Meat Eaters Rejoice!

If You Are Concerned About The Source of Your Meat, Then This Post is For You

I love meat but really don’t love commercially raised feedlot animals. As I became pickier and pickier in selecting the meats I choose for my family and friends, I found the quality harder to find in easy to shop food locations.

When I did find grass-fed beef, it was expensive!

To the tune of $20.00 each 6 ounce steak expensive.

At that price, not many people can afford to eat grass-fed beef.

Until now!

Butcher Block is a company that specializes in grass-fed beef, organic chicken and heirloom pork. And the home deliver is sustainable packaging, not Styrofoam.

I ordered a box of mixed meats from them and got: 2 – 6 ounce Filet Mignon, 2 – NY Strips, 2 # ground beef, 2 sirloin steaks, 1 pork tenderloin and 1 bag of chicken tenderloin. Each box has 8-11 pounds of meat per box which is enough to make 20-28 meals.

Guess What,

I arranged for anyone ordering their Butcher Block Box through this link, to get:

$10.00 Off and 1# of free BACON

If you don’t eat bacon, then I’m absolutely positive there is someone you know who does who you could gift it to. But I have to tell you , it makes the most amazing BLT you will ever eat. Just saying.

Here is a video about the company. Watch, decide, the follow the link to order your box.

You’ll be glad you can get this quality of excellent meat shipped to your door at a price you can afford.

Here’s the link again:

Get My Butcher Box!

 

Now the biggest decision you need to make is to choose from one of the options:

There are 5 boxes to choose from: 1) all beef, 2) beef and chicken, 3) beef and pork, 4) chicken and pork, 5) Classic mixed box: beef, chicken, and pork.

I got the Classic Mixed Box and was more than satisfied with it. 8-11 pounds of meat per box which is enough to make 20-28 meals.

Meat Eaters Rejoice!

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Make Almond Milk – It’s So Easy!

It’s so easy to make almond milk at home, why wouldn’t you?

Almond Milk and Cookies

Almond Milk and Cookies

The most difficult thing is to remember to soak the almonds overnight. Once you start making your own milk on a regular basis, you’ll get into a rhythm. There is not one bit of this that is hard to do.

The ingredients are few, recognizable as real food and delicious.

Here’s how:

Almond Milk, lightly sweetened

  • Servings: 5 eight ounce
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients for Almond Milk

Ingredients for Almond Milk

To make 5 cups:

1 cup raw almonds, skin on

Water to cover for initial soaking; about 4-5 cups (this water gets discarded)

4 cups water – to make the milk

3 Medjool dates, remove the pits

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Method:

Place the almonds in a bowl, cover them with fresh water. Cover the bowl and allow the almonds to soak for 12-24 hours.

Drain the water and use it to water some plants.

Place the soaked almonds into a blender.IMG_9859

Add 4 cups fresh water, pitted dates, vanilla and salt into a high-powered blender. Secure the cover and turn on high. Allow it to run on high for 2-4 minutes, depending on the power of your blender. If you are using a vita-mix, use the lower time to 2 minutes, more generic style blenders, process for a longer time.

Use a wire mesh strainer over a bowl to strain the milk from the solids. Using a rubber spatula or bowl scraper,work the almond, date pulp around the wire strainer until it’s as dry as you can get it. Save this for another use, after all it’s just ground almonds, dates and vanilla.

Straining Almond Milk

Straining Almond Milk

Pour the milk into a pitcher or milk jug and refrigerate until well chilled.

This milk is very lightly sweetened and is the consistency of whole milk. If you want it thinner, add more water, thicker, use less water. Same with the dates for sweetening.

You want chocolate Almond Milk? Add organic dark coc

oa powder with the dates. Simply amazing.

Almond Milk Label

Almond Milk Label

Once you try this homemade almond milk, you’ll be so spoiled! Read the labels on a store-bought almond milk. Which would you prefer to drink and give to your family?

The ground almonds and dates left over from the process make nice cakes and cookies. I’ve used the almond debris to replace zucchini in zucchini brownies with great success.

I’ve made Chocolate Almond Cherry Ice Cream and no bake almond butter, date and oat balls.

Almond milk "debris"

Almond milk “debris”

How do you use the almond debris left over from the milk? I’m getting fat from the cakes and cookies!

#almondmilk #makeyourown #makealmondmilk #almonds #noprocessedfood #wholefoods #vegan #nondairymilk #nutmilk

#makenutmilkathome #healthyeating #wellness

Almond Milk and Almond Cranberry cookies made from the debris

Almond Milk and Almond Cranberry cookies made from the debris

Questioning the Ethics of Farmers Markets

Is everything you buy from the farmers market from a local farm? If you think so, I hate to tell you, but in some cases,  you would be wrong.

As with every industry, business and activity, there are those who will jump on an opportunity for a quick buck.

