Category Archives: Field Trip

12 Health Secrets from a Real Food Pioneer

This post is featured on the Traditional Cooking School website.

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pictured: Amy Knowles, Sally Fallon Morrell, and Lee Burdett at the Wise Traditions 2014 in Indianapolis, IN

I was privileged again this year to attend Wise Traditions, the annual conference for the Weston A. Price Foundation. I am always inspired by the speakers, exhibits and the wonderful meals. I come home recharged and motivated to try new things, and to keep sharing the message of good health. I’m thankful for WAPF President Sally Fallon Morell, and her team, who put together these weekends overflowing with information.

In this post, I’m sharing Sally’s own health secrets, given as part of the closing ceremonies for the 2014 conference in Indianapolis. These 12 points represent many of the same key ideas that made an impact on my own healthy journey when I turned away from current mainstream ideas. Read More here….

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In Search of Gluten-free Dinner

It’s Memorial Day weekend which for me and thousands of other homeschooling families in Florida means it’s time for the annual FPEA Convention. We’re at the Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel in Kissimmee which is a world unto itself! Themed sections like Everglades (where our room is), St. Augustine or The Keys are where the rooms are. There are at least a half dozen swimming pools, an atrium garden area with live alligators, turtles and snakes, and at least two jumbo movie screens playing family-friendly videos. The hotel area bridges to a large convention center area where they have all the seminars and the largest exhibit hall I have ever seen filled with every kind of curriculum you can imagine.

Bringing in my cooler of breakfast and lunch from home I was not the only one schlepping in food from home. Yesterday I even met another lady who carries sea salt in her purse.  :)  Still, now that I’m eating gluten-free it has been a struggle to find enough to eat. My groceries were for breakfast and lunch, I still needed to buy dinner.  The hotel set up a food court area on the convention center side. That was the closest place so we started there first. DH got a bowl of chili and I started to do that too but something told me to ask first. Glad I did – after checking with the manager it turns out the ONLY thing they had that was gluten-free was a small garden salad and the only GF salad dressing was fat free and full of msg. :(  So I left there empty handed and way too hungry. Eventually I found a small bowl of black bean soup at the sports bar. But when I asked to check the ingredients on the sour cream it was filled with guar gum, potassium sorbate and about six other chemicals. So just plain black bean soup was all I got. I supplemented with some of the lunch stuff I’d packed.

Tonight we tried again.  Last year we really liked the Italian themed Villa de Flora so we headed there first. I asked the hostess “Do you have any gluten free options?” and was thrilled when she said “Yes!” PLUS she said it was their practice to have the chef come personally speak to me and find out what kind of special restrictions I had so they could accommodate!  Sure enough the chef came out and escorted me on a personal tour of their dinner buffet and pointed out every item that was GF plus he offered to make me GF pasta and offered GF rolls if I wanted them. Then he said that for dessert he had several GF choices and just to call on him when I was ready and he’d bring them out.  Kudos to Villa de Flora for such a great variety of real food options for gluten-free guests and for such great customer service!

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 1

grilled vegetables, salads, red pepper hummus, parma ham and cheeses

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 2

tomato bisque, saffron shrimp and mussels, veal osso buco, mushroom polenta, haricot verts

 

 

 

 

 

 

GF meal at Gaylord Palms 3

amaretti cheesecake, herbal tea with heavy cream and honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever had a rough time finding gluten-free food while eating out? Have you ever had exceptional customer service when making a special request at a restaurant?

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Announcing Kickstarter Campaign for Whole-food, Clean-eating Rest Stop for Travelers in Gettysburg, PA

Well Fed Family is excited to help spread the word about this idea whose time has come! Please share this campaign with friends and relatives who can help the Young family realize their dream, and help travelers find a place to stop where they can feel nourished and restored.

 

Long-time potters and Gettysburg business owners David and Junko Young have announced plans to open a green, whole-food and clean-eating rest stop at the intersection of US 15 and Taneytown Road inhistoric Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

lionPotPic3The Youngs recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for this venture.

The initial plan is to open a whole-food café, which will transition into a restaurant and finally a full healthy-choice rest stop. lionPotPic2They will offer food and beverages made completely with locally grown produce.

