Tutorial Tuesdays #13–Understanding the Carbon Footprint of Food

Tutorial Tuesdays #13–Understanding the Carbon Footprint of Food

The older I get, the more I appreciate the aspects of strength and balance in my life. If I live to be 90, then I officially reached the mid-point in my life this month, which is cause for some introspection. While there are some issues (and my patient husband sees this more than anyone else) where I still have strength of conviction along with hair-trigger emotional responses, I also have a greater ability to step back from life, watch what is happening, and be more balanced and patient in my reactions.

So it is with the choices we make about how we live. I have the strength of conviction that I want a healthier, less toxic life for my family (and your family, too), but I also realize that we have to make balanced choices and sometimes those choices involve tradeoffs. It would be nice if we could have zero impact on the earth and the environment, but I’ve read stories of people who have tried and it nearly drove them mad. Maybe the goal should be to make the choices necessary to have the least impact while maintaining a healthy personal life.

Here is a link to a great resource on understanding the carbon footprint of the food we eat. This tool is helpful (and especially fun  if you have children) in understanding how the choices we make about food have an impact on the health of the world. Just one more resource to bring informed decision-making and, hopefully, greater balance to our lives.

http://eatlowcarbon.org

But sometimes food options that have a low carbon footprint are not necessarily the best foods for you. Homemade cookies, for example, have a fairly low carbon footprint, but that doesn’t mean you should eat them at every meal. And eggs have a low carbon footprint, but factory chicken farms are notoriously inhumane.

So it all becomes a balancing act. Maybe you have a steak one night, but balance the impact of that with lower impact dishes during the week. Or maybe you switch to chicken. Or buy only pasture raised eggs. Or maybe you decide meat isn’t important enough and go vegetarian altogether. Whatever you decide is right for you, it’s good to have the tools needed to make strong and balanced decisions about your life and your body.

This website isn’t a cure-all, but it is fun, engaging and informative. I hope you enjoy it and learn something new, as I have! Now, maybe I’ll go have a cookie :-)

Tutorial Tuesday 12–Homemade Electrolyte Drinks

citrusYou over there. Yes, you, the one on your way to the gym to fulfill your New Year’s resolution. Put down the neon colored “sports drink”. You heard me. Put it down!

The ubiquitous “sports drink” phenomenon is baffling to me. I’m not sure at what point it became a requirement for anyone who sweats to drink a neon-colored electrolyte replacement. Look at any youth soccer/basketball/softball game. Parents are hauling in cases of Gatorade instead of water. Say what???  Let’s take a time out here.

Here is a fact about exercise and hydration: most of the time that most of us exercise, we are not exerting ourselves to the point of needing electrolyte replacement. Everyone is different, of course, and longer workouts where you are really pushing yourself are great candidates for electrolytes. Typically, though, the majority of us do not sweat so much in a 30 minute weight room session (or even a 60 minute Zumba class) that we need electrolytes, especially when they are combined with chemicals, neon colored dye and sugar. No matter what the commercials say.

Healthy hydration actually starts BEFORE you exercise, and it can make a big difference. If you have a big work out coming up or if you know, for example, you will be skiing all day, drink plenty of water in the day or so before and you will see the benefits. I’ve had to learn this the hard way–trust me, your body will thank you for starting out hydrated!

If you are exerting yourself to the maximum and water just won’t cut it, do your body a huge favor and stay away from most electrolyte “sports drinks.” Most of them are full of junk like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and chemical dyes. If your body is starving for hydration, why would you feed it that? Here are two tips for you that I have discovered while training for our half marathon:

  1. Water is always good for you. Always.
  2. Making your own sports drink is easy, cheap and healthy.

Typically, we drink water on our runs under 10 miles. Anything over 10 miles and I bring one little water bottle and one little bottle of this awesome electrolyte replacement. It tastes better than packaged sports drinks, is very refreshing and uses all natural ingredients. It isn’t fancy, it isn’t brightly colored and it isn’t endorsed by athlete celebrities. But it is very good.

If you eliminate the salt and honey, this recipe would make a great flavored water drink for a hot day, for a post soccer game drink or a day when you are just sick of drinking water, but don’t need the extra sodium.

So stay hydrated–even in cold weather–and enjoy those winter workouts! But steer clear of the junk–treat your body like the wonderful machine it is!

