to make all their goodness available to us.  The most organic produce from Whole Foods doesn’t have half the nutrition of these greens!

The hard part about all this food scrounging is that it take time and extra work.  The reward is a deep satisfaction of having participated in bringing it in and the surety of its healthfulness.



Splurge Meal of the Week (And probably month)

Tonight I pulled some splurge Tuna Steaks out of the freezer, yanked the lonely remaining bag of frozen broccoli from alongside and eyeballed the jars of venison broth brooding in the fridge.

Fish steaks have been my nemesis. They end up either under cooked, Perfectly cooked in the middle and burned on the outside or else rubbery through and through. Had pretty much decided to never waste my money on them again but still had to use up the last four in the freezer. Tonight was a free wheeling, fly by the seat of whatever I find in the cabinets night for cooking. Blessedly it turned out marvelous hence my need to write everything I did down so when amnesia strikes the next time I’d like to replicate it I can find it safely saved away on this blog.

First the pre-seasoned as it cooked Venison broth with it’s nice layer of fat on top was dumped into the pot in preparation for the Quinoa.  To the base of 21 blend herbal spice seasoning this broth already had I added quite a bit of extra garlic, cumin and a bit of Oregano.

Next I started on the Broccoli. Put it in it’s little steamer set up still frozen solid and heavily sprinkled Celtic Sea salt, Garlic powder, black pepper, Cumin and the tiniest bit of cayenne. Cayenne could reasonably be substituted with mild Chili powder to get some of that flavor in there without the heat factor.

Next I prepared the Tuna for searing by patting them down with a paper towel and heavily sprinkling with a lemony sea salt spice blend.

Into my cast iron skillet goes butter…Lots of butter. I could not agree with Julia or Sally more. One can NEVER have too much butter!

Into the pan the mini little steaks plopped…

Where I promptly forgot to time them as every person with an ounce of experience knows to do.

Nevertheless they ended up being seared and cooked to perfection! Whew.

The Quinoa burbled away happily in it’s base of broth and when it was done I added a hefty portion of Kimchi and whole olives.

The Kimchi was purchased at the WAPF conference in Chicago.

Although I forgot to get pictures of the sauce drizzled over the fish there was one made. While the pan was still hot and the fish freshly removed a bit of extra butter and a whole lot of lemon juice was added. It ended up being a dark, drizzly and flavorful.  Right at the end before serving I also added some chunks of sharp cheddar cheese to the steamed broccoli and left it just long enough to melt into delectable yummy goodness.

And finally the dinner plated! Minus the sauce of course. Hmph. Would have been the perfect finishing touch. Oh well.

Off to bed, night night!

MoneyMoneyMoney…Totally not made of Money

As anyone who has stepped foot into a Health Food Store knows all to well anything that is touted as healthy, natural or the humdinger of them all organic is going to be significantly more of a drain to the budget than the bargain fare that can be found in the sale papers of the local grocery store.  Unless one is very desperate to try anything and pay an arm and a leg with all fingers and toes attached for last straw health improvement purposes, or else is very well educated about nutrition it’s enough to deter even a semi frugality conscious individual from wanting to have anything to do with this whole natural food movement. (See? I promised marathon sentences with poor grammar. More to come.)

MyMan and I are diligently working to dig ourselves out of a rather hefty pile of debt that we in our naive excitement over earning more money than we ever thought we would managed to accumulate. “But it’s an investment!” (Ever heard that before??) It isn’t as bad as some but we are definitely of a mindset now that we want no personal debt at all except perhaps some purely investment based debt. So, yeah, digging out of debt hole = living on a budget. A totally sufficient but not a whole lot of wiggle room or extravagant purchases budget. This is the one crimp in my high flying fancies of living the all natural organic foodie life daydreams are made of.  After talking and talking and talking some more (our favorite way of spending couple time) we finally decided that we would set our food budget higher than shoestring and lower than all organic. We have both known families to go hardcore “Dave Ramsey” on life as we’ve come to call it, living on dried potato flakes and ramen noodles for years at the expense of their families health. We desire to eat as healthily as possible while not going overboard on food extravagances at the expense of the War on Debt.

So, here are my foodie- budget-keeping tips-tricks-ideas-and otherwise obvious statements.

Electricity where we live in central TN is pretty dadgum cheap. Not that this is an excuse to leave the lights burning 24/7 but it does mean that energy efficient chest freezers do not incure an unreasonable monthly expense.  When purchased at a couple of years old off of craigslist or a local dented appliances warehouse one can obtain chest freezers without too much cost. There is of course the space issue…Right now I have oodles of space so that is not a deterrent. For those with tight quarters there are some relatively small chest freezers that can be found. If it is possible at all to chisel some space for one they are totally worth every lost inch. With shelves put above them it isn’t a total loss of space, just the floor part!  Freezer space allows me to bargain shop and bulk buy without worrying about having to eat 80lbs of apples before they go bad. Another thing that is invaluable if you are into culturing food like I am is an extra fridge. Or cellar if you are lucky. Anything that stays consistently cool year-round. My goal is to replace canning as much as I can with culturing and for me this entails a second fridge. Again, if you can spare the space and afford the extra bit of cost energy efficient models will probably pay for itself before too long.

