Jun 29, 2010

How to Make Soaked Whole Wheat Bread without a Bosch

HB here with a little bread making tutorial.

When I first began the journey into nourishing foods, I knew I would eventually make my own bread. A very generous friend loaned me her grain mill (a super cool small appliance that grinds wheat berries into flour) and I set to work at figuring out how to bake really good, moist wheat bread. I began to ask around among foodies who make bread from scratch and researching recipes online. The common theme to good bread making seemed to be the use of a Bosch mixer. I have tossed and turned over whether or not to shell out the $360 for a Bosch and decided against it for now. I have a wonderful Kitchenaid stand mixer that my wonderful hubby gave to me as a Mother's Day gift a few years ago that has helped knead several loaves of dough into shape.

After much expirimentation, several brick-like loaves of bread and lots of toast (my favorite way to salvage substandard bread), I've figured out the key to making bread without a Bosch. Below is the recipe with pointers and pictures. I got the original here and halved it for a Kitchenaid. Enjoy!

Soaked Whole Wheat Bread (yielding 2 loaves)

Before I launch into bread making instruction utopia, I need to warn you that bread making is a science. I have found that I must follow the below recipe precisely or the bread is not nearly as good. By not nearly as good, I mean that the bread will be either really hard or really crumbly and no one will eat it but your very small children who don't mind dry, cracking, messy bread.

Combine the following ingredients, cover and soak for 12-24 hours:
1/2 cup kefir, buttermilk or whey
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups ground wheat flour
1 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup honey or 1/2 cup sucanat*
1/3 cup coconut oil, butter or olive oil, melted

After soaking, activate the yeast by combining:
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 tablespoon of active dry yeast (NOT instant or quick rise yeast)

After activating the yeast, combine it with the soaked flour and add the remaining ingredients:
3/4 tablespoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon dough enhancer (I use Blue Chip Baker dough enhancer)
1 cup unbleached flour (I use King Arthur's unbleached flour, it's never bromated so it's sort of your friend as far as white flours go)
*if you used sucanat instead of honey during soaking, you will need to add about 1/2 cup water so that your dough is not too dry

Knead with your mixer's dough hook for about 10 minutes. It is important to not add too much flour. The dough should be slightly sticky at the start of kneading and the dough hook should just clean the sides of the bowl once the kneading progresses. Too much flour = crumbly bread.

During kneading, you will need to stop occasionally and lift the head of your mixer and loosen the dough so that all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and combined. At the start of kneading, the dough will probably look like this.

The mixer will work very hard during the entire kneading process. Don't be alarmed unless it starts smoking. :) Do not lock the mixer into the downward position. Let the top part of the mixer move freely and your bread will knead much better and it will not wear out the lock mechanism. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. :) Note that the mixer is in the unlocked position.

After kneading for 10-15 minutes, test the dough to make sure the gluten is fully developed. A good way to test the dough is to remove a golf balled sized portion, stretch it between the thumb and index finger of both hands and the dough should stretch and not tear readily. If it ain't stretching, keep kneading. If you would like to baby your mixer, you can knead the dough in two batches.

Remove the kneaded dough to a greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let sit until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Here's my dough at the beginning of the first rise:

By 4:00 pm (90 minutes later), it had doubled sufficiently:

Always put your dough in a dark, warm place to rise. During the winter, I use my laundry room because it is so warm. During the Spring/Summer, I put it in a safe place in my garage. The heat in the garage gives me the best rise I've achieved so far.

After the dough has doubled, punch down and divide into two loaves. At this point, some people like to roll the dough into a rectangle with a rolling pin and roll it a nice, tight loaf and put it in the bread pans. I, on the other hand, do not have time for that. I'd rather smoke a cigarette with my extra five minutes. Just kidding. Anyhow, I place the dough halves into the greased pans and gently pat the dough down until it's somewhat even/flat on the surface and put the pans in a warm place to rise. The key to this step is patience. Leave the dough alone and let it rise. You will be glad you did. This step takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Here is my dough at the beginning of the second rise:

My best rising time has been about an hour, which is a bit longer than recommended. Some say that thirty minutes is plenty of time, but I tend to stretch the time just a smidge. Check this beauty out, right before baking:

I do not always allow the bread to rise this high, as over rising can allow the structure of the loaf to become weak and the bread may fall or sink completely during baking, but I had to run to the store and this is what my bread looked like when I returned. Look at that cute baby in the background. :)

After you are satisfied with the rise of the bread, gently place the bread in your preheated oven at 350 degrees. Bake until the loaves are nice and brown on top. Keep in mind that the bread will darken more than a typical (white) bread because the flour is a darker color, thus the finished product will be a darker color. Mine usually bake for about 35-40 minutes, but my oven is an old, cantankerous woman, so your bread may take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. After removing the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pans for around 20 minutes and gently remove from the pans.

