Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yogurt success!

Oliver LOVES yogurt. In fact, he loves it so much that he will happily eat 4-8 oz. every day. Since each quart costs $4-5, when we factor in my own desire to eat yogurt regularly, plus the fact that now that he insists on feeding himself much of the yogurt ends up decorating his face or even his lap, the weekly price is getting up there with the cost of butter. I am willing to pay $10 a week for good butter, but not for yogurt!

After discussing home yogurt-making with several people, and feeling guilty about the $17 candy thermometer I purchased at Whole Foods way last year in the throes of yogurt-making ambition, I finally decided to just take the plunge. I made sure I had some extra raw milk on hand and followed the fairly easy instructions. However, I messed up and the yogurt came out tasting mild and good, but with an unpleasant mucousy consistency. Oliver ate it without complaint, but I was pretty sure I could do better.

Last night, armed with 2 gallons of fresh raw milk, I decided to give it another try. This time: complete success! And at $1.73 (the price of 4 cups of raw milk) this quart is quite a bargain. Hurrah!

Here's how:

To make one quart, you will need:
-4 cups whole milk (preferably raw and unhomogenized -- NEVER ultra-pasteurized! However, if all you can buy is pasteurized milk, making it into yogurt will help restore some of the beneficial properties lost during pasteurization.)
-1/4 cup high-quality plain full-fat yogurt for starter (I used Seven Stars plain which is the best kind available in stores, but you could also use another brand, or even the yogurt starter culture which is available in freeze-dried form.)
-ceramic or glass bowl
-candy thermometer
-a warm place to keep the milk around 95-105 degrees

First, heat the milk in a saucepan until it reaches approximately 110-120 degrees. It's okay if it gets hotter; my mother has even had milk boil and then turn into yogurt just fine, and sometimes I lose track of time and it reaches the point where it begins to form a skin. But if you are using raw milk and you want to preserve all the "raw" qualities, try to catch it when it's still relatively cool (if using pasteurized, it should be heated to 185).

Next, let it cool to around 100-105 degrees. You can remove the pot lid and cool it in the refrigerator for a little while if it's very hot. If the milk has gotten warm enough to form a skin, these may keep forming on top while it's cooling, so you may want to remove them before adding the yogurt so that there is no unnecessary extra thickening.

Then, pour the milk into the bowl and add the 1/4 cup yogurt to serve as a starter. Mix this together very thoroughly. (I made the mistake of adding the yogurt to the hot milk, which killed the bugs the first time around. Don't do this -- wait til it's cool.)

Next, wrap the bowl in a blanket or sweater and put it in a warm place. This could be one of the following scenarios:
-in an oven with a pilot light,
-in an oven with a light bulb (light on) and a warming stone (first heat the oven so the warming stone gets warm, then turn it off),
-over an electric burner set on the lowest possible setting (this worked for my mother),
-on top of a heater,
-or (as I did) over the rear right burner of a stove with the oven set to 200-250 degrees (this will work as long as the heat from the stove comes up through this burner -- you should know which burner it is on your particular model, though I think this may be gas stoves only). I finally found the perfect use for the tea cozy my mother brought me from Scotland, and filled in the gaps at the bottom with dish towels.

Don't obsess over the exact temperature. I was told it had to stay at 105 degrees and was pulling my hair out the first time trying to get things just right. Even with this final set-up, I could only manage about 95 degrees or maybe a little more, but it worked JUST FINE. Just get your milk and yogurt starter to around 100 degrees, find a warm spot, wrap the bowl warmly, and leave it alone for several hours. (If you are concerned it isn't remaining at the correct temperature, feel free to go in and test it with the thermometer, then adjust the location or setup accordingly.)

I left the milk overnight (about 7 hours) and by morning we had this:

Absolutely delicious, thick yogurt with a pleasing custard-like consistency. The added boon: the taste is extremely mild with just the right hint of tartness. (The yellow layer on top is the final milk skin, which can be mixed in or removed with a spoon.)

Don't be discouraged if the first batch doesn't come out perfectly; chances are it will still be quite edible. Once you find the way that works in your home, with your equipment and available warm spots, you will be able to repeat these steps and get the same results every time. Final note: if the yogurt seems a bit liquidy, never fear -- it will firm up in the fridge. And PLEASE, if it gets too hot and separates, don't throw it away! Simply strain the curds from the whey, let the curds drain well and dry out a little, then season with herbs and sea salt, or make a sweet cheese with honey and walnuts. Directions forthcoming!

As for cost savings, it breaks down like this:

If I bought 2 quarts weekly (which is how much we can eat easily):

$4/qt x 8 qts = $32 monthly
$4.80 delivery charge (15%)
$36.80 (what we were spending before on yogurt)

I will now be spending the following:

$6/gallon x 2 gal = $12 monthly
$1.80 delivery charge (15%)
$13.80 (monthly expenses for buying the milk to make yogurt)

This makes a total savings of $23! Plus we will not be using and wasting plastic containers all the time, which makes me very happy. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tooth powder

After a year spent trying every kind of natural toothpaste on the market (including a particularly atrocious one called Peelu, which contains tiny vegetable fibers that, rather than cleaning your teeth, get stuck between them!), and then using tooth soap for a few months, I was about to get myself some ash and a twig and do things the old fashioned way. Fortunately I saw sense, and decided instead to try tooth powder (recipe found in Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition -- a FANTASTIC book I recommend to everyone). I was hesitant at first because I tend to have sensitive teeth and I thought this would worsen the sensitivity because the salt is a little abrasive. However, it seemed my teeth were turning yellow with the tooth soap (which makes sense as there is nothing abrasive in tooth soap, which is simply a liquid -- however, I am sure it works well for many people), so I decided tooth powder might be the answer. It is more palatable than brushing with baking soda alone, though it definitely does have a salty flavor.

The problem with toothpastes, even those that are fluoride-free (remember, fluoride is an industrial poison and can cause tooth decay, late eruption of teeth from the gums, fluorosis (white spots on teeth), and many more problems), and contain no SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate), is that every single brand has glycerin, which is derived from vegetables and needed to maintain moistness. Unfortunately, glycerin is an inherently sticky paste which adheres very stubbornly to teeth and causes problems over time -- it would take 28 rinses to get all the glycerin off, and who has time for that?!

I have been brushing for about a week with tooth powder and so far, it is hands-down my favorite.

Tooth powder recipe:
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine-ground Celtic sea salt
10 drops peppermint oil

Mix all. Sprinkle a pinch or two on a wet toothbrush and enjoy the clean feeling and a very healthy smile!

And yes, I store ours in an individual-sized glass butter dish from Williams-Sonoma. At $6, this was the most expensive part of our tooth-cleaning regimen.

