Thursday, October 21, 2010

Harvesting Health Has Moooooved

Hello my fine feathered friends. We are outta' here! Please join us at our new domain, Tribe of Five. Please update your browsers. We'll leave this site up for a few more weeks and then it's coming down. We think the new site is a little more 'us'. Hope to see you over there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cauliflower Conundrum

Last week was an odd one, to be sure. Part of the problem was with our vehicle which meant I didn't get to the farm for my weekly produce pickup. No produce pickup = slim pickings for the rest of the week. So, in desperation, I trundled off to our local grocery store.

I wanted a cauliflower. That's it, just a cauliflower. It's still in season, there's plenty of them locally (I know, I see them at the farmer's markets all the time). There's nothing rare or exotic in my request. I was just looking for a plain ole' white cauliflower. Organic, please. Oh, and make it local so it's not dripping in petrochemicals. That would be nice.

Yah, like that.

I had two choices. I could pick the nice, jumbo cauliflower that was grown locally or I could buy the organic cauliflower that came from 'industrialized organic' in California. What's a girl to do? Of course, I want to buy local, but if it's not organic and I don't know the farmer, or even what farm it came from, how can I know how that cauliflower was grown?  Pesticides, fungicides, GMOs, sewage sludge application, chemical fertilizers?  What secrets does that cauliflower house in its pretty white florets? And the other? That organic cauliflower didn't have human waste or chemical fertilizers spread on its soil, but how was it produced? What are 'big organics' principles when it comes to preserving our soil? Do they even care about being true caretakers of the land, of ensuring that those fields are still viable when our kids inherit them to grow their food on?

Cauliflower bones for as far as the eye can see.

For me, eating sludge is a deal breaker. 80% of the sewage sludge in Ontario is now spread across agricultural land. If you think it's any different in your part of the world, a quick Google search may surprise you, especially if you live in North America. Sewage sludge, concentrated with heavy metals, volatile chemicals, and disease-causing pathogenic organisms has been used for years on most of our agricultural land. So, I'd say the odds are pretty good that the local, conventional cauliflower I'm looking at came from a toxic field.  I believe in organic food, but it has to be more than that. I don't want organic cauliflower from some massive monocrop of cauliflowers shipped into Canada all the way from California. Rocket fuel, anyone?

Anything that grows on soil (that would be everything that lives, including us) depends on the quality of that soil to deliver the nutrients and bacteria within for our very survival. We've become removed from our understanding of just how dependent we are on dirt. We assume we get our vitamins and minerals from plates of veggies and good meat. Here's the clincher, where do you think the vegetables, fruits, and meats get their nutrients from? Soil, of course. Anything that is grown or raised in depleted soil is degraded right from the get go. Add to that prolonged storage and shipping, refining, and processing. No wonder our bloated bodies are still crying out for more food. We are, as the great Raj Patel so eloquently expains in his book, "Stuffed and Starved".

What of that cauliflower that was grown in questionable soil, on land that is not diversified and respected? Land that is only asked to give more with no understanding or questioning of what it is that it actually needs. The cauliflower, already in a sate of nutrient deficiency, gets thrown on a truck and travels thousands of kilometres to my local store where it then sits some more. Now what's happened to the vitamins and minerals that were already lacking? Who wants a two week old cauliflower? There's no life force left in that lowly little plant. Sure, there's probably a few vitamins and minerals that your body could squeeze out of it, but that's not how our bodies thrive. No wonder we're all starving, our bodies are desperate for the ingredients they need to build these wondrous temples of ours.

I didn't get the cauliflower. We're eating kale (again) with our grass fed beef roast tonight. We need to change our food policies. Everyone of us should have the right to buy local food that is grown and raised in a manner that supports our environment and our health. Human poop cauliflowers be damned.

Get on it:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Day of Unrest

Sunday is not exactly my 'rest' day. With work, three kids, a hubby in full time school, classes to attend, and all the other stuff that makes up life, I have to make sure that I'm well prepared for the week ahead. In case you haven't noticed, nutrition is pretty important to me. I'm loathe to get myself in a situation where I don't have a decent meal backing us up. So, with Saturday being hang out with my posse day, Sunday has been relegated to making sure we have good eats in the fridge so 'quick' doesn't become synonymous with 'crap'.