Currently the couple run a successful ceramic gallery and produce stand on Taneytown Road. They have established relationships with over twenty five different farmers in the area and plan to incorporate those relationships into their new venture.

The Lion Potter Website

Email for more information

Kickstarter Campaign Link

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The Lion Potter says. . .

We are located at the halfway point between Connecticut and the Carolinas on Highway 15 in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 2013 Gettysburg was one of the top three tourist locations in the world. On average, Gettysburg National Military Park draws over 1.2 million visitors a year. Gettysburg is a community rich in history and abounding in natural beauty. Our goal is to take the best of the distinct local attributes and develop them into a healthy eatery. We are a husband and wife functional pottery team. We share not only a passion for art, but also for exquisite food. Junko’s mother was a chef instructor, and I grew up in a bakery. I was nine years old when I started my first fruit stand. For the last ten years, my pretty wife and I have operated our successful Ceramic Gallery and seven-days-a-week Farmers Market. Running our fruit stand has allowed us to develop relationships with 27 different local farmers. They do an amazing job of supporting our effort to make the bounty of Adams County available to the explorers passing through. Our first giant step forward has been to secure a location on US 15 and Taneytown Road. In 2013, we successfully ran a test market at this location. We have a building that needs to be reappointed inside and out.

Inspiration to Make a Difference

Tallahassee meeting welcome to Florida

Last week I took my kids to Tallahassee for the annual FPEA (Florida Parent Educators Association) Day at the Capitol.  We’ve been learning about America’s government and the Constitution, and I thought this would make a great field trip – to see our state government in action. Although FPEA had some events scheduled they encouraged everyone to make time to see Representatives and Senators from their local districts just to say “Hi” and maybe talk about some of the issues about which we’re concerned. So a week or so before the trip I sent some emails, made a few phone calls and managed to get a few appointments with some lawmakers I knew were working to make laws near and dear to my heart. Yep, the battle to label GMOs is coming to Florida!

Tallahassee meeting with Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda

meeting with Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda about GMO labeling

Thanks to the super-nice Teri Cariota we were able to squeeze in a meeting with Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D – Leon County) who is the sponsor of HB1, the House bill to label GMOs.  Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda is a petite mother of two who has been in the Florida House for about six years. She has done her homework on genetic engineering and feels it is important that we all have open access to what goes into our food. Her bill calls for mandatory labeling of raw ingredients and processed foods that are made with genetically engineered items. The bill has been filed and has now gone to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it sits until it gets put on the committee agenda.  It must be heard in committee before anything else can happen, and so far it hasn’t made it onto the agenda. The committee Chairman is Matt Caldwell (R – Lehigh Acres).  He was the next person we went to talk to.

When we found Representative Caldwell’s office he was not there. We had 5 teenagers and 5 parents in our group and I think we surprised the office staff, but his assistant, Charlotte Gammie, took down our message along with my contact info. She was probably the least responsive person we came in contact with all day. I have not heard back from Representative Caldwell yet. I hope he got our message that we’d really like his committee to discuss HB1 sometime soon.

Tallahassee meeting the Rep Michelle and group

Five teens and five parents and one lawmaker concerned about GMOs

Next we had an appointment over on the Senate side of the Capitol.  We were hoping to see Senator Jeremy Ring (D – Broward County), the sponsor of the GMO legislation in the Senate, SB558. Unfortunately we did not see him either, in spite of our appointment the Senator was delayed after his last meeting. But we did talk to his aide who took us into the Senator’s office, sat us all down (all 10 of us), listened to what we had to say and took notes. According to what the aide told us, the Senate bill is in much the same situation as the House bill. It is filed and gone to the Senate Agriculture Committee waiting to be put on the agenda. It looks like the committee is a bit apprehensive about putting this bill up for discussion which is understandable since this is a hot topic all over the U.S.  But to me this is all the more reason we need to tackle the issue, not let it languish under red tape, because it’s not going away. Too many people care about this now, and we are reaching a tipping point in this country. Senator Ring’s aide encouraged us to drop by the committee chair’s office. So that’s where we went next.

The Senate Chair for the Agriculture Committee is Senator Bill Montford (D – Apalachicola). Once again we found the Senator absent but his office aides present. These aides were friendly and attentive. They found us an empty conference room and sat us all down around the conference table. We spoke to Marcia Mathis, Legislative Assistant, who had great people skills and seemed impressed with the fact that we had teenagers who were listening, interested and engaged with what was going on. At this point just about everyone in our group knew where we wanted the conversation to go and they all chimed in with why GMO labeling was important to them. Ms. Mathis gave us at least 20 minutes of her time that afternoon and I hope she left the meeting more informed about why GMO labeling is so controversial and how the residents of Florida will benefit from SB558.

We ended that day feeling like we’d made some kind of a difference in our home state. And now it’s your turn to keep this conversation moving.  We need everyone to contact the committee chairs for the House and the Senate and urge them to put the GMO labeling bills onto the committees’ agendas. I’ve given links to the websites where you can find their email addresses to the names of each person above. It only takes a minute to fill out the form and send your thoughts. We also need to contact Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Adam Putnam, who also sits on Florida’s Cabinet. Commissioner Putnam needs to know how we feel, and he also needs to hear from small family farmers who stand to lose the most if GMO labeling fails.

Floridians have the right to know what’s in their food – and so does the rest of the United States. Florida can lead the way by passing HB1 and SB558.

This blog is part of the Sunday Social Blog Hop.

Sunday Social Blog Hop

Sunday Social Blog Hop

There are Farmer’s Markets and then there are “Farmer’s” Markets

I live in a very urban area, the greater metropolitan Orlando area to be exact. Over the years I’ve worked hard to find sources for local food and cultivate relationships with local farmers. As a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter co-leader I keep an ever-growing list of as many of these resources as I can find so I can share them with our members. My best advice is usually “Go to your local farmer’s market, look around, and start talking to people. Ask questions, be courteous, and eventually you will make your own local food connections.”  That is usually good advice – except last Saturday I found the exception to the rule.

I had to take my daughter downtown to a Shakespeare workshop that morning which put me within a mile or two of one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the whole Central Florida area, same location for over 35 years. It was a beautiful day, I had extra time on my hands and so I headed to Winter Park. The parking was as crazy as I remembered it from the last time I’d gone about 15 years ago. The market sits next to the railroad tracks and spreads out on the grounds of the old train depot – very picturesque with brick pavers and wrought iron fencing. I wasn’t in any hurry, I just wanted a relaxing activity that would culminate with me eating something superfresh, local and healthy for my lunch later on. Slowly I canvassed the entire market area taking in all the people and the full tables under big tents. As I inspected each stand it began to dawn on me…there isn’t anything here that actually grew here! All the produce was beautifully displayed, but it all had PLU code stickers on it. There were baskets of apples and bags of pecans, neither of which grow in Central Florida and definitely not this time of year. There were at least a dozen stands selling other items like fancy greenhouse potted flowers, imported pasta, coffee from Washington State or Hawaii, landscaping shrubs, facial care products from a multi-level marketing company, commercially canned pickles. The stands selling produce had exorbitant prices for non-organic plain old grocery store goods.

winter park farmers market 1 winter park farmers market 2

I could get strawberries from Plant City, FL and pay $6 for one basket, or I could get back in the car, drive to Publix and get those same Plant City strawberries at 2/$5. The potted plants were the same thing you could get at any Home Depot garden center, except if you bought them here at the market you could pay double or triple price; none of the plants for sale were actually planted or grown by the people selling them. Eventually I found a little tent with a sign that said “Waterkist Farms Sanford FL” selling hydroponic heirloom tomatoes. I bought four nearly-ripe ones so I could make some fermented salsa later this week. Then I decided to ask them a question. “Are you all the only actual farmers here?”  The man glanced around as if someone might overhear, then looked at his wife; they both started to grin a little – “No ma’am, if you look across the market over to the other side up by the building you can see a little white-haired lady and her son with some flowers. They grow their own, too.” I said “Thank you – and thank you all for being local farmers!” They both gave me big smiles and I crossed over to see the little white-haired lady. She didn’t have much either, just a couple buckets of long-stemmed sunflowers, several bags of sunflower sprouts, and some baskets of tiny white turnips. I bought $6 worth of sprouts and turnips and they were so kind and so thankful for my business!  After that there was nothing to do but leave!

hydroponic tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and turnips

hydroponic tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and turnips

farmers market purchases lake mary

sage, peppers, backyard eggs, cukes and kale

I was so frustrated by that experience that I drove the 15 miles north up I-4 to Lake Mary, FL, exited and headed to the Lake Mary Farmer’s Market where I knew there was a good chance I’d find more than one actual farmer. I was rewarded for my efforts and brought home a dozen local eggs, two kinds of kale, several sweet peppers and some very fresh cucumbers – oh and a nice pot of fresh sage. At that point my cash had run out, but things were looking up for my lunch!

So what can you do to be sure you are getting locally grown food and supporting local farmers when you shop at farmer’s markets? First off you can find out whether your market has any rules about the source of items sold at their market. For example to be a vendor at the Franklin, TN, market you have to “make it, bake it, raise it or grow it” in order to sell it there. Secondly, a big tip-off that you aren’t buying directly from the grower is the presence of PLU code stickers. Those stickers are used to track inventory by retailers. A farmer selling his onions direct-to-consumer would not need to add stickers. Stickers are a sign that the produce you see went through at least one middleman wholesaler before it got there. Third, know what grows in your area at what time of year. The Florida Dept. of Ag website keeps a chart of everything that grows in FL during each month of the year. Most states have something similar. Cherries and table grapes don’t grow in the US in February, or in FL at all! Finally, just ask the person selling the vegetables if they grew them. Simply say something like “Tell me what you grew, I’d like to buy something seasonal and local.” Then you can also ask them whether they spray with pesticides, and what kind of weed control they use. Be sure to be polite!

When I finally got home Saturday I was happy to discover two little Purple Cherokee tomatoes in my own garden were ripe and ready! They were the perfect finishing touch for my superfresh-and-local salad for lunch.

farmer's market salad with homegrown tomatoes

farmer’s market salad with homegrown tomatoes

Chocolate Illustrated

history of chocolate tourYesterday I took my kids on a fun first-week-back-to-homeschool field trip. We went with a bunch of friends to Chocolate Kingdom. Yes, there is such a place.  We live in Central Florida – there’s a theme park for pretty much anything.

Chocolate Kingdom had a lot of education interwoven with the fun and games, so we learned a lot about chocolate and its history.  For most of the tour I just enjoyed listening to the docent, watching the kids interact, and trying all the little tastes of various kinds of chocolate along the way. In the last room, however, my hidden teacher sprang into action. Lined up along the front of the counter where the custom chocolate bars were made sat this great visual aide! Layered like sand art in tall cork-stoppered bottles was an explanation of just what it means to have dark, milk or white chocolate. And also what the various percentages mean with dark chocolate. Take a look….

dark chocolate properties dark chocolates properties milk chocolate properties white chocolate

The top left jar labeled 100% dark chocolate is simply cocoa powder and cocoa butter. This is what you get when you buy unsweetened chocolate for baking.  This one has the highest content of antioxidants and good tropical fats. Next, in the top right photo, you see two more kinds of dark chocolate.  72% and 58% are their labels. The only additional ingredient is sugar. This is what you get when you buy semi-sweet chocolate. But as you can see when the percentage of chocolate goes down it is the percentage of sugar that goes up. You can feel pretty virtuous and still enjoy the 72% dark. It still has 36% cocoa powder and 36% cocoa butter to get that 72% rating. With the 58% however, you are now almost half and half chocolate and sugar. By the time you get to the milk chocolate 62% of it is not chocolate. One surprising thing to note is the milk chocolate has less actual sugar than the 58% dark. Finally the white chocolate is 69% sugar, no cocoa powder and just 31% cocoa butter. Many chocolate purists say white chocolate ISN’T chocolate. The folks at Chocolate Kingdom say it is since it contains cocoa butter. But they give a big thumbs down to the fake white chocolate made with hydrogenated oils instead of cocoa butter agreeing it is nothing like chocolate when it’s made that way.

So, bottom line is if you’re looking to justify that chocolate bar be sure to reach for the 72% dark ormajor chocolate producing countries higher so you can avoid as much added sugar as possible. And be sure, as always, to read the labels and always avoid anything with hydrogenated fats of any kind. Lastly, although very little was said about it during our tour, please try to choose fair trade certified chocolate whenever possible. There is a lot of horrible stuff still going on in the bu$ine$$ of chocolate, and fair trade certification helps to reduce the likelihood of people being taken advantage of.

major chocolate producing countries->

March Against Monsanto in Orlando

March against monsanto 3 March against monsanto 4

 

Fifty-two countries and 436 cities around the world held protest rallies Saturday, May 25th, against GMO-giantMarch against Monsanto 1 Monsanto. From Los Angeles to Orlando, people came out in force to show solidarity against GMO foods, GMO seeds and the corporate mega-power money that allows special above-the-law status for biotech bully Monsanto.

Saturday’s rally at City Hall in Orlando saw an estimated crowd of 800 people on the steps of City Hall and on surrounding street corners holding up signs and cheering together “No GMO!” Speakers informed onlookers of some of the many dangers of GMO foods and farming.

The protest in Orlando was part of a global protest organized via Facebook in late February. Each city found local organizers to rally people to their local protest location by using Facebook event pages. This grassroots movement took wings through social networking. Now more and more people are aware that although the federal government states GMO crops and foods are safe, independent research all around the world has shown this to be the opposite. Unfortunately over 90% of all corn, cotton, soybean and canola in the US are produced from biotech-developed genetically modified seed, with alfalfa and sugar beets also gaining market share. It is time for citizens to take back control of their food supply and their environment.

March against monsanto 5In spite of the US Senate rejecting a bill to allow all states to call for mandatory labeling of GMO Vermont and Connecticut are moving ahead with plans to require GMO labeling for their states. Washington state is also bringing GMO labeling up for a vote this fall. Whole Foods grocery stores are requiring all foods sold in their stores to bear GMO labels by 2018. As more consumers are aware of the dangers of GMO there will be more demand for GMO labeling whether the FDA, the Senate or biotech lobby groups want it or not.

The next local Florida-area non-GMO event is coming up this week. There will be a free showing of Jeffrey Smith’s new movie Genetic Roulette on Thursday June 30th at 7pm at the park building at Donnelly Park in Mt. Dora, FL.  Bring your friends and family and learn just how dangerous GMOs are to our health, our environment, our farms and our farmworkers. See a preview of the movie at http://geneticroulettemovie.com/March against monsanto 2

 

Field Trip: Seminole County’s 2013 Farm Tour

Someone needs to remind the Extension Service that whenever they need it to rain they should schedule a Farm Tour day.  It seems like every time I’ve participated in the Seminole County Farm Tour it rains the whole day.  The rain didn’t stop the crowds, however. This was the most heavily attended Farm Tour I can remember! I think attendance was higher than the good farmers had counted on. I wondered if we didn’t seem like stampeding herds or swarming locust to some of the smaller venues.

The day started appropriately for a wet and soggy morning at a farm near the edge of Lake Jesup in Winter Springs. Soggy Acres Pomelo Farm at 100 Tuskawilla Road seemed in danger of being swallowed up by the encroaching “urban lifestyle” Winter Springs Town Center. But as soon as you took a few steps down the dirt driveway and passed through the tree-tangled entrance you could forget you were within spitting distance of eight restaurants, three salons, law offices, medical offices, realtors and a Publix.

soggy acres pomeloSoggy Acres Pomelo Farm is a slice of old Florida. The pomelo is the great-great grandmother of our modern grapefruit, but without the bitterness that can accompany the grapefruit. We missed prime pomelo season which occurs in late winter and early spring along with most of the rest of the citrus fruits. Soggy Acres is a U-Pick pomelo grove that runs on the honor system. The family farmstead sits at the end of the long dirt driveway that bisects the grove. Near the front is a large wooden platform and a big metal mailbox. Sometimes pomelos are picked and left on the platform for customers to buy, or you can bring a basket and wander through the pleasant green trees and pick your own. Either way be sure to leave your payment (cash only) inside the big metal mailbox.mulberry tree Although we didn’t get to taste a pomelo this time, we did get to try mulberries.  Soggy Acres is home to more than just pomelos. The farmer has a soft spot for all kinds of fruit trees. In addition to the mulberry trees there were also lychees and a few other exotic tropical residents.  Apparently the squirrels and raccoons love them all so harvests are slim on those and reserved for the farm family only.

We left Soggy Acres and headed south on Tuskawilla Road about five miles to Gabriella Lane in Oviedo.

 

Gabriella Growers, 4875 Gabriella Lane, was stop #2 on the Farm Tour. It was my least favorite of the stops simply because Gabriella Growers was a) a wholesale nursery rather than retail and b) selling only foliage plants for home and office.  Sorry, but ferns and pothos just don’t thrill me. I was much more intrigued by the things living and growing on the outside of the greenhouse. foliage greenhouse gabriella growers horses at gabriella growers The greenhouse was just a vast wasteland of pampered potted plants. Outside we found some very friendly horses, a chicken coop and a nicely tended vegetable garden filled with leeks, cabbage, kale and onions.

Stop #3 took us six miles east to the edge of Seminole County where Red Bug Lake becomes Mitchell Hammock Road. But even that far out we couldn’t shake suburbia as block after block of gated communities stretched on into the horizon. Just past the east campus of Seminole State College is Red Ember Road.  The paved highway ends and a wide dirt highway continues on past five acre single-family homesteads. One homestead sported a dazzling male peacock on its roof. sundew gardens oviedoThe peacock was quite alarmed at the onslaught of cars and pedestrians and spent the whole time screeching his dire warning call. Sundew Gardens, 2212 Red Ember Road, Oviedo, was a few driveways past the peacock and through a leafy arched entrance drive. Sundew Gardens is a U-Pick Vegetable Farm open only to members.  It’s really a twist on the popular CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) idea. For a $100 membership fee you get access to the organic vegetable garden, cage-free (but not, it appears, free range) hens’ eggs, and some citrus. The gardens are beautifully maintained with organic compost and worm-casting tea. If you live on the east side of Orlando this place is definitely worth your consideration as an alternative to grocery store produce.

Stop #4 was another place I wasn’t looking forward to. In years past the lunch at Yarborough Ranch left an awful lot to be desired. Frozen Bubba burgers from box to grill and plated up with white bread buns, Fritos and canned sodas are just not my idea of a great farm-to-table experience. Thankfully this year someone had the good sense to make a few changes. It was still grilled burgers but this time the meat came from nearby Geneva Beef Company, an all grass-fed/grass-finished operation. You could taste the difference in the burgers! Instead of GMO-filled snack chips we feasted on fresh corn on the cob with melted butter, locally grown tomatoes, onions, homemadefarm tour lunch grassfed burger and local veg slaw and slow-cooked collard greens. Ok, so they still had white bread buns and HFCS ketchup, but I was happy to go bunless (less carbs for me) and avoid the ketchup.  I had a nice conversation with the Geneva Beef Company folks who are proud of their pasture-raised beef. You can find them online with a quick web search to learn how to order their meat. I inquired about bulk quarter, half and whole purchases but for now they only do retail cuts. They hope to add the bulk purchases into their offerings later as they grow the company. I hope it is soon! We need more grassfed beef options in this area. Yarborough Ranch still hasn’t gotten the message. They are still a cow/calf operation. I’m sure most of the Farm Tour folk didn’t pasture at yarborough ranchrealize the beautiful pastures providing the picturesque setting for their lunch were only temporary homes for the young calves who were destined to be shipped across the country to big CAFOs for fast finishing on GMO grain. I couldn’t stomach sitting around for the after-lunch speaker.  It was too hard not to get angry and frustrated with the idiot on the microphone telling the crowd how wonderful the Food Safety Modernization Act was. He completely missed telling them how the FSMA was going to be responsible for shutting down four out of the six farms on that very Farm Tour due to the oppressive restraints and industrially focused regulations.  The very grassfed burgers, hydroponic tomatoes and organic cabbage they were munching – so much safer and nutritious, and much more delicious, than the CAFO beef and Fritos served in years past – were going to become a thing of the past when the small family farms close their gates under crushing over-regulation. Nope, I couldn’t listen to his lies any longer, so we left early and went on to the next stop.

U-Pick Blackberries and Blueberries, a simple name telling exactly what to expect, is just a mile or two down Snow Hill Road from Yarborough Ranch. 500 Snow Hill Road, Geneva, is the farm address. Blueberries are setting and due to ripen as soon as our nights warm up. Blackberries willblueberries upick at snowhill blackberry vines upick                                       follow in late May and early June. Call ahead for picking days and times. Blueberries are $4/lb as I recall. The blackberries hadn’t gotten any leaves or blossoms yet due to the cold weather lately. Hopefully they will catch up – I’m looking forward to a blackberry cobbler soon!

Last stop was one place that really hadn’t anticipated the huge turnout for this year’s Farm Tour. Rest Haven Farm, 381 Rest Haven Road, Geneva, was still in a flurry of preparation activity when the first of the tour-goers trickled up their driveway. The young son, sporting a day-glo orange safety vest, eagerly pointed cars to the few parking spaces available and then panicked trying to figure out where to put everyone else. The crowds quickly overwhelmed the small table set up to sell tomatoes and I heard several disgruntled retirees complaining about the pushing and shoving and elbowing as tired tourists jostled each other for bags of ripe red tomatoes. Tours of the beautiful lettuce tables and the large tomato greenhouse quickly filled to overflowing. We had hoped to buy some of the gorgeous heads of lettuce but there were just too many people and not enough farm family members to go around. I was thankful to slip away from the greenhouse crowd and get back to a calmer, emptier tomato tent. I bought a bowl full of the most delicious tomatoes I’ve had in a long time and happily headed home.

hydroponic lettuce rest haven hydroponic tomatoes rest haven farm

 

 

Family Pizza Night – Authentic Italian Pizza Made at Home

florence pizza with titles family pizza night resized

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me with the kids in Pompeii

In April of 2010 our family took a trip to Italy. Although my husband had been several times before, it was my first time to Italy and the first time our children had been to Europe. Along with the beautiful architecture, museums, ancient ruins and dazzling cathedrals we also enjoyed sampling the local food. One of our family’s favorite things we tried was the pizza. I had always been under the impression that pizza was an invention of Italian Americans but it turns out that Naples, called Napoli in Italian, is the birthplace of pizza. That must be why the best pizza we ate was in Naples. We decided right then we would have to learn how they made it so we could have it again and again when we got home.

pizza margerita naples

Pizza e Baba Restaurant in Naples

Pizza is taken very seriously in Naples. There is even an overseeing body called Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (Original Neapolitan Pizza Association) whose goal is “to safeguard and promote the culture of the real Neapolitan pizza worldwide.”  They offer certification and training to chefs who want to make and serve the real deal.  The AVPN is solidly against ready-to-eat and frozen pizzas sold in supermarkets. They insist that the only way to get good pizza is to make it yourself by hand and to make a lot of it because “it is the experience that refines the art.”

I wasn’t going to be intimidated by regulations or special councils; I wanted to have a little bit of Napoli in my kitchen. So when we got home I started experimenting. The best thing about experimenting with pizza is eating your test subjects.  The whole family got behind my Quest for Pizza.  I started with the one variety you can always find all over Italy; Pizza Margherita. It was said to be the favorite of Umberto the First’s wife, Queen Margherita of Savoy.  The colors of the pizza reminded her of the Italian flag.

After devouring a few test runs I think I have come up with a pretty good facsimile of our Naples pizza experience. The crust is chewy, full of flavor, and crispy on the bottom.  The sauce complements the simple toppings of mozzarella and basil.  It is easy and fun to make and economical too.  If you want something more on top of your pizza go ahead. Let your tastebuds be your guide. Start with the basic recipe below and when you are comfortable with that then expand into other varieties. Let each family member top their own pizza the way they like it best.

Italian flag

flag of Italy

The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana says that only Campania products must be used to make their artisan-style pizzas. I say that if you have access to fresh buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes then go for it, but most of us don’t. Just use the best ingredients available to you and your pizza will still be delicious. Just don’t cut corners on the time it takes for the crust to develop its fabulous flavor. The nice thing is that you don’t have to do anything more than wait. Time does all the work.

Homemade Neapolitan-style Pizza

for the crust

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 tsp yeast (any kind, active, instant or regular)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 Tblsp sea salt

pizzadough

kneading pizza dough

Combine the yeast, flours and sea salt in the bowl of your mixer. Add the warm water and mix until well combined. Knead for 15 to 30 minutes. This can be done by hand if you don’t have a heavy-duty stand mixer or if you just enjoy the therapeutic rhythm of kneading bread dough. I use my trusty Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. I set it on the lowest speed and set my timer for 30 minutes. Once the kneading time is up cover the dough and let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours but as long as 16 hours. The longer you let it rise the more the flavor will develop. You can even make the dough a day ahead, cover and let the long, slow rise happen in the refrigerator. You want the yeast to have plenty of time to grow and eat up more and more of the starches in the flour. This is what produces the complex flavor of artisan breads. If you have a bread machine you can do the mixing in there and leave it to rise until you are ready to make your pizza. Just don’t forget to turn off the bake setting!

Once the rising time is over you can roll out the dough and make your pizza. With well-floured hand we divide the dough into four equal pieces, about 7 oz. each, to make personal pizzas about 10-12″ in diameter. This most closely resembles the size we had in Italy.  You can make them larger or smaller to suit your needs. Dividing the dough in half will yield two much larger pizzas of about 16″.

Place your baking stone in the oven and preheat the stone and oven to 500 degrees. Make your sauce and assemble the topping ingredients and everything you need so that it is all ready when the oven is hot.

I wish I had a brick oven like this back home!

I wish I had a brick oven like this back home!

To shape a pizza crust start with a ball of dough on a well-floured work surface.  Press the ball with your fingers into a flat circle.  Keep pressing and turning the dough until it flattens quite a bit. You can pick it up and hold it by one edge letting the weight stretch it further or you can try your hand at tossing it like they do on TV. Easiest of all would be using a rolling pin. Don’t stress about getting a perfect circle. Let the kids try shaping their own crust and have a good time with it. Just try to end up with a crust that’s about 1/4″ to 1/8″ thick. This is not pan pizza – we’re going for the old fashioned crispy/chewy hand-tossed crust.

Sauce

1 8oz can organic tomato sauce

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp raw honey

1/2 tsp garlic powder

a pinch of sea salt

Mix up all the ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

pizzaprep

clockwise from left: mozzarella, dough, sauce, pepperoni, fresh oregano

Toppings for Margherita-style pizza are as follows:

Extra virgin olive oil, shredded mozzarella cheese, a handful of fresh basil leaves left whole or julienne.

To bring it all together, place your shaped crust on a well-floured pizza peel. If you don’t have a peel you can use an upside down cookie sheet or a rimless cookie sheet with parchment paper on it. Just let the parchment slide with the pizza onto the pizza stone. The paper won’t catch fire, it will just get a little black on the edges.

rawpizza

ready for the oven

Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the crust and use your fingers or a pastry brush to spread it so it covers the entire surface from center to edge. Spoon on a little of the sauce. Don’t overload the sauce, less is better. Too much sauce and your pizza will boil instead of bake. Sprinkle on a handful of mozzarella cheese and scatter a few basil leaves over the cheese. For an authentic Napoli-style use slices of fresh mozzarella and two or three whole basil leaves. We like the shredded cheese and julienne basil as it covers the crust more evenly.

Slide your pizza onto the hot stone. If you don’t have a stone you can just stick the cookie sheet into the hot oven and bake it that way. The stone will give the bottom of the crust a nice crispy texture that you won’t get with a cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the edge of the crust is golden. Carefully remove the pizza and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and eating.

donepizza

fresh hot pizza

If you get all your pizzas assembled and waiting on sheets of parchment paper you can slide one in as soon as the other one comes out.  If you stone is big enough you can do two at a time. Watch carefully  –  with an oven this hot they will cook quickly!

Enjoy these delicious pizzas with a fresh green salad drizzled with your homemade salad dressing.

naples

Pizza e Baba Restaurant in Naples, Italy

 

 

Buon appetito!

 

 

 

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