Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food Thoughts

Ok, so specialty eggs aren't more nutritious or better-tasting than regular "commercial" eggs, but "pastured" eggs *are* more nutritious. You can see on that last link that Cornucopia Institute rates various egg-producers. There is only one egg farm in Oregon that received their highest ranking: Phoenix Egg Farm. The closest place to get Phoenix eggs is 7 miles away. (Portland is an awesome place for the food-lovers movement, but the organic/local foods movement is mostly aimed at central/westside Portland, not here in the eastside ghettos). Not a convenient drive to make on a regular basis, just for better eggs. However, when the Gresham farmer's market opens back up, I might buy their eggs. I know I saw one of the farms that sold vegetables also having a few cartons of eggs to sell. They aren't really major egg producers, so they wouldn't be rated by Cornucopia, but I'm betting their chickens are pastured, simply because they probably don't have all that many of them, what with it being a vegetable farm rather than a major egg farm.

On dairy... I'm wondering about raw milk. Apparently there's a brand called Organic Valley (which Cornucopia gives a high rating on - although they don't explain what their ratings for dairy places is based on as well as they do for eggs) which makes a raw milk cheddar cheese, which I've been wanting to try the taste of. Unfortunately, they can't tell me if anyone close by actually carries any particular product (although I know I've seen Organic Valley milk at the grocery stores around, before). There's two "natural foods" stores in my area that I want to try out, and see what they have, in this and other categories.

Sour Salty Bitter Sweet - the blog that I'm reading through that has a number of articles which are a sort of insider, food-lover's critique of the Michael Pollan/Food, Inc. movement. (A movement which she once referred to as something like the new Church of Food and which someone else referred to as "Greener-than-thou". Since it's actually kind of difficult to put a single name on the movement, which has a number of branches with similar but different takes on which foods are the best, I'm going to call it the Pollan movement, since Michael Pollan is the biggest voice out there that I've seen. Anyhow, I'm thinking of asking the Sour Salty Bitter Sweet author for thoughts on raw milk/organic milk.

I like the taste of homemade bread better than storebought, and I really like trusting the ingredients instead of not really being sure what I'm getting, with store-bought breads. But I don't really like *making* homemade bread on a regular basis. Even the really simple and quick recipe that I found is too time-consuming for me to do every day or every few days or even every week. (And we eat a lot of bread here. Even given the fact that the kids don't like my homemade bread as well as storebought, mostly because it's crumblier, which makes it hard to hold a sandwich together). I don't know if I should just settle for Safeway brand 100% whole wheat bread, or pay more for Dave's Killer Bread (which is yummier, for me at least, and possibly healthier), or something else.

It did occur to me that if I made my own homemade applesauce, I could can it in single-serving Mason jars. I'm a little wary of the ingredients in store applesauces, and I definitely don't like the waste involved (packaging-wise) in single-serving store applesauces. But applesause and yogurt are two things that we don't eat if they aren't in single-serving containers. Call it laziness if you will, but I just can't run my day by having to stop what I'm doing every time one of the four kids wants a snack, go pour yogurt or applesauce into a bowl for them, and put it back in the fridge. The kids eat yogurt all the time, because when they ask me if they can have it, all I have to do is say "Sure", and they go get it out of the fridge, grab themselves a spoon, and eat it. I might have to take the top off for Savi and Gabe, but they grab the containers themselves and bring them over to wherever I'm doing whatever it is I'm doing, and I just peel the top off and hand it back to them. Easy peasy.

On the other hand, maybe if I do find a store applesauce whose ingredients I am comfortable with (do they have no-sugar-added applesauces?), I could just bring a large jar home and divide it up into single-serving mason jars at home and achieve the same effect, without all the hassle of actually trying to make my own applesauce. Large applesauce jars can usually be found in glass containers, which are recyclable, and very much preferred (by me) to the small plastic containers that (a) aren't recyclable (b) won't decompose in the next umpteen years and (c) contribute to that whole oil-dependence-on-the-middle-east thing that isn't good for us. The mason jars I could reuse indefinitely, I think, even if I did have to wash them. The more I think about that idea, the more I like it. Next time I go shopping, I'll have to look at applesauce ingredients. And buy some mini-mason jars. Or maybe what I think of as the regular size jars.

