This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Take me to the Looney Bin!

With Joel Salatin after his Earth Day talk at UNC Chapel Hill
Some people are excited to meet movie or reality TV stars.  I get weak in the knees when I meet people who are truly making a difference in the world. So when I heard Joel Salatin was coming to town, I found a way to be there even though I had to bring my two youngest with me and juggle all kinds of carpooling schedules to do it.  It was worth it as Joel Salatin is the Justin Bieber of the environmentally-interested, tree-hugging, compost committed, local foods friending crowd.  

Joel was in town to address the UNC campus community and share his thoughts about the local food movement, the integrity of the planet and debunk some of the myths about sustainable farming.  I got a copy of his latest book, The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer.  As I listened to his ideas, it made me feel better about how "different" I sometimes feel with all my efforts to eat sustainably raised foods.  If Joel Salatin is a Lunatic, then sign me up too!  Cause I want to live in his world.  This man who has brought soil back to his land instead of letting the soil erode decade after decade is someone who knows how to heal our world.  

He provided an apologetics seminar of sorts offering some retorts to some of the common complaints about sustainable farming such as that you can't feed the world this way or that it is "elitist."  With Joel's mile a minute delivery system there was no way to capture it all for you here (especially since my daughter insisted on crawling all over me during the talk and taking my note-taking pen hostage...) but he made some wonderful points throughout his address.  He said that if the sustainable farming movement wants to make some traction against big agriculture, that we need to understand how they think and measure things.  Joel talked about how the USDA, which he fondly calls the US Duh, measures themselves on how many things can be inspected per minute and similar metrics which by design are going to make it harder for smaller, local producers to compete.  He also mentioned that right now our financial systems don't have a way to measure some of the most important parts of a project using the example of what happens when going to a banker to apply for a loan.  There's nothing in the documents that asks will all these improvements make the earthworms happy, or communities happy, or the cows happy....  And while this may seem silly, he's dead serious in trying to get us all to understand that if the smallest among us are being harmed in our quest for progress, we are on the wrong track.  I could listen to this man pontificate all day long.  

He talked about the efficiencies of having every kitchen connected to a chicken coop so that kitchen waste could be used by the chickens and how the kitchens would be rewarded with healthier eggs.  He even gave an example of a community in Belgium that offered free chickens to any citizens that wanted them and all the positives that came out of that experiment.  He said we'll know we've made REAL PROGRESS when the soccer moms are all gathered together and brag about their progeny's desire to be a FARMER with the same pride as they would in talking about their children's interest in being a doctor or a lawyer.  He said we need to rediscover the culinary domestic arts as well.

So I feel better about the hours I am spending trying to learn how to make things that perhaps my great, great, great grandmothers did everyday.  And if people think I'm a wacko because I don't want my kids eating a steady diet of high fructose corn syrup, beef laced with ammonia cleaning solutions and processed food that is stripped of nutritional value, well, then at least I am in good company if Joel is on my team.  I'm so glad that you are in this world, Joel Salatin, to inspire each of us to become the fullness of what we are, be it cow, chicken, earthworm or HUMAN.  It was an honor to be in the same room with you yesterday!

Also posted at Simple-Lives Thursday

Monday, April 11, 2011

Joel Salatin in Chapel Hill this Wed, April 13th

Just wanted to put out a quick alert that Joel Salatin is speaking in Chapel Hill, NC on April 13th this week hosted by the UNC Sustainability Office.  Joel Salatin is a rock star of a speaker.... not sure I've ever heard anyone so engaging so if you have the chance to attend this free talk (RSVP requested), then look a the posting below.

More info is here:  http://sustainability.unc.edu/NewsEvents/SustainabilityListserv.aspx

From the ChelseaGreen Website:

Joel Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation's most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan's New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. An accomplished author and public speaker, Salatin has authored seven books. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards.

In the News

Watch Joel Salatin's inspiring talk at Tara Firma Farm and his on-site assessment: Russian River TV

Joel's Upcoming Events

  • Joel Salatin at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    Hanes Art Center Auditorium, Chapel Hill NC 27514
    April 13, 2011, 5:00 pmJoin the UNC Sustainability Office for the Earth Week celebration "Local Food: Talk & Taste." Well-known alternative farmer and local food advocate Joel Salatin will discuss how his methods heal the land, the community, and the eater, while treating farm animals humanely. In thought provoking and entertaining form, Salatin will highlight the differences between his approach and todayƂ’s typical, large-scale farm. The talk will be followed by a book signing and local food tastings provided by select local vendors. Joel Salatin is a third generation farmer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. His family's farm, Polyface Inc., has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, and Gourmet; in the films Food, Inc. and Fresh; and in the New York Times bestseller "Omnivore's Dilemma" by food writer Michael Pollan. Sponsor/Host: UNC Sustainability Office Times: 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM Location: Hanes Art Center Auditorium Fee: Free and open to the public, but reservations requested. Please RSVP to sustainability@unc.edu or call 843-7284. Event Contact and email:UNC Sustainability Office, sustainability@unc.edu

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fancy Fare for Preschoolers!

Cherry/Choco/Coco Balls with organic strawberries
It's been my turn this week to bring in snack for my daughter's preschool class.  I've been having a blast concocting new recipes and presenting the preschoolers with new foods this week.  And guess what, for the most part these preschoolers enjoyed trying new foods like cut up yellow and orange organic peppers, salsa and pepito seeds.  

