Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday musings

It feels like spring has committed to the East Bay. Since early last month its been on and off with the cold rainy weather and the almost warm sun that we have most of the year. But the explosion of vegetables in the market over the last two weeks has been astounding. I really like the Tuesday Berkeley Market. Its pretty small, and very crowded. I sometimes get squirrelly because I am going to run into people I know and have to talk to them. (I am not cut out for urban living.) I asked the woman working the Four Sisters Farm stand when they would be getting in purslane. She told me between two weeks and a month. I am getting excited for the return .

I have some nettle vinegar steeping in my cabinet and I look forward to making purslane vinegar soon too. The nettle vinegar is for all sorts of things, but mostly for calcium. The vinegar breaks down the calcium in the nettle leaves so that its easily absorbed by the body. It provides 150-200mg of usable calcium per tablespoon. Its less than you get from pharmaceutical sources i.e. calcium supplements, but is easily used by your body. The purslane vinegar will be primarily for omega 3. I have been taking omega suppliments on and off for a while. I am quite down on supplements in general so I will be happy to have the vinegar in a few months. I would also like to get some cod liver oil, not capsules because there is a strong chance that the ones that are in the capsules have gone rancid and there really is no way to tell, as you cannot smell them.

I made roast chicken breast last night. It went off well. I had some itsy bitsy blue potatoes from Berkeley Bowl and spring garlic with the stems attached. I halved the garlic bulbs and lay them down in a small casserole dish with the potatoes. I put the chicken on top, smeared it with butter, lay some lemon slices on top and sprinkled it all with rosemary, salt and pepper. It was quite tasty. My favorite parts were the spring garlic bulbs and the crispy lemon slices. While that stuff was baking I chopped up the garlic stems and sauted them in butter. When they were all tender I added lemon juice and poured it all over lightly steamed asparagus. WOW! Tonight I am going to make flattened artichokes. My parents sent me some artichoke recipes and as it is the beginning of "there are so many artichokes" season, I am going to bust through them all.

I was disappointed today. I hadn't made yogurt in a month or two and my culture had gone bad. I brought it on the plane from New York in January. The yogurt I made with that culture was never quite right so I'm not that upset. It took 12 or more hours to set up and then it was way liquidy. So I'll keep up the search for a delicious yogurt over here. It think St. Benoit might work, I'll get some when I shop next week.

Oh, I decided to experiment today and I tied some lavender into an old sock and threw it in the dryer with my clothes. It smelled delightful. I am super allergic to chemical fragrances so I can't use any detergents that have smelly stuff, not even essential oils. Hopefully this won't give me contact dermatitis. I would love to be able to make my laundry smell pretty.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beef Bone Joy!

I totally lucked out at the Berkeley Bowl today. I went for my usual grocery shop and had it in mind that I would like some beef stock. I asked one of the ladies at the meat counter if they had any organic beef bones in the back. She seemed dubious, but It turned out they had a femur! I snapped that up quick and had them cut it up into reasonable sized pieces. Now I am slowly filtering many many cups of water through my Brita for soup.

The simmering of the beef bones can go between 12-72 hours, depending on who your natural gas supplier is. Mine is PG&E so I'll probably simmer the bones around 20 hours.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cat Food

Today I will tell you a little about what I have learned on the subject of commercial cat food.

My kitty cat Sara has always been a fat feline. She is the kind of cat strangers stop on the street and say "thats one big cat." for the first four years of her life she was about 13lbs. She could groom herself, she would play. When I went to college she began to get really really fat. She gained 5 pounds! By the time I moved her out to California she exceeded the maximum amount weight to put her in the cabin, and she def wouldn't fit under the seat. I had to put her in Cargo. I put Luna down there too so they wouldn't be separated and then ran through all the horrible things that happen to cats involved in plane travel for the entire 6 hour flight. I vowed that when we moved back, Sara would fit under the seat.