Don't forget that in the past, people did not use toothpaste, but rather brushed with things like ash and baking soda. Some people, like the Swiss living in isolated areas of the Rhone Valley, never brushed and still enjoyed complete freedom from decay (as Weston A. Price discovered)! Along with bad food, toothpaste is a modern invention and a grand money-making scheme. People who have decayed teeth have them because of a diet poor in nutrients and/or rich in refined sugar, white flour, and other processed, denatured foods. (To sum up the reason for this, it is due to the fact that these foods cause an imbalance in blood sugar, resulting in minerals being pulled from the bones and teeth. I highly recommend reading Cure Tooth Decay to completely understand your dental well-being and how to improve it, regardless of age or dental health. Most of the decay problems begin on the inside of the body, in the level and balance of specific minerals in the blood stream, not in the mouth itself.)

There is much more to be discussed on this topic, but here is one example of how the modernization of diet has transformed our dental health, facial structure, and dental palate width (thus plaguing every modern child for the last 40 years with cavities, crowded teeth, malocclusion, and impacted wisdom teeth) -- truly a triumph for the dental and orthodontic industries, but a tragedy for the rest of us!

The grandmother, at right, was of Polish Jewish descent and born in 1899 to recent immigrants to London's East End from Galicia. She lived to be 90 years old. Note the wide face and wide dental palate, with ample room for all her teeth (and no, this woman did not have orthodontics!). Her daughter's face is much narrower, with a noticeably narrowed dental palate, but still with straight teeth (as she grew up during the 30s, she would not have had orthodontics either). The little boy at left is the most striking -- a narrow face, narrow dental palate, and teeth that will need a lot of help to be straight. We can only speculate about the diet of the grandmother as a child, and the diet of her mother while she was pregnant and breastfeeding, but likely it was very nutrient-dense, with plenty of liver, sourdough breads, preserved fish and meats, and much more. (for a closer look, see this link)

Rotten egg whites, anyone?

Yesterday I came across some notes from Paul Pitchford, who presented on healing foods while I was at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. At one point he talked at some length about eggs and how the white has the effect of gumming up the liver. Some cultures would apparently pack egg whites in ash and bury the whole thing for weeks, then eat it rotten! This would ensure it would break down properly in the liver. A much more palatable alternative is to simply eat something spicy with eggs, such as cayenne pepper, a hot spicy drink (as in Korea), or hot sauce (as in the Southwest and Mexico).

He also said that spicy peppers (such as chili, jalapeno, and habanero) help to cleanse the body, and do the following:
-transform mucoid excesses in lungs, liver, and gall bladder (as well as mucus
build-up from egg whites),
-remove plaque from heart and arteries,
-help with high blood pressure, heart inflammation, and blood clots,
-and remove amyloid plaque in the brain.

As if flavor weren't reason enough, here's another reason to incorporate some spice into your food, and consume your eggs in traditional ways!

In terms of eggs, the other thing to be aware of is cooking time/style. I eat raw egg yolks semi-regularly, as does Oliver, but raw egg whites are another thing entirely; for one, they are very hard to digest. This may not seem like a big deal, but our digestion (and whether it's proceeding properly) can have a big impact on how we feel. I have been noticing lately on a few occasions that I become very irritable after eating undercooked egg whites, specifically in the form of soft-boiled and poached eggs; I couldn't figure out why this would be and thought it had something to do with blood sugar. However, I also have been craving spicy foods with egg breakfasts lately, and looking back at some of the egg breakfasts I've enjoyed in the past, I can see that incorporating a spicy element really makes sense and has made a big difference. Such as in this breakfast, which includes jalapeno sauerkraut from Hawthorne Valley. I wasn't able to get more of this yesterday at the market as HV was not there, but the kim chee I picked up will do the trick for sure. Yet another lesson in the importance of listening to your body!

Eating on the run

It's challenging enough juggling winter coats & scarves, a toddler, a stroller, bags of compost, and bags of groceries all while navigating subway stairs, crowded sidewalks, the farmers' market, and an insanely busy Whole Foods -- not to mention planning and packing meals for when we're out and about! Yesterday we headed into the city to drop off compost, deliver a dress to a sewing client, and stock up at the Union Square Greenmarket and Whole Foods. At the Greenmarket I finally got my mustard greens (yay!); kim chee (from the Korean couple w/the organic mustard greens); grass-fed ground beef from Central Valley Farm (best stuff around, and a bargain at only $5/lb.); raw milk cheddar (also from Central Valley); lots of shallots, onions & garlic; two potatoes; and 4 giant portabello mushrooms (I have been having a craving for mushrooms lately).

By the end of shopping (and Oliver's nap) we were both quite hungry, so I decided to make a makeshift meal with what I had just bought and supplement with some sliced pear from the lunch bag. I had sourdough rye wasa crackers with salame rosa and proscuitto de parma (the BEST you can get, and still semi-affordable); Ollie stuck with the proscuitto. Did I mention this snack took place in the upstairs dining area at Whole Foods? I probably looked completely insane with my package of crackers and the paper-thin slices of proscuitto arrayed on deli paper in front of me. Oh well. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and I would wager that my meal was one of the more nutritious being consumed there -- and definitely the most affordable! :)

Later that night, after meeting a friend and fellow health counselor, Angela ( in Park Slope, I had a late-night snack of the same, but paired this time with mustard greens and kim chee. And yes, I have been craving them so much that I am crazy enough to eat mustard greens raw and straight up -- let me tell you, they are spicy enough to clear all the sinuses in your head! The kim chee, with its exquisite blend of salty, sour, and chili-spice, kept me coming back for more. (If you want to get some of your own delicious Korean-style kim chee, visit the Union Square Greenmarket on a Monday. The booth, which faces east and has its back to Staples (approximately), has a white tent and a big sign that reads "ORGANIC." There will be a man out in front saying "Organic greens! Two for 5!" A pint of kim chee is $5.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Midnight snack

On Christmas night I felt the need for some cleansing greens. I was feeling a little sticky internally -- it's hard to describe the feeling exactly. I am not referring delicately to a digestive problem or anything of that nature, but I could tell that my body needed a big plate of kale. (Actually, I have been CRAVING mustard greens lately -- the baby kind that are nice and spicy, but not too hot and not bitter, but I can't always obtain baby mustard greens. The only place I know to get them regularly is from the Korean couple who have a small organic produce booth at the Union Square Greenmarket on Mondays -- they have several coolers of organic baby greens. But since I hadn't been there in a few weeks, kale from the local grocery store was the next best option. I am always in the mood for kale, unlike swiss chard, for example.)