So, let's go on a pictorial journey shall we? Fun, huh? Join me in my kitchen to see what was up for some of this week's menu. Sorry, I didn't get pictures of my two slow cookers bubbling away some bison roasts that I later sliced up and put in the fridge.

So, here's where you see my dirty little secret. I make my fermented veggies in my giant, ceramic sink. I clean it first! For this veggie mixture I used some easter egg radishes, carrots, purple carrots, green and purple cabbage, green onion, some leek, ginger, and garlic. Oh, some green and red onion, too. I covered it in sea salt, pounded the snot out of it and then packed in jars. I'll give more details in another post.

O.k., this was a problem. Remember those boxes of organic plums I had? Well, aside from the jars of prunes I've made, I needed to come up with some other options. So, here's my plum butter cooking down. See the dirty wooden spoon on the side? I used my tongue to clean up that mess. So bloody good. I cooked those wonderful plums with cinnamon and cardamom. Aye yi yi. Can't wait to eat that with some pastured pork one day.

I'm not big on baking. That's not to say I don't like it, I just don't think there's much place for those sweet "neolithic paleolithic" treats around my waistline. To make matters worse, I hear Kurt Harris' torturous condemnation every time I pick up a spatula. 

Still, with three kids, I do like to whip up a little ditty every now and then and then freeze some for those birthday party moments when the rest of the class has a sugar-loaded cupcake and my little urchin sits there with her bowl of fermented vegetables. Yes, that really did happen. So, my kids are thrilled with a muffin. These are made with coconut flour, ghee, some dried fruit I made, bananas to sweeten, and a mother load of eggs. They are moist and they are divine. That's my ghee in the background. I make it from raw, pastured butter and I mix it with organic, extra virgin coconut oil. We eat it with everything. Everything.

Canned plums. I added some allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. See mom? You can have some at Christmas. I source out the old jars, with glass lids. Newer jars, with the metal lids are lined with BPA. I'm not down with the BPA.

My post workout fuel source. Love me some sweet potats.

A peek in my 110 degree oven. Plums becoming prunes. I store the prunes in glass jars. I avoid buying any fruit in the winter, having prepared some ourselves. I also just don't think we were meant to eat much fruit in the winter (or at anytime really). A little dab will do ya'.

Pummeled and packed into jars. Now I just have to wait about a week and we'll have fermented vegorama.

O.k., so he's not a fermented vegetable or a dried plum, but come on! How could I not show you Pablo the Great Overseer. He perches himself up on that chair and makes sure I'm doing my kitchen duties to his satisfaction. He's a tough one, that little ginger cat. He keeps me on my game.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing For Winter Like the Good Bapka I Am

One of many, many boxes of fruit begging for my attention before the fruit flies devour them entirely.

My Bapka (Slovak grandma) was the best. And please, don't tell me your grandma was the best. She wasn't, mine was. Bapka could bake like nobody's business and she loved me. What more could you ask for? Oh, and strong, that woman was Strong. I remember her showing me how to make perogies, using her arms to scoop under the mound of crazy-heavy dough, trying to show me how to use my strength to stir. My puny arms weren't up to the task at the time. I think Bapka would be happier with my pipes nowadays.

So, my Bapka, she taught me a thing or two, but the most important thing, to me, was how she made us all feel loved by the food she prepared for us. I don't think that just because we eat a paleo diet, void of the gluten and sugar my grandma used, that the lesson is any less profound. Yes, food is fuel, but food is also a ritual, a time and event to enjoy with a sense of community and grateful gathering. I love without food and I love with food. There's many ways that we love. I'm happy that my family eats the meals I prepare and say, "we can feel the love in it". Mission accomplished. Because there really is love in there. That love comes both from the farmers, our friends, who cared for that animal and treated it humanely, with compassion and care and from me as I prepare it. By the way, you can pack love in a salad or slide it into a stew. Love doesn't only come wrapped in sugar. Never mind "only come wrapped in sugar", love shouldn't come wrapped in sugar at all.

Plums becoming prunes. Still about a days worth of drying to be done at this stage.

I'm finding, especially as I get older, that I am really starting to appreciate the old skills that have fallen out of favour in our crazy, give-it-to-me-now society. Hence, my love of fermenting, culturing, and drying food. I'm trying to dig up as many obscure, out of print books as possible in hopes of garnering further knowledge. The new books on food preservation are loaded with jam recipes using pounds of sugar. Not my thing.

Last winter, we successfully ate pretty locally. We didn't have any fruit at all. This year, we've been lucky to have found an amazing organic orchard that's kept us well stocked throughout the summer. I just got our last supply of fruit and I've decided to go on a drying rampage. My kitchen is lined with trays and fruits in various stages of drying. It smells divine

Speaking of drying, did you know that a raisin should actually taste like a grape!? Who knew? I've been drying organic Coronation grapes and the result is this plump raisin with a delicious mild sweetness and pungent grape taste. It's unlike any raisin I've ever tasted. 
Organic Coronation grapes transforming into grapes. These are the grapes that pop out of their skin like an eyeball in your mouth. I think their concentrated skins are what makes them such tasty raisins.

I've also been drying boxes and boxes of plums. We're not huge dried fruit fans here. I don't buy dried fruit except on rare occasion, but it's nice to think that we have some frozen, canned, and dried fruit as a little something to remind us of summer on the impending winter days ahead.

I've gone through dozens of dehydrators. The one I'm buying next is a giant mother of a thing so I'll be saving my pennies for a while. Until then, my oven works fine. I put it on 110 degrees, line my pans with parchment paper and that's it. All it needs is a little time and a few words of loving encouragement. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skinless Gyoza and Yummy Leftovers for Lunch

The bright yellow colour on the zucching comes from the unrefined, organic red  palm oil they're drizzled with. 

So, I found a big bag of pastured pork at the bottom of my freezer (yes, I'm at the bottom, time to pick up my bulk meat orders). I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, but then I remembered my skinless gyoza idea. I used to love my gyozas, back in the day. Those little bundles of yumminess wrapped in white, tasteless dough. The dough contained the meat and was essential, or so I thought.

Turns out that you can make a pretty fine gyoza, or egg roll for that matter, without the crappy flour wrapping. You just flavour the meat with the right spices, give it a fry in some unrefined coconut oil, make a dipping sauce and you're done. As usual, I made more than enough so that we could make quick lunches for the next day.

I used this recipe (see video below) for my gyozas and his dipping sauce was really good, too. I put mine in some romaine lettuce with some cooked purple cabbage and mounds of cilantro. I wanted to use avocado, but somebody in our house thinks avocadoes are candy and keeps eating them faster than I can buy them (ahem, T, you know who you are).

I had to include the video, his little girl is just too darn cute.
I also cut some young zucchini into spears, drizzled them with organic, unrefined red palm oil (which is delicious if you haven't tried it), sprinkled on a bit of sea salt and thyme and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. I've had a bottle of palm oil for a while now, but didn't start using it until recently. We're really loving it. This particular type of palm oil is not refined in anyway, is rich in carotenoids and saturated fats and is, therefore, on par with coconut oil for it's ability to withstand heat. I wouldn't buy palm oil from a company that sells 'crude palm' which is a highly toxic, refined product. You can order sustainably produced palm oil directly from Wilderness Family Naturals if you're interested in giving it a try.

When we were done eating I got to making the kids' lunches. I just ripped up some of the romaine that was left, threw some olives, leftover cabbage and zucchini, fresh cilantro, and some gyoza patties into the mix. I drizzled it with some leftover sauce and gave them a lime to squeeze on before they ate it. It was really, really good. Oh, they got a nectarine, too. That was the last of our insanely delicious nectarines, straight from the organic orchard about an hour away. We're already looking forward to eating that amazing fruit again next summer.
Kids' lunches done in 5 minutes flat.