Monday, January 25, 2010

Farmers We Met This Weekend and Other Things

Justin here.

Friday night, we visited BADSEED, the organic farmer's market near the Crossroads. It's a small but very communal market. This time of year, they obviously don't have a lot of fresh produce, but there were some goodies there. They had lamb, sheep cheeses, breads, preserves, beef, heirloom pumpkins, and eggs. We didn't buy much, just some beautiful eggs and delicious strawberry-apricot preserves from Alice of Western Hills Produce. (Richard, could you confirm that I have her name right?)

Although we didn't buy any beef, we talked to Kim Wells (no relation) of Wells Family Farms in King City. Besides having some very reasonable prices on her organic, grass-fed beef, she was a very entertaining and interesting person. After hearing about her experiences with diatomaceous earth, Richard asked her about buying half and quarter cows, and we were really pleased with how they do the quarters there. Instead of making you pick a front or back quarter, they give you a quarter of every kind of cut you'd get in a whole cow. (This variety makes a quarter purchase much more appealing for us.)

Richard also asked about casings for sausages. Sadly, the slaughterhouse they used isn't able to do that. But Kim was quite excited to let us know that they're going to be opening their own slaughterhouse and that they'll be able to offer even better cuts of meat and more options such as casings! Kim's excitement was infectious, and I'm really wishing her family the best on that adventure. I'm really looking forward to doing some business with them in the future.

Saturday we met up with Sheri from Skyview Farm to pick up some cow milk, goat milk, and chicken livers. We had hoped to get some eggs and cream, but Sheri didn't have enough to go around this time. Instead of being disappointed, I realized that this is how it sometimes will be when buying food from small farms. Sometimes there won't be enough to satisfy everyone. When you're not farming like a factory, you're going to have fewer product to sell. I don't mind that. Plus Sheri has a very fair method of tracking who was short and what they were short on each week to make sure that they get taken care of first next time around.

The milk from Skyview Farm was beautiful, with a good pint or so of light cream on top. It smelled heavenly. The goat's milk had a kind of earthy smell to it that persuaded me that I would not be using it on my cereal. The chicken livers were frozen and some of them kind of fell apart, but for the most part they looked great, and more importantly, they were delicious. (I'm sure that Richard played a hand in that too!) I think we'll be doing more business with them in the future too. The prices were fair and besides the dairy, they sell beef and chicken as well. Sheri's also teaching a cheese-making class at her farm. It's on President's Day which means I can't go, but I hope Richard can make it.

On the homefront, Richard started his gouda. He started it at nearly 5pm Friday, not considering that it's a 12 hour process that doesn't have a clear stopping point anywhere in the middle. It was a long night, but there's cheese sitting in the fridge waiting to age into amazing Gouda, so he must have done it right. I assume Richard will probably share more on his cheese making experience once it turns out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mayonnaise and Ranch Recipes

Below are two recipes that I have made so far. I am planning on attempting a homemade version of Miracle Whip, which just incorporates a few more ingredients into the mayonnaise. The ranch I made uses the mayonnaise recipe. The ranch recipe is a replica of Hidden Valley butter milk ranch, the kind that comes in packet and you mix with butter milk an mayonnaise. I'm almost positive if you replace the mayo and buttermilk with sour cream you will have their ranch dip.  Enjoy! The MyPoints line of the nutritional information section is equivalent to Weight Watchers points.

Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 pinch dried thyme

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.
2. Cover and chill for several hours before using.

Servings: 4
Yield: 1 Cup

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (1.4 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 59.12
Calories From Fat (80%) 47.06

% Daily Value
Total Fat 5.32g 8%
Saturated Fat 1.12g 6%
Cholesterol 9.76mg 3%
Sodium 323.99mg 13%
Potassium 55.18mg 2%
Total Carbohydrates 1.87g <1%
Fiber 0.07g <1%
Sugar 1.57g
Protein 1.18g 2%
MyPoints 1.64



1 1/2  cups soybean oil
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 1/2  teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/16 teaspoon paprika
1/16 teaspoon garlic powder
1/16 teaspoon onion powder

1. Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.
2. Mix together all ingredients except oil.
3. Using a hand held mixer. Slowly add oil, mixing constantly until all oil is incorporated. If you mix the oil too quickly it could separate and be really disgusting. If that occurs, stop adding oil and mix until all the oil has been incorporated, then continue adding oil. The finished product should be light in color and stand up on its own.

