Monday, November 29, 2010

A Word About Being Prepared

This past week staying with my Mormon side of the family got me to thinking. They are all set to weather some food system collapse they think will happen in the near future.

Kind of.

They have buckets of freeze dried food and grains in their basement. They have the Survival Seed Bank buried in their backyard. They think they are all set. But they aren't. Those things just give the illusion of being prepared.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about being prepared for a disaster. I live in earthquake country after all. But freeze dried food and seeds buried in your backyard just isn't enough.

Everything has a shelf life. Freeze dried food can last 20 years max. Then what do you do with it? As it ages it loses it's nutritional value. At 20 years there's virtually no nutrition in it. And who wants to live on freeze dried food? Not only that, but it requires water to prepare it, precious water that you would need for drinking.

Seeds, even when buried in the ground will only be viable for 5 years maximum depending on the type. Corn, spinach, and onions are only viable for one year if they are stored correctly. So you put all this faith that if there is a disaster you can plant these seeds only to find out that they won't germinate. Then you're stuck. Not only that, but you'll still have to wait at least 3 months before your first harvest.

And what if there is a major disaster and you have to start growing your own food? If you don't have access to food you probably don't have access to gardening equipment and soil amendments. If you live in a difficult growing area do you know how to maximize your harvests? I live in California - a prime place to grow food - and yet I failed miserably my first couple of years because I was still learning. Even now I'm still learning and it's been over 5 years of constant food production.

So I guess my point is that stockpiling what you think you'll need in a disaster is not disaster preparedness. Truly being prepared is being able to hit the ground running because you already know what you're doing

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 8 - The Two Month Mark

I'm not going to do a menu download this week because we have some extenuating circumstances. We spent the week at my Dad's house in Wyoming for Thanksgiving so while we didn't buy any food from the grocery store or restaurants we also didn't provide our own food. We did bring food with us though. Because we drove to Wyoming from California we had to make sure that we brought enough food for the two day drive. We also brought food for Thanksgiving including ingredients for making pie and for brining the turkey. Of course things would have been different if we were having Thanksgiving at home.

Staying in Wyoming I became acutely aware of the food availability. Living in California is a blessing. Really. But it was also the mentality of those that lived there that amazed me. Veggies come in cans. Fruits do too, even though they are coated in high fructose corn syrup. We were fortunate to be staying in Cheyenne, the capital. Their grocery stores had large fresh produce departments but very little organic food. The weather isn't conducive to gardening and I'm told that it's impossible. But I don't buy that excuse. I know there are several "urban farmers" in Cheyenne who grow their own food. Also, my Grandmother grew up on a farm in the Grand Tetons and they were able to supply their large family with all of their food all year.

I do have a confession though. On the drive home we had brought a bunch of food and water with us. 75% of the trip was fine and we were making great time. We left Salt Lake City at 4:00am PST to get home. We were scheduled to make it home at 4:00pm according to our GPS (it was 3:30pm but we had to stop at the Cabela's in Boomtown). That is until we got to California. The Sierras were the thorn in my side. We got to Donner Pass at 2:30pm. Multiple times we were at a dead stop in the mountains for long lengths of time - enough where everyone was getting out of their cars and walking around. The longest period we sat for nearly 3 hours in the same spot. We didn't get home until 11:00pm. A trip that should have been 11 1/2 hours instead took us 18 1/2 hours. We weren't fully prepared for this and ended up having to buy some coffee just so we could stay awake for the ride home.

I'm glad to be home now. I'm glad to be somewhere that we can control our food and that we have healthy options available to us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's already Week 7 - The Menu

Rabbit braised in Cream of Chantarelle soup left over from last week. Sauteed cabbage and mushrooms from the farmers' market.
Homegrown popcorn.

Taco Tuesday!
Ground turkey tacos with homemade flour tortillas, salsa from our remaining tomatoes, Spanish rice and refried beans.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry soup. Summer squash from our garden. Carrots (Jeanette's) and onions from the farmers' market.

Chicken stirfry with cauliflower, onions, and bell peppers from the farmers' market.

Jeanette (aka House Elf) made us ribs and roasted potatoes, parsnips and squash.

Visited my aunt who made us Prime Rib, squash, bleu cheese scalloped potatoes, and salad.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

We've pretty much been finishing off the meat we've had in our freezers. We still have some left, but the chicken is gone. Our meat birds are almost ready to slaughter, but in the mean time we'll just go without. Yes, we want humanely raised animals, but if I can do it myself I just can't justify paying $6.50/lb for one. This leads me to the idea of sustainability and accessibility. Sustainable food just isn't accessible to a lot of people. Not only is it harder to find, but the cost is too much. The argument could be that people should just eat less meat, and while I do agree with that, I'm not just talking about meat. Sustainable fruits and vegetables are the same way. It's just too expensive for the poor to afford and that is a serious problem. Healthy, wholesome food needs to be available to everyone or it will never be a sustainable system. The rich shouldn't be the only ones that can afford it. Until the system changes and whole foods are available for everyone at affordable prices it will never be sustainable.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Add a New Food Source

Mushrooms we foraged
Foraging! My new obsession. Sometimes we do it in the woods, sometimes it's in urban areas - also called urban gleaning. Pick fruit that is in public areas is perfectly legal. See a fruit tree going unpicked in a person's front yard? Knock on their door and ask them if they would mind if you picked from their tree. The worse thing they could do is say "No."