Electrolyte Replacement Drink (makes 2 servings)

  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 large oranges (1/2 cup of juice)
  • 2 lemons (1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan or natural sea salt (not table salt)
  1. Put water, juice from the oranges and lemons, honey and salt in a blender.
  2. Blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Chill and drink as needed.

NOTE: You can replace the orange with another citrus fruit or even tart cherry juice.

Tutorial Tuesday #11–Stocking a Winter Pantry

English: High Resolution Image of Kidney Beans...

Stock your pantry with dried beans for a winter of high protein soups, stews and salads!

We recently participated in a food drive with our Girl Scout troop, which gave me a great opportunity to clean out my pantry and do some restocking for winter. I haven’t been very good at stocking the pantry–choosing instead to buy what we need just for the week. Part of this is that we’ve been tracking our weekly spending along with our weekly menus. This feature (the budget component) will be going away with the new year. As we stock up on local ingredients and freeze/can for the future, it’s harder to capture those budget amounts in what resembles a weekly budget.

So this all gave me a great opportunity to plan for several months worth of clean eating. We will still purchase our local fruits, vegetables, breads, eggs, cheese and meat from our farmer’s markets or CSA. But what about those staples that can take a collection of veggies from isolated ingredients to a meal? I created a list for us to live on over the next few months and turn some of those holiday leftovers into delicious dishes.

This is a list of everything I want to have access to over the winter. This is a big list and I had to divide it up between two shopping trips.

  • Dried, organic beans (white beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans)
  • Dried, organic peas (red lentils, green lentils, green split peas)
  • Dried, organic vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, hot peppers)
  • Dried, organic fruits (dried tart cherries, cranberries, figs, ginger, raisins)
  • Dried, organic pasta (hearty shapes like bucatini, casarecce, galleti)
  • Raw nuts (almonds, cashews, black walnuts, pepitas, pecans)
  • Dried, organic seeds (chia, flax, sesame)
  • Organic stock (vegetable, chicken and beef)
  • Organic whole grains (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, barley, rice, quinoa)
  • Ground grains (whole wheat pastry flour, coconut flour, almond flour)
  • Sweeteners (organic cane sugar, organic coconut sugar, maple syrup, molasses, local honey)
  • Spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, smoked paprika)
  • Baking supplies (organic baking powder, baking soda, dark chocolate, raw cacao powder, chocolate chips, yeast)
  • Canned foods (coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato paste, sustainable caught sardines, sustainable tuna)

What would be on your winter pantry list? Do you stock up or buy as you need it?

Tutorial Tuesday #10–Buying and Preparing a Heritage Breed Turkey

burbon redThis is a bit of a repost from last year’s turkey experience, with some additional consumer information thrown in. We have our heritage turkey on order for this year and plan a repeat of last Thanksgiving!

Turkeys, man. There is a lot of pressure on the turkey at Thanksgiving. Even if you make a million roasted chickens (which does help), you can’t help but be a bit on edge when you are responsible for everyone’s Thanksgiving turkey. Now, I have an awesome family, and they are always great about whatever turkeys I’ve cooked, even when they haven’t been all that tender. But still, I like to make something that is worth the 5 hour drive to my house. So this year made me especially nervous. I was cooking a new (old) kind of bird.

This year, we ordered a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm in Wake Forest. Jan raises a limited number of birds with lots of sunshine, grass and love. I’ve heard a lot about heritage breed turkeys and how different they are from the standard grocery store variety, but I’ve never had one, so when I had the opportunity to place an order this summer (yes, this summer!) at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I jumped at the chance.

What is a heritage breed turkey?

Heritage breed turkeys can trace their lineage back at least one hundred years.

According the the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, heritage breed turkeys must meet all three of the following conditions. First, they must mate naturally and must be the product of at least two generations of turkeys that have mated naturally. Second, they must have a long, productive lifespan (5-7 years for hens and 3-5 years for toms) and they must be able to live outside. Third, they must have a slow to moderate rate of growth (about 28 weeks).

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, except that grocery store turkeys don’t meet any of these. Nope, they can hardly walk and can’t even mate by themselves. Do I want to know? No, I do not.

Most current turkeys on the market are a mashup of different varieties designed to maximize the amount of white meat and reduce the amount of dark meat. As a result, these birds are frequently given growth hormones and filler food to make the breast portion of the bird as large as possible. Heritage breed turkeys have a ratio of white to dark meat that is about 50/50, making them more flavorful and juicy. Because they are not given growth hormones and are typically raised to be…well…turkeys, they are more expensive and harder to find.

