Sep 27, 2010

Don't Hate The Okra

HB here to share one fantabulous recipe. I visited the West Little Rock Farmer's Market last Monday and loaded up on some beautiful and yummy okra. I can't resist fresh okra. Below is my favorite okra recipe. It's hearty, savory and just delightful.

Fresh Okra and Tomatoes (straight out of the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

8 slices bacon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gasp! Yes, I do use white flour occasionally. 80/20 people!)
4 cups sliced okra (1 pound)
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black or white pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat till crisp. Remove bacon, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Stir flour into reserved drippings, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until roux is caramel-colored (10-15 minutes).

Add okra, onion, and garlic, cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato and remaining 3 ingredients. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until okra is tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with reserved crumbled bacon. Yields 4 large servings.

We served ours alongside delicious, grass-fed, NY strip steaks. :) Hubby is not a tomato lover, but he really enjoys this dish. Hope you like it!

Don't forget to visit the WLR Farmer's Market today. Check out today's offerings here.

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Sep 26, 2010

Monday Market in WLR

Remember earlier this summer when the farmers market in west Little Rock was shut down?

Thankfully the city listened to reason and allowed the farmers to set back up a few weeks later.  It was encouraging to know so many people in west Little Rock wanted a farmers market.

Dutifully three or more farmers have brought their goods rain or shine to the corner of Hinson and Napa Valley. (It has poured on occasion and I don't have to remind everyone how hot it is.)

Last Monday - Lisa, Lori and I emailed everyone we knew and posted on Facebook to go to the farmers market from 2-5pm.  The guys were discouraged because business has been slow.  Thankfully many of you responded to our plea to encourage the farmers!

So, if you're like me and try to meal plan on Sunday, maybe this week you could plan a meal that was entirely local.  As my dad would say, "Put your money where your mouth is." 

Tomorrow's market offerings will include:
Barnhill Orchards will have Sweet Potatoes Turnip & Mustard greens, Ranch Eggs, Purple Hull Peas, Okra, Melons and more.

Kellog Valley Farms will have Turnip & Mustard greens, Kale, Okra, Zephyr Squash, Yellow Squash, Acorn and Butternut squash and more.

Falling Sky Farms will have chicken, eggs and BEEF!

North Pulaski Farms will have Tyria Cucumbers, Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans, Red & Green Bell Peppers, Yellow squash.

Three Buddies Mushroom Farm will have Shitake mushrooms.
Recipe Ideas
It would take a bit of tweaking, but you could use this slow cooker recipe for kale and substitute purple hull peas for the black-eyed ones.  I would also use homemade broth, brown rice, and add some okra, squash and bell peppers.  OK, maybe that's a lot of tweaking.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Kale Krisps
Butternut Squash Soup
What ideas do you have?

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Sep 24, 2010

Cod Liver Oil: A Fishy Dilemma

One thing I like about following traditional dietary principles is that I don’t have to juggle a plethora of expensive supplements. My goal is to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals rather than trying to get nutrients by taking pills.

The thing I don’t like so much is that the one supplement that is strongly promoted by the Weston A. Price Foundation is cod liver oil. Of all the shelves and shelves of tasty or flavorless supplements at the health food store, why cod liver oil?

Cod liver oil is a “traditional supplement” that has been used for the treatment of numerous health problems since ancient times. It is a source of vitamins A, D, K, and E, as well as DHA. Because of the synergistic interaction between various nutrients, cod liver oil should be taken in the context of a nutrient-dense traditional diet which includes butter from grass-fed cows. Not all brands of cod liver oil are equal, Green Pasture cod liver oil is fermented rather than industrially processed, so the natural vitamins are retained. You can read more about the benefits, recommended brands, and doses here.

As a teacher of struggling learners, I recommend a traditional diet along with supplemental cod liver oil regularly to my students and their families. As you can imagine, the cod liver oil suggestion makes me quite popular. People generally asked me first about taking capsules. The problem with capsules is that one serving of two capsules provides less than half the vitamin D in a half teaspoon of the oil. If I’m calculating correctly, you would need 4 capsules to almost equal ½ teaspoon of oil, if you want a dose equal a full teaspoon, that’s 8 or 9 pretty pricey capsules a day.
After explaining that capsules are really not the best option, the next question I get is about which flavor tastes good. At this point, I realize the asker has not come to grips with the concept of swallowing something simply for the health benefits. He or she is retaining a glimmer of hope that if orange, mint, or chocolate (yes, you read that right) is added or the oil is encased in a chewable gummy fish (I’m not making this up); somehow it won’t taste like fish liver. Green Pasture has come up with a number of flavors, but in the interest of honesty, I must say there just seems to be no way to truly mask the taste of fish liver. Perhaps we must let go of the fantasy that there is some means of making cod liver oil taste good and just hold our noses and swallow.

