Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Drinking Locally? June 30, 2009

Filed under: Eating local — realfoodmama @ 9:32 pm
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I am a tea drinker. I drink anywhere from three to five cups of the stuff a day. My beverage of choice? Irish Breakfast blend – lovely black tea with a strong aroma and hearty flavor that pairs perfectly with a bit of sugar and a generous helping of milk.

So where does my tea come from? Am I buying it at the local farmer’s market? Is it coming from my Co-Op after being grown the next state over? No. No it isn’t.

My tea comes from China – or possibly India or Sri Lanka. And the coffee in my house that my partner and my mother drink comes from, depending on the brand, Africa or S. America. And while the coffee, unlike the tea, is processed locally by Aroma Coffee, the beans certainly aren’t grown here.

So, with all the focus on eating locally, how does one drink locally as well without, dare I say it, giving up a necessary addition to your diet? Because while I enjoy caffeine and pretty much require it to live, I really drink it for the people around me. Un-caffeinated, I am evil, pure and simple.

There are, of course, ways to drink your coffee or tea responsibly – buying only fair trade beans or teas and looking for certified organic products. In general, however, this still only partially lowers the impact of this country’s food consumption – the environmental issues are still not resolved.

At this point, I have to concede defeat, as I am not aware of any locally grown and harvested caffeinated beverages out there. Yerba mate is, aside from absolutely disgusting, not grown in this climate either, though it does come from this hemisphere. There are certain things that really are luxuries, and it appears that tea (or coffee) is truly one of these.

While the caffeinated beverages above are hard to buy locally, alcohol is rather easy to find. The surge of the microbrewery trend in the ’90’s has led to a surplus of local breweries and Santa Fe is no different. We have four separate brewpubs in town. And as it turns out, New Mexico is actually decent wine country so there are several small wineries to choose from as well, though they tend to be more spread out and most sell their fare only in their vineyard shops.

Perhaps one day there will be a trend for local coffee growers and tea makers, but until then I will enjoy this warm cup of tea with bittersweet enthusiasm; a delicious cup of indulgence. And as soon as they discover how to grow tea in a high desert climate, I will be the first to try it out. Until then, Happy eating!

 

Healthy Kid’s Snacks – or so they say. June 28, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 10:19 pm
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My partner took our son out this morning for his weekly father-son breakfast and before returning home I asked that he stop by the local Co-Op for a few things that couldn’t wait.

While he was there, he purchased our son a small snack. Namely, an organic boxed Horizon chocolate milk. Healthy and good, right?

Unfortunately, completely wrong.

The first problem with this healthy snack is the fat content. The milky treat was a measly 1% milk fat. I can only assume this is because Horizon is concerned with childhood obesity and as a result is trying to market towards health conscious parents who don’t want their little darlings getting fat. Unfortunately the lack of milk fat makes the remaining vitamins and minerals in the milk, not to mention the lactose, much harder to digest.

Secondly, the milk is stored in a box, on a shelf. Not in the refrigerated section. How is this possible? Because the milk is UHT (Ultra-heat pasteurized). This is bad for a variety of reasons. First, because it tastes funny. Secondly, the high heat of ultra-pasteurization kills pretty much anything beneficial that might be in the milk after the removal of the fat – including damaging some of the remaining vitamins and minerals contained in the liquid.

And this is the problem with the modern presentation of food. Even if something is labeled organic, all natural, and has pictures of happy cows on it, it still isn’t real food.

The most disturbing part of the issue is really the insidious nature of processed foods and food packaging. I am a conscious, informed, organic, whole food eating machine, and still I find myself wanting to find short cut snacks for my son. Organic cereal bites, for example – O’s or Puffins or something equally as extruded. It is a convenience. And it is this attitude that is the hardest to move away from. The assumption that real food is somehow inconvenient, messy, time consuming and not worth the trouble. Especially when the processed counterpart is so much prettier to look at and has guaranteed health benefits right on the box.

I certainly am capable of, and do with some frequency, preparing him home made, real food snacks for transport. I make granola bars with fresh fruit, mini scones that are easily portable. I mix organic yogurt with raw honey in small, baby sized tupperware containers. Sounds like a lot of trouble? Well, it isn’t really, but it certainly takes more time than simply pouring Puffins into a snap lid container and throwing it in my purse.

