Tuesday, December 21, 2010

January Food Group: Decluttering Home & Streamlining Your Kitchen

Hello, friends!

The New Year is nearly upon us, and we're looking forward to starting fresh and encouraging each other along the way. For the first Food Group meeting of 2011, we're going to spend time sharing ideas on Decluttering Our Homes and Streamlining Our Kitchens. If you'd like to join in, event details are below.

{ Simplify }

Why declutter?

Why streamline?

Why pare down possessions?

Gratefulness & Satisfaction.

Yes, it takes time to sort through the cupboards and bins and boxes. It takes time to make decisions on what could go and what should stay.

But how much time does it take to find something "missing" in the midst of messy drawers? Or to clean and put away fifteen dirty glasses when only four were ever actually used at the same time?

If I don't need it now and probably won't need it then...why not give it away and make space in my home for a deep breath and a simple view?

Personally, I often hold on to things out of worry. Worry that I'll not have enough when the time comes. Worry that if I let go of it now, I'll kick myself later. Worry that I might end up spending more resources to re-acquire possessions I've given away in haste.

Yet, we are called to make decisions out of trust and generosity and wisdom.

What I eat and drink and wear and store in my cupboards and closets? As it is written, "...do not worry about your life... Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

(In that vein, here's a song ~Birds of the Air~ by sweet-voiced Portland local, Annie Bethancourt.)

Valuing the possessions we do keep around, sharing the wealth of possessions that would otherwise go unused, and being mindful of the quality, source, and lifetime of new possessions we bring into our homes ~ these are the the bits of Food For Thought we plan to ponder.

You Are Welcome~
Wednesday, January 5th, 7:00-8:30pm
Bethany's Home
92nd & NE Burnside, Portland, Oregon
Please RSVP for Directions

Food Group: Join us the first Wednesday night of the month for ideas, resources, and camaraderie on the food front. 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 conversation...

{ Pare Down }

To begin making progress one step at a time, see Emily's Decluttering Method.
To decide what to do with your extras, take a peek at The Story of Stuff and particularly watch the section on Disposal, then gather up everything that can be recycled and reused:

Bonus: If during the post-holiday lull you get a jump-start on your kitchen decluttering, please plan to bring your extra tools, utensils, and those perfectly-good-but-not-often-used cookbooks that you'll no longer be needing around your own home ~ we'll give the group an opportunity to swap (who knows? perhaps someone's really been needing that old egg timer of yours! no sense in purchasing if a friend has a spare), and then we'll package all of our extra items as a donation to My Father's House Family Shelter.

What have you been holding on to?
It's a New Year. Let's do this thing together...


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

20 Great TED Talks for Total Foodies

Looking for some insight and inspiration? Check out these TED talk videos for foodies! At ted.com you can also sort by tags: here are the links to food or sustainability talks.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Using Jams in Winter Baking: Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Muffins

My favorite recipes are the ones I can make without any special trips to the market.*

(*My favorite recipes are also those which require lovely planning and list making and special ingredient sourcing and involve the thrill of the magician illusionist's grand finale. But I contradict myself and digress.)

It's wintertime, and we're stocked to the hilt with preserved foods and bulk ingredients. Yet, despite my obsessions with late night canning and weekend milk runs, I am often challenged to make the best use of the stores we keep on hand before I run out of steam and resort to additional purchases.

I'm a working girl with an 8-5 routine, and I'll admit that I revel in the simple success of making up a Sunday evening batch of muffins for the coming week. These habits are the ones I hope to continue to cultivate.

Prompted by an extra stash of raw milk just begging to be used for baking and the need for a few easy breakfasts, I reached for my Sue Gregg Soups & Muffins cookbook (a helpful throwback from home school home-ec!) and scanned to find something that would work well with the ingredients I had on hand.

{ Sue Gregg's Strawberry Coconut Surprise Muffins }

Blend together and let stand for 30 minutes:
1 C. buttermilk (I used soured raw milk)
1 C. uncooked rolled oats

Blend into oat mixture:
1 egg
1/4 C. honey
3/4 C. shredded coconut, unsweetened
(I had sweetened on hand, oops!)