On Christmas day we had blueberry pancakes (yes, with frozen blueberries - gasp! - so unseasonal), and the most delicious bacon from a local farm. I think blueberry pancakes are so yummy that I don't even put maple syrup on them. For lunch we had nachos (a rare indulgence!) with beans (cooked in bone broth), avocado, tomato, black olives, salsa, and lots of melted cheese and raw sour cream. Delicious!! At dinner we shared 1.5 lbs. of pork spare ribs with my homemade BBQ sauce (recipe forthcoming!) and a baked potato. We also had a little cabernet sauvignon (a very cheap bottle, I will admit) heated for several hours in the crock pot with a cinnamon stick, whole cloves, honey, and slices of pear and orange. I would estimate the alcohol content was reduced to less than 1%, so I wasn't feeling imbalanced from alcohol, but from all the other stuff, probably the excessive amounts of salt and the sugar from the wine (and the lack of vegetables!).

Whatever the reason, the kale really hit the spot. All you have to do is rinse and chop several leaves, steam them until bright green using a steamer basket, top with butter, and enjoy! You may also add a little sea salt if desired.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Curry-apple-chicken salad

A perfect use for leftover roast chicken: curry-apple-chicken salad!

The hardest part is removing all the meat from the bones and patiently separating the edibles from the inedibles -- I'm very picky about this as I do not like any type of cartilage, skin, or other unappetizing parts in my chicken salad. Be sure to save the bones, skin, and everything you don't eat for making stock (a.k.a. bone broth).

Chop the meat into small pieces, and mix with plenty of chopped apple (try half an apple to start), homemade mayonnaise, curry powder (I use muchi curry), salt, and black pepper. Serve on toasted, buttered whole wheat sourdough bread topped with mustard greens, kale, or your choice of seasonal greens. This is a perfect lunch box meal, provided you have an insulated bag (like these from BuiltNY) and freezer pack.

The version of this that I made last spring, which featured fresh arugula, made for a prettier picture.

Here is a special tip on roasting chicken: If you were smart and saved all the juice and fat after roasting the chicken (assuming you didn't make gravy with it), you can refrigerate the juice/fat in a gravy boat, and when it solidifies simply remove the fat from the top and save it for frying potatoes or making chopped liver (recipe coming soon!). This fat is also known as schmaltz. So now you know where that term came from. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Really, Mama? We have to carry all this compost?

Yes, my little Oliver. Your 5'2" mama is going to carry all these bags of food scraps down the subway stairs along with you and your stroller. Just so we can make sure it goes to the happy worms at the Lower East Side Ecology Center rather than in a landfill! (The food scrap drop-off site is on the northern side of Union Square, generally across from Barnes & Noble, every day of the Greenmarket (M,W,F,S) year-round. Look for the white van and the large garbage bins.)

At my current teenage weight it is quite clear to me now that mothers who eat traditional foods, visit farmers' markets routinely, and take public transportation need never go to the gym!

It's beginning to look a lot... Christmas!

We bought our small but delightfully fat tree from the Quebecois guys who sell trees every year down by the Rite Aid on 3rd Ave. and 93rd St. here in Bay Ridge. We decided a small tree would be a more prudent choice this year, both for the budget and because we can keep it out of Oliver's reach entirely by having it on a small table. Hugo is responsible for the lovely bows. :) He also made his stocking last year, at the same time that I made mine and Oliver's. Sadly we have not gotten good at stocking up on stocking stuffers throughout the year yet, though... But at least this year we will have Christmas music played on the piano! Hugo picked up a wonderful book of traditional and modern Christmas songs for me last night at Borders.

Just for fun, here is a picture of my two cuties reading the Times by the tree:

Recently we went into the city to see the Macy's Christmas windows (which are also largely Hugo's work). Oliver was entranced!

Monday, December 21, 2009

In response to a question about stress

A reader asked if I have any food and natural remedy suggestions to help in coping with stress. Here are my recommendations:

1) First of all, on a daily basis try to take some time away from the source of stress -- this is harder for us marrieds-with-children when the source of stress is something like a teething child or a tired spouse, but if you can at all get some downtime just for you, be sure to make it a priority.
2) Take high-vitamin cod liver oil. See my other posts about this and just start doing it. When we are under stress our bodies become depleted of vitamin A, and CLO is the best backup source that we can take as a daily supplement. Vitamin A is needed to convert cholesterol into our hormones, and hormones will help keep us calm and on an even keel. Also, the high levels of vitamin D in CLO will support the immune system. Vitamins A and D work synergistically and really do help keep us well even in difficult circumstances or in the face of fatigue, stress, germ exposure, and cold weather.
3) Avoid stimulants as much as you can. These include things like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods (which contain many additives), and white flour -- easier said than done around the holidays when we are constantly eating cookies, drinking hot chocolate, and having drinks at parties! These foods put stress on the body, deplete us of important nutrients and minerals, and have the effect of jolting the adrenal glands to make them produce extra energy. This can end up making us feel even more stressed out because our adrenaline response is constantly activated. Think of it this way: each time you stimulate your adrenal glands, they continue firing for a full 24 hours. So if you have coffee every morning, guess what? your adrenal glands never get a day off. This spells big trouble when you come under additional stress, because your adrenals are likely fatigued and you will be tempted to stimulate them even more than usual to keep yourself going.
4) Fats from animals raised on grass are an important source of the cholesterol mentioned above which helps our bodies make the appropriate hormones. These fats are also great sources of the all-important vitamins A and D (also mentioned above). Focus on foods like butter, cream, egg yolks, lard, chicken fat (think chicken skin & roasting drippings!), and other meat fats. Fat from oily fish is wonderful as well. [When it comes to dairy, choose raw if you have the option, but if not always get organic, grass-fed & unhomogenized if you can, and never ever ultra-pasteurized.]
5) Treat yourself to something a special caffeine-free tea (try to get something that has only herbs, flowers, and fruits in it -- no natural flavors or other additives), a warm bath, or a massage. If you have a favorite way of relaxing, such as meditation, yoga, stretching, playing an instrument, or taking a walk in the woods, by all means make time for it! We all know that doing these things are important, but it's so easy to do everything else first...and then never have time for relaxation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

These days, we can work through anything!

Have you seen the new commercial for Delsym cough medicine? It shows people struggling to live their lives with the misery of an awful cold -- then they pour down some syrup and suddenly they are filled with energy and relief and are doing things like running marathons, playing in the snow, and cooking dinner for 20. Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little...but you get the idea. It struck me as funny this time because it was suddenly so apparent how the message about illness is always the same: do whatever it takes to mask the symptoms for a few hours so you can carry on at your usual pace, or perhaps at an even faster rate since now you're all hopped up on medicine! To quote the Electrolux commercial out of context, we must always "be even more amazing" (clearly I watch too much television now!). What about a commercial that shows sick people staying in bed? drinking teas and bone broth? keeping warm? staying away from excessive stimulation and just resting? Even if they still have to be depicted taking some chemical cocktail with a chaser of high-fructose corn syrup and red dye number 3, at least they could be resting at the same time! But no! we must work no matter what happens, no matter how crappy we feel, no matter how sick we are.

