Recipe Book: Bread Bowls and Root Veggie Soup

Winter means two things for me: good food and presents!  Since it’s the slow season at the farm, I have plenty of free time to cook delicious delectables, and Christmas presents like BREAD MACHINES make it even more fun!

CIMG2851For my first experiment with my new bread machine, I decided to make bread bowls to go with the wintery root veggie soup I’d been craving.  With many of my favorite vegetables going out of season soon, I had to take advantage of them one last time.  There is no set recipe for soup, as it’s really just a creation of your cravings.  For this soup I used carrots, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi bulbs & leaves, spinach, pinto beans, lentils, scallions, garlic, and a yummy blend of sea salt and spices.  Cook the veggies and beans until they’re just shy of being done, then throw them in the crock pot to simmer for a few hours with the herbs.  Yum!

The bread bowls were even easier.  My future mother-in-law copied the recipe for me out of her bread machine recipe book (later she decided that I simply had to have that book, which she proceeded to order for me – as if the bread machine wasn’t enough!) and really all you have to do is put the ingredients in the pan, sit back, and enjoy the smells!

CIMG2853Bread BowlsIngredients:
-1 cup water
-2 3/4 cups bread flour
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-1 egg yolk
-1 tablespoon water

-Place all ingredients except egg yolk and 1 tbsp water in bread machine pan in the order they’re listed (wet ingredients always go first, then dry, yeast last).  Select the Dough/Manual cycle.
-Remove dough from pan using lightly floured hands.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
-Grease the outside of 6 10-oz custard cups (I used 3 mini bread pans, which are about the size of a large muffin.  They were the perfect size & thickness, I don’t see how you could stretch that amount of dough to make 6 bowls).  Place cups upside down on ungreased cookie sheet.  Divide dough into 6 equal pieces.  Roll or pat each piece into 7 inch circles on a lightly floured surface.  Shape the circle over outside of cups.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly puffy.
-Heat over to 375 degrees.  Mix the egg yolk and water and brush over bread bowls.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
-Fill with your favorite soup and enjoy!


Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate Leads to Suffering

Two things have become quite obvious to me in the past few weeks: 1) There is a lot of fear in the air and 2) America’s VIPs have never seen Star Wars.

No one who has heard Yoda’s words of wisdom concerning the dark side could ever view fear the same.  Yet Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and Bayer are all behaving like tyrants who fear the coming loss of power.  The amount of conflict these companies and their supporters have caused lately is astounding – and really aggravating for those who believe in the wholesome, healing power of organic foods.

It started with the advertising for Prop 37 on the November California ballot and the millions of dollars Big Ag raised in its fight against it.  Then in September, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a review claiming that organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional, a common sense claim made to cover up the fact that conventional foods are often loaded with toxic pesticide residue or genetically modified.  Shortly after the review came out, the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal published the most extensive study done on GMOs, which is shocking enough considering GMOs have been in our food supply for several years now – with FDA approval.  Even more shocking were the results of the study, which showed hideous tumors, infertility, and death in rodents fed Monsanto’s new GM sweet corn.  Big Ag responded by defeating Prop 37 in November, though some contend that their victory was the result of deception and ballot fraud.  As if to rub their victory in the face of the organic industry, Big Ag hired popular health guru Dr. Oz to denounce organic and fresh foods as “elitist” and “non-democratic” while promoting canned, frozen, and conventional foods.

