Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kraft Dinner: The Perfect Post Workout Meal

This morning, as I strolled into my local university gym, I was greeted with a giant tower of Kraft Dinner boxes. Right. So, I thought that this must have been some sort of public service announcement. You know, something like 'KD is better used as a building block in box construction than a building block for your health'. Something like that anyway. But no, that's not what was going on. It was a promotion. Workout, wear maroon and we'll give you a free box of Kraft Dinner! Yahoooooooooo!
Sorry for the poor quality, but I had to go all black ops to even get this picture. Some dedicated students erected this monument to the glory of zero nutrient food.

It's great marketing. KD and universities are almost synonymous. Make something a norm and people adopt the practice with little thought. It becomes part of the culture and the experience of a time and a place. University = 'starving student' = mac n' cheese. It's widely accepted that cheap, nutritionally void foods are what's needed to help you financially endure life as a university student. Everyone knows that.

When I saw that tower of Kraft Dinner boxes I stopped dead in my tracks and looked over at the gym attendant at the counter in shock. She was perplexed by my reaction. So I commented on there being boxes of Kraft Dinner in a gym.

Is there a Kraft Dinner Fairy that's going to be walking around the gym, handing this stuff out? Oh, only one box per person per day, my friends! Shucks, I was going to go back in tonight for an extra meal, er I mean, workout.

Gym Attendant: "Uh, well, it's so people work out so we give them a free box."

Me: "Why is a gym, a place that is supposed to encourage health, handing out boxes of junk food?"

Gym Attendant: "Oh yah, I don't know. I never thought about it like that."

How could you not think about it? There is a tower of crappy food at the entrance of the gym and your university is endorsing it! There are Kraft Dinner boxes scattered around the entire fitness facility! Let's just call it for what it is: corporate universities selling out to large food manufacturers, working in a symbiotic union to make pretend-food the norm so we can all munch away in cooperative bliss, down the path to obesity and diabetes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

We Heart Sausage

A beautiful bison heart from an animal that spent its days roaming the prairie grasslands with its compadres. I sneak organ meat into our sausage with absolutely no noticeable difference in taste or texture. 

Sausage is one of those expensive, nice to have foods as a little treat every now and then. That is, it should be expensive. If you're sausage is cheap, you are buying the wrong type of sausage, my friend. What you want is sausage from pastured animals, free of gluten, binders, preservatives, or any flavor enhancers (MSG). It is possible to find such sausage, but they can be pretty pricey.

I like to make my own sausage. I think they taste better, they're inexpensive to make, and I have complete control over what goes into them. I make a whack of them all at once and freeze them in containers of about 10 or so (that would be a serving around these parts). I was privy to some fine sausage making on one of my farming internships. I wouldn't dare think that my sausages are anywhere near as good, but they're pretty darn tasty (and healthy) for a home kitchen creation.

Grinding the heart with cubed round. Both meats are quite lean so the fat ratio has to be adjusted accordingly. 

Start with pastured meat, whatever you have. The extent to how lean your meat is will determine the percentage of the fat you add. On this day, I was making two types of sausage. I had some ground pork that I had the farmer add enough fat to so that I could just mix it with spices and make sausage. If you purchase your meat directly from the farmer, request that trim and ground be mixed with fat in the ratio the butcher/farmer would use to make sausage. It may vary depending on the breed, genetics, diet of your animal. Having the meat already ground up makes sausage making as easy as adding in some spices and vegetables (or whatever you like). The other sausage I made was bison sausage. I decided to sneak a heart into the meat. I used bison tallow as my fat source for the bison sausage at a 20% ratio.

Weigh your meat and add 20% fat to start with. You can adjust this to your taste. Just fry up a little patty and see if you feel the sausage is too dry or needs the seasonings adjusted.

Unless the meat is ground for you with the required amount of fat already added, you will have to add some fat. The fat is important. You absolutely need fat from a pastured, organically raised animal. Toxins in an animal are stored in their fat. Animal fat from a conventionally raised animal is a concentrated source of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and various other chemicals. Just don't eat it. I try to stick with using fat and flesh sources from the same animal in my sausages, but there are times when that doesn't work out so well. With chicken sausage, I've found adding rendered pork fat compliments the poultry very well. You'll have to do a hunt for piggies raised without soy or grain (or at the least, very little), but it is possible.

Weighing out 20% bison tallow to add to the ground heart/round. 

Sausage is our fast food around here. If we have to take off somewhere quickly, I throw a few sausages, still frozen, in a pan for 5 or 10 minutes, grab a jar of fermented veggies and we have a decent, quick meal. It's also a sneaky way to get some more organ meat into your family's diet. Organ meat is the highest natural source of vitamins A and D, and is loaded with many other vitamins and essential fatty acids. Pair good nutrition with delicious sausage and you just can't go wrong.

Regrind the meat with the fat. Add your spices and minced veggies if you're so inclined.