Servings: 12
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (1.2 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 183.21
Calories From Fat (97%) 178.53

% Daily Value
Total Fat 20.17g 31%
Saturated Fat 3.8g 19%
Cholesterol 34.14mg 11%
Sodium 585.05mg 24%
Potassium 17.42mg <1%
Total Carbohydrates 0.63g <1%
Fiber 0.01g <1%
Sugar 0.2g
Protein 0.5g 1%
MyPoints 5.35

Monday, January 18, 2010

To Market, To Market

Justin here:

I'm sure Richard will want to weigh in on this too, but I figured that I'll go ahead and share some of my thoughts on grocery shopping with this project.

Convenience is a thing of the past. Our normal grocery outing would involve buying a cart of food to last us for a few weeks with the occasional trip to get a specific ingredient that we want/need for something. It was fairly an in and out affair. Now, the grocery shopping involves going to a specialty store or farmers' market. There we have to inspect the produce (and some of the other foods such as cheeses) that may have gone bad while being transported or sitting on the shelves. We also need to read the labels and sometimes even ask employees for information regarding the food's point of origin. You can't purchase as much unless it's something you can freeze or naturally preserve in some other way. Of course, with the increased cost of these organic foods, we actually have to really plan what we're buying, when we're going to use it, and how much we need (as opposed to how much we want.)

This past week, we decided to check out a couple local organic grocery stores. The first we checked out was a little place here in Independence called Nature's Pantry. It's a bit smaller than the typical suburban grocery store, but they had an adequate selection of foods. The air was thick with a spicy, herby smell that seemed to originate from the natural supplement and health and beauty section.

We started with the produce section. The produce looked a little lackluster, but I was prepared for organic produce to not look as fantastic as its non-organic siblings. What actually disappointed me was this: not a single item in the produce section was locally grown. Not even the winter greens and root vegetables! Most of the fruits and veg came from California and Mexico.

Nature's Pantry didn't have a butcher's counter, but they did carry some locally raised meats from Harmony Farms in their frozen food section. The prices were significantly higher than the non-local, non-organic stuff from our local Hy-Vee. The only local dairy was from Shatto Farms, and the only local eggs were from Campo Lindo in Lathrop. They also had one local variety of honey from an apiary in Raytown.

After Nature's Pantry, we went to Whole Foods. Knowing that Whole Foods was a much bigger operation, we were hoping for more variety and a larger local presence. The store was definitely bigger--much more like the grocery stores we usually visit. There was also a much larger overall selection of products. Sadly, this larger selection didn't include much along the lines of local. Once again, I couldn't find any local produce. I also was saddened that there were no local eggs or meat. We did find local dairy in the form of Shatto milk, butter, and cheeses though. After visiting Whole Foods, I told Richard that I'd probably rather buy any non-local produce we need to buy from them since their produce looked much more robust than the stuff at Nature's Pantry.

I want to point out one more organic option that we didn't give much thought to until we visited the other places: our local Hyvee. We decided to check out their organic offerings because they are two blocks away, and we figured that maybe what we're looking for could be right under our noses. Hy-Vee had the same brands of local meat (Harmony Farms) and eggs (Campo Lindo) as well as the same option for local milk (Shatto). We were also pleased to find that they carried some non-homogenized milk from grass-fed cows. It wasn't exactly local--it comes from Iowa--but until we find a local dairy provider, it'll do. If you aren't concerned with the local aspect and just want to eat more organically grown foods, check out your local Hy-Vee. Ours was very competitively priced and had many of the same brands as Nature's Pantry and Whole Foods.

Our plan is to hit some local farmers' markets this week. We'll be going to The Bad Seed after work on Friday. (Let us know if you want to tag along!) Saturday morning, we're going to see if anyone is at City Market and the Brookside Farmers' Market too. Hopefully, we'll have lots of useful information after that. We are also still planning on visiting farms, but that may not be until the weather improves.

Oh, and Richard needs to post some recipes! He's trying to learn to make processed foods from scratch since it will probably be cheaper than buying organic stuff from the store. (I guess we'll also know exactly what we'll be eating.) So far Richard has made some ranch dressing/dip, milk caramel sauce, bread, and mozzarella cheese.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Little Things

Richard here.

