DIY flour? Stone-ground whole grains are on the rise – The Denver Post

Bit extreme for the average person, but interesting.

ner at Kirk and Maryanne Welton’s house and there’s a fresh-baked loaf of whole-wheat bread on the table, you’ll know it’s a special occasion.

Maryanne not only baked the bread, she and her husband grew the wheat in the backyard of their Palo Alto, Calif. home and — like the Little Red Hen of childhood fable — winnowed and ground it, too.

The latest diet trends have turned wheat into a dirty word in some quarters; manifestos maligning it are selling like hotcakes (gluten-free, of course). But the Weltons are one of a growing number of locavores and gourmets who have discovered the pleasure of whole grains by getting back to the grind — quite literally. They mill their own grain or find local millers doing it the old-fashioned way: in small batches on a stone mill.

The Weltons harvest about 10 pounds of wheat berries each year from their 12-by-30 foot “field.” Kirk blows off most of the chaff with a leaf blower. The rest they pick off by hand.

Maryanne uses some of the wheat berries in casseroles, then grinds the rest with a grain mill attachment on a KitchenAid mixer she inherited from an aunt. She then turns the flour into bread and crackers.

Why go to all that trouble?

“I like doing something that’s unique,” she says. “There’s also the contrast of living in Silicon Valley and still being connected to the earth that’s very satisfying.”

Of course, you don’t need a golden field of waving wheat in your backyard to enjoy freshly ground flour. Some grocery stores’ bulk sections are a gold mine for grains. Many have wheat berries (sometimes more than one variety), whole oats, buckwheat and barley. You name it. If it’s a dried grain, it can be turned into flour.

All you need is a grain mill, which can be hand cranked or, more often, electric, which makes the job pretty simple. Once ground, whole grains have a shorter shelf life; if you grind more than you need for a recipe, keep the rest in a sealed container in the refrigerator, where it should last for a couple of months.

But there are other options, too.

“People who don’t have the time or inclination to grind their own at home should have options for true whole grains,” says Bob Klein, owner of Oliveto restaurant in Oakland, Calif. and founder of Community Grains, a whole-grain company that grew out of a desire to know the origins of the flour used in his restaurant.

Klein found that getting access to even basic information — such as the wheat variety and where it was grown and milled — was nearly impossible in an industrial structure he calls highly secretive and restrictive.

Klein sought out California wheat farmers and started working with miller Joe Vanderliet at Certified Foods in Woodland, Calif. Vanderliet uses a stone mill to grind several varieties of wheat for Community Grains’ line of whole-grain flours and dried pastas.

It wasn’t so long ago that all flour was milled the way Vanderliet and the Bale Grist Mill do it — from whole grain, which includes the outer germ, bran and inner white endosperm. But white flour became a symbol of wealth and cultural refinement, so millers found ways to whisk away the germ and bran. As a consequence, the flavor, vitamins and nutrients they provided disappeared, too.

Whole-grain flour is sweeter and nuttier than white flour, and bread made with it is entirely different from plastic-wrapped, store-bought loaves of whole wheat.

One need only try Craig Ponsford’s award-winning breads and baked goods at Ponsford’s Place bakery in San Rafael, Calif. to become a believer. His flour is also milled by Vanderliet. There’s a flavor in his turnovers and croissants that goes well beyond butter, yet the pastry is still light and subtle enough not to compete with fillings such as grapefruit custard and mascarpone with almonds.

Klein says the flavor of the wheat can enhance certain dishes. At Oliveto, he discovered that penne made with the more strongly flavored hard red winter wheat was a perfect match for Bolognese sauce.

“It’s a knock out,” he says. “With plain, white pasta, it’s not as delicious. It’s not as rich.”

The whole-wheat pastry flour from Bale Grist Mill results in tender, flaky biscuits; a batch of cornbread made with the freshly ground cornmeal is tremendous — lighter, fluffier and sweeter than cornbread made with store-bought cornmeal.

It’s those nuances in flavor and texture that differentiate flour that has been stone-milled by a professional and flour ground in home mills made of metal. The metal creates heat that can affect the flour’s flavor and nutrition.

“Home-milled flour probably won’t make a truly extraordinary French baguette, but for things like cookies or quick breads, it’s great,” Ponsford says.

Still, there’s one advantage to a home mill that can’t be found in even the best bag of flour at the store.