After you've ground the meat with the fat and added your spices, you have a few options. You can either use the sausage making attachment on your meat grinder to feed the mixture into casings or you can just keep it simple. I forego the casings and just flatten the sausage mixture on a parchment lined cookie sheet. I then put the cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour. After that time, take out the cookie sheet and cut the sausage meat into sticks. Put the tray back in the freezer to solidly freeze the sticks. After an hour or so remove the cookie sheet and place the sausage sticks in containers for storage in the freezer. Freezing in this way prevents the meat from sticking together in a giant mound. 

I like to use different recipes every time I make sausage. There are some great books available for spice ideas or just giving Google a quick peek turns up bazillions of suggestions. If all else fails, minced bacon with some fresh herbs, smoked salt and white pepper is a guaranteed sausage win.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Feast

This, my friends, is what meat should look like. Here we have a pastured prime rib roast. This animal didn't even know what grain was. See all that glorious, deep yellow fat? That animal spent its life roaming grasslands and soaking in the sun's rays. Not only is the meat loaded with omega-3s and CLA, but it's also replete with vitamins A&D. And the taste... oh mercy. It makes a lazy cook like me look like a genius when I put something this tasty on the table, but the credit goes to the farmers, the land, and of course, with deepest gratitude, the animal.

Our lovely roast served with, what is likely the last of this season's, zucchini and vidalia onions that have been roasted in the oven with some unrefined, organic red palm oil. We're really digging the palm oil lately. It's delicious.

Scrambled Eggs

I know, I know, I'm sounding like a broken record, but if you visit the farm and buy directly from the farmer, you will know what you're actually paying for. If you can't do that, at least check out the report on Cornucopia's site so you know if your chickens are actually humanely raised. That won't negate the soy feed those chickens are eating or the lack of bugs, forage, and sunshine in their lives, but it's better than the alternative.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Cauliflower Conundrum

Last week was an odd one, to be sure. Part of the problem was with our vehicle which meant I didn't get to the farm for my weekly produce pickup. No produce pickup = slim pickings for the rest of the week. So, in desperation, I trundled off to our local grocery store.

I wanted a cauliflower. That's it, just a cauliflower. It's still in season, there's plenty of them locally (I know, I see them at the farmer's markets all the time). There's nothing rare or exotic in my request. I was just looking for a plain ole' white cauliflower. Organic, please. Oh, and make it local so it's not dripping in petrochemicals. That would be nice.

Yah, like that.

I had two choices. I could pick the nice, jumbo cauliflower that was grown locally or I could buy the organic cauliflower that came from 'industrialized organic' in California. What's a girl to do? Of course, I want to buy local, but if it's not organic and I don't know the farmer, or even what farm it came from, how can I know how that cauliflower was grown?  Pesticides, fungicides, GMOs, sewage sludge application, chemical fertilizers?  What secrets does that cauliflower house in its pretty white florets? And the other? That organic cauliflower didn't have human waste or chemical fertilizers spread on its soil, but how was it produced? What are 'big organics' principles when it comes to preserving our soil? Do they even care about being true caretakers of the land, of ensuring that those fields are still viable when our kids inherit them to grow their food on?

Cauliflower bones for as far as the eye can see.

For me, eating sludge is a deal breaker. 80% of the sewage sludge in Ontario is now spread across agricultural land. If you think it's any different in your part of the world, a quick Google search may surprise you, especially if you live in North America. Sewage sludge, concentrated with heavy metals, volatile chemicals, and disease-causing pathogenic organisms has been used for years on most of our agricultural land. So, I'd say the odds are pretty good that the local, conventional cauliflower I'm looking at came from a toxic field.  I believe in organic food, but it has to be more than that. I don't want organic cauliflower from some massive monocrop of cauliflowers shipped into Canada all the way from California. Rocket fuel, anyone?

Anything that grows on soil (that would be everything that lives, including us) depends on the quality of that soil to deliver the nutrients and bacteria within for our very survival. We've become removed from our understanding of just how dependent we are on dirt. We assume we get our vitamins and minerals from plates of veggies and good meat. Here's the clincher, where do you think the vegetables, fruits, and meats get their nutrients from? Soil, of course. Anything that is grown or raised in depleted soil is degraded right from the get go. Add to that prolonged storage and shipping, refining, and processing. No wonder our bloated bodies are still crying out for more food. We are, as the great Raj Patel so eloquently expains in his book, "Stuffed and Starved".

What of that cauliflower that was grown in questionable soil, on land that is not diversified and respected? Land that is only asked to give more with no understanding or questioning of what it is that it actually needs. The cauliflower, already in a sate of nutrient deficiency, gets thrown on a truck and travels thousands of kilometres to my local store where it then sits some more. Now what's happened to the vitamins and minerals that were already lacking? Who wants a two week old cauliflower? There's no life force left in that lowly little plant. Sure, there's probably a few vitamins and minerals that your body could squeeze out of it, but that's not how our bodies thrive. No wonder we're all starving, our bodies are desperate for the ingredients they need to build these wondrous temples of ours.

I didn't get the cauliflower. We're eating kale (again) with our grass fed beef roast tonight. We need to change our food policies. Everyone of us should have the right to buy local food that is grown and raised in a manner that supports our environment and our health. Human poop cauliflowers be damned.

Get on it: