Clifford Larry’s Slow-cooked Wild Meat & Blueberry

Relatives,

Because our brother Clifford has passed on to Spirit, I waited a while before sharing this special recipe.  Clifford, you will live in us forever! 

January 24, 2010

Hi Willi..

I never wrote the recipe down for this but this Bear… I cooked it very slow… I used the slow cooker for about 6 1/2 hours, or until the meat was very tender… almost feel that it melts in your mouth.

I don’t drink and never use alcohol for ceremonial meals but for this meal as it wasn’t ceremonial

I added:

1 pint of Guinness along with 1 onion, 2 carrots, 5-6 cloves of garlic, 1 parsnip, 1 small turnip, 3/4 cup of blueberries and Jamaican Jerk spice…

So I let this slow cook for about 6 hours..

The last 1/2 hour i tossed in:

mushrooms, sweet peas and thickened the dish with a gravy…

Initially I wanted to marinate in red wine and herbs but I didn’t have a cork screw for the wine so that is why I used a pint of Guinness… it worked out good… I didn’t have herbs nor bacon… I wanted to add these items but had left them in my other kitchen.  As well I like to saute my mushrooms, it makes them nice and sweet… the mushrooms I used were button mushrooms but any mushroom will do…

Have a great day… Cliff

 

This was my response:

G’day Cliff, Wow, thanks, I’ve been looking for one of those old-fashioned wild meat recipes that call for blueberries.  I heard that a long time ago, people would use hot stones and bury moose with blueberries, maple syrup and a little tallow and let it cook all day.  I’m thinking your bear recipe would be good with moose too…
A long time ago, I did use a red wine moose marinade and it was awesome; come to think of it, I do have cooking wine around here somewhere, thanks for the reminder 😉  I don’t drink either.
Happy trails, Willi

And Cliff’s response:

Hi Willi, yes indeed blueberries and other berries are a common staple on all my wild game meats whether it be bear, moose, caribou or deer. Never tried berries on on partridge or water fowl yet but i am thinking is would be good as well… it just I haven’t had wild feathered game for a while…

I think People would shy away from using berries on the birds but it all depends on the method of use… can be used for stuffing, sauces or even raw or partial cook form for garnish. But yeah don’t be shy with the use of berries, it generally gives a dark color but a color that compliments the cooked meat.

I will give you an update on the David Wolfman event in Charlottetown… I will be cooking with him but not certain in what capacity yet. He is coming to PEI in March to cook on behalf of the Aboriginal Survivors for Healing (ASH).

I just made a roast moose last evening and though I didn’t add berries I did add Argentinian coffee bean to this slow cooked dish along with Oshi sauce… even though I thickened the juices up with a roux.

I also made a Red Wine Butter Sauce infused with Tarragon, lemon-grass and raspberry…so even though there were no berries in the cooker the raspberry flavor came out really in the butter sauce and complimented the meat.

Have a great day..Cliff

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Home Made Soft Drinks

Home Made Soft Drinks

The urge to share some delicious, simple and easy recipes for soft drinks came the same way most of my recipes do these days… My newest project is to make my own versions of popular convenience products, because the price of them is so much more than I want to pay… and the prices are getting higher and higher!

“Healthy” soft drinks are now sold everywhere, from green tea blends and vitamin water to fruit drinks with just enough “natural” content to justify the label ‘contains real fruit juice’ and charge $2 to $4 per can or bottle. Think about it, they’re all mostly water. YOU can do better than that, save a pile of money and impress (or attract!) your loved ones.

Below you’ll find out how to make a few of the more popular recipes I’ve been testing out on family and friends. After some started telling me that they started making their own, I knew it was a “Rough Times” worthy concept.

I store mine in recycled glass bottles (plastic can make things taste funny). As always, feel free to use whatever you have hanging around your kitchen and your imagination… enjoy!

Good Clean Food for Everyone!

Gramma Willi

Ginseng-Green Tea Energizing Soft Drink

Makes about 2 quarts.

Ingredients

* 2 quarts boiled water

* 2 bags or 1 tsp. dried green tea (or mix green tea with mint, clover, fruit/herbal tea blends)

* 3 tsp. Honey

* 1 tsp. or 1 vial ginseng extract or 1 packet of ginseng tea or ½ cup ginseng root infusion (½ in. piece of ginseng root simmered in ½ cup water 15-20 min.

* ¼ tsp. Citric acid (for a nice tart flavor and added vitamin C – don’t add too much or it will be too sour)

* extra sweetener to taste (raw/brown/white sugar, stevia, rice or maple syrup, etc.)