Personally, I don’t have much problem taking my cod liver oil. I know I need the vitamin A and D, and my brain certainly needs the omega-3s. I have tried various flavors, including chocolate (It was on clearance. Can you imagine?) I found that each flavor I tried tasted like (you guessed it) cod liver oil. This is why I have worked on perfecting a strategy to take my cod liver oil without tasting it.

I put a little water in a shot glass and float the oil on top of the water. Then I toss it back and swallow everything together. The key is to do this quickly. If you waste time staring at it, it will float to the edges of the glass and start sticking. If done correctly, very little of the cod liver oil will touch your tongue. No time should be spent swirling it around savoring the chocolaty-cod flavor.

I should mention that there is another way of taking cod liver oil without tasting it. This method is generally used for very young children and infants, but I’ve found you can threaten teenagers with it if their father is still big enough to hold them down. Cod liver oil can be absorbed through the skin. Usually this is done by applying it to the baby’s behind after a diaper change. This method probably will not do a lot to enhance the smell of your little one, but apparently it is an effective way to take a dose of cod liver oil.

I recently took a small survey of some of our readers to find out their experiences with different flavors of cod liver oil. Two generous readers actually offered to bring their cod liver oil gummy fish to my house so you could come by and taste them yourselves. They seemed very eager to donate the product. (Perhaps my moral dilemma over what to pass out to the neighbor kids on Halloween is solved.)

The suggestions I received for how to take cod liver oil and what flavors to try are below. If you’d like to participate in bulk orders for savings on Green Pasture cod liver oil, you can e-mail me at realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com.

Our first choice is "salty cod" (sounds gross, but is pretty mild), second choice is "cinnamon tingle." The Orange flavor is nasty. The kids (including the 15-month old) take it straight from the syringe--just squirt it in their open mouths. Hubby and I have to put the CLO in our mouths along with a swig of beverage (usually water), slosh together, and swallow as quickly as possible. Holding your nose helps, too. Erin

This is so funny!!!! I just emailed you that exact question based on the previous email you sent out about reordering. I can tell you that the fermented, non-flavored is baaaaad. Jan

My family takes both the cinnamon and the orange. My husband has tasted both flavors and says hands down the cinnamon is the best tasting. However, it causes my son's mouth to break out in hives. For that reason, my son and I take the orange.

Here's how we all take it:Remember that oil floats on water? Use the syringe to pull measured amount out of bottle. Put a tiny swallow of water in mouth (do not swallow, yet). Squirt FCLO in mouth on top of water. Then swallow. Because the oil floats, it doesn't really reach my tongue. There is a *tiny* aftertaste BUT it's gone just a few swallows later.

I used to use a mint flavored gel, but they don’t make that exact product anymore. I don’t think I will ever enjoy cod liver oil, but everyone in my family was able to take the mint w/o too much complaint. We take it floating on top of a shot glass of water or juice. I think there is a mint liquid now. I haven’t tried that. The gel was nice because it stayed in a little lump floating in the glass and we could swallow it whole (didn’t stick to glass edges or end up needing to be licked off our lips). I also took the chocolate gel when it went on clearance due to discontinuing the item (a good decision on the part of GP). I currently take the plain, which made me gag right at first but I’ve gotten used to it. I’m trying the Mediterranean next. Lisa

I either chase it with OJ or I mix it with OJ. That is how I get it down. I have tried other ways but this is the best way I have found it to work. My son mixes his in Propel. (I know that is not preferred but how ever he will get it down is good for me.) Holly

It looks like the flavors have changed----we used to like cinnamon tingle but I didn't see it on the internet this time... so now trying some new flavors--orange and way for us to take is in a shot glass of kombucha or OJ with FCLO on top...Laura

I can't speak to flavor, because I've only bought cod liver oil once, Garden of Life brand from Whole Foods, and it was Lemon Mint. I gagged when I tried it straight. But I started adding it to a shot of Organic Blueberry Pomegranate juice, or the organic Dragonberry juice, and I was even able to get my kids to take it. My son preferred it when I swished it back and forth between glasses to get it mixed together so that the oil was more "hidden". He can't shoot it as fast as everyone else. But it really didn't taste too bad with the juice. I want to try the Oslo Orange from Green Pastures next. Missy


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Sep 23, 2010

Benefits of Bulk Buying Local Meat

A Grand Harvest
  by Tracy Youngblood of Youngblood Grassfed Farm

It is harvest time on most farms.  The idea of harvest tends to evoke feelings of fields, farms and fencerows.  Traditionally, harvest means: bringing in large quantities of crops or in our case, meat.  This may be directly opposed to how you shop now.