I took them to a Vet for their annual and he sold me some prescription diet r/d wich is the current way to get cats to lose weight. I was feeding her a 1/2 c. a day. She was miserable and still not getting any thinner. I turned to the internet...

Cats are obligate carnivores. Most animals on this planet are omnivores. Dogs, bears, dolphins, etc. are omnivores that are often thought of as carnivores because of their physiology, however they have the ability to digest matter that is not meat, for instance, rice. A dog can digest rice, and get some nutrients from it, a cat can't. When cats became popular as house pets a few decades ago, the pet food industry set out to make "cat food" what they did was take some dog kibble, throw extra taurine in it, and sell it to you. Unfortunatly for out kitty friends that kibble is poor nutrition. To make the kibble into hard crunchy shapes they must be made out of carbohydrates. They are cooked at such high temperatures the nutrients are destroyed, even the all important taurine. The pet food companies pack it up put the AFFCO approval on it, and tell you its all your cat needs, and please provide fresh water at all times. This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Cats cannot digest the kibble because there is 35%-50% carbohydrates in them, versus the 3%-8% they are prepared to consume. These carbs provide plant based protein which omnivores like us can synthesize into usable protein, our cats just poop it out and go hungry. The second big problem with kibble is that it is far too dry for cats. They evolved in north Africa and as such have developed to get almost all their water from food. They have very little thirst drive. If you see cats drinking water, you know that they are already quite dehydrated.
The problems that this diet causes for cats are numerous. However many cat diseases that have appeared in the last 20 years are easily treatable by switching cats to high quality wet food with no grains, or a raw meat diet.

I started to feed Sara wellness cat food and within three weeks, she could lick her own butt. She weighs in now at 13-14lbs. The vet's target weight for her was 15lbs.

You could listen to me or you could go to this vet's website, catinfo.org. If you are of a scientific turn of mind I highly recommend the article by Debra L. Zoran published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. A great book on the subject is Your Cat: New secrets to a longer stronger life. Also I made a list of cheaper (supermarket brand) wet food with acceptable carbohydrate, water, and sugar levels if you are interested, I'll post it.

I cannot stress enough to you pet owners that the best thing you can do for your cat is march over to your food bowl and throw the kibble away. And if your vet disagrees with you, get a new vet. Thats what I did.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Organic Skin Care

My face has be acne-prone since I hit puberty. It drives me nuts! For the most part I have stayed away from the chemicals we foist on little girls telling them their skin will be clear. Instead I voted for the health food store stuff, only to later find it also filled with chemicals. After careful searching I found two companies I can truly support, Terressentials and Grateful Body. Both are food grade organic, both have about a six month shelf-life, and they are both expensive($20-$30). Less expensive, and less endorsed by yours truly, is Aubrey organics, which have a pretty solid ingredient list, aside from the occasional "fragrance" or "Aubrey's Preservative" listing. I have seen a few peoples skin clear up on these products, just not mine.

My skin seems to be the most addicted to its acne. My personal favorite beauty line-up includes, washing my face with yogurt (homemade of course), making regular scrubs with cornmeal, and using a clay mineral mask. Not that it has made my skin completely clear, but every step I take makes it a little better. Recently I began working at a spa that uses Ayurvedic products called Shankara. The owner hooked me up with some teeny tiny bottles of cell activator and blemish oil. It appears the acne is going away, for real this time. I am amazed. These products are beyond what I would normally consider an acceptable cost, but they work so darn well($30-$55).

Yogurt Face Cleanser:
Pinch of Salt
pinch of baking soda if you have blackheads

Smear all over your face and neck, let it sit for 2 minutes, rinse it of with lukewarm water

*a note on yogurt: I recommend full fat yogurt. If you are vegan, or for some other reason milk yogurt is unacceptable, try to find grain yogurt, such as oat or rice milk yogurt, not soy yogurt. Soy has a tendency to attract free radicals, rather than neutralize them.*


More on my skin as it becomes clear.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Turkey Stock, Nettle Soup, and Corned Beef + Chard

Today we came to the realization that there were no readily consumable eats in the house. I was out of cheese and bread, we had no meats, and Jason was entirely out of snacks, so we headed to Trader Joe's to get some packaged food. There I found a Nieman Ranch corned beef. So I snatched it up along with some stout and a bag of pre-prepped swiss chard. I know its traditional to make corned beef and cabbage; but if I don't ferment my cabbage before attempting to eat it, disaster ensues. It was mighty tasty, and the broth is ridiculously good. I may have to add it to my chili for tomorrow.