Blend together in separate bowl:
1 C. whole wheat flour (pastry flour preferred)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Blend dry ingredients into wet until just mixed.
Fill prepared muffin cups about half full, place in center of each
1 scant teaspoon of strawberry preserves
(I may have gone overboard on the "scant")

Add dab of remaining dough to cover preserves in each muffin.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Yes, there is a certain thrill to cooking with blackberry poison oak honey.
(Thank you to Andrea for sourcing our terrific local raw honey from Meadowlark Farm in Roseburg, OR.)

And with that ~ Sunday night's success:

a) a ready-to-go breakfast for the upcoming week of busy-ness
b) quality ingredients (and a delicious way to use June's sweet strawberry jam)
c) a cheaper price tag than the local cafe's jammers (delicious though they may be)
d) a tasty something to share with our kind neighbors (who surprised us with a knock on the door and fresh homemade enchiladas!)

If you're feeling inspired, here's another great muffin recipe I tried recently: Whole Wheat Spicy Carrot Coconut Muffins. I made mine with milk-soaked flour, dried cranberries, and toasted cashews, and they were lovely. Even Ted (the resister of all vegetable-filled baked goods) asked for seconds...


Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Drinks: Hot Wassail from the Family Farm

Christmastime on my side of the family means several things~

Stockings on Saint Nicholas' Day (December 6th), Advent Wreaths and old hymns ("Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus"), Christmas trees from the family farm (spoiled as I was in childhood, with a personal Christmas tree in my bedroom!), and a resurrection of the mismatched mug collection to serve up gallons upon gallons of piping hot wassail to our family, friends, and neighbors.

{ Hot Wassail Recipe Below }

When the season rolls around, my husband Ted and I enjoy inviting friends to join us in picking out Christmas trees at my family's farm, and my mom graciously brings out her enormous stock pot and makes Wassail for all.

A quick internet search yields many variations on the seasonal drink. I'll share my mom's non-alcoholic recipe at the end, but regardless of which recipe you may choose, the key ingredient is the juice/cider from the harvest of apple trees.

Mom's tradition of making Wassail comes from her English heritage. Interestingly (thank you, Wikipedia), "In the cider-producing counties in the South West of England...wassailing refers to a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive."

I'm not expecting Fraser Firs to sprout apples anytime soon (though let's not give the GMO producers any new ideas), but I'll certainly drink to the health of trees!

{ Christmas Tree Hunting 2010 }

Wassail sings festivity and friendship to me. After years of my mom serving it during Christmas open houses and family parties, the taste instantly brings me to memories of twinkling white lights, evergreen boughs, and smiles on dear faces.

The sweet taste of cranberries and apples and the faintly deep and sour black tea and lemon juice mingle well on the tongue, and deep in my spirit I'm brought to a place of peaceful "just-right-ness." The season of winter weather, cold hands warmed by hot cups, and crackling fires accompanied by carols is here, and it is welcome.

Recently, I made a smaller pot of Wassail at home to serve dinner guests.

{ Buck Family Hot Wassail }

~Mix and simmer~
1 quart black tea (3 bags)
1 quart apple juice or cider
1 quart cranberry juice
3/4 C. lemon juice (or the juice of three lemons)
2 C. orange juice
1 C. sugar (I substituted honey to taste)
3 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves

Garnish with slices of orange or lemon...

A period of rest from the industrious days of summer and the rush of fall comes kindly, offering us the chance to pause, if we will take it.

Perhaps by way of reflection - writing, photographing, musing - or simply by warming a drink and savoring the rising steam, we will each be calmed to the point of a quiet heart and a profound gratefulness.

A beautiful moment's pause I've been enjoying this year:

{ Christmas is Happening }

I hope it is a gift to you~

~ Bethany

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Decluttering Your Kitchen and Home

I'm currently obsessed with decluttering.

Paul and I have been in four apartments in our three years of marriage. The more I move, the less attached I become to our "stuff." We currently live in a 600 sq. ft duplex with our baby and the "Decluttering Bug" has bit me hard. The clutter in my pantry, closets and "behind closed doors" is annoying the dickens out of me. So...I started a game with myself and I think I'm winning.

My game has two rules:
1. Everyday, get rid of 10 things in your home.
2. For every new thing you bring home, get rid of two (This is actually a Flylady rule)

When I say "get rid of" I mean recycle, give away, and if necessary, throw out. I've been doing this off and on for about two weeks and already it's making a huge dent in the clutter. The items can be as little as some paperwork or as much as a piece of furniture.
I love displaying canned goods in my kitchen because, to me, they are both useful and beautiful.