Get a good bread knife, slice your bread, slather it with (raw) butter and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Or, make your husband a sandwich:

A few tips to keeping your bread fresh:
  • slice it as you need it. I usually slice one loaf at a time and freeze the remaining loaves whole. I've found that wrapping the loaves in saran wrap and then tightly in foil keeps them quite fresh in the freezer. Remember to recycle that stuff or you'll feel guilty for not being "green" whilst trying to be a bread making hippy.
  • handle your bread gently (i.e. don't let your toddler put the loaf in the pantry)
  • eat it before it ages too much. :)
  • I've heard that stick of celery in the bag with the bread retains freshness, but I've yet to try it.

Linked to RealFood Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Works for Me Wednesday.

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Jun 28, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start? This is a series intended to give courage for those wanting to launch into a real food journey. This week our author is Lori Davidson. Other authors for Small Beginnings include: Lisa Lipe, Rita O'Kelley, Laura Fiser, HB, Robin Maguire, and Erin.

Ah....where do I start...to tell YOU where to start??!! My own food journey started over eight years ago and continues on and on and on, as I read and educate myself further. And then find a WAY to apply that knowledge. Sometimes it's the application part that is the hardest. Certainly, it is often the part that takes the longest to achieve. I will admit that at times it's easier to revert back to our old ways. Because they're familiar and normal by the world's standards. They're accepted. But I can never stay in that pattern for very long. Because I feel its effects. And it doesn't feel good.
I'm one of those people who questions everything and spends a lot of time looking things up on the internet and in books. (I'm pretty sure all our physicians hate me.) I read because I want to know stuff. The very idea of having "the wool pulled over my eyes," especially so someone else can get rich, offends and upsets me, especially when it comes to my family's food and health. I guess that's the "mother bear" in me.
My food journey actually began when I had my first baby. It began because I had a baby. While I've always leaned a lot toward environmental concerns and natural, earth-friendly products, when I became a mother I became even more concerned with natural living. For instance, I was adamant I would breastfeed. So much so, in fact, that I endured six solid weeks of torturous pain from thrush (I didn't know what was wrong with me) because no way was I going to quit nursing! Of course, after I survived that I had to figure out what I would do when it came time to feed my baby solid foods.

So I suppose it all began with baby food. I was very concerned with what would be going into my baby's body. After doing a little research, I purchased the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. And while I do not agree 100% with her methods of feeding babies (or believe all she has to say about what's healthy), it was a remarkable resource for a young, first-time mother. I learned why commercial baby food should be avoided, how to read labels, ingredients to avoid, how to choose, cook, and store many vegetables new to me, and how to make my home a safer place by making my own household cleaners. I also learned about organic vs. conventionally-grown food. IF I bought a jar of baby food, I only bought organic. But even then I knew it wasn't the best stuff to be feeding to my child, so most of the time I made everything myself. I made cereals, fruits/veggies, crackers, you name it. And perhaps it was just coincidence, but that baby of mine set a record in our pediatrician's office as the only child ever to make it to the age of three having never been prescribed an antibiotic!!!! (That and to this day the child will eat anything!)

About the time that baby was three I was introduced to the book What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Dr. Rex Russell. I devoured it...so to speak. (Y'all, I hope you'll forgive my nerdy humor. I can't help it.) I knew I couldn't do everything the author suggested all at once (though I always wish I could), so I picked the easiest possible things (for me) to eliminate from my diet.

I decided to start with eliminating shrimp, other shellfish, catfish, pork, etc. after learning what those animals eat and how they digest their food. It was enough to keep me away. I also began to buy less and less processed food items. For many reasons, there would be no more hot dogs in my house!!

Then I had a third baby and ended up with thrush again. Only this time I had a much worse case of it. And I couldn't fight it off. (Thank you, refined sugars and grains.) Many, many weeks went by with no improvement whatsoever while on pharmaceuticals. Finally, the doctors cut me off. No more meds! They suggested I see a doctor of internal medicine to check for autoimmune disorders. I, being the rebel that I am (yes, I admit this), refused to believe it. I did my own research and learned about the healing power of phytochemicals.
Raw garlic (and lots of it), probiotics, blueberries, cherries, cranberry supplements. All worked together to heal me. After this experience I was forever changed. I began to look at food for nourishment and health rather than for simply my enjoyment. Since that time, I've learned much more as other books have come my way: The Maker's Diet by Dr. Jordan Rubin, Real Food by Nina Planck, and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, being the top three.

I've made many, many changes over the years. It's truly amazing how vastly different we eat now than we did when we were first married. I don't always do everything the way I should, and I struggle sometimes because I know about so much more and want to do better in those areas, but I can only do a little at a time. This is important, because I don't want to get overwhelmed and give up. All this to say, if you want to get started on a food journey and don't know where to start, just start somewhere. Do anything. Pick the easiest thing you could possibly accomplish and get good at that first.

