8 cups blended tomatoes
1 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup minced onion
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons real butter
¼ cup water
¼ cup flour

Combine tomato, pepper, onion, celery and salt in large pot.  Bring to boil and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisply tender – about 30 minutes.  In a 5 cup blender container, blend 2 cups of mixture at a time (no more), until smooth; return to pan.  Combine water and flour, slowly add to soup.  Add sugar and butter, cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, boil 1 minute.  Milk or cream may be added right before serving, if desired.

For canning:  once soup is completely done and simmering, fill clean jars with hot soup and attach clean lids.  Process in boiling water bath:  35 minutes for quarts, 30 minutes for pints.  Time is counted when water is at a full boiling roll.  Do not add milk before canning.

Makes 8-9 cups of soup

A new look at bad Cholestorel

February 23, 2010

I read an interesting article last week about cholesterol. According to this article and other linked articles, we can enjoy butter, eggs, lard, beef, and more, in moderation – with a new understanding of cholesterol.

‘Bad cholesterol’: It’s not what you think

It’s a relief to read information that supports my healthy cooking theory – if God gave it to us, it can’t be all that bad. I smiled when I read the recommendation about eating an omelet every morning for breakfast to lower your cholesterol; it supported the theory about eggs and cholesterol that I first heard from Cletus about ten years ago.

Cletus was an old timer who looked like a mountain man, we met him at an organic gardening class and he made quite an impression on us. Cletus’s most memorable contribution to the class was his advice for lowering cholesterol; eat more eggs! According to Cletus, his cholesterol level had been elevated and his doctor had suggested that he restrict eggs from his diet. According to Cletus, he KNEW that the home-grown, free-range eggs laid by his own chickens were not the culprit as his doctor suggested. So he ate more home-grown, free-range eggs – like to the tune of three to six eggs EVERY DAY. And his cholesterol went down.

It seems about every 20 years the health specialists change their mind about what is good and what is bad for us to eat. I think I’ll keep on doing what I’ve been doing; growing what I can, cooking from scratch, and eating food as close to what nature intended. My idea of prepackaged food is an egg in a shell, and convenience food is a quart jar of spaghetti sauce that I canned last summer. I’m not sure how to classify those Chocolate Seven Layer bars I blogged about VERY recently, but I know they were made with real butter and real chocolate, so they can’t be all that bad.

Farming organically has its challenges, and managing weeds is one of the greatest challenges.  While we have not found a way to eliminate the weed pressure in the fields, we have discovered a way to use them as a beneficial by-product on our farm.

During the Summer and Fall months we raise pasture fed hogs to sell; they have free roaming in a pasture that was seeded in a mix of rape seed, kale, and barley just for them.  In late Summer and early to mid Fall they are turned out into a section of  sweet corn and field corn, where they feast, feast, and feast – you have never seen such happy hogs!  About the time our field harvest is done, they have entirely rooted up their pasture and the corn field, and it would appear that their hog heaven days are almost over ……. but here is when and where the weeds come in.

During the process of combining and storing the crops from our fields, the crops are screened to remove weed seeds, and the weed seeds would normally be considered waste.  But we have found that our hogs consider foxtail (millet) and pig weed (amaranth) seed to be five-star dining, and knowing the seeds are packed with rich nutrients and minerals has us happily serving them by the buckets to our spoiled pigs!  I love it when nature gives a bonus along with a challenge.

FOR SALE:

All natural, free range, pasture raised pork for sale.  Pastured in a hog pasture mix of rape seed, kale, and barley; additional feed consisted of chemical free, non-GMO ingredients.  Hormone and antibiotic free.  Processing done by award-winning French Lake Butcher Shop.  Sold as a whole or half.  Call 320-286-5384 for more information.

Applesauce technology

October 15, 2009

apple mill

Why did I not hear about this invention 20 years ago?  Apparently this type of food mill has been around for some time, and I’m glad I finally found out about the handy, dandy applesauce maker that has taken the chore out of making applesauce.  Not even close to work.

This easy:  wash apples, cut in half, cook until soft, put in hopper and turn handle.  No peeling, no coring, no removing seeds or stems.  The applesauce comes out one side, and the peels, stems, and seeds come out the end.

We purchased this food mill from Lehman’s on the internet, but I’ve seen other brands out there that appear to do the same thing.  I really like the suction base that allows you to attach it on any solid surface.  The only downfall I can think of, is that it doesn’t wash itself.  Good thing I have teenage girls that love to wash dishes!

An interesting article about organic food by TIME, sharing the obvious and hidden benefits of food raised organically.  Take a moment to view this slide show about What The World Eats.

Article here.

Slideshow here.

eggs

I recently read a report in Mother Earth News about the healthy benefits of  eggs produced by pastured poultry.  Recent nutritional testing of eggs from pastured hens gave some remarkable results.  Compared to the official USDA data for factory-farm eggs (raised conventionally), free range eggs contained:

1/3 less cholesterol

1/4 less saturated fat

2/3 more vitamin A

2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

3 times more vitamin E

7 times more beta carotene

Now that’s a pretty healthy egg!

To follow Mother Earth News ongoing pastured egg research, go to www.MotherEarthNews.com/eggs

TEN GRAIN MIX

1 cup farina
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup rolled barley
1 cup rolled wheat
1 cup cracked rye berries
1 cup cracked wheat berries
1 cup corn meal
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup millet
½ cup flax seeds
½ cup quiona (optional)

Mix all ingredients, store in airtight container.

ten grain bread

TEN GRAIN BREAD

Pour 4 cups boiling water over 1 ½ cups ten grain mix (above).  Stir every ten minutes three times.  Cool approximately 45 minutes.