Buying meat in bulk quantity is an alternative that will save you time and money with a little locally grown economic revival thrown in for good taste.  You are already familiar with the concept of bulk buying, but may not have applied it to buying meat.

Saving Time
Meal planning is made easier when you have a freezer full of meat.  You know exactly what you have.  You do not run the risk of a product being out of stock, nor do you have to spend time driving to the grocery store for each meal.  All you do is stroll to the freezer and make your superb dinner selection.

Saving Money
At Youngblood Grassfed Farm, we call it cow-pooling.  Cow-pooling is when you and a couple other families join together to purchase larger quantities of meat, like a whole beef.  You are getting the higher end cuts of meat, such as steak, but at the lower end price range.

For example, our  rib-eye steak bought individually through a market would cost you $7.97.  This is about $11.30/lb.  When you cow pool, you are getting rib-eye steak for the same price as ground beef,  which would be about $5.00/lb. from our farm.

Time and money are not the only benefits of bulk meat buying.  You are supporting local, agriculture-related businesses like abbatoirs.  An abbatoir is a fancy word for meat processors.  There are 2 types of processors in Arkansas, custom and USDA inspected.

USDA Inspected Abbatoir
When you want to buy one package of meat at a time, for example from ASN, for our farm to be able to sell individual resale cuts, it must be processed at a USDA inspected facility.  A USDA inspected facility incurs more cost, due in part to governmental regulations, which in turn is passed on to the farmer, then the customer.  Since there are a limited number of these facilities in Arkansas, the farmer typically has to drive long distances spending valuable time and gas money to deliver the live animal to the USDA inspected facility.  A week or more later, the farmer drives the long distance again to pick up the processed meat.   Unfortunately the money spent in gas has to be passed along to the consumer.

Custom Abbatoir
The cost-efficient alternative to a USDA inspected facility is custom processing.  When you purchase a whole or half an animal, it is considered a live sale.  You basically own that animal; it is intended for your consumption, not resale of individual pieces.  Therefore, you can have that animal processed by a custom processor.  Many hunters of deer and wild boars use custom processing facilities to preserve their wild game.

There are more custom abbatoirs than USDA facilities scattered around the state of Arkansas which means less gas money for the farmer.  Custom processors are fully inspected and licensed through the state, not through USDA.  Costs are lower which is another savings for the consumer.

Added Bonus
Though it may not matter as much to you as time and money, there's another reason to buy meat in bulk:  it helps to promote a locally grown economic revival.  You are supporting small farms like ours that are re-emerging and growing due to a revival of sustainably raised meats. When farmers sell beef at a public auction they receive as little as $1 a pound for top quality beef.  Buying locally ensures that you are getting top quality, healthy meat all the while helping the "little guy" (cutting out the middle man) and stimulating the economy.

To learn more about Youngblood Grassfed Farm, visit our website.  I also write a blog and we're on Facebook.  Of particular note, you'll want to stay connected to us because Youngblood Grassfed Farm recently gave away 1/8 of beef!

Raising the steaks for you,
Tracy Youngblood

See also: Lisa Lipe's article on buying local meat in bulk.

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Sep 19, 2010

Real Food Kitchen - Week in Review

With pictures from my phone, here's is the week in review from my kitchen...with a bit of commentary.

First, I lacto-fermented peppers from the farmers market and my flower-bed garden.  In this quart jar, I've included banana peppers, jalapenos, green bell peppers, garlic and a bit of radish (that I had left over from making Lisa's kimchi.)  These banana peppers are delish, and they don't contain the artificial dyes that you'll find in the grocery store banana peppers.  In the absence of nitrate laden pepperoni, these are wonderful on pizza.  Just add them after baking the pizza to preserve the beneficial bacteria that keeps you healthy.

Next I roasted about 30 acorn squash that I bought in bulk from Kellogg Valley Farm.  One of my friends said, "I hope Baby likes squash."  Um, I didn't even consider that she would turn her nose.

Cut them in half, scoop out seeds, lay in a half inch of water in a cookie sheet and bake at 400* till you can easily poke with a fork.  Below you'll also see a spaghetti squash.

Below: Mt. Squash, 8 inches high.  I pureed it all for baby food and added a bit of chicken stock.  For adults and kids alike roasted acorn squash is an excellent side dish.
Did you know spaghetti squash looks like... spaghetti?!!  Try it!  We ate this squash with marinara with eggs poached on top.
Also from the farmers market, I bought 2.5 lbs of eggplant to roast for baba ghanoush.
Some people remove the purple peel before roasting but I like the texture and extra vitamins and minerals.  Below you'll see the eggplant roasted with onions and garlic.  Like YaYa's does for their appetizer, I added a bit of yogurt to my baba ghanoush.