Our bird, Mr. Gibbles as he was named by Ellie, was “processed” Monday, picked up Tuesday and served on Thursday. I’ve never in my life had a turkey so fresh. At 17 pounds, he was quite a good sized bird! Our first observation was that he looked pretty different from the grocery variety. He seemed longer than a grocery turkey and he was not in that strangely uniform, compact shape. Ellie remarked that he really looked like a “real” bird. We got him all ready for his last journey in the oven and served him up to a delighted family. So how was it? Pretty darn fabulous. Very juicy, lots of rich, turkey flavor (almost like a wild turkey) and great texture to the meat. I don’t think we’ll ever go back again.

Cooking Mr. Gibbles was very different from cooking a frozen bird. First, it does not take nearly as long to cook a fresh, heritage breed turkey. Our 17 pound turkey took 2 hours and15 minutes. For reals. And I used a thermometer backup to make sure. Second, heritage breed turkeys have a wonderful layer of thick fat under the skin, so basting is completely unnecessary. He basted himself, which was terrific, although when serving, the fat freaked my dad out a bit.

We used the recipe below, which was suggested by Homestead Harvest Farm and it worked beautifully. Being a skeptic, I allowed more time than I really needed, which made for some quick hurrying around when the turkey was done so soon, but it all worked out in the end.

Check your farmer’s markets for fresh and/or heritage breed turkeys. Not only will you know a lot about your turkey, you won’t have a frozen block o’ turkey in your refrigerator stressing you out about when it will be thawed! And, most importantly, you will be getting a turkey that does not have added sodium, artificial coloring or artificial flavoring added!

Here is some shopping information to keep in mind as you shop for your turkey:

Fresh Turkey: “Fresh” is really a misnomer here. Turkeys can be labeled as fresh if they have never been chilled below 26 degrees F. It does not mean that they were never frozen, because if you remember from science class, “freezing” is 32 degrees. These turkeys may have been stored at farms or markets for months before being sold, so always ask when your bird was actually processed.

Frozen Turkey: Frozen turkeys have been stored at temperatures below zero degrees. They can be frozen for many months before being shipped to grocery stores. Frozen turkeys are the most commonly purchased turkey in the U.S. and are the most economical.

Not Previously Frozen Turkey: This means that the turkey was chilled below 26 degrees F, so it can’t be called “fresh”, but above 0 degrees F, so it does not need to be labeled “frozen”. Otherwise, it means nothing in terms of the quality of the turkey.

Natural Turkey: The term “natural” only means that there is no seasoning or coloring added to the turkey. It does not reflect on how the turkey was raised or processed.

Kosher Turkey: Kosher turkeys are raised on grain, and are not given chemical stimulants. Allowed to graze freely, these turkeys are raised, killed and prepared according to kosher regulations, which includes a salt brine soak, which many of us do at home anyway. Keep in mind though, that the brine included in the turkey package adds to the weight of the turkey and increases your price.

Free Range Turkey: Like many labels, “free range” could mean something or it could mean very little. To be labelled “free range,” a turkey only has to have access to outside air for a few minutes a day. Again, ask questions. Grocers can charge a premium for “free range” turkeys–it’s up to you to find out what the label means in your circumstance.

Certified Organic Turkeys: These birds are raised with specifically designated feed, hormones and without any added chemicals.

Here is the recipe we used for our heritage breed turkey. Whatever turkey you choose, we hope you enjoy it with friends and loved ones!

Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

  • 1 fresh heritage breed turkey at room temperature
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • Fresh sage and rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth or white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix the butter and chopped herbs until well combined.
  3. Rub the butter mixture over the turkey skin and under the skin if you can.
  4. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper
  5. Put the turkey in a large roasting pan. Add broth or wine to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Butter a piece of parchment to fit over the turkey. Use the parchment to make a tent over the turkey.
  7. Insert a meat thermometer into the breast.
  8. Put the bird in the oven and roast until the breast meat is 145 degrees. Do NOT open the oven door during this time.
  9. Remove the parchment tent over the turkey and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 155-160.
  10. Remove turkey from the oven (the meat temperature will continue to rise after removing it from the oven).
  11. Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
  12. Carve and serve the turkey with trimmings.Voila!

Tutorial Tuesday #9–Six Key Questions to Ask When Buying Local Meat

If you’ve been following the blog, you know how I feel about factory farmed meat. Not everyone has access to fresh, sustainable meat, but if you do, give it a try. Here is a nice article by the Sierra Club about questions to ask your local farmer about their meat products. Since we’re heading into turkey season, this seemed like a timely piece!

