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Label EVERYTHING! Really?

February 26, 2015

Label discussions are common in headlines, media and ballot initiatives. How much information do you really want to know about your food? Are you taking steps to find out? Have you considered what it REALLY takes for full disclosure?

Food, Farm, Life Choices

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes I read comment sections and wonder just how much people REALLY want, and if they realize what that takes. A great example came forth recently with a question asked on Eat Local Grown, a Facebook page.

Regular readers already know how I feel about BS labels. And food choices. And transparency. So it was with a tinge of excitement the page posed a question “Q: What should food companies be required to add to labels?” I admit the responses made my jaw drop. I expected GMOs, which was in several. Others wanted books. Among them:

Wilson JA GMOs, country of origin, all ingredients including how the plant was grown, ie toxins

Mike Panicc Listed by name any pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, chemicals natural or other, instead of flavoring it should list the chemical process done to flavor it including a list of every chemical in that…

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You’ll Take It And Like It!

February 24, 2015

800px-Roast-Duck-Crispy-Pork-Rice-2009Remember those battles with kids? Maybe you were the kid or the parent, and something wasn’t being received well. “I don’t LIKE that.” “But it’s good for you…here just try it…” “But I DON’T WANT THAT!” Tears followed. Maybe wailing. “You’ll eat it and like it!”

Do you still dislike it? Does it leave bad memories in your mind? Apples do that to me…I dislike them. (Fed it to the horse.)I don’t like apple flavored things either. We all have food memories, some good and some not so good. Sometimes even years later we know it’s “good for us” but aren’t willing to get past that negativity.

Does it change for other food topics? I think in many cases it doesn’t, it breeds resistance and it’s increasing.

Hundreds of millions of people rely on the food supply every day. We’re moms, working parents, community members, public service folks, farmers. We’re busy but not too busy to do the best we can for meals. Or at least most meals!

Engage your mind before putting money down on ad claims. I'm pretty sure this FISH was not 100% grass fed!

Engage your mind before putting money down on ad claims. I’m pretty sure this FISH was not 100% grass fed!

With the internet, it’s easier than ever for those consumers far from farms to connect with farmers trying to connect with them. It’s also easier than ever to find many food sites against something rather than promoting what they believe in. Sometimes even what appears to be, isn’t. Relationships are fragile on social media, and when a business, a relationship, an organization exists due to social media it’s sometimes easy to misunderstand. Food conversations are important. Accurate food conversations.

Be afraid. Get mad. Research, thoroughly, and talk to those in the food system. Some people, and forums, are more about convincing you to believe what they believe. Some are about convincing you to dislike something and spending time posting against something or someone, so much time that supporting what you really want is, it seems, lost. Don’t get stuck in that fear or anger – get answers. If we hear about a car accident do we park the car and start biking to work? Or does it make sense to find out how not to be in an accident and plan accordingly?

There are many outlets for organic, small farm and non-GMO food. There are many more outlets for larger volume produced food, from websites by Kraft or Pillsbury, for example, to sites specific to popcorn growing and eating! “Oh I can’t use THAT SITE!” So you want a recipe and there’s a good one using chicken leg quarters in chili on Kraft’s site – use it and improvise! If you just want the recipe surely you can substitute whole ingredients from scratch for the cans?

I know many farmers, large and small, who take part on both large farm topic sites and smaller forums. Oh yes, there are nasty names folks call me when challenged to think and they don’t want to. It upsets their little boat. Does it get to truth to sit in the little boat screaming then say “la-la-la-la” when someone engages your statement? I wonder sometimes if some want a platform to shout from rather than a means to engage people.

Heirloom tomatoes at SlowMoneyFarm

Heirloom tomatoes at SlowMoneyFarm

For example, one I have participated on for some time is the Eat Local Grown page – small, local farm support, small processors, leaning towards organic and nonGMO – perfect fit for me to share what I know about agriculture, both what we do and those things that aren’t exactly true that “everyone knows” (but is wrong). I was surprised, then, last week to go to the page and find I can share (broadcast) their posts but not ‘like’ or reply to anything. A mistake, right? Surely of all participants, a small nonGMO, organic practice  farm is the ideal participant to reach others? I tried to message them. No luck. It lists a phone number. I’ve called multiple times, left messages, sent a message on Twitter…no response. So, although it’s good enough to help with their crowdsourcing they are not interested in helping “their farmers” with their crowdsourcing attempts? Is that engagement or a platform to dictate from? I don’t know – I haven’t gotten an answer. Life happens. But for several days now, it’s clear that there won’t be an answer, unfortunately. What is the point in sharing things that aren’t entirely true? It gives that “You’ll take it and like it” message – only most adults don’t. We’ve learned that we can have a conversation not an ultimatum.

