Feb 28, 2011

Meet Your Farmers

My children and I went on a field trip to Griffin Farms, near Benton, Arkansas and met Ed Griffin and his lovely worms.  [When my son was about four, we had some pet worms that lasted until we went out of town for several weeks and they dried up and died...]
Ed's been raising worms longer that I've been alive.  He has a top-notch worm farm.  Seriously.  I was amazed.  Back in the prime of his farm, he had several barns full of worm beds.  He also raises day lilies in a green house plus extensive vegetable gardens.

Below is a picture of the worm castings, or "black gold" that some farmers are just itching to buy.  You can buy it, too, through ASN.  It's a spectacular organic fertilizer.

Ed explained that keeping a light on the worms keep them from crawling out of their beds.  Instead of dirt, the worms are kept in a moist environment of peat moss.  They start out in fresh peat moss are fed daily and the castings are harvested about every 30 days.  We were there on a rather cold day and he had a stove going in the barn for the worms.

Ed feeds his worms better than most American eat.  Daily the worms are fed fresh milled organic wheat (and several other grains I forgot) plus a dried molasses concoction.  These worms get a royal treatment, I tell, ya!

Below are pictures of the sorting process.  Ed scooped worms from the beds and they are poured into this sieve tube (my name for the contraption).
As the tube turns, the worm castings fall out first.  Further down the tube the screen is larger and extra peat moss falls out.
Isn't he a cute helper?  The baby was strapped to my body.  :)  You can see the worm castings on the wooden platform above his shoulder.

The worms wiggle and are tossed to the bottom of the tube where they're caught in a tub.
We bought a pound of worms.  I hope to keep these alive long enough to make black gold for my garden.
Below is a pile of black gold (I'm sorry for the blurry pictures taken with my phone.)
We really enjoyed meeting Ed, seeing his farm, and learning all about vermiculture.  I'm sure he'd welcome more visitors.  Give him a call and tell him Julie sent you: 501.776.1750

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Feb 23, 2011

Reader's Question:: Why Soak Grains?

From a reader:
I've been hearing more and more about soaking grains and I've been trying to ignore it because it seems so overwhelming to me.  I scoped out some wheat berries in the bulk section of Whole Foods the other day and I thought I'd ask you for some advice.  

It's my understanding that soaking grains is important because it breaks them down and makes it easier for digestion... right?  Can't I just buy flour at the store and soak that, or do I have to grind my own wheat?  How do I grind wheat?  Have you found that making bread this way saves money?

I (Julie) agree that it can seem overwhelming to understand - let alone try to implement what you've learned.  By writing this post I am not a grain expert.  Please do more research - but this is my limited understanding.

Something we try to emphasize on this blog is baby steps.  Rome wasn't built in a day and your eating habits (or in this case grain habits) won't change in a day unless you're a pro at overcoming burnout.

After you feel like you understand the task at hand, find baby steps for soaking grains.  For a while I eliminated most wheat in my family's diet because I felt paralyzed by what I knew and just didn't want to eat it if I couldn't soak it.  Similarly, I have a friend who feels like unsoaked grains mess so much with her adrenal glands and endocrine system that she will choose white bread (gasp!) over unsoaked or sprouted grains.

Why soak grains?
Short answer: to make them more nutritious and digestible.

Longer answer:  Think about grain storage in ancient days, like in Egypt where they would store grains for years preparing for famine.  Grains are encapsulated in a natural, protective coating - a preservative if you will.  This outer shell enables grains to be stored for a long time.  So, if you eat grains as is (without soaking or sprouting) your body is not able to digest them properly and the grain can actually keep your body from absorbing minerals it needs.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet DictocratsNourishing Traditions explains it this way:
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid.  Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption.

Which means eating a roll made with unsoaked whole wheat with your steak dinner could be counter productive.  The iron in the red meat will be partially blocked from the phytic acid in the unsoaked wheat rolls.

If we were ruminant animals our guts would be fully prepared to digest the grains.  But I am not a cow.