Some things to start with:
1. Work toward a more UNprocessed grocery list. If it comes in a bag, box, package, or can, you probably should try to avoid it, with the exception of just a few things.
2. Stay away from trashy, rancid meats like hot dogs, bologna, and other deli-style "meats."
3. Switch from refined, synthetically-iodized table salt to Real Salt. It happily still contains all the minerals your body needs (unlike regular salt). It's so nice to be able to say, "Salt away! It's good for you!" with no worries. I've also found it takes less of it to get the same results than ordinary salt. (And you can buy it in bulk at Whole Foods.)
4. Buy your eggs from local farmers who let their hens eat at free-will all day on a pasture. And eat lots of them. You'll thank me for this one!
5. Throw away all vegetable oils, including canola, sunflower, safflower, etc. Use olive oil for salads and the like. But for cooking, use good, unrefined coconut oil.
6. Make the switch to whole grains. No more white flour. And then, eventually, learn to soak the grains.
7. Find yourself some raw dairy. Try to drink raw milk every day. Use lots of butter and cream. Eating fat is GOOD for you!!
8. Use natural, unrefined sweeteners. I use raw honey, maple syrup, and Sucanat. (Sucanat compares cup for cup with sugar, and you can buy it at Whole Foods, online, or through a co-op.)
9. Watch Food, Inc. It will change your life. Meat at the grocery store is scary, scary stuff. Look for grass-fed beef, pastured, free-ranging poultry, and wild-caught fish. The animals are healthier and happier this way, and you will be, too.

Take it one step at a time. Changing a lifetime of bad eating habits is going to take a while, so be patient both with yourself and with the process.

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Jun 27, 2010

Eating and Preserving Seasonal Foods in Arkansas

I am very excited about a new page I've added called "Seasonal Foods." Produce is at it's height nutritionally at the time that it is harvested. It goes downhill from there, so the further it is shipped and the longer it has been in storage the fewer nutrients it will contain compared to when it was fresh. The most nutrient-dense produce is fresh-picked local produce that has been raised by organic methods. Organic methods create nutrient-dense soil through the use of compost rather than chemical fertilizers.

When I was first given this information, I was completely ignorant as to when different types of fruits and vegetables were in season in Arkansas. It seemed like most everything was always "in season" at the grocery store. Having local harvest information is essential for making seasonal meal plans and for planning ahead for preservation of seasonal foods through methods like lacto-fermentation, canning, and freezing.

Thanks to Beth Phelps, Staff Chair at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, we now hold the key to this puzzle. When you click on "Seasonal Foods" in the top menu, you will find Arkansas seasonal charts for both fruits and vegetables.

In the future I plan to add information to the "Seasonal Foods" page about the best times to purchase various types of meat, but I need to do more research. I do know that pastured chickens are only raised in the warmer months, so make sure and place an order with your farmer early in the fall so you will have enough chickens for your freezer to carry you through until the first spring chicken processing.

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Jun 25, 2010

Good News for Farm to School!!

I just received word from Sylvia Blain, Executive Director of Arkansas Local Foods Initiative that the city of Little Rock is going to allow the farm to school farmers' market to continue on Mondays at Pulaski Academy while revisions are being proposed for city regulations regarding local farmers. You can stop writing and calling with the exception of thank you notes. The men to thank are Bryan Day, bday@littlerock.org, Dana Carney dcarney@littlerock.org, and Tony Bozynski, tbozynski@littlerock.org.

Thanks to everyone who added their voice in this issue!

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Jun 24, 2010

Pulaski Academy Farmers Update

I know many have been waiting for an update on our farmers’ situation in WLR. I have been in contact with Stacy Hurst, the Vice Mayor, who has seemed sympathetic to the cause. She gave me the names of several officials that she said had been asked to assist us in resolving the problem. I had a couple unsatisfactory phone conversations with two of these officials and ended up quite frustrated.

But today I had a very encouraging conversation with Bryan Day, the assistant city manager. He tells me that his office is looking for alternative locations near PA for the market stands. Pulaski Academy is still an option for the future, but they must ask to be rezoned.

Bryan Day also said that people have been educating him about local food issues and the city of Little Rock has a Sustainability Committee. They are looking at how other cities are handling these things in order to make local food more accessible. He apologized for the city’s poor handling of our farmers last Monday. While the city is responsible to enforce zoning laws, there could have been a little grace applied.

Many of those involved believe that it is important that the market be reinstated at PA because of the farm-to-school movement brewing in our nation. In addition to the parents buying food from the market after school, the food service used by PA and several other private schools was purchasing food from the farmers to serve in the school. PA saw having the farmers on the property as an educational opportunity for their students as well as a community outreach.It is very important to connect schools to local food if we want to see a turn around in the type of food our children are eating. Hopefully many schools will become interested in this type of connection with local farmers. It is a great idea which hopefully will spread.

So, as you can see, this issue is much bigger than just this group of farmers and their customers. The way city laws are written are very unfriendly to local farmers and apparently prevent farmers from being on school grounds. I spoke with a member of the sustainability commision who explained that there are ordinances which need to be rewritten. Local farmers need to be removed from the classification of "peddlers" and there need to be regulations designed specifically for them in order to give them more access to the public, including schools, and to give us more access to good food. Jody Hardin and others are trying to address these issues, but government does not move quickly.

