Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Cavities! Oh no! June 17, 2011

Filed under: Food For Thought — realfoodmama @ 1:29 pm
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I have cavities?!

So in a routine dental visit this month we discovered that my three year old has some problems with his teeth. FOUR cavities! I have been trying to keep his diet as close to my ideal as possible, but given that I am not the only person who feeds him, this hasn’t always been possible. On top of that, I have not always been as firm about sugar as I probably should have been. I consider natural sugars (things like honey and pure maple syrup) less harmful in general due to their other nutritional content, however he still probably gets too much. So after some internal struggles (which involved a certain amount of self-flagellation) I have decided that I probably need to stick to my guns better than I have been.

The real problem that I am having is that I am doing so many things RIGHT. Raw milk, lots of butter and high fat, high vitamin foods. Liver regularly. So the thing I have concluded is that it is the sugar and (duh moment here) the flour products. We eat a lot of bread – home made, fermented even, but it is still there. I am just frustrated I think because this is something that I feel like I was doing right and now I find out that my efforts, though good, may not be enough! His father – sorry babe 😉 – has terrible teeth and while we have always kind of assumed it was dietary (sugar, sugar, sugar) I am beginning now to think it is hereditary since the kiddo seems to be suffering from similar issues and his diet is significantly better than his father’s was at the same age.

Regardless, there will be some changes and I will renew my efforts to eliminate those things from his diet of which I know he eats too much. And luckily the trip to the dentist was painless – no screaming, no crying, no trauma. But I am determined to keep it from happening again and am hopeful that this can be accomplished.

Have any of you combated tooth decay successfully using diet alone? I’d be curious to hear your stories!

 

Delicious Ricotta and Peach Tart May 29, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cheese making,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 1:51 pm
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Now that my goat is back in milk, I am back to my cheese making rituals. The girl I have in milk at the moment is giving me nearly a gallon a day already, and will probably give me more in the next month or so. One of my favorite cheeses to have on hand is ricotta. Ricotta is really a by-product of other cheese making, as it is made by reheating the whey left over from the drained curds of any other cheese. The actual ricotta itself is the small pieces of protein, known as albumin, and when the whey is recooked the proteins denature and if you have fine cheesecloth on hand you can strain it and get ricotta!

There are many uses for this cheese, but my favorite use is in baking. Ricotta can be used to make cheesecake like tarts, adds great flavor and texture to baked goods such as cakes and muffins, and of course is used frequently in baked pasta dishes such as lasagne. I like to experiment with it as it is very forgiving and last night in an effort to make some room in my fridge, I came up with this fabulous recipe.

Ricotta and Peach Tart

3-4 medium peaches
2 c ricotta cheese
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c cane sugar
1/2 c hazelnut flour

For the pastry

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk

Begin by making the pastry. You can use a food processor to speed this up. If you are going to mix it by hand, it is helpful to have the butter softened. Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. Add the butter and combine, with the processor or a hand held pastry blender, until you have the appearance of coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until it just comes together. Pour into a 9 inch tart pan and shape with your hands. Prick holes in the tart shell with a fork (or use pie weights to keep it from bubbling) and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until it just starts to brown.

While the pastry is blind baking, make the filling. Mix the ricotta with the egg white, whole egg, vanilla, sugar and hazelnut flour. Whisk until well mixed. Remove the tart shell from the oven and add the mixture. Return the filled shell to the oven, lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake until the tart sets, This should take about 35-45 minutes depending on the texture of the ricotta. Home-made ricotta tends to have more liquid in it than store bought and will take longer to set.

While the tart is baking, slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. Thinly slice the peaches, keeping the skin on, and place in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of sugar. When the tart is set, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Arrange the peaches on top in whatever pattern you want, being sure to include any juices that have accumulated while the peaches were macerating. Let cool and serve.

Enjoy and Happy Eating!

 

Tomato Tragedy! May 19, 2011

Our tomato plants did not fair well with the transplant from pot to garden plot the other day, and now it looks like we are expecting weather in the low thirties this evening which, I am afraid to say, may be the final blow to the already stressed plants.

