The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat in The Daily Freeman

  • May 31, 2011 8:00 pm

Many thanks to the staff at The Daily Freeman for the awesome article about The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat.  They even included a video of an interview with Jessica Applestone.  Here is an excerpt:

In “The Butcher’s Guide,” not only do the authors argue sharply in favor of grass-fed animals, but they define terms like “free-range” and “organic.”

They also get right to the point about the best cooking techniques (like making the perfect steak); how to make spice rubs and use bones in your cooking.

And they give the inside scoop on buying well-raised meat on a budget and include some recipes like “Bite-Your-Tongue Tacos,” and “Japanese Fried Chicken.”

Blogging Pause/The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat Launches

  • May 31, 2011 7:58 pm

I’ll be taking a small blogging hiatus as I launch The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat. Back to regularly scheduled programming shortly, I promise. Please check News & Events to come join me at one of the celebrations, and stop by the Press page to read what people are saying about the book.

Kamut, The Newest Old Grain, Wins Glenny Over

  • May 29, 2011 9:18 pm

Each week I get invited to do various food-related things in and around New York City. I’d love to go to all of them, but it’s just not possible. Recently Glenny Cameron, editorial assistant extraordinaire, went to a kamut event (yes, there is such a thing) and wrote the following dispatch. I love eating whole grains and inspiring others to, too. So I was happy to have her take on it as well as this breakfast cereal recipe. Dig in.

Recently, there has been an upsurge in chatter amongst foodies and non-foodies alike about ancient grains.  Ancient grains?  What makes them…old?

Basically, any “ancient grain” (the most common on supermarket shelves today are quinoa, amaranth, spelt, and kamut) is given that title because it has been around and unchanged for centuries.  Rice, corn, and some modern forms of wheat, on the other hand, have been specifically bred to accommodate contemporary palates.  These newer grains barely resemble their originals.  Check out The Los Angeles Times article on this subject for a more in-depth explanation.

There are claims that ancient grains are more healthful because of their high protein, fiber, and antioxidant contents.  Some celiacs, those with a gluten intolerance, find that eating these grains does not affect their allergy.  Sounds great, right?  So, when I was invited to an event featuring kamut, I was thrilled to learn more.

Fun facts:

-Kamut (pronounced kah-moot) is the brand, not the wheat, which is actually called khorasan.  Bob Quinn, who is the founder of Kamut International, wanted to assure the quality of the organic, heirloom grain, khorasan wheat, by branding it to let consumers know they were buying a GMO-free, unaltered product.

-There are many theories about the origin of khorasan wheat, but Quinn suggests that it was brought to Egypt by Greek and Roman armies.  In 1949, 36 kernels found their way to Montana. In 1977, Bob’s father, T. Mack Quinn, obtained half a pint.  All of the kamut in the country is now grown in Big Sandy, Montana.

-Kamut is a very versatile grain, which was proven to us invitees over the course of a food-filled evening.  From breakfast cereals, salads, and pastas to crackers, breads and cookies, we had our plates piled high with all things kamut.  And all things delicious!  Kamut has a lovely nutty taste and a dense, chewy texture.  Picture farro, but bigger.

-To find out more about kamut, and where to purchase various Kamut brand products, go to their website:

KAMUT Khorasan Wheat Berries

Here is one of the many recipes we were given in our over-stuffed goody bag.  I went home with my arms full and my appetite sated.  I am certainly a kamut convert, and I suggest you become one too.  Everyone needs more healthy grains in their lives, right?  Why not experiment and enjoy some ancient ones?

KAMUT Chai-Cinnamon Spiced Ancient Grain Cereal

1/2 cup Kamut khorasan wheat flakes

1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

Note: start preparation the night prior to eating.  (It will make your morning routine so much easier!)

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil.  Turn off heat.  Add all grains, ginger, pepper and salt.  Cover and let stand 2 hours or overnight.

In the morning, set pan over medium heat, bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until grains are tender, about 15 minutes (this will vary depending on soak time).

Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Divide cereal among 4 bowls and serve with warmed milk, chopped nuts, brown sugar, fresh or dried fruit – whatever you prefer!