Sustainable Meat: 6 Questions to Ask a Farmer

6 Questions to Ask a FarmerLet’s face it, there’s nothing eco-friendly about factory farms. When servings of eggs, dairy, and meat come packaged with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, groundwater contamination, animal cruelty, and hormones, we wouldn’t blame you for losing your appetite. But there are still ways to eat meat without unduly burdening the earth. This week, we’ll offer hints for finding a “greener” pork roast or Thanksgiving turkey.

6 Questions to Ask a Farmer

One big advantage of getting your meat, eggs, and dairy from a local farm as opposed to a giant, faceless corporation, is that you can actually talk to the farmer. Visit your local farmers’ market or check out Eat Wild’s farm directory to find free-range livestock farmers in your state, many of whom sell shares in meat CSAs. You can ask them questions to find a farm that matches your own standards for land and livestock stewardship.

Here are six good questions to get the conversation started:

     1.) Are your animals fed with organic feed?

     2.) Are your animals raised on pasture?

All livestock will eat grass, and not only are they healthier for it, but their meat, milk, and eggs have been found to contain more omega-3s than animals that eat no grass. Pastured animals will also spread their manure out on fields, where it can decompose naturally.

     3.)  Are your cows and lambs “grass finished”?

“Finishing” is also known as “fattening up,” and grain is a healthy part of the diet of poultry and pigs, but wreaks havoc on the digestive systems of cows and sheep. “Corn-finished” or “grain-finished” meat comes from livestock that ate little but grain and other processed supplements for the last six months of their lives, while “grass-finished” animals were fattened up on the pasture. Even pastured dairy cows usually eat some grain for extra nutrients, but should still eat mostly grass.

     4.) How do you handle your animals’ manure?

Manure is a huge pollutant in feedlots, where it seeps into groundwater and rivers. If your farmer tells you that the manure is left in “lagoons,” then it means they’re leaving it untreated, where it can pollute local water systems.

     5.) Do you give antibiotics to healthy animals?

Often, antibiotics are used to keep farm animals healthy when they’re too overcrowded and stressed to fight off disease. This has caused a widespread rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If farmers only use antibiotics on animals that are actually sick, you know that they’ll have been raised in a healthier environment.

     6.) Do you use heritage breeds?

Many “modern” livestock breeds can’t even survive outside of climate-controlled cages, but ‘heritage” livestock are bred to live outside, and are healthier, heartier animals overall.

Feel free to ask about whatever other concerns you might have. The more we demand answers from our food providers, the better choices we’ll be able to make.

–Image credit iStockphoto/jabiru.

Rachael Monosson is an editorial intern for Sierra and a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she studied Earth Systems. She lives in San Mateo.

Tutorial Tuesday #8–Reducing Your Meat Consumption

Starting a garden is a good way to increase your vegetable intake!

Starting a garden is a good way to increase your vegetable intake!

If someone told you there was one secret to losing weight, improving your health and keeping more of your money in the bank, would you be curious?

Believe it or not, there is one thing you can do to both improve your overall health outcomes and reduce your family food budget. That one thing is:

Reduce the amount of meat your family consumes.

Really. When I look at our food budget, it is obvious when we have a meat-heavy week and when we have a lighter week. Meat is expensive to produce and expensive to purchase. And reducing the amount of meat we eat in our diet has contributed to some major improvements in our weight and health statistics.

Am I telling you to become a vegetarian? No, and for the record, I am not a vegetarian, although I do love plant-based meals. And not all vegetarian fare is healthy (see: French Fries and Funnel Cake). Reducing the amount of animal protein you consume is not the same as eliminating it. You could try one night a week and move it to two or maybe three. How do you do this without a family riot? Here are some suggestions!

Reduce! Use smaller amounts of meat combined with lots of vegetables.

For centuries, humans used meat primarily as a seasoning for vegetables and other carbohydrates like grains. The concept of the large roast dinner (roast beef, full ham, steak and potatoes) came primarily after WWII, when war rations were lifted and middle class Americans suddenly had access to factory farmed (less expensive) meat. Before that, home cooks were creative in stretching a little bit of meat a long way. Actually, most of the rest of the world still does. How do you do that? Here are some ideas:

Collards and hoppin' john uses very little meat for a very satisfying meal!

