Thursday, March 27, 2008

Harvey Ussery and the Integrated Modern Homestead Seminar at Airlie

Do you know about the Integrated Modern Homestead seminar at Airlie?

Harvey Ussery of Hume, Va, is giving the seminar this Friday, March 28, 2008, from 9 AM-5PM and there couldn't be any better place to host it than Airlie.

Airlie ( is a gorgeous natural/organic conference and research center in Fauquier County.

Harvey is a frequent contributor to Mother Earth News, Backyard Poultry plus a host of other publications and is a wealth of experience in holistic, synergistic and energy saving back yard food production.

Saturday, Harvey is hosting the group for a tour of his 2-1/2 acre homestead that produces most of the food that he and his wife need. The tour is from 9:30AM-Noon.

The work shop costs $100 per person ($80 for Friday and included lunch/$20 for Saturday)

To attend the workshop, contact
Pablo Elliott, Director for The Local Food Project at Airlie
540-347-1300 (EX- 3163)

See you there!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baking and Eggs

Eggs are a gift and blessing from Mother Nature.

They're nutritional powerhouses that lovingly embrace our bodies with goodness.

For those who love to bake, good, fresh eggs are treasures worth their weight in gold.

The better the egg, the better the cake (or cookie or tea bread etc.)

Over the last few months we searched high and low around Fauquier County, VA, for sources of great eggs.

We searched for eggs with golden rich yolks that stood up high in the center of a pool of thick white with a fresh, country aroma. We wanted eggs with thick shells - a sign that the chicken has been well fed on a nutritionally rich diet.

Sadly, what we universally found in the grocery stores were eggs of average but passable quality.

Watery whites, flat (spreading) yolks, paper thin shells and virtually no aroma were the rule and it didn't matter if the eggs were store brand, a natural brand or a name brand.

Price-y organic eggs were the most disappointing of all - perhaps because their expensive price tags left them on the shelves longer than battery chicken - farm eggs.

A bit better (but still not great) were the Egg-land's Best brand of eggs. They were fresher, the yolk was more yellow (almost most orange) and fresh smelling. They were worth the extra money they cost.

The best eggs were (surprise!) from local farmers who raised chickens but to find eggs you really like, you have to shop around. What the chickens are fed and how they're kept will affect the quality of the egg plus the taste.

So if you love to bake, you're got to focus on the quality of the eggs you use.

The better the egg, the better the baking.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Wilted Mustard Greens Salad

I'm getting the garden ready for spring planting.

I've been attending lots of garden seminars lately - especially at Airlie (that oh-so-gorgeous research facility and conference center here in Fauquier County, VA) through their local food project..... in fact, I'm going to Harvey Ussery's Integrated Homestead workshop this coming Friday.

But here's where I'm going with this.... the "hot" seed category for home gardens this year is "greens." These aren't your grandmother's old southern greens to be boiled for hours but rather a whole new fresh world of taste-y, light or no cooking greens to feed our good health as well as our palates.

There's not much in the garden yet.... it's way too early..... but mustard greens are around (in the green houses, at the grocery store and maybe, just maybe under some mulch).

They're a spicy vegetable that's typically cooked and served as a hot side dish.
In this recipe, however, the greens are served as a salad. Yes (surprise!) they can be eaten raw and you're going to find them quite nice.

Break with the southern tradition of boiling mustard greens to death and try this pepper-y salad. It's pungent so, unlike lettuce salads, keep the portions small. You're going to love it!

Wilted Mustard Greens Salad
"Wilted" means the greens soften slightly in the hot dressing but are sturdy enough to retain most of their character.

Serves 2-4

2 cups washed, stemmed and shredded mustard greens
A few red onion rings (to taste, sliced 1/16 inch thick and separated)

1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch or 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
Dash black pepper
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Put greens and onion rings into a heat proof bowl. Set aside.

Prepare dressing by whisking remaining ingredients (except vinegar) together in a small pot. Bring to a boil, whisking, over medium heat then cook one minute more.

Remove from heat and whisk in vinegar. Immediately pour hot dressing over salad and toss to coat. Serve at once.

Karla's tips:
Don't like mustard greens?
This hot dressing works well over spinach and that old stand by, iceberg lettuce. Other greens or lettuce not recommended.

Want a milder salad?
Mix spinach and/or iceberg lettuce with the mustard greens for a total of two cups greens for this amount of dressing.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to Guide to Choosing Cheese

Cheezy Information

Choosing cheese is tough these days.

Domestic - Imported. Sharp - mild. Grated, shredded and chunk.

Stay close to nature and you'll get the most nutritional (and flavorful) bang for your grocery buck.

Check the labels for the information your need to know:

1. Good quality cheese is pure and simple.

Milk or cream, enzymes or rennet and usually salt.

It doesn't matter what type or kind of cheese you're buying... cheddar, feta, mozzarella, cottage , ricotta or goat.

Good cheese doesn't require binders, fillers or starch so ask yourself why they're added.

It may take some searching but there are plenty of high quality cheeses readily available that don't contain additives.

2. Orange cheese has coloring added.

Your don't need to eat artificial coloring if you can help it. You already get plenty in food your have no control over.

Sometimes annatto is used as the coloring. Annatto is a natural coloring derived from grape skins and many people feel it's OK.

Blue cheese, by the way comes by its blue color naturally. Blue cheese (as a rule) is not colored.

3. Shredded cheese is dusted with an invisible film of starch to keep it from clumping.

You don't need added starch in your diet plus the starch keeps you from tasting the cheese fully.

4. Shaker style, grated cheese had cellulose added to keep it shaking freely.

Like the starch in shredded cheese, the cellulose gets in the way of the flavor.

5. Nothing beats the way that whole milk cheese melts.

Low fat cheese doesn't melt; it just gets rubbery.

6. Avoid cheese made with corn syrup.

Corn syrup is more often found in prepared cheeses, spread and blends than in chunk cheese but you just can't be too careful these days. You MUST always read the label.

Corn syrup is added for a variety of reasons. It helps the cheese product flow through machines for packaging. It acts as a preservative. It's used for flavoring. And its cheap so it sometimes is used to extend the ingredients and reduce manufacturing costs. In other words, it replaces the dairy nutrients of a cheese product with nutritionally void, empty calorie carbs.

7. Skip ersatz low fat cheeses.

Some cheeses are naturally low fat. These are delicious to eat, good for you and should be enjoyed for what they are.

Manufactured low fat cheese (like fat free cream cheese) are pale imitations of the real thing and not worth the calories.

If fat is your concern, learn to modify portions to make real cheese something to be savored.

When buying cheese, stay close to nature.

The cheese (and your recipes) will taste great and be more nutritious.


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