Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankfulness in the Kitchen: Free Range Turkey for Dinner

So many, many things to be thankful for this November night. Seasonal blessings and farmyard bounty brought to the kitchen and shared at the mealtime table sit high on the list. (As does the annual Cranberry Apple Chutney; see recipe below.) The 2009 Food Groups, Farm Finds, and delicious celebrations of nourishment and life have urged my heart to praise a Creator who so intricately designed a system of sustenance, renewal, and the joy of harvesting the delicious fruits of labor...

The story of this year's heritage Thanksgiving turkey began many months ago when, Genevieve, our raw milk source, informed me that they would be raising free range fowl on their farm... I placed my order right there on the spot, and over the course of the spring and summer, I returned and found the little ones growing into mighty fine birds. (Benjamin Franklin would have been proud.)

When this afternoon's table was set and the turkey served up alongside the traditional holiday fare, my thankfulness extended toward our friendly farmers who raised the bird, the sun and rain that grew the grass, the soil that (temporarily) hosted the grubs before they became a turkey snack...and ultimately, the One who first placed us in a garden and called all things good...

A Turkey Year in Review
Visiting the little guys early on...
We didn't choose any one turkey in particular (nor were there names involved!)...but collectively they were a hilarious sight to behold.
A genuine "Spring Chicken"
And oh, the funny sight of adolescent geese.
They reminded me of me at thirteen.
But there must be hope:
A return in the late summer revealed elegant, graceful birds in place of the original gangly, awkward flock...
Pokrov Farm
Sandy, Oregon
And here, the turkeys have reached their awkward adolescence. Spring Chicken no more...
Autumn came, and came to a close...likewise the turkey's life of free ranging on the farm. However, I am grateful to know that the end came not at the expense of a quality life for the bird; respect for Creation and care of living things go hand in hand with the the thankfulness for the nourishment they provide. I can't explain the silly excitement in my chest when I carried the butcher paper wrapped turkey out to the car the night that Ted and I drove to the farm to make the pick-up. A short two weeks later, we celebrated!
Thank you to my father in law, Dave, for his delicious brining and masterful grilling on the Traeger , and thanks to my husband, Ted, for the carving skills... I can't wait to report back on the turkey stock magic I plan to work tomorrow...


Cranberry Apple Chutney
(From the Williamsburg Manor Bed and Breakfast)

1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. red wine vinegar
1/3 C. sugar
1//2 t. cloves
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1 C. water
2 green apples
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. cinnamon
1 T. grated ginger

In a saucepan, combine the cranberries and one cup of the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Peel, core, and cube the apples and place them in another saucepan along with the vinegar, lemon juice, 1/3 C. sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and walnuts. Lightly cook the mixture until the apples are soft.

Combine the apple and cranberry mixtures and allow to cool. Refrigerate.

My leftover food for thought: I love using the extras on turkey sandwiches...but best of all is this: spread heaping spoonfuls over a wedge of brie, crumble brown sugar around the sides, and broil until it's just the right texture for spreading on apple slices or bread... Mmm. Heaven!



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Final 2009 Food Group, Weeknight Recipes, and Homemade Gifts

Our final food group of 2009 turned out to be a quiet, peaceful evening of three women drinking tea and laughing about our efforts in the kitchen. It was a sweet way to end the year of camaraderie and tale swapping. Sadly, many of our foodies were out sick with the flu or feeling otherwise under the weather. You were missed! Hopefully you all have rested well and enjoyed many, many cups of tea on your journey back to health. (FYI ~ for those of you who have managed to avoid winter illness thus far and are looking for more tips, Emily has a fantastic regimen of natural immune boosters. If you give her an email at, you might be able to tease out a few pointers from her...)

Some of the evening's recipes and Christmas gift ideas have been posted within our Sustainable Food For Thought Google group. If you'd like to become a member, you can take a peek and add your own to the mix. (Tip: recipes/projects have been posted under both "Pages" and "Files.")

I'll take the opportunity to share my favorite homemade gift ~ fondly known within the inner circle as "Better than Burt's Bees Lip Balm" (and this thanks to my friend, Jay, who worked at GloryBee Foods in Eugene, Oregon and initially taught several of us how to make our own magic with nothing more than beeswax, almond oil, vitamin E oil, aloe vera concentrate, and essential oil).

Ted and I have made our own lip balm now for a few years. They're great to make in big batches - perfect for hosting a "make your own" party or for assembling to give as gifts. All supplies (including tins and tubes) are available from GloryBee.

