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On the hunt

by Ashley Rodriquez

I have recently become aware of a sub-culture that exists in the ever growing world of food lovers. The people that exist in this culture are passionate, determined, generous, adventurous, tough, gentle and secretive. They are at times self-less and giving and conversely elusive and greedy. For the mushroom hunter, finding the perfect specimen is the ultimate priority but to share their find and to introduce one to the often secretive world of the forager – well, they are just too darn excited and in love with the fungi not to.

Our day of foraging happened a couple of weeks ago while the sun was still warm and the heirloom Brandywine Tomatoes plucked from the garden prior to leaving, were at their peak. The English language lacks the words to describe the honor and privilege I felt to be a part of this expedition. A permanent grin painted my face as I spent the day with some incredibly passionate local foragers.

In all honesty, my lust for mushrooms is a recent development. As a child I would meticulously peel them off my pizza, remove them from strogonoff and avoid them in stews. I still get slightly squeamish at the texture but can greatly appreciate the depth they lend to many of my dishes. But it wasn’t until taking the proper actions in order to seek out the mushroom rather than simply grabbing them from the store that I was able to truly appreciate fungi.

I have come to honor the mushroom not just for its unmistakable flavor that it imparts but because I now understand it much better (with infinitely more to learn). I have discovered where they come from, the care taken to properly find the best variety and the work needed in order for them to be a part of my dinner.

The more I come to learn about food the more I fall deeper in love with it. Good food is both simple and incredibly complex. The good news for us is that if we choose to select and seek out “good food” – food that is seasonal, often local and grown with skill and passion – then much of the work is done for us and it’s quite easy to convert that food into an unforgettably delicious meal.

Ashley Rodriguez is a chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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"Share the Good" Contest

This is a time of year when people are making lifestyle changes for good. We all start to focus on maintaining healthy eating, exercise and setting goals for ourselves to keep us eating healthy. However, there are so many others—friends, family members, and neighbors—who could benefit from the fresh variety of fruits and veggies that you’ve been enjoying!  This season, we want to partner with you in the goal to share the good!

Many new customers join our team of faithful customers at this time every year, and many of those new customers are referrals from you! We are always so excited when a new customer signs up and gets on board with “a box of good” that we send out a thank you gift! Be it one of our incredible coffees, artisan sourdough breads, or delicious products from Sweet Creek Foods, we send out one of these offerings to both the new customer and the existing customer that referred them to us!

This has been a fun way for you to sample some of our product offerings, and yet we decided to make it even more fun for you to refer your friends. We are having a “Share the Good” contest! From now through the month of February, not only will you receive the standard thank you gift for your referrals, but for every two people you refer, your name will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win one of three unique prizes!

Chocolate Lovers Cookie Box
A completely unique, beautiful gift package of Breadfarm’s most delicious chocolate concoctions
Cocoa Nibs
Espresso Shortbread
Chocolate Thumbprints
Dark Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Breakfast Selection
½ lb. of Camano Island Coffee Roasters’ Coffee of the Month
Artisan Chuckanut Multigrain Bread
Local Organic Eggs, 1 doz.
Local Creamed Honey, 12 oz.
2 jars of Fruit Spread, 10 oz. each

Lunch Assortment
Artisan Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread
Albacore Tuna, 7.5 oz.
Dill Pickles, 16 oz.
Peanut Butter, 16 oz.
Fruit Spread, 10 oz.

The prize drawing will take place February 26 and winners will be notified immediately thereafter.

We are excited about making your referrals more rewarding! So spread the word! Share the good!

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Judge Tristan Klesick??

Last week, I attended the American Farm Bureau (AFB) National Conference which was held in Seattle. The AFB hasn’t held its national conference in Seattle since the 1950s.  Normally I wouldn’t head off to an AFB convention, but it was so close to home that I decided to go.  It didn’t hurt either that the local agricultural bank I work with asked me to come and be a judge at one of the AFB contests.

I served as a judge for the Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet.  Essentially, these are the future leaders of American Agriculture and they are competing in a mock policy meeting. The goal is for the participants to demonstrate their abilities to communicate and build consensus around a certain question that is asked of the group. Each group is made up of four to five participants.  This is a big deal and the winner has had to win their state competition and then has to compete with the best from every other state at the national convention.  The winner takes home a brand new Dodge 4×4 pick up. Needless to say, there were some motivated participants.

The question my group was asked to debate was (paraphrased):  We know that the American food supply is the safest in the world, but how do we get that message out to the public?

This was a pretty loaded question and the participants (three men and one woman) discussed it for about 40 minutes. Afterwards, I was ushered off to a “secret” room to tally my scores and turn in my evaluations. 

Sadly, I do not necessarily agree with the presupposition that America’s food supply is the safest in the world.  I certainly do not believe that our system produces the healthiest food in the world.  Our entire focus as a nation has been to direct national farm policy towards cheap grain and, consequently, cheap and empty calories. And because of this national policy we have created an industrial farm model that doesn’t value quality, nutrition or variety, but values quantity and control of our food supply.  And I, personally, believe that this focus has weakened the safety of our food supply and the quality of our food supply to the point that it drastically impacts our educational systems and health care industries in America. 

