Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is Advertising dominating our holidays?

Photo by Tama Leaver

I'm just on a rant, so feel free to skip reading this post!

What kid in the US today, regardless of whether they are Christian, Rastafarian, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Shinto, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Jewish or another religion, doesn't equate Easter with Cadbury Eggs and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs? The kids are really lucky if Mom actually made some hard-boiled eggs and colored decorated them. It's all about SUGAR anymore. (And corporate profits from sugar-laden products. No wonder our health nationwide is declining.)

Photo by Jamiesrabbits

It's similar for the Christmas holiday, where the emphasis is on gift-giving... or New Year's Celebration with champagne, and Thanksgiving with the emphasis on Butterball turkeys rather than being Thankful. 

I'm not familiar with traditional holidays in religions around the world, but I'd be surprised if there isn't advertising (or at least being planned by BigAdvertising) influencing folks on where to spend their grocery money...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Orange Household Cleaner

I've bought this kind of household cleaner for ages, but thought it was finally time to make my own. Duh.

Making it is simple. Peel oranges, put the peels in a jar, cover with white vinegar, and let it steep for a few days (or weeks, doesn't matter much except it gets stronger with orange oil as it ages). When you think it's strong enough, strain the vinegar for use.

In the photo above, there are a few pieces of orange sections from where I squeezed some for juice. I figured it can't hurt, but if it eventually causes the vinegar to mold, I'll just start afresh.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Osso Buco Garnish


When I posted a couple of days ago about making my first Osso Buco, I neglected to mention a very important ingredient... the Gremolata garnish. Truly, the dish is incomplete without it!

Thankfully, I had a little bit of Italian parsley still growing beneath the snow.


    2 Tbsp Minced flat (Italian) parsley

    1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (use a microplane for finer grating, if possible)

    2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced

Mix all ingredients together, and put them in a small dish to serve atop the Osso Buco at the dinner table.

(I did go back and add it to the original post, but not all my readers go back to see updates.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My First Osso Buco

Osso Buco is a dish I have wanted to try for a long time. Finally last week, one of the grass-fed meat vendors at the farmer's market had veal shanks, so it was time to try it out.

Since there's just my sis and me to eat it, I only used 3 of the shanks, a total of just over 2 pounds. 

First I tied kitchen twine around each shank to keep them intact, followed by a liberal dose of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Next I dredged them in flour and browned them in about a third-cup of very hot olive oil in my heavy enameled cast-iron soup pot.

After they were well-browned, I took them out of the pot, added diced carrots and onions to the hot oil, cooking until translucent. (The loose recipes I combined called for celery too, but I was out.) Then I added about half a tablespoon of tomato paste, put the shanks back in with a cup of dry white wine, cooking until the wine was reduced by half.

Next I added a cheesecloth bag with a sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme, 2 whole cloves, and a bay leaf, and 2 cups of homemade veal stock (chicken stock would work too). It simmered (covered) about 2 hours, and I added a bit more stock as it cooked down, keeping the liquid level up to at least 2/3 the thickness of the shanks.

I ran out of steam to finish the dish, so I let the pot cool, and refrigerated it overnight.

This morning, I veered from the traditional way of serving Osso Buco (whole shank pieces), taking the shanks out of the broth to cut away the tougher portions. (The meat was still very tough even after 2 hours simmering... after all, the legs of bovines get a good workout.) I trimmed away the "scraps" and cut the meat into bite-size pieces and added the meat back to the broth, along with the marrow I scooped out of the bones. 

I think it will all cook out nice and tender, and I'll serve it with creamy grits. So far, the taste of the braise is outstanding, but I need the meat to be more tender so we can chew it! Traditionally Osso Buco is served with polenta or risotto, but I have stone-ground grits on hand. Close enough to suit me!

The bones, trimmings and gristle are now simmering away in the crockpot for more stock, which I will pressure-can. Gristle is just cartilage, which will cook down to a gel substance that's great for our joints. 


Update: I forgot to add a very important part of the recipe: the gremolata garnish! 

    2 Tbsp minced flat (Italian) parsley
    1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane for best results)
    2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Combine the gremolata ingredients and place in a separate small serving dish. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

There's HOPE for Spring!!

Many of us have suffered a very long winter, whether covered in white snowfall, or just a dead-looking, forlorn brown landscape. Today while I was out and about, I came across a GREEN field, and it gives me hope that Spring really IS just around the corner.

I think this field must be planted with a cover crop, for there look to be shards of corn stalks here and there mixed in with the green. No matter... it's green and I loved it!

I also saw a tiny touch of red on the tips of a few flowering trees, just not enough to photograph.

Friday, March 15, 2013


My mattress is terrible, and needs to be replaced. In fact, it has needed replacement for more than 2+ years. Several things have prevented me from doing so, however.