Peppermint Lip Balm

1 oz. pure, filtered beeswax
½ C. sweet almond oil
½ t. vitamin E oil
¼ t. aloe vera concentrate
½ t. peppermint essential oil (or substitute as desired)

Combine beeswax, sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil, and aloe vera concentrate in a small, pourable container (a glass measuring cup works well). Place this container in a saucepan filled with approx. 2 inches of water. Heat the mixture over medium heat until beeswax is completely liquefied. Remove from heat and add essential oil. Pour into containers. Cool completely before use. Makes approx. two dozen 5 gram (.15 oz.) pots or tubes.

Recipe courtesy of GloryBee Foods

~A random smattering of our homemade gifts from Christmasses past~

Crocheted baby blankets...
An online search will yield many, many patterns and designs...
I just made this one up as I went!

Bittie Booties...
(Sadly, my only picture is crazy out of focus!)
Hidden Compartment Books...
~A favorite project from our first Christmas together~
(We enjoyed picking custom titles for each of our siblings)

In other notes of inspiration, I've been intrigued lately by working with raw spices (see: Spice Night), and I've been interested in trying to blend my own teas. The Nourishing Gourmet recently posted a nice recipe and a great list of homemade goodies: Hand Crafted Tea Blend, Blooming Rooibos, and Other Gift Ideas.

If you feel like sharing your own ideas and inspirations, please do!
Post here. Join the Sustainable Food For Thought group. Or send a note to us at

Happy Thanksgiving and a peaceful Christmas season to you all...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Soy What?

I came across this blogger's posting today at lunchtime and found it to be an excellently summarized counter argument to the typical health claims buzzing around in the frenzy of Soy product marketing.

For the full article, please visit Dawn's blog: Small Footprint Family. Here's a quick summary of the author's subtitles and a few quotes(...but I say it's definitely worth the full read!):

Soy is Not a Health Food

Brief History of Soy
"Many restaurants and food manufacturers are now replacing their hydrogenated soybean oil with palm oil. Consequently, soybean oil sales are declining. In an effort to protect their profits, the soy industry has resorted to two strategies: 1) diversifying their market with new soy products like margarine, soymilk, “nutrition” bars, protein powders, livestock feed, biofuel, and more, and 2) returning to demonizing the competition in order to make their products more acceptable."

Soy and the Environment
"Desperate to find an alternative means of attack, the soybean industry has found a new ally in highly vocal, politically active environmental groups. Fueled by financial support and misleading data from the soy industry, some environmental groups have now waged a war against palm oil on the grounds that palm cultivation is destroying the environment. They claim that rainforests are being leveled to make room for palm plantations, destroying the ecology and bringing endangered species, such as the orangutan, to the brink of extinction.

"Anyone with any sense of responsibility for the environment would be swayed by this argument. The problem, however, is that while palm oil plantations are responsible for some deforestation, the soybean industry is causing more destruction to the environment than probably any other agricultural industry on the planet."

Soybeans and Health
"According to a British toxicologist’s calculations, a baby fed exclusively on soy formula would be consuming the estrogen equivalent of five birth-control pills a day. Thirty to 40% of babies in the United States are fed soy formula. If the hormones in soy are strong enough to relieve hot flashes, why would we feed it to children?"

Soy Processing
"The process of making soy protein isolate (SPI) begins with defatted soybean meal, which is mixed with a caustic alkaline solution to remove the fiber, then washed in an acid solution to precipitate out the protein. The protein curds are then dipped into another alkaline chemical solution and spray-dried at extremely high temperatures. SPI is then often spun into protein fibers using technology borrowed from the textile industry. These refining processes improve taste and digestibility, but destroy the vitamin, mineral, and protein quality, and increase levels of carcinogens such as nitrosamines. SPIs appear in so many products that consumers would never guess that the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) decreed in 1979 that the only safe use for SPIs was for sealers for cardboard packages."

Soy and Allergies
"Soy allergies are on the rise for three reasons: the growing use of soy infant formula, the increase in soy-containing foods in grocery stores, and the possibility of the greater allergenicity of genetically modified soybeans."

Soy and Hormones
"Most of the fears concerning soy formula have focused on estrogens. There are other problems as well, notably much higher levels of aluminum, fluoride, and manganese than are found in either breastmilk or dairy formulas. All three metals have the potential to adversely affect brain development. Although trace amounts of manganese are vital to the development of the brain, toxic levels accrued from ingestion of soy formula during infancy have been found in children suffering from attention-deficit disorders, dyslexia, and other learning problems."

The Right Soy


Again, for the author's full article, please visit her blog: Small Footprint Family: Soy is Not a Health Food.


Food for thought: Ever notice how when we were kids, we weren't popping edamame like wonder pills and drinking soy shakes and lattes?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Last Food Group ~ Farewell to 2009

Hello all…

A reminder that our next Food Group is next week ~ hope you can make it!