At the time Dr. Oz’ article was being published in TIME, conveniently distracting the holistic health community with his blatant insults, the FDA secretly increased the amount of radiation allowed in meat processing, raising the levels by as much as 50% in some cases (you can read the new rules here).  Instead of addressing the horrid, unsanitary conditions of CAFOs, which is the actual cause of meat contamination, Big Ag’s lobbyists convinced the FDA to allow more radiation in the processing, despite numerous warnings of the dangers of radiated foods by the Center for Food Safety and other groups. The FDA has also (and also secretly) approved the production of GM salmon, without any health or environmental testing.  These frankenfish could become the first GM animal product approved for human consumption, and with Big Ag’s chummy relationship with the US government, it’s all too likely.  Scary, eh?  Not as scary as when government officials openly support Monsanto’s toxic GMO seeds.  Two significant bills under consideration in Congress have very dangerous amendments attached, “riders” that could spell disaster for both small organic farmers and the unsuspecting public.  The 2013 Agricultural Appropriations Bill has a rider named the “Farmers Assurance Provision” (more aptly nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act”) which would give Monsanto and other Big Ag companies a shocking level of immunity against federal law.  If it passes, the MPA would allow biotech companies to continue planting GM seeds by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to approve GM crops even when a federal court has ordered a production halt until safety testing is complete.  The 2012 Farm Bill has several riders attached that would basically destroy the regulation process for GMO crops, speeding up the review process and giving the USDA the option to bypass the review completely.  Between these two bills, Big Ag has the potential to deliver a serious blow to the organic food industry, and to the public’s health.  (The Organic Consumers Association has an option to email your congressmen and ask them to oppose these riders, so act now!)

Immoral as this seems, it should not be surprising, considering the government also promotes infant vaccines and annual flu shots, despite numerous studies linking vaccines to autism, heavy metal-related illnesses, and death.  A new study published in the journal of Human and Experimental Toxicology found correlations between the number of vaccines an infant receives and its chance at being hospitalized because of the vaccines.  Yet any parent (or pet owner) knows how relentless doctors are in pushing vaccines.

Despite such horrendous and dangerous policies, the American public continues to live quietly and contentedly, allowing the government to control every part of their lives because they’ve been told that protesting is “unpatriotic.”  I witness this blind obedience every time I visit my parents, who refuse to support their only daughter by reading my work because my ideas are too “ridiculous.”  Even when dozens of other countries are banning or have banned GMOs, the majority of the population continues to trust in the government, and the government takes full advantage of that trust to further its own agenda – and those of the companies who financially support it.

While I had hoped to this post on a good note, citing the growing number of websites and organizations fighting to protect the holistic lifestyle, the recent shooting in Connecticut makes that impossible.  While it was indeed a horrible, tragic event, I fear that all that’s going to come of it is the loss of more American rights.  Obama is already working to take away our rights to holistic healthcare by forcing us to join the corrupt healthcare system, Big Ag is fighting to control our food supply, and now the government is going to use the heartbreak causes by children’s deaths to take away our right to defend ourselves.  Like the FDA’s choice to raise radiation levels in meat processing, passing stricter gun control laws will only bypass the true source of the problem.  Rather than reducing freedom for all citizens, limitations should be put on who can purchase a gun, perhaps through psychological evaluations, background checks, etc.  Instead, Big Brother will snatch up this chance to tighten the reigns of power.  Because, in the end, anyone with power is always afraid to lose it.  And we all know where fear leads us.


O Christmas Tree, How Quickly Will You Perish

Nothing upsets me more about the Christmas season than taking a New Years walk along streets lined with Christmas trash.  America has become the Single Serving nation, even down to the living things we bring into our lives.  Every year thousands of people cut down living, breathing trees that have grown through the years just the same as they have simply to truss them up with lights and watch them die.  Though this is the season to celebrate family and new life, hardly any thought is given to the lives taken in the name of simple decoration.  What began as a celebration of hope in the darkness of winter has turned into the largest consume-and-cast-out day of the year.  Merry Single Serving Christmas, Mother Earth.

This year, why not buy a living tree instead of cutting down a life that took years to grow?  Many tree farms offer the option to buy a tree with its roots still attached and wrapped in burlap, giving you the option to replant it after the holiday season.  There is more work involved in maintaining a living tree, but Mother Earth News has a great article on how to care for and replant your living tree.  It’s definitely worth it – and you won’t have the mess of needles falling to the floor as your tree slowly dies.  So celebrate the Christmas season the way it was meant to be: with greenery, life, and love.

PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org has listings of Christmas tree farms for all states, including ones that sell living trees.  Check it out!


Recipe Book: CHEESE!!