Did you know the River Market has several Asian growers?  If you haven't been there in a while, you should try some thing new, like bok choy.
I bought it for stir fry.  Lisa says she likes to eat the stalks with peanut butter and it isn't stringy like celery.

 You don't have to have a wok to do stir fry.  It can be made in a large skillet or stock pot.  I like making stir fry because it comes together quickly, once the veggies are chopped.  I try to chop in small intervals during the day when things aren't crazy.  Reality or not, I feel crazy at dinner time.

When the coconut oil was hot (med-high heat), I added butternut squash that had been peeled, seeded and cubed.
Once the squash was beginning to caramelize, I added red, green, and jalapeno peppers, shredded carrot,  minced garlic and ginger, and green onions.  Basically I cleaned out my fridge.
Then I added the bok choy.
Lastly, I added chicken that I'd made and frozen weeks ago.  To make it a bit saucy, in a small bowl I mixed together 3T soy sauce, 2 T GMO-free corn starch, and 2T sherry.  When that was combined I added about 1/2 cup chicken broth and poured it into the wok.
It would have been wonderful over rice but I didn't think of it till it was too late.  Oh wait, I remember: cleaning out the fridge I found some.  We each had about 1/2 cup rice.

Last but not least was this kid-friendly snack - banana boats!

Those are post-it note and toothpick sails.


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Sep 18, 2010

Action Alert: Protect our Farmers

Julie and I have been hearing a lot of talk at the farmer’s market about S510 the US Senate food safety bill. Our small farmers are very worried that the regulations in this bill could put them out of business. The bill is designed to make big agriculture and the industrialized food system safer. The recent egg scare will probably add fuel to the fire.

There are safety issues with food that comes out of a system that handles it in such mass quantities, but the answer should not include taking these regulations that involve new facilities, procedures, and equipment and applying them to farmers who are farming on small farms. Our small-scale farmers are not creating the problem. Not only can they not afford the regulations, the regulations are not appropriate for them.

Senator Lincoln told me (through an e-mail) that these regulations will not be applied to small farmers. But the law will give the FDA power to decide what should and should not apply to the small farmers. Based on my experience, I don’t have a great deal of hope that this agency can be trusted to “just be reasonable”. Small farms need to be specifically exempted in the law. This can be done by adding the Tester-Hagan amendments which exempt small farmers from the most burdensome regulations.

These amendments remain under negotiation, but (if adopted), they would provide an exemption for small direct-market farms and facilities from the new HACCP-type requirements and on-farm produce standards. The amendments only address the new requirements that FDA can impose under S.510; they do not exempt small farms and processors from existing state and local health requirements.

Particularly given FDA’s track record of favoring large industry over small-scale and sustainable producers, the Tester-Hagan amendments are vital to ensuring that local food producers can continue to provide healthy and safe food for consumers.

Find more information about the Food Safety and Modernization Act at the Farm and Ranch Freedom Allliance.

It is important that we contact both Senator Lincoln and Senator Pryor asking them to support the Tester-Hagan amendments.

Julie just sent me an e-mail about her phone calls to Lincoln’s offices. She said,

I just called Lincoln's offices (both of them) and said simply -

"I'm Julie from Little Rock and becoming more involved in the local food movement. As I talk with Farmers and others at the farmers markets we are concerned about what the farm bill (s510) means to the local food movement. Would you ask Senator Lincoln to consider the amendments that Tester and Hagan are proposing?"

Both people who answered said sure. One asked for my zip code. It was that easy.

I also submitted an email on this form:

Senator Lincoln’s Contact Information:

912 West Fourth Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
(501) 375-2993
Fax (501) 375-7064

355 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4843
Fax (202) 228-1371

Senator Pryor’s Contact Information:

Arkansas Office
The River Market
500 Clinton Ave Ste 401
Little Rock, AR 72201
p: (501) 324-6336
f: (501) 324-5320

Washington, D.C. Office
255 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20510
p: (202) 224-2353
f: (202) 228-0908
Toll Free from AR
p: (877) 259-9602

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Sep 17, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

If you are new to the local food arena, you may have heard the term CSA tossed around and wondered exactly what that is, so I'm going to explain and then tell you about a great local CSA opportunity. Here’s the basic definition of a CSA program and a few details from Local Harvest:

a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
It's a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it.

Another important aspect of CSAs is the concept of “shared risk.” Local Harvest says: Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm – like they do in any kind of business...