Monday, November 9, 2009, 7-8:30pm
At Bethany’s Home -- email bethany(at)frenchprairie(dot)com for the address

No book discussion this time. Instead, we’ll be swapping IDEAS for: simple/sweet/handmade/inexpensive/interesting/food-related/all-of-the (or)none-of-the-above Christmas gifts and RECIPES for: simple/fairly quick/nutritious meals (you know – those “Everyone’s blood sugar is low…dinner should have been ready an hour ago…what can we make without going out to eat and spending too much or starting an hour-long-dinner project?” meals).

If you can bring a few copies of instructions/recipes for people, great! If not, you can just bring one copy and leave it here and I’ll post it online for the group.

As always, feel free to bring a friend, bring something to eat, bring a story about your food-life, or just bring yourself and enjoy the good company and good conversation...

Food Group Update

It’s been a full twelve months since the formation of Sustainable Food For Thought and the beginning of our Food Group meetings. This journey together through books and topics of discussion related to wholesome food and a nourishing lifestyle has been a fun, encouraging
opportunity to connect with friends, new and old, and celebrate the beauty of delicious life.

Thank you to each of you who have participated in one way or another, through meetings, through book suggestions and discussions, through the blog, and through swapping resources and stories.

After Monday’s meeting, we will be taking a hiatus from our (semi-) regular get-togethers. Lisa (our gracious hostess for many months), Andrea (healthy living extraordinaire) and Emily (Sustainable Food For Thought co-founder) will all be welcoming sweet little lives into the world over the next several months, and in light of babies + holiday season + conclusion of a full year of meeting together, we’ve decided to continue the conversation on the blog and through the Google Group.

If there is interest after the new year, we may see about re-starting meetings, perhaps on a seasonal basis (one per quarter?). Of course, if you would like friends to join you for other opportunities in the meantime, feel free to post details and invite the group to join in.

Much love and good food…
Bethany & Emily

"Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in a mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend."
~ Wendell Berry

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post-Workday Food Preservation: Harvest Can't be Put on Hold

Summer's long since over...

Yet I'm still barely out from underneath the looming responsibility of harvest preservation. Putting up food took much time this late summer/autumn...but it was worth it!~ What a kick to have row after row of cheery jars up in my cupboards, and to have a freezer stocked with easy access weeknight meal ingredients...

My post-workday, late-night canning efforts weren't quite picture perfect. I still don't have the keeping-the-kitchen-tidy-while-you-go nailed. Ted came home from his once a week evening shift to find the kitchen absolutely trashed...and me standing there at 11pm, beaming over my little pints of applesauce. (And once, not-so-beaming over a few jars of gooseberry jam that came out a little...questionable. But, how else do you learn?)

Batch after batch (...after batch) of roasted pasta sauce have passed through my little oven over the course of the past handful of weeks. A late tomato season kept me going clear through October! I finally sealed and labeled the last few portions and put them in the freezer. Maybe you'd enjoy a little peek into the process?

I'm sorry to say, I didn't quite get to my truly green tomatoes in time. Despite my best efforts at digging up interesting sounding chutney recipes and sauces, the production efforts didn't quite materialize and instead I had to compost rotten tomatoes and clean up a few mold patches in the bowls. (True confessions from a real-life kitchen.)

However, on the more successful side, motivated by my new stock of SE Asian spices and seasonal ingredients fresh from my CSA (parsnips), my inlaws (delicious pears), and my little brother Jesse's garden (plenty and plenty of squash), I've gone www-stumbling and come upon a few recent pleasures: Curried Pear & Parsnip Soup and Curry Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpeas. The roasted squash in particular was delectable ~ complimented very nicely by the cilantro lemon yogurt sauce. I whipped both recipes up with ingredients I already had around the house (in fact, I supplemented a few carrots for parsnips since I didn't have quite enough on hand.)

I really am so grateful for how many learning opportunities came my way this past year, and for the encouragement and conversation from friends with experience and inspiration to share.

I"ll leave you today with a post by Lindsay Edmonds: Baby Steps to Nutritious Eating: 12 Steps to a Real Food Diet. Follow your kitchen curiosities, and follow your senses to a delicious tomorrow...


My youngest brother, Jesse, and his bounty from the garden.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Hi Everyone! A friend asked me for my pumpkin pancake recipe and since I typed it up for her I decided to just post it on here too in case anyone was interested!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 T Sugar
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 Eggs
1 3/4 c. Milk
1/2 c. Cooked and Mashed Pumpkin

*Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl.
*Whisk eggs and milk, stir in pumpkin.
*Pour wet over dry, stir just until blended.