“There’s a fragrance that comes off fresh-milled flour,” Klein says, “that’s really neat.”

via DIY flour? Stone-ground whole grains are on the rise – The Denver Post.

Pig Farmers Face Pressure on the Size of the Sty :NYTimes

I thought it was interesting to hear the perspective on this issue from the farmers side. Also it’s interesting that though we as consumers are always saying we want ‘cage free’ items, the statistics on how many are actually purchased is a bit sad (and not really a good incentive for the farmer).

Gestation crates have come under fire by animal rights groups because they are barely bigger than the pigs themselves.

ELDRIDGE, Iowa — Sow 44733 had broken the shoulder of one of her pen mates, rousted another who was huddled in the corner and was chewing on the ear of a third.

Stephen Mally for The New York Times

Tom Dittmer said he initially moved sows from housing pens to gestation crates to ensure their safety.

It was that kind of behavior that led hog farmers like Tom Dittmer to isolate sows in individual stalls called gestation crates that are barely bigger than the pigs themselves.

“The reason the industry switched to crates wasn’t because we wanted to harm our animals,” Mr. Dittmer said. “We did it because we thought it was what was best for the animals.” The move also kept the price of pork reasonably low for consumers, he said.

This year, however, Mr. Dittmer and fellow hog farmers are under increasing pressure from corporate pork buyers and animal rights groups to return to the old way of doing things: putting sows in group housing. In the last week of September alone, three companies — Dunkin’ Donuts, ConAgra Foods and Brinker International, which operates Chili’s — announced that over the next decade, they would no longer buy pork derived from pigs housed in gestation crates.

This week, the Bruegger’s bagel chain joined them. That brought the number of fast-food companies and food retailers that have made such commitments this year to 32 — a stunning victory for theHumane Society of the United States, which has worked for years to persuade pork producers to make the change. The National Pork Producers Council said it did not know how much pork these companies bought but estimated it might be about one-fifth of the pork produced.

Farmers like Mr. Dittmer resent the tactics, saying they worry that the move will be unsustainably costly for them and result in soaring pork prices for consumers. Continue reading

What to Buy At the Farmers’ Market | Women’s Health Magazine

Where I’ll be before anatomy and organic chem today!

Farmers’ Market Tips: How to Stretch Your Bounty

BY SHELLEY LEVITT, PHOTOGRAPH BY JAKE STANGE

Stretch Your Bounty

“One of the great things about farmers’ markets is that the food isn’t packaged,” says Ford. “You can buy, say, just a few cherry tomatoes instead of a whole basket.” Here, his guidelines for making sure you use all the veggies you buy:

1. If it has a peel, you can stockpile it.

Items like carrots, beets, potatoes, and citrus fruits will last at least a week.

2. Keep herbs fresh longer.

Quickly rinse with cold water, shake off liquid, then roll the herbs in a paper towel. Put in a plastic bag or container and store in the fridge.

3. Make stock.

A big pot of it is always bubbling away on the stove at Ford’s Filling Station. Make your own with a few cups of veggie scraps, a few quarts of water, and any fresh herbs you have on hand. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, let cool, strain, then freeze in ice-cube trays. Use the cubes to give an instant flavor boost to soups, grains, and beans.

Ripe with Possibilities

Bursting with antioxidants, fiber, and juicy flavor, berries may be the ideal food. Sure, you can eat them by the handful, but here are two ways to save them for later:

1. Frozen: Rinse berries and pat them dry, then spread them on a shallow dish or baking sheet. Freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag. You can easily scoop out a handful to toss into a smoothie or to thaw for a yogurt topping.

2. Preserved: In a heavy-bottomed pot, mix four cups of crushed berries and a few tablespoons each of sugar and lemon juice (to taste). Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring often, until it reaches 220ºF (105ºC). Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving a quarter inch to half inch headspace, and seal.

The Roughage Stuff

When it comes to greens, get on board with the warming trend.

If you’re not quite in the mood for salad, try this super-easy trick for prepping delicate spring finds like frilly mustard greens: Hold a heatproof bowl with a dish towel or pot holder and rotate it over a burner set to medium for 30 seconds or so, until the bowl just begins to feel warm to the touch. Pour in the greens, squeeze a lemon wedge on top, sprinkle with sea salt, toss, and voila! You have all the nutritional punch of raw greens, but the subtle warmth opens up the flavors, says Ford.

