Organics continued

I felt as if I short shifted organics a bit yesterday and was writing a reply to one of my comments so long, that I figured I should add it to the blog instead.

In Michigan our seasons are shorter, so I of course have to rely on non local groceries, but I do make an effort to can, dry (although I have learned that drying zucchini is not worth it) and freeze veggies from the garden to last me throughout the year. I did pretty well with tomatoes, green beans, broc and green chiles and froze more swiss chard and collard greens than I will ever use. I have learned that there are some things I won’t eat except when they are in season, like squash. Most people love squash, not me, but I grew a bunch and then saved them all winter for some big unknown squash event (I am a hoarder, I think I have a gene from someone who lived through the depression) and eventually, they were inedible.

I love CSA’s and farmer’s markets as you know who produced your food. I wish we could all buy from them year round. I have a guilty pleasure of buying cheeses from Europe and that is certainly not environmentally friendly. If I could find local cheeses I would buy those. There are a few around here. I certainly don’t mean to poo poo organic foods (and I buy plenty of them, I just don’t single them out) as it is more natural and less invasive. I was just surprised that so many of our products are owned by multinational corporations. I just don’t think of organic production that way. I always wonder how there can be fields and fields of organic lettuces growing with out losing a crop to some pest. Maybe the large organic farms rotate their crops enough that the bugs can’t find the veggies as easily. I need to tour a large organic farm next time I am in California.

I am actually going on a farm market tour tomorrow that our local extension is putting on. I think the intention is to get more markets (and agri tourism) going and show people that there is a need and that there are many things not at the markets that could be. I am will be sure to blog about it. Eventually my goal is to have spun wool (will need some sheep for this part), goat and cow cheese (I recently had a goat milk brie from Trader Joe’s – crazy good!), shitake and oyster mushrooms and whatever else I can grow in a hoop house for sale at local markets. Some day I will get there. Oh and a hard cidery – like a brewery, but with cider. It’s good to have goals.

I will post some new pics of our pig Pancetta soon. Wow, has she gotten big. Bacon on the way baby!

On a totally different note, I got up at 6:30 am to see the lunar eclipse (it was supposed to be mid eclipse at that time) and couldn’t even find our moon in the sky. I guess I should have thought about being at the end of the Eastern Standard Time zone and gotten up earlier. Did anyone see it? How spectacular was it?

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Organic ramblings

Organic food is a really interesting topic. Let me say right now that I don’t seek out organic produce. Especially when the organic produce comes from California and I live in Michigan and I can buy locally produced goods or veggies. I seek out sustainably grown and raised food as much as possible and as much as the checking account allows. I am all for using less pesticides and taking less trips across the farm field (less fuel), but I work with agriculture daily and understand the reality of feeding the masses too. For that, I support IPM, integrated pest managment. This means that you would only use pesticides if a certain pest reaches a known threshold and over that threshold crop damage will be done. Then you spray. Our society as a whole demands perfect looking food.

For example, in the cherry industry, there is a zero tolerance for a pest called the cherry fruit fly. Zero means zero. You can take a semi load of cherries in (and yes, that is a lot of cherries, about one long afternoon’s harvest) and they test every load before processing them into cherry pie filling. If there is one, yes one, cherry fruit fly larvae in the load, the load is rejected. How is that for an incentive to use more pesticides? You lose a crop because no one wants to bite into a cherry and have a worm in there. I say, eat the cherries whole and you will never know – just kidding.

Every state has what is called a “spray calendar” printed by their cooperative extension office (from where ever your state agricultural university is, ours is Michigan State University). This is a calendar of when to spray what pest. Typically it is known that during the first week of say June, in certain areas of the state “pressure” builds up of a certain kind of pest, meaning it reaches that spraying threshold. This could be a bacteria or a bug, and it is typically weather driven, a certain amount of warm days, a certain amount of damp, or rainy days. So this calendar tells people when to spray. If you use this calendar, you would be spraying by the book so to speak and spraying regardless of knowing whether the problem is really out there, it might be a preventative spray, or it could be unnecessary. Pesticides are not cheap. An 80 acre fruit farm will spend probably $20,000 over a summer in pesticides. So, if you don’t need to spray, most farmers do not want to spray. Add to that, that it must be pretty still out so nothing drifts off site and guess when it is really still out in summer? At night, in the middle of the night. Whenever I am at the farm up North on a summer night, you can always hear the hum of a sprayer in the distance all night long. I actually like the sound as it is the sound of food in the making, of a tractor and of a lively hood.

I am perfectly happy eating a slightly damaged apple or a scarred cucumber, but lots of folks aren’t. I don’t think they understand what this means in the end, that more pesticides will be used to give them pest free veggies. It will take a lot of education to get there nationwide. Yes, those of you reading this blog are mostly foodies and understand these things already. Most of you already shop at farmer’s markets or grow things in your garden, but you know you are not the norm.

What started this discussion today? This org chart. I like the idea of organic food, but did you know that most every organic item you find in the store is now owned by big nationalized corporations? To me, shipping deletes any positive effects of less pesticides. It all affects the environment in one way or another. Organic production can still uses some types of pesticides, but they are not the same ones as typically used for mainsteam production, they use natural ones.

So what am I trying to say? Know where your food comes from if you can and support local and sustainable agriculture if you can. My garden is organic and I try to buy products that I know are produced in Michigan whenever possible. I am certainly not an extremist of any sort, but just like to help with awareness. Consider supporting farms that use IPM, especially local ones, just as you would organic ones. All farmers have it in their own interest to treat the land they use wisely, because if they don’t, the land won’t be there for them.

one more reason to love home

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Overwhelmed and in disbelief, but very happy!

I can eat spelt. I held on to my disbelief until a few moments ago. Actually I am still there. I don’t know what to think. When one door closes (gluten) and another one opens (gluten free and feeling healthy again) and then opens further (spelt) is it a bit flabbergasting. I had my biopsy on Monday and at that time they took a tissue transglutaminase blood sample and said those results would be back in 3 days. At the time of the scope ( and this time was not nearly as fun as last time – the drugs put me in a fog for hours) he said “looks good” and he saw no damage.

The blood test is back and for this tissue transglutaminase test normal is 0-3. I was a two. At the end of June I had one and normal was below 20 and I was 9.4 (different labs, different reporting).

This has been a rollercoaster week between spelt testing and all the emotions that come with that and house selling and all the fun stuff that goes with showing your house on a moments notice. I must keep my eye on the prize – a 7 acre farmstead with three outbuildings (perfect for some sheep for wool and some chickens) and a hundred year old farmhouse. For that, I go through the humiliation of letting complete strangers come into my house and criticize it.

So…wow…now I need to take it all in. Spelt is gluten free for me.

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Today’s the day. I am getting another endoscope and biopsy to see what, if anything, spelt consumption has done to my body. Nervous? No, not until I got up this morning. Up until I had been looking forward to it. Now the truth is coming. Last year I already knew what the results were going to say about Celiac, the scope was just solid confirmation. This time, I do not know and am scared to be too hopeful. Wouldn’t you be hopeful to at some chance of normalcy in baking? Ease in your friends cooking ingredients ( I will buy them all small bags of spelt to use for cooking dishes that I might be eating too)? Going out to eat will always be the same on the GF diet. But my inner kingdom, my kitchen could be very different. Of course this means whenever I want a bagel, a loaf of bread, pita bread or muffin, I will bake it myself. I already do, except bagels. It means no conversion to GF ingredients and bread that will rise and bake with ease.

I actually went online to look for a recipe to cook for this eve since I took a sick day and have some time to waste between now and 3 pm. However it was making me too hungry and since I can’t eat or drink anything until after the procedure, I decided to blog instead.