We can help by being very vocal in our support of local food. Let our politicians know that this is not an issue that will go away, and that we will remember those who are willing to support change. I think it would be helpful for people to e-mail Bryan Day. Tell him that you are very interested in making local food more accessible in Little Rock and thank him for the help his office is providing in finding an appropriate location for our farmers. bday@littlerock.org Make these e-mails upbeat and encouraging. We are excited about farmers!

If anyone has any pull with any commercial property owners near the Pulaski Academy area, your help would be appreciated. If we do receive help from the city in locating an area, I'm not sure how quickly it will come. The farm season will be over before we know it, so there is no time to lose. Potential locations need to be zoned C3, C4, or UU (urban use).

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Jun 23, 2010

Happy Dance Salsa

Mom asked me to post her scrumptious salsa recipe, so here we are! Introducing Happy Dance Salsa!

Mom purchased Organic Brandywine Heirloom Tomatoes from Kelly Carney of North Pulaski Farms after he said they were so good that he had to do a happy dance after each bite. Once her salsa was finished, we took him a sample and got to see his happy dance in person. What a shame we didn't take a video for you, it sure was something! Here is a picture of Kelly’s lovely tomatoes:

Something you need to know is that tomatoes with character usually taste better than standard "cookie cutter" tomatoes. This is one such example:
Now, down to business!
The ingredients of this salsa include, but are not limited to the following:
4 lbs. of tomatoes
4 small onions (or 2 medium sized)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 Tbsp.)
6 jalapeño peppers
4 banana peppers
3 Tbsps. raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Real salt
1 Tsp. Sucanat (whole cane sugar)
4 cloves of crushed garlic
Strip the leaves off 8 stalks of oregano (use leaves, not stalks)
2 heaping tsp. of cumin

(This is oregano from Mom's herb garden, yellow candy onions from Armstead Mtn. Farm, and peppers from Laughing Stock Farm. Mom says both Kellog Valley Farm and The Garden at Becky Lane have very nice garlic bulbs.)

After all these wonderful ingredients have been gathered, pulse the onions and peppers in small batches in a Vitamix or a food processor. Once done, put the stuff in a large pot.
Pulse the tomatoes in small batches and add that to the pot as well reserving about 1/2 cup in the processor. Add the oregano leaves to the reserved tomatoes and puree! Once it's been blended to pulp, add it to the pot too.

Finally, you add the remaining ingredients and let them simmer until the desired consistency is reached. You might want to taste it and adjust the seasoning as needed.

(This is Mom's favorite pot. It is made of soapstone.)
This recipe makes about 2 quarts worth of some fantastic salsa! My brother and I enjoy snacking on it as often as we can, which isn’t often enough! It’s a great dip for chips, and most enjoyable while being pretty easy to make. Mom's salsa is really good, just please don't ask her how to can it! Just read about her canning attempt and you'll know why.

Jessica Lipe, age 16
See what others are doing for Real Food Wednesday.

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Jun 22, 2010

Zoning office shuts down Pulaski Academy Farmers Market

You may be wondering what happened to the farmers market at Pulaski Academy yesterday. Unfortunately, a code enforcement officer came by and prevented the farmers from setting up. Apparently, they were in violation of city zoning laws and someone complained.

The farmers have been serving West Little Rock on Mondays at Pulaski Academy for several weeks after being invited by the school to set up on their private grounds. Neither the school nor the farmers were aware that they were in violation of zoning laws and needed a variance from the city to be able to legally hold the market. The farmers requested that they be allowed to sell the over $1000 dollars of food that they had already picked and hauled to the market, but were told they would be fined $1000 if they sold anything.

I understand that cities have zoning rules and that not everyone appreciates our local farmers the way that I do. What I don't understand is not giving them a warning and allowing them to go ahead and sell the food they had in their trucks. The harvest is pouring in right now and farmers can't afford this type of profit loss.

These farmers have been providing a valuable service to West Little Rock and lots of people want them to stay. I am ashamed that our city treated them like fake Swiss watch salesmen instead of giving them the respect that is due to men who labor in the Arkansas heat to offer us truly fresh food that hasn't been shipped from across the country or across the world.

The variance that the farmers need to keep selling generally takes a month of bureaucratic red tape. Usually red tape can be greatly speeded up with help from the right people. This is being looked into.

In the meantime you can call the zoning office manager, Mr. Dana Carney, and express your displeasure at the way this situation was handled. I called this morning and received his voice mail where I left a message. I will continue to try to talk to him in person. The message I would like Mr. Carney to receive is that there are a lot of people who want the farmers at Pulaski Academy. We think they deserve respect, and we are displeased at the way the city damaged their businesses yesterday by not allowing them to sell the produce that was already brought to market. The more people who call the better. You don't have to have a lengthy conversation just ask for Mr. Carney then say, "I'm calling in support of the farmers who were shut down at Pulaski Academy yesterday. I want to let the zoning office know that I am disappointed that they were not allowed to sell the food they had already picked for that day. I hope that our city will treat our farmers with more respect in the future and that you will do whatever you can to help reinstate them at Pulaski Academy." Be firm, but respectful.
You can reach Mr. Carney's office at 371-4844. You can also e-mail dcarney@littlerock.org Please make contact.