I think we shouldn't be so afraid to serve our young children "real food."  They rise to challenge when presented with real food options.  Several of the kids in my daughter's class really enjoyed the KALE chips, yes, that's right some of the kids ate KALE for snack yesterday and LOVED IT!  Even my own daughter who probably would not have tried the kale chips at home if I had offered them decided to give the Kale a try at school when she saw that some of her classmates liked them.  The younger we let kids try real food, the less pre-conceived notions they have about what food is supposed to be.  Why not have Kale chips instead of goldfish as the gold standard of preschoolers!! 

Today I got my inspiration from Jessica Prentice's Coconut-Date energy balls from her book Full Moon Feast (which by the way is a fabulous book that I highly recommend you buy if you don't have it...and no I don't get anything for saying that.  I just think it is a great book...)and used it as a springboard to make a brand new recipe for the preschool set.  I'm not sure what to call them but for the moment I'm going with Cherry/Choco/Coco Balls!  I thought the preschoolers would like the addition of dried cherries, cocoa powder and walnuts and I tweaked some of the other ingredients to make a darn tasty little snack, if I do say so myself!  Here's how I did it:

Cherry/Choco/Coco Balls

2 cups pitted Medjool dates
1 cup Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate  
1 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
3/4 to one cup coconut flakes
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
(a few tbs cocoa powder and coconut flakes to roll balls forming an outer cover)

  1. Put the pitted dates and cherries in a food processor and mix into a paste.  
  2. Remove this mixture for a moment and process the walnuts before adding everything back in.
  3. Add 2 tbs coconut oil (should be on the melted, soft side), coconut cream, coconut flakes, cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
  4. Process all until everything forms a nice paste.
  5. Roll the paste into small balls and place on a cookie sheet or flat surface.  
  6. Take a little extra coconut flakes and cocoa powder and process for a moment in food processor.  
  7. The balls should be oily enough that some of this powdery mix will stick to the balls as you roll them for a final dipping before letting set in the fridge.
Also posted at Real Food Wednesday by Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kermit and I: kindred spirits

Kermit the Frog in public domain shot from Macy's Parade




After spending the last week in cars, airplanes and hotels, I feel closely bonded to Kermit the Frog as he laments... "It's not easy being green!"  It is very challenging to eat well on the go in this country.  And while I prescribe to the 80/20 rule of eating that says if you eat well 80% of the time, don't worry so much about what happens for the other 20%, it is still hard to do for a whole week. When I am just thinking about me, it is a bit easier as I find ways to work with the constraints I am given.  For example, on an airplane I simply choose plain water, no ice for my drink and decline the carbohydrate kibble that is handed out in ever shrinking packages.  I always bring a snack bag with me that has a few things to nibble on such as beef jerky, nuts (properly soaked and roasted if I have time to do it before I leave), dried fruit, snacks with Coconut Oil and such.  I've even been known to bring cans of smoked oysters or clams with me and eat that as a snack even though most folks think I am just a big 'ol weirdo when I pop open my slimy, oily oysters and down them.  In fact that's exactly what I ate at the top of the Continental Divide this past summer as I hiked in the Rocky Mountains.  Good thing I didn't run into any bears!


It is the extra challenge of traveling with children that brings the degree of difficulty up to 10.0 status.  I have no desire to drink apple juice now that I know what it can do to blood sugar levels or have hot chocolate made from a list of twenty chemicals... so it is not a problem for me at all to resist the airline fare.  But for kids, it is a different story.  If a child eats well most of the time I don't mind a special treat every now and then but when you have someone that doesn't always eat well for the 80% of the time, adding the extra 20% just makes it worse. 


Of course, if I had a stronger backbone, I could just simply say no to everything but that is extra hard to do when you are out of the home and there are not always better choices in easy reach.  It is the constant  barrage of bad food options... from the kiddie meals that are all mac n cheese, pizza or chicken nuggets to the gas stations with the candy and gum assaulting you from the moment you enter... it is just hard to be the mean guy all the time.  And of course the food marketers know this, which is why they put all the bad stuff at the end caps right near the register and know that harried parents will sometimes cave and buy the stuff just to avert a public meltdown.  Of course it is not right, but it is human. 


All of this reminds me of a quote from Maya Angelou that says "You did then what you knew how to do and when you knew better... you did better! And that is certainly true for me.  Before I spent the last 8 years reading labels and educating myself about food, I did not give any thought to eating a bag of chips, or having a soda or eating bagels, muffins or pastry for breakfast.  But now I do know better! And sometimes that is the hardest part.  Because I have to be the "odd-ball," the "weirdo" and all the other names that some people probably whisper under their breath when they see me coming.  And I think that is probably part of why I have started this blog.  If I can gently nudge anyone to make even one better choice, then that's why I am doing this.  And hopefully by sharing some of my own struggles I can convey that even for people who do know better, it is still hard sometimes.  We need to be kind to each other and try to support one another on this journey to health, recognizing that we are all good people on different stages on this path. 

But just when I feel overwhelmed with the job of being "different" I remember things like a Gallop Health Index Poll reporting that over 60% of Americans are overweight or obese.  Our country has a national eating problem.  And I care about people very much.  I believe that we all have unique gifts to share with the world to make it a better place.  But when we don't eat the right things, we don't have the extra energy we need to go beyond our own day to day survival and we can't fully share these gifts with the world as God intended us to do.  So today, I salute the people who swim against the current and stand up for what they believe in!  You make our world a better place.  If you have an example to share of how you've swam against the food tide or have any tips on how to help kids want to make better food choices for themselves, let me know!  The public domain photo of Kermit the Frog can be accessed here.

This post has also been shared on Monday-Mania at the Healthy Home Economist!