Flower Power

Blooms can be more than just eye candy.

Some bouquets are as palatable as they are pretty. Ford saves young chamomile blossoms, which resemble daisies, after brewing the leaves into tea, and uses them to make this lemon-flavored simple syrup: Boil equal parts sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, add chamomile flowers, cool, and strain. Try it in iced tea, cocktails, or drizzled over berries. (If you plan on cooking with flowers, make sure they haven’t been treated with chemicals.)

Snap Decisions

Sugar snap peas are a near-perfect vegetable: high in fiber and vitamin C, and low in calories (about 60 per cup) with, says Ford, “a sweeter, more consistent taste than other peas” and no need for shucking. Eat them raw, pod and all, when you want a quick, no-hassle snack. Or slice them on a bias, blanch, and add to a salad of radishes and baby greens. Ford also likes them pureed into a sweet-pea remoulade for crab cakes.

via What to Buy At the Farmers’ Market | Women’s Health Magazine.

I just made a worm bin!

I know.. this is KINDA unrelated…

But I have terrible, unloved city dirt (filled with glass…) and am trying to grow my own veggies. 

So in an effort to enrich my soil – and subsequently the carrots and beets I just planted and next years goodies – and then my own nutrition, I just made a DIY worm bin.

If you’re interested check how to here!

8 foods you should really get at your farmer’s market… by Emily Main

I know I know… I should really be posting some original stuff. 🙂 We’ve had company in town and I’m trying to get through my Organic Chem online (self taught… awful) course before I startup Anatomy and Phys 2 in a couple of weeks.

I did think this article was really interesting though and wanted to share!

8 Foods You Should Always Buy at the Farmers’ Market

You get more than just better taste and fresher produce when you buy these eight foods at your local farmers’ market.
BY EMILY MAIN

Fresh, Local & Fair

Farmers’ market food tastes better, simple as that. But that’s not the only reason you should start hitting up your weekly market as much as you can. Whether you care about your health or the health of the planet, there are dozens of reasons to support local farmers, including buying vegetables that have higher antioxidant levels and haven’t been fumigated with toxic chemicals. When you buy these eight foods in particular, you’re supporting less-toxic food production and could even save a farm or two, all while getting the best-tasting food you can find!

Tomatoes

Surprised? Probably not. A bland, mealy grocery-store tomato will never rival a fresh-from-the-farm-market tomato. And there are more benefits to local tomatoes than just taste. In Florida, where a third of the country’s fresh tomatoes are grown, slavery of illegal immigrants on tomato farms is a persistent problem. And farmers in that state apply five times as much fungicide and six times as much pesticide as farmers in California, which supplies another third of the country’s fresh tomatoes.

Carrots

You’ll never find anything but standard orange carrots at a supermarket, but you’ll find them in every hue, from purple to white, at local farm stands. Those colorful varieties, particularly purple carrots, have higher antioxidant values than commercially grown orange carrots, according to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. They’re also better for the planet. The energy required to store carrots when they’re out of season or being shipped long distances accounts for 60 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with carrot production.

Berries

Grab a pint of local strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, and you’re doing the planet a favor. Because they perish quickly and have relatively short shelf lives, berries are often shipped from farm to distribution center via air freight, the most fossil-fuel-guzzling form of food shipment, from South America, Mexico, Canada, and even as far off as Poland. You’re also doing domestic growers a favor: According to Food & Water Watch, the United States imports $220 million worth of strawberries, while selling just $1.5 million worth of domestically grown berries.

Onions

Oddly enough, buying local onions could help save a farm. A few years ago, the U.S. government loosened trade restrictions with Peru, and the result has been a glut of imported onions that has dropped the price local farmers can get for their crops by half. As a result, domestic onion growers have slowly been cutting back on the number of onions they grow. All of Peru’s onion exports aren’t doing farmers there any good, either. The primary pesticide used on Peru’s onion crops, methamidophos, has been linked to sperm damage in farmers.

Asparagus

Sales of this crop have also benefited from our neighbors to the south. Asparagus imports from Peru have grown steadily over the past decade and now account for 51 percent of the asparagus we consume. The vegetable is now Peru’s largest agricultural export. The USDA requires all shipments of fresh asparagus from Peru to be fumigated with the dangerous pesticide methyl bromide, a neurotoxic chemical suspected of causing cancer. If that’s not bad enough, the chemical shortens asparagus’s shelf life, so it doesn’t even taste good by the time it arrives at the store! The best-tasting stalks are at the farmers’ market, even if the asparagus season is fleeting.

