Tgiving – Two

Duck has been disassembled – stock in process. Shaping rolls, cooking cracklins. To see pictures, follow this link: Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello friends and family! Just thinking of you on this holiday, so I thought I’d get motivated and post about our day and especially our meal. It’s all a work in progress, so I’m sure I’ll be posting all day about it. Feel free to comment and tell me what you are eating today.

Chris and I are chillin’ today. No big plans, nothing too social. It’s actually quite nice – I’ve been gone a lot for school and work and we’ve been keeping different schedules, so this will be some quality time for us . Heh. Plus, I’m not going to think about school or work all day, which is a treat for me.

Here’s what my menu plans are for the day…I got hooked up with a farmer out of Dallas, OR who models his farming practices after Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm…the name might ring a bell if you’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma. My shortcut way to explain this is Happy Meat. I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch, but I want to know that my meat was brought up on a farm in a humane way by people who care about the animals and the land, something that is getting harder and harder to find these days with our food systems focused on factory farms and cheap meat. I’m not going to soapbox here, today anyway. If you want to know more, please ask me.raw duck

So I met my Abundant Life Farm farmer on Monday night and purchased a pasture-raised 4 1/2# duck. It was happy, at least until recently. 🙂 I’ve cooked duck before, but not very often, and there is only one dish I’ve made that I want to recreate – a smoked duck breast that we used to make at Viking Culinary in Franklin. I turned to a cookbook that my mother-in-law gave me a few years back that is co-authored by Jacque Pepin and Julia Child, Cooking at Home. Mom, remember our Julia Child cooking shows? I’ve used this cookbook before for some great recipes and instructions on traditional French-style dishes, and it doesn’t disappoint. I love Jacque’s Roast Chicken.

Anyhoo, in order to use the duck to its fullest, I am going to smoke the duck breast and serve it sliced with a fresh grapefruit sauce over greens and cranberries. I then plan to pan-roast the legs with parsnips and shallots, and make a killer sauce from cooking the carcass down into stock and then into a lovely brown sauce. And cracklins with the skin! squash

Also on the menu are a version of a sweet potato roll that some of you have had before – they are dipped in honey butter and rolled in graham cracker crumbs before baking. mmmmmmmm. This time I’m using butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes and I started the dough last night to get a jump on it. In fact, I should go shape those rolls and start the duck stock now. I’ll be back later to tell you about the additional sides and general updates. What are you cooking today? dough

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More on the “organic” milk front

I’ve always been skeptical that many of these store-brand organic milks were any good, but never had a real reason to back it up.  I didn’t like the fact that didn’t say what dairies produced the milk, and covered up the lack of information in some cases (Trader Joe’s) by just making their box look like Organic Valley’s box.  I’m currently trying to decide what I think if New Season’s version of a NorthWest storebrand.  They at least have info about their program on their website.  The following article is reposted from an email I get from a consumer watch program.

August 14, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark A. Kastel, The Cornucopia Institute, 608-625-2042

USDA Cracking Down on “Organic” Factory Farms

Country’s Largest Dairy Likely to Lose Certification

CORNUCOPIA, WI: The Cornucopia Institute has learned that the USDA appears about to revoke the organic certification of the nation’s largest industrial dairy operator, Aurora Organic Dairy, with corporate headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

Aurora
operates several giant factory dairies milking thousands of cows each in semi-arid areas of Colorado and Texas. The company has been the subject of a series of formal legal complaints filed with the USDA by The Cornucopia Institute. The complaints from the Wisconsin-based farm policy group filed in 2005 and 2006, called for a USDA investigation into allegations of numerous organic livestock management improprieties on Aurora’s facilities.

“After personally inspecting some of Aurora’s dairies in Texas and Colorado, we found 98% of their cattle in feedlots instead of grazing on pasture as the law requires,” stated Mark Kastel, Cornucopia’s senior farm policy analyst. Cornucopia also found that Aurora was procuring cattle from a non-certified organic source in apparent violation of the law. “Our sources tell us that the USDA’s investigators found many other violations when conducting their probe of Aurora.”

But Kastel warned that the USDA is under intense pressure to scuttle the Aurora decertification order. “We understand that powerful political influence is being brought to bear on the USDA in an effort to delay or water down the penalties against Aurora,” noted Kastel.

As part of their investigation of Aurora, compliance officers at the USDA took sworn testimony from Cornucopia staff, visited Aurora’s facilities and interviewed their organic certifier, the State of Colorado. The Institute found out about the impending enforcement action, and the potential for its delay, from officials in Colorado, a political appointee at the USDA and a highly placed industry executive.