Q&A: How To Deal With Mold

  • May 26, 2011 4:40 pm

THE QUESTION:

Dear Alexandra,

I live in a 17th Century building with very thick walls and lots of black mold. We Clorox-spray it off in the winter, but now have a newborn baby whose lungs are probably going to be black with mold before he picks up his first Gitane / or perhaps bleached with Clorox before his first sniff of blow. It’s too cold to leave the windows open (what rids us of the mold).

Any suggestions on getting rid of it other than Clorox?

Thanks, Daisy

THE ANSWER:

Well leave it to my old school buddy to ask an extremely colorful and yet important question. (Hi, Daisy!)

Mold can grow anywhere in your house, and it can be easy to get rid of. But you have to know what you’re dealing with. There is black mold (bad for you) and then there is black mold (unsightly but safe). It can be hard to tell which is which, but the toxic stuff is rare and tends to crop up primarily on consistently moist material that contains cellulose (paper, wood, ceiling tile etc.). That doesn’t sound like what you’re contending with on those walls. But if it is, I’d call in an expert asap.

If you know that your black gunk is the run of the mill variety, here is an excerpt from Planet Home on how to deal with mold in your bathroom. This method involves hydrogen peroxide and can work elsewhere, too.

I’m more concerned about that Clorox spray than I am about Gitanes, especially for the moment. Chlorine bleach is the most common cleaner accidentally swallowed by children. If mixed with ammonia, the combo releases highly toxic chloramine gas. It’s considered a severe irritant and a carcinogen precursor. And there are all sorts of environmental concerns that come up regarding what happens when chlorine bleach is released via wastewater and comes into contact with natural materials (it can form dioxins, furans, trihalomethanes, and more). It’s best avoided, especially in a home with a newborn.

The excerpt:

If you see any mold forming, particularly at the bottom of your shower curtain or on that hard-to-keep-dry crack between the tub and the wall, use a cleaner containing hydrogen peroxide or plain old 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.  Keep in mind that peroxide is good at killing active mold, not mold spores.  The gray color won’t go away immediately or sometimes ever (this usually comes from mildew that has gone deep into porous grout).  It can’t hurt to spray this area daily if you have a perpetual mold issue.

And do keep those windows open from time to time, even if it is chilly. Ventilation is key when battling mold, so is reducing moisture.

How are YOU dealing with mold?


What You Don’t Know: What My Editorial Assistant Didn’t Know

  • May 24, 2011 9:46 am

This week I asked my editorial assistant (sounds much better than intern, no?) Glenny Cameron if she’d mind sharing what she has learned/what she didn’t know before starting to work with me a month or so ago–if anything. Needless to say I’m extremely touched by what she wrote. She’s amazing. Seriously, this is an inspiring must-read. Thanks, Glenny. Have anything to add to her thoughts? So curious!

—-

Before working with Alexandra I considered myself a very environmentally aware person.  I buy organic, I shop locally, I reuse plastic bags and refuse to buy bottled water.  Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), there are loads and loads of things to learn about the sustainable lifestyle, and I thank Alexandra for engaging me in them.  There is always more that can be done, more of the world to save.  So, here are the top five things I’ve learned in the past few months, complete with excerpts from The Conscious Kitchen and Planet Home.  Some are small and silly, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

1. Bananas.

I love bananas.  They are now a guilty pleasure.  Enough said.

There are a number of items in your fruit bowl (and in your cabinets – see chapter seven) that might be certified organic but fall into the realm of still not being great to buy.  In this realm, no exotic is more widely available, or controversial, than the banana.  The ubiquitous yellow fruit is nature’s perfect answer to packaged goods – every parent’s nutrient-dense dream snack.  Yet, it’s a deeply flawed food.  Its pretty much the poster fruit for how confusing trying to eat consciously can be.  Bananas are grown very far away, are environmentally destructive, are often harvested under conditions unfair to laborers, and the variety we all eat will apparently be extinct in the not-so-distant future.  The greenest and most environmentally devoted eaters around don’t eat bananas, or refer to them as a guilty pleasure…Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined.  Food for thought.

2. Organic cotton.

This is a difficult topic because most of my clothes are not made with organic cotton.  The main reason is that organic cotton can be very expensive and I am at times, very poor.  Another reason is that most of my clothes shopping is done in secondhand or vintage stores, where you will rarely find organic goods.  [Note from Alexandra: Secondhand is better than newly manufactured organic cotton items. Go Glenny!] After learning that cotton is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world (accounting for 25% of annual insecticide use globally!) I made a conscious decision to switch to organic cotton whenever possible.  This meant buying new sheets, towels, and looking into organic cotton alternatives for the clothes I buy new (socks, underwear, etc.).  Although I haven’t completely revamped my wardrobe, I now sleep soundly in my organic bed.  [Another note from Alexandra: Awesome!!] Check out ecochoices.com for more information on worldwide cotton production.