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Jun 21, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start? This is a series intended to give courage for those wanting to launch into a real food journey. This week our author is Ellie Williams, who just celebrated 25 years of marriage.  She is the mother of seven children. Other authors for Small Beginnings include: Lisa LipeRita O'Kelley,  Laura FiserHBRobin Maguire, and Erin.
I've always been somewhat interested in nutrition, but our family's jouney toward healthier eating began in earnest out of desperation. Our daughter had been sick for 8 months, had to have major surgery, and was finally diagnosed with Crohn's disease before we were willing to make some serious changes in our diet.

The first changes were simple. Julie Majors recommended two books to me about the time my daughter's illness started. The first was The Schwarzbein Principle and the second was Nourishing Traditions.

After reading The Schwarzbein Principle, we cut out all soft drinks. This change was relatively easy because we drank them infrequently.  We noticed that when we drank them we felt bloated and our weight went up.

Secondly, we stopped using artificial sweeteners, and cut out foods whose ingredients read like a chemistry experiment.
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

After reading much of Nourishing Traditions, we added good fats back to our diet, including whole milk dairy. We'd always liked yogurt. Now that has become a staple. We've also added kefir to our list of probiotic dairy foods (so simple to make) and enjoy kefir smoothies almost daily.

One of the most difficult changes was no wheat pasta or traditional store-bought breads. Grains had always been an easy way to fill our 7 children.

Now we soak almost all of our grains or eat them sprouted. Now and then we have brown rice pasta.

Grains are hard to digest without soaking or sprouting. Digestability is one of the keys to good nutrition. A food can be loaded with nutrients but not be easy to digest. When that's the case, as it is with whole grain foods, a lot of the nutrients can pass right through the body. Soaking also decreases the irritating effects of grains that can lead to gluten intolerance.

We now eat grass-fed meats. They're expensive, but who knows what was fed to the meat we'd been buying before. Add to that the possibility of hormones and antibiotic exposure. Because of the expense, we don't eat meat every day. To fill in the gap, we've added farm fresh eggs to our diet and we eat more beans than ever, being careful to soak them making them more digestable.

The changes we've made haven't come easy. Meal planning and preparation have become more time consuming. Plus it's more expensive.

I regularly have to ask God for wisdom (But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him -James 1:5 ) and trust that He'll provide for the extra expense (And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus -Philippians 4:19). He's been faithful to guide us in the process of change. There are still steps we need to take.

In all this I cling to one of my favorite verses in the Bible-Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'

By the way, our daughter has been virtually symptom-free for a year now. We thank God for that!

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Jun 19, 2010

Canning Workshop at the Arkansas Sustainability Network

Canning - how hard can it be? The original plan was to can some of my "to die for" salsa. Last Saturday I visited the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market and purchased 20lbs. of beautiful tomatoes from North Pulaski Farms, some yellow candy onions from Armstead Mtn. Farm, and some garlic (and green beans) from Kellog Valley Farms. On Monday, I stopped by the West Little Rock Market to get a whole bunch of jalepenoes and lipstick peppers from Laughing Stock Farm. Unfortunately, I learned after making my large purchases that it is not safe to hot water bath can salsa. Tomatoes are okay, but not salsa with peppers. For salsa I would need a pressure canner.

No problem, I'd buy a pressure canner. How expensive can they be? Around $100 give or take. Oh my, this was getting to be expensive salsa. Then a friend offered to ask another friend to loan me her old pressure cooker. It was pretty small, but looked like it would hold 4 pint jars of salsa. Tuesday evening, I made 4 pints of salsa then searched the web to find directions for canning in my borrowed cooker. None of the directions seemed to really fit with the equipment I had, so finally I just did the best I could, feeling pretty clueless the whole time. Later that evening, I spoke to a friend with canning experience. When I told her the way I canned my salsa, she informed me that I was very lucky not to have blown up the cooker and myself. Apparently, canning can not be done in just any pressure cooker; it must be a cooker specifically made for pressure canning. This one was not.

Wednesday night in desperation I hot water bath canned the rest of the tomatoes which, due to my lack of experience, took me until 2am. Friday night I lacto-fermented the jalepenos and froze the lipstick peppers. After much emotional trauma, all my food is now safely preserved.

Many in my family before me canned food; I feel certain I'm smart enough to learn to do it without losing any appendages. But I suspect it would be much easier if someone showed me how. My experience this week made me really see that while books and the internet are wonderful for learning many things, having a live demonstration can be invaluable. Fortunately, the Root Cafe is offering such help for all of us newbies. These workshops will be held at Christ Episcopal Church (location of the Arkansas Sustainability Network Local Food Club). So if you'd like to learn to can food the easy way, rather than the hard way (like yours truly), I suggest you check it out.