Social media is an awesome way to explore food. Growing it. Processing it. Cooking it. Eating it. Local is awesome, but may not be possible in some areas right now where not much produce has grown since last September! It will soon be spring, planting gardens, farmer’s markets and other options start up again. We can be thankful for other options that have held us over the winter, whether we prepared it or someone else did.

In your interactions online, I hope you will engage, not broadcast. There’s a big difference between a conversation and a lecture – and many have negative memories, or will have, from those nasty sessions being SCREAMED AT rather than talked to. Please don’t let the nasty attacks, or lack of responses, deter you from food choices, whatever they might be.

After all, food choices are for everyone.

How About These Apples

February 16, 2015
Arizona cider apples

Arizona cider apples

It’s lit up the internet world with more misinformation since Cinderella was handed a safe apple. Recently the Arctic apple was introduced as the first truly non-browning apple. There are some other apples slow to turn brown but this one is different – it’s also different in that it is a GMO, and with that comes fear. Suspicion. Misinformation.

While crossbreeding slowed it, a study of genetics showed four genes that were responsible for browning of apples. Scary science words ahead folks so buckle up…it’s not so scary!

When you bruise, bite, slice or dice an apple, rupturing the apple cells’ walls, a chemical reaction is triggered between the apple’s polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and phenolics that turns the apple flesh brown. And unfortunately, that reaction burns up the apple’s health-promoting phenolics in the process. Read more here. A family of four genes controls the majority of PPO production.

While it’s true that you can spritz lemon juice or other things on sliced apples, there is no one spritzing apples as they leave the orchard or along the shipping and storing route! Remember, as discussed recently, when apples are harvested they are stored somewhere to insure that you have apples in the store. The big flush for harvest is in the fall – so those apples eaten in spring have been stored for a while. Direct from the source:

To scientifically breed Arctic apples, Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ science team turns down the expression of the apple PPO genes in a process called gene silencing, which utilizes low-PPO genes from other apples. Gene silencing is a natural process that all plants (and animals too) use to control expression of their genes. This apple-to-apple transformation is aided by time-proven biotechnology tools. In the end, Arctic apples produce too little PPO to brown. (For an even more detailed description of Arctic apple science, visit the OSF website.)

This doesn’t put other genes in the apple. It’s all apple. It has nothing to do with pesticides, RoundUp, glyphosate, poisons or population control. Five agencies have reviewed and regulated and tested the apple in development. They are not from Monsanto – Monsanto had nothing to do with this one. A small place, in comparison, called Okanogan Specialty Fruits, were the developers. It came about due to public demand, from wasted food to shipping to convenience…the same things that sell many food items.

Speaking of apples, and fruit, here’s an interesting recipe for an Apple Berry Jam – a soft spreading jam that is good with little leftovers after canning and preserving! It’s from The Best of Bridge Home Preserving.

Apple Berry Jam

2 large apples, peeled and grated or finely chopped

2 cups crushed strawberries

2 cups raspberries

2 cups red currents or gooseberries, beards removed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

5 cups sugar

In a large, deep, heavy bottomed pot combine apples, straberries, raspberries, red currants and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until softened. add sugar in a steady stream, stirring constantly, increase the heat to high and bring to full boil, stirring constantly, to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium high and boil hard, stirring often and reducing heat further as mixture thickens, for 12-15 minutes or until thickened. Test for setting point. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of rim; wipe rims. Apply prepared lids and rings; tighten rings just until fingertip tight. Process jars in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Transfer jars to towel lined surface and let rest at room temperature until set. Check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars for up to 3 weeks. Makes about six 8 ounce jars.

Celebrating Single Awareness Day

February 12, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK I know I might have a little bit of a jaded view of the whole weekend expectations. Romance is in the air, people spend obscene amounts of money for imported flowers that don’t grow this time of year in the US, and make financial gestures in chocolate, meals and other things they don’t do any other time. It’s couple bliss, or not if it’s not mentioned or nothing is on sale.

Take heart fellow single folks – there’s advantages to being single in the middle of February. We can watch what we want and the only one to notice the movie choice is the dog or cat. They usually don’t object. We can get our own chocolate, or not. Or we can stay in and create a meal that we want, without objection. Maybe like Eric Neznik’s stuffed French toast (OK couples can do this for each other too!).