We used to go every August and forage for blackberries which grow everywhere around here. Our favorite spots have been found by others though, so we need to find new places.

This year was our first time foraging for huckleberries and mushrooms. We've learned a lot from our wonderful friends that have taken us under their wings and taught us how to forage. Yes, I'm talking about you Jessa and Crystalman Tom.

Soon we're going to go back out for mushrooms and I know a bunch of neglected figs that should be getting ready to pop soon.

So now is time for a disclaimer. If you ever decide to go foraging ALWAYS be 100% 1,000% sure of what you are picking and about to consume. I can't stress this enough. If you aren't sure what you're looking for, take someone that's knowledgeable with you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week 6 Menu Download

Beans with pork ribs, carrots from the farmers' market, onions from the garden and sauteed pig's ear mushrooms that we had foraged.

Chantarelle (that we foraged) risotto with sauteed glazed chicken with small chantarelles and salad with foraged huckleberries, peppers and onions from farmers' market and lettuce from our garden.

Cream of Chantarelle Mushroom soup with garlic bread.

Vegetable Stirfry with rice. Veggies from the Farmers' market.

Handmade potato (from the garden) gnocchi with Tom's tomato sauce (left over from last week).
Huckleberry ice cream

Pizza! Topped with tomato sauce, homemade shredded mozzarella, mushrooms and caramelized onions from the farmers' market, chicken and bacon that was hiding in our freezer.

Meatloaf with carrots and brussel sprouts from the farmers' market and potatoes from the garden.

Fried Green Tomatoes (the last tomatoes from our garden) with eggs from our chickens and cornmeal from our corn.

I think it's interesting how the art of cooking (and baking) seems to be becoming a lost art. I don't know if it's because people don't have time (or they just think they don't have time). Part of me thinks it's a bunch of problems. The first being that cooking is no longer taught in school and thanks to the Food Network people are led to believe that you have to be a professional to cook a decent meal. Maybe it's because people don't realize that it takes a lot of practice to become a good cook and they get discouraged when they don't immediately cook a 5 star meal. In all honesty I don't know what the problem is and I wish I did.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why We're Doing This Reason #5

Talk about mixed signals. The United States Department of Agriculture, who is trying to lead the charge against obesity is now also trying to get us to eat more saturated fat through it's new campaign to push more cheese on it. The USDA created an organization called Dairy Management, which has teamed up with Dominoe's to develop pizzas that use 40% more cheese. Then they devised and PAID for a $12 million marketing campaign to sell these cheesier pizzas.

In one hand they tell us to eat less fat and go for fat free or low fat dair products while with the other hand try to get us to eat more cheese.

Don't even get me started on who actually *owns* the USDA, because it's obviously NOT the People who it was originally designed to protect.

You can read more about this here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 5 Menus

Pot Roast with grass fed beef, carrots from the farmers' market, potatoes and swiss chard from the garden.

We were invited to dinner at a family friends' house and had sausage sandwiches and amazing minestrone soup and salad.

Green Chili Stew with pasture-raised pork, roasted hatch green chilies from my mom, tomatillos, onions, corn, and potatoes from the garden.

We all kind of just did our own thing. 

Tom's homemade spaghetti with handmade pasta
Huckleberry crisp from huckleberries that we foraged on Sunday.

Grassfed beef stirfry with mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and spinach from the farmers' market.

BBQ Pheasant with rice and swiss chard from the garden.

Food has a different meaning now. Our lives have definitely become more focused on food - and yet it's not. It's definitely more focused on preparing food and less about eating it. Food is more "precious" because we put so much care into making it. I  feel really good. And can I say that my skin has improved significantly? I used to get nasty breakouts and I haven't had one this past month since starting this project. I haven't changed any other part of my daily routine, so my diet seems to be the biggest factor. I'm going to be writing this week about how difficult this is. A lot of people keep saying how amazed they are that we're doing this and I want to discuss it.

Perfect Saltine Cracker Recipe

One of the things I've been missing is crunchy, salty snacks. I've made crackers before but have never really been happy with the recipes. So I decided to find something closer to a true saltine cracker. Unfortunately when searching for a "saltine cracker recipe" all the recipes that come up use saltine crackers. I couldn't find any recipes that showed how to make those saltine crackers. No such luck. So I finally came up with one that can't come much closer to the store bought ones (except they have more "meat" to them and are more satisfying).

4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c coconut oil
1/3 c skim milk
1 c water
Oil or water and salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Mix in oil, milk and water until blended well. Knead dough on a surface until smooth.

Now I prefer to use a pasta machine to roll out my dough - usually ending on setting #3. The trick is to make sure the dough is rolled very thin. Otherwise you won't get crispy crackers.

Cut crackers into squares (I like to use a pizza cutter) and put on parchment lined cookie sheet. Spray crackers with oil or water and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

This recipe will make a TON of crackers. If you want, divide the dough in half and freeze it for later use.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why We're Doing This Reason #4

Mmmmmm, high fructose corn syrup. It's in everything. It's hard to eat it in moderation if you're the average American. In my opinion, however you shouldn't ingest any of it. But the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is putting a lot of money into advertising trying to tell people that it's chemically the same as table sugar - which it is not. I'm sure you've seen their Sweet Surprise ads. As it turns out some products, mainly soft drinks, are much higher in fructose (which shouldn't be confused with the low levels of fructose in fruit which is better regulated by the body because of the addition on nutrients and fiber) than touted by the CRA. Sweet Surprise indeed.