Aug 31, 2010

Try It Tuesday: Plantains

Crazy enough, on Saturday one of my friends gave me two plantains.  You know the banana looking things that turn black in the produce section?  

Two days later my first grader came home from Comm. Central talking about watching a video in Spanish class about cooking plantains.  

Ye 'ole Internet gave me a recipe similar to the one John Isaac described.   From what I read, if you want plantains to be sweet - buy them looking black.  If you're going to eat them savory, buy them green or yellow. 
The first recipe we used the yellow plantain for our "dessert."  We love desserts!  
Chop plantain in one inch sections and fry on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.  I fried in lard but coconut oil would be yummy too.
Drain on paper towels (or napkins, if like us, you run out of paper towels.)  Then squish with a glass.
Soak in 2 cups hot water with 2 teaspoons of salt for one minute.
Fry again on both sides.

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Very yummy, indeed!  John Isaac said they taste sort of like apples and I agreed.
To make plantains savory, slice as thin as possible.
Fry for a few minutes on each side.
Sprinkle with sea salt.

Yummy yummy YUMMY!  These are better than chips. 

When we lived in Phoenix, we would buy these from Trader Joe's in a bag.  I'm glad to know that I can make my own!

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Aug 30, 2010

Where Do You Get Your Eggs?

“Besides providing all eight essential protein building amino acids, a large whole, fresh egg offers about six to seven grams of protein and five grams of fat (with about 1.5 grams of it saturated), which comes in handy to help in the absorption of all the egg’s fat-soluble vitamins. One egg also serves up around 200 milligrams of brain-loving cholesterol and contains the valuable vitamins A, K, E, D, B-complex and minerals iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Choline, another egg-nutrient, is a fatty substance found in every living cell and is a major component of our brain. Additionally, choline helps break up cholesterol deposits by preventing fat and cholesterol from sticking to the arteries. So the bottom line is, don’t be chicken about eating eggs, especially the cholesterol-rich yolks! “ (from WAPF article, Eat Eggs and Have Your Chickens too)

Julie has already blogged about
our invitation to the Kroger VIBE (very important bloggers’ event) last week where we were given very special treatment. We met important Kroger executives who took us on a tour of the store, provided lots of samples and a take home gift bag. And while I have plenty of issues with the current food system in America, I have to admit that some of the people running it are quite nice. They even managed to keep smiling after I admitted that I couldn’t really remember the last time I had purchased food in a Kroger store.

One of the first questions I asked at Kroger was about the recent egg scare. We were told the contaminated eggs came from a huge egg plant in Iowa which distributes millions of eggs. (That's scary even without the salmonella part.) We were also told eggs from that plant aren’t distributed to our area of the country. So I guess we have no cause for alarm (this time). We also discussed the fact that thoroughly cooking eggs protects us from salmonella poisoning. I would certainly agree that one should thoroughly cook any egg that came from a plant that distributes millions of eggs.

Everyone should do their own egg research and make their own decisions, but for myself, I’m going to continue happily eating nutrient-dense raw egg yolks
in my smoothies without concern, because my eggs come from my own backyard (see picture above) or from one of our local farmers that I know and trust who keeps chickens on pasture. Healthy birds produce healthy eggs. But chickens kept in little bitty cages with no grass or sunshine – who knows.

Since people have become more aware of the poultry industry’s practice of keeping hens in “battery cages” packed so closely together that they can barely move for almost all of their lives, we have begun to see new labels on eggs on our grocery shelves. (Sometimes commercial growers even trim the chickens' beaks. )

Not only are battery cages bad for chickens, the eggs produced by this practice are nutritionally inferior. Egg labels can be confusing and perhaps somewhat misleading. The following definitions came from “The Meaning of Free-Range, Cage-Free, and other Egg Labels” by Laura Dolson
. (Some of these labels are also used for chicken meat.)
Cage-free: The hens are not kept in cages, though there are no regulations to govern care beyond that.

Free-range: Free-range chickens are (according to voluntary regulations) supposed to have "access to the outdoors" -- however, by many reports, the care of many of these hens is structured so that they are very unlikely to go outside.

Organic: The chickens must be fed organic feed (grown without commercial fertilizers or pesticides, cannot be GMO grain), and not given hormones or antibiotics. This has nothing to do with how the chickens are kept, however.

