Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

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!

 

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!

 

The Ingredients in Milk February 23, 2011

Filed under: Politics,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 4:16 pm
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Fish Milk?

Since my goat has been dried off and I am currently waiting for my hopefully (crosses fingers, arms and legs) pregnant doe to kid in April I am without a milk supply at the moment. If it were up to me we would simply go without, but sadly it isn’t. As a result we have had to buy milk recently. While I would prefer to buy goat milk from my local goat dairy, they are all in the same situation I am and have no milk at the moment as they are also expecting kids and their girls are either pregnant or dry. It is that time of year.

This has, of course, led me to buy organic cow milk from my local co-op. I don’t really drink it except for in my tea, but my kiddo asks for a glass now and then and his father consumes quite a bit of it. When I went to buy the first half gallon I noticed something new in the milk isle. Granted I haven’t paid that much attention for nearly a year since the last time I found myself without a goat milk supply, so maybe this isn’t news to everyone reading. Apparently you can buy milk that has added omega-3’s and DHA in it. Upon reading the back I learned that in the case of the additional omega-3’s and DHA in the Organic Valley version, fish oil has been added to supply them. I beg your pardon?

I mean really, who wants milk with fish in it?

Then, this morning, I was made aware of something even more disturbing that fish-milk. According to the Cornucopia Institute, Horizon Dairy (not known for their exemplary record in following organic standards anyway) has added synthetic, non-approved DHA and Omega-3’s to their milk and are still proudly flaunting the organic label. Apparently the synthetic additives come from a processed algae source, rather than actual fish like the additives in the Organic Valley version. The problem, of course, is that the synthetic source has not been approved organic and therefor the addition of it to an organically labeled product is questionable.

In either case, whether organic fish or questionable algae bi-product, I find the addition of these nutrients to a food like milk highly questionable. Milk is a real food, even in its pasteurized form – though I personally believe raw is better. On the one hand it is somewhat inspiring to see that the recognition of the importance of nutrients like omega-3’s has made such an impact, but on the other hand I don’t understand why the food industry – the Organic food industry even – has decided it needs to mess with something that isn’t broken.

It seems to be just another attempt of the industrial food machine to modify a “product” to fit “consumer” patterns in order to make more money. And in the process they have taken a very simple food and given it an ingredient list.

Suffice it to say I am going to be very glad when my goat milk supply comes back.

Happy Eating (and drinking!)

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

 

Valentine’s Day Treats February 14, 2011

Filed under: Events — realfoodmama @ 10:30 am
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Valentine’s day is known for it’s chocolate, flowers, and the ability to make the unattached feel like second class citizens. All in all, not a very healthy holiday! There are, of course, ways to lessen the blow of the Valentine’s Day unhealthiness.

Chocolate actually isn’t that bad for you in its purer forms. Dark chocolate is full of healthy flavonoids and antioxidants which lower or regulate blood pressure and protect the body from free radicals, respectively. The problems, of course, come from the additives put in many of the chocolate confections sold for the holiday. High Fructose Corn Syrup is an ingredient in many of those heart shaped chocolate collections, and the additional sugars and food dyes that go with it make the standard Valentine’s heart-shaped-box a poor choice for the holiday.

Some better options for your sweetheart include Green & Black’s dark chocolate at 70%. I like the super dark stuff but if you are used to regular chocolate go for the lower percentage. If you are in the NM area and interested in buying local, Chocolove is out of Boulder, CO and they have a fabulous selection of dark chocolates in more romantic packaging, as well as several organic options. My personal favorite, and not just because it is packaged in red with big XOXO’s on it, is the dark chocolate with almonds and cherries.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to chocolate to romance your sweetheart. My favorite food gift for valentine’s day is a huge slab of grass-fed beef, cooked on the grill (or under the broiler if weather interferes). The best way to prepare it is to use some organic or grass-fed butter, a little sea salt and some cracked pepper, then cook until medium rare. Good for the heart and the soul as far as I am concerned!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Eating!

 

So many plums! October 13, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Canning,Garden Fresh,Home Made — realfoodmama @ 2:11 pm
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This year most of my fruit trees were frozen in a late frost, however the one tree that did avoid the worst of the cold weather has managed to produce a bumper crop. We have two plum trees in the yard, one of which is a beautiful, but very overgrown, mother. The other is a daughter offshoot that hides in the shade of our yard and generally gets overlooked. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that it was carrying fruit until about a month ago when I looked closely and realized the branches were laden with small, purple globes.

Since we purchased the house with established fruit trees, I am not sure what type of plum these are, however as they’ve ripened they have developed a lovely sweet-tart flavor and have a rather eerie green flesh. Yesterday we processed about ten cups in order to make what turned out to be nearly a gallon of preserves and we only used a third of the plums! I honestly have no idea what we are going to do with the rest, but I am hoping to find some recipes for plum cakes, puddings, pies, tarts…you get the idea!

