Friday, July 15, 2011

As easy as herding a cat ...

Coffee cup firmly grasped in hand, I march determinedly out to our wild patches of forest.  I know they must be here ... looking, looking ... looking ...  

In a previously abundant area, I brush a tall green fern out of the way to expose their naked blue flesh.  

Ha HA - success!  They thought they could hide from me, but I am on to their sneakiness.  

Ahhh forest blueberry time.  It only lasts a couple of weeks in July.  We've got several good patches throughout our woods, and I seldom miss the opportunity to spend many bug-bite-filled hours to gather these tiny explosions of organic blueberriness.  

Even Kolbe can't keep himself away from their bluey blue goodness ...

Ummmm well maybe I exaggerated about Kolbe's enthusiasm.  He had to be dragged there, literally ...

But in the end, it's worth it.


Our freezer is happily containing the freshness of these tiny powerhouses of flavor for those special mornings filled with gluten-free blueberry pancakes, scones, etc ...

Speaking of, here's a recipe:

Gluten-free Blueberry Scones

Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

Combine the following in a large bowl:

Transfer a few tablespoons of the above dry mixture into a small bowl.  Add:
  • 1 C. blueberries

Toss to coat - set aside.

To the large bowl with the dry mixture, add:
  • 5 T. butter, diced & chilled

Cut in until pea-sized.  (Hint: don't over-work scones, as this would create lovely blueberry doorstops.)

Then add:
  • 1 C. milk (coconut or almond milk works fine, as well)
  • the blueberries tossed with some of the dry mixture (above)

Stir until dough comes together.  

Turn onto parchment.  Gently shape into a round 1/2"-1" thick patty.  

Cut into 8 sections and separate each by a couple of inches.  If desired, lightly brush with milk and even sugar (I don't do either of these and they're just fine).

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the bottom edges are a nice golden brown.


p.s. Eating them with honey butter adds some rich, naughty sweetness.

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Eat your heart out, Winnie the Pooh

Some of you might be wondering what's going on with the bees.  Well, after the first swarm got away from us, the hive reproduced so quickly that it was back to 90% of pre-swarm numbers within a week (we're talking tens of thousands of new bees in just a few days - amazing)!  A few days later, they swarmed again.  So, we're left with small numbers right now - waiting for the new queen to emerge and begin rebuilding the troops.  In the meantime ...

This is the best honey I've ever tasted.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why organic?

Why am I so passionate about eating organically?  It's a long story, so I'll try to keep it as brief as possible.

I have been pestered by chemical (and specifically pesticide) overexposure in very noticeable ways for the past 28 years of my life.

It all started with the local lake I swam in for a number of years during childhood.  It seemed as soon as the water was warm enough to not turn my digits a bluish-purple after 5 minutes of hypothermic exposure, the green ooze was everywhere.  Algae.  I remember coming home from swimming, getting in the shower, taking my swimsuit off and finding that I had a lovely thick green layer of algae plastered to my skin.

Throughout my youth, I swam often, and I guess I wasn't intimidated by the green slime.  I would hear adults talk about how this particular dammed lake is fed by streams that wind their way through agricultural areas.  Farm runoff, they'd say, caused the algae.  I was slightly deterred by thinking about swimming through cow poo.  This knowledge stopped me from drinking the lake water, but not from cooling down on a hot summer day.

"How awful is poo, anyway," I thought.

Then, after one late-August swim (a breech of etiquette - most locals don't go in this lake after July because the green ooze was so horrifically disgusting), I became very sick and a plethora of allergies were mine for the rest of my life.  What did I become allergic to?


I had to get rid of my fish tank, as trying to clean it caused my airways to constrict and skin to swell and itch.  I also never swam in that lake (or any other body of water with large deposits of algae) again.

Fruit skins

Especially apples, peaches/nectarines, plums and cherries.

Trees, grass, flowers

Basically anything with pollen.

These days, allergy symptoms are easily kept at bay with some kind of prescription or over-the-counter medication.  However, back in the '80s, there were not really any good allergy remedies.  The doctor gave me a big blue pill that took away my symptoms for 8 hours ... while rendering me unconscious.  When I woke up, the scratchy, watery eyes, sneezing and throat itchiness returned instantly.  :-|

I have experienced several more negative effects of chemical exposure that were more gradual.  Those will be covered in future posts.

What caused this sudden onset of allergies?  Well, let's consider what runoff from factory farms contains.

Free Poison Sign with a Skull and Crossbones
Antibiotics - 70-80% of all antibiotics consumed in the U.S. are by farm animals (29 million pounds).  As has been reported, more than 90 thousand Americans die from infections that have become resistant to antibiotics every year.  To put that into perspective, that number is higher than the death toll from AIDS, car accidents and prostate cancer combined.

Pesticides - They don't just magically disappear after they're sprayed on crops that both animals and humans eat.

Poo - A LOT of poo.


Not only does this cause concern for the environment, but for our health, our well-being.  After all, you are what you eat ... and we in this country eat a lot of factory farmed foods.

