Gluten Free Birthday Cake

The Doodlebug had a few specific requests for her 4th Birthday. All of them were pretty easy to cater to like the Princess Hat (So glad I saved that tiara from my wedding veil!) but her cake request was going to be a challenge. She wanted a Blueberry Cake. No other kind of cake would do.

I began researching and reading various gluten free cake recipes hoping to find one that suited what I was looking for. I was thinking if I could just find an awesome gluten free plain Vanilla Cake base then I could modify and tweak it into what we needed. However finding a gluten free vanilla cake recipe that was a wonderful texture proved to be a lot harder than I ever anticipated. While there are awesome gluten free chocolate cake recipes galore plain ol’ vanilla was proving hard to find. I finally found one though and proceeded to make a bunch of modifications to it. It turned out great!

Gluten Free Blueberry Cake (Vanilla Cake)

1/2 c. White Rice Flour
1/2 c. Sorghum Flour
2/3 c. Arrowroot Flour
1/3 c. Potato Starch
1 c. Finely ground Turbinado (Raw Sugar)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp.  sea salt
2 heaping tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter
3 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup cream

1/4 cup Blueberry Juice (concentrate is best. Can be replaced with milk if you don’t want to tint the batter a blue/purplish color to go with the whole blueberry theme)

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Grease pans-this recipe makes 16-18 cupcakes, 2 6-inch round layers, 9-inch square, or a 10-inch round.  

Throughly combine the first 8 dry ingredients in a separate bowl. 

Place softened butter in mixer bowl and beat until fluffy.  Add flour mix to butter, blending on lowest setting until combined, then changing to setting “2” on the mixer until mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute.  

In small bowl, lightly whisk eggs and vanilla together.  Add eggs to mixer and mix until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.  Add milk and blueberry juice and mix for 1 more minute.  

Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick is clean.  Time will depend on the shape of your pan, but should be about 24 minutes for cupcakes, 45 minutes for a loaf pan.

I should note, I think full strength or concentrated Blueberry juice would have sufficiently tinted the cake a sort of blue purple color I had a couple tablespoons of a mashed juice from fresh blueberries. My cake did not turn out anything close to being tinted a nice purple color but it had just enough I’m convinced it’s possible and plan on testing it again with a blueberry concentrated juice at some point in the future. =)

Once the cakes were baked it was time to decorate!

Vanilla Cake

Vanilla Cake

I made both a Buttercream icing and a Cream-cheese Icing using gluten free powdered sugar. I got mine from Whole Foods and they use Tapioca Flour instead of Corn Starch or Modified Food Starch like many brands of powdered sugar use. Once the Icings were assembled we set to work. The middle and top were done with the Cream Cheese. I put a basic layer down in the middle and then laid a blanket of fresh blueberries out over it and put another layer on top making the middle layer of the cake rich and well populated with blueberries. The sides were iced in the ButterCream.

Starting the Icing Project

Starting the Icing Project

Cream Cheese Icing Going over the top

Cream Cheese Icing Going over the top

Blueberry Be-decked and iced cake

Blueberry Be-decked and iced cake

And then came the fun part. I ran out to the yard and collected random blooming herbs from my Herb garden. We also took organic lemon rind gratings to sprinkle over the top for a touch of color. All in all I was thrilled how the fresh herb decorations turned out.

Decorated Cake

Decorated Cake

The Doodles was thrilled with it. =D

Doodles Blowing out her Candles

Doodles Blowing out her Candles

And one last image to show off the inside of the cake and the rather anemic gray color my pathetic attempts at dying it with blueberry juice produced. It looks visually a lot more dense than it actually was. I’ve never had a gluten free cake quite this fluffy before so it was definitely a triumph on that front! It got more moist and the flavor got even better after it sat a day.

Inside detail of gluten free blueberry cake

Inside detail of gluten free blueberry cake

If you decide to try the cake let me know how it turns out for you! Also any successful improvements or tweaks you make along the way. =)

Incredible Indulgence

It came to me in a dream. No, seriously, it did! The Doodlebug was having a few too many meltdowns and I recognized the signs. The anti-nap child must nap today or she would drive us all insane. She hasn’t taken daily naps (minus road trips in car-seat naps) in months.  She’s currently in a “I’m a baby!” stage and is determined to do all things baby-like. Primarily whine which holds true to to how she spent most of her time when she was an actual baby. I plunked her down in our bed and informed her that if she was a baby then she must take a nap. Now trapped into conceding to a nap in order to stay true to her baby persona she laid down somewhat willingly while clutching my hand. Deciding to cuddle with her until she dozed off and then go back to being the responsible adult I pretend to be most days I snuggled up next to her. The next thing I knew we both opened our eyes and I was met with a beautiful toddler grin and the announcement “I baby Mom!” Naptime didn’t change much in her world but mine was rocked by a dream of brownies.

Not just any brownies mind you. Gluten free, chocolate, fudgelike brownies but with a special twist. Cappuchino-Chocolate Brownies. Could it be done I wondered? A quick google search informed me that indeed, it could be done. Not wanting to taint my dream inspired version of this delight with other peoples versions I refrained from skimming others recipes. Instead I conned-I er, coaxed my fellow kitchen conspirator Liz to help me come up with a recipe.

Coffee-Toffee Nut Brownies

1 stick salted butter

3 Tablespoons Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
6 ounces bittersweet Chocolate pieces
1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 Cup Heavenly Sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon GF Flour Mixture
½ teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1/2 Cup Cappuccino Mix (We used French Vanilla and White Chocolate)

1/4 Cup veryVERYvery strong (bordering on Espresso strength) Coffee

½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened raw cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon real Vanilla (I used my homemade Bourbon Vanilla)
Couple of Squares of Chocolate Covered Toffee. We used Pistachio Dark Chocolate covered Toffee from Trader Joe’s

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line edges of pan with foil. (I went ahead and lined the whole thing with foil in anticipation of these being very prone to sticking) Spray with Olive Oil.

Sprayed, Foil lined glass pan

Sprayed, Foil lined glass pan

2. Combine butter, coconut oil and chocolate in a thick bottomed pot or well seasoned cast iron pan. On low stir until melted and thoroughly mixed in.  Let stand and then stir until smooth. Add sugar and stir. Set aside to cool slightly.

Melting butter, coconut oil and chocolate

Melting butter, coconut oil and chocolate

Melted Butter/Coconut oil/Chocolate

Melted Butter/Coconut oil/Chocolate

Heavenly brand herbal processed raw sugar

Heavenly brand herbal processed raw sugar

3. In a small bowl, whisk together GF Flour Mixture, xanthan gum, salt, and cocoa powder and cappuccino mix. Set aside.

Gluten Free Flour mix from Austin TX

Gluten Free Flour mix from Austin TX

Cappucchino Powder

Cappucchino Powder

4. Whisk eggs one at a time into chocolate mixture; then stir in Vanilla and Coffee. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour into pan. Pound Toffee into chunks and sprinkle across top of brownies.

Brownie batter, high glossy sheen with a thick/smooth texture

Brownie batter, high glossy sheen with a thick/smooth texture

Toffee Topped Brownie Batter

Toffee Topped Brownie Batter

5. Bake 35-40 minutes, turning halfway through. A toothpick inserted in center will come out with a few moist crumbs (or clean). Let cool completely. Brownie will be extremely moist (it becomes more fudgy as it cools). The Toffee will melt into the batter as it bakes resulting in even more deliciousness and adds a hint of crunch when it cools. The texture of this amazing brownie is more like cheesecake than brownie. It melts into your mouth with velvety smoothness while delivering the complexity of deep chocolate flavor with the nutty undertones of coffee and a creamy hint of cappucchino. And did I mention moist? It almost went without saying that these are beyond moist. Not dense, not overly fluffy…just right.

There just are no words for how incredibly delectable these are.

Brownies cooling fresh out of oven

Brownies cooling fresh out of oven

Detail of Brownie showing the edge where Toffee melted into the brownie

Detail of Brownie showing the edge where Toffee melted into the brownie

More Brownie texture detail

More Brownie texture detail

Enjoy with a tall glass of milk or a cup of hot tea. If you make it tell me how it turns out for you!

The Great Chicken Cook-Off

Ok so it wasn’t so great. But it was certainly a lot of fun! A friend of mine, Liz is an aspiring Chef and a wonderful inspiration and encouragement to my kitchen adventures. I also have the priviledge of working with her almost every day of the week. A couple of days ago, as we counted down the last hours of our work day we both realized that we had whole chickens in our respective refrigerators that needed to be cooked soon. And suddenly, just like that the idea of a chicken cook-off was born.  The minute the clock struck five we took off to our kitchens and the baking commenced. Neither divulged to the other the seasoning scheme, the plan being that it would be a total surprise.