To the warm soaked ten grain mix, add the following ingredients

3 1/2 cups warm water
½ cup honey
½ cup oil
½ cup apple fruit juice concentrate, undiluted and thawed if frozen
2 cups rolled oats
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons yeast
6 cups freshly ground wheat flour
6-8 cups bread flour, more or less, until dough cleans sides of bowl or is easy to handle

Mix dough and knead well.  Let dough rise twice before putting into bread pans.  Raise in pans and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Makes about 8 pounds of bread dough.

A few small changes in your baking can make those yummy, forbidden recipes a little healthier.  Here’s my top ten.

1.  Use organic eggs.  Organic eggs will have much higher vitamin and mineral levels and a more balanced healthier omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio than non-organic eggs.

2.  Switch from white sugar to organic raw cane sugar.  Health wise, sugar made from sugar cane is better than sugar made from sugar beets, and raw cane sugar is less processed and refined.

3.  Use brown sugar that is made from sugar cane.  Most brown sugar is white beet sugar with molasses added to it.  Real brown cane sugar is less refined and a higher quality brown sugar for baking.  C & H brown sugar is one brand that is pure cane brown sugar.

4.  If the recipe calls for shortening, use non hydrogenated shortening; it is available in the natural foods section of your grocery store (probably refrigerated).  Or substitute coconut oil for shortening.

5.  Skip the margarine, use REAL butter.  The taste of real butter can’t be beat, and believe it or not, butter does not have trans-fats, but margarine does.   Butter is a rich source of the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E, which are not easily found elsewhere in the diet in a simple to digest form.

6.  Use gourmet chocolate chips like Guittard or Ghirardelli for baking insurance; these top brands provide top results for baking.  Premium chocolate chips such as these are made with sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and real vanilla; but no milk additives that can bother people sensitive to milk.

7.  Use unbleached flour instead of bleached flour, we all need a little less bleach in our diets!  White flour usually has the germ and bran removed, but I found at my local health food store a bread flour that still has the germ in.  Or look for freshly ground white wheat flour (available in health food stores in the refrigerated section) to get all the nutrients, germ, and bran not found in white processed flour.

8.  All natural sea salt has trace minerals in it that are not found in regular table salt.  Real Salt brand sea salt is available almost anywhere.

9.  Buy organic oatmeal.  Cookies, crumbles, bars, and breads; I have tons of recipes that call for oatmeal and using organic oatmeal makes all those recipes healthier for my family.

10.  If a recipe calls for a lot of oil, try substituting half applesauce and half oil for the amount required.  This might not work for every recipe, but it works for a lot of recipes.

What have you changed to bake healthier treats at your house?

In order to feed a large family, I have learned numerous ways to stretch the grocery budget over the years.  I didn’t always realize until a few years ago that all the home cooking from scratch, and the gardening to grow vegetables that I did, was in fact, one of the healthiest things I could have done for my family.

One such money saving strategy is purchasing meat in bulk directly from the grower.  By purchasing a quarter, half, or whole animal, you will get prime cuts of premium meat that are expensive from the grocery store.  While you do have to pay for it all at once, and need to have a decent size freezer to store the meat in, there’s a lot to be said for knowing exactly where (and how) your meat was raised and processed.  Direct selling holds the grower responsible for the quality of the meat grown, and it gives the consumer a direct avenue of compensation if meat purchased is of lower quality than promised.

Local Harvest is an online directory that will direct you to local sustainable and organic farmers that sell meat or other goods directly to consumers.  It is also a good resource to locate farmers markets near you, or restaurants that serve locally grown food.  For those of us who live in the state of Minnesota, The Minnesota Grown Food & Farm Directory is another resource that promotes locally grown food.

Take our farm for example, we raise hogs during the summer months, which roam and forage freely in a pasture which has been seeded with Field peas, Ryegrass, Rape (a member of the cabbage family), and Sudan grass, a blend grown specifically for pasturing hogs.  This chlorophyll rich diet has the end result of higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their meat, making pasture raised pork not only a healthier meat to consume, but lending the hogs themselves happier and healthier than hogs raised in confinement.  Come fall, local customers reserve either a half or whole hog, and they tell the butcher shop exactly how they want it processed.  Happy customers have helped us slowly expand our pasture raised hog operation; the word is getting out – you can have your healthy pork and eat it too!

Eat healthy, be happy!

Homemade Granola Recipe

November 17, 2008

granola

4 cups regular oatmeal  (not quick oats)
1 cup rolled wheat (or substitute oatmeal)
1 cup instant dry milk
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup peanuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup wheat germ

½ cup oil
½ cup applesauce
1 cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla

2 cups raisins,  craisins, or dried blueberries
1 cup sweetened carob chips (optional)

Mix first seven dry ingredients in large roasting pan.  In a saucepan mix oil, applesauce, honey, brown sugar, applesauce, and vanilla; heat until mixture is warmed and runny, then pour over first mixture in roasting pan, and stir until well mixed.  Bake at 250 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes (or more), until desired brownness, stirring every 15 minutes.  (45 minutes will be light brown and softer, 60 minutes will be brown and crispier.)  Let cool, stirring every 10 minutes three times.  When completely cool add dried fruit and/or carob chips.

Use with milk for a cereal, or use as a topping on yogurt or ice cream.