This method is really helping me get my kitchen organized. As a new mom with a baby, I don't always have the time or energy to set aside two hours to organize my kitchen. By playing this "game" it's an easier way to quickly look though my cupboards to see if there is anything I'm not using.
What a thing of beauty! :)

My 10 items today were:
1. Laundry lint (A rather painless disposal)
2. An old wedding invite lurking on the top of the fridge
3. A recently used Amazon gift card
4. Really old and cheap vanilla extract
5. Really old sheets of nori seaweed
6. A wrapper from some slivered almonds
7. A headband that I never wear
8. Lanolin from when Elaia was a newborn
9. About a dozen used matches from lighting our gas stove
10. An REI receipt

Sometimes it's the small stuff that gets ignored the longest and contributes the most to a cluttered home. Eventually I will run out of small things and be forced to make decisions about larger items (like that stamp collection in the closet...you think I'm kidding!). The game is over when everything in my home is either very useful or beautiful (and yes, sentimental items like old love letters from my hubby are extremely beautiful). I'm planning on winning this game and I'm off to a good start.

What are some ways you help keep clutter to a minimum in your home?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thank You for Coming! {Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap}

On Wednesday, December 1st, we hosted Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap. What a treat to see so many smiling faces and beautifully diverse, home made, hand crafted products.

Branch & Birdie's front room glowed with the buzzing energy of swappers and passers by eager to take a peek at the activity.

{A Peak at Swap Festivities}

Ted's favorite swap of the evening:
Our Oregon black cherry liqueur for Chris and Jenny's spicy pickles

{Our Swaps}

In Trade For:
Spiced Peaches
Honey sweetened cardamom apple/pear butter
Vanilla bean peach butter
Marionberry jam
Sweet pickle relish
Homemade ketchup
Hand toasted/blended curry powder
Hand blended green seafood rub
Red currant & lime lip balm
Cherry liqueur

We carried home:
Whole grain mustard
Dried hot peppers
Apple butter
Cardamom spiced pears
Buckwheat pear bread
Strawberry jam
Salves and lip balms
Cortido kraut
Raw honey
Cranberry pear chutney
Homemade granola
Blackberry cinnamon infused vinegar
Homemade soap

And then there were still the ones that got away!
Sour cherry liqueur
Canned wild elk
Canned tuna
Tomato jam
Plums in honey syrup
Grain free granola
Immunity boost tinctures
Hand blended herbal teas
...and much more!

Upper left: The scrumptious appetizer potluck complete with "lemony goodness that will change your life" ~ recipe shared at rosemarried.

Thanks to much positive feedback, we may indeed host another annual (or seasonal?) swap in the coming year. Please stay tuned, and if you're interest in being on the contact list for the next event, please send us a note.

To our new friends & neighbors ~ thank you for the opportunity to meet and exchange hand crafted goods and smiles. We enjoyed the celebration of artful homemaking, and we're eager to swap again!


Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap

Preview the mini-documentary at Cooking Up A Story

Want to receive updates on future swaps?
Like the PDX Swappers Facebook Page

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

December Hand Crafted Food Swap at Branch & Birdie!

We are so pleased to announce that we have confirmed a venue for our Special December Edition of Food Group! Our Portland Hand Crafted Food Swap will be hosted at the newest jewel among the Montavilla neighborhood shops in SE Portland, Branch & Birdie.

With warm hearts, we invite you to join us on the evening of Wednesday, December 1st! See below for more details:

After a full summer and autumn season of putting up, whipping up, drying, canning, soaking, mixing, stacking, sorting, and setting aside for winter, come celebrate by bringing your favorite creations to swap with fellow Portland foodies.

A Food Swap is part silent auction/part village marketplace/part fun-loving open house where your homemade creations (breads, preserves, special concoctions, canned goods, etc.) become your own personal currency for use in swapping with other participants. What better way to diversify your pantry and rub shoulders with friend and neighbors?

