Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Real Food Remedies? January 15, 2010

This week our whole family was downed by a terrible stomach flu and it had me thinking: What kind of home remedies do people create using real food?

During my studies in Chinese Medicine, we had a whole semester course dedicated to healing with food. Chinese Medicine utilizes nutrition to help people bring themselves into balance and recover from illness. As a result my reliance on food as medicine is somewhat ingrained at this point. However, aside from understanding the energetics of certain ingredients, my recipe box is somewhat limited in terms of “healing foods”.

One of my standbys is certainly chicken noodle soup – there is nothing better than a really rich chicken broth loaded with carrots and celery and chicken fat to really make you feel like you’re healing yourself. Another thing I have only just recently added to my repertoire is home made pro-biotic foods such as kefir and yogurt using the goat milk from my girls. This has come in handy recently due to the bout of stomach flu. I have also been known to make congee – a traditional Chinese porridge made of rice or a combination of rice and millet that is cooked until the grains become gelatinous. Typically done in my crockpot overnight, this can be a great way to get nutrition in a person recovering from an illness or even to wake up the digestion in the mornings the way a bowl of nice oatmeal or hot cereal does. The Chinese frequently add protein to their congee in the form of fried or scrambled eggs and pork, as well as vegetables.

However, aside from the above list, my “healing food” recipe box is empty. Bone marrow soup, for example, is something I have learned is a great tonic, but I’ve never made. I’d be curious what other healing recipes people out there have in their cupboards. This winter has seen some pretty virulent diseases, including H1N1 and as a person who does not vaccinate, I must seek out other defenses against these things. Please feel free to add your favorite healing dishes! I would love to see what other people have up their sleeves 😉

Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 chicken (approx 2 lbs – bone in and skin on! very important!)
4 c water
1 large carrot or 2 medium carrots
2 stalks of celery (or 1 stalk + 1 tsp celery seed)
1/2 onion, skin on
2 inch fresh rosemary (1/2 tsp dried, crushed)
4 inch fresh thyme (1 tsp dried, crushed)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb noodles (home made or otherwise)

To begin, make your chicken stock. Place the chicken in a large stock pot and add the water, half the carrot cut into large pieces, 1 celery stalk cut into four pieces OR 1 tsp celery seed, and the onion, quartered. Also add the fresh herbs and salt and pepper, to taste. I prefer a more salty stock, so I typically add about 2 – 3 tsp of sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

The key to this stock is to use chicken that has skin and bone. Typically I buy my birds whole and butcher them at home. I like to cut them right down the middle, unless I am making something that calls specifically for breast meat. That way when I make my stock I have a nice bony, fatty carcass to boil up. The real secret to good chicken stock is the fat. Many recipes call for skimming after the stock has been made. I never do this – why get rid of all that fat?

Once the chicken is cooked through and you have a nice oil slick of fat on the surface of your stock, go ahead and remove your chicken, placing it to cool on a cutting board nearby. Then strain the stock in order to remove the now overcooked veggies. I use a colander for this and simply pour the stock from one pot to another rather than trying to strain it into a jar.

Once your chicken has cooled enough so that you can handle it without burning yourself, remove all the meat and set this aside in another bowl. You can dice the meat if you’d like, but I tend to just leave it in it’s shredded state.

At this point you can reconstruct your soup. Go ahead and put the chicken back in the stock, along with the second celery rib, diced, and the rest of your carrot, sliced thinly. In a separate pot, boil the water for the pasta. You don’t want to try to cook the pasta in the soup as this will result in a loss of too much stock and will lead to soggy noodles.

Once the noodles have reached al dente consistency, strain them and toss them in the chicken soup. Let everything cook at a low simmer for a few more minutes and you are ready to serve!

Look for my experiments with raw goat kefir at a later date. Until then, Happy Eating!

This blog has been my weekly contribution to Real Food Wednesday’s, hosted this week by Cheeseslave.


New Year’s resolutions? January 3, 2010

Filed under: Food Activism,Garden Fresh,Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 8:50 pm
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So we are now three days into 2010 and I have moved from holiday planning to garden planning. It is the time to start thinking about seeds and I have a list a mile long…or so it seems.