The organic industry is carefully watching what the USDA does with the Aurora matter because of its size and impact on the marketplace. Aurora doesn’t directly market milk under its own name, but it is the country’s largest private-label producer of organic milk. Aurora packages store-brand organic dairy products for Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Wild Oats, and other grocery chains. “The organic regulations are scale neutral,” added Kastel. “In terms of enforcement it shouldn’t matter if we are talking about a powerful corporate player, with thousands of cows, or a smaller family operation, bad actors in this industry need to be removed from the marketplace.”

Because of the delay in USDA enforcement against Aurora Dairy, The Cornucopia Institute today filed a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) with the USDA to secure documents that could uncover possible influence peddling and favoritism at the Department. “We hope that the USDA will issue tough sanctions, if warranted,” Kastel said. “And we want the agency to know that the organic community is very closely monitoring this case.”

Earlier this spring the 10,000-cow Vander Eyk factory dairy in Pixley, California lost its organic certification after an investigation revealed numerous violations of federal organic rules. The industrial-scale operation had been publicly spotlighted by The Cornucopia Institute for organic management irregularities. The Vander Eyk dairy had been selling its milk to Stremicks (Heritage-Foods) and Dean Foods (Horizon).

Based on documents recently received by Cornucopia through an earlier FOIA request, the Vander Eck dairy lost their ability to market organic milk not only because they lacked pasture for their cattle but also because they violated requirements for careful record-keeping to assure that all cows milked were eligible for organic certification and all the feed they consumed was actually organically grown.

“It now appears that our concerns about the giant industrial dairy cutting corners by confining cattle in a ‘factory-farm’ setting was just the tip of the iceberg,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s research director. “The foundation of the organic certification process is the maintenance of a comprehensive farm audit trail which can be reviewed by independent certification inspectors and the USDA. The fact that Vander Eyk could not produce the documents requested by his certifier, and that he did not appeal the enforcement action, is just damning.”

The controversy about the growing number of factory-farms producing organic milk has come to a head this year as the number of farmers transitioning to organic dairy production has dramatically increased causing a surplus of organic milk for the first time. That surplus, largely attributed to the mega-farms, is now driving down prices to family farmers around the country endangering their livelihoods. It’s also become a tragedy for some family farmers around the country who have gone through the arduous and expensive three-year transition to organic management but now have nowhere to ship their milk.

“With at least 15 of these giant dairies operating, mostly in the arid west, they have succeeded in jeopardizing the livelihood of the 1500 or so ethical dairy farm families who are doing this right,” said Merrill Clark, an organic livestock producer from Cassopolis, Michigan and former member of the USDA’s expert advisory panel, the National Organic Standards Board.

“The good news for consumers is that in our survey of organic dairy brands (posted on www.cornucopia.org) a full 90% of namebrand products received very high ratings in our scorecard that critiqued the environmental and animal husbandry practices used in sourcing the organic milk for the dairy products,” the Cornucopia’s Kastel said. “With a small amount of research, consumers who care about maintaining the integrity of organics can easily find organic dairy products they can believe in.”

– 30 –

MORE:

Aurora
is owned by some of the same conventional factory-farm operators that founded the Horizon Organic brand and then later sold it to Dean Foods. Aurora’s largest equity stake is controlled by CharlesBank of Boston, which invests capital for the Harvard endowment fund.

Rumors have also been swirling in the investment community that Aurora’s owners are seeking to sell the company or to take it public.

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Lunch and Dinner, Week 8 (Food, Ethics and Sustainability Class)

Perogies and Portabellas

perogiesI wanted to focus on eating fresh this week, but that’s always a challenge when it comes to a busy schedule and not much kitchen time to put meals together. I’ve found frozen perogies at Trader Joe’s that are good for convenience food, so I boiled some of those and sautéed a portabella mushroom, also from Trader Joe’s with Tamari to top it, The Russion-style dumplings were made for Trader Joe’s who distributes from California, but both the sourcing of ingredients and the actually making/processing could have happened anywhere. They have relatively simple ingredients: flour, water, potatoes, cheddar, onion, corn oil and salt/pepper. The mushroom was probably grown and packaged in California for TJ as well. Tamari is a better flavored soy sauce, made by a Japanese-owned company in a factory in Richmond, Virginia. The ingredients are water, soybeans, salt, alcohol (to preserve freshness), organic wheat. There is a statement on the bottle: We add only enough corn-based alcohol to prevent the growth of yeast or mold.