When: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 7pm

Where: Branch & Birdie, 8021 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR 97215

Bring an assortment of your homemade edibles and/or body care & household specialties to exchange for other handcrafted delights. Sustainable Food For Thought will provide swapping cards, name tags, and organization for the event. You will be given the opportunity to offer trades in a silent-auction type format, and you will be free to choose which trades to accept for your products. Bring as much or as little as you like; there are no caps or minimums.

Pacific Northwesterners {aka the Willamette Valley, the Portland Metro Area, and our Neighbors to the North}. Please, adults only as we are unable to provide childcare for this event.

The first 20 RSVPs will be given free entry. Additional swappers or those registering at the door may participate for a $5.00 donation.


a) RSVP to sustainablefoodforthought@gmail.com
Please provide your name, contact info, and potential items you plan to trade
*you’ll not be bound to your list, it simply helps in planning for table space - bring as many or as few items as you would like to swap...

b) On Wednesday the 1st, please bring your hand crafted goods + a contribution to the appetizer potluck

c) Simple as that! We’re so excited to meet one another and celebrate the bounty of the seasons and the fruits of our labor~

Invite Friends & Spread the Word: @pdxfoodswap | #pdxfoodswap

{A Very Kind Thank-You}
To the following inspirations and collaborators:

Anna Fickle and Andrea Roesel at Branch & Birdie
Branch & Birdie | @branchandbirdie | Facebook

Kate Payne at The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking

Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking | @hipgirls | Facebook
Be sure to check out photos from her fabulous #BKSwappers event in Brooklyn, NY!

Sarah Gilbert at Cafe Mama
Cafe Mama | @sarahgilbert

Chris Musser at Lost Arts Kitchen
Lost Arts Kitchen | @lostartskitchen | Facebook

{Looking Forward to Seeing You There!}
If you have additional questions, please be in touch with Emily or Bethany

{Printable Flyer}

--Post Event Update--

Mini PDX Food Swap Documentary }

Thanks for Coming! ~ Pictures and Descriptions from the Swap

Preview the mini-documentary at Cooking Up A Story

Want to receive updates on future swaps?
Like the PDX Swappers Facebook Page

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sustaining Snacks: Homemade Lara Bars

In desperate need of an alternative to the packaged cookies and crackers and mid-afternoon trappings of my office lunch room, I set out to recreate my favorite good-for-you-and-tasty-too snack using a few bulk ingredients and a happy food processor.

I love Lara Bars. I really do. Their ingredients lists are short and sweet: real foods, no preservatives, no GMOs, no crazy-hard-to-pronounce-fifteen-letter-words. But at upwards of $1.79/each (though I have scored a few times on the $1/ea sales), it's hard justifying more than a few stock-ups in fits and spurts, and even then, I end up going through them too quickly or playing the martyr and trying to make them last too long.

Additional note: While looking into the origins of the Lara Bar, I discovered that the company was sold in 2008 to....General Mills ("The World's Sixth-Largest Food Company" their website tagline proudly proclaims). Yet another reason to help willingly fracture and diversify the food chain. (A favorite podcast of mine, Deconstructing Dinner, has an eye opening series on packaged foods and the multinational corporations producing such products. If you're interested, I especially recommend the programs on Nestle and Kraft.)

I've found, if I make them myself, it's easy, entertaining (well, I'm easily entertained in the kitchen), and even just a tad bit mentally freeing. No sugar rush. No regrets. Just a healthy boost for a mid morning snack or an afternoon pick me up.

After Googling my way around the www looking for helpful homemade Lara Bar tips and pointers, I settled on this recipe from Enlightened Cooking as a starting point. Her recipe calls particularly for dried cherries, but I worked off her ratios and simply chose my own ingredients.

Bulk Medjool dates, raw almonds, and cashews from Azure Standard
Dried cranberries, apricots, ginger, and figs from Trader Joe's
Dagoba Xocolate drinking chocolate powder from Whole Foods
Dried coconut from the neighborhood store

Working quickly in one nighttime burst of energy, I made three batches (not stopping to clean the food processor in between...I prefer to think of cross contamination of ingredients to be akin to cross pollination of wildflowers).