In addition to resolving to continue buying locally and eating well I am also resolved to have a more successful garden this year than last. As some of you may remember, 2009 was a year of mixed successes and failures as far as my garden went. While our tomatoes did great, our squash were a complete bust, our corn failed to mature, and we managed to kill our raspberry plants because we placed them dangerously close to the potato patch.

All in all, not a huge success!

So in an effort to combine my gardening resolutions with the aforementioned “buying local” I have decided to purchase seeds from local sources as much as possible. One of the suppliers I am most excited about is Native Seeds SEARCH (Southwestern Endangered Aridland Resource Clearing House) While they are located in Tucson, AZ (not all that close, frankly) they carry seeds that are region specific. Things like the Chimayo Chili (Chimayo is a short 24 miles NE of my home in Santa Fe) and New Mexico bolitas (a dry bean grown for centuries in the northern sections of the state).

Of course I will also be purchasing seeds from Seeds of Change, a certified organic seed company with offices in Santa Fe and farms throughout the state.

My primary goal is to start several things from seed this year that we purchased in plant form last time…mainly tomatoes. Secondary to that of course is to improve upon last year by planting earlier, paying more attention to companion planting, and generally trying to improve my food stewardship.

In addition to my excitement about our garden, I am also anticipation several significant events regarding livestock. One of my dairy goats is pregnant and is due to deliver her kid9s) in March. We also have planned on getting chickens this spring (for eggs, not meat) and will need to design and build a chicken coop before May.

In either case, 2010 promises to be an interesting year and I am hopeful that I can continue my education about all things food.


Home Made Applesauce October 7, 2009

Filed under: Eating local,Garden Fresh,Home Economics,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 9:34 am
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Spiced Applesauce

Spiced Applesauce

Last week a friend of mine was kind enough to invite me to her aunt’s house in rural NM to pick apples. We arrived expecting to come home with a bag each, but then we looked at the trees. I think I ended up walking away with over 50 pounds of apples! I split them 50/50 between Jonathon and Winesap, as I wanted to make some applesauce as well as some pie filling.

We have been slow to get started on this project, as peeling, coring, cooking and canning 50 lbs of apples when you have a 2 year old boy in the house has proven difficult. We have completed one batch however and it was absolutely divine so I thought I would share the recipe with everyone, as well as the process for those of you who may be first time canners.

Spiced Applesauce

5 lbs of Jonathan apples (or a similar variety)
1 c water
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 – 1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash cloves

Peel and core the apples and place them in a large stock pot with the cup of water. Cook over very low heat for an hour to an hour and a half or until the apples are soft and can be crushed easily with a potato masher or a fork. Stir frequently!

When the apples have reached the desired consistency, add the sugar and spices and let it cook for another 10 minutes or so. Any longer and the flavors will get muddy. When the applesauce is finished, it is time to can it. At this point you have two choices: hot or cold?

The key to canning is to start with everything at the same temperature (ie, if you want to can the hot applesauce, you need hot canning jars and hot water). You can either heat the jars prior to canning or you can let the applesauce cool to room temperature, which could take half a day. I prefer to let the applesauce cool simply because it allows me to can in shifts.

Applesauce requires a simple water bath canning. Leaving 1/2 inch of headspace, fill your jars, removing any large air bubbles. After filling, tighten the lids and place in a water bath canner. Cover the jars with anywhere from 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of water in order to guarantee they remain covered during the canning process. Standard recipes call for 20 minutes in the water bath, however at 7000 feet I typically add an additional 10 – 15 minutes. The temperature for boiling water is marginally lower at this altitude, so you need to let the cans go longer. Standard adjustments are about 5 minutes for every 2000 feet above sea level. Remember – start timing when the water BOILS, not simply from when you place the jars in the canner.

Let the jars cool completely before removing them from the canner. I like to let them sit overnight. You can remove them while hot if you need the canner again, but you have to be very careful – a) they’re hot! and b) the temperature change from boiling to room temperature has been known to cause glass to crack – a risk frankly I don’t feel the need to take.

The next applesauce attempt is going to involve ginger and if it turns out I will post that recipe as well. Until then, Happy Eating!


Got Goat Milk? September 30, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 11:25 am
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We’ve had our dairy goats for not quite a week now and as you may have noticed, it has completely messed up my schedule! I haven’t had time to write since they arrived and my morning routine with the little man has been completely undone, resulting in a fair number of tantrums and general clinginess.