Preparation

Bring the water to a boil in a metal, enamel or ceramic pot big enough to hold the water, turn the heat to low. Add the green tea, ginseng, your choice of spices, juices and herbs and let simmer 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a little and add citric acid, honey and sweetener to taste. Drink hot or cold.

If you’re using herbal teas only, add 1 tea bag for each 2 cups of water; other than that, balance the fruit, juices, sweeteners etc. that you add to make a delicious drink… it’s okay to taste it as you go along!

You can make your soft drinks as simple or as complicated as you like; reading the labels on ‘store-bought’ drinks will give you pretty good recipe ideas and the knowledge that you don’t need much to make a really great drink yourself. It’s a great way to use all those forgotten herbal teas in the back of your cupboard!

** NOTE: I avoid aluminum and ‘non-stick’ cookware; to me, they make things taste weird.

A few suggested soft drink mixtures

Cranberry – Apple:

Some like it hot! A batch of hot apple or cranberry flavored drink is delicious, welcome and warming on a cold or damp day; I like it cold too.

This recipe is really good served simmering hot into cups from a pot with a few cinnamon sticks and ginger floating in the drink… a real winter warmer!

Ingredients: Use herbal tea already flavored with these fruits, add citric acid and sweetener, and add or substitute:

– cranberry and apple juice or – make your own ‘juice’: boil a chopped, skin-on apple and a handful of cranberries (or dried fruits) for 30-60 minutes before straining it and adding with your other ingredients). (Yes, you can eat the leftover fruit… or put mash it and put it on ice cream or toast.)

– add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon) and sweetener to taste

Lemon-Mint: A cool, refreshing drink on a hot summer day – simmer herbs together lemon balm, lemon peel, lemon juice, garden sorrel, and dried or fresh mint (a can of frozen lemonade will do for a base if that’s what you have). Sweeten to taste. Ginger and honey are really nice additions to this drink blend. Dress up with sprigs of fresh mint, thin slices of fruit for a gourmet touch!

Jordan’s Amazing Spicy Chai Soft Drink: (adapted from Gramma Willi’s early recipes):

1or 2 chai tea bags (or loose chai tea blend, or make your own!), 1 or 2 bags/pouches Ginger tea mix (or 1 tbsp. chopped or grated fresh ginger), cinnamon powder, grape jelly 2 tsp, 1 can of frozen cranberry juice. Add everything but the grape jelly in one big pot to 2 quarts of boiling water and simmer, stirring constantly until everything’s dissolved. Add 2 tbsp. grape jelly and/or mango chutney. Sweeten to taste. Enjoy hot or cold. This is amazingly delicious both hot and cold, I plan on making it for winter holiday drinks!

Wild Women’s Nourishment in a Glass: Use ½ cup of the most nourishing herbs in your cupboard or straight out of your garden – approximately flowers, leaves and fruits of raspberry, strawberry, lemon balm, mint, nettles, red clover, sweet fern, violet, yarrow, dandelion, motherwort. Sweeten to taste, bottle and keep at the front of the fridge.

P.S. Check your herb books for healing combinations, which can probably all be made into delicious recipes.

(Safety alert! Remember that herbs should only be used fresh or completely dried, not half way dried.)

Options:

Instead of separate ingredients, combine a bag or two or a few teaspoons of your favorite herbal teas… or use up some that’s been hanging around your cupboard waiting for you…

No fresh fruit in the house? Use a few tablespoons of fruit jam, frozen fruit, a can of frozen lemonade or fruit drink and mix half-half with your herbal tea. Simmer dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries in water to make a flavored drink, go ahead, make your day… be creative!

Want a home made vitamin drink?

You can use your blender or the back of a spoon in a bowl and blend mild tasting vitamins like, chewable vitamin C, calcium and raw food supplements like kelp, beet and seaweed powder and green food supplements. Mix these well with a little liquid (water, herbal tea, etc.) before adding it to your soft drink recipe.

If you’ve already used citric acid in your soft drink, remember that it contributes to your vitamin C intake… you might want extra vitamin C if you’re fighting or nursing a cold.

How to Make Plain Black Teas Into Specialty teas!

Strawberry tea – plain black tea, add a spoonful of strawberry jam, strain into cups (or not), and milk and sugar to taste. Substitute apricot, blackcurrant or peach jam, or make combinations, use your imagination! How about s spiced fruit tea? Add marmalade with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg? Make a batch of your own iced tea with plain black tea and a little lemon, sweetener and other flavors?

