Monday, October 27, 2014

Food for thought, thought for food, cook with love, nourish the soul....

What is the one ingredient required to make food truly nutritious? What is that one thing that make food a home cooked meal v/s a plate of food? It's love. Pure simple love, that's what makes food great.

I think a huge part of my infatuation with food as nourishment comes from my true deep respect and admiration for the proceses of giving and taking of life that goes into it. Understanding how things grow, why things grow, having planted the vegetables, having put my own blood, sweat, and tears into cultivating and harvesting these things gives me a great appreciation for what they are truly worth. Having raised livestock, mended fences, spent steaming hot days in a hayfield those things make me truly respect and appreciate what every bit of food on my plate really is, where it came from, and what sacrifices across the board had the be made to provide this nourishment. You can be assured that when I see someone throw away food, I get angry. Yes I usually clean my plate, lick the bowl after I'm done cooking, and eat more than my share when it's available, but that is because I truly respect where this food came from, what it is, and the life forces that was taken from it in order to pass that nourishment on. You see, that my friends is a healthy relationship with food, that is a healthy relationship with your soul, with your spirit, with the earth, with yourself, it's a true understanding of the ecosystem that we are a part of, not that we are above or below, but that is a part of us and we a part of it. And you can also rest assured that when I prepare a meal from this food, having this basic philosophy about what this truly is and represents that the love and respect that I pass along through the preparation will be cooked directly into the food and be transferred to those of whom I share my meal with, when people ask my the secret to making the delicious meals that I provide, I always tell them that my secret ingredient is not so secret, that it is love.....

Today's meal:
My infamous Pulled Pork:
This meal is a slow cooked bit of awesomeness that leaves the tastebuds in disbelief after the nirvana that they experience. I go back and forth with whether I prefer my pulled pork to be first cooked in the roaster in the over, or outside on the smoker, of course I prefer cooking with real fire, outdoors, the primalness that that entails and releases is in and of itself a great reason to cook that way, but I discovered this amazing trick of recooking the juices and fats back into the pork that originally melt off and it is much easier to capture all of these juices in a roaster in the over than it is oven than in the smoker, as well as requires a lot less monitoring and checking when you let this thing cook overnight. That being said if you can do it, and have the time and energy, cook this thing in the smoker, but make sure you do it in a roaster or something you can catch all the melting juices in.

Step 1 for me is to pick out a nice meat pork shoulder with a healthy portion of fat around the solid muscles, was this pork shoulder down, coat it with a yellow natural mustard (read ingredients carefully, there should be no chemicals or sugars in mustard, so don't get tricked into some brand that stuffs them in there for no good reason. Once I have the shoulder covered with mustard I turn it fat side up in the roaster and shake on a dry rub of cajun spices and turmeric to the outside and then chop up some fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme and spread it across the upper level as well. Now this fat will melt away as this cooks down, but thats the idea it spreads all these loving herbs and spices across the rest of the meat as it melts and then we are going to capture all the liquid version and reuse it to cook the home made sauce back in once we pull the pork. Now what I do next is also key, I take 4 to 6 fresh apples and clive them into 8'ths and place them all around the pork in the roaster. This fresh cooked apple and juice will really flavor the heck out of this pork.
Now I set the over at 225 and let it go until morning, usually around 8 hours before i check it, when I check it I am trying to verify the internal temperature is appropriate. Once I find out the pork is cooked to the appropriate temperature I break it out of the over and start shredding it. Grabbing it with two large oven forks works well, whatever you use it should fall apart fairly easy.  You want to shred it up to the consistency of pulled pork and keep it all waiting.

Then comes the fun part making the sauce and cooking the sauce back into the pork.
What I do for this is take all the juice that cooked off into the roaster and dump it into a large stock pot, I add some local honey or maple srup and fresh rosemary, thyme, sage, and two quarts of tomato juice. and just a kiss of apple cider vinegar. I bring this all to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally, when the simmer is going down that's when you take the now pulled pork and drop it into the simmering sauce for a few minutes and remove it, and its awesome. I do this over and over until the pork seems to be too wet from the samples. and then I trade places by dumping any excess juice back into the pot, and repeat until all the meat has had the juice cooked back into it.

I can detail out more specifics if you like, but that is the gist of it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Natures Timing not yours/ Bug's, they ain't that bad/ it started with a garbage bag full of kale and ended up in a bone broth masterpiece that will feed me for many winter nights...