I started with an Organic Birdie purchased from the Mainstream Costco. No, I don’t want to hear about how it’s still industrialized farming and that the bird was probably fed a steady diet of pure soy. Nope, just don’t wanna hear it or think about it right now thank-you-very-much.

Fresh Organic Chicken

Fresh Organic Chicken

I rinsed it off really good, patted it down and sprinkled sea salt on the interior then laid it to rest with it’s companion internal parts in the pan to prepare for the “Seasoning”

chicken prepared for it's seasoning

chicken prepared for it's seasoning

I use garlic for everything. In the case of this particular chicken I took garlic cloves (a whole heads worth) and peeled the skin off of each one. Toddlers are great for these sorts of projects. The Doodlebug loves helping me and this is one of her favorite jobs.

Fresh head of garlic

Fresh head of garlic

Once I had the garlic gloves ready the insertion stage began. I slide garlic cloves under the skin of the chicken alternating with pats of butter. It makes the skin kinda look weird but assures that the meat is niiiiiice juicy and tender. And the garlic adds a nice roasted flavor as well. Some fresh ground pepper on top and a few drizzles of lemon juice (normally I use fresh, only had the refrigerated kind this time, it gives a bit more concentrated flavor)

Butter and Garlic under the chicken skin

Butter and Garlic under the chicken skin

Next we slather seasonings alllll over the top and inside cavity.

MSG Free Chicken Seasoning

MSG Free Chicken Seasoning

My own personal mix of Cayenne and Indian Spices in the Cayenne container

My own personal mix of Cayenne and Indian Spices in the Cayenne container

Sea salt and black pepper

Sea salt and black pepper

Now that the chicken is thoroughly covered….

Seasoned Chicken

Seasoned Chicken

Next the “Trussing” in which you can have fun tying up the chicken.

Trussed Bird

Trussed Bird

Once the bird was tied I stuck a head of garlic into the cavity and piled a few more seasonings over the top for good measure. Foil was used to seal the bird in and the whole thing slid into a 400 degree oven. After it baked for about 40 min. I removed the foil and let it bake uncovered the rest of the time until it was done. While the chicken baked I made a cabbage based stir fry with roasted red peppers and oh yes, more fresh garlic. I also reheated some cheese gluten free biscuits leftover from the previous nights meal.

Cabbage Stir Fry

Cabbage Stir Fry

Finally the hour of truth! Both our birds were ready for the standoff. I was pleased with the nice crisp skin mine ended up with!

My bird

My bird

Liz my worthy opponent tried a totally different technique from mine. She baked her bird breast down which is a trick many recommend to ensure that the breast meat stays juicy since it is facing down. She also did not truss her bird and it ensured even crispy skin all over. Her bird had a wonderful Southwestern Smokey flavor that was divine! ALSO she made the most AMAAAAAAZING potatoes ever. Seriously. She says her secret was sprinkling them with steak seasoning. I don’t know if that is true or not but I DO know they were truly incredible. Good thing our side dishes were not cooking off against each other because no matter how good a stir-fry there is no way it can stack up against potatoes like those.

Liz's Chicken

Liz's chicken

All in all I liked Liz’s bird much better than mine. It was smokey, full of flavor, slightly spicy and yet moist and tender. With both of us casting votes for each others chicken we ended up with a tie. It was a LOT of fun and I recommend cook-off’s to any of my friends who like fooling around in the kitchen! I suspect Liz and I have a few more cookoffs in our future. Stay tuned.

The two Chickens about to be eaten.

The two Chickens about to be eaten.

Politics of Food: Shameless Share

 

Hey everybody. I’m in the middle of working on an UTI post that is taking an inordinate amount of time/research. Today however I received my copy of Wise Traditions from the Weston A. Price Foundation. There is an article in it by one of my favorite food activists Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Whether you love him, hate him, laugh at him or nod your head in agreement, I am going to type it up word for word to share with you here and hope the WAPF doesn’t mind that I’m sharing this with my readers. This is actually the text of the keynote address he gave at the WAPF Conference that we attended in PA. It seems like too important of a message to keep to myself! For the typos you have my advance apologies.

This is long, very long but please set aside some time to read it. I can guarantee it’ll stretch your perspectives on at least one angle or aspect of the battle for food here in the US.

–Steph

The Politics of Food: Standing Toe to Toe with the Apologists for Industrial Farming

By Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin

Tonight I am going to talk in a broad way about the politics of food and to examine the assumption made by the apologists for the industrial agriculture. I think it’s important when we come to the table and begin negotiations with the other side that we realize what a sales opportunity this represents. Those of us who support small-scale, pasture-based farming and a return to the real food are selling an idea to our culture, an idea that is now so foreign to most people that it’s hard for us to conceive just how foreign it is.

Sometimes it’s good to step back and look in a realistic way at their assumptions and how they acquired them. I don’t like to use the word conspiracy; what’s happened to our agricultural and food systems is not a conspiracy but the logical result of a fraternity of ideas. These guys have all been to the same schools, and they all play on the same golf course. Or, as Jerry Brunetti says, they all licked the same golf balls that have rolled through the chemicalized turf. It’s important for us to understand where they’re coming from in a mutually respectful way. I admit that from my perspective as a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic, it’s actually hard for me to understand how these people can go down to the Presbyterian or the Lutheran church, sit in the pew and take the sacraments all the while dumping toxic chemicals on God’s earth. How can they sit there and not wrestle with the moral question of whether it matters that we encourage the pigness of the pig? The great questions of life, they don’t even wrestle with. How did this happen?

And so in my years of going to hearings and rubbing shoulders with people, including my own neighbors, who think I’m a bio terrorist, I’ve come to appreciate the essence of what they think.

I’ve made a list of twelve assumptions that we need to understand if we are going to appreciate how they think and if we are going to formulate an appropriate response – because it’s important for us in our daily life with friends, at the Little League game, at the elders’ meeting, at public gatherings, to be able to stand toe to toe and articulate our position in the politics of food.

ONE: YOUR SYSTEM CAN’T FEED THE WORLD

This is the number one assumption from the greater culture out there: your system can’t feed the world. If our system can’t feed the world, then we’re all just living in a pipe dream. How can we take a moral road advocating a system that can’t feed the world?

One day I sat down at a banquet in Washington state, and the guy next to me sits down and just looks at me and says: “Why do you want a half a million Orientals to be blind?” Turns out he was a great advocate of genetically engineered “golden rice” to provide vitamin A to Asians, because otherwise they would go blind. Of course the reason lots of Asians are short of Vitamin A is because they are using chemicals from the West that have nuked all the bokchoy and arugula and Chinese cabbage that were native around the rice paddies, along with the tilapia that ate the snails and along with the ducks that laid eggs and made meat and ate the algae. Truth be told, you have to eat ten pounds of golden rice in order to get the same amount of carotenes that you would get out of one serving of a vibrant green bokchoy or arugula.

So non-toxic, small-scale agriculture can’t feed the world? Let me paint a picture for you. In the early 1800’s, a famous Austrian chemist named Justus von Liebig began vacuum tube isolations to find out what things are made of. In 1837 he introduced his findings to the world when he declared that everything in life-people, plants, animals, everything – is just a rearrangement of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. N-P-K- that’s all we’re made of. That notion gradually developed into what we know today as chemical agriculture.

Now fast forward to about 1900 and we have a great panic in the world because Laura Ingalls Wilder finished going West, and there was no more West. Australia and the United States had both run out of virgin prairies for Europeans to exploit, and so there was a worldwide panic about how we are going to feed the world. With the Dust Bowl and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, everyone was asking how we were going to maintain soil fertility. This question absolutely occupied the world’s mind between the years of 1900 and 1930. This coincided with the height of the industrial revolution, so it was easy to embrace an industrial solution to the problem of declining soil fertility – just apply N-P-K fertilizer, that’s all we had to do.

In contrast to Justus von Liebig’s mechanical view of life, others proposed the radical idea that food, farming and biology are fundamentally non-mechanical systems. If the wheel bearing goes bad in your car, you can’t just leave the car parked on the side of the road, let it rest and come back ten years later to find that the bearings have healed. The difference with, and the beauty of, biological systems is that they are dynamic, they can heal, and aren’t we glad for that? A number of thinkers at the time, such as Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and John James Audubon, recognized a biological mystique embedded in the physical world. They noted that we differentiate between mechanisms and biology. And so we have these two radically different schools of thought, each pursuing a separate line of research.