I have always thought why buy it when you can make it. Most of my family was related to a farm in some sense. They either owned a farm or grew up on one. I was lucky myself to have been close to both of my maternal great-grandparents, who both had farms almost until death. I spent a lot of time on the farm, following around my great-grandmothers and eating the food that was straight from the farm to the table. I was inspired to go back to those almost long forgotten times.

Part of my research has been to find recipes for those items that I have really taken advantage of, like condiments. Now I know that you can buy all of these items from an organic market, but wouldn't it be better if you knew the person who grew the tomatoes for the ketchup or even grew them yourself? I realize that not everything that you need you can get locally and that's just something I have to come to terms with.

I will be testing recipes that I find and probably making up some of my own along the way. I plan to post my experiences, tips and recipes (only the good ones of course). I have attempted a couple so far, but I want to continue further practice before I share any information.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Step One: Research

Justin here:

The first step in this quest for better food is research. We want to shop around a little, compare prices and practices, you know? So Richard hopped on the computer and started looking around the internet and found a pretty cool resource at Eat Wild is a site that has a directory of local ranches and farms that raise grass fed animals as well as information on why grass fed is a better alternative to grain fed. Their listings by state are pretty handy, and have been a great starting place for us.

NOTE: Any websites we mention specifically on this blog will be listed in the links section on the right hand side. We'll also link to the sites of all the physical places we visit (providing that they have one).

One of the sites we found on Eat Wild was the site for Hidden Hills Farms. This private membership farm piqued my interest for two reasons. 1) It basically sounds like an organic farming co-op. 2) It's in my hometown Edgerton, MO! (Actually, they list two addresses, one in Edgerton and one in Smithville. It's probably somewhere in the Edgerton/Trimble/Smithville triangle.) Membership seems a bit steep at $6000 a year, but they offer a 10% discount for members that put in 60 hrs of work on the farm (called a "working membership"). The membership gets you 52 chickens (one a week), 6 turkeys in the fall, 120 lbs of pork, and 120 lbs of beef. In addition to the meat, you also get a dozen eggs per week, two gallons of raw milk (not pasteurized or homogenized) per week, two other units of dairy per week, and $1200 worth of produce that you can purchase from their produce market. They also sell prime meat cuts and lamb at their members' market.

We are really intrigued by this place. Due to the fact that the membership needs to be paid in one lump sum and that their slaughtering schedules tie to the seasons, this isn't going to be an option we pursue this year, but they are definitely going to be on our radar. In fact, their site mentions that they offer classes on butchering your own meats, making your own cheeses, and other farm-to-table processes that Richard and I would both like to attend. Richard's contacting the friendly people at Hidden Hills to find out more about the class schedules, topics, and fees. We'll share that info when we get it. I'm sincerely hoping it's going to be affordable. I'd like to take a class or two and be able to share that experience with all of you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Mission

Justin here.

So I finally got Richard to watch Food, Inc. He'd been trying to avoid it because he was sure that if it was anything like some of the articles on food handling that I'd been sending him, he'd probably never eat again. But I'm incredibly persuasive (read: annoying), and he finally broke down and watched it with me.

He didn't stop eating, and he didn't throw out all the food in the house, so I guess the viewing went better than I expected. We discussed how we both liked the idea of getting locally raised, organic foods. So we decided that over the next year, we're going to try to find some great local food producers and gradually start eating great, organic, local food. We figure it's a double win. We'll be able to support our community farmers, and we'll be more involved in what goes in our mouths!

And we're not just going to be better about buying great ingredients. We're going try to avoid buying things like pasta and bread too. We'll make 'em. We're really going to start taking our food much more seriously.

This blog will be where we include all of our adventures in trying to go organic and local with our food sources. We'll share where we shop, what farms we visit (we're serious about getting involved with our food!), and any other zany food-related misadventures. Richard suggested that I do most of the blogging since he's planning on spending a lot more time in the kitchen so you'll mostly be stuck reading my version of what's going on, but hopefully he'll step in and share things too!

So to anyone who's reading, wish us luck. I hope that you enjoy the blog, and if nothing else, maybe we'll find something interesting that will be of use to you.