Regardless, I am happily milking my goat twice a day and I am consuming the milk almost as quickly as I can milk her – mostly because a) my hands cramp up before I can fully empty her and b) she kicks over about 30% of the milk I get out of her. I end up with about 1/2 quart a day total which suffices for my tea and for my son’s cup of milk.

It should also be noted that the rest of the household is having a hard time drinking the milk knowing that it came from the goat out in the yard. As my boyfriend said, “I can’t shake the image of it coming from an udder.” This makes the small supply we have been getting more than sufficient.

All that aside, the experience of having goats and milking them has thus far been fabulous. I was forced to ask a friend to come out and show me the ropes initially, but after her demonstration it has been relatively smooth sailing since. I have learned a few things of huge import in the last week that I wanted to share in the event anyone else out there is considering getting goats for their home milk supply.

Get a milking stand

Regardless of what you may think, it is better for everyone if you have a sturdy milking stand with a nice locking stock. This makes both the goat and the milker happier. All attempts at milking prior to the completion of the milking stand were disastrous. It should also be noted that you must separate the milking goat from your other goats, otherwise you will have to continuously fight off the other goats. This is nearly impossible if you only have four limbs.

Be prepared to lose most of your milk at the beginning

Unless you have an incredibly patient goat and freakishly strong hands, you should be prepared to a) not be able to aim into the milk pail, resulting in milk all over you and the goat and b) have a bored goat. A bored goat will want you to be done and will encourage you to finish by stepping in the pail and possibly even kicking in an attempt to get off the milk stand.

The first few times I milked my goat it took me upwards of 30 minutes. This morning the whole process took me less than 10. You will get faster, but chances are your goat will not get more patient, so try to keep things nice between the two of you

Never use plastic

Always store your milk in glass or stainless steel. Canning jars work beautifully and add an element of homeyness to the presentation. Goat milking supplies can be found here:

Cool your milk immediately!

You don’t need an industrial freezer to do this. The easiest way is to take several freezer packs and place them in a stainless steel bowl or tub filled with cold water. Place your milk container in this tub and put in in the fridge. It will reach the 38 degrees it needs to quite quickly with this method and you will avoid actually freezing the milk which can have deleterious effects on its nutrition.

Be tenacious

Goats need to be milked, and you are the one to do it. A goat will dry up if not milked regularly and may even develop mastitis, an infection of the udder, which can become very dangerous. Regardless of kicking and hand cramping, keep milking! Your efforts will be rewarded and you will love it.

Some other hints:

Raw goats milk tastes almost exactly like cows milk. It is through the pasteurization or heating of the milk that it develops the distinct tang many people associate with goat milk. Raw goat milk will start to become goaty if kept around for longer than a week. When making cheese you should use the older milk. You might also notice a distinct spice to goat milk depending on what the goat has been eating. For example, my friend’s milk tastes slightly of lavender because she grows it in her yard near the goats.

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.


The work of Fall – Putting Food By September 23, 2009

Filed under: Garden Fresh,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 2:04 pm
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It was the equinox yesterday (the 22nd) and is now officially fall. The work involved in food preparation is suddenly in full swing. Harvest time. I understand now why farm families tend to have so many children! You need all those hands to help out.

This week we have been working on putting food by. We have made some fruit preserves, apricot as well as a combination grape/plum which I am hopeful will turn into jelly now that it is in the fridge. Additionally I am trying to find some interesting recipes for all the tomatoes we have that are still green. The red ones are being turned into tomato sauce – we are, at heart, a family of Italians – but the green ones, especially the heirlooms that are still on the plants, will have to be picked sooner than later as the weather is starting to work against us.

We planted everything late this year and as a result some of the fruits of our labor are late to ripen and mature. Santa Fe has a relatively short growing season as a result of it’s altitude and it has recently been in the 30’s here at night. Desperate measures will have to be taken! I have found a few recipes, such as this one for tomato jam, which I may try – although I’d be using green tomatoes for it. I may also try to pickle some of the green ones.

Our potatoes can stay in the ground, as can the carrots and parsnips, so we won’t have to do anything with them. The apples are already blown, and produced a wonderful pie which I wrote about. The brussel sprouts can handle a frost or two, but the onions will need to be picked and the beans will have to be set aside as seeds for next years plants.