Now it’s important to understand that with any innovation, it takes a while for the infrastructure, policy and knowledge that follows the innovation to metabolize so that it reaches the entire culture. For example, with the e-commerce boom, all the state governments are going into apoplectic seizures trying to figure out how to collect retail sales taxes when people don’t go to box stores and instead buy online and shelter their purchases from sales tax vendors. The innovation is in place, but it takes time for the metabolic cultural policy to catch up. Well, the same thing happened with these two very different proposals for solving the soil fertility problem.

One was chemical or mechanical, and one was biological. The biological effort was led by a British botanist named Sir Albert Howard. He had dedicated his life to studying the problem of soil fertility and in 1943 he announced his solution to the problem: aerobic composing.

Unfortunately, in 1943 the world was pre-occupied with a little disturbance called World War II, and that disturbance was funneled billions of dollars and the best and brightest of the world into the mechanistic path. It turns out that nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus-N-P-K-is what we need to make bombs. And so the Pentagon essentially financed the metabolic infrastructure knowledge to handle what Justus von Liebig proposed in 1837. Thus the war effort financed to an unfair advantage the chemical approach to agriculture.

We need to understand that in 1943, when Sir Albert Howard brought composting to the world, we did not even have rural electrification in Augusta County, my county. Augusta County did not get rural electrification until 1957 and Georgia did not get rural electrification until 1965. Not only did most farms lack electricity in 1942, they did not have chippers. They did not even have tractors, they were still using mules in our county in the mid 1950s. There were no PTO-powered manure spreaders. Goodness, some farms were just starting to use metal instead of wooden pitchforks. The point is that when you’re composting, when you’re running fertility off real time solar biomass for decomposition, it involves a lot of materials handling, and materials handling was very difficult back then. Not only that, but I would suggest that it just goes with the masculine psyche to think that composting isn’t as cool as bombs. Bombs are way more sexy than compost.

Imagine you are a farmer in the 1950’s, when we are ramping up industrial production again after the war. We needed to industrialize the farm because most of the workers had left the farm for jobs in the cities. And the starting gun goes off to solve the soil fertility issue. As a farmer, you can either buy a small amount of material in a bag very cheaply because it already has production and distribution infrastructure, or you can find all your neighbors to go out with a pitchfork and try to machete up some biomass and tote manure around and spread it without a PTO-powered manure spreader- or a tractor or chipper or conveyor belt or any of those kinds of things that farmers have today. If you were a farmer in 1950 what would you do?

The point is there was no Manhattan Project for compost. Had we had a Manhattan Project for compost, not only would we have fed the world, but we would have done it without making any three-legged salamanders, infertile frogs and a dead zone the size of Rhode Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today we have all sorts of high-tech infra-structure to leverage the scientific composting and pasture management that Andre Voisin, Sir Albert Howard, J. I. Rodale and other pioneers in the biological food movement brought to the table. We have solar-powered electric fences, electro-netting, front-end loaders, chippers, four-wheel drive tractors, PTO-manure spreaders, hoop structures, canvas coverings, band-saw mills and electro-magnified sprays. We have all sorts of stuff to make composting and manure-spreading feasible, but it took over fifty years for our side without any government help to create the infrastructure to metabolize, leverage and capitalize on Sir Albert Howard’s 1943 gift to the world. And now we have come to this point, we’re spinning circles around the other side.

Other points about feeding the world: remember, folks, the United States has thirty-five million acres of lawn. Let that sink in a little bit, thirty-five million acres. And we have thirty-six million acres for housing and feeding recreational horses, that’s seventy-one million acres, enough to feed the entire country without any farms or ranches. What do you mean biological farming can’t feed the world? We’ve got plenty of land, plenty of ability to do just that.

What we need to do is attach chicken houses to every kitchen. Every kitchen should have an attached number of chickens to eat the kitchen scraps and keep them out of the landfill, and provide us with fresh eggs. If you can keep parakeets in your condominium, throw out the parakeets, they’re just nasty noise makers and put in two chickens.

There’s a new book coming out called America Wasteland and it documents how America wastes 50% of all its human edible food. A lot of that waste happens through spoilage and long distance transportation. When the tomatoes come across fifteen hundred miles of jiggling, they get mushy unless you genetically breed them into cardboard so they don’t bruise. So spoilage from warehousing, storage and transport is a big source of waste. So don’t be shy about defending the fact that small-scale, local, pasture based agriculture can feed the world.

TWO: YOU REJECT TECHNOLOGY

The next big political argument: You want us to go back to loin cloths, wash boards, hog cholera and tuberculosis, right? They absolutely think we’re just a bunch of Neanderthals, wanting to turn the clock back on technological evolution and everything modern. Here again, the scene is set for this attitude in the early 1900’s. If you could go back and pick up all of the leading metropolitan newspapers in the land, you would find a recurring theme in every editorial page, from about 1908 to 1912, namely that cities in America were going to be consumed and implode under a mountain of horse manure because the country was urbanizing way faster then the infrastructure in cities could handle it. Remember we were still using gas lights in most places because electrification hadn’t arrived yet, we were just beginning to get plumbing, were just starting to clean up our water with sewage systems, we were just starting to replace the polluting horse with the car. The point is that the tip of innovation at that time was urbanization, yet we did not have refrigerators or sewers, and people were still taking one bath a winter. We did not have electric lights to see whether the floor was dirty, and you had to take the bed outside to look for bed bugs. We only washed utensils in surgeries between arm amputations.

It’s important to understand the context. Urbanization was crowding people in the cities and vacating the countryside, before farmers had electric fences, canvas covers, concrete, pharmaceuticals, sanitizer soap, stainless steel, refrigeration or electrification. Farmers were beginning to industrialize their farms, people were beginning to crowd into the cities, and the combination of the two without the metabolic leveraging of these new technological innovations created rapid infectious diseases both people and on farms due to the overcrowding and industrialization of each before the infrastructure was able to metabolize the new dynamics.

There’s a huge lag between innovation and metabolization-in business it’s called the “slinky effect.” Today we have a host of things that didn’t exist back then, which have enabled us to solve the kinds of problems that accompanied industrialization, starting in 1915 to about 1950. Unfortunately, a lot of the perceptions about food safety are still based on that two-to three-decade anomaly crowding of people in the cities and crowding of animals on the farm- before industry gave us the rest and completed the picture.

When epidemiologists today tell us that raw milk is a bad thing, the first thing they’ll do is bring up 1940’s data, all derived from that specific anomalous time period.

When our opponents say that we want to go back to the Neanderthal Age, they are assuming that we want to engage in biological farming without electricity, stainless steel and hot water. But this is not correct. What we want to do is go back to the wise traditions of heritage based system along with all of the appropriate metabolic capacity to solve all the problems that occurred during the infantile stage, during the diaper phase of the industrial revolution.

NUMBER THREE: FOOD SAFETY INSPECTION SHOULD MEASURE PERFORMANCE

The assumption is that the food safety inspection service should measure performance in pounds of product per person hours of inspection. This concept might be new to you. The last time I testified at a congressional hearing was when Congressman Dennis Kucinich convened a meat-safety hearing following that California operation where the downer cows were being picked up with a fork lift and taken into the abattoir. The first guy to testify in the hearing was the head of US Food, Safety, and Inspection Service. It actually shocked me to listen to him pat himself on the back and describe how much more efficient the department had become since there were no longer many neighborhood abattoirs and the inspectors could see so many more thousands of pounds of product per hour going past their noses. This was an unprecedented economy of scale, of productivity and efficiency, the likes of which we had never seen before! And it struck me–my goodness, why didn’t I think of this before–that if these people measure performance in pounds of product going by their noses. That’s the industrial mindset.

This mindset really became apparent to me when a friend of mine started a little neighborhood abattoir. Now remember, the law says if you get the stamp of approval from the USDA, then they will provide you an inspector for your abattoir. So he got all the stamps and cleared all the hurdles and then opened his door to start processing. They shut him down two weeks later because they said he was not fast enough. Now that’s not how the law reads. The law doesn’t say anything about speed.

So it’s hard for us to believe that in the mindset of the inspection service, they actually think they’ve arrived when they’re seeing a lot more things going by them, which means there is this massive prejudice in the entire system against anything small. A massive prejudice against us. They don’t like to stand there in a small plant, because they think they’re wasting their time. “Why should I waste my time?” I mean that’s a nice noble thing, isn’t it to not want to waste time and the taxpayers’ money. And so they can feel very good about themselves because they’re against small plants, and they value their time and their co-workers’ time. That makes the inspector a very noble person.