In the past couple of months I have had two colds (the 2nd occurred after eating a cupcake, go figure - this is why I eat sugar about twice a year now instead of daily) and I have at last concluded that mainly it's from stress. After a certain point, my body somehow knows that the only way it's going to get me to rest and stop running like a hamster in a wheel is to break down for a little while. I am pretty sure that without these forced rest-holidays I would go full-tilt for years on end. Before the first cold in late October I hadn't been sick in a year, and I was definitely due for some lying-in time. I believe in taking something when you need it (like cough syrup if your cough won't let you sleep), but aside from that I think it's generally best to let your body work things out for itself, with the help of some nourishing bone broths, lots of fluids, and lots of rest. And maybe a break from the cupcakes. :)

Colorful stock

I am boiling our weekly bone broth for 24 hours this time, rather than the usual 6-8; we will see how it turns out! It certainly looked beautiful going into the pot, with the tops from a bunch of carrots and an onion, plus extra purple onion skins (after all, why let all that good stuff go into the compost? there's still a lot to be had from the leaves and skins of veggies). I always add 2 tbsp. raw vinegar to the water and let everything sit for about half an hour before turning on the heat to begin pulling minerals from the bones, cartilage, and veggies. You will see from the picture that we are still using an old unclaimed pot I snitched from my grad school apartment that has some sort of evil black coating on it (ugh). Any sponsors out there who want to send us a test pot? :)

*Note added later: This broth turned out oddly -- it tasted quite bad actually, somewhere between bitter and burned. I can only figure it was the carrot tops, though I have seen recipes that include carrot tops... the other possibility is that our horrible pot has at last bitten the proverbial dust, so maybe that was the problem. For my next batch I will stick with the conventional aromatic veggies and chicken - nothing else.

Food diary

In case you have ever felt curious to know exactly what I might eat in any given day, I am going to share my food diary with you today (not that I actually keep a food diary, I am just writing everything down here for once). I didn't really cook much today, just did a fair amount of snacking on little bits of things here and there, making meals out of what I had on hand. Here is the rundown (now you will see how weird I really am!):

oatmeal w/butter, coconut oil, maple syrup & milk
kombucha (b/c my stomach felt slightly unsettled)
chicken liver pate and butter on crackers (was out of ww. sourdough)
chicken broth
leftover stuffed pepper w/brown rice & ground beef w/organs
pinto beans refried in lard, w/salsa, sour cream & blue corn chips
beef tongue (from a friend -- delicious!)
jalapeno sauerkraut
raw milk w/raw egg yolk and 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
homemade apple muffin w/butter & salame rosa (Italian cured salami)
high-vitamin cod liver oil

Most of these things were very small portions, just a few bites in some cases. I am quite amazed at the variety here! If you were to look in our refrigerator you wouldn't think there was much of anything there, and the pantry only has things like dry beans, but somehow there was enough to eat.

Oliver had:

raw milk & cod liver oil
cheddar cheese
chicken liver pate (he kept eating more and more! I couldn't hold him back)
pumpkin custard (home-cooked pumpkin w/eggs, milk, maple syrup & spices)
refried black beans w/salsa and sour cream
beef tongue
scrambled egg
boiled carrots w/butter

Sunday, December 6, 2009

There is truth in color...

...if only you pay attention!

After running out of our unbelievably fabulous truly yellow raw butter (this picture does not do it justice -- it is really a sunny bright yellow color) from cows on grass, I was forced to pick up the next best from Whole Foods: Natural by Nature grass-fed high-CLA butter. Not only did this prove to be a big compromise on flavor, but the COLOR--! Or, I should say, the utter LACK of color, even from a butter purported to be from cows on grass, was shocking. This butter should be yellow, which shows the high levels of vitamin A from the cows eating green grass but alas! it looks pale and pasty in comparison. And at $4.99 for 8 oz. of the whipped variety, it is not exactly a bargain. (We pay $9 for a whole pound of the good stuff, plus a 15% delivery fee -- definitely a better deal.)

It just reminded me yet again of how what's available even in the best stores is sub-par. I would have been better off buying Kerry Gold butter from Ireland I suppose, but the carbon footprint on that product is ridiculous and definitely doesn't justify buying it on a regular basis. I should add that I have been very happy with the special "summer" pastured butter from Organic Valley; it is actually quite delicious and has a fairly good yellow color. At Whole Foods it is $3.69, so definitely not cheap, but if you are looking for something good, have a great selection to choose from, and don't have access to local butter, this is what I would recommend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The biggest dairy haul yet

Thanks to Viktoria, a wonderful neighborhood friend with a large vehicle (who was also ordering), I was able to pick up our biweekly delivery of raw dairy, pastured meats, and other foods without making Hugo carry everything up and down the subway stairs. I also was able to get some items for (ahem) five other families -- which is why between the two of us, Viktoria and I had some 4 boxes filled with food, plus several bags!

Here's what I got (*starred items are for other people):
-2 gallons milk
-1 half gallon milk*
-1 quart buttermilk
-5 quarts yogurt
-2 lbs. cultured butter
-3 lbs. cultured butter*
-1 pint sour cream
-1 pint cottage cheese
-1 quart fermented grape juice
-1 quart fermented grape juice*
-1 quart sauerkraut*
-1 GIANT cabbage
-4 dozen brown eggs*
-2 quarts lard*
-1 ham hock
-1 package goat bones (for stock)*
-1 package chicken livers
-1 package chicken livers*
-1 whole fresh chicken
-1 whole fresh chicken*
-1 package ground beef with all the organs

Everything came from A---'s farm in Pennsylvania. Both he and his wife were there -- I had never seen her before (she seemed extremely sweet and nice, and was very cute). A--- went out of his way to get chicken livers for me even though they weren't on the ordering list. Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. A---! You guys are the best!!! (I cannot mention names in case they were traced and somehow got in trouble for selling us all this wonderful real food. Sigh.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Depressing enlightenment

Signs like this make me so mad -- but I can't help but find it ironic and slightly humorous, too. It's just so ridiculous to think of all the people trying to feed their kids right when this is the best mainstream information out there -- not to mention the budgetary sacrifices that are often necessary to afford these "organic" and "natural" processed foods. If you haven't done so lately, try visiting the food department of a baby store. There is no better way of seeing just how firmly our entire food system is rooted in grains. On these shelves you will find almost no fat, and basically no quality protein. Instead, there will be only carbs, carbs, and more carbs -- most in the form of cereals, some in the form of processed-beyond-recognition starchy veggies and fruits. Since babies really only digest protein and fat well up until 1-2 years of age, this is truly a sad state of affairs. Fat is especially important -- even more so than protein, but yet there is NO FAT TO BE FOUND. Except the soybean oil in the formulas (which is an oil, not a fat, and harmful to boot in more ways than I care to discuss right now).