(This makes about 12 medium sized pancakes)

Spice Night

Thanks to the Spice Merchant's Daughter, the intimidation of exotic herbs and spices turned quickly into inspiration for a culinary adventure...and eventually became an evening of literally rubbing elbows with five other daring cooks in my tiny kitchen as we sought to make our own SE Asian spice blends, rubs, and pastes from scratch.

I grew up with minimal working knowledge of spices and herbs. Rosemary and basil had a home in my childhood garden...but I rarely did more than crush the leaves between my fingers and smell. The standard repertoire in the kitchen included Nature's Seasoning, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Oh, and cinnamon. For applesauce and cinnamon toast.

Naturally, as an adult I didn't want to waste money purchasing an array of goods for my spice rack without knowing what they were meant for and how I would use them, so the past three years of home cooking have seen me purchase little sample amounts of spices, on occasion, as a particular recipe would require. Otherwise, sea salt and freshly ground pepper did the trick.

When The Spice Merchant's Daughter caught my ear a few different times (I think I first heard it mentioned on NPR...), I added it to my mental library list. This summer, it eventually made it into the queue and finally into my eager hands. Part autobiography, part cookbook, the author tells of her childhood in Malaysia and her mother's work of processing and selling exotic spices. As an adult, daughter Christina Arokiasamy eventually moved to the US and now teaches others how to make use of the flavors of her childhood. Her description of the spice pantry and list of do-it-yourself blends inspired me. And with that extra kick of motivation, my friend, Jane, and I decided we wanted to tackle this culinary escapade together.

We arranged for four other friends to join the two of us, chose a date, and then I set out with a massive grocery list. Three days worth of shopping trips included visits to Limbo, H-Mart, and Fubon and a whirlwind continuation of my education in shopping for world foods. (My mistake to ask the kind clerk at H-Mart if they carried Macadamia nuts. "No, no, no...not Asian, Hawaiian. Don't carry that here.")

Palm sugar, cardamom pods, curry leaves, and galangal...I'm thrilled now to not be so intimidated by the new (to me, at least) ingredients!

Whole cinnamon sticks, star anise, and dried chilies. Turmuric, nutmeg, paprika, dried lemon peel, cloves, lemongrass. Thyme, cumin, garlic salt, dried parsley. Coriander, black pepper, home-ground chili powder. Garlic.

And...shallots. Lots, and lots of shallots. (P.S. A thousand thanks to Linda and Emily for helping slice and peel all 55!) Note to self: install industrial strength ventilation fan next time you plan on dealing with massive amounts of shallots, garlic, peppers, and chilies in one tiny little second story kitchen. My lips were stinging from the heat of the chilies just floating through the air!

Before the crew arrived, I made the Green Seafood blend since it was the simplest and we had decided to use it for our communal meal.

When Spice Night rolled around and everyone made it up my narrow stairway with their bags and boxes of mortars and pestles, food processors, old coffee grinder, and potluck dishes, we shared a meal together to sample a few of the flavors we'd eventually be taking back to our respective pantries.

Jane's delicious salmon took a quick bath in olive oil and had a nice massage with a few generous scoops of the Seafood Rub...and came out of the oven as tasty as ever. Complemented by Mary's salad, Molly's autumn apple crisp, and Emily's cider, the meal gave us sustenance for several hours of recipe multiplication and kitchen labor.

After our full evening of grinding, toasting, chopping, blending, and eye-watering, we each had our portions of the following recipes:

Quick Curry Powder ~ to be used in just about anything

Merchant's Garam Masala ~ added to curries, stews, stocks, and "to build layers of flavors" for chicken, pork, and lamb marinades

Green Seafood Rub
~ used with olive oil and spread over fish...

Thai Massaman Curry Paste
~ for beef, lamb, poultry, or stir-fried veggies

Chicken Spice Paste
~ for basting chicken when baking or grilling, using as a stir-fry base, or for blending with coconut milk and using in curries

Chopping curry leaves for the Quick Curry Powder
Many, many cooks in the kitchen...
Smashing cinnamon sticks and simmering palm sugar
Three mortars and pestles going at once!

The Garam Masala cools...
(Nothing like the scent of warm cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon!)
Dry ingredients for the Thai Massaman Curry Paste
Garlic, shallots, and galangal galore.
Thankfully, the food processor held up!Galangal again.
Macadamia nuts, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots and chilies...
Combined with lemongrass, palm sugar syrup, salt
and water for Chicken Spice PasteLeft to Right: Thai Massaman Curry Paste, Green Seafood Rub (in the ziplock), Merchant's Garam Masala, and Quick Curry Powder

And with that, a successful Spice Night for all!

Many, many thanks to my partners in crime:
Jane, Linda, Molly, Mary, and Emily.
And to my sweet husband, Ted, for cleaning the kitchen beforehand!



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