The problem with this prejudice against smallness is that it discriminates against embryonic innovation. All innovation, the things that we are bringing to our culture, all have to start somewhere as a prototype. If they have to start big and fast, the embryo is too big to be birthed and that’s the problem with non-scalable regulations.

NUMBER FOUR: FOOD SAFETY IS ALL ABOUT THE LETHAL DOSE

Lethal dose is the standard of toxicology, the standard in the industry. I’m reminded of Bill Wolf, who started importing Icelandic kelp into the US and selling it because of the high return he was getting. He branded it as a plant growth stimulant and, of course, to fill out a box on the paperwork to the EPA, he had to provide the lethal dose. Well, they were feeding those rats kelp and they just got healthier and slicker. So he’s scratching his head, “How do I check off the lethal dose box on this plant food?” So he finally got a five gallon bucket of water, put a little bit of his seaweed in there, dropped the rat in, drowned him, and put his check on the box. The problem is that when we go with the lethal dose idea, it often can’t be measured in any meaningful way.

What the industrial food system give us is not a lethal dose but a long, slow death. As long as the food doesn’t make you drop dead right now then it’s safe. And so our culture measures safety as the absence of a toxic reaction, and as a result we worship at the altar of sterility and antiseptic standards. This creates a food system that’s actually deadly for our three trillion-member internal community. Living food is full of bacteria. Cheese, sauerkraut, yeast, mold and living material: real food is biological.

Let me describe the results of a food safety research project of the USDA Agricultural Research Service at College Station, Texas. The hygiene hypothesis was first publicized in the early 1990’s and has slowly gained currency among medical doctors, researchers and public health officials. This hypothesis states that the lack of exposure of children, as well as adults, to dirt, bacteria, and low levels of pathogens results in an immune system that does not function normally. The lack of antibodies to true pathogens has resulted in the dramatic increase in allergies and asthma in developed countries over the past twenty years. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that the number of people with some form of allergy has more than doubled over the last two decades. This trend has been largely attributed to the lack of true immunity. Because we are too sanitary, the humane immune system becomes bored or over sensitized to any perceived threat and hyper-responds to non-threats like dust and pollen. We have run into the law of unintended consequences. We have never questioned whether the removal of all bacteria from all foods is actually beneficial to the consumer.

The crux of the hygiene hypothesis is that the immune system needs a low level of challenge stimulation to prevent immune system over-sensitization. So we need to be very aggressive about saying that some bacteria are good for you, because bacteria exercise the immune system. Every child should eat a pound of dirt before he’s twelve. We should not be embarrassed to assert that our food should not be sterile. The only place we want sterile is in a surgery.

NUMBER FIVE: FOOD GETS SAFER THE FARTHER IT GETS REMOVED FROM THE FARM

“Farms are dirty.” We encountered this attitude when we started selling pork to Chipotle Mexican Grill, and their quality assurance people found out that we were going to take the pigs to the slaughterhouse, bring the meat back in vacuum baggies, put it in the refrigerator overnight, put it on the bus the next morning and send it to Chipotle. Their quality assurance people went nuts because “Farms are dirty.” We couldn’t have that meat going back to our walk in cooler because, you know, a farm is dirty. I guess they’ve never had a picnic on a farm. It’s as though the farther away that food gets from the farm, the cleaner it’ll get. If it’s dirty on the farm, so the thinking goes, the cleaner it gets. Cities are much cleaner than farms. This notion has been created by industrial farming.

We’ve all heard of Louis Pasteur and his germ theory. Well, we should all know about Michel Bernard, his French nemesis, who looked at Louis Pasteur and said: au contraire. Sure, there are germs out there, but when it comes to disease, what we should be looking at is the terrain. One of the greatest recants in history was Pasteur who, on his death bed, rose up on his elbow in a moment of awareness and was able to audibly say “Bernard was right, it is all about the terrain,” and then he fell back and died.

But we still in this culture worship the germ theory. I know we do because if we didn’t we’d be far more concerned with getting the corn syrup vending machines out of our schools than giving our children a heavy metalized H1N1 flu vaccine. So entrenched is the germ theory in our culture that we go all out for eradication of diseases instead of assuming it is management’s fault.

The fundamental veterinary perspective today is that disease is caused by either germs or genetics. There’s nothing about the terrain in this science-based perspective. Let me asked you this: if we wanted to create a pathogen-friendly kind of farm, what would we do? Well, first thing we would do is go to just one species, eliminate all diversity, and then we would take those animals and crowd them together and eliminate fresh air and sunshine- make them breathe fecal particulate so they get nice lesions in their mucous membranes, allowing the fecal particulate to go right into their blood-stream and poison their livers and kidneys. Of course, we would eliminate exercise, make sure they’re all couch potatoes. We’d put them on slabs of concrete and we’d feed them artificially fertilized junk food. What have I just described? Modern American farming, science-based farming.

The assumption is that factories are much cleaner than farms; that’s why I’m called a bio-terrorist in our community- because our pastured chickens are going to commingle with red-winged birds who will take our diseases the science -based environmentally controlled Tyson chicken houses and destroy the planet. We laugh, but trust me, my neighbors really believe that.

Last fall, I needed some sawdust so I called the sawmill where we’ve always gotten it before. The guy told me they didn’t have a truck anymore; they’d subleased it to a guy up the road. So I called the guy, who said he’d be there around nine o’ clock, no problem, with the truck loaded. Then he called back. He said, “you know, your name sounded familiar to me.” This guy lives just a few miles from us. “I found out you’re that guy. I wouldn’t bring you sawdust for anything, not for a million dollars. I wouldn’t bring it because you abuse your cows, you don’t vaccinate and medicate them, you abuse your chickens because you don’t give them hormones so they grow faster, you expose your pigs to the outdoors where they can get viruses.” The phone was melting in my hands. I didn’t ask him to come to a picnic with me or anything, I just wanted some sawdust. These people can feel extremely good about their moral high road in protecting the world from folks like me because, after all, they don’t want the world to starve.

So there’s a real societal prejudice against dirt. You know what, no other society has ever had the luxury of putting so little effort into acquiring, preserving, distributing, and preparing food. This has led to completely aberrant thinking, namely, that a farm is a negative place to be.

NUMBER SIX: GOVERNMENT AGENTS ARE MORE TRUSTWORTHY THAN ANY BUSINESS PERSON

That’s definitely a cultural perception right now. We have our government schools to make sure everybody grows up worshipping government agents, so prejudice against business is a big deal. In fact, I would say this is even happening in the local food movement because many of our farmers are afraid to make a profit lest their businesses grow, and they’d be seen as evil business persons. We have seen the result in the decline of our imbedded businesses – the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker have been run out of town.

We have to understand that just because a person has alphabet soup behind his name and draws a government paycheck does not make him honest. The idea that college degrees make a government employee honest is just as ludicrous as the assumption that a divinity degree keeps a cleric from chasing his secretary.

Now, in all fairness, I’ve been to dirty farms. The first thing that comes up when you start impugning government agents is the fact that some farms are dirty. “everybody is not as clean as you are,” they always say. I’ve visited some dirty farms, and I wouldn’t eat their stuff. There’s nothing about being small that necessarily makes you clean. But that’s the risk of life. And a local transparent food system creates integrity, just because it’s transparent.

So I concocted this idea of a one-to-ten scale, one being a McDonald’s Happy Meal and ten being the meal that Aunt Matilda-with her backyard chickens, garden, root cellar, and pantry full of home-canned goodies-serves when she invites us over for Sunday lunch. Here’s the question: does the one need government oversight? Most people say yes. Does the ten? You’d be surprised how many people say yes, including Senator Jim Webb’s agricultural legislative aide. He says even the number ten needs oversight.

When Governor Tim Kane visited our farm, he came about a month before his term was up. I guess he thought it was safe then. Wonderful guy, he really got it. We got on the hay wagon and went around. Toward the end he said, “I want to ask you, how do you interface with agribusiness, with Monsanto and those people?” I said, “Governor, they don’t scare me at all because they don’t have guns and badges.” I said, “Governor, it’s your responsibility and the responsibility of every single other elected official to protect me from the agenda of those people.”

The New Testament, Romans 13, gives us the reason for government. The reason for government is twofold: number one, to be a terror to evil and number two, to be an encourager of righteousness. And when you see the movie Farmaggedon, or when you see the kind of cases that the Farm-to-Consumer-Consumer Legal Defense Fund takes on, you begin to realize that in many cases, our government has become a terror of righteousness and an encourager of evil. When government agents become the lackeys for evil corporate agendas, they abdicate their responsibility. And we need to be very clear about articulating this important fact: there’s nothing about a government paycheck that makes a man honest.

