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Fried Chicken Beyond the South

July 31, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANational Fried Chicken day was earlier in July and what better time to celebrate the meal and take a look at this dish. According to ThePoultrySite it actually is Malaysia that leads in domestic per capita consumption of chicken at 32 kg per person. It is popular and inexpensive and available, with fried chicken leading the way. Fried chicken that has been coated, breaded and deep fried is criticized for being the unhealthiest but continues to be very popular.

Past and present chicken has been a popular meat. Before refrigeration a flock of chickens could provide eggs and meat and, unlike a beef animal or hog, a chicken could be cleared off with one meal without needing refrigeration or ice.

Southern fried chicken was adapted through Scottish people who settled in the south, more apt to fry rather than baking or boiling as English natives did. As Africans were brought to the south they brought with them spices that were added to the flour or batter. In time poor families, prevented from keeping larger stock, were allowed to keep chickens it allowed gatherings of the black communities when segregation eliminated them eating at restaurants. The meal is commonly thought of as southern without regard to race.

As far back as 1828 a simple recipe of cut up chicken, dredged in flour, seasoned and fried in hot oil appeared in books. There are many variations from removing the skin to double dipping to the type of grease used to cook. Some call for milk or buttermilk batter while others keep it much more simple.

Accompanying a full meal of picnic fare is biscuits, cole slaw and corn on the cob.

Fried chicken #1

Maple Fried Chicken

Simple & Easy Southern Fried Chicken

Southern-Style Fried Chicken

Almost Kentucky Fried Chicken

An American favorite – there’s thousands of recipe variations for fried chicken available online and off. The amount of dietary fat varies widely with this depending on the recipe and if the skin is used. Skinless drops the calories far down below the battered skin on which is also good but one pays for later! Another option for many is frying just enough to put a crust on then baking to cook thoroughly.

The breading keeps the juices in but the fat is absorbed as well. Faster cooking can be achieved with pressure frying. With a long history tied to the American culture fried chicken is here to stay.

Know Your Farmer…Really!

July 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s often repeated in the wake of recalls that people should “know your farmer.” For those in rural areas, buying direct and other means of direct contact this is easy. However if you live further from the country it’s more difficult – unless you have the tools! Learn about your food safety – how your food is produced by talking directly with farmers. Making it better you can do this from the comfort of the chair you’re sitting in right now as you read this article!

There is an unfortunate disconnect between “farmers” and “consumers” – when reality is farmers are consumers too! They shop at grocery stores, eat at restaurants, occasionally travel to conferences and are increasingly available and WANTING to talk. They want to know your concerns, thoughts, what matters to you.

There are four big ways farmers are reaching out to consumers – and it’s with social media sites you may already be using! Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are the communication tools of choice.

Facebook is an easy choice. There are groups and pages set up to discuss information such as that from the AgChat foundation, the Truth about Agriculture, Farm2Table, ThankAFarmer, as well as dozens of farms and agriculture organizations with pages. SmallFarmCoOp, Pick-A-Pepper and many others seek to connect those wanting food choices with those providing them.

Twitter is an almost instant response. Tuesday evenings you can follow the very busy #agchat hashtag except for the third Tuesday of each month when the chat is at #foodchat . Both seek to include and engage those who eat in discussions with set topics (suggested by participants) and questions submitted by participants. Farm2U , FollowFarmer and AgChatFound are just a few way to find farmers, many also active on Facebook and other social media sites.

YouTube is an increasingly popular means of communication from farmers, with video stories from the farm that show the farms and farmers themselves. There are videos such as a tour of a family farm hog barn or a dairy farmer spreading “water & poo” teaching about nutrient management for his farm fields from the dairy barn or a small farm sharing their gardens, animals and expansion plans..

Finally there are dozens of active blogs that seek to engage people who are interested in how their food is produced, who is producing it, what is going on in the world of food production at all levels and, perhaps most important, who are these farmers? You can find many through Twitter at the #agblog hashtag or on Facebook posts often at the above sites. Some other blogs can be found through the AgChatFoundation. A few others – from a self professed city girl, CommonSenseAgriculture, Two Generations from the Farm and Advocates For Agriculture. As you begin reading you will see other blogs mentioned that may strike your interest.