I will be really disappointed if they don’t survive. We had four different heirloom varieties and I have been fantasizing about all the things I will be able to do with them come late summer. At this point it really only looks like about three of the plants will pull through, but I haven’t entirely given up hope yet. Of course, we will have to see how things are tomorrow morning after our cold snap. I fear the worse.

The most distressing part about this, of course, is the fact that I like to think that our gardens can feed us. This is probably unreasonable regardless of circumstance, but when something like this happens it really highlights how fragile the balance is. If we WERE totally dependent on the garden, we would now be down a whole crop. And while that isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it does mean that one of the best foods for canning and preserving would be completely missing from our winter cupboard. It makes me really appreciate and understand how hard it is, and how much luck goes into, being able to survive without the convenience of readily available supermarket variety food.

It is easy to forget that even our farmer’s at the local farmer’s market here struggle with that and are also subject to the whims of nature, regardless of their experience or skill at keeping their crops happy and alive. Just this year one of the local tomato growers lost almost all their plants due to a natural gas shortage which killed the heaters in their greenhouses. So please, think good thoughts tonight while the temperatures dip. I am hopeful that the plants will pull through, but if not I will have to replace them with some other varieties. I hope that your gardens are doing well in spite of the weather here!

Happy Gardening!

 

Spring has Sprung! May 16, 2011

Filed under: Eating local,Garden Fresh,Recipe,Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 5:50 pm
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There is nothing quite like finally have warm days after a long winter. The rise of spring and the desire to spend days outside always seems to be accompanied by certain cravings. I can’t eat salad when it is snowing, but as soon as April and May roll around all I can think about is spinach and lettuce and arugula. And don’t get me started on things like asparagus and rhubarb! I’m making myself hungry just writing about it…

According to Chinese Medicine, spring is the time for cleansing and for renewing. The liver, the organ responsible for the smooth flow of qi, loves spring and can be both nourished and frustrated during this time of year. Wind, another spring favorite especially here in Santa Fe, is another symbol of the liver. As a result, many of those spring cravings can be linked to the bodies desire to naturally detoxify and move all that rising energy!

Great spring foods can also be found in the oddest of places. Dandelions, those pesky weeds, are a great spring tonic. Pick the greens (making sure they haven’t been sprayed!!) and add them to your salad for a nice change. As previously mentioned asparagus can act as a diuretic, pulling toxins out of the body with the excess water. Rhubarb, another favorite of mine, also has cleansing actions and can be a great addition to spring treats – like a fabulous rhubarb pie, for example!

There are lots of great greens and other things that I have missed over the winter and I encourage everyone to get out to your local farmer’s market to get some. One of my favorite ways to get all the spring veggies together is to make a nice pasta primavera (remember, primavera means spring!). Here is my version of the classic dish.

Pasta Primavera

1 lb home made pasta, or dried pasta of your choice
1 C asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 c onion, diced (approx 1/2 medium)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 c summer squash or zucchini, julienned (approx 1 small)
1/2 c red or orange bell pepper, julienned (approx 1 medium)
1/4 c carrot, julienned (approx 1 medium)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
2 TBSP olive oil

Begin by placing the pasta water on to boil. While you wait, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until aromatic. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the asparagus and carrots and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the carrots soften and the asparagus starts to change color. Add the peppers and the summer squash and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are done. Add the heavy cream and the cheese and stir to mix and turn the heat to very low. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the past water has boiled add your pasta and cook until al dente. Fresh past should only take a minute or two, but dried pasta usually takes between 7 and 10 depending on the style. Strain the pasta and add the noodles to the pan of sauce. Toss several times to coat the noodles and serve!

Happy Eating!

 

Kitchen Remodel makes for interesting cooking! April 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 5:56 pm

This week we have been involved in doing a remodel and repair on our kitchen floor. The house, built in 1946, has stood the test of time and bad home improvement projects proudly, but the floor in the kitchen really needed to be replaced.

Without going into too many boring details about the specifics, we spent a day tearing up three layers of floor until we finally hit the subfloor only to discover that the dishwasher, which was no doubt installed upwards of 15 years ago, has been leaking since then. Luckily, there was no major damage done to the subfloor structure, however it has seriously set us back on our schedule. The consequences? I am now without a stove until this coming Friday.