The Basic Ratio:
one part dates + one part dried fruit + a little more than one part nuts + a smidgen of spice
(this can be adjusted ad infinitum - see my variations below and see the original recipe for additional ideas)

The Basic Gist:
Combine pitted dates in food processor with dried fruit, pulse to a thick paste
Remove and place in bowl
Combine nuts and spices/extras in food processor and pulse until chopped
Add nut mixture to bowl of dates/fruit and knead until well combined
Press out onto cookie sheets
Refrigerate until firm
Cut into bars
Store in airtight container

From upper left, clockwise: Xocolatl Fig, Apricot Almond, and Cranberry Ginger Coconut

{ Xocolatl Fig }
1 C. Pitted dates, chopped
1 C. Dried figs
3/4 C. Almonds (I used soaked and dried raw almonds)
1/2 C. Cashews (toasted briefly in the oven for extra flavor)
1 T. Dagoba Xocolatl powder (includes dark chocolate, chili, and cinnamon)
1/2 C. Sunspire 65% Cacao Organic Chocolate Chips

{ Apricot Almond }
1/2 C. Pitted dates, chopped
1-1/4 C. Dried apricots
1-1/3 C. Almonds
1/8 t. Cloves
1/8 t. Nutmeg
1/4 t. Cinnamon

{ Cranberry Ginger Coconut }
1 C. Pitted dates, chopped
3/4 C. Dried cranberries
1/4 C. Dried ginger, uncrystallized
1-1/3 C. Cashews (toasted briefly in the oven for extra flavor)
1/2 C. Coconut

The first time I made these, I followed a recommendation to mold them individually in muffin tins on top of squares of pre-cut saran wrap to make it easy to pop them out, seal them up, and take them on the go. It was a nice notion, but my personality screamed for tidy little bars instead of round wanna-be-cookies, and I gave in the second time. Besides, I didn't like trying to wrangle all those little squares of plastic into place.

Bars they are, and bars they will continue to be. They're living happily inside my fridge, and I just take them out one or two at a time and pack them with my food for the day.

~ The finished product: Approximately 40 bars ~
And since I like to do the math...that's 40 x $1.50 (being generous) = Comparable to $60.00 worth of Lara goodness.
And I still have 3/4 of my bulk box of dates left!

These are a life saver when my blood sugar plummets toward the end of the work day and better than a coupon when it comes to saving money by eating a little something before visiting the grocery store!

I'm eager to continue experimenting with flavor combinations...and glad for a wholesome treat in close reach during these busy days. Interested? Give that food processor a whirl and see what you come up with!


Food Group: Sustaining Snacks
The Real Lara Bar
Enlightened Kitchen's Lara Bar Recipe

Monday, November 8, 2010

Food Group: November Recap - Sustaining Snacks

Our November Meeting brought new friends and old alike together to discuss Sustaining Snacks, and the whys and hows of better eating throughout our days. For those who were unable to join us, the evening's outline is shared below.

Please, feel free to leave recipes or links in the comments section to share your personal favorites. The more inspirations, the better!

The Trouble: Poor snacking habits, midday hunger pangs, easy access junk food at work, expensive packaged foods, and the consequential loss of productivity and depleted energy at the end of the day (especially when it's time to cook dinner!).

The Encouragement: Think ahead, re-build habits, re-train taste buds, try new foods, follow through.

{ Discussion }

Why do we need new ideas and routines?
What types of frustrations do you have with your own midday food choices and options?
How do we get to the point of midday hunger? (Lack of breakfast, empty lunches, hard work?)
How does this affect life at home and work? (Low energy, low concentration, low productivity for accomplishing tasks and making meals.)

How can we think ahead? (Anticipate busy seasons; prepare snacks in advance)
How can we rebuild habits (Reach for water before a snack, delay first instinct to grab filler foods)
How can we re-train taste buds? (Pay attention to flavors/textures; appreciate nuance vs. sugar/salt)
How can we try new foods? (From ideas shared tonight, think about trying something unfamiliar)
How can we follow through? (Build new habits slowly; pick one or two small changes to make well)

What Stops Us From Making Changes & Eating More Nourishing Foods?
Habits. East. Time. Money. (Money is at times a valid strike against nourishing foods, but expenses can often be mitigated by an investment of time: a vicious cycle.) Many of these ideas are not rocket science, but they require forethought - one of the biggest personal challenges.

{ Ideas }

What snacks and make-ahead foods have worked well for you in the past? Favorite recipes, stories?
For those with children, what kinds of kid-friendly snacks do you recommend?