The biggest barrier has been what to use as a replacement. Mattresses are not cheap, and most are composed of metal coils, often plastic coated, encased in fabric and padding. As a result of their materials and manufacturing, they also contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and chemical fire retardants that will off-gas over time. And, with a price tag of over $350 for a full size mattress, this option isn’t particularly economical. 

However, there is such a thing as eco-friendly and organic mattresses. These usually contain organic cotton or wool, non-toxic fire retardants, natural latex rubber, and recycled metal springs. But with an even heftier price tag of around $1000 for a full size mattress, this isn’t really an option for me at all.

Another consideration I have is the toll on the landfills of all our used mattresses. 

Then today, Mrs. Homegrown @ root simple posted a piece about homemade mattresses and it really inspired me to consider several alternatives.

After all, I am always in favor of re-cycling, re-using, and whatever else we can do to help mitigate the destruction we heap on this lovely blue planet we call home.

There is a lovely older couple in the next county south of here who raise pastured sheep, and I buy my lamb from them. I know she collects wool and weaves, but otherwise my knowledge of wool is rather limited. Our farmer's market opens for the season tomorrow, and if she's there I intend to pick her brain about wool for a mattress. 

Mrs. Homegrown also mentioned mattresses of buckwheat shells. I have a neck pillow (somewhere) that is filled with buckwheat but I no longer remember if it's just hulls or actual buckwheat. I should find it!

Years ago I had a friend who made eye shades (for sleeping) that were just a soft fabric filled with flax seeds. The seeds were cheap, and slick and shiny enough to move and adjust to any body configuration. I wonder if they'd make a good mattress filling?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Blood Tests incl. Vitamin D

Well, the medical news from my 2 day visit to Wake Forest Hospital for doctor's appointments and lab tests is not bad, but it's not so great either. The doctors continue to ponder WHY my body is not processing and utilizing all the good, well-balanced nutrients I eat.

Now six weeks after my recent GI bleed, my levels of red blood cells, platelets, hematocrit and hemoglobin are all still below normal (although improving, albeit slowly), and also low are potassium, magnesium and calcium. No wonder I'm tired all the time, and have zero energy!

Surprising to me, my Vitamin D level is also "insufficient". The new recommended daily allowance (RDA), as set in 2010 and based on age, is as follows: for those 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily; for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily.

I take 1000 IU softgels 3 times daily (breakfast, lunch and supper) but my insufficiency level supports the research I've read over the last 3-4 years that says we may need a minimum of  5,000-10,000 IU's daily. Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, along with Vitamin A, E and K. Those vitamins are stored the liver and adipose (fat) tissue when not needed, but if we don't have an intake of enough saturated fat in our foods, they are lost.

I get enough saturated fat in eggs, cheese, whole milk and grass-fed meats that I'm sure I get enough for the fat-soluble vitamins. I'm not so sure that folks who buy all the "fat-free" products actually get enough (if any) of the right kind of fats to utilize vitamins A, D, E, and K.

What do YOU eat?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I may learn to like "Whole Foods" stores!

I need to change my opinion of the giant grocery chain Whole Foods. "Whole Foods" has often been called "Whole Pocketbook" because of the cost of many of their items. Since there isn't a Whole Foods store within a hundred miles of my home, I don't have much opportunity to check them out. However, if I'm on a trip, I will occasionally stop by a Whole Foods store in search of goodies I have not found anyplace else.

Then today, the NY Times carried the story that Whole Foods has become the first retailer in the US that will require labeling of ALL genetically modified foods sold in its 339 US and Canadian stores. 

Whole Foods’ shelves already carry some 3,300 private-label and branded products that are certified non-GMO, the largest selection of any grocery chain in the country. (Look for 365 Everyday Value.)

Genetically modified ingredients have been deeply embedded in the global food supply since the 1990s. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States have been genetically modified. Efforts are under way to produce a genetically altered apple that will spoil less quickly, as well as genetically altered salmon that will grow faster. 

The Whole Foods announcement ricocheted around the food industry and excited proponents of labeling. “Fantastic,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group that favors labeling.

22 states in the US now have some sort of pending labeling legislation.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Roofing Problems

I finally had enough money saved to replace the leaky flat roof over the back porch with a pitched roof, and I hired a roofer who started last Monday. I really thought I had made a good choice of someone who would do the job correctly, and for a reasonable price.

The 3-man crew worked just one short day before I fired them, partly for shoddy workmanship (the new framing is very out-of-square), and partly for the bossman being a liar and a cheat. I tolerate things many people wouldn't, but lying to me isn't on the list. (I've even shed long-time friends, and Lovers, for lying to me. I may not like the truth, but I can accept it far better than a lie.)

Now I'll be looking for another roofer, and the overall job price will be higher because they will have to remove and repair what this guy did. (I'm out over $475 to this guy.) If we were just going to re-roof the whole house with new shingles, it wouldn't have been so bad, but he knew we plan on a metal roof, and he even gave me a quote on that job. Metal roofing does NOT allow for a roof to be out of square!