Hints and Tips:

Citric acid can be found in the baking section of your supermarket or bulk foods store (and some drug stores). I pre-ordered a large quantity from my bulk food supplier for the same price as one of those little bottles – if kept dry in storage, that’s enough for years!

For less mess serving loose teas, use a tea ball, recycled cloth tea bag (make your own with a bit of organic cotton and string), a few layers of cheesecloth… or a fine strainer. Toss any bits in the bottom of your cup into the compost… or around outdoor plants… what a treat for the Earth!

Save travel containers for taking your own soft drinks with you instead of buying them on the road. Fill a small cooler with your own recycled bottles, travel cups, an ice pack, use a thermos for hot drinks… over a year you will find yourself saving hundreds of dollars!

TAGS

soft drink, ginseng, tea, Ginseng Green Tea Energizing Soft Drink, chai, budget, saving money, home made, vitamin C, seaweed, green food supplement, green food, beet greens, dandelion, convenience food, fruit drink, spice drink, cookware, aluminum, plastic, root, herb, ginger, cinnamon, green tea, Gramma Willi, Rough Times Cooking, recipe, hot drinks, apricot, cranberry, apple, blackcurrant, peach, lemon, stevia, raw sugar, brown sugar, honey, apricot, kelp, herbal tea, raspberry, strawberry, lemon balm, mint, nettles, red clover, sweet fern, violet, yarrow, motherwort, vitamin drink, vitamins, healing, holiday drink, recipes

……

as published 1Nov2012

Home Made Soft Drinks

The urge to share some delicious, simple and easy recipes for soft drinks came the same way most of my recipes do these days… My newest project is to make my own versions of popular convenience products, because the price of them is so much more than I want to pay… and the prices are getting higher and higher!

“Healthy” soft drinks are now sold everywhere, from green tea blends and vitamin water to fruit drinks with just enough “natural” content to justify the label ‘contains real fruit juice’ and charge $2 to $4 per can or bottle. Think about it, they’re all mostly water. YOU can do better than that, save a pile of money and impress (or attract!) your loved ones.

Below you’ll find out how to make a few of the more popular recipes I’ve been testing out on family and friends. After some started telling me that they started making their own, I knew it was a “Rough Times” worthy concept.

I store mine in recycled glass bottles (plastic can make things taste funny). As always, feel free to use whatever you have hanging around your kitchen and your imagination… enjoy!

Good Clean Food for Everyone!

Gramma Willi

Ginseng-Green Tea Energizing Soft Drink

Makes about 2 quarts.

Ingredients

* 2 quarts boiled water

* 2 bags or 1 tsp. dried green tea (or mix green tea with mint, clover, fruit/herbal tea blends)

* 3 tsp. Honey

* 1 tsp. or 1 vial ginseng extract or 1 packet of ginseng tea or ½ cup ginseng root infusion (½ in. piece of chopped ginseng root simmered in ½ cup water 15-20 min.

* ¼ tsp. Citric acid (for a nice tart flavor and added vitamin C – don’t add too much or it will be too sour)

* extra sweetener to taste (raw, brown or white sugar, stevia, rice or maple syrup, etc.)

Preparation

Bring the water to a boil in a metal, enamel or ceramic pot big enough to hold the water, turn the heat to low. Add the green tea, ginseng, your choice of spices, juices and herbs and let simmer 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a little and add citric acid, honey and sweetener to taste. Drink hot, warm or cold.

If you’re using herbal teas only, add 1 tea bag for each 2 cups of water; other than that, balance the fruit, juices, sweeteners etc. that you add to make a delicious drink… it’s okay to taste it as you go along!

You can make your soft drinks as simple or as complicated as you like; reading the labels on ‘store-bought’ drinks will give you pretty good recipe ideas and the knowledge that you don’t need much to make a really great drink yourself. It’s a great way to use all those forgotten herbal teas in the back of your cupboard!

** NOTE: I avoid plastic, aluminum and ‘non-stick’ cookware; to me, they make things taste weird.

A few suggested soft drink mixtures

Cranberry – Apple:

Some like it hot! A batch of hot apple or cranberry flavored drink is delicious, welcome and warming on a cold or damp day; I like it cold too.

This recipe is really good served simmering hot into cups from a pot with cinnamon sticks and ginger floating on top… a real winter warmer!