My favorite thing to do is buy in bulk.  We live a hefty drive from The Big City where most of the healthy bargains live so for me it is a more frugal move to stockpile what I can vs. frequently buy small quantities. Our gas budget and the environment should thank me.  Requires advance planning but enough trial and error and even I eventually figured out how to do it. If there is insufficient storage space start looking for a network of local individuals that can go into large orders with you and split it. Buying clubs can also be a great way to get fantastic organic/all natural dry goods savings. Right now I have four people I split my organic oil orders with. Grassfed Beef orders are also divided. Same goes for bulk organic fruit orders.

God failed to give me the math in the head ability that most penny pinching bargain shoppers are blessed with. Have a friend that can keep a running tally of price per ounce or lb. standard pricing from 5 different stores along with the accompanying sale price. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about that and a surreal out of body experience begins to happen. So, I’ve created some basic buying rules for myself. I set a “maximum” and “fantastically incredible” price per lb/ounce of specific items. Some examples:

Grassfed/pastured/organic/all natural meat: $3.00 lb maximum $0.80 per lb. fantastically incredible

All natural/organic fruits and veggies: $2.00 lb. maximum $0.25 lb. fantastically incredible

Wild caught fish (from safe sources, very hard to find): $5.00 lb. maximum $2.000 fantastically incredible.

All natural/organic Beans and Grains: $1.50 lb. maximum $0.35 lb fantastically incredible

So on and so forth. Shopping farmer’s markets in season is an excellent way to stay on the low end of my set price ranges. This spring for the first time I am purchasing a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. It’s been a long time goal of mine to support local agriculture and I finally figured out how to finagle it into my budget.

For those that are able a garden is a marvelous foodie saving way to spend time. Plus it gets indoor pasties like me outdoors! My black thumb perpetually gets in the way of the lovely garden that lives in my imagination but I pursue it as a worthwhile activity anyway.

Planning meals around whatever I have bought up at my cheapo prices allows me to usually fly under my set budget. The occasional once a week splurge on foods that are on my “high” range of price allowance is the current game plan that seems to be working out pretty well.  Nothing makes me want to beat my chest and holler “I AM DA WOMAN!!!” more than handing over an extra chunk of money back to MyMan for extra to fuel the Debt War momentum because I was able to keep us under the food budget for a few months.

Last but certainly not least is the ages old principle that cooking from scratch is always and forever cheaper than buying pre-mixed, pre packaged, pre-pretty-much-anything. You pay for it in time but depending on where you are in life it can be totally worth the savings.

Time for me to run off and do some essential oil experimentation for the cold caused stuffy Doodlebugs. Will break out the frozen chicken broth from the freezer and stuff her with chicken noodle soup tomorrow.  Recipe’s forthcoming.


For the past two years I have been learning in baby steps how to become Queen of my kitchen. Not just to rule with judicious wisdom the flavor’s, textures and creativity of dishes but to also learn how to make them beneficial to the body without too much sacrifice on beloved flavors and textures.

After watching the movie Julie & Julia inspiration struck. I should blog about my journey or rather my adventure as the romantic side of me likes to think of it. A New Year’s resolution was to write at least something about anything every day. This of course to be started immediately after getting my sweet tooth under control and exercising on a daily basis. My own personal “Julia” is Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A Price Foundation. Her cookbook Nourishing Traditions has been the bible of my kitchen for a long time now. And sad to say I’ve opened and actually used it with about the same frequency as the average person does with the real Bible. Still, I regard it with the utmost respect and love quoting excerpts from it to my nutritionally lost and in need of nutritional salvation friends.

I currently reside in a large house with MyMan and the Doodlebug otherwise known as our two year old daughter. Our doors are always open and we have a veritable stream of people coming and going on a constant basis. At this point in my life I have more help than any woman deserves with household tasks, cooking, cleaning and even childcare. It is my determination to finally once and for all tackle the monumental work that is Nourishing Traditions. It shall be conquered and thoroughly incorporated! The excuse I’ve been fondest of is “I have no time!” which also happened to be true back when I was using it. Nowadays it simply isn’t true. So no more excuses. The current level of life aid that I have is slated to last for six months to a year. It is my commitment to take full advantage of this and blog about it for whatever readers happen along.

You have my not so solemn promise to adhere to the following rules when posting here:

– To post with poor grammar, marathon long sentences and possibly horrible spelling since I shan’t be passing my blog posts through the editors that normally get to make my verbal drivels readable.

– To always find humor in everything. Somehow. Somewhere. It may be subtle. It may be obnoxious. And it’ll likely be semi twisted. But it’ll be there.

– To perpetually share my passion for food, flavor and oh yeah, nutrition too.

So, let it begin!