3. Plastic.

I know that all of the nasty chemicals that are found in plastics aren’t news to anyone reading this site.  They weren’t to me either, but I needed a push to start actively avoiding them in my life.

BPA – a hormone disrupter (it mimics estrogen) that has the FDA, Health Canada, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, among other entities, in a tizzy, and parents and hikers across the nation switching their baby and water bottles to BPA-free versions.  Manufacturers have taken consumer temperature and are busily marketing “safe” plastic products.  Unfortunately, some of the resulting BPA-free items contain other chemicals that are new to this arena and haven’t exactly stood the test of time.

Phthalates – this family of chemicals, which make plastic flexible (among many other things), are endocrine disrupters and reproductive toxicants.  The are currently being voluntarily removed or banned from everything from nail polish to neonatal tubing to toys.  They’re less ubiquitous in a kitchen than BPA but are likely found in certain plastics (like meat and cheese wrappings) as well as PVC (vinyl) flooring and even in cleaning-product fragrance.

Sure, I use (organic) cotton totes and only use my plastic bags for my garbage can, but I when I looked in my cupboards I was ashamed to realize how much food was stored in plastic containers.  My cereal and pastas were in plastic bags and my fridge was filled with leftovers in plastic tupperware!  What was I thinking?  So I threw it all out and bought loads of canning jars to use as storage instead.  I even moved my spices.  It was easy! [Yet another note from Alexandra: Nice! Love this!]

4. DIY cleaning.

I must confess, I have a fairly high tolerance for dirt and dust and have never lived in a sterile environment.  Perhaps it’s leftover from growing up in the country, in a house where the windows were always open and pets of all kinds were rampant.  I truly believe this is why my brother and I have incredible immune systems.

That said, most of my cleaning was done with minimal products, usually just water.  On the occasion when I was inspired enough to actually use some disinfectant, I turned to the all-natural brands like Seventh Generation or Ecover.  Fortunately, Alexandra’s tips on DIY cleaning have buffered my “do less” attitude toward cleaning while still keeping my apartment germ free.  I’ve even passed these tips on to my mother, who I can thank for fostering my housekeeping habits (or lack thereof).

DIY Cleaners

-Soap plus water equals mopping solution.

-Soap plus baking soda and a drop or two of water equals excellent mildly abrasive paste.  Extras to mix in include lemon, natural essential oils, or even hydrogen peroxide.

-Water plus vinegar equals glass cleaner.

5. Unplug.

Living alone and living simply means that I have few appliances.  I don’t own a coffee maker or a desktop computer.  My TV is rarely used.  But, for the gadgets I do use – lights, clocks, speakers – I never thought to unplug them when not in use.  I admit, my cell phone charger was usually plugged in until reading Planet Home.

Appliances use energy even when turned off.  Pull plugs out of the wall to stop energy draw.  Alternatively, plug them all into a power strip and turn the strip off when not in use, as well as overnight.

A very simple step towards greening your life.

Video: How To Unclog Drains/Prevent Clogs Using Safe Pantry Staples (Vinegar And Baking Soda)

  • May 22, 2011 9:44 am

Here’s a chatty, foam-tastic video that shows anyone how to clear their drains and prevent further clogs with 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar, and a little hot water. So easy, even I can do it.

Q&A: Sheets And Towels

  • May 19, 2011 9:39 am

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

Any home organic companies you recommend? Sheets and towels can be so expensive I’m hesitant to just buy them “blind” – I’ve purchased some Gaiam organic sheets and they are fairly cheap feeling and ill-fitting.

Thanks,

Lis

THE ANSWER

Dear Lis,

Thanks for the query. I hear you louder than I’d like. I bought several sets of organic sheets about 5 years ago and they’re currently worn so thin they’re tearing. I don’t remember my conventional sheets before then wearing out so soon. I don’t wash them overy often, and usually only in cold water. The dryers in my building are industrial so maybe that’s a factor. Then I purchased another organic brand when my daughter moved into a twin bed. These are already wearing through after only 3ish years.

Having only personally used two brands, I’m unfortunately not up to suggesting brands, especially as what I like might feel uncomfortable to you. That said, I will explain how to go about finding the best of what’s on the market. I must admit I’d buy my ripped brands again anyway. There are too many excellent reasons to buy organic cotton sheets beyond durability and fit, including that the Sustainable Cotton Project says cotton farming uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides. These happen to be among the world’s worst pesticides. I choose organic to avoid being involved with that system. Besides, now I have many lovely rags to clean with.

It’s hard to know what’s what in the world of organic cotton. I try to buy from manufacturers who say they work with certified cotton and specifically mention  third party labels like USDA organic, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), or sets that meet Oeko-Tex standards. I also have natural undyed and unbleached sheets. It can be difficult to find out the specifics on manufacturing processes and the safety of dyes. So I just go natural. There are certainly sheets on the market adhering to these standards that come in colors. Another thing to consider is country of origin. If you want to support local farmers, you might not want your sheets from places as far away as China or India. When it comes to food, it’d widely accepted that USDA organic domestic is more trustworthy than USDA organic international. I assume the same goes for cotton. It’s harder to police. Since cotton is a crop, I also like to look for Fair Trade labels or mention on the sheet packaging (these aren’t always available).

Here’s a little something on linens from Planet Home:

The greenest sheets (and towels) are the ones you already have.  But it buying new, choose 100 percent organic cotton, either undyed or dyed in an ecofriendlier fashion.  Choosing organic is mainly about making a positive environmental impact; the exposure to toxins from contact with the cotton itself while sleeping is minimal.  Dyes, on the other hand, can come off on skin and are environmentally harsh.  If you see something called “green” cotton, don’t mistake it for organic.  It’s conventional cotton that hasn’t been bleached with chlorine or treated with formaldehyde, a carcinogen.  Bamboo is an eco-friendly material, but not when it is made into a fabric.  Bamboo sheets are basically rayon and not a great choice.  If you’re going to use conventional sheets (or towels), natural fibers are best.  Do not purchase anything with a permanent press finish, which is treated with formaldehyde, a VOC that you will inhale as you sleep.

If you’re reading this and have an organic sheet and towel brand you love, trust, and think makes a durable product, please say so in comments!

What You Don’t Know: What’s In Your Makeup

  • May 17, 2011 10:16 am

I cannot tell you how many times a VGP (very green person) leans over to me and quietly says, “Can I ask you a question?” The first few times I thought I was in for something awkward or scandalous or worse. But now I know: they want my makeup list. They’ve greened everything from their cookware to their conditioner, but haven’t been able to take the final leap into natural concealer. I get it. Sacrifice is part of the game when you go green. But looking (or at least feeling) ugly? That’s too far for most of us. Some people find caring about how you look superficial, especially compared to other issues in the environmental movement. To which I say: whatever. Especially as there are important environmental health concerns to consider when it comes to cosmetics.

It takes a while to hit on the products in any given makeup bag. The process of finding the right color foundation, the perfect lip shade, a favorite blush is usually a circuitous one. Here’s the bad news–and the very reason for the whispers from VGPs: the concealer that can erase any sleepless night or banish a blemish like nobody’s business is likely filled with the worst possible wildly unregulated crap. I’m talking carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting,  petroleum-derived ingredients. Things with heavy metals like lead. Nothing you would slather on your skin–your largest organ–if you knew better and really considered it. Now you know better. Time to consider it. If you put this gunk on your lips you know you’re eating it. I don’t have to tell you that. The pink-hued rim of your coffee cup speaks for itself. Grim grim grim. And: no thank you.

Thankfully there are several ways around this conundrum:

1. Have perfect flawless skin. (Ha!)

2. Get a degree in reading cosmetic labels and spend all of your time turning bottles around and researching. (As if.)

3. Memorize the names of a few third party certified natural brands, try out their products to see what works, and wear a minimal amount. Less is more anyway.

I went through this process when reporting the The Complete Organic Pregnancy. It wasn’t fun to have to give up all of my favorite products as my belly grew, but it was extremely worthwhile. Here’s an excerpt from that book where I explain what to avoid and how to find the best buys for your makeup bag.