I imagine this is really going to test the limits of my creativity in terms of crock pot cooking, as that is pretty much the only way my family will get a hot meal in the coming days. We can’t afford to eat out until the stove comes and I wouldn’t want to anyway, as restaurant food is always more expensive and never as good as what I can do at home!

I have a few recipes which I can definitely use for the next two dinners, but after that I may have to improvise. Any and all suggestions are welcome, as I am willing to try most anything! In the meantime, here is one of my favorite, and most simple, crock pot stew recipes:


Crockpot beef stew

1 lb stew beef
2 cups water
1/2 onion with skin
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 small or 2 large potatoes, chopped
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 oz cognac

The instructions are very straightforward. Basically you put everything in the crockpot and cook on the higher setting for 4-6 hours or until the beef has reached the preferred level of tenderness. The real key is to keep the onion skin on the onion, as it imparts better flavor and color to the finished product. I don’t add pepper because my son doesn’t like it, so feel free to add some to your meal if you like. Other suggestions include using a bay leaf to add sweetness or rosemary to add a bit more spice.

Happy Eating and enjoy!

 

The goat lady – my new party trick. February 28, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:39 pm
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Got goat?

There are days when I am pretty sure I don’t get out enough, but this weekend I was able to sneak away from my maternal and farm related responsibilities and attend the 30th birthday party of a close friend of mine. I love her parties because there is always great food and interesting conversation, however I seem to be the recently elected expert on all things goat. In fact, at the most recent event the host literally dragged me over to a complete stranger and announced that I “had goats too, you two should talk.”

I don’t really mind talking about my livestock, and given that many of the folks at these parties are hardened foodies who are highly concerned about food politics, local sourcing and re-connecting with our food it seems only natural that they would want to know more about my goats and how it is that I am able to have the animals in the city limits. The really great thing is that there were some other folks at the party who also have goats and we were able to discuss the upcoming kidding season and whether or not my goat is actually pregnant – which I am not sure she is, honestly…but that is another post.

The wonderful thing is that when I am with the food community here I feel as though they are receptive to information about my urban homestead. They want to know what my goats are like and they think it is awesome that I have chickens too. I suppose if I had an audience that was slightly less receptive I might be less comfortable talking about it. I mean, no one wants to be known as “that crazy goat lady”. In fact one of the things I like so much about Santa Fe is that it is incredibly receptive to backyard livestock and in fact, sees it as the norm. Perhaps it is the Hispanic population component or the fact that Santa Fe is a 400 year old settlement, or maybe it really is just due to the fact that it is the City Different. In either case, I am not complaining. I love that I can have my animals without worrying about the legalities or getting permits or having neighbors think I am crazy. I am hopeful that with the urban homesteading movement and with the desire to get back to real food that more places around the country will adopt the same lenient policies as Santa Fe.

Until then, however, I think it is important to work with our neighbors and legislators in order to make them understand that backyard chickens really are the best thing for everyone *wink wink*.

Happy Eating!

 

Yummy seed bars February 26, 2011

Filed under: Home Made — realfoodmama @ 1:48 pm
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One of my favorite snacks from the Co-Op are the all organic and very delicious Bumble Bars.

Since I love them so I find their price tag a bit on the steep side. At over two dollars a pop, they are not really something I can buy with any regularity. Luckily for me, the bars have a very straightforward ingredient list (as all things should!) and I was able to buy the ingredients myself and try a few batches at home. I finally got results I was really happy with today and wanted to share it with my readers because everyone should try these.

Home Made Bumble Bars

2 TBSP unsalted organic butter
1/4 c organic brown rice syrup
1/3 to 1/2 c raw sesame seeds
1/4 c flax seeds
1 TBSP organic raw sliced almonds
1/4 tsp organic almond extract
1/4 tsp organic vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Heat the brown rice syrup and butter over low heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Add the sesame seeds and stir, letting it simmer for a few seconds. This takes the bitter edge off the raw sesame seeds. Add the flax seeds, almonds, extracts and cinnamon and stir until well mixed. Remove from the heat and pour out onto wax paper or greased parchment paper. Spread until at desired thickness (I like mine pretty thin…like a few centimeters.) Let cool and then cut and enjoy.

Store in an airtight container. They should keep for about a week.

Happy Eating!