NUMBER SEVEN: CONSUMERS ARE IGNORANT AND NEED TO BE PROTECTED FROM THEMSELVES

“We can’t give you a choice; you might make a bad choice. People don’t know what’s correct or incorrect about food.” That’s their thinking. Let me ask you a question: how do you stimulate information, how do you stop ignorance? One of the best ways to encourage the curiosity to find information is to ensure the ability to make a bad choice and then to put responsibility on the person to find the answer. That’s how you stimulate informational curiosity. If we’re ever going to have an informed consumer, we have to allow responsibility for their food choice. If we eliminate food choice responsibility, then we’re always going to have an ignorant consuming populace. If someone makes all the choices for us, we quit learning about that topic because someone else has taken the responsibility….and if something turns out wrong, then it’s their fault.

The magazine Science News had a fascinating article, which said that with the penetration of the federal government into the state and local levels, there’s no way to prototype new political ideas. What if my county or your county or your city declared they were going to be a local-food-commerce, government-intrusion-free-zone. So if you wanted to make pot pies in your kitchen and chicken broth from your backyard chickens and sell these at a farmers market, or you wanted to milk a cow in your yard and sell the milk to a neighbor, you’d be allowed to do all this. The problem is that if your city council or board of supervisors passed such a rule, your city or county would immediately be cut off from educational funding. You’d have your highway funds cut, the federal inspector at your local slaughter house would be terminated, and none of the farmers could sell their meat out of the area.

The point of this Science News article was, if we would allow political prototyping on a small scale, we could be extremely innovative in the political sector. Then to the people who say consumers are ignorant and have to be protected from themselves, we could point to this city or county and say, “Look the hospital is empty, the IQ scores went up. We didn’t need a development transfer program to save farmlands because farms are all profitable. Unemployment dropped to 3 percent because everybody is busy in this local food system, canning, preserving and pickling. Graphic artists have work, entrepreneurs are distributing and selling.” We all know the potential of freeing up local farm economies. We need to join together to advocate that kind of thing.

NUMBER EIGHT: RAMPANT ANTHROPOMORPHISM

That’s a big word- the kind you learn when you’re an English major, like me. Rampant anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics to animals or non-living things.

One reason we see so much of this today is because the only connection most people have to animals is with their pet cat or pet dog. There’s a complete lack of understanding about animals on the farm. Recently Polyface was reported to animal control officers for animal abuse because a neighbor driving by saw our mob of cows standing there ready to move into their new pasture. They looked like a crowd, and since people don’t like crowds, she reasoned, these animals must be very uncomfortable. So we had to go out and spend days with letters and visits and talking to officers and state veterinarians to get certified letters explaining that herbivores actually like to be in crowds.

Free range chicks. It’s abusive to control them with shelters, they want to run free say our critics. But as soon as one gets out, all it does is spend the rest of the day running around the fence trying to get back in because it’s scared to death.

Shipping chicks should be outlawed, they say. “I wouldn’t like to be shipped three days in the mail. How would you like to be shipped three days in the mail?”

The reason chicks can be shipped three days in the mail is because when a hen lays a clutch of eggs, she doesn’t lay all those eggs at one time, she lays those ten eggs over ten days. And as she’s laying those eggs, she’s out eating and trying to build up body reserves for her incubation period. Since she’s off the nest, the first laid eggs get cool and that slows the embryo down enough so that by the time she lays her seventh or tenth egg and starts to actually set, the first egg is only about three days ahead of the tenth egg. And when it hatches three days before the last one, the chick sits quietly and waits until the last egg is hatched. If it hatched and took off running around, the mother hen would leave the nest at it’s most vulnerable time – when the eggs are almost ready to hatch and when they need warmth and the most careful environment possible to go running after this wayward chick that’s running around. The other chicks wouldn’t hatch, or if they did hatch, they would die. And so the chicks don’t come out from under the hen until all the eggs have hatched. So chicks can take three days shipping, that’s a natural thing. They’re chicks, not people.

But see, we have this projected anthropomorphism on the animals. Electric fence, oh, it might hurt them. You’re talking to a guy who still believes in spanking. Castration. Oh my! Castration came along with domestication. What do you want to do, have all our animals fighting all the time?

My favorite is the insistence that we as humans have developed to the point where we don’t need to eat animals. Such a notion indicates not an evolution to a new state of cosmic Nirvana, heightened awareness and spirituality, but a devolution into a new state of ignorance and disconnectedness. The fact is, everything is eating and being eaten. If you don’t believe me, go lie naked in your flower bed for three days and see what gets eaten. You see, death is necessary for life. Decomposition precedes regeneration, and this cycle has profound meaning on the spiritual level. Without sacrifice there can be no life. And when your teeth chomp down on the chicken breast or the baby carrot or the salad greens, that mastication, that decomposition, that death gives life to us.

NUMBER NINE: COWS CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING

A fact: there were almost three times as many pounds of herbivore in North America six hundred years ago than there are today. If herbivores cause global warming, we’d be very hot by now. What the herbivore does is eat the herbage that’s created by solar energy in real times and serves as a biomass growth re-starter. Its’ the herbivore that restarts the biomass accumulation engine. Without the herbivore to eat it, herbage just desiccates. It gives off the same methane as it would inside the cow but without the redeeming capacity to restart and regenerate in moving the methane the other way into the ground. That’s why we practice the bio-mimicry of mob stocking on our farm; it’s the best way to get soil fertilization. This is an earth-healing system based on perennials instead of annuals, herbivores instead of omnivores.

If you really want to eat close to nature, eat grass-finished beef, and not so much chicken and pork, Pigs and chickens were always salvage animals, not the main driver of the biomass cycle.  Herbivores represent portable instead of stationary infrastructure, multi-speciation instead of mono-speciation, biomass regeneration and decomposition instead of petroleum use, pasture-based instead of housing-based, local instead of global, in-sourced instead of out-sourced, holistic instead of compartmentalized.

NUMBER TEN: YOU ARE ELITISTS

“You are elitists, and I don’t like elitist,” say the critics. “If everyone can’t afford this food, then it’s not fair that anyone should have this food.” Ever hear that? I think it’s pretty amazing to call me an elitist for wanting to eat the food that my Grandmother ate.

“But food should be cheap; if food isn’t cheap, then it’s not fair,” they say. Let me ask you something. Does anyone out there in the greater culture spend their money on things that are not necessary? I mean, I think about the biggest food companies in the world, none of them is necessary: Taco Bell, McDonalds, Coca Cola, tobacco, hundred dollar designer jeans with holes already in the knees. We spend a lot of money on things that are not necessary.

How do we get the price of this food down? The primary reasons for the high price of our food is non-scalable regulations. If we could let people grow food and make food to sell without interference, this healthy food wouldn’t be expensive.

Of course, the best way to save money is to buy raw and process it yourself. Potatoes for ninety cents a pound instead of potato chips for ten dollars a pound. We’re a culture that has gadgetized and remodeled our kitchens so that we’re capable of preparing food efficiently and expertly, yet we’ve never been so lost as to where the kitchen is. Today we’ve got bread-makers, ice cream makers, slow cookers, time-bakers, all of this wonderful stuff that lets us prepare food in-house. We don’t have to buy DiGornio’s frozen pizza. Remember that one pound of Polyface grass-finished ground beef costs less than a McDonald’s Happy Meal. And I’ll back our nutrition up to that any time of the day.

Second, healthy food is worth more, it’s more nutritious and better tasting.

Third, grass-based farmers charge a fair price, they’re not externalizing any of the cost. Actually, local pasture-based food is the cheapest food on the planet because it’s not sending anyone to the hospital with diarrhea-five hundred thousand cases of diarrhea caused by food-born pathogens. What’s one case of diarrhea worth? I don’t know but I’ll bet if you paid for it, out of your own pocket, it would have made chicken worth more than a dollar twenty a pound.

NUMBER ELEVEN: AMERICANS HAVE NO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF FOOD CHOICE

This is the real kicker. Here’s the question folks: who owns me? If I can’t make choices that can hurt me, then I can’t make choices that can help me. A life without risk is no life at all. We can live a risk-free life in a bubble and a straight jacket. The idea that we can protect everyone with zero tolerance is ludicrous. Food safety, in fact, is subjective. It’s determined by people prejudiced against heritage-based food. You can feed your kids Twinkies, Coco Puffs and Mountain Dew but that raw milk, those compost-grown tomatoes and Aunt Matilda’s pickles might kill you. You can go hunting on a seventy-degree day and gut shoot a deer, drag it a mile through the squirrel dung, put it on the front of your blazer and parade it around town in the heat of the afternoon sun, string it up in the tree in the backyard when you get home, let it hang for a week under a tree where the birds roost, and then skin it out, cut it up and feed it to your children. And that’s patriotic, that’s being a great American…but I can’t sell any home butchered pork to my neighbor.