Earlier in the day I portioned out my Turkey Stock. My method for making poultry stock, in large part inspired by my father, is a long process. The first step is to find somewhere that carries organic meaty bones, such as back and neck, and sells them for under $1/lb. Put 3-4 lbs in a huge pot and simmer the bejesus out of them along with a carrot or two, onion, celery, and maybe some fresh herbs. This batch I threw on the stove around 1pm and went to work. (I hope my landlord doesn't find my blog) When I got home I let it simmer until about 10pm. Then I took out all the parts, strained out the veggies, and put the pot in the fridge. The next night I skimmed the fat off, and clarified it. To clarify stock, I put in egg whites and whisked the pot until the liquid boiled, then I let it sit. Once the egg came together, I strained the now clear broth into a smaller pot and put it back in the fridge. I attempted to make mayonnaise with the yolks. Maybe because it was 11pm, or the food processor has a oddly fitted blade, or the faeries wanted it all for themselves, but it was a disaster. That was Thursday, today I filled many many ziploc bags with two cups of stock each.

While I was clarifying on thursday, I made dinner. I was trying to make a roast Cornish game hen, which is just the right amount of food for two wiry kids. Unfortunately the hen I had bought at Whole Foods the day before was actually labeled January 27th. My goodness it smelt awful!! I threw it away, and am going to get my money back from whole foods and go get a bird at the local butcher or Berkeley Bowl. I had to think on my feet and instead made a creamy nettle soup. I turned some onions and garlic in butter, added a handful of rolled oats, and sauted that until the oats were toasted, then I threw in some of the infamous turkey stock(it had not yet been clarified), once it came to a boil I added chopped nettles. If you were wondering, in the process of prepping the nettles I was stung only once. Once finished I added some sour cream, because if there is anywhere I can add fat to a dish, I will. It was good, we were full.

By the way, not only was St. Patrick a Roman, he landed in an Ireland already partially-Christianized by St. Columba. So if anyone wants to celebrate St. Colomba, St. Columbanus, or St. Brigid day, you can find me out back on my high horse.

Embarking BLOG

I have decided to start a blog, this happens to be something I have thought about doing for 1000 years, well, maybe 3 or 4 months. Here I will share with the public my adventures in food and herbalism, discoveries, and other things that I feel should be shared.

The idea to blog came about when I found out the Judy's Organic egg, Uncle Eddy's Wild Hen Farm, Gold Circle, Rock Island Fertilized Eggs, and Petaluma Farms are all produced by one company in one large building. This made me so angry I stormed around the apartment for days glaring out the windows, wondering how I didn't know that I was eating eggs from these people. Whenever I went to the Berkeley Bowl I thought of putting up signs, warning other consumers of this deception. I felt like stopping people at the check out saying, "do you know thats a Petaluma Farms product you are buying?" I didn't, instead I found eggs I found acceptable and warned my friends, many of whom rolled their eyes. My lovely bf told me to blog, probably so I would stop telling him the same things over and over for lack of another audience.

Then I became enraged over cat food, the quality of it, the ingredients, and the misinformation given to the public, yadda yadda yadda...

Neither of these things actually gave me the reason to start a blog. My frustration at the state of the food industry was more of an impedance to bloggerizm that an inspiration. I didn't want to start a blog just to say that I felt mislead by egg packaging, or that most cats in this country are chronically dehydrated due to the food that we give them. I wanted to share good ideas, recipes and the occasional outrage. Apparently I needed to wait until the rainy season was over.

So here we are.