I realized when I put myself on the Spelt Challenge, that I really have taken most breads out of my diet over the last year and knew that for anything to show up that I had to bump up the carb consumption. So I have been making no knead sourdough bread, kneaded sourdough bread (as it is just as easy), muffins, cookies (dried cherry chocolate chip with oatmeal), pancakes, and finally yesterday, noodles – ok, my brother was in town and he made those for some pheasant soup. I haven’t blogged about most of the spelt baked goods I have made, since this is a gluten free blog, but I have been baking. Even though it has been in the 90’s here with high humidity.

I have realized that the convenience of simple to put together bread eases up on the busyness of life. It is sometimes hard to do it all with grace. Cook all the time, work all the time, travel often, clean the house, entertain friends, bake whatever baked good I want (store bought ones just taste like cardboard to me – except those frozen waffles), garden in the evenings and weekends. Sometimes you want a break. Spelt has been a bit of one for me. Today I will know. I am not looking for sympathy, I am looking for a light. Apparently some celiacs can eat spelt and others can’t. I have to admit, I hope that I am one of the ones who can eat it.

If I can’t, well, I can’t and I will go back to my GF cookbooks and keep doing it all as I was doing it before. If I can, well, I might encourage you to try it too. Take the plunge, take a risk and we might all be pleasantly surprised. Everything about spelt says “shouldn’t” or that it might be bad for Celiacs or that it is like a sister to wheat and that they are very similar, yet, they are very different and no one has said shall not. I haven’t had a reaction yet. When I get some cross contamination from wheat, it is within an hour that I know about it.

Threw the window I go. In 3 hours I will know. I imagine I will be too drugged up to blog about it. Drugged up blogging could be a bad idea.

Wish me luck, don’t be jealous, just be happy for me if it works out. I would be happy for you. See you on the other side of the window.

UpNorth 013

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Allium Frenchy soup or French onion soup aka 5 onion soup

Wild ramps (leeks to me), garden garlic (not my garden, but a friend’s), garlic chives, chives, and onions. That is what I used for my onion family soup – all in the allium family.

french onion soup

I learned to make the basis of this soup 10 years ago when I worked at McMenamins Brewery in Hilsboro Oregon. Then I moved back and worked at the Bluebird again and the chef made 5 onion french onion soup one day for the soup of the day. Now I combine the two experiences into one. Lucky you, I am about to give you my recipe. This one is for beef broth consumers, but of course you could vegetarianize it by using veggie broth instead.

I go through enough broth of all sorts that I buy it in large quantities at Trader Joe’s or buy quality concentrated GF soup base and since I can’t find a beef broth base without wheat, I bought the au jus (sshh, i got this one at Gordon Food Service – it was cheaper and I had to go get paprika in a large amount – several cups of it to make my blackening seasoning). It has such rich beef flavor, however it can get too salty quick, so watch out.

On that note, why oh why is there no such thing as pork broth? That stuff is elixir! Who the heck uses ham broth and why do they sell that? Pork – that is what I want, pork water, aqua de puerco, pork juice, yummy pork broth.

Ok, back to the recipe. I know you are waiting patiently.

Sautee a heckovalot (ok, at least 2 if this for 2 servings) of thinly sliced (sliced so that they are still round) onions and leeks in a deep pot with plenty of oil of your choice. I use olive oil. Once they start to get brown and caramelize, add your garlic and chives. Then toss in some white wine, a dash of worcestershire sauce, several cups of beef broth and lots of fresh thyme and marjoram. Of course lots of pepper too and some salt if the broth wasn’t salty enough. Now for the really yummy part. Take some bread, whatever you have, toast it and top it off with swiss cheese and a bit of parmesan and melt it under the broiler. Fill a bowl of soup up with oniony goodness and place as many toast points on top of your soup as you can handle with out overflowing the bowl. Wait 30 seconds for the bread to start to adsorb the broth and dig in. So rich, so good, so salty, so oniony and so cheesy. It is one of the ultimate soups. I can never order it when dining out because of wheaty flavored broths and normal bread. It is so easy to make at home, thank goodness.

It’s a treat. If you need more specific directions, email me and I will make some up.

french onion soup

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