Humanely Raised: This is a totally unregulated definition, although organizations are springing up to try to come up with common definitions. The most prominent organization, Humane Farm Animal Care, has a certification process, which includes no cages, and hens having at least 1.5 square feet of floor space. Free-range hens must have outside access, and doors to the outside "must allow more than one hen at a time to exit".

Omega-3 eggs: some hens are fed flax seed, which also dramatically increases the amount of omega-3 in the yolks of the eggs.
Pastured: According to the USDA Trade Descriptions, "birds are raised outdoors using movable enclosures located on grass and fed an organic diet (without hormones or non-organic additives) and/or raised without antibiotics (drugs that are intended to prevent or treat animal illnesses)". The advantage to pasture-raised eggs is that the hens are able to eat a wide variety of the natural food of chickens -- greens, grubs, etc. Not only do many people find these eggs to be much tastier, but there is accumulating evidence that the eggs from these hens have better nutritional profiles -- less cholesterol, less fat but more healthy Omega-3 fat, and more of other nutrients such as vitamin A, lutein, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.

I try to get all my eggs from chickens on pasture. Since chickens eat a lot of feed in addition to the bugs and greens from the pasture, I also look for farmers whose supplemental feed for their pastured birds is organic.

I highly recommend that you take a quick look at this chart summarizing the Mother Earth News 2007 egg testing project. It provides some very compelling evidence regarding the nutritional superiority of pastured eggs over conventionally raised eggs.

If you’re not yet completely convinced that there is truly a difference in pastured verse conventional (even conventional organic) eggs, this link will help you “get the picture


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Aug 28, 2010

New Kroger on Chenal

For lunch Friday, Lisa and I were invited to a blogger's sneak preview of the Kroger Marketplace on Chenal.  It is nice.  

While waiting in the lobby for everyone to arrive, I asked a question about Kroger's labeling.  I read labels. Everyone should read labels.  

A few weeks ago I was stumped. Two cans of refried beans with the exact same front had different ingredients.

Exhibit A ingredients above: cooked beans, water, contains 2% or less of lard, salt, seasoning [chili pepper, onion powder, spices, garlic powder, spice extract (not sure what it says)], vinegar.

Exhibit B ingredients below: prepared pinto and pink beans, water, blurry word (with BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, and citric acid to protect flavor), salt, distilled vinegar, chile pepper, onion blurry word, spices, garlic powder, natural flavor.
The answer given to me (and I'm that I'm condensing) was that Kroger buys products from several companies then adds the Kroger label.   

Another quick label example - Breyers ice cream has several styles of vanilla ice cream.  Only one style doesn't include high fructose corn syrup.  Moral of the story: keep reading labels.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog post...

The tour of the new-and-improved Kroger on Chenal.

It has a lovely floral section.  Parks Brothers from Van Buren, Arkansas provides some of the outdoor selections.
Arkansas peaches, y'all!

While talking with Joe Bell, Manager of Marketing and Public Affairs, Lisa and I expressed our desire to see more locally grown produce and meats in Kroger.  Mr. Bell explained that produce must have the internal temperatures cooled way down in order for it to have a longer shelf life.

For example, after the Arkansas peaches were picked, they were shipped to Memphis -to the distribution center- to be chilled then shipped back to Arkansas to be sold on Chenal.  This conversation helped me understand a grocery store's dilemma while building in me a greater passion for eating locally grown food.  I love the farmers markets!

I'd never eaten fresh currants before today.  The extensive produce section will *wow* you.
Rambutans.  What the heck?!
They also sell normal produce like potatoes and broccoli.

You'll find a bulk section that will give Whole Foods a run for their money.
Unsulfered no sugar papaya spears.  What is this world coming to?
Make your own peanut butter.  Or almond butter.
Sushi, thirty-five varieties made on site.  Everyone said it was wonderful.  I tried to like it.  I just don't like fish.  But if you like sushi, you would probably like the sushi from Kroger.
If sushi isn't on the menu for lunch (or dinner) maybe you'd like a made to order sandwich, which is a healthy alternative to a fast food restaurant.
I learned that "Boar's Head Natural" doesn't contain added nitrates or nitrites.  Did you know Boar's Head is in Arkansas?
Anyone felt like a "Chef on the Run?" I think that island of food will be helpful to a hurried mom in the future. 
Next stop?  Cheese shoppe.  
Yummy cheese.  It's so gouda.  Get it?  Good-uh?
Of the 85 varieties of cheese, I tried brie and this raw goat's cheese.  Delish.
Then we grazed at the anti-pastas and olive bar.
Oh, and then there were the sweets.  Man I had to practice self control not to go back for seconds!
Bread is baked daily.  The artisan breads are made in a different facility, flash frozen, shipped to Chenal, proofed, then baked.
There's a nifty bread slicing do-it-yourself machine.