Or for a healthier – and hotter – alternative to sugar and chocolate, make this Caper Studded Caponata and snack with crackers, flatbred, celery sticks and thinly sliced cucumbers. From The Healthy Slowcooker book, this is a vegan friendly recipe. Treat yourself to the book instead of the expensive flowers and make a change for you!

Caper Studded Caponata

1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and drained of excess moisture

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coconut sugar

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup reconstituted sun dried tomatoes (soak dried tomatoes in 1 1/2 cup boiling water for 15 minutes)

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 tablespoon drained capers

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves.

1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, Set aside.

2. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat. Add eggplant, in batches, if necessary, and cook, stirring and tossing, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes per batch, adding more oil, if necessary. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add garlic, peppercorns and salt to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and vinegar mixture and stir to combine. Stir into stoneware.

3. Place a large piece of parchment over the eggplant mixture, pressing it down to brush the food and extending up the sides of the stoneware so it overlaps the rim. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours, until mixture is hot and bubbly. Lift out parchment and discard, being careful not to spill the accumulated liquid into the mixture. Stir in bell pepper and capers. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes, until bell pepper is soft and flavors blend. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reality Eating

February 11, 2015

716px-Central_Kitchen_SF_(7185366285)There’s reality tv – how about reality eating? A recent conversation on a Facebook board brought up what seems to be a Grand Canyon sized chasm of missing link information that shouldn’t be. Agriculture, food processors and the “big food” companies people love to hate yet don’t want to do without all exist to provide you, the consumer, with food that you want, usually when, where and how you want it.

Billions of dollars are spent to fill the grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands and CSAs with a variety of produce, meats, grains, candy, cookies, dairy products and more that is demanded by the modern American consumer. Sometimes the requests are impossible, and sometimes research finds a way. Many have an interest in reducing food waste – consumers don’t like paying food money for food that goes bad.

Discussion was underway about a Simplot potato – it resists bruising (those black spots potatoes get) and turning brown. It is a genetically engineered variety being tested and comes about due to shipping and food waste. Someone commented “just don’t buy so much that it goes bad. Use it up before it goes bad.”

While that is certainly a noted comment, something else came to mind. Seasonal eating. Crops, generally, are planted and harvested at one time of year. Now there may be strawberries that are early varieties, mid season and late season. There are various fruit trees that bear at different times, but this time of year in most of the USA there is not anything growing – certainly not enough to feed a city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone has to store them – if you don’t, commodity companies do in order to have them to sell to you long after harvest. Alternately, they are imported from another country, which usually in the store I shop at is noted where the produce comes from.

The canned goods, jars, frozen items – all fruits and vegetables that someone else processed so that you don’t have to and yet still have food available long after sweet corn is not in the fields! Walnuts and pecans are available year round, not because they grow year round but because someone insures it’s available.

If we truly ate seasonally, there would be many hungry people this time of year! Those not prepared and not stored up wouldn’t have food!

In the fear of GMO, someone else chimed in about an apple they were sure was GMO – it sat in the kitchen for weeks and didn’t ripen to red! It’s not GMO – it’s probably a variety of apple that…doesn’t turn red! Some apples are ripe at green. Like some peppers will mature as red or orange or chocolate, some just stay green!

There are thousands of varieties for each thing that we grow for the food supply. Over 3,000 varieties of hot peppers, and over 3,000 varieties of sweet peppers. Most see 2-3 at the grocery store but that doesn’t mean the rest aren’t being grown! Maybe there’s not enough demand, or it’s a variety that doesn’t ship well or you have to seek out small growers that are maintaining them.

Many folks don’t know a duck is more than white, or chickens come in a rainbow of colors. There are thousands of varieties of corn. Does it matter? Of course it does! It’s your food supply too and we’re trying to stock it! Don’t underestimate consumer demand – what people buy is what you’ll see more of, whether direct or at the mega-superstore.

More than ever, farmers seek to share what we do with consumers. Are you ready to share and listen? Are you ready to learn and teach us what you really want to buy? Awesome! Let’s connect!

The Unseen Luxury of Food

February 10, 2015

800px-Cherry_sweet_frutsWith millions of people around the globe facing food issues, the idea that food is a luxury is absurd. We all eat. We all are entitled to food choices. Right?

So why do so many settle? Why is it that with multiple grocery outlets in many towns and cities, there are those who walk in and say “there’s no FOOD here”? That, too, is absurd. It’s, perhaps, not the food you would choose, but for hundreds of other shoppers it is food.

Food issues are in the media. GMO. NonGMO. Gluten free. Vegan. Chemicals in food. Recalls of food. Eat this not that. Try this diet. Here’s the latest “superfood” and don’t eat these because they’re poison (even though many people eat them without any adverse reaction!). In the farm blog today I looked at one point of this.