Ingredients: Use herbal tea already flavored with these fruits, add citric acid and sweetener, and add or substitute:

– cranberry and apple juice or – make your own ‘juice’: boil a chopped, skin-on apple and a handful of cranberries (or dried fruits) for 30-60 minutes before straining it and adding with your other ingredients). (Yes, you can eat the leftover fruit… or put mash it and put it on ice cream or toast… or back in your cup with a spoon.)

– add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon) and sweetener to taste

Lemon-Mint: A cool, refreshing drink on a hot summer day – simmer herbs together lemon balm, lemon peel, lemon juice, garden sorrel, and dried or fresh mint (a can of frozen lemonade will do for a base if that’s what you have). Sweeten to taste. Ginger and honey are really nice additions to this drink blend. Dress up with sprigs of fresh mint, thin slices of fruit for a gourmet touch!

Jordan’s Amazing Spicy Chai Soft Drink: (adapted from Gramma Willi’s early recipes):

1 to 2 chai tea bags (or loose chai tea blend, or make your own!), 1 or 2 bags/pouches Ginger tea mix (or 1 tbsp. fresh ginger), cinnamon powder, grape jelly 2 tsp, 1 can of frozen cranberry juice. Add everything but the grape jelly in one big pot to 2 quarts of boiling water and simmer, stirring constantly until everything’s dissolved. Add 2 tbsp. grape jelly and/or mango chutney. Sweeten to taste. Enjoy hot or cold. This is amazingly delicious both hot and cold, I plan on making it for winter holiday drinks!

Wild Women’s Nourishment in a Glass: Use ½ cup of the most nourishing herbs in your cupboard or straight out of your garden – approximately flowers, leaves and fruits of raspberry, strawberry, lemon balm, mint, nettles, red clover, sweet fern, violet, yarrow, dandelion, motherwort. Sweeten to taste, bottle and keep at the front of the fridge.

P.S. Check your herb books for healing combinations, which can probably all be made into delicious recipes… if you haven’t already, try Gramma Willi’s Ginger Drink.

(Safety alert! Remember that herbs should only be used fresh or completely dried, not half way dried.)

Options:

Instead of separate ingredients, combine a few bags or teaspoons of your favorite herbal teas… or use up some that’s been hanging around your cupboard waiting for you…

No fresh fruit in the house? Use a few tablespoons of fruit jam, frozen fruit, a can of frozen lemonade or fruit drink and mix half-half with your herbal tea. Simmer dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries in water to make a flavored drink, go ahead, make your day… be creative!

Want a home made vitamin drink?

You can use your blender or the back of a spoon in a bowl and blend mild tasting vitamins like, chewable vitamin C, calcium and raw food supplements like kelp, beet and seaweed powder and green food supplements. Mix these well with a little liquid (water, herbal tea, etc.) before adding it to your soft drink recipe.

If you’ve already used citric acid in your soft drink, remember that it contributes to your vitamin C intake… you might want extra vitamin C if you’re fighting or nursing a cold.

How to Make Plain Black Teas Into Specialty teas!

Strawberry tea – plain black tea, add a spoonful of strawberry jam, strain into cups (or not), and milk and sugar to taste. Substitute apricot, blackcurrant or peach jam, or make combinations, use your imagination! How about s spiced fruit tea? Add marmalade with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg? Make a batch of your own iced tea with plain black tea and a little lemon, sweetener and other flavors?

Hints and Tips:

* Citric acid can be found in the baking section of your supermarket or bulk foods store (and some drug stores). I pre-ordered a large quantity from my bulk food supplier for the same price as one of those little bottles – if kept dry in storage, that’s enough for years!

* For less mess serving loose teas, use a tea ball, recycled cloth tea bag (make your own with a bit of organic cotton and string), a few layers of cheesecloth… or a fine strainer. Toss any bits in the bottom of your cup into the compost… or around outdoor plants… what a treat for the Earth!

Save travel containers for taking your own soft drinks with you instead of buying them on the road. Fill a small cooler with your own recycled bottles, travel cups, an ice pack, use a thermos for hot drinks… over a year you will find yourself saving hundreds of dollars!

Good Clean Food For Everyone!

Banana Bread

This all-time favorite is easy to make and delicious. A great way to use up over-ripe bananas, banana bread is always a welcome gift at potlucks or when visiting friends and neighbors. Our family like our special “ambrosia” version of banana bread with coconut, rum flavoring and lots of spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. The addition of fruits plus protein powder, tofu or eggs makes the recipe a good solid food that’s almost a meal in itself. Dressed up or plain, banana bread deserves its good reputation as a staple snack and dessert food – and it’s really nice toasted for breakfast!