Tuesday evenings 6:30pm-8:30pm
Sessions will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, 6th & Scott, downtown Little Rock
July 6, 13, 20
August 3, 10, 17, & 31
September 7, 14
For only
$10 per session
we’ll provide light snacks, all the materials and hands-on instruction!
Plus, you get to take home a sampling of the finished product.

If you can't make the workshop, you might want to check out this list of the top 50 website for learning self-canning.

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Jun 18, 2010

Weston A. Price Foundation Little Rock Chapter Meeting – July 16th

What’s the big deal over milk? Is raw milk really better for you than pasteurized? Could pasteurized milk actually be detrimental to your health? Is it raw milk safe?
The dairy debate is heating up across America. Attend the next Weston A. Price Foundation Little Rock Chapter meeting to learn more about health and safety issues surrounding raw milk.

The meeting will be held on Friday, July 16th from 7pm - 8:30pm at Redeemer Community Church located above the Revenue Office in the shopping mall between Drug Emporium and T. J. Max.
Anyone who would like to view a 20 minute overview of Dr. Price’s research on the health and diets of traditional peoples may come at 6:30 for a pre-meeting presentation. WAPF chapter meetings are free of charge.

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Jun 17, 2010

Eating Local: ZaZa's

"Where would you like to go for dinner tonight?"  Oh the dreaded question.

Let me give you a new fun option: ZaZa's Fine Salad and Wood Oven Pizza Company, in the Heights.  When possible, they use locally grown ingredients.

Be forewarned: the pizza is not American style - fluffy crust with pounds of cheap cheese.  Their pizza is delicious and more of an authentic Italian wood oven pizza.  On the menu, as their name implies, are also fine salads.

So the next time you're looking for a place for dinner, try ZaZa's.

And they have gelato.  Need I say more?

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Jun 16, 2010

How to Make Kombucha

EDIT: updated post here. Be sure to read it, too.

What is kombucha?
Short answer: It is a fermented tea.

Longer answer: (from the WAPF website) Kombucha is rich in B vitamins and a substance called glucuronic acid which binds up environmental and metabolic toxins so that they can be excreted through the kidneys. Glucuronic acid is a natural acid that is produced by the liver. Kombucha simply supplies the body with more and boosts the natural detoxification process.

Kombucha is also a probiotic that supplies your gut with healthy bacteria (that eats the nasty bacteria that makes you sick).  One study suggests that probiotics reduces anxiety and stress in mice; listen to this NPR interview with the study's author about how gut health influences the brain.

Whole Foods sells it in the refrigerated section, near the dairy, for about $3 for a 16oz bottle. Or, you can make it at home for about $0.50/gallon.

My family drinks it in great quantities so I've learned to make it.

See the pancake like thing floating on top of the jar?  Some people call it a mushroom, though it is not a fungus.  Others call it a SCOBY which is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  Similar to other fermented foods, you need this "starter" to begin.  They can be purchased at Cultures for Health or, get one from someone you know who makes it.  A new scoby grows with each batch of kombucha.

To Make Kombucha
As many grains of sand on the seashore, so are there variations to making kombucha.  I like to think of it as an art rather than a science.  Below is how I make it.

gallon glass jar
paper towel & rubber band
black and green tea
distilled, reverse osmosis, or boiled water

Start with filtered water, like distilled water or reverse osmosis water.  The chlorine and fluoride in tap water could damage the scoby.  You can always boil the water for 10 minutes, but it's too hot in my kitchen to do that.

Heat two cups of water for each gallon of kombucha so that you can dissolve one cup of sugar.  I use cheap white sugar, but some recommend using organic cane sugar.

Once the sugar is dissolved, add black and/or green tea.  I use 2 family sized (or 8 regular) bags of Lipton per gallon and usually add a few small bags of green tea (for antioxidants).  Today I was out of green tea.  Sometimes I use loose or organic tea.  The important thing is that you do not use herbal or flavored teas.  They have oils which can damage the scoby.

Let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes, longer if you like.

With clean hands, remove the scoby from your fermented tea.  Stir so as to mix the yeast (on the bottom) and the bacteria (on the top).
At this point, you can pour the fermented tea into mason jars (like this blogger), refrigerate and drink it.

However, if you like it effervescent like a soda, then it needs to be bottled, which is called a second ferment.  I add about one ounce (2T) of juice to the bottle, first.  Grape is our favorite, however any juice with white grape won't be as fizzy.  Fruit is also yummy - like blueberries, strawberries, raisins, peaches - just a few pieces will do. 
When filling your swing top bottles for the second ferment, be sure to save a cup or two of the fermented kombucha per gallon to use as a starter for the next batch.

The juice or fruit gives the yeast in the kombucha something to munch on during the second ferment.  You may remember from your chemistry class that the byproduct of yeast eating sugar is carbon dioxide, or bubbles!

The bottles to the left I bought on-line.  You can use anything with a skinny neck.  If you reuse a screw top bottle (like a wine bottle), make a seal with a folded piece of plastic wrap.  The middle bottle (below) had sparkling lemonade in it - from a fancy grocery store.  The green bottle is a Grolsch beer bottle.  A friend of mine landed a boat load of the Grolsch on Freecycle.  Fermentables is a store in North Little Rock that  sells these goodies for kombucha making.