{What is sprouting? It's when grains are soaked in water for a while, rinsed and allowed to sprout which begins the breakdown of the outer protective coating.  Some say that sprouting makes the grains more nutritious.  Both soaking and sprouting make grains more digestible.  Preparation and how you use them in a recipe is different for each method.}

I heard an illustration once: eating a Little Debbie Snack cake in the plastic is like eating grains not properly prepared.  Not only is the plastic (outer shell of grain) difficult for your body to digest, it prohibits your body from digesting what is encapsulated inside the plastic.

Fifty years or so ago, when my grandparents bought whole rolled oats, it used to say on the round container something to the effect of: for best results soak overnight.  My dad remembers his dad soaking oats in water overnight before going to bed.

Nourishing Traditions also points out:
Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors, and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrient are more available.

For maximum phytic acid breakdown, oats should be soaked with an acidic medium (like a couple tablespoons of kefir, yogurt, or apple cider vinegar).  I've not yet been able to wrap my taste buds around the "cultured" flavor, so my baby step for eating oatmeal is to soak rolled oats in plain water overnight.  I cover the oats with about 1/4-1/2 inch of warm, filtered water and leave it on the stovetop for 8+ hours.  In the morning after turning on the burner, our oatmeal is ready in mere minutes.

Can I buy whole wheat flour at the store and soak it?
Most certainly!  However, once the grain has been ground it begins a process of oxidation and quickly the nutrients are depleted.  Katie at Kitchen Stewardship does a fabulous job explaining the nutrition here as well as comparing methods.  Please read her post.  She's also hosting a giveaway for a grain mill.

How to grind wheat?
To grind wheat you need a machine.  Some super-duper blenders are able to grind grain.  I've not yet purchased a grinder, so I can't speak to this topic.  I have a friend who grinds a couple of pounds for me at a time and I freeze it.  This isn't as nutritious as fresh ground wheat; it is my baby step until I get a grinder.

Does making bread save money?
Yes and no.

Everything in the kitchen (and life!) seems to be a function of time, money and energy.  Just last week I read that Sarah the Healthy Home Economist buys her bread because she does not enjoy baking, as well as it saves her time and energy for creating other high nutrient dishes that she does not want buy.

It is cheaper to make your bread than to buy quality soaked (or sprouted) bread.  But do you have the time?  The proper tools?  The energy to figure out how to do it?

Another option that I have been actively exploring in recent days is bartering.  Do you have something (talent, resource, etc.) that you can trade for bread?  Presently I'm making seven gallons of kombucha a week and using it to barter for fresh milk and babysitting.  I've also convinced my hair stylist that meals from my kitchen are worth a haircut.  :) It seems that with bartering both parties win.


See what others are saying on Real Food Wednesday.
Related posts: soaked bread in the bread maker.
Soaked granola

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Feb 21, 2011

Linky Love

Five Foods Women Should Be Eating

Ten Tips for Real Food Newbies

One of my new year's real food resolutions is to eat seasonally and locally.  This recipe for creamed collard greens looks super yummy.

I'm gonna try this: Homemade Cracker Recipe.

Why Vaccines Are Scientific Fraud

4 Ways to Consume Raw Garlic

Short, informative article on why bone broth is good and how to make a quick soup.

Could drinking fluoridated water lower your child's IQ?

3 Best Substitutes for a Child Allergic to Milk

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Feb 16, 2011

I Eat Real Food - Song

When Paul told me he wrote a real food song, I could hardly wait to hear it.  Then I had to get a recording for you to hear it.  Paul's wife, Erin, has written articles for this blog: New Year's ResolutionsReal Food Budget Tips, and Small Beginnings: Where do I Start?

I Eat Real Food
(an adaptation of “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash)
by DPL 9/2010

Watch the video here.

I keep a close watch on this plate of mine
I keep my eyes wide open when I dine
Only real food will ever touch my tines
'Cause I'm a dude
I eat Real Food

I find it very, very easy to eat well
Yes, my stomach is full as you can tell
I try to buy what local farmers sell
'Cause I'm a dude
I eat Real Food

As sure as eggs are brown and milk is white
I eat a Real Food diet day and night
No artificial flavoring in sight
'Cause I'm a dude
I eat Real Food

You've got to weigh the costs of eating Real
You'll come to find a better way to feel
You'll get more bang for all the bucks you spend on meals
'Cause I'm a dude
I eat Real Food

I keep a close watch on this plate of mine
I keep my eyes wide open when I dine
Only Real Food will ever touch my tines
'Cause I'm a dude
I eat Real Food

See what others are doing for Real Food Wednesday.