Got to be NC Agriculture

Got to be NC Agriculture

There are ethical markets that vet their vendors to prove the products they are selling are indeed from the local area. Locally, the Matthews Farmers Market, Atherton Mills Market and Yorkmont Markets are truly farmers markets. Then there are others.

It really irks me when I see opportunists take advantage of trusting customers. Our local Farmers Markets  sell produce, hoop cheese and country ham; primary season is from April through October 31; adding pumpkins and squashes as the season comes to a close. The markets are extremely busy.

Ask about how the animals are raised

Ask about how the animals are raised

People buy there thinking they are in some manner, doing better for their families, communities and supporting farmers.

I remember when Robert used to tell me of the farmers market on the corner near his house. I lived in the mountains of North Carolina at the time and walking to a weekly farmers market painted romantic dreams of urban living.

There is a corner market nearby that I have been observing for years. It is a family run business, they own a nice block or two of land in what would be considered “prime commercial real estate” for mid-town Charlotte.

On market days, there are often traffic jams which require hiring off-duty police to direct traffic. People pile in and load up their baskets with whatever produce they find; feeling good about feeding their families on fresh “farmers market” foods.

They don’t ask questions, they just flock in and buy.

Vegetables at the marketEarly in the morning, restaurants show up at the market to buy the produce at wholesale prices. In turn, the restaurants go back and advertise on their menu’s that they offer “local vegetables bought from the farmers market.”

The biggest buzzwords in food lately are “local, sustainable and organic.” Claim that and you gain an easy audience in your marketing; your marketing image leans towards a caring business who supports the local community.

However, the public is being duped.

People don’t ask questions!

On my visits to the market, I noticed they would have the same bagged greens that we could buy in the grocery store.

Locally grown? Chiquita, really? Mangoes? Pineapples?

Locally grown? Chiquita, really? Mangoes? Pineapples?

I noticed they always had corn. Always have corn, from April through the end of November. And the corn has a sign on it, written with highlighter, “Non-GMO.” Somehow I don’t believe it. I’d like to ask for proof.

What really caught my attention and lit my fire was the last time I was there. Each check out station was surrounded by pulp baskets of strawberries with signs on them declaring “Sweet Strawberries $3.99 qt.”

Being July and knowing it is well past strawberry season here, I asked:

Commercially grown strawberries dressed up to look like farm-fresh. These "local" berries are from California and sometimes Driscolls grows in Mexico too.

Commercially grown strawberries dressed up to look like farm-fresh. These “local” berries are from California and sometimes Driscoll’s grows in Mexico too.

“Where the berries were from?”

“California. . .”

“Are they organic?”

“No, they are Driscoll’s.”

This makes them no different from what you buy in the grocery store! Driscoll’s just happens to be a huge mono-culture farmer of commercial berries.

Commercially grown strawberries are sprayed and hold residue of many different chemicals. Here is an in-depth article you can read here:

Pesticides are a Danger to Health and the Environment – Choose Organic!

The article will tell you about the research and how dangerous chemicals are being used on commercially grown strawberries and other produce and best of all, what you can do about it!

So when people buy the berries from this market, they are not getting an organic berry but commercially grown berries instead. The berries are packaged to look like farm fresh; the hand written signs are casual and fit the marketing image.

Muscadine grapes

Muscadine grapes

I looked around and saw shoppers scarfing up the berries and other produce thinking they are in some way or another doing good because they are buying their food from the farmers market.

The problem is, they are buying the same as they would get from the grocery without it being disclosed! They are buying the same stuff commercial restaurants buy from commercial broadband vendors and smaller vendors like Restaurant Depot.

 The are buying the commercially grown food they are trying to avoid by shopping at the farmers market in the first place.

This is the kind of food we try to avoid for better health.

I think all markets should be required have signage on every product that says where it was grown and by whom. All items should be labeled how it was grown and be able to provide the paperwork to prove it, if asked.

Full Disclosure!

Let us have the right to make a choice and they should be prepared to provide the proof. I’ve lost my trust in our corner farmers market. They may have a few farmers but I don’t believe their corn in Non-GMO, I don’t believe their claims. Broccoli is not coming out of any local garden at this time of year, yet they have a table full of it.

The public needs to be aware of this practice so they can actually support the real farmers; go to a real market.

At this time of year, you won’t see any strawberries because they aren’t in season.

California has passed a bill to crack down on Farmers Market Fraud. See the article below for information.

 http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/2014/08/27/california-legislature-passes-bill-to-crack-down-on-farmers-market-fraud/

In the meantime, when you go to a market, ask questions. If they can’t or won’t tell you, don’t buy it! They are probably a commercial enterprise posing as a farmers market for easy money.October 15, 2011 farmers market 021

Here are some easy questions to ask:

  • “Where are these (insert whatever fruit or vegetable) from?”
  • “Are they organically grown?”
  • “Does the farm have a website?” Then use your phone and look them up. You’ll know if it is a commercial farm or a local farm.
  • “Why do you have broccoli in August? Where is it being grown? and how far did it travel to come to be here?” [To people wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, this matters!]