The thing that bothers me the most (besides the aggravation and money) is that I'm no longer able to do the roofing job myself. I was a licensed contractor for many years, and even had a house I built published in the magazine Fine Homebuilding. (Actually I was the first woman builder to be published in that magazine.)

I will be out of town until the middle of next week for some time with friends and then appointments at Wake Forest Hospital in NC to follow up on my medical problems. 

Then the search for a new roofer begins...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interesting Blog Posts on Chickens

In case you don't read these 2 blogs, both had posts worth reading on chickens and eggs today.

Homegrown: or A Tale of Two Chickens

Chickens Are NOT Vegetarians!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fennel and Apples

I still have quite a few sweet potatoes and winter squash stored in my cool pantry, so I've been looking at new ways to use them before they aren't good anymore. I found this recipe online, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fennel, Apples, and Pecans.

I didn't add the pecans (I can't chew nuts), nor the maple syrup (I don't need the sugar), but I did sprinkle a little cinnamon mixed into a full teaspoon of sugar over the top before roasting.

I served this with the rabbit I fried. YUM!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Testing EVOO's for ingredient purity

Recently I posted about fake ingredients in foods, esp. olive oils. Then a few days ago, a friend passed on a tip to verify if it's really unadulterated olive oil. Put some EVOO in a small container and refrigerate for 2 days. If it's unadulterated, the EVOO will solidify.

I had 3 brands of First Cold-Pressed EVOO on hand, so I tried the technique. The Frantoia I use only as a finishing oil passed with flying colors. The other 2, also marked first cold-pressed EVOO, failed miserably. One was Zoe (from Spain), and the other is Bella-Famiglia (from Italy).

What kind of oil the last two have been cut with is anybody's guess. The GMO canola or soybean are about the cheapest oils, but none of the vegetable oils are very healthy for us. 

On the other hand, there is some disagreement about the reliability of the refrigerator test, although I happen to think it's the best method available to me at home.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Undeclared Aspartame in milk, yogurt?

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed a petition with the FDA on 20 February 2013 to alter the definition of "milk" to secretly include chemical sweeteners like aspartame and chlorine-containing sucralose without them being listed on the label.

The full text of the Petition to Amend the Standard of Identity for Milk and 17 Additional Dairy Products may be found in the Federal Register here. Scroll down to "Food and Drug Administration, Proposed Rules" for the PDF.

The petition requests that FDA similarly amend the standards of identity for 17 other milk and cream products. Those standards (referred to as the “additional dairy standards”) are as follows:

Acidified milk (§ 131.111)
cultured milk (§ 131.112)
sweetened condensed milk (§ 131.120)
nonfat dry milk (§ 131.125)
nonfat dry milk fortified with vitamins A and D (§ 131.127)
evaporated milk (§ 131.130)
dry cream (§ 131.149)
heavy cream (§ 131.150)
light cream (§ 131.155)
light whipping cream (§ 131.157)
sour cream (§ 131.160)
acidified sour cream (§ 131.162)
eggnog (§ 131.170)
half-and-half (§ 131.180)
yogurt (§ 131.200)
lowfat yogurt (§ 131.203)
nonfat yogurt (§ 131.206)

According to Natural News: DFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as "reduced calorie" are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk -- including flavored milk -- as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can "more easily identify its overall nutritional value."

This is all being done to "save the children," we're told, because the use of aspartame in milk products would reduce calories.

In other words, hiding aspartame from consumers by not including it on the label actually helps consumers, according to the IDFA and NMPF!

Yep, consumers are best served by keeping them ignorant. If this logic smacks of the same kind of twisted deception practiced by Monsanto, that's because it's identical: the less consumers know, the more they are helped, according to industry. And it's for the children, too, because children are also best served by keeping them poisoned with aspartame.

Consumers have always been kept in the dark about pink slime, meat glue, rBGH and GMOs in their food. And now, if the IDFA gets its way, you'll be able to drink hormone-contaminated milk from an antibiotics-inundated cow fed genetically modified crops and producing milk containing hidden aspartame. And you won't have the right to know about any of this!

The FDA confirms this "secret" status of aspartame, stating, "If the standard of identity for milk is amended as requested by petitioners, milk manufacturers could use non-nutritive sweeteners in flavored milk without a nutrient content claim in its labeling."

The FDA is requesting public comments until May 25, 2013 on this dangerous proposed rule. Click here for instructions.

Duck Feet

In the past, I have used chicken feet in stock because they give off a lot of gelatinous material that is high in glucosamine and chondriton. Great stuff for our joints and bones, and they give a bit of body to stock.

Recently in a nearby Asian market,  I found frozen duck feet that had been skinned and had the nails cut off so I picked up some for just gelatinous stock to add to soups, stews or whatever. They add the same benefits as chicken feet, but I didn't have to skin and declaw them myself.

I cooked these in a crock pot about 6-7 hours, and then pressure-canned them in 4 oz. jars. Just one jar (or even half a jar) makes a great addition to any soup or stew, and doesn't add any flavor.