And then it hit me. Fruit! It was like an epiphany that made me feel moronic as soon as I had it. Fruit is perhaps the best portable snack ever. Grapes are bite sized, easily handled by small chubby fingers, and are actually fairly good for you (wink wink). Same thing with cherries as long as the pits are removed – blueberries are even better. And as an added bonus, the bite sized fruit globes are much preferred over the extruded cereal by the little man for whom I go to all this trouble.

So with all this energy expended on finding perfect, portable, snack sized meals for our children; all this time and thought put into new, better, processed snack foods, it seems we are overlooking the obvious. And that, my friends, is the whole problem. We are so focused on finding the best food delivery system that we tend to, shockingly, overlook actual food.

So go enjoy a grape or a blueberry and marvel in it’s perfect packaging. Happy Eating!

 

Animal husbandry in the City Dipherent June 27, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 5:11 pm
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I recently bought a house in Santa Fe and have been trying to convince the people I live with that we should expand our family to include some livestock.

It was easy to convince everyone to get chickens, however what I really want is goats. Why do I want goats? Primarily because I want my own milk supply and am a little afraid of dairy cows. Those things are huge!

Additionally, I simply don’t have the room for cows, even if I were desirous of a bovine friend. However, I do have plenty of room for goats and chickens, and due to some rather agrarian legislation here in the city dipherent, I am legally entitled to have any type of livestock I want on my property as long as they are kept clean and healthy and don’t annoy the neighbors (overly much).

So, in that spirit I decided to do some research about milk goat care and found a fabulous web site which provided all kinds of information about raising goats: Mother Earth News

After reading several articles I concluded that I would probably want to get some Nubian goats and would no doubt be forced to hire someone else to do the disbudding. Luckily for me, my local goat milk supplier actually uses Nubian goats for her milk, and since she is currently awaiting several kids from her recently bred does, I might actually be able to get some goats this fall! And as an added bonus, she has offered to disbud all future kids.

The responsibility of owning livestock has been weighing heavily on me, disbudding or not. The thing about real food is that it nurtures a relationship between the human and the food. When this relationship is kept simple in the form of a garden, were there really isn’t a whole lot of give and take (unless you have talking carrots. I don’t.), there isn’t a whole lot of sacrifice. Thinning your veggies is about the extent of it (R.I.P tasty beets). However, as soon as the search for real food leads us to animal husbandry, the relationship suddenly becomes much more complex. Pastoral images of happy chickens and cows aside, there is an ugly side to raising livestock for foodstuffs.

Most people’s relationships with animals are limited to house pets, creatures we anthropomorphize and treat like members of the family. The extent of inflicted pain usually a) happens at the veterinarian and b) tends to involve anesthesia. It is the first issue, however, which is decidedly more significant. While we love our pets, we hoist responsibility of all the bad things upon someone else – namely the evil veterinarian. But frankly, animal husbandry requires that we take back some of this responsibility, and I’m not all that sure I’m prepared.

And to be honest, chickens kind of freak me out. I mean, they’re so…twitchy. But I can deal with them in exchange for their delicious eggs. And ultimately, that is where animal husbandry really differs from most other modern relationships. They are quite Machiavellian. There is (ideally) no intimacy. The chickens are there to give you eggs, the goats are there to give you milk. They serve a purpose and should be respected for such, but they aren’t your friends. They shouldn’t be made your pets (what if, god forbid, you ever had to kill and eat Mr. Clucky your chicken friend?).

It is a serious business, and I think, perhaps, explains a fundamental lack in our current cultural view of food. We tend to, as a group, have a hard time facing the fact that the cute little cow we just saw is eventually going to become dinner. And I, personally, think this lack of connection is partially responsible for our lack of respect for food. We take it for granted, we ignore where it comes from, and as a result we have lost our connection to it and therefor our appreciation for it.

So while I may be squeamish, nervous, and unconvinced of my ability to refrain from naming my goats and chickens, I take the step towards raising my own food with my eyes open. And I think I will be a better person for it.

 

Center for Food Safety – Deadline 6/29! June 26, 2009

Filed under: Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:07 pm
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There is currently a proposed rule change regarding genetically engineered crops before the USDA. Unfortunately, the rules were written under the previous administration and contain a variety of loopholes, including several that allow the biotech companies responsible for the GE crops to assess the safety of those crops and determine whether or not the USDA should even be required to regulate them!