Beauty products smell good, make us look pretty, and promise instant perfection – flawless skin, think, shiny hair, solid nails.  Unfortunately most are loaded with chemicals linked to birth defects, carcinogens, ingredients derived from nonrenewable petroleum, and preservatives that can end up in breast tissue.  The Environmental Working Group says 89 percent of the ingredients in everyday products aren’t tested for safety.  Which is why – especially when pregnant – organic beauty products are the way to go.  But there’s a catch: our government doesn’t regulate personal products the way it regulates food (though there have been some advances made recently, and hopefully more to come).  This means that any…[cosmetics] company can slap the label “organic” or “natural” on its product.  In the absence of government regulation, the genuine organic- and biodynamic-beauty-product producers (a significant minority) have tried to find a way to differentiate themselves.  Many of them are European companies and adhere to comparatively strict European standards. 

I wear minimal makeup (unless I’m going on television to talk about things like…organic makeup). Here are a few brands I have tested through, am currently comfortable with, and think work well. Nothing is perfect. There have been others in the past and there will be others in the future. These are just my current staples. That said, I still always read labels before I buy any product; ingredients, certifications, and packaging changes. I’m not a manufacturer.

One caveat: the natural makeup world needs to continue their quest to develop products for darker skin tones.

And one tip: try organic olive oil or coconut oil on your lips for moisture and shine; that’s what I wear and I don’t have to give it another thought if I swallow either.

Suki

Dr. Hauschka

Jane Iredale Minerals

RMS Beauty

What have you found that works for you?

Want The Recipe? Why I Likely Don’t Have It, Exactly.

  • May 15, 2011 10:13 am

People are always asking me for recipes. I respond with techniques. As someone who attempts to eat mainly locally (within reason), recipes don’t really work out for me. I’ll read something in a magazine and love the idea of it, only to make my way to the ingredient list and realize I can’t make it. Asparagus and citrus salad isn’t happening for me in the middle of the winter. Or possibly ever; there is no citrus growing near where I live. This is not a judgement call. It’s just how I choose to eat.

It can get pretty dull during the winter. Now that my farmers’ market is bursting with life, I’m overjoyed to the point of acting ridiculous. I tried to hug my favorite farmer this morning when she told me I had to get out of bed earlier next week as she would have peas. I love peas more than almost anything. And I love that she was teasing me (I am never the early bird; I write late at night).

My weekly shopping goes like this: I basically troll the market and blow all of my money. And then I throw it all together however it makes sense night after night until it is time to go the market again. I use printed recipes sometimes as thoughts or guides. But mainly I ‘m a technique-girl: I saute, roast, bake, and so on. Or I eat it raw. I’m a capable cook, but mainly I’m an excellent shopper.

Here’s a great example of my kind of “recipe” from the amazing Joan Gussow, reprinted from The Conscious Kitchen.

Joan Gussow’s Roasted What’s-In-The-Garden

This isn’t really a recipe–which makes it the perfect recipe. It’s seasonal and doesn’t call for anything that isn’t growing in the same region (Gussow’s yard!) at the same time. Plus it gives wonderful insight into the mind-set of a deeply green thinker. “I tend to make things that are related to what I have. I save recipes when they come along, but I don’t make as much use of cookbooks as I might. They have an assortment of things I might not have. If I were thinking about dinner during the day, I am thinking of the fridge: What’s in it should I use up? What’s in the garden I should use up? I’m aware of what I have at a given time. I had my first Burbank russets this year that were big. I love to dig potatoes. It’s a pleasure, like finding gold in the earth–a wonderful bucketful of potatoes comes out of the ground. I rolled them in oil and stuck them in the hot oven. Then I thought, I’m not going to waste that oven heat.” She remembered that a friend had done a potato-and-green-beans thing, and called her to find out how to proceed. She wound up roasting potatoes, green beans, and Jimmy Nardello peppers on separate sheets in the oven for about a half hour. “It wasn’t a meal,” she says. “It was potatoes and green beans and peppers on a plate. And it was delicious.”

Sounds good to me. What’s your favorite non-recipe?

Granny’s Gone Viral

  • May 13, 2011 8:18 pm

Well that was unexpected. My New York Times article on grandparent names climbed to #1 most emailed on the site for a good long while and it has been picked up all over the place, including on the Time’s own Motherload blog. Thanks for sharing Baltimore Sun, Babble, Jezebel, and others.