3 C flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 to 1 1/2 C. sugar – to taste

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 to 1  C chopped nuts

2-3 mashed ripe medium bananas (1 1/2 – 2 cups)

2 eggs (vegans can substitute equivalent weight of tofu or use soy protein powder with 1 t. cooking oil)

2 T. cooking oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1 – 1 1/2 C water

Mix dry ingredients together in a big bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs or tofu, bananas, oil and water until creamy. Mix the wet and dry ingredients thoroughly, let rest. Preheat oven to 350ºF, oil and flour a square baking pan (or 2 loaf pans) and add the batter. Bake 45 min. to 1 hour, loosen the bread from the sides of the pan with a knife, cool in the pan on a rack.

Options: instead of chopped nuts, use sunflower seeds. Add chocolate chips or coconut to the dry mix. Dried and fresh fruits like raisins, blueberries and cranberries add extra nutrition, interesting flavors, looks and texture.

Hints: to make a nice topping and seal the bread, spread a little corn syrup over the top of the bread while it’s still warm. Tips: cut over-ripe bananas into 1-2 in chunks and freeze in a container until ready to thaw and use. Add exotic spices such as ginger, rum flavoring

Good food for everyone!

How Bad is What We’re Eating, Anyway?

Relatives,

Food safety and security is finally on almost everyone’s radar.

I hope you’ll take time to check out Food Inc. and Hungry For Change. These marvelous young people have done a great job of providing the rest of us with the facts and opportunities to take action at home, in our communities, our countries and with our relatives across the earth.

The more we share our good works and inform each other, the sooner we’ll all have access to clean, healthy foods. … so please share this!

All My Relations
Gramma Willi

Email Gramma Willi Post Your Comments

Good Food For Everyone!

~~~~~~~

Food Inc – The Movie
http://www.foodincmovie.com/

Food, Inc. exposes the highly mechanized north american food industry, that often puts profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of farmers, the safety of workers and our environment. The film reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become and where we are going from here.

Hungry For Change – the Blog
http://www.takepart.com/news/tag/hungry-for-change/

Food, Inc. exposes America’s industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers’ rights. Learn about these issues and take action through the Hungry For Change cafeteria and check out the 10 Simple Tips for making positive changes in your eating habits. Learn more about these issues and how you can take action on Takepart.com.

Here are some excerpts from the Food Inc. web site:

About the issues

Find organic, local foods
Sustainable foods can be found in your community by purchasing organic and/or locally grown produce and products. It’s easy to find farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture programs, restaurants and more with the user-friendly Eat Well Guide. Simply type in your zip code to find out what’s in season near you.

Diabetes and Obesity
High calorie, sugar laden processed foods coupled with our sedentary lifestyles is growing our waistlines and contributing to serious health issues like diabetes, heart ailments and cancers. One-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Tell Congress that kids should be served healthy meals, not soda and junk food.

Factory farming
Approximately 10 billion animals (chickens, cattle, hogs, ducks, turkeys, lambs and sheep) are raised and killed in the US annually. Nearly all of them are raised on factory farms under inhumane conditions. These industrial farms are also dangerous for their workers, pollute surrounding communities, are unsafe to our food system and contribute significantly to global warming.

Pesticides
Cancers, autism and neurological disorders are associated with the use of pesticides especially amongst farm workers and their communities. Learn about what pesticides are in your food and their effects.

Environmental Impact
Did you know that the average food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store? And that transporting food accounts for 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year?

The Global Food Crisis
Approximately 1 billion people worldwide do not have secure access to food, including 36 million in the US. National and international food and agricultural policies have helped to create the global food crisis but can also help to fix the system.

Genetic Engineering
Some of our most important staple foods have been fundamentally altered, and genetically engineered meat and produce have already invaded our grocery stores and our kitchen pantries.

Farm Worker Protection
Farm workers are the backbone of our agricultural industry, bringing fresh food everyday to our tables. They deserve basic workplace protections like good wages, access to shade and water.

Cloning
In January 2008, the FDA approved the sale of meat and milk from cloned livestock, despite the fact that Congress voted twice in 2007 to delay FDA’s decision on cloned animals until additional safety and economic studies could be completed.

….

10 simple things you can do to change our food system:
Learn more about these issues and how you can take action on Takepart.com

1 Stop drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages.
You can lose 25 lbs in a year by replacing one 20 oz soda a day with a no calorie beverage (preferably water).

2 Eat at home instead of eating out.
Children consume almost twice (1.8 times) as many calories when eating food prepared outside the home.

3 Support the passage of laws requiring chain restaurants to post calorie information on menus and menu boards.
Half of the leading chain restaurants provide no nutritional information to their customers.

4 Tell schools to stop selling sodas, junk food, and sports drinks.
Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years.

5 Meatless Mondays—Go without meat one day a week.

6 Buy organic or sustainable food with little or no pesticides.
According to the EPA, over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the U.S.

7 Protect family farms; visit your local farmer’s market.
Farmer’s markets allow farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.

8 Make a point to know where your food comes from—READ LABELS.
The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to your dinner plate.

9 Tell Congress that food safety is important to you.
Each year, contaminated food causes millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths in the U.S.

10 Demand job protections for farm workers and food processors, ensuring fair wages and other protections.
Poverty among farm workers is more than twice that of all wage and salary employees.