The comment period for this particular issue has been extended until the end of this month, and I urge anyone who has the inclination to please forward your comments both to the USDA via this link, and if you are so inclined also download a copy of the letter and send it on to your state representatives.

It is time for the United States to follow Europe’s lead and demand not only additional oversight, but labeling and regulation of genetically modified food crops!

Empowered consumers are healthy consumers. Happy Eating!

This blog is my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.

 

Yak meat? June 23, 2009

Filed under: Farmer's Market,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 7:31 pm
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So while I was at my Farmer’s Market this morning, I finally made the purchase I had been flirting with for several weeks. I bought myself some Yak. I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of yak to get, as it came in several ways. Ground, stew meat, and then more familiar cuts such as sirloin and roasts. However, I was inspired by another ingredient I saw today – Squash Blossoms. I have never used either before and I figured if I was going to experiment I might as well go all out.

Seasonal Squash Blossoms

Seasonal Squash Blossoms

Before I dive into what I made and how, I’d like to share some trivia about yak meat. I was, of course, curious about it simply because it’s Yak. How fun is that to say? I ate Yak. Yak…Yak Yak Yak. Okay it has lost all meaning and I’ve digressed something horrible.

Regardless I like to experiment with food and try new things and I couldn’t resist the exotic lure of Taos Mountain Yak. So I decided to go ahead and do some research and I found the following bits of info about Yak which increased my desire to try the meat.

First of all, Yaks only eat about 1/3 of what a cow eats, and are grass fed (well, the yak I bought is…I suppose if there was industrial yak it may not be…). They are also very healthy animals and as a result are disease resistant, meaning antibiotics are really not widely used. Yak meat has approximately twice the protein as chicken, and is 97% lean. The fat that yak does contain is very high in both Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acids).

So, armed with some ground yak, a hefty dose of nutritional info, a handful of lovely squash blossoms and a few fresh carrots, I left the farmer’s market with recipes abuzz in my foodie brain. The result?

Dinner was divine!

I sauteed the yak meat with some veggies and a bit of heavy cream, then I stuffed the prepared blossoms with the end result. At this point I realized that the fragile blossoms were going to need something to hold them together and keep the meat from falling out of them as soon as they hit the pan. So I threw together a quick breading of breadcrumbs and cornmeal. I then pan fried the stuffed, breaded, wonderful-ness in a hearty Tbs of butter. Yummy!

Frying the stuffed Squash Blossoms

Frying the stuffed Squash Blossoms

So, in the spirit of…sharing…I’ve shared the recipe I threw together this evening. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as I do!

1 lb ground yak
25 squash blossoms – rinsed and de-stamened. (I realize that isn’t a word.)
1 medium carrot, diced
1/2 c diced summer squash (I used yellow)
1 large shallot
1 Tbs heavy cream
cumin
allspice
nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

The breading was basically equal parts bread crumbs and cornmeal with salt and pepper. I didn’t want to totally overpower the flavor of my star ingredients so I kept it simple.

The most difficult part of the process was cleaning the blossoms without tearing them as they are very delicate. Basically you need to wash out the inside of the blossom, removing any bugs or dirt, and then you have to carefully remove the stamen of the flower. I have relatively small hands, so I didn’t split the blossoms open before attempting this. They were definitely worth the effort!

Happy Eating!

 

A Food Declaration June 22, 2009

Filed under: Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 10:39 pm
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I found this link and thought I should share it, even though it is slightly dated. An excerpt from the declaration:

We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant and and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity.

The declaration itself is a creation of Roots of Change, a sustainable agriculture organization. Their primary goal is to have a completely sustainable food system in the state of California by 2030. Their focus on California is primarily due to the abundance of agriculture for which that state is responsible – nearly a third of the food in the US comes from that state. More information about Roots of Change can be found here.

 

Food, Inc – Trailer and link to official web site. June 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 12:11 pm
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Here is the url for the movie web site which provides additional information as well as a petition for people to sign in regards to the school lunch program and it’s need for reform.

Additionally, below is the official trailer for the film – an interesting teaser that includes both the depressing and upbeat aspects of the feature length film. For those local folks reading this, the film is scheduled to open July 3rd at the De Vargas Mall cinema complex.