We are spoiled. We have the luxury of sitting at a corporate made computer or device, using technology from a corporate owned provider to protest corporations that serve agriculture to produce our food. Society folks wring their hands and post “why can’t we be like <whatever country>” – maybe because whatever country has under 10 million people and we have 310million people – who moves out?

800px-Chicken_packaging00Maybe because we have food experts who define what is food, and what is fit to feed only to dogs as they wrinkle their noses ala Jamie Oliver style. Maybe because, unlike some countries and unlike our grandparents (whom we are to eat like they did!) we don’t want the whole animal but only some cuts. Prime cuts, not all but the moo/squeal.

Not the boneless, skinless chicken breasts but also the gizzards, liver, feet, head and bones for broth. Not the snack picked up at the convenience store where you got fuel this afternoon but – well if you didn’t make it there isn’t one!

We are spoiled. The majority of Americans are not stressing about seeds, chicks, breeding, calving, lambing, farrowing, weather, equipment and a thousand other decisions that will set the tone for our year. I have gotten a couple of calls from folks – one picked up, one arranged for next month – to get fertilizer (rabbit compost/manure) for their gardens. For most folks, if they have a garden it is to provide for summer and fall eating, sometimes canning or preserving for the rest of the year. Most do not live *just* on what they grow in the garden. Most do not have 3-4-6-10 months of food available in their homes right now…why? Because of storage and because it’s at the store! We don’t have to do that because we have a bountiful supply.

Joris_van_Son_Früchtestillleben_mit_NautilusmuschelThat is luxury. Hundreds of millions of people are free from the “drudgery” of producing their own food. They don’t spend two months per year canning, freezing, dehydrating, preserving – because someone else does it for them, and delivers it to a store ready to eat or ready to cook and eat. Luxury! Many do not even cook their own food – they eat at restaurants where someone else cooks, and cleans up afterwards and all they have to do is sit down and eat.

We are blessed beyond the imagination and realization of most with the food available in America. What would we do if it was all gone tomorrow? What would we do if there was no choice in what we ate but it was doled out as “this is what you get”?

May we never find out. May we be spoiled and not have to find those ancient cookbooks that told of cooking chicken feet, cattails and foraged roots. Many folks wouldn’t know where to look!

Blessed abundance. Let’s not take it for granted.

10 Healthy Snack Options

February 1, 2015

February is national snack food month, paying tribute to perhaps to the 2005 statistic of over $61 billion in snack food sales. Candy is the third highest food sold, behind carbonated drinks and milk. According to the Food Association website salty snacks at 4th and cookies at 7th underscore the love of snacks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Snack Food Association promotes and tracks snack sales. By 2002 candy had a $19.9 billion retail sales mark while salty snacks lodging another $8 billion. Sweet snacks dominate with $18.1 billion 2005 sales, about 58% of the market.

There are many snack options that can help the budget and health. Here are ten options for snacks that are another option for exchanging without eliminating snacks from our diet.

Popcorn is one option that can take on both sweet and salty options. Add pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning and dry mustard and coat popcorn in a zip type bag. Add a half cup hickory smoked almonds or honey drizzled over the cooked popcorn. Forty years ago my mom sprinkled cinnamon sugar over popcorn for a sweet treat. Experiment!

Lightly buttered popcorn contains about 133 calories per cup; air popped has just 31 calories per cup. Popcorn adds fiber to your diet and three cups equals a grain group serving. It can be flavored a variety of ways. Make Cinnamon popcorn crunch or caramel almond popcorn clusters, with easy recipes at the highlighted site.

Honey offers a sweet but healthy option to honey caramel sauce over ice cream or homemade granola. Oatmeal cookie snacks are another option. Honey butter over a homemade biscuit is another treat.

Dried chips are another option that can be made at home. Slice up and dry apples, zucchini and other items for homemade chips for snacking. Your dehydrator can also be used for drying fruit leathers, popular with children and adults alike. Homemade beef jerky offers protein and an on the go snack.

Mixed_nutsBrownies with a twist are healthy and earned the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Sweet breads – such as honey nut bread or cinnamon bread – are healthy and a way to sack with less guilt.

Muffins can be made a wide variety of ways and amended to personal tastes for snacks. Toast can also be made a variety of ways. Bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese are another option.

Don’t overlook homemade pizza bagels, sunflower seeds and roasted pumpkin seeds. The possibilities for healthier snacking is extensive and limited only by your willingness to search and find it!

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