~~~~~~~

Good Food For Everyone!

Email Gramma Willi Post Your Comments

2010 is here… Happy New Year!

Now that I survived the last decade (and come to think of it, nearly 6 decades), I know that one of the most important things that I’ve learned is to be grateful.

I am grateful that I am part of the communications revolution – 10 years ago it wasn’t so easy to set up a blog and reach millions!

I am grateful that the big economic collapse didn’t mean we’d all starve, and that it woke so many of us up to what’s really important in life… living a good life!

I am grateful that my last new Year’s resolution (to do and be the best that I can) taught me two important things. First, to take it easy on myself and lastly, to pay far less attention to unsolicited opinions and advice from others, however well meaning that they may be. In the end, knowing that I did the best that I could within my own strengths and limitations, is always enough.

Happy New Year – Enjoy the ride!
Good Clean Food for Everyone!

All My Relations,
Gramma Willi
December 31, 2010

Food Companies Unable to Guarantee the Safety of Their Ingredients

I’m adding this article to my blog because I think it contains really important food safety information wanted and needed by the average person. What the world truly needs right now is more home cooking – hats off to the New York Times for letting people share this.
In health, Gramma Willi

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/business/15ingredients.html?_r=1&em=&pagewanted=print

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

The frozen pot pies that sickened an estimated 15,000 people with salmonella in 2007 left federal inspectors mystified. At first they suspected the turkey. Then they considered the peas, carrots and potatoes.

The pie maker, ConAgra Foods, began spot-checking the vegetables for pathogens, but could not find the culprit. It also tried cooking the vegetables at high temperatures, a strategy the industry calls a “kill step,” to wipe out any lingering microbes. But the vegetables turned to mush in the process.

So ConAgra — which sold more than 100 million pot pies last year under its popular Banquet label — decided to make the consumer responsible for the kill step. The “food safety” instructions and four-step diagram on the 69-cent pies offer this guidance: “Internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”

Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients. In this case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella. Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show.

Yet the supply chain for ingredients in processed foods — from flavorings to flour to fruits and vegetables — is becoming more complex and global as the drive to keep food costs down intensifies. As a result, almost every element, not just red meat and poultry, is now a potential carrier of pathogens, government and industry officials concede.

In addition to ConAgra, other food giants like Nestlé and the Blackstone Group, a New York firm that acquired the Swanson and Hungry-Man brands two years ago, concede that they cannot ensure the safety of items — from frozen vegetables to pizzas — and that they are shifting the burden to the consumer. General Mills, which recalled about five million frozen pizzas in 2007 after an E. coli outbreak, now advises consumers to avoid microwaves and cook only with conventional ovens. ConAgra has also added food safety instructions to its other frozen meals, including the Healthy Choice brand.

Peanuts were considered unlikely culprits for pathogens until earlier this year when a processing plant in Georgia was blamed for salmonella poisoning that is estimated to have killed nine people and sickened 27,000. Now, white pepper is being blamed for dozens of salmonella illnesses on the West Coast, where a widening recall includes other spices and six tons of frozen egg rolls.

The problem is particularly acute with frozen foods, in which unwitting consumers who buy these products for their convenience mistakenly think that their cooking is a matter of taste and not safety.

Federal regulators have pushed companies to beef up their cooking instructions with the detailed “food safety” guides. But the response has been varied, as a review of packaging showed. Some manufacturers fail to list explicit instructions; others include abbreviated guidelines on the side of their boxes in tiny print. A Hungry-Man pot pie asks consumers to ensure that the pie reaches a temperature that is 11 degrees short of the government-established threshold for killing pathogens. Questioned about the discrepancy, Blackstone acknowledged it was using an older industry standard that it would rectify when it printed new cartons.