As a general rule, the bottles stay on my counter for 3 days and up to 7 to get good and fizzy.  The night before we want to drink it, the bottle goes into the refrigerator.  Otherwise when opened, it could spew like champagne.

After bottling the fermented kombucha, it's time to refill the gallon jars.  Once your sweet tea is cooled, add more filtered water to it.  Then add the starter.  Finally add the scoby on top.  If the scoby sinks, no big deal.

Cover the gallon jar with a paper towel and secure it with a rubber band.  This will keep out dust and fruit flies.  Let it sit in a cool, dark place for about a week for best results.  My kombucha sits in the kitchen, where it's hot in the summer and gets light and does fine.  I drape the gallon jars with dark kitchen towels.

EDIT: updated post here. Be sure to read it, too.

Other links:
Videos by the Home Health Economist on how she makes kombucha: part 1 and part 2.

Is kombucha safe when pregnant or nursing?

Cheeseslave's thoughts on organic vs Lipton tea.

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Jun 15, 2010

Food Freedom

Today my blood is boiling regarding the whole food rights situation. I want to make you aware of a major struggle on the food freedom front in Wisconsin, but first you should know our rights to choose who grows our food and what we want to eat are in danger from goverment over-regulation across the nation including Arkansas. The industrial food industry is a big business which will very happily swallow all of your food dollars regardless of the health consequences to you and your family. If those who run this system can push out our small farmers in the name of "food safety" while continuing to fill our grocery shelves with highly processed disease causing garbage, all the better for them. (Can you tell I'm angry?)

This morning I spoke to Barbara Armstrong who raises superb beefalo, oversees the Conway certified farmers market, and performs many other services to promote our local food movement. Barbara recently met with an aid to Senator Lincoln to discuss the problem burdensome regulations are continuing to create for our small local meat farmers and processors. These are regulations designed to make industrial meat processing safe (good luck with that). They are being applied indiscriminately to small farmers who can’t afford the time, dollars, or effort required to fulfill them. Small scale farming and processing are by their very nature much safer and cleaner than factory scale operations. It doesn't make sense to regulate these operations out of existence if the true concern is food safety.

The policy of forcing small farmers and processors to meet big industry regulations in order to make our food “safe” may cause us to lose the very few small safe processing facilities left in Arkansas. Barbara said the Arkansas politicians she spoke with can’t seem to “hear” the danger these regulations pose to Arkansas farmers and to those of us who believe our small farmers are NOT the problem, but rather the answer to food safety issues.

We are sliding into a state of emergency if farmers, the foundation of society, are systematically eliminated through over-regulation, licenses, raids and economic strangulation. Unless the consumers who care about their food rally around the last remaining farms we will face a crisis beyond imagination. Our food system is a fragile house of cards.—Michael Schmidt, Canadian biodynamic dairyman, ARMi (Alliance for Raw Milk Internaionale) Co-director

Over-regulation, demands for more licenses and farm raids are exactly what is happening in states across the US including Wisconsin where Amish farmer Vernon Hershberger has been the focus of much attention. Hershberger distributes food including raw dairy products to members of a private food club. These members have contracted with Hershberger to provide food for their families. As shareholders they are private owners of the food being distributed.

The following are the details of the situation which I received from the Weston A. Price Foundation. On June 2, DATCP officials, Jacqueline Owens and Cathleen Anderson along with Sauk County Health Department officials and deputies of the County Sheriff descended upon Vernon and Erma Hershberger's dairy farm, Grazin' Acres in Loganville, to execute a "special inspection" warrant. DATCP inspectors taped freezers in the Hershbergers' farm store and placed a hold order on thousands of dollars of food in the store, mostly raw milk and raw milk products. In addition a big glob of blue dye was dumped into the milk tank preventing even the Hershberger's family from consuming it. The officials left papers demanding that the milk be dumped into a field. Under the hold order, the Hershbergers were prohibited from selling or even moving any of the food in the taped freezers. DATCP sent inspectors out to the farm because the Hershbergers had refused to comply with an intrusive request by the agency for documents and information going back over seven years.

The Hershbergers' on-farm store sold products only to members of the private buying club. Vernon told reporters that under the Constitution, he was allowed to enter into private contracts and that DATCP had no jurisdiction over his operation. DATCP has referred the matter to the Sauk County District Attorney.

On June 8, Owens and Anderson returned to the farm without a warrant, attempting to conduct another inspection of the farm store. Vernon refused the request for an inspection and the officials left his premises. Before leaving, they served Vernon a 'Special Order' which could subject him to fines of up to $5,000 per violation if he is not in compliance with Wisconsin food and dairy laws.

On June 10, Owens and Anderson again returned to the farm, this time with a warrant but the store doors were locked; so, again they left without searching the store. There have been no reported cases of injury to anyone from Hershberger’s operation nor have there been any complaints. (You can read more specific details on all of these events here.)