From the bakery we went to the meat and seafood departments.  I didn't get a picture of the extensive seafood case, but they offer 30-35 varieties of seafood at any time.  

And the meat department was comprehensive as well.  But after watching Food, Inc. I stopped buying meat at a store.  My chicken and eggs come from Herman and my dad gives me beef.

There is so much more to see on Chenal.  If you're in the area, you really ought to stop by and take a look around.  Just stay on the outer perimeter of the store where you'll find real food.


In compliance with FTC guidelines, I must tell you that we were given a gift bag when we left.  Lisa and I did not have to blog about our Kroger tour, favorable or otherwise.

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Aug 26, 2010

Anecdotes or the Scientific Method?

I received an e-mail yesterday asking me how to become a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation. The e-mail reminded me that Sarah, "the Healthy Home Economist" recently invited WAPF chapter leaders to share the article below which she wrote about Wise Traditions, the journal WAPF members receive on a quarterly basis. The Weston A. Price Foundation has approximately 400 chapters across the United States and over 70 international chapters. Not only does a WAPF membership provide you with a subscription to a very informative journal, it is also an important way to join your voice with that of an organization which speaks out loudly on behalf of Real Food education, research, and activism.


I'm going way out on a limb with this post and may be opening myself up to a bunch of "you are completely nuts" emails, but I think what I have to say really needs to be said. So here goes anyway ....

Over the years, I have gotten increasingly comfortable with anecdotal evidence as opposed to scientific studies when it comes to health related topics.

Have any of you noticed that you are starting to feel the same way?

If I notice a pattern where a few of my trusted friends tell me that they have discovered that doing this or eating that is helping their families' health, I tend to be more receptive to this message than when a big media story trumpets some big new "health breakthrough".

Health Breakthrough? Yawn.

These"health breakthroughs" are so often found to be slanted one way or another based on who is funding the research.

Or worse, the reporting is just so bad that the
story is incredibly misleading and leads the reader to very wrong conclusions.

It seems that much of the so called "research" on health these days is really covert marketing by drug companies, Big Food and others.

Using "science" to manipulate the buying habits of consumers? Absolutely!

Anecdotal evidence, on the other hand, is based primarily on personal observation and case studies. If this observation comes from a trusted source, then it has much validity in my experience.

Think about traditional cultures. They did not have the scientific method to lean on. Anecdotal evidence was all they had to navigate through their choices about what to eat and what not to eat on a daily and seasonal basis.

Health anecdotes were passed down from generation to generation. Those who did not follow these anecdotes either died or failed to reproduce.

Nature is harsh when her rules are not obeyed.

This is not to say that I do not value the scientific method. On the contrary, I find truly objective, scientific studies to be a great achievement of our modern culture. Done right, these types of studies have the power to identify critical information that is of real value to humankind.

Unfortunately, it seems that the scientific approach to health and wellness is coming under increasing abuse nowadays which partly explains the resurgence and popularity of anecdotal evidence.

Moms seem especially open to anecdotal evidence from those they trust. Moms networking together and providing support and information to help each other grow healthy children is a very powerful force in the world.

Never underestimate the power of the hand that rocks the cradle.

One source of information that has gained my trust as a Mom over the years is Wise Traditions magazine, a quarterly publication from the Weston A. Price Foundation. My favorite section of this periodical is the "Caustic Commentary" which takes the media reports on health and wellness from the previous few months and rips them to shreds if the research has been found lacking in objectivity.

Wise Traditions is a bit of a watchdog in that regard.

The letters in Wise Traditions are also very interesting, providing one anecdotal story after another about how traditional diet has helped a person or family come back from the brink of ill health.

Balancing the anecdotes, many of the Wise Traditions articles are extremely detailed and heavily rooted in science - science done right, that is, with objectivity and nonpartiality.

Anecdotes or the scientific method? Which do you value more and why?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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Traditional Foods Dinner - SOLD OUT

We have sold all of the available tickets for our traditional foods dinner on September 9th. Thanks to your generous gifts to "feed a farmer" there will be 7 farmers attending the dinner along with their families. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone who is planning to come!