Government food safety officials also point to efforts by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a nonprofit group founded by the Clinton administration. But the partnership consists of a two-person staff and an annual budget of $300,000. Its director, Shelley Feist, said she has wanted to start a campaign to advise consumers about frozen foods, but lacks the money.

Estimating the risk to consumers is difficult. The industry says that it is acting with an abundance of caution, and that big outbreaks of food-borne illness are rare. At the same time, a vast majority of the estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness every year go unreported or are not traced to the source.

Home Cooking

Some food safety experts say they do not think the solution should rest with the consumer. Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said companies like ConAgra were asking too much. “I do not believe that it is fair to put this responsibility on the back of the consumer, when there is substantial confusion about what it means to prepare that product,” Dr. Osterholm said.

And the ingredient chain for frozen and other processed foods is poised to get more convoluted, industry insiders say. While the global market for ingredients is projected to reach $34 billion next year, the pressure to keep food prices down in a recession is forcing food companies to look for ways to cut costs.

Ensuring the safety of ingredients has been further complicated as food companies subcontract processing work to save money: smaller companies prepare flavor mixes and dough that a big manufacturer then assembles. “There is talk of having passports for ingredients,” said Jamie Rice, the marketing director of RTS Resource, a research firm based in England. “At each stage they are signed off on for quality and safety. That would help companies, if there is a scare, in tracing back.”

But government efforts to impose tougher trace-back requirements for ingredients have met with resistance from food industry groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which complained to the Food and Drug Administration: “This information is not reasonably needed and it is often not practical or possible to provide it.”

Now, in the wake of polls that show food poisoning incidents are shaking shopper confidence, the group is re-evaluating its position. A new industry guide produced by the group urges companies to test for salmonella and cites recent outbreaks from cereal, children’s snacks and other dry foods that companies have mistakenly considered immune to pathogens.

Research on raw ingredients, the guide notes, has found salmonella in 0.14 percent to 1.3 percent of the wheat flour sampled, and up to 8 percent of the raw spices tested.

ConAgra’s pot pie outbreak began on Feb. 20, 2007, and by the time it trailed off nine months later 401 cases of salmonella infection had been identified in 41 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that for every reported case, an additional 38 are not detected or reported.

It took until June 2007 for health officials to discover the illnesses were connected, and in October they traced the salmonella to Banquet pot pies made at ConAgra’s plant in Marshall, Mo.

While investigators who went to the plant were never able to pinpoint the salmonella source, inspectors for the United States Department of Agriculture focused on the vegetables, a federal inspection document shows.

ConAgra had not been requiring its suppliers to test the vegetables for pathogens, even though some were being shipped from Latin America. Nor was ConAgra conducting its own pathogen tests.

The company says the outbreak and management changes prompted it to undertake a broad range of safety initiatives, including testing for microbes in all of the pie ingredients. ConAgra said it was also trying to apply the kill step to as many ingredients as possible, but had not yet found a way to accomplish it without making the pies “unpalatable.”

Its Banquet pies now have some of the most graphic food safety instructions, complete with a depiction of a thermometer piercing the crust.

Pressed to say whether the meals are safe to eat if consumers disregard the instructions or make an error, Stephanie Childs, a company spokeswoman, said, “Our goal is to provide the consumer with as safe a product as possible, and we are doing everything within our ability to provide a safe product to them.”

“We are always improving food safety,” Ms. Childs said. “This is a long ongoing process.”

The U.S.D.A. said it required companies to show that their cooking instructions, when properly followed, would kill any pathogens. ConAgra says it has done such testing to validate its instructions.

Getting to ‘Kill Step’

But attempts by The New York Times to follow the directions on several brands of frozen meals, including ConAgra’s Banquet pot pies, failed to achieve the required 165-degree temperature. Some spots in the pies heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt.

A ConAgra consumer hotline operator said the claims by microwave-oven manufacturers about their wattage power could not be trusted, and that any pies not heated enough should not be eaten. “We definitely want it to reach that 165-degree temperature,” she said. “It’s a safety issue.”

In 2007, the U.S.D.A.’s inspection of the ConAgra plant in Missouri found records that showed some of ConAgra’s own testing of its directions failed to achieve “an adequate lethality” in several products, including its Chicken Fried Beef Steak dinner. Even 18 minutes in a large conventional oven brought the pudding in a Kid Cuisine Chicken Breast Nuggets meal to only 142 degrees, the federal agency found.