Collards and hoppin’ john uses very little meat for a very satisfying meal!

  •  Stir fry—protein + vegetables + rice
  • Stews—protein + vegetables + potatoes
  • Pizza—protein + vegetables + dough
  • Casseroles—protein + vegetables + noodles + sauce

Go Meatless and Fun!

Meatless Monday has taken off in homes, hospitals, schools and corporate cafeterias across the country. Going meatless can be a fun challenge! Think your family won’t eat a vegetarian entrée? Check out these ideas:

Family Pizza Contest—We make our own whole wheat crust and family members can make their own special (often secret) pizza using ingredients from the farmer’s market. Once the pizzas are cooked we convene for a pizza tasting and vote for the best pizza. There is always a good time and often a lot of smack talk among contestants. Usually we are surprised—kale on pizza? Yes!

Salad-Palooza—Sometimes family members (especially younger members) just want to have some control over their situation. We shred some fresh lettuce and cut up small bowls of all kinds of vegetables and toppings. Then, everyone makes their own salad their way. No judging. Some of our favorite topics include broccoli, chopped cucumber, chopped red peppers, hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, shredded cheese, olives, and dried fruit. This is a great way to get rid of small amounts of leftover vegetables as well!

Building your own salad puts each diner in control!

Building your own salad puts each diner in control!

Rediscover a favorite—You probably already eat some vegetarian dishes and just didn’t think of them that way. Seeing them in a new light not only makes going meatless seem less intimidating, but it also makes us appreciate some foods we don’t often think about. These familiar dishes are all meatless (although they do involve dairy):

  •  Spaghetti with marinara sauce
  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Corn and potato chowder
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Salad
  • Peanut butter (or almond butter) and jelly sandwiches
  • Refried bean burritos and guacamole
  • Homemade or vegetarian egg rolls
Pasta with marinara sauce is always a great bet!

Pasta with marinara sauce is always a great bet!

Find Something New—With all the food porn on Pinterest, have your family search for vegetarian dishes that are beautiful and look delicious. Then make them! Again with the control, children aren’t asked very often to choose what everyone eats. They may really get a kick out of it. You could even make the person who chose the dish a dinner ambassador or some other honor. If you have teenagers, let THEM make dinner (you will be surprised).

Go with Stealth—Just don’t tell them. You don’t have to make a big production over going meatless. Sometimes I wait until everyone is finished eating and announced, “Hey, isn’t that amazing–that was a VEGETARIAN dinner!” At first, we had some surprised looks, now it’s just funny.

Use Unusual Cuts of Meat

Steaks, roasts and chops can be a bit pricey. But what about oxtail, shanks, hangar steaks or cheeks? There are cuts of meat that traditionally are underused and much less expensive to buy. Why? Some require longer cooking times and other cuts have just gone out of popularity with the rise of the steak. With a little love, these can be some of the most delicious meals around. Braised Beef Shank Ragu is one of our all-time favorites and makes the most of a less popular (and often less expensive) cut. Don’t know what to try? Ask your farmer or butcher. Anyone selling meat at your farmer’s market will know and will be able to give you some great recipes (and, there’s always Pinterest, right?).

Tutorial Tuesday #7–Storing and Preserving Nuts

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If you are lucky enough to live in a region of the country (or world) that produces tree and ground nuts, you have cause to celebrate! Nuts are high in protein, fiber and nutrients and while some may pack a wallop of fat, that fat is typically good for you and your body (as long as you are not allergic!). Some nuts, like pine nuts, pecans and walnuts can go rancid quickly when stored, especially in warmer climates. So how do you make the most of your local nut harvest and save your harvest for the future? Here are some great ways to make the most of locally and/or sustainably produced nuts.

Freeze ‘Em!

Did you know you can freeze nuts for about a year? Put shelled nuts into freezer bags, label them with the date and tuck them into your freezer for later! No need to blanch them or do anything special–just pop them into bags! I do this with our local pecans all the time. Freezing them prevents that “off” taste when they’ve been sitting too long, and the ease of freezing them encourages me to stock up with new crop pecans when they are available at my farmer’s market.

Make Nut Butter

If you are fortunate to end up with, say, 10 pounds of local almonds (I WISH!), one way to keep them at the ready is to make your own nut butter. When I was a child, peanut butter was the only nut butter around, but now you can easily find cashew butter, almond butter, sunflower butter and more. Some are even flavored. Did you know it takes about 30 minutes to make your own healthy nut butter at home?