I would contend that if American farmers were producing healthy food we wouldn’t have a national healthcare crisis and we would not have children “bouncing off the walls” from being fed a high sugar and overly processed food diet.

Thankfully, the organic farmer has stood up and said, “We are going to grow food that is filled with health and nutrition!”  It is not easy to farm organically, it takes more labor and applying minerals and compost to our fields cost more money. But, if we are going to have a healthy food supply, the soil has to have the nutrients available to grow and raise the healthiest fruits and vegetables Americans and everyone else in this world deserve to eat.

Tristan

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Off and Running

This is the famous time of the New Year’s Resolutions.  We save up all of our energy, build up all the muster we have, to make the big push to change something.  If we could only apply all the time we spend waiting to implement the change to the actual change, most of us would be more successful than less in our new habits.  

The crux of the issue boils down to motivation and accountability.  Some would throw in desire, but I have all the desire I need to start anything, but I really need that motivation that comes from accountability to succeed.  “The experts” say it takes 91 days to change a habit.  I think they are right.  It takes 91 days to make the new habit an old habit.

But if we are going to make it to 91 days, we need a plan with some measurable goals.  But don’t spend too much time thinking about your plan. We love to plan in this country, the shelves are filled with dust covered intentions. You already know what areas you want to improve, pick one and get started! 

So if you need to eat healthier, make a plan to eat a salad every day or bring a lunch to work three days per week.  You might decide to walk for 30 minutes, rain or shine, three or four days a week.  These are measurable goals that will eventually lead to the bigger goal of losing weight or increasing your stamina or whatever. 

So let’s get started!  Most of us already have a mental plan, the plan needs shoe leather.  I can’t resist one farmer’s comment at this time: “It is hard to get the field plowed, if you never put the plow in the field.”  So let’s put the plow in the field.  Plowing isn’t always easy and it isn’t always pretty, but if you don’t start plowing, you can’t plant and if you don’t plant you can’t harvest (your goals).

Now tell a spouse, a friend, your farmer (smile) about your goals and ask them to motivate and encourage and hold you accountable on your new venture.  Just get going. You can’t harvest your goals, until you plow the field.

Happy Plowing!                 

Tristan

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Simple decisions for healthy living

The days of heavy holiday foods laden with luscious cream and butter are now a thing of the past, but their memory lives on in the form of tight fitting clothes and an extra pound (or three). We remember those days of celebrating with joy and fondness, but as the new year is upon us, most likely new lifestyle changes and goals are here as well.

Often, diets come and go. Big diet decisions are hard to follow and are quickly laid to rest and old habits become new again.

For me, the most successful lifestyle decisions are the ones that start small yet over time show big changes.

If eating healthier in the New Year is on your list of things to do, first of all, congratulate yourself. Having fresh, organic produce in your home on a regular basis is a HUGE step towards a healthy lifestyle. When sweet cravings strike you can turn to the Bartlett pear or a tangy satsuma. If salty is what you crave turn on the oven and make chips. Yes, I did say chips – they can be part of healthy eating. Many winter vegetables can be turned into crispy and salty morsels that satisfy the need for a crunch. My husband, who feels as if the grocery list is not complete without chips, fends off his cravings with Kale chips.

Other little daily healthful decisions I try to make include: limiting calories that come from beverages and drink more water, watch my sugar intake – which is hard for me as I love to bake, eat smaller quantities and park in the last parking spot rather than the one closest to the store – it’s amazing how a few extra steps a day adds up to miles in the course of a year.

When we make small daily decisions we may not see drastic results as you would with other ‘fad’ diets but you will see a gradually feeling of overall better health and eventually, if weight loss is your goal, you will drop the pounds. The best part is that you will be more likely to stick with this new ‘diet’ because it is quite easy and fun.

You may argue the fun part but I will argue right back at you. Scour the internet, magazines and cookbooks to find new recipes for vegetables and fruit. Old standbys will get new life as you see them used in different ways.

The best decision has already been made as you are making fresh, organic produce a part of your daily life. May 2010 fill you with joy in the kitchen, new recipes to try and a healthful renewed energy.

Blessings to you all in this New Year! 

by Ashley Rodriquez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom.
You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Chilly days and warm fragrant ovens

This time of year my oven is rarely off. My mind swells with satisfaction as the scent of cinnamon and ginger dance through the air mingling with the subtle pine scent wafting from our Christmas tree. It’s a joyous time when something inside me longs to bake each and every day. Rather than acquiring the extra holiday pounds that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly, mimicking that of ol’ St. Nick, I happily share my homemade treats spreading sweet joy to family, friends and neighbors.