Food Combinations
Fruit & Nuts: Apples & Almonds...Pears & Walnuts...Cherries & Cashews
Soaked Nuts: Soaked and dehydrated to unlock nutrients
Plain yogurt with dried fruit/nuts
Sliced fruit dipped in nigh quality nut butters or honey
Chopped veggies and hummus
Whole grain tortilla with nut butter and fruit slices
Homemade Lara Bars
Dehydrated fruits
Muffins with high quality butter
Cheese & fruit slices or homemade jam/preserves on nutritious bread or crackers

How Can We Save Time?
Boil a handfull of eggs at the beginning of the week
Make Lara Bars in a large batch and freeze/refrigerate
Bake muffins ahead of time and freeze/thaw as needed
Make bulk snacks at the beginning of the month and host a snack swap to trade with others

{ A Few Random Recipes }

From The Nourishing Cook:
Nut recipes

Whole Grain Crackers
Lemon Muffins

From Kimi at the Nourishing Gourmet:
Directions for soaking nuts

From Googling Around A Bit:
Energy balls
Carrot zucchini squares

And...just because we're fun like that -
Homemade Poptarts

Homemade Lara Bars
Hazelnut & almond crackers

{ Ideas }
Add below!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ode to the Kitchen Table

We just found a table that fits in our small place...

We didn't know what we were missing...

Dinners will never be the same...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food Group: October Recap ~ Tips for Choosing a Raw Milk Source

Thank you to Charlotte Smith of Champoeg Creamery for being our wonderful guest at the October Food Group! In addition to sampling pure, delicious, raw cow's milk and farm fresh feta cheese, we spent the evening learning from Charlotte about the importance of sourcing high quality, nourishing foods from farmers who follow high standards of farming practices and offer transparent relationships with their customers.

In summary of the evening's conversation, all raw milk is not created equal. Charlotte shared helpful criteria for choosing a local raw milk source, and the following types of questions and considerations will help families make the most nutritious choices when deciding on a farm to support:

Sanitation Practices
Milking can be a messy chore! Check out the anatomy of a cow and see for yourself the proximity between the udder and other critical-bodily-function-performing-bits-of-anatomy.

Does the farmer use a milking machine? Is it cleaned regularly with a bleach and vinegar solution? Are milk jars properly sanitized? Is milk chilled immediately to the 40° Fahrenheit minimum? How? Ice-water? Stainless steel chiller?

The Health of the Cow
A cow's health and the health of its pasture are interrelated (think about the way that human health and the human diet are interrelated)...

Does the cow look healthy? Does she have vibrant, curious eyes? What breed is she? Older rather than newer breeds (Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn vs. Holstein, etc.) will produce milk with the A2 beta casein protein, whereas newer, over-bred cows are producing mutant A1 beta casein which has been linked to increased risk of childhood diabetes, heart disease, and negative affects related to schizophrenia and autism. (I encourage you to begin your own research if this interests you; see www.betacasein.org and also the interesting Lay Summary of Beta Casein A1 and A2 in Milk and Human Health by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.)

The Health of the Pasture/Soil/Feed
Semantics, semantics. Marketing buzzwords in combination with eager, under-informed consumers could spell potential disaster. Grass fed does not equal lawn-clipping appetizers served before a large meal of corn and soy.

Are the cows on pasture? Healthy cows in Oregon should be on rotated pasture for 7-9 months out of the year on grass that stands 4-7" tall. Are the cows given minerals and good quality alfalfa hay? If they are fed supplemental grain, it should be void of corn and soy (which upset the bacterial ecology of the cow's rumen and makes them susceptible to carrying food borne illness bacteria - see why real cows eat grass), and it should not exceed 1% of the animal's body weight (8-10lbs.).

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it's easy to understand why high quality raw milk farmers are so passionate and invested in the health of their animals, pasture, and the quality of the milk they provide their customers. So much effort and work is involved; if you're in search of a source and you find suspiciously cheap milk, beware the possible cut corners in any of these areas that may compromise the quality of the milk and invite possible health problems.
This past year, a group of us took the opportunity to visit Charlotte on her farm in St. Paul, Oregon, and to see first hand her milking parlor setup, her beautiful cows, and her rotational grazing practices.