Here is how to do it:

Put 1-2 cups of nuts (I use raw nuts, but roasted will work, too) in a food processor. Process at high speed, giving your food processor a break every minute or two, for anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes or until the nuts release their oils and you have something that is spreadable. This will vary widely depending on the type of nut and how much oil it has in it. you will end up with something amazing. And healthy. And delicious. Add some nut oil to hazelnuts (they can be a bit dry) and salt, if you like. Sometimes I add a bit of coconut oil to nut butters that end up on the dry side. Nut butters are very forgiving–if you add too much of a flavoring, just add more nuts. Need more flavoring? Add more and blend again. Easy!

I don’t refrigerate my nut butters–they are gone quickly, and I find refrigerating them makes them difficult to spread. However, you can refrigerate or freeze most nut butters. You will probably eat them up long before they go bad, but refrigerated nut butters will keep for several months. Frozen nut butters for at least a year. The oil may separate during thawing, but just mix it all up and you’re good to go!

Need some inspiration? Here are some ideas I’ve seen (and several I have tried):

  • Choco-peanut butter (peanuts + raw cacao + touch of honey + pinch of salt)
  • Cinnamon Almond Butter (almonds + cinnamon)
  • Almond Joy (almonds + non-sulfured coconut + raw cacao)
  • Heathier Nutella (hazelnuts + touch of hazelnut oil + raw cacao + touch of maple syrup)
  • Maple Almond Butter (almonds + touch of maple syrup + bit of vanilla)
  • Smoked pecan butter [my creation] (pecans + smoked paprika + touch of salt)

So go out there and harvest those nuts! Then squirrel them away for the future 🙂

For more great nut butters and yummy ideas for using them, see www.mywholefoodlife.com. Another blogger with some awesome, healthy recipes!

Tutorial Tuesday #6–Freezing Produce

a href=”http://commons.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CDC_greenbean.jpg” target=”_blank”>Whole green beans in a carton.

I’ve been canning a lot of food lately, trying to make sure we can eat locally all year AND trying to reduce the amount of food we toss into the compost because we can’t eat it fast enough. I have to admit–I love canning. It was scary at first, but I have my own little system now and that makes things more efficient and comfortable. The fact that I haven’t killed anyone with my jam also boosts my confidence significantly 🙂

But putting up food for the winter months includes freezing and drying foods, too. I still don’t have a deep freeze, but I did manage to put up a LOT of strawberries this spring. Where are they? They have all been eaten–mostly turned into fruit/yogurt smoothies, which we have every morning. It make me realize just how much fruit we plow through each week. ARRGGHH. So, come winter, I will not have strawberries. I am, however, going to try again with peaches, blueberries and blackberries. And I’ll try some vegetables as well. Yesterday while waiting for my marinara sauce to cook, I blanched and froze some summer corn and some green beans. I’m on my way to rebuilding my stock of foods for winter–not that we mind kale, collards and sweet potatoes, but won’t it be nice to have fresh tasting corn as well? As long as we don’t have corn smoothies, I think we’ll be more successful with vegetables!

Here are some foods that freeze well (some of these surprised me):

  • Corn (blanch, strip from the cob and freeze the kernels)
  • Whole tomatoes (Tip: once frozen, the skins just slip off during thawing)
  • Peaches
  • Kale/collards (cook first)
  • Green beans
  • All berries
  • Peppers
  • Chopped herbs (put them in an ice-cube tray and fill the compartments with olive oil!)
  • Onions (chop them and freeze them in bags in 1 c. portions)

 

Tutorial Tuesday #6: What to Do With All That Squash

I was working on a post about summer vegetables that seem to reproduce as you look at them, filling your garden, refrigerator, CSA boxes, etc. Then I saw this awesome post from Chef Jay Pierce at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen–one of our favorite locavore restaurants. We seem to be on the same thought train, except his train has reached its destination and I’m still writing. So here is Chef Jay’s thoughts on summer squash, plus a recipe!

One thought: did you know you can grate summer squash and zucchini, squeeze out some of the water and freeze it? Coming tomorrow is one of our favorite ways to cook grated zucchini (thanks to Julia Child) and later this week, a recipe for yellow squash muffins (STOP making that face! They are amazing–really!).

Oh no! Here comes the squash!

LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 32. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms through the eyes and palate of Chef Jay Pierce.

by JAY PIERCE

With summer squash season upon us, I can’t help but recall this ongoing prank that when around when I lived out west. Zucchini would grow so big and so fast that you’d find them on your windshield and on your doorstep, in unmarked bags and in your mailbox. Lots of folks had gardens and enjoyed growing squashes but you can’t control how prolific these things get. Since I’ve always considered zucchini bread as the fruitcake of Oregon; I suppose I had sort of a dim view of summer squash in general, because I just took it for granted. Now fast forward a few years and I’m the guy who now looks forward to the seasons and their respective bounty.

To read more click here!

Tutorial Tuesday #5–What Does That Label Mean?

Tutorial Tuesday #5–What Does That Label Mean?

Many, many years ago, I had breakfast at a diner in upstate New York that was cute and kitschy and seemed like the place you could get a mean plate of hash or scrambled eggs and sausage. On the menu, I noticed that they served “fresh squeezed” orange juice. It was on the menu just like that, quotes and all. I had just moved from Florida, where fresh orange juice was never in quotes, so I did not understand this. I asked the waitress, does this mean the juice is really fresh or does it mean that it is not fresh? She did not have a great deal of patience, but I hate orange juice from a can, so I kept asking her questions. After a round of this, she gave up and brought me the can (ta da!) so I could see that on the label, it said “fresh squeezed”. For reals.

Food labels. There are so many of them, but only a few have actual meaning. Even at the farmer’s markets, farmers are more savvy about giving us information about their products. But what should we look for and what labels are just marketing? Here in our Tuesday tutorial is a synopsis of food labels you should look for and what they mean!

Labels to Look For

sustainable seafood

Certified Sustainable Seafood

This logo and certification is given by the Marine Stewardship Council and guarantees that the fish in question was caught using sustainable harvesting protocol and that the entire chain of custody of that fish was sustainable (click HERE to see the protocol). Becoming an MSC certified fishery is a voluntary process and only applies to wild-caught fish, not farm-raised fish.

AWA

Animal Welfare Approved

Animal Welfare Approved audits, certifies and supports independent family farmers raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Factory farms cannot apply to be AWA certified. The AWA seal ensures that all animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter and that the animal did not receive antibiotics unless they were sick. This is considered the gold standard for animal welfare labels.

Certified Humane_

Certified Humane Raised and Handled

This is a slightly less rigorous standard developed by animal scientists and veterinarians and applies to more than just family farms. Like the AWA certification, this covers animals birth to slaughter and guarantees that animals did not receive antibiotics unless they were sick. To see more information, click HERE.

USDA-Organic-Seal

USDA Certified Organic

This seal, given by the United States Department of Agriculture, guarantees that at least 95% of the ingredients in a given food product are certified organic. This means that those organic items are produced without synthetic fertilizers, most synthetic pesticides or GMOs (genetically engineered crops). Meat that has this label comes from animals that did not receive antibiotics, growth hormones or genetically modified feed. This cannot be used for seafood.

AGA

American Grassfed

The American Grassfed label applies to beef, bison, goat, lamb and sheep. This label, given by the American Grassfed Association, requires that farmers met the following criteria: Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest; Animals are raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots; Animals are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones; All animals are born and raised on American family farms. For more information, click HERE.

Labels That May Be Ok

Some other labels that are not guaranteed, but may be at your farmer’s market are those below. This becomes a trust issue as you cannot verify that the statements are true, but here is what they should mean:

Pesticide-free–crops may have been grown conventionally or include GMOs, but were grown without synthetic pesticides.

Grown with organic protocol–Crops may be grown using organic methods, but the farm itself is not certified organic.

Raised Without Antibiotics, USDA Process Verified–this means that an animal received no antibiotics during its lifetime. This ONLY means something if the “USDA Process Verified” is included. This means that the USDA confirms that this is true.

Labels to Ignore

Free-range–This label for poultry products means absolutely nothing. A supplier can claim this as long as they provide 5 minutes of fresh air per day, even if the animal is still contained in a small cage in a building.

Antibiotic Free–This is not a recognized label with criteria and verification.

Fresh (animals)–The label of “fresh” in animal products is meaningless. Chicken can be labelled “fresh” as long as the temperature of the bird never goes below 26 degrees farenheit. That is below freezing! Fresh when used for vegetables actually meets certain protocol.

Heart Healthy–There is no standard for claiming something is “heart healthy”.

Natural–There is no standard or criteria for any food product being labelled “natural”.

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