Who owns me? What good is the freedom to own guns, worship, assemble and speak if we don’t have the freedom to choose how to feed our internal community of friendly bacteria – that’s a big community – to give us the energy to shoot, pray assemble and preach.

With apologies to Martin Niemoller who’s inscription adorns the US Holocaust Museum let me give a WAPF rendition of that famous quotation. “First, they came for the moonshiners, and I did not speak out because I was not a moonshiner. Then they came for the drug dealers, and I did not speak out because I was not a drug dealer, Then they came for alternative health therapists and I did not speak out because I was not an alternative health therapist. Then they came for me, an imbiber of raw milk, and there was no one left to speak for me.” Fortunately, there are more and more of us willing to speak out. These industrial ag folks had better get ready for a tsunami because we are coming.

NUMBER TWELVE: FARMERS ARE DOLTS

Our cultural perception is that farmers are dolts. And that’s why I promote the idea of the Jeffersonian intellectual agrarian.

Just three weeks ago, I was coming back into the country after giving a talk at the University of British Columbia in Canada. When I showed the INS officer my passport he asked what I had been doing, and I told him I had given a speech at the UBC. Then he asked in a nonchalant way, “What do you do?”

“I’m a farmer,” I said. He pulled up smartly and gave me a dirty look. I thought he was going to lock me up.

“Don’t you be funny with me, man,” he said.

But I AM a farmer,” I said.

He put the passport down and he looked at me with the most sarcastic look. “Now since when do farmers go around making speeches?”

I felt like asking him whether he had ever heard of Thomas Jefferson or George Washington. The stereotypical redneck hillbilly D-student, they’re the only ones who can be in charge of our food supply. But we are going to have a much better food supply when we take our best and brightest and put them in charge of our food supply.

So you farmers, get prepared, man. Read eclectically, go to speech class, join Toastmasters. When we go to town and stand toe to toe with people who believe the things that I have just laid out for you, we have to be erudite, we have to be articulate, and we have to have the self-confidence to articulate our tsunami. We need engaged and articulate farmers, thousands more of them.

MAY YOUR CHILDREN LEARN GARDENING

These are the twelve most common attitudes that I encounter in my travels. If we’re going to have a good food system, we’ll need to articulate our arguments with confidence. We’ll need to show that anthropomorphism is a devolution to disconnectedness; we’ll need to defend the herbivorous biomass regeneration method of soil building. We’ll need to be involved, we’ll need to read Wise Traditions, we’ll need to go to conferences and we’ll need to know our farmers.

And we’ll also need to get our kids involved in gardening, because it’s so valuable for children to play in the dirt, get some splinters and calluses, and get their immune systems encouraged. We’ve got children growing up today doing nothing but exercising their thumbs in front of that video screen. When your car crashes on that video game, you wait ten seconds and you get a new car. When your guy is attacking the bad guy and gets killed, you wait ten seconds and the game gives you a new guy.

Life isn’t that way. Kids need to realize that the world is bigger than just what they have in their fingertips with this fantasy play thing. They need to know that when frost or drought happens and the plant dies, you don’t wait ten seconds and get a new plant. When the rabbit dies because you didn’t feed it, it doesn’t just resurrect the next day. It’s real pain, it is real life and death it’s not just gamesmanship.

Gardening and farming prepare our young people for life with humility and awe rather than hubris. We can bring that to them, that’s what we’re supposed to be about. That is the politics of food.

And now, may all your carrots grow long and straight, may your vibrancy draw your friends and family into your fold, may your kombucha taste really good, may your children glow with round faces and broad arches, may the wind be always at your back, the rain fall softly on your garden, your children rise up and call you blessed, and may we give our culture a political agenda that is righteous, sacred and true, leaving the world better than we found it.

Joel Salatin, BA is a fulltime farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm fulltime in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas. The family’s farm, Polyface Inc. (“The farm of many faces”) has been featued in Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Gourmet, and countless other radio, television and print media. Profiled on the “Lives of the World News” his after broadcast chat room felded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the New York Times bestseller Omnivores Dilemma by food writer guru Michael Pollan and the Grammy-nominated documentary, ” Food Inc.” Salatin is the author of six books, his latest entitled The Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer.

Bountiful Blessings CSA: Thankfulness

Yesterday we drove to pick up our CSA basket. Our Winter CSA is from Bountiful Blessings Farm and they have been doing what they do for 7 years now. I have been so impressed. Both by their set-up and farm layout, which is absolutely gorgeous! But also by who they are as people and the gentle care and respect they show each other, their customer’s and the land they manage.

Bountiful Blessings CSA

Bountiful Blessings CSA

There is such a sense of peace and beauty. I love visiting there just to pick up our veggies even though it is a 45 minute drive one way for us.

Little Donkey on the CSA Farm. So adorable!

Little Donkey on the CSA Farm. So adorable!

What has impressed me more than anything else though is the produce. I remember seeing one of their fields freshly tilled and wished I could run my fingers through the rich dark soil. They have obviously worked very hard at providing their soil with excellent nutrients and it shows in the uncharacteristic richness of color. But even that did not prepare me for how gorgeous, luscious, and amazingly good tasting vegetables they grow.

I took pictures of most of what came in our box this week. It seemed appropriate that I should write about bountiful good food that I am so very, VERY grateful for the day before Thanksgiving Day.

This huge head of cabbage was converted into 3 quarts of cultured SaurKraut last night.

Huge head of crisp, mild cabbage

Huge head of crisp, mild cabbage

The Bok Choy was new to me. It tastes mild and slightly like Celery. I am using it in the place of Celery in my Thanksgiving meal preparations

Huge bunch of Bok Choy. Never seen it this big before!

Huge bunch of Bok Choy. Never seen it this big before!

Dark Greens. Not bitter at all. Incredible flavor! And, like everything else, huge

Dark Greens

Dark Greens

The large clump of Sage and Winter Squash came from the CSA. The pumpkins I hoarded from a friend’s fall wedding decorations.

CSA Squash and Fresh Sage

CSA Squash and Fresh Sage

One of the 3 heads of lettuce that came in the box. Sweet and tender

One of the 3 heads of lettuce that came in the box. Sweet and tender

CSA Grown Potatoes with a sprig of Sage

CSA Grown Potatoes with a sprig of Sage

Yams. Sooo sweet and delicate tasting.

Yams. Sooo sweet and delicate tasting.

Green Onions

Green Onions

Today I am thankful for the people who work so hard to provide nutrient rich, chemical free, incredible tasting vegetables to help feed and nourishing their communities.

I am thankful for the family that provides our raw milk. They live simple lives and get up early every single day to milk a cow and care for her needs and then share from that bounty so others can be nourished with safe, raw milk.

Thank you Farmer’s and Traditional Food Artisan’s everywhere who are working so very, very hard and dealing with inordinate hardships and difficulties to provide people like me with truly good food. Thank you for taking risks and dealing with too little time, too few resources, too little money, and at times a Government that makes it difficult to impossible for you to do what you do better than any large corporation ever could. Small scale Farmers are hero’s.

So to for you my Food and Farm Hero’s everywhere, a heart-felt Thank You. May God Bless your farms and families as you continue to the good work you have started.

Hey Kitchen! I’m HoooOOOOoooome!

I am back at home in TN and back in the saddle doing food prep for my little fambly. Please note the use of the word little. Cuz we are a small family. TheMan, Doodlebug and myself and none of us are typically big eaters. Even with the occasional staff person and my food-vacuum-cleaner of a brother partaking of our meals with us we still don’t go through massive piles of food.

I know this. I tell myself this. I remind myself of this multiple times when preparing food. And then when I survey the mounded heaps of steaming dishes when I’m all done I realize that yup. I did it again. I cooked enough food for a small army. It’s like my brain doesn’t compute how to cook any other way. So, unless the a fore mentioned vacuum cleaner happens along to suck up some of the leftovers my food prep for one big meal = lot’s of leftovers that will last us several more days and probably be turned into different meals.