There are movies and articles that claim farmers are afraid to talk, or that there’s something to hide somehow. The truth is farmers are eager to share their stories! So much so that recently another Twitter hashtag was started at the Agvocacy 2.0 Conference in Chicago held in August 2010… #agnerds for those dedicated to agriculture and to sharing it with you!

Farmers are on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Vine and if they’re not on the social media channel you’re on they will be shortly. Want to make points? Send an introduction to new places YOU want to see farmers! The AgChat Foundation is open to suggestions of where you want to see us.

There is a great deal of misinformation spread by people who have never actually been to a farm. With the use of social media, farmers are telling their stories with complete transparency but critics still aren’t happy. When another “undercover video” or food recall makes the media headlines it often leaves consumers confused. Talk to farmers. Hear their stories. It’s easier than ever and the tools are free! Learn about agriculture at the source. No undercover video needed and it’s not what blanket media judgments accuse. It’s your food supply – and ours! Know your farmer. If you can afford to buy direct by all means exercise that choice. If you can’t at least have sources in the industry to ask when you have questions. We need farms…they need us. Connect today!

  • Farmers want to talk to consumers.
  • Farmers are actively using social media to connect with consumers.
  • Farming issues affect everyone and your food supply is important.

Did you know the AgChat Foundation was created by farmers to empower and teach how to better use social media to connect with consumers. From an idea in April 2009 it has grown to 2500 followers from four continents and eight countries. On World Food Day 2013 farmers from the US, Ireland, England, Australia and beyond connected via Twitter for an international ag day.

Gourmet Gift Baskets Made Personal

July 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGift baskets can be a great idea but if giving edible food make sure you know your recipient. I recall some years ago someone sent my boss a beautiful cheese and meat basket with summer sausage and yummy cheeses…not knowing he was a vegetarian. The company staff was treated to the basket, but probably not the result the giver had in mind. Equally an error can be giving a nut basket to someone allergic to nuts. If you aren’t absolutely sure stick with gourmet non-food items in gift baskets.

Here’s some ideas for baskets for the people on your list. For the creative don’t overlook making these up yourself which can save a great deal of money and give a bigger gift basket!

1.If a woman is the recipient and you need a non-food solution, many women say their ideal stocking stuffer is a day at the spa. The closest to that in gift basket form is a spa gift basket. Country Gourmet Gift Baskets has an Essential Healing Spa Luxuries gift basket that can be a spa right in her own home. NASCAR lovers will enjoy a special gift box for that interest.

2. Is there an adventurous eater or grillmaster on your list? Check out AmericanGourmet.net for their bison gift packs. From sirloin and bison filet mignon to a burger and brat pack it’s made with all natural bison meat. You can also get elk, ostrich, emu and American lamb. There’s even bison bones for man’s best friend.

3.For a sweeter and healthier start to the year a gourmet raw honey gift set is an economical and naturally pure gift that can be used on biscuits or muffins, in tea or in many other ways. At under $30 for three 8 ounce jars this is not heated or filtered. The bees provide pollination on organic farms in Maryland, and this is just one of several honey gift baskets at the LocalHarvest site.

4. Gourmet cheese baskets are another popular item and artisan cheeses such as smoked salmon cheddar cheese are among those in gift baskets of various sizes. There are also other featured tastes in the gourmet gift basket world such as coffee baskets, tea baskets, fruits, nuts, chocolate baskets and those that cater to particular interests or sports. There’s even sugar free and heart healthy baskets for those with health issues.

5. If you like these ideas but think you can put a basket together cheaper you possibly can. This makes the homemade gift basket among the most special not only for the value of the giver but the time and thought to personalizing it makes it special to the receiver.

Gourmet gift baskets can serve many tastes -find the one for your favorite person!

Healthy Emergency Snack Choices

July 30, 2014

800px-Nuts_mixedIt’s 2 in the afternoon. You had a quick sandwich for lunch that has worn off but have a project due and it’s five hours until supper. What to do? Plan ahead and have snacks available.