On this same big box-baby-store visit I picked up some Gerber's mashed bananas in a jar. The bananas have since been washed down the drain, but I felt the expenditure justified so I could get my hands on another small jar to add to our collection (for packing Ollie's meals to-go).

I sniffed the contents first and got only a chemical whiff of preservatives -- not even a banana-like smell! The label proved very enlightening. One jar of this "food" (which is one serving) contains 37 grams of carbs and 30 grams of sugars. HELLO?!?! How can a little person be expected to start life out eating this quantity of sweetness? This serving is equivalent to 7.5 teaspoons of sugar. And the amount of carbs is about half of what many adults should have in a day. So sad to think that this is a healthier food than many babies are starting out with. To add insult to injury, the label even proclaims the food to be microwavable. (Groan)

The ingredients are bananas, citric acid (a preservative), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). One serving is supposed to provide 45% of the child's daily need for vitamin C. The label proved to be further enlightening (and hilarious):

"3rd Foods Bananas from Gerber is an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps your infant's body absorb iron when eaten with iron rich foods such as Gerber infant cereal."

So...basically the bananas are a vehicle for vitamin C (which has been ADDED), and the cereal is a vehicle for iron (which has also been ADDED), and while you're feeding your child these healthful foods which any pediatrician will recommend, you can rest assured they are also enjoying approximately 50 grams of carbohydrates. What was I just saying about how many adults would do well to limit carb intake to only 65-70 grams a day?

The nutrition facts on these labels might as well read "Juvenile diabetes and childhood food allergies with a side of synthetic vitamin compounds."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Autumn oat cakes

An alternative to my regular oatmeal breakfast (served with butter, coconut oil, raw honey, and raw milk) is Autumn oat cakes. Basically a fancy name for something you can do very quickly with leftover congealed oatmeal! If you've ever made your own *oatmeal and saved some of it for later, you've probably noticed that it becomes firm in the fridge. All you have to do to make these cakes is form little patties from the leftover oatmeal and fry them in a hot skillet in plenty of bacon fat, then serve with butter, maple syrup, and yogurt.

For an Autumn twist:
-first, chop half an apple and saute the pieces in butter with cinnamon (and coconut flakes and chopped almonds if desired),
-then remove from the pan and add more butter,
-fry the oat cakes,
-and serve the hot oat cakes topped with the fried apples, butter, maple syrup, and a side of creamy cold yogurt.

To make this a really seasonal dish try any local nuts you might be able to get a hold of, such as hickory nuts. Fried pears are also great served this way. I promise even oatmeal haters will be hard put to dislike this delicious breakfast!

*As always, be sure you are soaking your oats overnight with plenty of water and 2 tbsp. whey, lemon juice, or yogurt per cup of oats. This should always be done to break down the phytic acid in the oats (found in all whole grains) and make them really nutritious and able to provide you with long-lasting energy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swine flu

I only have a minute, but wanted to respond to a question about the swine flu "pandemic." I have learned recently that the people who are contracting the swine flu are those who have been vaccinated against the regular seasonal flu religiously (and often against the swine flu as well). Those who are most at risk for having complications are the same ones who have weakened immune systems from the yearly assault of vaccinations and other shots. I would highly recommend reading the article below if you want another view from what you are hearing on the news, and especially if you want some excellent reasons for avoiding the vaccine and not giving it to your kids. In my view, and according to all I have researched and learned, it is best to let the human immune system develop natural defenses. Each time we become ill and can fight the illness naturally without suppressing our body's need to have a fever, and without using antibiotics and other drugs when they are not truly necessary, we are serving our immune system well and as a result will be stronger and in a better position to ward off more serious infections in the future.

For the article, click here.

My other common sense tips for avoiding swine flu and any seasonal illnesses are as follows:

1) take high-vitamin cod liver oil (preferably fermented) regularly for vitamins A & D (see or to order
2) avoid all sugar, white flour, and stimulants (caffeine, soda, etc.), and limit sweet foods in general
3) get plenty of rest and pay attention to your body's need for sleep and downtime
4) do your best to eat seasonally. Avoid, for example, eating tropical fruit in cold weather as this is too cooling to the body and may leave you susceptible to infection.
5) emphasize whole foods as much as possible, and avoid highly-processed foods which have the effect of pulling important nutrients from the body's stores
6) load up on lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut which is enzyme-rich and contains greatly enhanced quantities of vitamin C (as compared to regular raw cabbage)
7) if you feel a cold or flu coming on, you can take the homeopathic remedy oscillococcinum which may help (available at health food stores -- you do not need to take a whole vial of pellets for each dose, a few pellets will do just fine). And even more importantly, begin taking raw garlic 2-3 times per day. Simply peel and chop one clove and swallow like pills, using water. THIS REALLY WORKS!!! Garlic has incredibly antimicrobial properties but it absolutely must be taken raw and fresh.

The way we eat now

These are traditional nutrient-dense foods that are now always present at our house (with some slight variation by season and appetite). Pictured here more or less from left to right: kale, Celtic sea salt, lamb liver, ruby red sauerkraut (lacto-fermented), lard, cod liver oil, raw milk, whole wheat sourdough bread, eggs, raw milk cheese, chicken broth (in gelatin form), dry black beans, dry pinto beans, sausage links, raw butter, canned Alaskan salmon, raw whey, coconut oil, and whole grains (brown rice and cracked oats). If you've been following along, you know that all the animal products are from local, pastured animals, and everything else is as local and as organic as possible.

Isn't it funny how the foods in this photo would need an explanation for most people? I don't know about you, but I want Oliver (and our future children) to live in a world where everyone can recognize kale, liver, and lard at first glance, rather than chips and soy milk -- even if no packages were provided.

And speaking of packages, think of the landfill waste that is saved by not eating the way we used to. It's really an incredible difference.

Oh the things we used to eat!

As recently as last winter many of these foods were regularly in our house... I find this worthy of both a wry chuckle and a horrified shudder!