As an example. Last night I baked a whole chicken. Encouraged it’s thawing along at a more rapid pace by placing it in a large metal bowl with hot sea salt water until it was thawed. Removed the pouch of internal organs and patted the chicken dry. In a large baking pan I drizzled a cooking oil mixture made out of Coconut, Safflower and Olive Oil (all three extra virgin/organic) and drizzled a bit over the chicken. Whole cloves of raw garlic along with firm pats of butter in alternating pattern were inserted under the skin and the innert cavity filled with a handful of whole, raw garlic. The outside and inside was heavily sprinkled with various seasonings. Along the bottom of the pan I spread the Chickens ‘gizzards’ or internal organs. And added another hand-ful of raw garlic. (I went through three whole heads of fresh garlic for this meal.) On top of the gizzards and garlic cloves went un-cooked Wild Rice with seasonings sprinkled over the top. On top of the wild rice the seasoned chicken was placed and a few cups of water poured on top of the rice. This baked covered for almost two hours. Uncovered for ten minutes to get a nice crispy skin and then was ready to serve.

Before serving if you choose to try this dish I would recommend fishing out the gizzards from the rice so that nobody gets an un pleasant surprise as they scoop things onto their plate (cough::SorryLizzy!!!::cough) The reason for their inclusion is to add extra flavor/nutrients to the whole dish. They will later be tossed into a stock pot for broth along with the bones from the leftovers.

Since our CSA Veggies have accumulated into heaps of beautiful bounty that had begun to wither and was bordering on going bad I had to do something fast that would use up almost all of them. This time of year we get a lot of greens. A LOT of greens. And my family isn’t all that crazy about greens. So I have to get creative. Stir Fry using a friends borrowed Wok has been the solution to this problem. With enough seasonings piled on the strong tasting greens are subdued into something edible by the pickier among us. So I chopped up four odd looking squash (the other thing about CSA veggies is occasionally you have no idea what something is so some experimenting is required), three heads of Chinese Cabbage, A bag of Cabbage Greens and two clumps of mixed greens. The primary problem when I do a stir fry is that I don’t measure. And I do not yet possess a good enough grasp of Asian seasonings to use them well in my typical slap dash dump a little of this and that manner of cooking. So last night crisis hit when I realized I had added way too much Lemongrass essential oil. Potatoes were added to the stir Fry in large chunks to help absorb the excess flavor. Whole Cloves of Garlic were thrown in amongst everything else to try to balance out flavors. This and that was hurled in along with a can or so of Coconut Milk turning it into less of a stir fry and more of a chunky soup. But, in the end a balanced and delicious dish was the end result and I might have even been able to act like I had planned it that way all along except that in my panic all available people had been roped in as tasters and witnessed the seasoning panic. (ahem) Note to self: Panic quietly and discreetly next time so you can appear as though you actually meant to serve Coconut Thai Stir Fry Soup for supper.

Also in the food lineup last night was Sweet potatoes and wild yams. I literally have a huge drawer full of these yummy tubers in my fridge. Both CSA’s we are part of (Summer and Winter they have a few weeks of overlap) have been quite generous with them so I’ve been getting double rations.  TheMan hates these little orange delicacies so it’s up to me and the Doodlebug and any random guests I can coax into helping me eat them. Last night I thin sliced a 13×9″ pyrex baking dish full of sweet taters and yams and thickly sprinkled layers of Heavenly Sugar, Cinnamon, Cardamon, Allspice over them. Interspersed pats of butter over the whole thing, dashed a few drops of Ginger and Orange Essential Oil and popped the whole thing in the oven. It came out delicious! Next time I think I’ll add some Coconut Milk or regular Cream to it for some added flavor/creaminess.

After supper was over I went into leftover-meal prep for tomorrow mode. Extracted all the meat off of the chicken bones and along with the skin put it in a mixture of spices water and vinegar on the stove to turn into stock over the next couple of days. The leftover chicken was torn into chunks and dropped into the crock pot along with the leftover rice. The soupish stir fry was dumped on top and extra coconut milk added to the whole thing. I set it on low and went to bed. This morning I had leftover sweet potatoes for breakfast. Today we had a delicious soup for lunch that was a perfect marriage of seasonings.

 

(Happy sigh) I love good food. I love my kitchen and it’s oh so good to be home. =)

Fall Dish= The SweetNSpicy Color Orange

Fall Sky

Fall Sky

I’m stealing a few minutes out of a Conference in Chicago to write up this quickie recipe that has been a staple in my kitchen over the past couple of weeks. With the arrival of Fall so comes the season of those pleasant shades of yellows, oranges and browns generously offered for free by Nature. My new favorite quick, easy and yummy fallishly lovely orange dish combines Sweet Potatoes and hard Winter Squash. With an emphasis on SIMPLE this is a very easy dish that is sugar and gluten free.

SweetNSpicy Orange: A fall Treat or Side Dish

2 Medium sized all natural or organically grown Sweet potatoes peeled and diced

1 Medium to Large sized all natural or organically grown Winter Squash peeled, seeds scraped out and diced

1 (or 1/2 to 1 cup of) Grass-Fed Butter. If it is unsalted sprinkle a few dashes of Salt over the diced orangeness in the pan.

Honey as needed

Cinnamon to Taste

Cayenne Pinch or so (Optional!)

Evenly toss together and spread across the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex or other casserole dish type pan. Dice the butter into chunks and blob evenly on top of the chopped veggies. Put a few dollups of honey (I usually space about three across the pan) Generously sprinkle with cinnamon and if you are brave enough add a bit of cayenne. Adds an extra pizazz on the spicy side to the dish if your taste buds are so inclined. Toss it all together in the pan and slide into a 350 Oven.

Bake until tender. You can re-toss/re-coat the chunks in the melted butter/honey mixture half way through baking to ensure an even coating of flavor.

Enjoy! =)

Fall Country Road

Fall Country Road

Easy-Peasy: The Confession of a Compromising Traditionalist

Sooo…Far from the Traditional Foods Diva I hope, dream and aspire to be my reality lately has been more along the lines of frazzled house-wife doing good to get food. Any food. Cooked and on the table for my family to eat.

I am attempting to come to term’s with this new and hopefully temporary phase of my life. This ‘phase’ where there is literally no time to spend preparing the from scratch spread’s I have been known to produce in times past.  Not just from scratch foods, but also foods that are the kindest to my budget. Right now, compromise is what is getting me through.

There has been guilt. A lot. Here I am blogging about traditional foods. Or SUPPOSED to be blogging about traditional foods and I am doing next to nothing with traditional, from scratch food preparations lately. So I’ve been hiding from my blog. Today however it was decided that I should write about my current kitchen Motto which is “Easy-Peasy” Don’t laugh. That’s a real term in my world. The yardstick with which I  measure any and all kitchen or food related projects.

Here is a break-down of what easy-peasy means in my life right now.

Easy-Peasy means buying cultured butter from grass-fed cow’s for our daughter. I found it at Whole Foods as a “limited time” item. Since it’s limited I bought several packages and put the extra’s in the freezer. Don’t know how long this seasion of my life is going to last where even making a single batch of my own butter is unrealistic but just incase it’s longer than I hope it is, There’s the freezer stash. This particular butter is so expensive my husband and I don’t eat it but use it for Doodlebug since it is especially important for growing children to have cultured butter.  TheMan and I, and most of our house-guests use sea-salted butter purchased from Trader Joe’s that is from pastured cow’s but not cultured. It’s a lot cheaper.

Easy-Peasy means I’m not making my own yogurt right now from our (cheap) raw milk. I’m buying the full fat, cream on top, organic, grass-fed (when I can find it) by the quart or cup or whatever I can get my hands on for sale. I prefer the cups right now because they are the perfect serving size for Doodlebug and she has gotten to where she can help herself to it now which means I don’t have to take the time to serve it up and break the flow of momentum with whatever else I’m doing.

Easy-Peasy means my home Kombucha operation got shut down until further notice. Instead of drinking it by the gallon we now drink it by the carefully rationed bottle full. I had forgotten how very expensive Kombucha is to buy! So it’s now the occasional, rare actually, treat.

Easy-peasy means the crock pot hardly see’s a day of rest anymore. I do a huge thing of dried organic beans in it about once a week and season them heavily. We then add the beans in some way as an accent or the main feature to meals all during the rest of the week. It’s cheap, it’s fast and I don’t have to stand over it for hours getting it just right. Just to clarify, these are not beans I took the time to sprout. They are thoroughly soaked in Whey water but once the Whey runs out it’ll just be soaked in plain ol’ water again like in the olden times before I knew what Whey was. =P If the bean’s aren’t taking up crock pot space bone broth is. If it isn’t bone broth it’s soup with bean and broth in it. If it isn’t soup it’s roast an if it isn’t roast…well, you get the idea. My easy-peasy life relies heavily on the crock pot.