I was inspired for three hot topics (actually a few more) that i Blogposts will soon be written about, tonight I am tired so I just want to introduce you to the topics.

Natures Timing not yours/ 
This morning I woke up ready to head to the woods for the morning hours and sit with my bow relaxing and healing with nature while hoping I could get lucky enough to catch a clean shot at some delicious winter protein source, then I looked down at the large garbage bag full of Kale and peppers I had just harvested from the last garden raid of the year and realized I had pressing matters of getting this food preserved to deal with before adding more food preservation work to my plate by hunting down a deer.
I would have much rather spend the hours in the woods mind you, but I had put a lot of effort into the gardening season, and was rewarded with this late harvest, and though it may not exactly fit what I would perceive as the perfect schedule for myself, it fits natures schedule and therefor is perfect timing for what it is supposed to be. If I want to be able to enjoy these nutritional delicacies for the winter I needed to get to work now. I traded in my day in the woods for a day in the kitchen, cooking, prepping, canning and putting meals away. I still have some meat in the freezer to get me through for a while, and I have plenty of days of hunting season on the horizon.
This is just one sample of the many ways we need to learn to work with natures clock and prioritize our plans more intelligently around her to take full advantage of the bounties she has to offer.

Bug's, they ain't that bad/ 
 As I was washing the kale out of the garbage bag to add to the soup masterpiece that I was preparing I noticed a lot of caterpillars on one particular batch of kale. I began double washing that batch and picking off the little guys and adding them to my scrap bucket (food for the chickens, they will be extra happy) and thought to myself aside from the hassle of having to double check to all the greens to ensure none of the guys made it into the soup, that I should be pretty happy that the bugs were on the veggies as that's a sure sign that the pesticides were not present or that it was not genetically engineered with roundup to prevent the bugs from eating it.
Then I wondered how we got to a point where everyone is so afraid of bugs. You get more ewwww's, more jumps, more gross reactions to bugs than about any other living creature, and why? Why has this become such a taboo for us. These bugs are just living organisms that are just as vital of a part of our ecosystems as anything else. They are not more likely to contain bacteria or viruses or be harmful to us. To the contra ire they are probably more likely to clean up things before that could happen. But if we see a bug in the kitchen, gross, yuck, call the CDC shut that place down. Nevermind that their smaller counterparts that are microscopic versions of the same are all over our skin, our forks, our knives, our food, our plates. They do us no harm, are a part of everything we eat / drink every day, but if we can see these multi legged tiny creatures then yuck, disgusting, throw it all out, burn the house down. But why? Why in other cultures are bugs part of the food system? Why can't we seem to get past the disgusting reaction when we see them? Let's investigate here soon.....

it started with a garbage bag full of kale and ended up in a bone broth masterpiece that will feed me for many winter nights...
This recipe is pretty much the shit. I ended up stopping at a friends house to pick up some extra veggies that he was overflowing with prior to him pulling out his garden. I left with a garbage bag full of kale and a lot of work to do. I decided kale soup was the ticket, to be canned, and why not use bone broth. Checked the freezer and low and behold, lots of bones left, and then started gathering ginger, turmeric, garlic and chili peppers to season this bad boy up. Then out of nowhere I just happened to have this craving for lima beans. Not being as anti legume as the rest of the paleo world proclaims I thought, why not give into this desire, and add some slow carb bean goodness to this dish.
I soaked the lima beans overnight to get as much of the process kicked in, and I started cooking the beef bones and herbs down at the same time.
In the morning I added the beans to green beans, celery, onions, and some other items and let that start cooking while we were waiting for the bone broth to be just right. I then pulled all the meat off the bones and added it to a separate crockpot and set it to warm as I did not want it getting too soggy while I finished cooking the broth and other veggies.
All the fresh ingredients, including the root herbs and spices added together with a few little ticks and techniques are how I ended up with this amazing deliciousness that I will soon share the recipe in full with for you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Importance of the Tribe

This will be a short post, that should have a long follow on that gets into the details.
What I want to discuss as I get ready to go to sleep following a long trip across the country and a visit with an old friend, is the bit of a refresh I feel after spending time with an old friend and the importance of those friendships, and overall the importance of the tribe.

We as humans like to tout and brag about our independence which is by all accounts a very important aspect of our humanity, but we are also very social creatures and have a deep seeded need for tribal communities. Fostered out of the need for survival we developed as creatures of groups that of which evolutionarily succeeded more rigorously were those that formed tighter knit groups for survival.