I agree that this sense of “share bounty and shared risk” can bring the shareholders together as a community, in a way that is just not going to happen when the grocery store gets extra carrots or the shipment of chips is delayed. A small group of shareholders can visit the farm, encourage the farmer, and pray for rain. They can celebrate the bounty and mourn any loss. It is a risk, but the potential rewards, in both fresh produce and local community, seem great.

If you would like additional information about the CSA model you can view the full article on Local Harvest here.

Local CSA Opportunity:

If the idea of investing in a small farmer and being part of a small community that receives weekly food boxes appeals to you (like having your own garden without the work), I’d like to let you know about an opportunity with Kellogg Valley Farms that is currently available.
Eddie Stuckey at Kellogg Valley Farms is a chemical-free farmer who has a small farm about 30 minutes outside of Little Rock. I have purchased from his produce stand regularly this year and was excited to find out his interest in offering a CSA program to a very limited number of people for this next growing season.

My husband, Mike, and I recently visited Eddie’s farm and talked with him about his vision for the future of the farm. You can see pictures and read about our visit here. For his first year CSA program Eddie wisely decided to keep it small. His goal is to have a manageable, quality program. He would like the opportunity to make relationships with 10 individuals and families and to do his very best to provide a variety of farm products for them in weekly boxes throughout the growing season.

These are the reasons Mike and I decided to be one of Eddie’s shareholders:
  • We really want farmers like Eddie to succeed, so we are not left at the complete mercy of Big Ag.
  • We like investing in other people’s dreams, especially when we get a return in Real Food.
  • We like Eddie.
  • We like the “small community” aspect of a small CSA program. We’d like to know the other shareholders.
  • Eddie won’t be getting any government subsidies to help with the projects that need to be done for expansion on his farm, because he’s growing “specialty crops” on a few acres rather than GMO corn and soybeans on 100s of acres. (Believe it or not, 'specialty crops' is a USDA designation for any fruit, vegetable, herb or plant grown in the U.S. that is not one of the five “program crops” directly subsidized by the federal government. Running a traditional, diversified small farm make you are a specialty crop producer.)
  • We want first dibs on our limited supply of chemical-free local produce.
  • I am more motivated to prepare produce that I already have then to make a meal plan in advance and go purchase the food at the market (I like fewer decisions in my life).
  • I am especially bad at standing in front of a farmer’s stand and figuring out what I will use during the next week (and remembering if I already have some or not at home.)
  • I like “having my farmer’s ear” so I can make suggestions about what crops might be nice.
  • I like the idea of getting a good deal on chemical-free local produce without being unfair to the farmer who has worked so hard to grow it.
Last time I checked with Eddie, there were only 4 shares left. He wants to sell these this month so he can proceed with the farm plans.

If you are interested in being part of our little CSA community, please call Eddie at 501-773-3905 or e-mail him at Kelloggfarms AT yahoo DOT com to ask him to send you the CSA information.

You can read a list of actions that show you are serious about a food revolution here. Investing in small farmers is on the list (more than once).

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Sep 16, 2010

The Problem with Antibiotics

This week I was sent a link to a news article on the Fox News website , which I want to share with you. This is an excerpt from the article.

Even seemingly gentle antibiotics may severely disrupt the balance of microbes living in the gut, with unforeseen health consequences, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
An intimate study of three women given ciprofloxacin showed the drug suppressed entire populations of beneficial bacteria, and at least one woman took months to recover.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports the common wisdom that antibiotics can damage the "good" germs living in the body.

It may also support the idea behind the development of so-called probiotic products including yogurt with live cultures of bacteria.

According to the article Les Dethlefsen and David Relman of Stanford University in California wrote, "The effect of ciprofloxacin on the gut microbiota was profound and rapid."

The article goes on to mention the potential link between destroying the good microbes in the gut and allergies, obesity, Crohns diseaseand the development of "superbugs."

I am happy to see more information coming into the mainstream regarding the danger of antibiotics. I was curious what the researcher's definition of "recover" was for the woman who took months to do it. Since the intestine is the foundation for the immune system, I suspect many of us are walking around with symptoms of intestinal flora damage without realizing the connection.

Another link sent to me this week was to a New York Times article about the current widespread practice of routinely administering antibiotics to conventionally raised animals. Apparently the FDA has plans for improved regulations.

While I am very glad the FDA recognizes that the practice of routine administration of antibiotics to the animals we eat is a problem, I wish they would follow this line of thinking to its logical end and realize that killing the good bacteria in naturally probiotic food, such as milk, is also a problem.

We have worked hard in our family to improve gut health by adding lots of probiotic foods including fermented vegetables, lacto-fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha, cultured dairy, and even probiotic supplements. We have also greatly reduced sweets especially any foods with refined sugar or white flour. These foods encourage bad microbes in the intestine.