Hershberger is an Amish farmer who believes in non-resistance and praying for one’s enemies, but in this case he has courageously chosen the path of civil disobedience believing that God is leading him to “lay down his life for his friends” – that would be all of us who value our personal rights to chose our own food.

Vernon Hershberger is not cooperating with the officials who have demanded that he stop providing food to those who already own the food, until he gets a license which they will not issue.

The Journal of Natural Food and Healing have listed the following constitutional guarantees that are being ignored by these government officials:

1) the right to own private property
2) the right to privately contract (make an agreement) with individuals
3) the right to learn and decide what foods and health options are best for you and your family
4) the right to do business with those you trust and honor and wish to trade with;
5) the right to contract for one’s food for a future delivery; the right to take delivery; and the right to own a share of a farm/food production operation.

You can find out more details about the Hershbergers and how you can help at the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and The Journal for Natural Food and Healing.

Food, children's education, healthcare...it seems we have many in our government who believe they should take responsibility for the decisions of our private lives.

Either we are free and embrace responsibility or we are slaves and demand protection. Make your choice. - Michael Schmidt

If Americans don’t stand together at this time in our nation to let our government know that we do not want to be “protected” from small farmers to be left at the mercy of big agriculture, and we don't want to be "protected" from our own private decisions regarding things as basic as what food we eat, we are quickly going to be living in a nation we no longer recognize as the “Land of the Free.”

If you would like to have a better understanding of these issues, I recommend the documentary Food, Inc. It is available as an instant watch on Netflix. If you live in the Little Rock area, I would be happy to loan you a copy. realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com

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Jun 14, 2010

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

Every Monday we have a guest blogger for Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start? It is a series intended to give courage for those wanting to launch into a real food journey. This week our author is Erin, whose journey to real food didn't actually start with food. Other authors include: Lisa LipeRita O'Kelley,  Laura Fiser, and HB and Robin Maguire.


My journey to a healthier lifestyle actually began with household products.  Cleaners, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, lotion, etc.--all got a major overhaul.  At that point in my life, household products seemed to be a less daunting task than changing our eating habits.

So I started reading labels.  This was the very first baby step for me.  I wanted to know exactly what all that unpronouncable stuff was.  Basically, it's all chemicals and code names for chemicals.    
For example, on Johnson and Johnson's baby shampoo you will find the ingredient Quaternium-15.  Quaternium-15 is also known as formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.  Keep in mind that formaldehyde is used in tons of stuff we're exposed to every day including furniture, clothing, and carpet.  Other exposures include cigarette smoke and vaccines.  If you see an ingredient with “-eth” in the name, then you can be sure that product contains formaldehyde.

The most common pronouncable word on the ingredient list is a huge loophole for whatever they want to put in there: Fragrance.  Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in their scents, and most fragrances contain pthalates.
Here’s an informative video on phtalates:
So we started buying products without fragrance.  I stopped using dryer sheets and started making my own laundry detergent.  And I began looking up ingredients on the Skin Deep website.
Two safe options we now use, that can be purchased at Kroger, are coconut oil for moisturizing and Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soaps for bathing and hand washing.  Dr. Bronner’s is also an ingredient in my laundry detergent.
Then I moved on to cleaning products.  I got rid of items with chlorine bleach and those that had a scary warning label (e.g. “Warning: If ingested, call poison control immediately!”).  I basically clean everything with baking soda and/or vinegar.  I am still using a few cleaners from Melaleuca that have lasted me 4 years and counting.  There are tons of resources on the internet that tell you how to make your own cleaners.  Use the money you save to buy some grass-fed meat!

It's strange to me that people think their health isn't affected by what they put on their skin.  Our skin is our largest organ.  We use birth control patches and nicotine patches expecting the desired results, but don't think about the effects of other chemicals placed directly on our skin.

I try not to stress out about the exposures I can't control—we have to breathe, ya know!  But I CAN control what products I purchase and put in our home.  A healthy diet, a traditional one like the Weston A. Price Foundation promotes, will also help mitigate the effects of environmental toxins.

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Jun 13, 2010

Mark Your Calendar: Farm Day

Falling Sky Farm is hosting a "Farm Day" for those who would like to see the farm and meet the animals.  Mark your calendar for Sunday, June 27 from 9-11AM.  Here are directions, it is about an hour and 45 minutes from Little Rock. Be sure to let Andrea know you are coming [andrea AT fallingskyfarm DOT com].  Go here for more details.

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Jun 12, 2010

Early Bird Gets the Worm

By 7am my eyes were feasting on Arkansas's best at the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market.  By 7:05 so was my mouth.  Yummy tomatoes and blackberries!!!

I went with a friend early to the market because she was picking up her quarter of grass fed beef, from Falling Sky Farm.  Normally I like to sleep in on Saturdays (but with a newborn, who needs sleep?!)

We walked around a bit and by the time we left, around 8am, the inventory was drastically reduced.  Moral of the story: go early.  Your mouth will thank you.

Above: Robert of Willow Springs Market Garden has many varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

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