Which brings me to yogurt. The kids eat quite a bit of those single-serving flavored yogurts. When I was a kid, those were considered special treats for us, because they are more expensive than the large tubs of plain (unsweetened) yogurt. I tried giving my kids unsweetened yogurt once, and they didn't care for it. But it does seem to me that they get unnecessary/unhealthy amounts of sugar from those sweetened yogurts. And the constant waste of small plastic containers is rather obnoxious. Dividing the larger plastic containers up into mason jars would probably not be much better, although it might be worth it if I could switch them to plain yogurt at the same time, and have the cool new packaging be a selling point for it. I wonder if I could learn to make my own yogurt; my guess is that it would be more work than I'm really likely to put into it, especially given that homemade bread is too much for me, and I *love* that. But I will probably at least look it up. Might be easier getting higher-fat yogurts for Elijah that way, too.

And then there's the whole saturated fat/trans fat thing. The book Real Food first introduced me to the idea that saturated fat foods (think hamburgers and butter) don't actually cause heart disease, and that eating foods with cholesterol in them is not bad for you. (The book basically painted high cholesterol levels as the body's way of trying to repair damage that was caused by something else - mainly hydrogenated oils.)  It is suddenly important to me to know whether or not any of that is actually *true* because Ken has developed high blood pressure. He's taking some meds, which have brought it down quite a bit, and the meds have made him nauseous when he eats fatty foods, which he thinks is healthy for him. And he lost 13 pounds, so it probably *is* healthy for him. But I would like to have some idea of how much I should be encouraging him to eat lower-fat options, and how much I should be targeting any efforts at some other culprit. Although, it probably wouldn't hurt to try to cut out all hydrogenated oils (which is more or less equivalent to trans fat) and still reduce his saturated fat content too.

I have a great photo to post, I think, but that will have to wait until I upload photos from the camera and all that jazz.


  1. We just saw the documentary Fat Head, which deals with the whole myth of saturated fats causing high cholesterol. The producer has a website with some book recommendations you might be interested in:

    Don't you love Margot! It's funny, she's the fiancee of the guy who writes my husband's all-time-favorite blog. She's into food and health (which are my pet hobbies) and her husband follows Michigan football, which is my husband's great passion.

    I admit, I have been very bad about choosing my eggs carefully. I'm too pregnant to go to more than one store, and I just get their overpriced organic free range eggs, which I'm sure are basically the regular eggs repackaged, but I just can't bring myself to buy the generic kind. Dumb. But there you are.

    The problem with splitting up yogurt is that the whey will separate. It's not that difficult to make yogurt; I'd say it takes 30 minutes and most of that is waiting for the milk to cook after you scald it. I found a yogurt maker that comes with individual cups: and highly recommend it. My kids have gone off yogurt for whatever reason, but I used to add small amounts of maple syrup and vanilla to the scalded milk and it came out beautifully. The longer you let it sit in the warmer, the stronger the bitter taste will be, but then, the stronger the good bacteria will grow. So you can find the balance that works for your family.

  2. Wow, I'll never complain about you not posting again.... :)

  3. Tienne,

    Yeah, Margot is great. She's got so many posts that are really making me think about this whole food business. This one is a masterpiece. I've never really thought that I'm one of those people who wants something just because it's forbidden, but something about the way she phrased it made me see that that really is probably driving some of my "cravings".

    Why do you say that splitting up yogurt will make the whey separate? Do you mean that if I take a tub of store-bought yogurt and split it up into containers, it will separate itself more than if I leave it in the original container? (How does it know?) And the same if I made homemade yogurt in one container, and then split it up into smaller containers? That sounds so odd. Thanks for the link, though.

  4. Daniel... Aw, was it too long for you? :) Don't worry, I'm sure *eventually* I will get around to putting up some pics of the kids for you. :)

  5. Hi Anna,

    re the crumbly bread - I have a similar problem with wheat-free. You can purchase guar gum or xanthan gum (they are basically the same, guar gum is easier to find) at most natural or health food stores, and it helps add 'elasticity' to baked goods. You use about 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of flour, so the jar goes a long way. I don't know how it might fit into your food plan, but it may help with getting the kids to eat your homemade bread - if you decide to keep making it.

    For the yogurt, you might try getting some good quality jelly (is Huber Family available out there? it's excellent) and putting a couple teaspoons of that in the plain for the kids. (assuming you decide to repackage it) It would add some sweetness and flavor, but probably less sugar than the prepared ones, and certainly fewer chemicals. It would be a compromise because almost surely regular sugar, but possibly better than alternative?

    Anyway, hope you are all well.

  6. I was thinking of adding a drop of maple syrup if I keep making homemade yogurt and if the kids don't like it plain; I suppose I could do that with plain yogurt from the store, too. Thanks for the ideas. :)