I came across this interesting video highlighting a growing season at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Richard Hoffman, a filmmaker,  compiled this video from 20,000 still photo images he took recording his journey from a passive observer to an active participant with his local CSA.  It is a beautiful story of Richard and his family reconnecting with the land, their food, and their community.

Watch Fridays at the Farm here.

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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

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!