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Real Food Lunches

Now that school is back in session, here are some real food suggestions for lunch.

The first two pictures are my first grader's lunches.
Above: shredded carrots, popcorn -popped in coconut oil, raw cheese sandwich, water and Spiderman high fructose corn syrup and artificially colored poison (hey - we adhere to the 80/20 rule!)

Below: raw cheese sticks, water, popcorn, organic apples, peaches, oatmeal bake.
Below is lunch from Lisa Lipe: pastured hard boiled egg, raw cheese, organic apple, pastured chicken sandwich with lettuce and lacto-fermented mayonnaise on sprouted wheat bread.

Below is HB's kindergartner's lunch: mild cheddar cheese and wheat bread sandwich, popcorn popped in coconut oil, apple, soaked granola with extra raisins, in the sippy cup: water kefir, and of course, a napkin note because man does not live on bread alone.
Erin also has elementary aged children.  They get cheese or hummus quesadillas (on sprouted tortillas and fried in coconut oil), carrot sticks, organic applesauce, and homemade organic popcorn or granola for snack.  If they didn't eat an egg at breakfast, she would probably send a hard-boiled one in their lunch. 

Other ideas for real food lunch include:
 - egg salad
 - hard boiled eggs
 - probiotic potato salad
 - hummus and veggies
 - Lacto-fermented pickles
 - chicken salad
 - yogurt (full FAT) and granola
 - leftovers from the previous night's dinner.


What real food lunch ideas do you have?

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Aug 25, 2010

How to Make Falafel

In 1998 I was an exchange student in Israel and feasted for the first time on falafel.  I've been a fan ever since.

This falafel recipe is basically the same as p506 in Nourishing Traditions.  My family likes the taste, I like that it is inexpensive and makes a lot.  The recipe says it serves eight.  When I make falafel, we eat it for dinner then I freeze the remainder in two packages.
2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked in water 24 hours (just soak, do not cook.  NT says to add whey to the water and chickpeas.  My experience is that it makes them very tough; I just soak in water.)
4 cups parsley leaves, loosely packed
4 medium onions (mine were large, so I used 3)
4 (or more) cloves of peeled garlic
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t pepper
2 t sea salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper (more if you'd like)
1 t baking powder

optional: cute kitchen helper

In food processor, add 1 c parsley and 1/4 of all the other ingredients.  Pulse until chopped.  Scrape down sides.  Pulse again till it resembles a course paste. Dump into a large bowl and start again.

  Basically you want to chop small batches of everything.  Do not make the mistake of try to chop all the chickpeas, or all the parsley at once.  It works best if you put a bit of everything in the food processor and chop.

Keep pulsing all the ingredients together in small batches until your face looks like his.
The above picture is still too coarse. If your mixture is too coarse it will not hold together in the frying pan.
Then refrigerate for at least one hour.  When it's dinner time, over medium high heat, melt lard in a skillet.  You can also use olive oil, but lard is much cheaper.  Most store bought lard is hydrogenated (BAD!), but homemade lard is good for you.  It is very easy to render lard.  If you're in Little Rock, Youngblood GrassFed Farm sells pork fat that you can buy through ASN.
Here's where my rendition deviates from Nourishing Traditions.  I add about 1/3 cup white flour to about 1.5 cups of the "course paste" and stir, as mine doesn't stick together well in the skillet without the flour.  Usually I also add a pastured egg yolk.  But I was out of eggs.  It worked fine with just the flour. (see also note in the comments.)
Form mixture into patties and fry in lard for about 2-3 minutes on each side till golden brown.

Above and below I'm illustrating mad flippin' skillz. 

Serve with hummus, slices of feta, Nourishing Gourmet's quinoa tabbouleh (pictured below), and tzatziki sauce (recipe below.)
My friend and fellow foodie, HB, asked the owner of Layla's about his tzatziki recipe.  He obliged!  The key is to use sour cream, not yogurt.  Be careful not to use too much cucumber, as it will make your sauce too watery.  

When I made the tzatziki, my limiting factor was about 6oz. sour cream.  The more sour cream you have, the more cucumber you can use.

Tzatziki Sauce from Layla's
Spoon 6oz sour cream in a blender with about 1/4 of a medium sized cucumber, coarsely chopped.  Add about 4-6 small mint leaves from your herb garden.   Give blender a whirl.  Scrape down sides of blender, whirl again.  Taste.  Add salt and pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon.  Blend. Taste. Adjust as necessary.


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