If you haven't seen the documentary Food, Inc., it is available to watch instantly on Netflix right now and should be put at the top of your queue if you have any interest at all about what you put in your body (not to mention sustainable farming practices).  If you don't have Netflix, maybe a friend does and will watch it with you.  Or rent it from your local library.  Here's the trailer:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mmmmmmeal replacement bars: Cacao Coffee Bar

On the go and haven't eaten?  If you have some homemade meal replacement bars on hand, no problem!  
This was my first attempt and, if I must say, they're pretty darn good.  Paying $3-4 for each one (I love you ProBar, but dang) is not feasible at this point in time.  Answer?  The Cacao Coffee Bar.

You can easily make variations of this bar using the same concept, but with other seeds, nuts and even some dried fruit.  Let me know if you develop one of your own that is tasty!  

Supplies needed

Food processor
8x8 or 9x9 pan

Put all dry ingredients in processor and pulse until you reach the desired texture (e.g. fine ground, small nibblets, whatever you like):

1/2 C. organic raw almonds
1/2 C. raw sunflower seeds
1/2 C. raw pepitas
1/2 C. golden flax seed
1/4 C. quinoa flakes
1/4 C. organic fair-trade coffee beans
1 C. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 C. raw cacao nibs (or cocoa powder)

Add wet ingredients and pulse until fully incorporated: 

1 C. raw cashew butter (or raw cashews^)
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4-1/2 C. maple syrup
1 T. honey
2 T. virgin coconut oil (vco)
1 C. ground almonds / almond flour

Dump it into the pan, smash it down as hard as you can. Cover. Put in fridge. Cut. Eat. Ta da!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just another manic Monday

Sometimes the best intentions get vetoed by life.

I am a first-year beekeeper.  I planned on eventually getting to this subject in later posts, but the bees are pretty much demanding all of my attention at the moment.  Point blank: SWARM!

Our top-bar hive had become overcrowded.  The bees did some prep work (that had gone unnoticed by our untrained "newbee" beekeepers' eyes), then 60% of them left Sunday around noon with the queen (the remaining 40% of our pretty Italian bees in the original hive are busy making a new queen).  

They usually swarm in a cluster around the queen on a tree branch.  In this case, it was approximately 30' up.  We managed, rather unexpectedly and while obtaining my first sting, to get the swarm to gather on the side of the very garbage can in which we attempted to catch them.

All of my time right now is going into figuring out what to do about the most pressing situation at hand: the swarm.  I'll be attempting to build another top bar hive today to house the swarm.  Just a bit of labor with not the best tools, so I will post again as soon as possible.

Update:  right before posting this, the swarm took off. They didn't want the Langstroth hive (borrowed last night from a local beekeeper) that we placed very obviously for them to choose.  :-(

I'm forcing myself to make the Small Choice to look on the bright side: I will have more time to construct another top bar hive before the next swarm. 

This has freed up my manic Monday for more calming tasks ...


Friday, June 24, 2011


Ahhhh Saturdays in summer when, all over America, local farmers and merchants gather to offer their produce, meat and wares for a fair price.  This is a great opportunity to support and get to know the people in your community who are producing food and goods in a sustainable manner.

It's also a way to do some smart shopping.  Notice the prices.  These are organically-grown (vendors don't mind you inquiring about their growing practices - use of pesticides, etc).  Organic lettuce in the grocery store in this amount is at least $5.  I just finished a bag of last week's farmer's market lettuce - it was still completely fresh for our salads today, 6 days later.

It's exciting to see what new items make it to market each week.

If you don't know what an item is, ask the vendor.  They will most likely happily share information about the item, as well as how it is typically prepared.

There are items other than food: honey, soap, candles, garden plants, breads, salsa, meats of all kinds ...

By the way, grilling makes local bacon the baconiest bacon you'll ever have.  :-)

I can't wait for tomorrow morning ... supporting the good hard-working people of my community while getting some real food at a fair price is definitely a win-win situation.

Snack away!

Moona's Munchies - Bucket O' Goodness


Dump good healthy stuff into a clean ice cream pail and shake it all up.

(More specifically:
  • Fill 1/3 of the bucket with unsweetened coconut chips.
  • Add whatever nuts and seeds you like and/or currently have on-hand.  
I don't really care for the flavor of raw nuts and seeds on their own, so I put both raw and toasted nuts and seeds of each kind in the mix.  It usually is something like this: pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts - whatever strikes my fancy.  This should make the level of the munchie bucket 1/2 - 2/3 full.  
  • Then drop in some dried fruits, making your bucket's level 2/3 - 3/4.  
I regularly use organic raisins; then dice some dried mango, papaya and apricots (unsulfurized).  Dried cranberries or cherries would add some nice zing.
  • Cover and shake until you just can't shake anymore.  
  • If there's room, add more coconut chips* until the bucket is full.   Cover and shake until mixed thoroughly.  
*Note: Other additions which are tasty, but not necessarily ideal (grains = sugar), would be organic corn flakes or puffed brown rice cereal.  Sometimes I really have some insistent chocolate cravings.  So on those days, I add a handful of fair-traded organic chocolate chips to the bucket.  Bad Moona!)

That's it!  Put in your cabinet.  Any time you are hungry and want a snack, open that bucket and make a better Small Choice than you otherwise would have.  It's a good idea to put some mix in a snack-sized bowl.  A full Bucket O' Goodness on your lap as you're watching a movie would probably not be prudent.