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? :)