Because I learned about the importance of probiotics and the health risks of antibiotics several years ago, My husband and I take the position that antibiotics are a last resort. Our first line of defense is good nutrition. The second line of defense is natural remedies. Fortunately, we have not been in a situation that even tempted us to take antibiotics for quite awhile. Although there were a couple of instances where a doctor couldn't resist the temptation to write a prescription that found its way into our trash. One prescription was for a sinus infection which resolved itself with lots of sinus rinses and one was for an intestinal issue from traveling across the border which also enventually resolved itself with a variety of natural treatments including heavy doses of probiotics. (I am NOT recommending you go against you doctor based on my example. Make your own health decisions - see our disclaimer.)

Reading The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride this year opened my eyes even further to all the many health issues we and our children are facing as a result of damaged gut flora. For instance, does it strike you as odd that so very many children and adults living in a country that used to be primarily agrarian seem to be allergic to being outdoors? Allergies are a result of a confused and damaged immune system. Intestinal health is the foundation of our immune system. Dr. McBrides' book explains the importance of gut flora, what damages it, and how to restore balance using a protocol which, of course, involves Real Food.


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Sep 15, 2010

A Gallon of Kimchi

Fermentation preserves food using lactic acid producing bacteria (good bugs) and generally a good dose of salt. The good bacteria "predigests" food, breaking it into simpler components making the nutrients more easily assimilated. The salt inhibits the putrifying bacteria, allowing the good bacteria time to produce the lactic-acid needed for preservation. Not only does this traditional preservation process maintain the vitamins and enzymes of the raw food, additional nutrients are generated by the good bacteria. Lacto-fermented foods promote healthy gut flora (the good bugs in your gut).
It is best to eat lacto-fermented foods as a condiment (they are not intended as a main course) and to rotate between various types of fermented vegetables.

Eating a small amount of fermented veggies alongside your main course is a tasty way to improve both digestion and nutrition. Since they are so salty, I often reach for a spoonful of fermented veggies to add flavor instead of the salt shaker. It is best to add lacto-fermented vegetables to warm foods like soup after they have cooled enough to eat. This will prevent "cooking" your ferment.

Kimchi is a spicy fermented Korean sauerkraut that my husband and I both enjoy. There is an interesting article about kimchi here.  Health magazine named kimchi as one of the World's Healthiest Foods.

There are numerous recipes for kimchi. Below is the recipe I used recently to make a one gallon jar. You would need to quarter this for a 1 quart jar (4 quarts = 1 gallon).


2 medium heads of cabbage quartered, cored and shredded
2 yellow onions chopped
6 large carrots shredded (Shred in the food processor. I do not peel my organic carrots.)
1 bunch of red radishes (Cut off the stems and shred in food processor)
3 Tbsps grated ginger root (I peel the root and grate with a fine cheese grater. I don't pack it into the Tbsp. because I don't like too much ginger.)
1 head of garlic peeled and crushed
2 tsp. dried chilli flakes
4 Tbsp. Real Salt
1 C whey

Here are some pictures of how to prepare the ingredients:

You might notice the green shoots on the ginger above. This was fresh ginger that Julie gave me from a farmer at the River Market. It didn't require any peeling.

I drained my whey from some Stonyfield plain yogurt with the cream on top (whole fat).

You do this by putting the yogurt in a finely woven cotton cloth and allowing it to drain into a jar until it stops dripping. This takes awhile. The cloth probably should be tied together at the top, attached to a wooden dowel (or a spoon handle) and hung over the jar to prevent flies or anything nasty from contaminating it. (Do as I say, not as I do.) The leftover "yogurt cheese" in the cloth can be flavored with fruit or herbs and used as a spread. (I just threw it in a smoothie.)

I have 2 matching slowcooker crocks (because my heating base died and Hamilton Beach sent a replacement complete with new bowls). You will want the largest bowl possible when you start pounding the kraut. It tends to fly out. (Especially if teenagers are doing the pounding, which is the absolute best way to get it done.)

I mixed all the vegetables in one bowl, except for the cabbage, then took half of the veggies out and put them in the second bowl.

Then I cut up the cabbage and added half of it to each bowl. Add the cabbage in layers and sprinkle some of the salt between each layer (half for each bowl). Besides helping protect your ferment from bad bacteria the salt will also help draw the water out of the cabbage.

Pour half of the whey over each bowl.

I use a kraut pounder to pound the cabbage. I pound it for a bit then let it rest for awhile so the salt can do its work. Then pound it some more. When you are done the vegetable mixture should be juicey. (Actually, I only pound the kraut if there is no teenager nearby to draft for the job.)