Today we have larger communities that we live in, but far less tight communities in general. The need for utilizing our "tribe" for survival may have been greatly lessened by the conveniences of modern living, but the emotional and spiritual connections that we need from them have not left, and are often now neglected.

Think about the few close friend you have and how you feel more whole, more connected, more spiritually full when you spend time with them. These connections may come from family and or from friends typically from those we have went through the gambit of emotions and challenges with. Those we have had good times, hard times, went through challenges and built solid connections. Having those people  around you who you can verbally and non verbally communicate with, who you have grown emotionally and spiritually with is something that is very important to having a balanced emotional and spiritual level of health.

We should have these connections with folks across generations, with elders who we have bonded with and have taught up things, and took care of us when we were young and who we take care of when they are old, with children who we pass on knowledge / skills / and love to as well as to those who we grew up with and or connect with and who we have bonded with over time.

In many ways in our modern society we drift away from this. We chase down money and career success more than we seem to work to satisfy these relationships. We view our individual needs and successes more based on what fulfills use individually than we do on what builds our relationships with our friends and family that are part of our tighter tribe.

Having those folks that we have bonded with who are willing to sacrifice of themselves to help us when we are in need is a very important aspect of our health and our survival maybe not as much from a physical standpoint as it used to be (but does still exist) but definitely from a spiritual / emotional standpoint.

We all hit challenges and struggles in our lives and when we don't have those strong community relationship connections established and in place we can not bounce back as fast because our support system is not there. For this reason we need to learn to sacrifice of ourselves and our individual wants and desires a little more often and give more time to building these relationships (even during times when we dont think we needs them), as we never know when we are going to slip and fall and have ourselves in a weak emotional / spiritual / physical state where we will need that support to survive.

Individual strength is a great thing, but is not whole without the strength of a community or tribe to help keep us strong, and something we should truly strive for.
By all means pursue your dreams and goals, just remember to make time to support the goals and dreams of your friends and family, and to work on building those relationships as well, one will rarely look back on life and regret any time that was spent helping someone else in need or being a friend to someone when they needed it.
Build your relationships, strengthen your tribe, it will only serve to make you stronger and to help you be happier / healthier and more vibrant in life.

Embrace failure

Failure is not your enemy, to the contraire, failure is a key element in the equation of finding success. If we are pursuing growth and continually striving to be the best that we can be then we buy the very nature of our food require failing quite often. If this is not the case then we are likely not pushing our limits and striving for growth. Our society has become overly upset with the concept of safety and security. When the truth is that we are never truly safe or secure. The most effective strategy in becoming safe and secure in our own selves is to increase our own abilities for a survivability. In doing so we should be increasing our strength, confidence, agility, and perseverance in the face of adversity so that we will have better hone our skills for survivability and what ever situation may arise. If we live in constant fear of failure and never push ourselves to the limits where we fell and learn from the failure, we are making ourselves weaker and decreasing our ability to bounce back when failure occurs. 

Once we had wings, could fly over mountains in the blue yonder we had a home. 

There was a time, we could all walk on water, then we saw our reflection and we sank like a stone.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Priorties (making time for picking apples)

Yesterday in the very final hours before dark I waited somewhat impatiently for my friends and their children to load up in my car, as I heard the final buckle fasten I changed into gear thinking to myself we may have just enough time. ...

Having three different options running through my mind for where to go I tried to juggle the decision for risk / reward / effort for which location would be best. Noting the few hours of daylight we had left I decided to take a risk and go with a place that was a little closer. The risk with this location was that I had not yet relieved permission and would gambling on whether or not the property owner would be home. 

See my brothers and I had picked up a new hay field from a neighbor who recently inherited a farm property and we had noticed a beautiful apple tree loaded with budding apples a few months back. We knew this tree was going to be loaded with deliciousness in a few months and were fairly certain this young family had no intentions on picking them. I was heading out of town the flowing day right before a cold front was heading in, and apples were just past peak ripeness and were starting to fall heavily, this was likely the last chance of this season to really get into them. 

Not that they would truly be going waste if I didn't get them, no they would go to the ground, the deer and birds would feast on the sugar to put on some fat for the winter or they would rot, providing nutrients back to the earth below to help the grass and trees grow for the following year, but it sure still seemed wasteful to let a tree so full of deliciousness go to waste. 