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Feb 15, 2011

Ah... Kombucha

This is a video response to Lori's son's request for 'bucha.

My 6 year old thinks kombucha is the best thing in the world.  Just watch.


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Feb 14, 2011

Small Beginnings: Where Do I Start?

by Johanna Gelatt, originally posted on her blog.

About a year ago I attended a talk titled, Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later.  The presenter challenged us to think differently about what we were feeding our families and to make a few small baby steps to eating healthier.  This is what she encouraged us to research, think about, and start changing.

1. Eat less sugar and refined foods.

     I think we all know what the effects of too much sugar and refined foods can do to our bodies.  Too many people and children are suffering from diabetes and other diseases in this country.
     This was going to be a difficult one for our family.  I have a horrible sweet tooth as does Micah and several of our kids.  I must say that a year later, we are still working on keeping the white sugar treats out of the house.  We are a work in progress!

Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats
2. Eat more FAT!

     What?  I must say that I was confused about this one.  Haven't we heard for years to eat less fat?  Isn't the market flooded with low fat, no fat items?  My friend doing the talk had this quote,
            "While we American's have been dutifully eliminating fat from our diet, eating low-fat foods, and avoiding saturated fats from tropical oils, butter, and read meats, obesity rates and the overall incidence of heart disease have continued to climb." (from Eat Fat, Loose Fat by Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon)
     I was really intrigued by the above statement simply because dad died of a massive heart attack and yet he "ate right."  Maybe not so right....more on that later.  For our family this has been a relatively EASY thing to switch.

I now use coconut oil, the Queen of Fats. I have tried to eliminate crisco, vegetable oil, canola oil etc from our diet.  There are still a few things that I use these for, but for the most part I try to stick to the coconut and olive oils.
I only buy butter.  I use it generously.
I buy whole milk and I use cream generously.

3.  Reduce the consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

     It is in everything that is processed.  By processed I mean, pretty much anything that is pre-packaged.
I have drastically cut down on the pre-packaged foods in our home.  I was already cooking  many things from scratch but this talk motivated me to cut down even more.  If I can make it, I try!

4. Make bone broth.  It's a super food!

     I cook a whole chicken often, but never realized I should not only be using the broth that forms as you cook the chicken but to also re-cook the chicken bones to make this super food--freeze and you have nutrient dense broth whenever needed.  I did a lot of research on this and am sold on it's benefits.

5. Buy organic, if possible, especially the dirty dozen.

     I don't always have the money to buy organic fruits and veggies, but I try to do SOME.  Baby steps!  Look here for the dirty dozen and the cleanest 12 and see which fruits/veggies to buy organic.

6. Add in a probiotic.  Items such as yogurt, kefir, homemade saurkraut or kimchi, and kombucha.

I recently made my first batch of kombucha (a fermented drink made from tea) it is a different taste, but you only have to drink small amounts to get benefits.  Everyone is willing to drink it and I think as I offer it more often they will become more accustomed to it.

On my journey I realized that I was doing some things right already.  I cook from scratch a lot, we eat freshly milled whole wheat bread products, we don't snack a ton on processed foods, we do grow what we can in our own garden, we have farm fresh eggs......it's all a journey.  I am enjoying learning new things and ideas.  We have felt better since we are making these tiny changes.

Some of the things I want to experiment with this year:  making yogurt and/or kefir, adding in some fermented foods, eliminating boxed cereal (this is going to be hard!), and finding nutritious snack foods besides popcorn!

Where are you on the food journey?

Click here to read more stories of baby steps.

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Feb 9, 2011

New Year's Real Food Resolutions

2010 Was a Very Good Year

by Jan Robertson
War Eagle Creek Farms

I’ve been reading with increasing interest all the posts addressing Real Food resolutions for the New Year. I’ve loved the suggestions and have found several to add to my own long, Real Food list. Do you ever feel like everyone is doing more than you are?