The variety and amount of snack items today would amaze those from 40 years ago. We have prepackaged 100 calorie snack packs of a wide range of products that we don’t have to think about. As premeasured we know they’re 100 calories and for those watching calories that makes a difference.

Of course not all are calorie conscious. Some are more concerned with salt, or perhaps food allergies mean anything with peanuts or soy becomes a life threatening situation. Health considerations should always be considered but you can also plan ahead and make your own healthy snacks.

For many this means getting a good quality food dehydrator. One with the ability to set the temperature is good for a variety of things. An example of this is the Excalibur. The temperature factor insures a higher level of safety when working with meats.

Some examples of snacks you can make to have on hand include dried banana chips, apple chips, fruit rollups and beef jerky. You can also experiment with salmon jerky, turkey jerky and a wide range of fruits and vegetables for snacking as well as meals. For an on the go snack package them in individual containers and have one available in your desk or backpack or purse. This may not be a great deal cheaper than store bought overall but it does offer the knowing what is in it. It also is much fresher than those prepackaged store bought items.

You can also, with a little research, package your own snack packs from healthy snack choices. Perhaps this might be cubed cheese with pretzels or oatmeal cookies or granola. Remember with many snacks it’s not just what it is but how much. If you’re one who can sit down to a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies then regret it change your bag! Each food has nutritional information including serving size on the bag. If a serving size is six cookies, or a cup of pretzels then measure that out and bag it. You know now how much that will be in calories and other nutritional information.

For example, a general search online shows yogurt covered pretzels are 8 pieces for 190 calories. This same 190 calories was listed for Austin toasty crackers with peanut butter in a six pack.

For those with refrigeration available, yogurt or fruit may be an option. Whatever your snacking choices, be it homemade or prepackaged look at cost as well as nutritional information for your life!

We all Scream for Ice Cream

July 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJuly is National Ice Cream month and not by chance ice cream consumption is highest in July and August. The north central states have the highest consumption per capita, with Portland, St. Louis and Seattle leading the cities. The average American consumes 23.2 quarts of ice cream, sherbet and other frozen dairy treats per year.

Ice cream is easier to make homemade than ever before, with appliances that do much of the work for you. There is still available hand cranked makers for those who really want to work up an appetite for the ice cream they’re making.

According to the International Ice Cream Association the top 10 flavors of ice cream are vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan, strawberry, Neapolitan, chocolate chip, French vanilla, cookies & cream, vanilla fudge ripple and praline pecan. By flavor vanilla makes up 28% of sales, fruit flavors 15% and nut flavors 13.5%.

Chocolate syrup remains the favorite topping and premium ice cream gathers 41.4% of the dollar of sales. Retail ice cream is big business – $11 billion and the first ice cream parlor in the US was in New York City in 1776.

Today ice cream comes in snack sized cups, bars, even small balls dipped in chocolate as well as cones and the larger containers that have been popular for years.

For many nothing quite compares to homemade so try these recipes:

Homemade butter pecan ice cream

Homemade vanilla ice cream

Honey ice cream

Maple walnut ice cream

The cream is naturally produced in milk. It takes about 25 gallons of milk to make 9 gallons of ice cream (or 25 pounds of cheese or 11 pounds of butter). Cattle with good care can produce 25-50 pounds of milk (8.6 pounds is a gallon) per milking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are six main breeds of dairy cattle, although the most popular for volume is the common black and white Holstein, followed by the Jersey. Other breeds include Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey and Milking Shorthorn, as well as rare breeds such as the milking Devon that are not common in commercial herds. There are about 65,000 dairy farms in the USA, most smaller farms with under 200 cows, that produce the milk which becomes one of several dairy products including ice cream.

Ice cream is an ideal dessert for any time of year, but homemade with a variety of fresh ingredients is ideal on a hot July day. Although most ice cream is purchased on Sunday you can buy it at any time and serve with or without toppings.