My household works very hard to support local dairy farms.  Between me, my fiance, and the puppy, we go through several gallons of milk, about 2 quarts of yogurt, and several blocks of cheese a week.  We get our milk from Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg, MD, and let me tell you, it’s pretty fabulous.  I’ve already told you about the benefits of milk from pastured cows (see my post on pasture-raised animal products), and NFC milk not only comes from grass-fed cows, but it’s the highest quality whole milk I’ve found on the Delmarva peninsula.  Though raw milk is stupidly illegal in Maryland, NFC’s milk is the closest you can get to it; it’s low-temperature pasteurized and not homogenized, which ensures that all of the good fats, proteins, and nutrients are still intact.  The yogurt is simply fabulous, and, much to every local foodie and holistic health enthusiast’s delight, NFC has started making butter!  Chesapeake Bay Farms in Worcester Co., MD also makes butter, though I must admit that nothing can compare to NFC butter.  CBF also makes some pretty delightful cheeses and ice creams, both of which do not last long in my house.

Which brings me to the point of this post… CHEESE!!  Since we love cheese so much around here, and since NFC’s milk is the best around, I decided to have a go at making some simple Paneer cheese with it.  Turns out, it’s super easy!

-half a gallon of milk (whole milk works best – it’s richer in taste and nutrients)
-3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar and it gave the cheese a wonderful sweet, sharp flavor)
-cheesecloth, large pot, stirring spoon, colander

-To prep, line a colander with cheesecloth.  You may need 2 pieces to make sure the entire surface is covered.  If you plan to preserve your whey (which you should, and I’ll tell you why later), place the colander in a dish deep enough to hold about 1/4 a gallon of milk.
-In a large pot, preferably a heavy-bottomed pot like a stock pot to ensure even heat distribution, bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning at the bottom and to reduce foam on top.CIMG2791
-Once the milk is boiling, turn off heat.  Add the lemon juice or vinegar in one tablespoon at a time and stir in well.  (I only used 3 tablespoons, but depending on the acidity of your product choice, you may need more.)  After about a minute of stirring, the milk should begin to separate into whey, a yellowish cloudy liquid, and milk curds.  Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until milk is totally separated.
-Pour the contents of the pot into the colander.  The curds will remain in the cheesecloth while the whey will strain through into the dish.  Set the whey aside to cool.  Rinse the curds with cold water for about a minute to make sure all whey has been rinsed off.  Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a ball, tie it off, and place it back in the cCIMG2796olander.  Place a flat surface such as a plate or flat-bottomed bowl on top of it and place weights on top of it to press out all the moisture.  Leave the cheese like this for about an hour.  When you unwrap it, you can shape it into whatever shape you like using a small container.  Refrigerate, and enjoy!

Now, about that whey…  Little Miss Muffet enjoyed it, so why shouldn’t you?  It’s full of proteins, nutrients, and raw enzymes, so don’t waste it!  You can save it to use in place of vinegar in your next batch of cheese, add it to protein shakes, cook with it, or give it to your animals for a healthy snack.  Check out Prairie Homestead’s 16 Ways to Use Your Whey for more ideas.


All You Need Is Love, Not Heartworms (Or Heartworm Meds)

Heartworms are some pretty nasty parasites, straight out of creepy crawly nightmares and mosquito-borne terrors.  Any pet owner has probably been schooled many times in the dangers of heartworms and been scared shitless of them by their vets – and been made to feel guilty if you’ve opted to skip the preventative treatment.  Which is, of course, ridiculous.  My biggest pet peeve when it comes to pet parentship is being made to feel guilty about my petcare choices, and our vet is the conductor of the heartworm guilt trip.

Banner is my first dog, and so I really knew nothing about dog ownership until my fiance called me at work one day and said he’d be picking up a puppy the next day.  I’ve therefore done a lot of research in the 8 months we’ve had him in preparation for my endless war with the vet over his healthcare.  After a while, however, I got smug in my holistic petcare knowledge and slacked off on my research, and when we brought him in yesterday for his last puppy shot, I had few facts in imagesmy arsenal for the Great Heartworm War.  I will admit that nothing has scared me quite as badly as her heartworm talk, and the ASPCA website only worsened my fear.  Larvae carried and deposited in my dog’s bloodstream by mosquitoes?  Foot-long worms crowding his heart and lungs?  Labored breathing, blood obstructions, death?  These things mean business.