Pack the kimchi into the gallon jar using the pounder to push it down tightly. The juice should rise to the top when you push down the kimchi. It will get juicier as it ferments.

Leave about 2 inches of space at the top of a one gallon jar for expansion (less for a quart). Then put a snug lid on the top.

Occaionally I open the jar again during the fermentation time and press the veggies down to keep them wet. Exposure to the air can make them mold. If you get any scum-like mold on top, skim it off the best you can. Your ferment is still good.

I have had mold start a few times on ferments, but I have never had one "go bad." I'm told that a bad ferment will smell so foul that you will not be tempted to eat it.

The jar I'm using in the picture above has an airlock in the lid. The airlock allow the bubbles created by the ferment to escape without letting air back into the jar. This helps to prevent mold.

After 3 days, refrigerate the kimchi. You can eat it right away, but I think you will like it better if you give it a week or two in the refrigerator to develop its flavor. It should keep for several months in the refrigerator. 

Next time I make Kimchi I'm going to try adding some fermented fish sauce or sea vegetables like kelp, since I have been reading that it is good to have additional iodine when eating goitrogens like cabbage.


This is also posted at Real Food Wednesday and Works for Me Wednesday.

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Sep 14, 2010

Try It Tuesday: Brussel Sprouts

This poor vegetable has a bad reputation and I'm not sure why. Prepared properly, they are quite tasty!  According to Wikipedia, brussel sprouts are providers of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber.  Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer.
bussels on stalk

Brussel sprouts are in the same family cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi - all plants that grow best in cooler temperatures.

Fall is comin' y'all!  Brussel sprouts will be making their way to the farmers markets and in produce sections of the grocery store.

I stumbled upon some, albeit small ones, at the River Market.  I snatched them up, took them home and roasted them.

First, I picked off any loose outer leaves and trimmed the bottoms.  If yours are large, you might consider cutting them in half.  The most important thing is that they are all of similar size for roasting evenly.

Then I drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled a generous amount of Real Salt.

I placed them in a single layer on a cookie sheet into a preheated 400* oven.  Since they were small, I checked on them after about 15 minutes.  I wanted them slightly charred but not burnt.

Delicious!  Please try it.

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Sep 13, 2010

Ya Ya's Euro Bistro

There are blessings and curses of eating real food.

Over the last ten years I've taken baby steps of eating better, living healthier.  Since changing my diet, I have been blessed with fewer sick days.  Most notable and praiseworthy is the fact that I got pregnant after many years of infertility; I think it is partly because of a real food diet.

Those are two blessings.

But there are curses, too.

Want me to tell you how I'm cursed?  If you're just beginning a real food journey, you'll probably want to know the dark side, the pitfalls, the curses.


Eating out isn't fun anymore. 

No longer can I whip in a drive-through and feel good about it.  And I'm not just talking about a matter of conscience.  Usually when I eat fast food it makes me sick.  Real sick.  So sick that I'd rather go hungry than eat cheap food.

I'm cursed, y'all.

That's why I get so excited when I find a real food restaurant.  I've told you about ZaZa's, Brave New, and Opal Mae's (in Russellville).

Another real food restaurant in Little Rock that buys from local farmers is Ya Ya's Euro Bistro.  Not only is the plate presentation pleasing, the atmosphere is quaint.  Best of all, I don't get sick when I eat there. Because it is more upscale (read: not cheap) I've only eaten there a handful of times.  Everything tastes delicious!

camera phone photo
Once seated, you are served a super yummy traditional Arab dish, baba ghanoush. I've been told the secret ingredient is yogurt.

The restaurant gets bonus points from me for serving complimentary filtered water. (Another curse of mine, since drinking reverse osmosis water at home, is that I can taste the chlorine in tap water and I'm too frugal to pay for bottled water when I go out.)

When possible, Ya Ya's buys local meat and produce.  The day my husband and I had lunch there he had a chicken Caesar salad with chicken from Falling Sky Farm.  I didn't ask, but am quite sure the dressing was made at the restaurant.

My burger was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten.

The next time you're looking for a quality real food restaurant, pick Ya Ya's.


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Sep 10, 2010

Local Food Presentation at Terry Library

I walked into Terry Library a couple of days ago and immediately noticed a large sign promoting a presentation on local food by my friend Sylvia Blain, executive director of Arkansas Local Foods Initiative.

I was "stoked" (as Julie would say). The movement is alive and growing!

I'm going to try very hard to make it Sylvia's presentation. Hope you can too. Here are the details:

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Thursday, September 16, 6:30pm

Terry Library
Come learn about a healthier alternative to buying organic as well as how to support your local farmers! No registration required.