I think it's worth pointing out, with all the current debate raging about vegetarianism being good for the environment, that all of the packaged items above are "vegetarian" -- in fact, many of them were purchased by us on a regular basis because Hugo was following a vegetarian diet! How is this a better way of eating for the environment? Obviously being a "junk food vegetarian" is a far cry from eating a diet based on local seasonal plant foods (which is clearly MUCH more sustainable and environmentally-friendly though not necessarily health-supporting), but even so it's not too often that we hear much discussion of this issue. It is far more lucrative for the food company executives to fatten their offshore bank accounts by selling cheap soy -- all the while claiming it's healthy and "green." Makes me see red!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

5 minute breakfast

I was disappointed yesterday at the Union Square Greenmarket. I had wanted to buy at least 2 dozen eggs from Evolutionary Organics (from New Paltz, NY) but they informed me they had sold out early in the morning. After seeing their eggs in the frying pan of a friend I just had to have some myself (since we have been out of Dave & Kim Raylinsky's fabulous eggs for a while now). People definitely know who has the best eggs, and these farmers sell out quickly. I wandered around the market picking up dry beans from Cayuga, sourdough from Bread Alone, and hot dogs and jalapeno sauerkraut (lacto-fermented the traditional way using only sea salt) from Hawthorne Valley. Then I came across Millport Farm again, which is an Amish farm that we'd tried buying eggs from on another occasion. I hadn't been impressed then. However, this time I overheard a customer telling someone else how she only buys eggs from Millport now because the yolks are so orange and delicious! These are words I like to hear, so I picked up two dozen (at $4 a dozen, they are priced the same as any other eggs at the Greenmarkets).

The first egg I cracked into the hot butter in my frying pan this morning was indeed gorgeous and induced an exclamation of delight! The second was paler, but still a rich color -- and both were delicious. I enjoyed some of my new spicy sauerkraut, and a little leftover oatmeal. Who needs cold cereal when you can whip up something like this in 5 minutes?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall farmers' market bounty

I've been having a great time trying out the items from our new farmers' market vendor here in Bay Ridge -- Siobhan from Raindance Farm brings wonderful raw milk cheese and various beef and pork products from her farm in Schenevus. This week we are trying the "ring bologna" which contains only beef and spices; this is a bit like a delicious smoked summer sausage, only with a better texture. Great for sandwiches with cheese, mustard, kale, a slice of tomato, and some ruby red sauerkraut from Hawthorne Valley (Union Square Greenmarket).

My other Saturday purchases included:
-sweet potatoes
-onions (bought lots so Ollie and I can indulge in butter-sauteed onions to our hearts' content!)
-red skin potatoes
-turnips (+ turnip greens in the crisper)
-yellow pepper
-2 loaves whole wheat sourdough (from Bread Alone)
-sea scallops
-"sun" cheese (from Raindance Farm)

At the Union Square Greenmarket on Monday I bought:

-popcorn! (the best EVER -- I get it on Mondays from a farmer who sells all veggies)
-raw milk cheddar (because already in 2 days we have gone through the sun cheese, it's that good)
-ground beef from the wonderful guys at Central Valley Farm (once again, the best ground beef to be had anywhere around here)

And tomorrow, since I have to go into the city anyway, I will be stocking up on eggs from a New Paltz farm (he was sold out last time -- his eggs are the best to be had around here aside from Grazin' Angus Acres which sells on Saturdays). Also probably pick up more sourdough as we are going through it really fast with all these sandwiches. And I will be visiting the Cayuga Pure Organics booth to buy some dry beans and possibly a whole grain of some kind (spelt? farro? not sure -- something for stews).

To start the week I made bone broth from last week's chicken bones and remnants (supplemented with chicken feet and lots of veggies); having this on hand will allow me to make a butternut-squash-black-bean-and-kale soup that's divine (recipe forthcoming). I also soaked and cooked 1.5 cups of black beans and 1 cup of pinto beans; I will be using them for soup and to make a sandwich spread. I made apple muffins for Hugo's take-to-work breakfasts (see my recipe), and washed and chopped the turnip greens. Today I made ice cream from raw cream we got last week: just 2-3 cups raw cream mixed with 2-3 eggs yolks and 1/4 cup maple syrup (optional 1 tbsp. vanilla). It's SO delicious!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food musings

Today my friend Sharon said something on the phone that really seems to hold a great universal truth for our modern times. Anyone else out there who can relate?

"I used to think people couldn't discuss religion or politics. Now I see you can't discuss religion, politics, or food."

This is really true. I have observed it time and again. Like religion and politics, most people have PLENTY to say about the role that food plays in their lives, and the role it should play in everyone else's, but somehow it's a taboo subject. Sharon hypothesizes that when you begin discussing new food ideas with someone, depending on their vantage point, experiences, and beliefs, it can totally rock their world in a way that isn't comfortable. It's like opening a whole Pandora's box of possibilities that they hadn't thought of.

I have been discovering over the past year or so that food is the one subject on which absolutely everyone is an expert -- even if that means they just don't think food is that important (to their health, I mean). When it comes to diet, many of us act according to my personal definition of dietary insanity (borrowed partly from Einstein):

We think we can do exactly the same thing over and over again (i.e. eat junky over-processed nutritionally-depleted foods) and live to a ripe old age as a mainly healthy person.

Many of us are learning this is not the case -- though it doesn't usually occur to us that the substances passing our lips every day have anything to do with it. I really find this bizarre. If we gave our pets junk to eat and then watched them die, we would probably realize a connection. If we put something besides gasoline in our car engines we would know that we were headed for a big mechanical failure. But somehow we think we can live healthy lives on non-foods just because they are wrapped in packages and pushed on us by food manufacturers.

Okay -- enough said. Time for dinner! Ham with cabbage, potatoes, and plenty of raw cultured butter. Anyone want to join us? :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

S-L-O-W food

Yesterday was a very full, busy day in the city that involved a lot of wind, rain, walking, carrying excessive quantities of bags and raw dairy (and toddlers it seemed!), umbrellas being blown inside out, and of course seeing lots of interesting people. Not much eating happened (except in Oliver's case) so Hugo and I were pretty hungry by the time we got home. The normal thing to do in this situation would be to hit speed dial for our favorite local Thai restaurant -- but we are sticking to a very strict budget so this was not an option. Instead I made a roast chicken that we had just picked up (fresh that week from an Amish farm in PA -- not even frozen).

Said chicken must have weighed just over 6 lbs. (how could that be?!) and took an accordingly long time to cook (about 1.75 hours). By 9:00, when it was finished, along with the short-grain brown rice I love, Hugo had already passed out on the living room rug from exhaustion and hunger. He had to be forced to the table, but we enjoyed that chicken a lot (I for one had much more than my fair share of crispy skin -- but less than half a juicy chicken breast as this bird was giant!). Oliver just wanted to nurse and go to bed.