The Farmers Market industry currently has few regulations. Some require you to apply and be approved before you can sell there. They actually verify you are truly a local food producer.

However, if you own a few acres of vacant land, you can throw up some awnings, spread tables with produce you bought at the broad distributor food service uses, invite a few folks to sell grass-fed beef, home-made cakes, pies, flowers, and you too can be in the Farmers Market business as long as you have a business license.

I think this is scandalous and it really makes me quite angry.

Don’t Assume!

We’ve all got brains in our heads, it’s time to put them to use. This is something everyone who goes to a farmers market should be aware of.

Do some research, find out what kind of farmers market you patronize.

Be sure you are actually getting what you think you are getting. Ask a few questions. The answers may surprise you.

Don’t be duped!

#eatfresh #farmersmarkets #ethicalfarmersmarkets #Knowyourfood #wheredoesyourfoodcomefrom #eatwell #freshfood #fruit

#vegetables #freshproduce #healthyfood

Support your Local Farmer!

Support your Local Farmer!

Harvesting Honey

Harvesting Greenway Gold Honey

At the college where I work, we got permission to raise honey bees and this week was our first opportunity in harvesting honey.

The Hives for Greenway Gold

The Hives for Greenway Gold

Bees are in danger and need all the care and help they can get. So to see one of the two hives we have thrived is quite a source of glee and happiness.

I am not a bee keeper but I am a local honey devotee.

Local honey helps with all kinds of pollen related allergies. As someone who was highly allergic to just about anything that grew, once I started consuming local honey and local bee pollen, the allergies for the most part, disappeared!

Let’s hear it for local honey!

On to the harvest!

The box that had the frames which held the honey had been removed from the hive stack the day before.

Honeycomb frames filled with honey!

Honeycomb frames filled with honey!

It really pissed some bees off, Jim got stung a couple of times. Why not? The bees were only protecting their winter survival source.

The “Extraction Room” had to be readied: plastic on the floor, tables, warm honey extracting knife,

The warm wax cutting knife

The warm wax cutting knife

centrifuge assembled, screen filters, buckets,

The filter bucket

The filter bucket

jars and damp paper towels all in place. Don’t forget the tasting spoons!

Assembling the centrifuge

Assembling the centrifuge

Each of the frames weighed around 7.5 pounds before removing the honey and 1.5 pounds after. The process is sticky but amazingly rewarding.

Once you have everything ready to go, one of the frames is placed so the wax caps can be removed from both sides of the frame using a warm knife made for doing just these kinds of things. Catching the wax caps in a bucket below is a great idea as this is “virgin” beeswax, perfect for making lip balms and body lotions; just wash the honey out gently in cool water.

This is some of the wax cut off the honeycombs; virgin beeswax is perfect for lip balms!

This is some of the wax cut off the honeycombs; virgin beeswax is perfect for lip balms!

Cutting the wax caps with a warm knife

Cutting the wax caps with a warm knife

Place the frames in the centrifuge, there’s a certain angle they have to be placed because the bees create the honey combs on a particular angle to prevent the honey leaking out. Clever things!

Inside the centrifuge, see all the honey at the bottom?

Inside the centrifuge, see all the honey at the bottom?

Once the honey is spun out of the combs, it needs to be filtered.

It gets filtered through a larger screen mesh then into a fine mesh into a clean bucket below.

Then it is ready to bottle. When the honey is first bottled, there are a lot of air bubbles in it.

Due to the viscosity of the honey, it takes some time for them to rise and leave behind the clear, lovely color of the honey.

From our first harvest, we extracted 3.81 gallons!

Filling the jars

Filling the jars

We are naming it “Greenway Gold” since the hives are near the Greenway here in Charlotte.

Look at our stash!

Our honey is pale yellow and has a very floral flavor, similar to an orange blossom. It is delicate and sweet and couldn’t get any more local. Heck, it’s made just outside my office door!

Here’s an amazing part: the bees will refill the empty combs and will “clean up” any honey left on any of the buckets and other things. It’s good for them. Our main concern is the equipment getting stolen so Jim takes the things home for his home bees.

Did you know a honey bee will only produce about 1 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime? These are amazing critters.

There is a “Bee School” around here that is working hard to encourage people to keep bees. I don’t think I’d ever actually keep my own, but I will certainly continue to help with the honey extraction!

Now I can have some honey flavor in my lip balm formulas, won’t that be nice?

Part of the first Honey Harvest!

Part of the first Honey Harvest!

 

 

More honey

More honey

Greenway Gold with Breakfast

Greenway Gold with Breakfast