In an effort to give my Real Food tasks a reality check, and in an effort to push aside the overwhelming sense of underachievement, I decide to open my pantry to check on the foods that are fermenting and soaking.  Several glass jars and a bowl greet me as I take note of how much space they are using in my small, overworked pantry.  Wow, maybe I have been doing a lot.  This is the most I’ve ever had in here at one time.  How did I do all that?  I must document this achievement.  Let’s see: I have four bottles of Kombucha in a second ferment with raspberries, a jar of buttermilk souring, a jar of navy beans soaking and some biscuit dough soaking.

I’m feeling kinda proud now. Lots of good foods are clearly on the horizon.  But some of it will have to go from the pantry to the refrigerator, which is already full of other yummy fermented things.  Let’s check on those too.  My fridge holds jars of fermented mayo lemons and garlic, as well as sauerkraut, two jars of kefir and one jar of Piima cream. Wow again!

I then remember that in my fridge are also crispy pecans, crispy almonds, homemade almond butter and some homemade butter.  When I think about it, I’ve only been on this Real Food path for a little over a year now.

Everything I have done is a direct result of the national Weston A. Price Foundation, but specifically the efforts of our local chapter of the WAPF. I attended chapter meetings and a fermentation class by Lisa Lipe, exchanged ideas with others and read our inspiring blog.

So in addition to making my own New Year’s Real Food resolutions, I’m taking a moment to look back and enjoy how far I’ve come. I wonder what my refrigerator and pantry will play host to throughout 2011.

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Feb 7, 2011

Buying Fish in a Land Locked State

If there's anything I hope people learn from reading this blog is the fact that reading labels and packaging is important.  Very important.

When it comes to buying fish, reading labels is oh-so-very important.

First - what NOT to buy:
Really?  Color added is a perk for some people?  Please do not buy color added anything, especially fish.

The second thing I want to point out about the salmon, above, is the fact that it is farm-raised.  For the uninformed I supposed farm-raised sounds like a good thing.  Alas, it is not for fish.

Farm-raised is good for oh, say: pigs, cows, sheep, chicken...the kind of things that Old MacDonald raised on his farm.

But fish?  Um, no.

Do not buy farm-raised fish.

Farm-raised fish is typically fed genetically modified corn and or soy.  And a lot of it.  Let me ask you a question.  Does a natural fish diet consist of grain?

The reason farm-raised fish is often color added is because the fish are packed into a tank and stuffed with a monochromatic diet.  The variation of food in a natural environment is what gives salmon the beautiful color.

So, what should you look for when buying fish in a land locked state?

Two words: wild caught.

Wild caught = healthy environment, eating the various foods that were intended to be eaten by fish.
But not all wild caught fish is created equal.  Hint: usually the price will give you a clue, too.  The below "Value - wild caught" fish was much cheaper per ounce than the package above.  The reason was found in the ingredients:  lots of words I couldn't pronounce.  The cheaper fish was filled with chemicals and solutions.  Ick.
Another thing to consider on the label is the country of origin.  I try not to by any food that is from China.  From the things I've read, it is a country with a bad reputation in the realm of food safety and quality.  Please do your own research.
This wild-caught Mahi Mahi is from Equador.
And the ingredients?  Mahi Mahi.  How novel - nothing else but real food.

When grocery shopping for fish in a land locked state read the labels and consider these things:

- wild caught or farm-raised?
- country of origin
- real food ingredients that you can pronounce.

See what others are saying at Monday Mania with Sarah the Healthy Home Economist.

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Feb 3, 2011

Homemade Creole Seasoning

A friend emailed me to say she doesn't buy creole seasoning for Red Beans and Rice.  (I gave her the recipe a few months ago.)  She makes her own seasoning:

She wrote:
Saw your famous Red Beans and Rice on the docket this morning.  I have been using Emeril’s Essence in this, which I make up at home for the Creole Seasoning.  From what I understand it is his twist on Creole.  I love this stuff on many things!  I do scrambled eggs with onions, bell peppers, and Emeril’s Essence for a treat now and then.  Here is the recipe, if you aren’t familiar with it:

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.


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Winners for Dandy Blend Coffee Substitute

We have some winners!

The random generator choose: 18, 36 & 22 from our Dandy Blend Coffee Substitute Giveaway.