Luckily, there are a lot of great resources out there that helped allay my fears.  Dr. Becker, who partners with Dr. Mercola on his website, is my go-to source for holistic petcare wisdom.  She begins her article on heartworm prevention by reassuring her readers that instances of heartworm are definitely not as common as your vet makes them out to be: The American Heartworm Society has an incidence map which depicts the frequency of heartworm infections.  Your dog really isn’t at high risk unless you live in southern Texas, Florida, or some areas near the Gulf.  There are pretty specific environmental conditions that have to be met for heartworms to breed (the temperature cannot drop below around 57 degrees F) and your dog has to be bitten by a specific type of mosquito that happened to have bitten an infected dog within the past 2 weeks.  So even if you live in a risky area, the chances of infection drop significantly in the colder months.Incidence-Map-logos

If you do live in a risky area, and even if you’d rather just be safe than sorry, there are much better preventative methods than pharmeceuticals.  Ivermectin, the active ingredient in most heartworm meds including Ivomec, Heartgard, Zimectrin,Iverhart, and Tri-Heart, is not even a preventative; it is an insecticide that causes neurological damage to heartworm larvae, paralyzes them, and kills them. And it comes with a list of side effects that I am not willing to deal with.  The most common complications are vomitting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and lethargy.  In some cases, ivermectin can cause shock-like symptoms like severe vomitting, hypothermia, and depression as well as nervous system damage that causes loss of coordination, seizures, and even death.

Have no fear!  Not only are heartworms pretty hard to contract, but they’re also extremely easy to prevent – and there are lots of natural remedies should your dog actually get infected.  Hippocrates said it best when he said, “Let food be thy medicine.”  The best prevention is a healthy diet.  By feeding your dog real (if not raw) foods devoid of preservatives, rendered scraps, and artificial ingredients, you not only boost their immune system, but you give their kidneys and liver a leg up in the detox process by limiting the amount of toxins they have to cycle out.  Limiting the amount of pharmaceutical toxins (flea & tick sprays, medicines, vaccines) in their system also helps keep their immune system in prime condition. TheWholeDog, a great resource for holistic petcare, makes a great point:

The heartworm has been out there forever as far as we know, but we don’t read reports of wolves and coyotes being wiped out by heartworm, and yet domestic dogs are falling prey to it…  Surely they are healthier than the wild canines, with all our feeding of ‘scientifically balanced,’ processed foods and vaccinating them to prevent them from getting all the nasty and sometimes fatal diseases, right? … Wrong!

If you want to take extra measures to protect your dog, there are several safe options.  While most resources agree that the best prevention is keeping your dog healthy and limiting his exposure to toxins, there are homeopathic and herbal remedies that can help.  Dr. Jeffrey Levy recommends heartworm nosodes, which is a homeopathic treatment.  The homeopathic vets at TheWholeDog suggest several herbs, including Mugwort (Artemisia), Clove Flower Buds, Garlic, Spearmint, Turmeric, Black Walnut, and Wormwood.  They also stress the immune-enhancing benefits of Colostrum, or “first milk,” and fulvic acid, an antioxidant-rich compound extracted from humus, the material produced by decaying organic matter.  The herbal experts at TheHerbPlace recommend Mugwort and Garlic as internal treatments (Garlic helps repel mosquitoes and boosts immune function while Mugwort is a natural insecticide) and Geranium oil as a topical mosquito repellant.  Most of these can be found at your local health food store or online.

938_624575853299_1252124818_nNext time we take Banner to the vet (which will hopefully not be until he needs his next rabies shot) I’ll have a full list of reasons why I’m not giving my puppy heartworm meds.  We spend too much money on good, wholesome food for him to ruin his body with toxic drugs that do more harm than good.  I’m head over heels in love with this pup, and I want to keep him around as long as possible.  And that means keeping him as healthy as possible – and as far away from Big Pharma’s toxic claws as I can.


The Not-So-Wonderful Wizard Oz

imagesIf you keep up to date on holistic news, then I’m sure you’ve seen the latest headlines condemning Dr. Oz, popular TV personality and supposed “health food guru” as a sell-out due to his recent anti-organic article in TIME magazine.  Well, as one who’s worked in the holistic health industry for a few years, I can tell you that this is pretty old news.  Even when he’s promoting a natural supplement, it’s usually for the wrong reasons.  He is just another talk show host, and holistic health is just another tool he uses and abuses to reel in viewers.