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Sep 8, 2010

Kale Krisps

Admittedly, at first sight...kale might not be one of the most yummy-looking vegetables you could buy, but take my word for it--it's worth a try. Did you know this about kale?
"Kale is (...) a form of cabbage, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; kale is considered to be anti-inflammatory. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium."  (from Wikipedia)

Kale is easily one of my family's favorites. And, as a parent who is forever concerned with the nutrition my family receives, it is a favorite of mine for ensuring my favorite peeps will be getting lots of great vitamins with every bite! We like it cooked (in the last few minutes) in soups or shredded up and wilted in homemade spaghetti sauce, but we also enjoy it as a side dish prepared as follows:

You'll need...
1 bunch organic Lacinato kale (Whole Foods has it)
1/2-3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Fill your nice, shiny sink with cold water, allowing your greens to soak for a few minutes. Then swish them around a bit, allowing loose dirt, sand, etc. to fall to the bottom of the sink. Shake the excess water off.

Sometimes I tear each stem of kale by folding the two sides of the leaf toward each other, grasping the stem in my left hand, and then tearing the doubled-up leaf from the top of the stem to the bottom.

(P.S. My son thanks you for reading and, hence, giving him the opportunity to use his mommy's camera.)
Other times, I find it's faster to fold the leaves in the same way as above, but then just cut them away from their stems on a cutting board. Depends on my patience level at cooking time, I suppose.

Once you've got your stems out of the way, shred the kale thinly.

Now spread the greens out on a parchment paper-lined baking pan. The thinner you can spread them out, the quicker and better they will cook.

(I didn't spread mine very thinly.)

Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese. I've tried mozzarella, but it's not nearly as tasty. The cheddar pairs very nicely with the natural saltiness of the kale. I find that this dish needs no extra seasoning. How's that for simple and healthy? Pop your pan in the oven to bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. (If you have as many hungry mouths in your family as I do, you might want to do two bunches...)

About the time that your cheese starts really getting brown, your kale will be crisp-tender and ready to eat.

This side dish can go with lots of different meals. Sometimes we have it along with tomato soup (my favorite pairing). Or with baked potatoes. It also goes well with a chicken, fish, or meat dish.

My kids adore it. But then, they ALL ate pureed kale regularly as babies. It's a flavor they are accustomed to. If you, dear grown-up, have not tried it, you really should do something wild and crazy today and buy yourself a bunch of kale. How much easier can this dish get? 

You can find this post at Works For Me Wednesday and Real Food Wednesday.


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Sep 6, 2010

Cheesemaking Workshop

Got milk? As part their on-going summer food preservation series, the Root Cafe is offering a cheesemaking workshop this Tues. You might want to get in on this!

Where: Christ Episcopal Church on 6th and Scott Street

When: Tuesday September 7th 6:30-8:30pm.
Cost: $10 (at the door, cash or check only)

What: Back by popular demand, this week we'll be cutting into one of the most popular milk preservation techniques - CHEESE! We have already had several requests for our basic cheese-making class (a soft farmers cheese), so depending on the number of participants we have, we may not be making mozzerella cheese during this canning kitchen. We will, however, learn about one of its close friends - BASIL. Make sure to bring your tastebuds to this delicious class!

The ROOT will provide... hands-on instruction, all of the equipment, food to preserve, informational resources, a take-home sample and refreshments.

You will need to provide... an apron, pen & paper for note-taking (if desired), a towel & a basket for transporting hot food or other goodies.

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Sep 4, 2010

Meet Your Farmer

My husband, Mike, and I were invited to visit Kellogg Valley Farms yesterday afternoon. Eddie Stuckey is the farm owner, an up and coming farmer who uses natural growing techniques. I have had the priviledge of purchasing Eddie's wonderful, fresh, chemical-free produce throughout this growing season.

Here's my farmer, Eddie with my man, Mike. You can see a portion of Eddie's crops behind them. Eddie started Kellogg Valley Farms just last year with 3 acres of family property and has come a long way in a short time. He showed us the natural fertilizers and natural pest control methods he is using. He spends a great deal of time on the internet researching ways to fight bugs and vegetable diseases without chemicals. It's not an easy job.
Eddie's happy hens live with a couple of roosters in the small barn. They forage around the barn and in the wooded area behind.

Eddie showed us the areas of land he is preparing for crop expansion next year and where he would like to put a new greenhouse. He has excitement and vision. I love visiting with people who are pursuing their dreams.

Hope you get to try some of Eddie's produce. He sells at a number of farmer's markets including the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, ASN food club, and the market at Pulaski Academy on Monday afternoons.

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