See Resources Below for Heather's Gorgeous photos of the day...

Lastly, it wouldn't be a fair recap of Food Group without revealing the truth about ulterior motives for getting together once a month. Yes, we learn, and yes, we share resources...but we also indulge in a Potluck of Delightful Edibles!

October's menu included Yogurt & Honey Brownies, Groundcherry Tarts, Homemade Artisan Bread & Dipping Oil, Apples, and Fresh Feta Cheese...

Fresh, raw milk at home in my fridge...complete with beautiful cream lines...

We've been so grateful for the opportunity to bring home wholesome, delicious milk ready for making ice cream, sour cream, cheese, yogurt...or simply pouring a tall glass that rivals any of Portland's best lattes!

If you've not had an opportunity to have your first taste of raw milk, please, invite yourself over to my place for a drink, and then give Charlotte a jingle and arrange to head out to the farm and meet the cows yourself!

Note: I'm a believer in raw milk; I love the difference in taste, the versatility of use, the natural shelf life, and the reasonable arguments in favor of its superior health benefits. As Charlotte shared, it is critical to identify a high quality source; modern dairy practices on large scale farm necessitate pasteurization and other conventional milk handling methods, and raw milk from an unsanitary operation would certainly be a health risk.

I encourage you to spend time looking into the options for you and your own family. In the process, I hope you meet your very own Charlotte ~ I believe the world is full of wonderful family farmers like her who are passionately dedicated to offering themselves, their knowledge, and their amazingly hard work to care for the land and animals, and to nourish us, the members of their communities.


~ Heather Espana's charming photos from our farm day
~ Eating Stumptown's visit to Champoeg Creamery
~ Weston A. Price Foundation - National & Portland Chapter
~ Real Milk dot com
~ The Oregon Alliance for Raw Milk (OR-ARM)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

{Weekend Breakfast} Autumn Waffles with Kale and Egg Cups

Few mornings prove more fulfilling than ones spent with friends over fine food. New day. Time enjoyed at a pace of luxury. And appetites easily enchanted; fine food for breakfast is quite another thing altogether than fine food for dinner. {And may I say, much less intimidating and time consuming!}

Case in point: Kale & Egg Cups
I try to keep myself honest in the kitchen and, as often as possible, whip things up from what I already have on hand instead of taking another opportunity to buy more at the store. We had friends coming for breakfast, so I first took stock and then headed for the keyboard.

~ I had eggs galore thanks to Full of Life Farm. (Conveniently, their pastured eggs are available for purchase when I pick up milk at Champoeg Creamery)

~ I had milk and cream. (Conveniently also located at Champoeg Creamery. Of course.) And I had plenty of the basics. I'd already settled on waffles (see below), and we had all the toppings we could need (and then some!).

~ I had veggies coming out my ears...kale, leeks, onions, potatoes, celery...plenty to assure me at minimum a semi-impressive culinary amalgamation.

Roll on, Google search. Recipes. Blogs. Sucker me in with a few glamorous photos. I'm sold.

The inspiration for this dish came from Scarpetta Dolcetto's take on a Julia Child recipe. (Oh, it's a long, dark tunnel full of twists and turns whenever you follow my cooking notions back to their respective points of origin.)

I seem to have kale almost literally coming out my ears this year, so that dutifully stood in for the spinach, and it was easy enough to substitute a tad less onion in place of the 1/4 cup of shallots.

She mentioned in the recipe setting the ramekins in a cake pan or baking sheet. What she didn't mention, and I suspect, is that I should've filled the pan with water to help keep moisture in the oven while they were cooking. Oh well. Next time.A final tidbit ~ I proudly served these with a side of homemade ketchup. And they turned out splendid.

A Smattering of Notes about our Autumn Waffles:

A) The recipe I followed said "Serves 4 to 6" ~ I was cooking for four, but I might as well have doubled the amounts because as soon as I started spooning batter onto the hot waffle maker, I realized I'd soon come up short.

B) Coming up short sent me into a tizzy, and to recover from the tailspin of hostess panic, I quickly reached into the pantry to pull out my as-yet-unopened Organic Buckwheat Pancake mix that I'd ordered this fall from Azure. Two things:
B.1) Maybe if I'd been more ready for a new experience, I'd think differently, but I was sad to eventually take a bite of said buckwheat waffle and have the sensation of eating a cracker.
B.2) As it turned out, with the diverse toppings to accompany the four regular waffles, we didn't truly need the extra Buckwheat-to-the-rescue backups after all.