Peaches

Domestic, imported. Organic, nonorganic. Peaches just don’t taste good any other time of year than in midsummer, the height of their season, because they don’t hold up well during transport. Another benefit to buying local? Pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Produce, peaches are treated with more pesticides than any other fruit. Buying local means you can grill the farmer to see which chemicals, if any, he or she uses.

Grass-Fed Beef and Dairy

Like organic food, the environmental impact of animal products has more to do with how they were raised than how far they traveled—which is why buying local beef and dairy is important. Animals raised entirely on grass produce 8 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 30 percent lower ammonia levels than corn-fed animals raised in confinement. Since the term grass-fed isn’t always reliable (it’s not well regulated), local venues allow you to ask farmers direct questions about how their animals were raised.

Anything Organic

Despite the feel-good factor of supporting local farms, where your food is grown accounts for just a fraction of its environmental impact. It’s how your food is grown that matters most. According to agricultural researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, 11 percent of your food’s environmental impact comes from food miles, whereas 83 percent comes from how it was grown, particularly when it’s grown with the greenhouse-gas-intensive fertilizers and pesticides used on chemical farms.

Experimentation time! Beets…

20120801-111050.jpgSo in honor of finally making it to my local green market, I decided to pick up a vegetable I’d never prepared before – but love – beets.

Apparently they’re one of those “power” foods. Here’s why:

  • high in vitamin C, potassium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and B-6.
  • Raw beets are high in folates
  • low in calories
  • contain phytonutrients which provide antioxidants and help inflammation
  • recent studies have shown regularly consuming them can shrink tumors
  • some great other facts found here
  • Also their greens have great nutrition too! (next step for me will be figuring out what to do with those…)

So since I’m new to cooking beets I decided to go easy!

  • I cut off the tops of the beets, coated with olive oil and tossed into the oven at 425 for 40 minutes or until tender. (I had no idea what that meant, so I poked mine with a knife and it went in easily.)
  • Let cool, rub off skin (I used latex gloves. Don’t need red hands at my shoot tomorrow…)
  • and chop into cubes. Voila!  From there I’ve seen recipes saying to splash with lemon juice or toss in some goat cheese or feta. Have fun with it. (yeah I really just said to have fun with beets…)
  • Ps – it’s jack russell approved. 

Mmm.. ratatouille!

I recently went to visit my grandma. She’s taken over the last few years to making this loose ratatouille recipe and I think it’s delicious! When I went to the farm stand the other day she helped me pick out the ingredients.

I think this is a get way to eat some summer veggies. I threw mine in the crockpot as I had to head to a casting, but she uses a pot on the stove. Simply chop up all the veggies and throw in! Here’s what’s in it:

  • one eggplant (I left the skin on because I like some texture, but you can remove)
  • diced tomatoes or a can of them (I cheated. The raccoon ate my tomatoes..)
  • two large zucchini. I used one yellow and one green
  • one large onion
  • a red and green pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • basil and parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

I like to sprinkle with a little parm. Last night I laid it out under a filet of salmon. Or mix in with some pasta and use it as a veggie sauce. So many ways to mix this in with things!

20120726-211113.jpg

Simple tips: how to reduce pesticides..

  • Do not select fruits and vegetables that have holes.
  • Trim fat from meat and remove skin (residues concentrates in animal fat)
  • Wash fresh produce in warm water and use a scrub brush
  • Use a knife to peel an orange. Do not bite/push into the peel as you’ll push dirt in
  • Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables
  • Peel waxed fruits and vegetables. Waxes trap pesticide residues
  • Peel vegetables when possible

Here’s to a successful farm stand trip – and where you can go for yours…

20120719-160842.jpgIn an ideal world, we’d get all our local produce from local farmers that we know and trust to be pesticide free.

I just had an awesome trip out to Amish country to visit my gma and stocked up on fresh goodies.

Here’s a link to find where you can get yours! http://www.localharvest.org/

and if you’re in NYC like me, here’s a PDF of local green markets – http://www.nyc.com/link.aspx?site=http://www.cenyc.org/files/gmkt/map.pdf