In his article (which is coincidentally quite similar to the recent controversial Stanford University review that was published in September) he claims that organic food is nutritionally no different than conventional food and that the organic lifestyle is “elite” and “just not very democratic.”  Like the study, he bases his argument on the simple fact that a conventional pea is nutritionally the same as an organic pea.  Um… DUH.  A pea is a pea, but what he fails to mention (again, like the study) is the pesticide contamination that comes with conventional produce.  And he also makes the (in my opinion) hilarious claim that canned or frozen veggies are just as good as farm fresh vegetables because “as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal.”  Because it’s so much harder to cook fresh spinach than frozen spinach.

Here are some amusing highlights (sorry, I could not refrain from commenting) from his article, which you can read in full here if you don’t have a TIME subscription:

Nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s-market bounty and the humble brick from the freezer case… [Livestrong says BULLSHIT.  Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says BULLSHIT.] Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal. [I’m choosing to take that as a compliment – I’ve never thought of the crops we grown at Greenbranch as “artisanal,” but hey, I’ll take it!]

The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic–all with premium price tags. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily. [I eat almost wholly organic even though I make less that $20,000 a year… But apparently I’m part of the “elite” 1%.]  After several years of research and experience, I have come to an encouraging conclusion: the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets. Save the cash; the 99% diet can be good for you. [If you can call overly-processed, starch & sugar heavy, and preservative-laden “nutritionally sound.”]

This advice will be a serious buzz kill for specialty brands and high-end food companies marketing the exclusive hyperhealthy nature of their more expensive products. But I consider it a public-health service to the consumer who has to feed a family of five or the person who wants to make all the right choices and instead is alienated and dejected because the marketing of healthy foods too often blurs into elitism, with all the expense and culinary affectation that implies…  [Giant & Food Lions both have natural food sections that are VERY affordable, complete with organic canned & frozen foods that are not laden with preservatives and pesticides, for those who agree that fresh food is simply too complicated.]

There’s no question that free-range chickens and grass-fed, pasture-dwelling cows lead happier–if not appreciably longer–lives than animals raised on factory farms. They are also kept free of hormones and antibiotics and are less likely to carry communicable bacteria like E. coli, which are common on crowded feedlots. If these things are important to you and you have the money to spend, then by all means opt for pricier organic meats.  [Um, hello?  Does anyone actually enjoy scarfing down loads of hormones and antibiotics and bacteria?]  But for the most part, it’s O.K. to skip the meat boutiques and the high-end butchers. Nutritionally, there is not much difference between, say, grass-fed beef and the feedlot variety.  [EatWild says BULLSHIT.]

Let me make the argument against the great and powerful Oz.  Or rather, arguments:  1) Even when he promotes holistic or natural remedies, he uses them only to gain popularity. On an episode of his show, he heralded white bean extract as a weight-loss supplement when its real purpose is to lower blood sugar and help diabetics digest starches without spiking their sugar levels.  Never did he mention the fact that eating a starch-heavy diet is why you’re fat – and why you’re going to end up with heart disease, diabetes, or some kind of gluten-caused illness.  That’s just not what his over-weight, over-50 female audience members want to hear.  2) His show is a running ad for images2RealAge.com, one of Big Pharma’s many marketing schemes used to push drugs on the unsuspecting public.  RealAge is an online quiz that supposedly determines your true biological age.  The website then graciously bombards you with ads and recommendations for pharmaceuticals tailored to your specific age and lifestyle.  3) He not only supports RealAge, he constantly urges his viewers to keep up to date on their vaccines.  Coincidentally, he owns 150,000 shares in SIGA, a vaccine technology company.  And you wonder why he’s pushing a conventional lifestyle over an organic, drug-free one.

Bottom line: do yourself a favor and unplug the wonderful wizard next time he tries to cast his spell on you.  The only wonderful wizard in town is Mother Earth, and anyone who decries her bounty as the stuff of “food snobs” and “elites” is a grade-A Oz-hole.