 

This season offers a bounty of flavors that love being folded into a rich batter or snuggling up under the heat of the oven. Apples rest under a blanket of sweet and nutty crumble or lay on a bed of buttery-rich dough. Pumpkin gets folded into everything from pancakes to loaf cakes. And my most recent spicy obsession is poached pears. After shedding their skin they get dunked into a warm bath of wine, juice and spices. They tumble around in a simmering broth soaking up the fragrant liquid and return with a soft and tender texture.

Poaching is simply the process of gently simmering food in a liquid. This basic cooking technique is often reserved for fragile food items such as eggs, fish, poultry and fruit. Because of the fragile nature of these foods it is important to keep the heat low and to watch for overcooking which can cause toughness or, in the case of fruit, cause them to fall apart.

Poached pears are impressive and delicious served on their own with a drizzle of warm caramel. They also make a wonderful accompaniment to any sweet custard.

I hope this season finds you in your kitchen warmed by the heat of the oven joyfully creating dishes to be shared with the people who love you and the food you’ve prepared.

Happy Holidays!

 

by Ashley Rodriquez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

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Let the good food movement roll on!

This last week, I came across a couple of good articles at Rodale Institute that I wanted to share with you.

 

Lupus, other autoimmune diseases linked to insecticide exposure

A recent study shows that women who use insecticides are at elevated risk for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The results of the yet unpublished study were presented October 2009 at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The study of 75,000 women shows that those who spray insecticides at least six times per year have almost two and a half times the risk of developing lupus and rheumatoid arthritis versus those who do not use insecticides. The risk doubles if insecticides were used in the home for 20 years or more.

“Our new results provide support for the idea that environmental factors may increase susceptibility or trigger the development of autoimmune diseases in some individuals,” said Dr. Christine G. Parks, PhD. She is an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., one of the lead researchers who analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational

“The findings are fairly compelling” because they show the greater and longer the exposure, the greater the risk,” said Darcy Majka, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University, who also analyzed the WHI data. Full story: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

 

Herbicide-resistant pigweeds stop combines, make national TV

Cotton and soybean farmers in eastern Arkansas are interviewed in an ABC News story highlighting the potential harvest disruption caused by weeds that chemicals cannot kill. The reporter says that more than 1 million acres may be affected by the problem, long predicted by farmers and weed scientists who advocate for non-chemical weed management.

One farmer interviewed said he had spent $500,000 spraying chemicals this year, and lost the battle against pigweed. The resistant, persistent plant pest forms a hard, fibrous stalk that can be as thick as a baseball bat. A veteran extension agent says he has never seen such a weed threat.

While the coverage focuses on the current-year crisis—and highlights the fallacy of depending on herbicides for  long-term sustainability—glyphosate (the active ingredient in many widely used herbicides) has been losing its impact for years, as our background story illustrates. Full story: ABC News

 

Science initially came to the rescue to help farmers control  insects and weeds and now that their chemicals are no longer effective or are even causing autoimmune diseases, America is going to go running back to these companies to solve the problem they helped to create.  It sure looks like the fox (aka chemical companies) has the keys to the hen house (aka USDA).  This kind of information speaks loudly for the importance of Organic Agriculture.

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Enjoying the Holiday Meals

Enjoying the Holiday Meals

Are you rushing around yet? It’s the season for holiday plans, schedules, trying to find and give that perfect gift, and entertaining friends and family. It’s also a time of dietary excess, increased stress, and let’s not forget colds and flu. Statistics show that December is the most stressful month of the year. That and the cold weather alone can wreak havoc on a person. Rest assured! There are things you can do to prepare yourself for the holidays, and prevent certain discomforts that can accompany this season.

Growing up, in my family, it was considered impolite to not sample food being offered, especially if Grandma made it. We would eat and eat, sometimes having three to four holiday meals in one day! Some of you can no doubt identify with this situation. To help you avoid overeating during the holidays, here are some tips. First, avoid starving yourself early in the day to “save room” for the holiday meal. The easiest way to overeat is to create maximum hunger this way. Small frequent meals are always better. Second, remember to drink plenty of water. This will prevent you from serving and eating a huge portion which you will “have to finish,” since you “don’t want it to go to waste.” Third, decide on a maximum and reasonable portion size for the meal and stick to it. After eating, drink some hot herbal tea to promote relaxation.

With too much good food comes heartburn. To decrease your chance of getting the discomfort and pain of heartburn, start the meal with apple cider vinegar. This helps increase digestive enzymes and break down foods faster. Another way to avoid stomach upset is to use deglycyrrhized licorice (abbreviated DGL). Licorice is an herb that stimulates the cells lining your digestive tract to produce mucus. The mucus, in turn, protects the stomach and esophagus from digestive acid. DGL can help tremendously with heartburn, or excess stomach acid, when it’s food related or if you have esophageal reflux (backflow of stomach acid). A typical prescription is to chew and swallow two 400mg tablets 10 minutes before each meal to help keep your digestive tract in order. Talk to your ND to find out what’s best for you.

by Rebecca Dirks, N.D.

Associate Physician, NW Center for Optimal Health

Marysville, 360-651-9355

Producer & Co-Host, Healthy Living, KSER FM 90.7