I had some homemade caramelized onion dip left over from a potluck, so I added a spoonful of that and it transformed the dish into a takeoff on Mushroom Stroganoff. The dip had local yellow onions in it, sour cream [Sunshine brand: probably cream, milk, lactic acid], mayonnaise [Smart Balance Omega Plus: water, blend of natural oils (canola, soy and flaxseed), vinegar, sugar, food starch modified, egg yolks, natural plant sterols, egg whites, tapioca maltodextrin, xanthan gum, salt, inactivated yeast, lemon juice, mustard, calcium disodium EDTA, sodium benzoate, sodium acid sulfate, TBHQ and potassium sorbate to protect flavor, Vitamin E acetate, oleoresin paprika and beta-carotene color] and cream cheese [Philly: milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, stabilizers (carbo bean & guar gum)]. I ate this with French Breakfast radishes from the Farmer’s Market. Also, served on a bed of baby spinach grown in Oregon and purchased at New Seasons.

How strange that the homemade piece of this meal was the craziest as far as ingredients!! I expected the frozen food (perogies) to be full of chemicals, but it was the “healthy” low-fat may instead. The meal was still super satisfying, lots of good textures and very filling, also the leftovers were easy to carry around and reheat on-the-go, a new criteria of mine due to my schedule.

Lunch, Roast Beast roll-ups with Strawberries

Mmmmm, this was a delicious snacklunch – light but filling. I’d
just picked the lettuce after working for four hours out at JEANs farm, a working educational farm, doing lots of dirty chores including mowing in the hot sun and hauling wood around. My treat at the end of the work day was to pick some braising greens and lettuces right from the field, so the first thing I did upon coming home after washing my hands was to eat some of it. I had some nice roast beef from New Seasons, raised sustainably according to Niman’s web site. The strawberries were a splurge from the previous weekend, grown in California organically, hopefully not in a traffic circle! I have strawberry plants starting to develop fruit in my front yard and the wait has been painful, so this purchase helps to tide me over.

The wraps are lefse, a lovely Norwegian flatbread that I discovered when I married my husband – his sister is married to a man from a large Minnesota clan with solid Norwegian roots, and every Christmas his 80+ year-old parents make lefse for all their 8 kids and their extended families. The homemade version is delightful, super-thin and soft with an instant mashed potato base. They are the kind of food that is incredibly hard to stop eating. I like them plain but several of my family members like to butter and sugar the lefse before rolling and eating. We also employ them for turkey leftover lunch roll-ups. I was surprised and pleased to find that New Seasons carries a version of these < http://www.mrsolsonslefse.com&gt;, and while I’d originally purchased them to be a treat for my husband and didn’t expect the store-bought brand to hold up to the real thing with regards to taste and texture, I’ve found that they actually make great low-calorie/carb wraps for quick lunches. They are made in Minnesota (no surprise), and I’m guessing that there was a transplant working for New Seasons who got this item stocked originally. Highly recommended, they are vegetarian but not vegan (contains milk). The website for this brand also sells Hockey Stick Ice Scoops for ice fishing and has a list of the top ten ways to get your kids to eat Lutefisk, but doesn’t talk much about the company (or where they source their instant mashed potatoes). I also used Wasabi mayonnaise from Trader Joes, my favorite sandwich condiment at the moment.

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Food Journal Meal 2, Week 6 (Food, Ethics and Sustainability)

Convenience Food Compromise – Noodle Soup

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Food Journal Meal 1, Week 6 (Food, Ethics and Sustainability)

Beet & Spinach Salad

…with local goat cheese to which I added some sauteed sage from my garden. There is some of that wonderful NW Heritage bacon on there and pecans from the bulk bin at New Seasons. No idea where those were grown or how far they were shipped to get to Portland. Read the rest of this entry »

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Food Journal Meal 1, Week 5 (Food, Ethics and Sustainability)

Week 4: Brunch of Bacon and Eggs, Biscuits and Jam

(This is part of my assignment for class, we’ve been documenting two meals per week and detailing where they are created and sustainable topics associated with them – I’m mainly reposting here to include pictures.)

Brunch, Week Four:
Biscuits and Jam, Bacon and Eggs

Bacon and Eggs
Bacon! Really, the only reason that I’m not a vegetarian. Read the rest of this entry »

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