On days like these I am reminded how much time and dedication it takes to eat home-cooked food of the variety that we enjoy: local, seasonal, all from hard-to-reach locations that requires a true hunter/gatherer mentality. At one point as we were unpacking our booty from the buyers' club I made an off-hand comment about how nice it was to have chicken again, and had a startling realization: at any hour of the day I could walk out my door and purchase a hot, already-roasted chicken for a fraction of the price within 5 minutes!

So am I just insane? Does flavor really matter this much? Is supporting local farms really worth all this effort? Does it really make a difference in our family's health and quality of life?

I think you know my answer to that. But I can't speak for Hugo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stock improves!

Many people in the responsible-omnivore movement highlight the importance of "eating the whole animal," not just chicken breasts or prime rib. This was an important practice of traditional people, who recognized the nutritional value to be found in all parts of the animal; it also made food go much further and meant that families could be satisfied with less meat because they were using other nutrient-dense animal parts that kept them going much longer than meat alone could ever do. Farm wives of the past would use everything from feathers, feet, and gizzards when slaughtering a valuable chicken (and all chickens were very valuable). Many people who live on farms today still follow these practices. The summer issue of Gastronomica had a fascinating article on a traditional dish of the Piedmont area of Italy that incorporates such unmentionable chicken parts as testicles and wattles -- and yes, people still eat this!

I am slowly incorporating more of these methods into our way of eating, and while I don't plan on eating rooster wattles or testicles any time soon, I finally got brave enough to try making stock with chicken feet. There was a bit of the grossness factor that I had to get over, so I just tried not to look at them as I slipped them into the big pot of water along with a chicken carcass, cut-up onions, celery, and carrots, and 1 tbsp. of vinegar. I simmered everything for at least 6 hours, adding sea salt along the way, then strained out all the solids, and let me tell you, the end result was like no stock I have ever tasted. It was absolutely divine: deep golden-brown, rich, flavorful, and (as a single sip told me instantly) just brimming with minerals. Turns out this stock was also incredibly gelatin-rich -- it gelled beautifully in the fridge, which is THE sign of a truly nutritious, properly-made stock. Many people are tempted to believe this "jelly" is just fat and therefore must be bad for them, but it is actually gelatin which improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, imparts valuable minerals to our bodies, and has many healing properties (thus the old adage that chicken soup is good for a cold). People in many traditional cultures have sayings to the effect that "broth will cure anything" or "a good broth will raise the dead."

An endocrinologist I used to see (hurrah! no more need for that!) told me once in horror about the oxtail soup her mother made for her after her difficult labor and delivery with her first child. She was eating it gleefully for days, but then one day when she was finally up and around again she looked in the fridge for something to eat and discovered a big pot of what looked like pale-brown jelly. She was horrified when her mother told her that this was the oxtail soup she had been eating! The wise Western medical doctor, believing this to be pure saturated fat, gave her silly traditional Venezuelan mother a good scolding and promptly threw away the soup -- along with its amazing store of nutrients and healing gelatin. I had no idea at the time she told me this tale that the jellied soup had actually been gelatin rather than fat, though I suspected that something was amiss in her beliefs about it (as many of us know, saturated fat would be solid after refrigeration, like butter). Of course, her mother couldn't explain why it was so good for her, but definitely knew that she needed to feed it to her recovering daughter! Alas, how sad that we now think we know better than our ancestors what it takes to be healthy and well.

A bag of chicken feet from our buyers' club cost me $1.75. Since I can only order this from them once per month (the other farmer I order from doesn't offer them), I picked up a bag for $5 at the Union Square Greenmarket last Friday (from Flying Pigs Farm) and will be making stock with it sometime this coming weekend. At either price, chicken feet are now an indispensable part of chicken stock in our house. Here is the yield from this stock-making episode (a little less than 3 quarts, a typical amount from our large pot). I've included the carrots in the picture as these are the pieces I saved to feed Oliver:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Train fare

As a way of seeing if my general impressions are accurate, I decided to pay attention to what my fellow passengers were eating and drinking on the subway today. In all, I observed 11 people with foods and/or beverages. I took notes on my phone and after a ride into and out of the city, I had the following list (this is everything I observed, nothing has been left out):

1 young boy: Skittles
2 teen guys: Pepsi, pizza
3 young women: Starbucks, Smartfood popcorn, chocolate bar
1 young man: giant cupcake (carrying it in a clear plastic container, not actually eating it)
1 middle-aged woman: small package crackers or cookies (not sure which)
2 middle-aged men: Pepsi, Monster Energy drink
1 older woman: potato chips & Tropicana juice cocktail

...and of course...
1 oddball (me): whole grain rye levain with soft spreadable raw milk cheese

After dropping off the family compost, shopping at the farmers' market, going to a dress delivery/fitting, to the bank, and to Whole Foods I was quite hungry myself (having eaten only brown rice with honey & milk for breakfast), so I picked up a plastic knife on my way out of Whole Foods and enjoyed a wedge of bread and some gooey delightfully sharp raw milk cheese from the farmers' market. I have been known to actually spread butter on bread in the middle of a crowded train, so clearly I am no stranger to eating on the go; however, I only do this when extremely hungry and try my best to avoid eating on the train if possible. So far the trend isn't catching on with anyone else, but I find that this way of eating is really quite convenient with a little previous planning, and no one could argue with the fact that it is far healthier and better for the environment, not to mention the local farm economy!

Of course, I realize that the selection of foods and drinks being consumed by subway riders is a huge indication of what's readily available in the bodegas and news stands, and I for one have certainly had to come a long way from my days of Sun chips and chocolate milk. Still I hope for a brighter food future for my fellow passengers. For now, however, with our societal propensity to rush about with insufficient nutrition under our belts, most of us are basically doomed to rely on stimulating pick-me-up snacks and beverages. The times it hits me the hardest are when I sit across from 3 and 4-year-olds drinking from bottles of Coke they can hardly even hold. I'm just glad this wasn't a sight I had to see today.

Cuckoo for compost

I am probably the only person who shows up to the farmers' market lugging a granny cart filled with bags of frozen compost...and a Vera Wang gown. Such is the life of a seamstress who longs to be a farmer! Or maybe the urban version of a farmer, and with a bit more time for intellectual pursuits.

Composting is a part of my daily life in a way, even though I don't do the actual work of decomposing (or keeping worms) myself. I can't really remember how long it's been since I started saving up our food scraps, freezing them in plastic bags, and taking them into the Union Square Greenmarket for the Lower East Side Ecology Center's compost drop-off. My freezer would probably remember the exact point when it started working about the same time that our neighborhood garbage collectors were impressed at our lightened trash load (as much as 14 lbs. less per week!). Once you start, composting is very addictive. Going back to throwing out all that delicious organic matter would be a little like dishing up plates of food every night, then throwing them away -- with hungry children begging right outside your door! Okay, perhaps I'm being a little dramatic, but I have gone through hell and high water to deliver food scraps for the industrious LESEC worms. On one occasion I even persuaded a Union Square sanitation worker to help me fish my bags of designated compost out of a trash can where I had thrown them in despair when I couldn't find the drop-off booth -- only to discover it soon after on the opposite side of the square.

Those of you with compost experiences should weigh in here please! I want your stories of escaping worms and friends' quizzical looks as they see what you're hoarding under the sink. And those of you who haven't tried yet, give it a whirl; look for food scrap drop-offs at your local farmers' market or community garden. It's a small way to make a big difference.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Have you ever seen such a beautiful squash?!

On a recent visit from my upstate sister (who lives on an almost-farm complete with babies, horses, chickens, guinea hens, cats, a dog, and two big organic gardens) I was graced with a box of beautiful fall squash in many colors, shapes, and sizes: pumpkins big and small, several butternuts, a hubbard squash (see below) which delighted me with its vivid honeydew color and sent the Old Mother Hubbard rhyme tripping through my head, dark-green acorn squash, spaghetti squash (which I have yet to try!), and several acorn-style squash that I am calling "leopard" acorns as I don't know the real name. Have you ever seen anything more lovely with such a misleading name as squash?

To cook autumn gourds like these, simply cut in half, scoop out the seeds and membrane, and place cut-side-down in an oven-proof baking dish, with about 1/2" of water in the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees until a sharp knife slides into the side easily, about 30-45 minutes depending on size. Turn right-side-up on the serving plates and fill the hollows with butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar or succanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice). We enjoyed our leopard acorn with quiche, but these types of squash are also great with meat dishes and can take the place of a starch in your autumn meals. Bon appetit!

Night-time soother

There is nothing so comforting as sipping this ambrosial drink from your favorite mug, cuddled in your warmest robe, after everyone is in bed. Ah, peace! This is a twist on traditional egg nog, but suitable even for those individuals who don't like eggs...or milk for that matter. I promise no eggy taste! The near-raw yolk will provide wonderful beneficial enzymes, fully-available nutrients, and will help restore the natural mucus lining to your digestive tract (trust me, this is a good thing). I must mention for those of you haunted by visions of salmonella that you should only consume raw or under-cooked eggs from pasture-raised chickens from a reliable source -- no $1/dozen eggs for this recipe, please! Eggs from healthy, properly-raised chickens do not carry salmonella and will pose no threat to your health.

Simply whisk one egg yolk (you may use the whole egg, but uncooked whites are sometimes difficult to digest, so I leave them out) in a bowl, then pour in about 10 oz. of the most natural milk you can find (raw from grass-fed cows is best, next best is grass-fed pasteurized but unhomogenized -- if you can't find these but still enjoy having milk in your diet, then use regular organic whole milk, never ultra-pasteurized). Add 1 tsp. maple syrup, a spoonful of butter, and warm very gently just past lukewarm in a small pot (the butter should just be partly melted). Pour into your mug and top with a sprinkling of nutmeg. Sip, relax, and text message your best friend if you like -- and I promise you will have found a wonderful way to feel both young and old (in a good way!) at the same time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What Oliver eats now: an update

Thursday lunch: "juice" from roasted chicken, lacto-fermented pickles, raw goat's milk Havarti, cured sausage, baby pear

At his current age of about a year (13.5 months to be exact), Oliver still gets most of his nourishment from breastmilk. Some kids show an early interest in solid foods while others are content to continue nursing for the most part, with supplemental solids, and Oliver is one of the latter. He loves eating and trying new things, he has his favorite and his not-so-favorite foods, but for the most part he seems to still be getting a lot from breastmilk. As someone put it to me recently, "They nurse until they feel complete." I would add to this and say that in my own opinion (based on observation and study), since the quality of the mother's breastmilk depends largely on the quality of her diet (particularly whether she has enough fat-soluble vitamins available), this will affect the child's interest in solid foods. Some babies reach for food early and seem to have a huge appetite because they know they aren't getting all that they need from nursing alone. There are many people who would be up in arms at this idea, but if we acknowledge that diet does affect breastmilk quality (which has been proven), then it really does make sense.

All of Oliver's food is from small, local family farmers (or fishers) who follow sustainable, humane, and ecologically-friendly practices. So from the raw milk in his bottle to the scallops at dinner, Ollie is getting a completely nutrient-dense and natural diet. Usually he has three small meals daily and about two bottles of raw milk yogurt (which is pretty liquidy and drinkable) and/or raw milk, with some supplemental raw cream, and/or raw egg yolk added as extra fortification. He also gets about 1/2 tsp. of high-vitamin cod liver oil daily added to one of his bottles.

For his solid foods, I generally offer them mashed or pre-chewed (unless he can gum them easily, like cheese), and try to emphasize the following:
-seafood (especially mollusks and oily fish),
-meat (all kinds, but especially my creamy liver paté),
-mineral-rich bone broths (all homemade, usually fish, chicken, or beef),
-raw milk cheese, and
-lacto-fermented veggies.

He really likes the cheese, raw fish, and broths, adores raw pasture butter from a spoon, and absolutely LOVES the lacto-fermented things I have offered so far, including sauerkraut, pickles, lacto-fermented cucumbers, American kim chee, and dilly beans. For some beverage variety, he loves my homemade lacto-fermented ginger ale, and also kombucha and kefir. And of course he also eats some cooked vegetables, beans (always properly prepared), and tiny tastes of fruit. I make it a point to offer a variety of foods that he is currently able to digest (so no grains yet), and emphasize foods rich in enzymes and beneficial bacteria (thus the lacto-fermentation, raw dairy of all kinds, raw egg yolk, and raw fish (marinated 7 hrs. in whey or lime juice to make it safe).

As of right now, we don't really offer Oliver much by way of sweet foods. I feel very strongly that it is critical that he not get used to eating sweet things on a regular basis. We don't eat much by way of sweets in our house anymore (which has been a huge benefit for all of us!), and I hope to keep it this way as Oliver gets older, with sweets for special occasions and as natural as possible. We will see how it goes! Already of course if he sees Hugo eating corn chips or a piece of bread or something else that we don't want him to have yet, he will want some and cry if he doesn't get it. So it's actually of benefit to us, too, because we have to eat more or less the way we want Oliver to eat.

Of course, when it comes to his predilection for gnawing on bones (a great source of minerals!), I'm not sure where he picked that certainly wasn't something we had to teach him!