A short drive later I passed the tree and pointed it out to everyone on the road down to the farm owners house. It looked really full and I was pretty much dedicated to picking that day whether we received permission or not, fortunately as I drove down the hill "eureka" there were cars in the driveway and children playing on scooters and bicycles through a cone built obstacle course in the driveway. 

I parked at the end of the drive and approached the young couple walking past their daughter and her friend on their respective wheeled transportation mechanisms. I reintroduced myself to the gentlemen and asked him what his plans were for his apples. We waived his hand in an upward  motion and declared "have at em, they are all yours." His wife joked of the obstacle course as I replied thank you, I'll bring you some of whatever yummies we make out of them. He smiled and I returned to my car quickly as we had not much time to spare. 

We parked at the edge of the field and road and began to walk through high ankle high pasture approaching the apple tree and to my delight I noticed all the walnuts that we were walking over "double score". I left a basket there and instructed the young ones to begin loading up I walnuts as I assessed our best options for the apple collection that was about to ensue. 

Being about a week late from peak ripeness the majority of the low hangers had fallen and I'm sure a few passer by's had stopped to collect the low hanging fruit.  we started to gather some of the low hangers and my friend began I shake the tree to get some down, and they sure did fall. I calmly explained to him the danger with this method and the bruising and we both took turns climbing the tree to different branches and tossed the apples down to waiting receivers below. 

My friend placed her 1 year old child (birthday the following day) on a blanket still in the shade but in a spot fairly safe from falling apples and handed him an apple she had taken a bite out of. The smilling happy baby was in all his glory sucking on and attempting to bite into this nature given deliciousness. I'm sure by this point each of us had our fair share of bite in on our own pickings and very uber delighted at our luck of this being a honey crisp tree. 

Once we had collected all the low hangers and did our best of team work foraging that which we could climb to we realized e bulk of what we wanted to get from here forward was going to require a different strategy, a light bulb went off and prior to racing off to go switch the Subaru in for the jeep that was parked at the farm just a mile away I suggested everyone resume picking the walnuts until I returned.

I rushed back to the farm swapped cars and pulled the jeep into the cow field where I hooked up the trailer and began to load the ladder. My brother walking across the field had already put two and two together and knew what I was up to so came over to help me load the ladder. I scuddled back to find a basket full of walnuts and a laughing and smiling family awaiting, I was in the process or parking the jeep where the Subaru previously was parked as I had another lightbulb moment and said "it's a jeep fool, utilize it" 

I drove through the field parking directly beneath the tree and climbed upon my jeep making picking cake work. We gatherer and foraged and strategized at times forming chains of pickers, catchers, and baggers. 

We bustled about for a while filling baskets as we could until we made it to the point we would need the ladder. We struggled to find spots for the ladder and realized darkness was sneaking up on us so I decided we were finished and loaded the ladder pack up, left my friends to finish up as I went to switch cars back ( no back seats in the jeep) I hustled back to swap cars came back to pickup my friends, we loaded up the car, and our day was almost complete. 

Upon dropping them off and they offered to sort through any bad apples and divvy then up by the time I returned to town a few days later. I went up very itchy and hungry and tired still needing to pack and prepare to wake up at 330 and head to the airport. 

When I woke up still itching and tired from such a busy day followed by such a busy evening of apple picking hustling to the airport and now sit awaiting take off. Going through my mind a lot of things but at the very forefront of my thoughts is an ongoing theme, of all the things we don't have time for, "we would all be better served to find more time to pick apples."

Notes for edits (yes we could have bought a bushel of apples for $35, but if you think this was just about eating apples you miss the point)

(As we typically access priorities in life the silly event of picking apples would typically get pushed to the back burner, but after forcing ourselves to squeeze it in we created an event and memories that we will always look back upon and cherish compared to all of those more important events that   We probably already forgot)

Amidst the mindfulness takeover of this event nature and instincts take over, you find your hands and feet working together, your balance automatically adjusts itself, you don't have to force yourself to think, your mind and body just start working together)

(Those working with you, your tribe if you will, as you progress through all start getting on the same wavelength, you start anticipating the others movements and thoughts, the process automatically becomes more efficient as you let nature take over)

(The wrk that went into picking the apples not only made you appreciate the apples And the act of harvesting, but also makes you start to appreciate and seek to understand the seasons and stire and growth cycles more deeply, it's the taking and giving of life that is life that we are far to removed from typically, and our souls thrive when we re introduce them to what  are truly natural situations and environments)