Easy-peasy means I am not learning how to make my own gluten free recipes with all the failures and tweakings that go along with that process. Instead I am buying gluten free mixes (after carefully vetting for other undesirable ingredients first) Hands down my favorites for both price, taste and ingredient listings are from Trader Joe’s. If you substitute Organic, Extra Virgin Coconut oil and coconut milk in the place of water and veggie oil in their Brownie Mix it produces moist, gooey brownies that are to DIE for. I never knew a mix could taste that good. Oh and extra Vanilla. Don’t forget the extra splash of Vanilla. Trader Joe’s gluten free Pancake and Waffle mix is also delicious for both of those items but can be converted as well into a crumb topping for cobblers and other delicious gluten free items. Quite the versatile base mix.

Easy-peasy means I am buying sprouted grain bread from Whole Foods for TheMan and Doodlebug (and household guests) to eat instead of making my own. I’ve found two types at Whole Foods that I am comfortable enough with their ingredient listings to do this guilt free. Easy-Peasy means I am buying my own gluten free bread from Whole Foods as well. Since it does cost more for bread bought vs. made we eat less of it and more cheap brown rice and quinoa as filler grains.

Easy-peasy means my veggie garden is now returning to the yard from whence it came with nothing edible growing in it at all. This makes me sad and I hope gardening returns to my life soon. It’s been fun to dabble in gardening and eating what was grown here on our own property by our own hands is especially satisfying.

Easy-peasy means I am going to stop blogging and go pack for a week long business trip to Chicago. Oh wait, nevermind, that is one of the things forcing me to do everything else easy-peasy!

Until next time,

Sincerely,

Love,

Hugs,

Fond thoughts and wishes,

God Bless,

The De-Railed-Detained and otherwise Distracted Traditional Foods Adventurer

Me N The Doodlebug

Me N The Doodlebug


JuicyFuzzySweetPeachalicious Day

Some friends and I went in together to buy next-to-all-natural/organic peaches. We don’t mean just a few to maybe do a cobbler and eat fresh. Nope, nuh-uh. We decided to get enough to last for a while. Five bushels of peaches!

We’ve all eaten more than our fair share of peaches the past few days.

Processing Peaches

Processing Peaches

Some got turned into 22 pints of canned (Not freezer, will have to try that some other time!) Jam.

Pints of Peach Jam

Pints of Peach Jam

Others were converted into 15 quarts of canned peaches. Some with honey, some with raw sugar.

Quart of Peaches

Quart of Peaches

Some ended up as 1/2 a gallon of raw peach juice. A few cups of the juice wound up in peach ice cream.

Making fresh Peach Juice

Making fresh Peach Juice

The rest have been blanched, pealed, cut up and frozen. Or, of course, eaten fresh. We still have a few fresh ones hanging around. They just get juicier and sweeter with each passing day.

Peach Slices

Peach Slices

The yummiest recipe invention the day dedicated to the sweet-juiciness-that-is-peaches-produced was undoubtedly the peach ice cream.

Although no measuring happened (Who seriously expects me to measure anymore??) I can share the general idea and encourage experimentation.

Bit O’ Heaven Peach Ice Cream

-3 to 4 cups thick/fresh peach juice

– Raw Sugar to taste (Keep in mind this will be the sweetening for an entire gallon of ice cream as you taste test, my ice cream could have stood to be a bit sweeter than it was but some folks prefer a not-quite-so-sickly-sweet ice cream)

Combine juice and sugar together and allow to cook down/concentrate a bit so the juice becomes a bit thick and creamy.

– 1 can of thick/creamy full fat coconut milk

– However many pints of thick cream (preferably raw) are necessary to obtain the desired volume

– Generous splash of Vanilla. Aaaand one more for good measure.

– 6 farm fresh/free range egg yolks pureed in. Since I don’t have a problem with these being raw no need to add these in sufficient time for them to “cook” I used my hand held stick blender and added them in one at a time to ensure creamy consistency.

Taste to make sure all is well. If it isn’t quite sweet enough a small amount of powdered Stevia or honey can be added at this point to taste. It dissolves much better than sugar not to mention is technically healthier. Pour liquid ice cream into 1 gallon ice cream maker to fill line and proceed as one normally does when making homemade ice cream. Serve with a dollup of Peach Jam on top and/or chopped fresh peaches. This stuff is addictive. Seriously. The flavor the coconut milk adds is just enough to make this unique but not over powering enough that anybody can even quite tell what that extra yummy flavor is.

So what are your favorite peach recipes? Please share! I have a freezer full of peaches to turn into yummy things in the coming months and there is nothing I love more than some tried and true deliciousness from someone elses kitchen.

Food on the Road

So I just got back from a week long business trip to Chicago. Allow me to say that doing a road trip with a potty trained 3 year old is fantastically easier than traveling with a colicky baby. Just throwing that out there. One of my biggest hurdles when traveling is the food. It tends to throw my attempts at an ideal diet back into the realms of the SAD diet we gave up a while back. (SAD = Standard American Diet) I give this trip a 5 star rating out of 10 since I had two totally “fail” experiences in resisting gluten foods.  Completely a flaw of my self control and not of available choices that a little bit of patience would have afforded me.  Traveling poses even more food problems for me now than it used to with the addition of gluten on my list of foods that it would be ideal to avoid. Previously on the list was high fructose corn syrup, highly refined/bleached white flour, MSG, Soy products/bi-products. And now, gluten.

Since eating out almost anywhere except whacky alternative places which are few, farbetween and often expensive (not to mention are often haven’s for all-things-made from soy) includes two or more of my “avoid” items it means I have to get creative. Creative for me in the past has included packing easy to prepare without a kitchen food stuff’s in a cooler to go along with us for a road trip. This is great when I can pull it off because I can get such items as raw milk and homemade cultured butter (both all but impossible finds in stores). However sometimes due to time constraints or lack of space in our car the cooler has to stay home. When choosing our lodgings a refrigerator is on my “must have” list, tied up there with Free high speed internet. Hey, we own an internet based business so the internet part really isn’t optional. Besides (cough cough) how else am I supposed to chat with all my friends that live in my laptop without internet? Or keep up with Facebook?? Or stalk great deals on craigslist??? (All said with tongue firmly planted in cheek of course)

This past trip we were fortunate enough to stay in a place that comes with a fully stocked tiny little kitchen. Huzzah! With no room for a cooler (our poor car was so loaded down it was laughable) we went shopping as soon as we arrived. Mostly for food stuff’s for the Doodlebug since she and caretakers would be operating out of the hotel while TheMan and I attended meetings and ate some meals out with the group. All natural cheese, frozen blueberries, Organic yogurt (low-fat, wasn’t able to find the full fat versions, darn those low fat dairy diet campaigns), Kefir in little individual containers (also low fat), Whole Grain Pasta, Organic Butter, all Natural/Kosher beef hot-dogs, advocadoes, Nuts and last but not least Bananas. Simple, fast and easy and customized to what the Doodlebugs likes.

In spite of having healthy-ish food at the hotel TheMan and I ended up eating less than ideal foods several of the days. After eating mostly organic, all natural, whole foods prepared at home it’s amazing the difference we feel eating “mainstream” food. Side effects may or may not include grogginess, fatigue, sluggish digestion, gas, indigestion and acid reflux. Where traveling food creativity leaves off for me personally appropriate supplementation takes over. I’ve learned the hard way by trial and error that there are certain supplements that can keep the body in balance even when eating less than ideal foods.

1) Digestive Enzymes with every meal. Bromelain can double up as an emergency anti-inflammatory/pain reliever and digestive aid all in one.

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/enzyme-digestive.html

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/bromelain.html

2) Probiotics. My personal favorites being Tummy Tune Up and Colostrum

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/tummy-tuneup.html

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/colostrum-transfer-factor.html

3) Whatever your favorite General Immune boosting supplement is. Traveling just messes with immune systems for whatever reason. Either by constant exposure to germs and viruses that you haven’t built up an immunity to, being out of a normal routine, not drinking enough water or any other unknown factor.  My personal choices are Vit. D3 (mostly because I am personally horribly horribly deficient) Vit. C and BerryWell. Berrywell also incidentally takes care of any misc. travel related allergies that might pop up.

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/liquid-d3.html

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/rosehip-c-500mg.html

http://www.beeyoutiful.com/berry-well.html

This poor blog has been SO neglected lately. I promise to try to post a lot more frequently although they might not all be directly food related. My life has taken a super busy turn and traditional foods don’t have the center stage they had for a while. Might be quite a bit about gardening and overall nutritional stuff though. I’m off to go have some sweet mango tea over ice. It finally warmed up enough here to enjoy a big glass of iced tea!