In addition to all the harvesting we’ve been doing, we also finally got our goats and have been struggling to learn how to milk, feed, and generally care for the two girls. It is quite a learning curve and as of yet we haven’t actually gotten any milk – we have milked the one successfully but she keeps stepping in the pail or, worse yet, knocking it over resulting in the loss of any creamy goodness.

Suffice it to say, we are heading into the winter with some challenges as well as some successes. I am hopeful that the food we are putting away will last through until spring, although I can tell you right now we don’t have nearly enough carrots. In either case we will certainly know what things need to be done next year.

This post is my contribution to this weeks Real Food Wednesday hosted by Cheeseslave.


Eek! A goat is in my yard! September 21, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 1:46 pm



We finally picked up one of our goats! Her name is Eek and she is an adorable 7 month old doe with a lovely coat and a beautiful blood line (meaning you can already see her teats).

She is a very mellow girl, and while she is terribly lonely at the moment, her companion Eve is due to arrive tomorrow morning. Hopefully the two of them will get along and there won’t be any problems. In either case she is a fabulous addition to the family and all of us are very excited she is here! (Especially my boyfriend who volunteered to sleep in the barn with her last night to keep her from bleating all night!)

While Eek is young, she will be bred this year, in about a month actually, and she will be our first pregnant goat. She seems small, but in terms of her size and age she is an ideal candidate for a yearling mommy.

It is a whole new world being a livestock owner, but I am really excited about learning all the ropes, bonding with the girls and most importantly, having fresh milk for our family!

Happy Eating!


Got Milk? September 9, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 9:49 am
Tags: , , ,

The goatless barn

The goatless barn

The struggles and trials I have been going through in order to set up a home goat dairy have been fairly surprising. Construction on the barn has been easy, with my boyfriend being able to build nearly the entire thing in a day. The fence construction has been a breeze, being less expensive than originally thought. Finding food, milking supplies, storage etc. has been easy as pie.

Finding the goats has been a nightmare. We have lost three!

The first was due to the fact that the seller’s pregnant does had half as many kids as she was expecting, and half of those were male. Since we were not first in line for a goat, we didn’t get one. The second goat was a beautiful white beauty named Rose for whom we made an offer, only to discover that the other interested party countered and she was sold out from under us. The most recent tragedy has been with Sweetie, the goat I wrote about just the other day. Her health has declined dramatically in the last month due to a terminated pregnancy and the owner doesn’t feel she can sell her in good conscience.

Luckily she has offered up a replacement goat at a lower price, which is helpful, but that still leaves us with only one goat (we were planning on taking Sweetie and her kids). Goats are social creatures and we really need two. So we are searching for more and honestly, the pickings are slim this time of year. Most goats are bred in October or November and deliver in March or April, which means all the kids have been sold by now. People are offloading their older dairy goats, but they will all be dried up for the most part, and will need to be bred – yet another expense. And while I have a few contacts that I am working with, we have reached the high end of our budget, the low end of our patience, and wits end in general.

The whole purpose of setting up this dairy was in order to have a safe, reliable source for food – raw milk, cheese, yogurt etc. However it has really illuminated for me how difficult it can be to actually do this!

Like most people, I have always taken my food for granted. The abundance, variety and seemingly endless supply of foods in the grocery stores and farmer’s markets has always been a pleasure, but I never considered it a privilege until I started trying to grow more of my own food, including milk.

The amount of work required to nurture enough food to feed a family of four is…mind boggling. And not just because of the foibles of trying to find a goat. We have had squash bugs, companion planting issues, late starts with our seedlings, grasshoppers…the list is endless. It really opens one’s eyes to the whole idea of privilege. For centuries the upper classes were in power and had so much wealth because they didn’t have to worry about their food supplies. They had serfs or servants, tenants or slaves to do all that work for them. They could devote their time to intrigue, war, politics and art.

And while I don’t really have an interest in intrigue, war or politics, I am used to a lot more free time than I am currently allowed. I am in no way regretful of my decision to become more self sufficient and to provide my son with reliable and safe food, I may miss all that free time.

So hopefully, the goat saga will not go on for much longer and I will soon have myself a nice caprian friend.