Suffice it to say the bounty is pretty impressive and I am hopeful that as our fruit trees mature and we learn more about taking care of them we can avoid a frost kill like the one that happened this year and actually be able to harvest some apples, pears and apricots from the other trees in our mini-orchard.

Until then, however, any and all plum recipes are appreciated and I will definitely share my plum experiments as they occur! Happy Eating!

 

Cheese Wax! October 1, 2010

Filed under: Cheese making,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 8:36 pm
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Cheese before waxing

I finally got a chance to wax the cheddar that I made this week and thought it would be a good opportunity to show pictures of the finished project. While I do not have an actual cheese press or molds, I have managed to rig something up involving some camp bowls made from stainless steel and a large brick from my garden path. It is rather precarious, to be honest, but it works!

Cheese making, like baking, is really all about mastering the art of reading and following a recipe. If you mess up or get sloppy along the way you end up with either an inferior product or a complete failure. Cheddar is one of the more complicated hard cheeses I’ve tried to make because it requires a) the addition of a specific culture and b) slow curd cooking combined with a special process known as cheddaring. This is the act of stacking the curds until the texture changes to that of cooked chicken. Weird, right?

The process of making cheddar can be broken down into a few steps. You allow the milk to culture (I use raw milk even though the recipe says to pasteurize it), bring to 86 degrees, add your rennet and let it set a curd for about 45 minutes. Then you cut them and slowly cook the curds to about 110 degrees over the course of an hour. At which point you strain them for a few minutes, then cut them again into four pieces, stack them until they achieve the chicken consistency mentioned above, cut them again then press them for about 24 hours. At this point you let your cheese wheels form a rind, then you wax them.

This is a huge over-simplification of cheddar making and I urge readers NOT to attempt to make cheddar from the above instructions. The web site I had been using is currently offline, however here is the link and hopefully it will come back up so anyone interested in doing this themselves can follow more detailed instructions.

The real bummer about making cheddar is that once you have it waxed you have to let it age for about three months before you can eat it. So even though I have these lovely cheese wheels, I cannot eat them until January of next year. So I have no idea what it tastes like or if it is even edible. Luckily cheese wax is fairly inexpensive and I can buy it locally at Santa Fe Homebrew Supply where they also reassure me that it can be reused.

Waxed Cheese

So, I will try to get back to you all about this in January and let you know how the cheddar worked out! Hopefully it will be worth the wait! Until then, Happy Eating.

 

Crockpot Apple Butter August 20, 2010

Filed under: Canning,Food Storage,Home Made,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 11:37 am
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It may seem early in the season for apple recipes, but I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to pick a business associates early fruiting tree and I finally got around to doing something with all the apples I pulled. The apples were very small and the process of peeling and coring was fairly tedious, however we were able to do enough so that we could make about 4 pints of apple butter.

The process of making apple butter is very straightforward but it can be time consuming so I decided this year to use my crockpot in order to cook the apples down rather than the stove top which requires frequent stirring and constant vigilance in order to ensure it does not scorch. Given all of the other things I have been trying to do recently (cheese making, zucchini processing, alone time…) I decided that it would be best for everyone if I simply put the apple butter in the crockpot overnight and let it do its thing without my supervision.

I was very pleased with the results! The butter thickened nicely and while there was some scraping of the sides required in the end, all in all it was a preferable method to the stovetop. I tend to forget that things are on the stove and have had some near catastrophes (see my post about the plum preserves!). The best part about it though is that you can leave it to cook overnight. I like getting things done while I sleep!

Apple Butter
from the Ball Blue Book of canning and preserving

4 pints cooked apples
4 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves

The basics process for making the butter is as follows:

Core and peel your apples
Cook them with a small quantity of water until they are soft and can be easily mushed with a potato masher (basically turn them into applesauce)
Use either an immersion blender or a standard blender to blend them and create a smooth consistency
Add sugar and spices
Cook over low heat until thick, stirring frequently

Leaving 1/4 inch headspace, process in water bath for 10 minutes at sea level

I typically use less sugar in these recipes than called for simply because I don’t like overly sweet fruit products. The Ball Blue Book recipe calls for 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of apples. No thank you! I use about 1 to 1.5 cups of sugar. I also add a tad more cloves to my recipe (1/2 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp) and lower the cinnamon from 2 tsp to 1 tsp.

The canning instructions are to can for 10 minutes (at sea level) with 1/4 inch head space. Due to the altitude in the City Dipherent, I add an additional 15 minutes to the processing time.