Blueberries Are Good Anytime Treat

July 29, 2014
July is National Blueberry Month according to about.com and it’s a great time to find how blueberries can fit into your lifestyle. US blueberries are available April through October with peak production during mid summer.A cup of fresh blueberries offers 1.1g protein 21.45 carbs, 3.6g fiber in 84 calories as well as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin c and much more nutrition! What’s more frozen unsweetened berries are almost as nutritious which allows for freezing to enjoy them throughout the year.

Selection of fresh blueberries is important with firm, plump berries that have a silvery cast to the surface. Most people think of blueberries and it’s in pie, muffins or occasionally ice cream but this is a versatile item that can be served in many ways. Just a few of them include desserts, snacks and breakfast.

Blueberry buckle, lemon blueberry cake, banana-blueberry bread and baked blueberry-pecan French toast with blueberry syrup are just a few ways to enjoy blueberries during the month

Here’s a dozen more ways to celebrate the taste of the season!

1. Blueberry drink syrup for blueberry iced tea
2. blueberry cobbler with blueberry sauce

3. Blueberry coleslaw

4. Blueberry coffee cake

5. blueberry pie

6. blueberry muffins

7. blueberry cream cheese dessert

8. blueberry ice cream pie

9. blueberry graham pancakes

10. easy blueberry pie

11. blueberry ice cream or waffle topping

12. blueberry syrup

The best and tastiest way to celebrate blueberry month of course is trying some regularly! They can also be dried in a food dehydrator for adding to cereal, homemade granola and other treats. Additionally try a berry mix and can it for ice cream topping or for use in winter baking projects.

Blueberries can be grown an a well run blueberry patch can involve 1000 to 1200 plants per acre, and if properly managed the third year will produce 400-800 pounds of blueberries per acre. With proper care and soil these plants can live 15-20 years.

Of course most need far less than a commercial grower. Blueberries require soil that is rich in organic matter due to their shallow root system. Water pooling around the roots can damage the plants as well as getting too dry.

Another factor for blueberries is they require a lower pH to the soil, which means a soil test is needed to determine if needed.

Whether you purchase them, grow them or shop at farmers markets or U-pick operations, celebrate the blueberry!

Grilling Variety – What Else Is for Dinner Tonight

July 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithout question beef, pork and chicken are most popular when it comes to grilling. However there’s another level of grilling that awaits with your grill! It’s more challenging, but the rewards are delicious. This is an ideal way to stretch the options of taste with your grill.

Using your grill for more meals makes sense! Consider the variety! There are challenges and tastes you may not have thought of. Lamb, rabbit, elk, bison, salmon and a wide range of other meats are ideal for the grill.

Some of these you can find or purchase locally while others are available in specialty markets online and off.

Your possibilities for variety are greatly expanded. Take alligator fillets, dot with butter and season with onion powder and garlic salt – wrap in foil and grill on medium for 15-20 minutes, turning half way through.

Or try elk, cooked to about 130 Fahrenheit. Chops or sausages are just two options for elk dinner, which is often domestically raised. Bison is another option that is leaner than beef. Due to less fat in the meat these cuts must be cooked a shorter time to insure the best taste.

Still another option is Alaskan salmon. Both fillets and steaks are wonderful on the grill! Smoked salmon is a meal that is good and good for you. Halibut and black cod offer other varieties for fish – wrap in foil, dot with garlic butter and cook to oh-so-yummy treats from the grill!

Grilled lamb and rabbit can be used many ways including in fajitas, lamb chops, rabbit enchiladas and many other tasty treats. Slow, moist cooking does well with these lean meats. Think packets of moist seasoning in foil. Your grill offers options to help get just the right result from even these lean meats.

Don’t overlook stuffed peppers, grilled corn on the cob, grilled onions and a host of other foods to complete your meal. Baked potatoes are easy but there are many more options to use on your grill. Don’t forget dessert!

Place peach halves in foil with a little butter, brown sugar and dash of cinnamon. Wrap up and grill to heat – the grill provides new tastes again!

An ultimate appliance for an ultimate taste experience…light a fire tonight!

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