Okay three things:
B.3) Despite the cracker episode, I'm glad to have ventured again into new cooking territory, and I'll experiment again...sans guests. (Or maybe not. So watch out if you're the next ones invited for a meal!)

C) Returning to the original waffles ~ the recipe came from the lovely Deb at Smitten Kitchen: Rich Buttermilk Waffles. I had extra cultured buttermilk (quote unquote?) from my recent sour cream making foray (perhaps a post will surface about that adventure in upcoming weeks), and this recipe was perfect. My friend, Sara, made similar waffles for me at a recent breakfast {+ tea & company}, and I'm now fully won over by the beating of the egg whites.

D) Usually, I'm crazily snapping pictures of food in my kitchen, and my sweet husband puts up with it quite well. I thought I would draw the line, however, at bringing my camera to the breakfast table when we had company...and so, I have no photos to show of the waffle feast. I'll attempt a verbal substitute, and you'll simply need to fill in beautiful images from your imagination:

Autumn Waffles
(recipe above + toppings of choice)
~ Sliced pears (thank you, Amber, who gifted us with fall bounty from Mountain View Orchards in Hood River, OR)
~ Sliced bananas (nothing special, but since I don't buy them very often, a treat)
~ Honey (thanks to Andrea's lovely source for raw gold)
~ Lacto fermented Marionberry syrup (Berries thanks to Gardenripe CSA; Recipe page 111, Nourishing Traditions)
~ Maple Syrup
~ Cardamom apple butter
~ Fresh apples, simmered with cinnamon (thank you, Ted!)
De. li. cious.

Our friends brought Sterling Coffee (Ted was in heaven). Orange leaves glowed outside the window. Oregon rain fell. The warm candle burned through breakfast, and we ate our fill. And then...we attempted learning Pinochle. (I have mad bidding skills when it comes to eBay. Not so much card games, apparently. But I digress...)

The gist?
Hearty breakfasts ~ happy hearts.
And if I do say so, the whole thing gave any Portland $16 breakfast plate a fare and square run for the money...


Monday, October 18, 2010

Craigslist Apples and Cardamom Apple Butter

Applesauce. Apple Butter. Better yet, Cardamom Apple Butter*
The last few must-dos on my preservation list...

Thanks to craigslist, I found a quirky local couple in Vancouver selling their you-pick, no-spray apples for $.40/lb. I drove up Saturday morning with my friend, Miranda, and came back with a brimming laundry basket of fruit in exchange for a handful of dollars.

Plucking Gorgeous Pinks and Reds and Greens
Blue Sky Blazing (In October!? In the Pacific Northwest?)

Gravensteins + Unmarked Varieties...

He was a crotchety old man with stories galore, and she was a helpful, no-nonsense woman who had already put up 70 quarts of her own apple-pear and applesauce. In addition to raising one daughter and five sons.
The Farm Geese. Too funny.

My husband, Ted, stepped in as master chopper and chef, wielding his knife and stirring his spoon through several batches of applesauce... Relegated to Sous-Chef de Cuisine, I was glad to take over at the tail end, confiscating the last bit of sauce for my own batch of apple butter.

Several Cups of Chopped Apples
Enough Water (or better yet, apple cider!) to Cook Apples Until Soft
Sweetener to Taste (honey and cinnamon for us)
~Cook apples until soft, Run through the food mill, Sweeten to taste, Pack into sterilized jars, Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath canner.

Cardamom Apple Butter*
Milled Apple Mash (stolen from applesauce above)
Seeds of Four Cardamom Pods, Ground
Sweetener to taste
~Combine apple mash, cardamom, sweetener; Simmer until thick, stirring as necessary; Pack into sterilized jars, Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner.
*See The Real Recipe in
Canning and Preserving by Ashley English

You never know what you might discover when you respond to those promising craigslist ads... You may just meet a quirky farmer with delicious produce.

Be inspired. Go forth and find delicious food!
After a while, come on over for tea & biscuits & a sweet spread of apple-y goodness...



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