The winners are commenters Andrea, Jaime and Karen.
Andrea, I tried to contact you via your blog but appears it's not active.  Can you contact me for your loot?

If you live in Little Rock, you can purchase Dandy Blend at Drug Emporium.  Or if you know me in real life, I have some in my kitchen always ready to share.  :)


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Feb 2, 2011

Red Beans and Rice for the Slow Cooker

This is a crowd pleaser.  It's a dish I've taken to many different families - all of whom rave over it. Busy moms you're gonna love it, too!

If you're tempted to eat out a lot, add this simple recipe to your regimen and you'll be glad you did! The first recipe is way better for you than any fast food.

There are a variety of ways to make red beans and rice.  I'll start with the simplest then tell you how to make it more nourishing.

The original recipe came from a slow cooker Southern Living cookbook:

16 oz smoked sausage (nitrate-free), sliced
2 (10oz cans) Rotel
3 1/2 cups MSG-free broth, preferably homemade
2 t creole seasoning, or make your own
1 1/2 c. uncooked brown rice
2 (15 oz. cans) red beans, rinsed and drained

Place all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Making it according to the directions above was too spicy for my family.  You can replace the 20oz of Rotel with a 28oz can of diced tomatoes and it's just as tasty.  Cajun seasoning can be found in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods.  I also found creole seasoning (MSG-free) at Drug Emporium. I *think* you can interchange cajun for creole seasoning.

To kick it up a nourishing notch or two:
   - this version makes more and is frugal with dried beans.

Soak 1 pound (2 generous cups) of dried red beans overnight in a large bowl of warm water.

In another container, soak overnight 1.5 cups uncooked brown rice in rice water. Read here how and why to soak rice in rice water.  Soaking rice is not essential but doing so allows the nutrients in the rice to become better absorbed in the body.

In the morning, drain beans then place them in a large crock pot with 6 cups of broth. Cook on high 4 hours.

Then add:
1 chopped onion
3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 1/2 cup uncooked, soaked then drained, brown rice
28 to 32 oz diced tomatoes
1/2 to 2 teaspoons of creole or cajun seasoning - to taste
1/2 to 2 teaspoons of Real Salt
14oz nitrate and MSG-free sausage, sliced

Cook on high for 3-4 more hours.  If you are tempted to peek and stir, it takes longer to cook.  Don't ask me how I know.

Optional garnish before serving:
- chopped red or green bell pepper
- chopped green onion
- chopped parsley

- The organic celery at Kroger was only $0.30 more than the pesticide laden conventional celery.  Celery is on the dirty dozen and in my mind worth the extra $0.30!

- I used a jalapeno because I knew I didn't have enough creole seasoning to make the dish spicy. And because I had an extra jalapeno in my fridge.

- My mom gave me several jars of her canned tomatoes in 32 oz jars.  When I'm out of her tomatoes, I use 28 oz cans from the grocery store.

- If you're using store bought broth, you won't need as much salt.  I used homemade (unsalted) broth so this recipe needed a lot of salt.

- I bought smoked sausage from Whole Paycheck Foods; my husband is highly sensitive to MSG.  After taking the below picture I realized Youngblood Grassfed Farms sells smoked sausage through ASN.  EDIT: I bought some from Youngbloods and it was great - will buy more from them again. EDIT AGAIN: Also tried using brats from Cove Creek Acres and they too work!

I slice the sausage very thin so that it seems like there is more meat in the dish.  If your family likes a lot of meat, and you're making the recipe with a pound of beans, I would get two sausages.  By far, the sausage is the most expensive ingredient in this dish.  (It is still a tasty dish if you omit the sausage.)  If using two sausages, I would saute the sausage separately and add it at the very end - as my crock pot was very full.

- Parsley is excellent in aiding digestion.  And, if you've planted some in central Arkansas, it will live through the winter.

- I cooked the beans separately for the first four hours so they would get tender, faster.  I've tried dumping all the ingredients together and it seemed to take FOREVER for the beans and rice to cook, since my crock was so full.  If anyone tries this recipe and puts everything in the crock at once and it works for you - let me know.

Also linked to Real Food Wednesday.


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