Besides improving its own cooking directions, ConAgra says it has alerted other frozen food manufacturers to the food safety issues.

But in the absence of meaningful federal rules, other frozen-dinner makers that face the same problem with ingredients are taking varied steps, some less rigorous. Jim Seiple, a food safety official with the Blackstone unit that makes Swanson and Hungry-Man pot pies, said the company tested for pathogens, but only after preliminary tests for bacteria that were considered indicators of pathogens — a method that ConAgra abandoned after its salmonella outbreak.

The pot pie instructions have built-in margins of error, Mr. Seiple said, and the risk to consumers depended on “how badly they followed our directions.”

Some frozen food companies are taking different approaches to pathogens. Amy’s Kitchen, a California company that specializes in natural frozen foods, says it precooks its ingredients to kill any potential pathogens before its pot pies and other products leave the factory.

Using a bacteriological testing laboratory, The Times checked several pot pies made by Amy’s and the three leading brands, and while none contained salmonella or E. coli, one pie each of two brands — Banquet, and the Stouffer’s brand made by Nestlé — had significant levels of T. coliform.

These bacteria are common in many foods and are not considered harmful. But their presence in these products include raw ingredients and leave open “a potential for contamination,” said Harvey Klein, the director of Garden State Laboratories in New Jersey.

A Nestlé spokeswoman said the company enhanced its food safety instructions in the wake of ConAgra’s salmonella outbreak.

Danger in the Fridge

ConAgra’s episode has raised its visibility among victims like Ryan Warren, a 25-year-old law school student in Washington. A Seattle lawyer, Bill Marler, brought suit against ConAgra on behalf of Mr. Warren’s daughter Zoë, who had just turned 1 year old when she was fed a pot pie that he says put her in the hospital for a terrifying weekend of high fever and racing pulse.

“You don’t assume these dangers to be right in your freezer,” said Mr. Warren, who settled with ConAgra. He does not own a food thermometer and was not certain his microwave oven met the minimum 1,100-wattage requirement in the new pot pie instructions. “I do think that consumers bear responsibility to reasonably look out for their well-being, but the entire reason for this product to exist is for its convenience.”

Public health officials who interviewed the Warrens and other victims of the pot-pie contamination found that fewer than one in three knew the wattage of their microwave ovens, according to the C.D.C. report on the outbreak. The report notes, however, that nearly one in four of the victims reported cooking their pies in conventional ovens.

For more than a decade, the U.S.D.A. has also sought to encourage consumers to use food thermometers. But the agency’s statistics on how many Americans do so are discouraging. According to its Web site, not quite half the population has one, and only 3 percent use it when cooking high-risk foods like hamburgers. No data was available on how many people use thermometers on pot pies.

Andrew Martin contributed reporting.

Good Clean Food For Everyone! The Food Security Revolution and Environmental Health

by Gramma Willi

Relatives – like so many of us, I find myself more and more pleased that being an activist has become an easier road to walk. Victories for human rights and for the Earth increase in number and significance and we hear about them sooner than we used to. Everyone’s talking about green jobs. Our hopes are up, we may actually have an activist leading the free world – Yes We Can! It’s quite a time to be a part of it all, isn’t it?

One of my favorite stories about the changes in public attitude towards environment and health concerns feeding our children. So much has changed in my lifetime. As a young mother, it was almost impossible to find, let alone afford, organic baby food; it was tricky to find a place to breast-feed a baby in peace. These days, parents can find a wide variety of organic baby foods and formula in almost any supermarket; my grand-babies were all breast-fed (even the twins!) and fed organic baby foods. Now that the monopolies have more “natural” offerings available to consumers, are we happy with the production? Is there a next step that we need to take?

IICPH (International Institute of Concern for Public Health), whom I have worked with for many years, has a stellar reputation for providing independent, thoughtful analysis and corroborating community environmental health concerns. Most of our works for communities report on contamination of the air, land and water. It has always given me sadness when we report arsenic, tritium, mercury, lead or other highly damaging pollution where people have food gardens or farms. Food discussions at our youth and elder gatherings took on sad notes when realizing how very careful we must be where we grow our food, where it comes from and how it is prepared. We can make sensible choices when we consider our health.

The good news is, learning to choose, grow and cook good food provides not only sound environmental education, but when applied, benefits everyone’s health and saves people money! The truth is out there, people want clean food and groups like IICPH are uniquely positioned to help them to learn about it. Never has environmental health education been more timely and important… and good food is a delicious place to focus.

Perhaps the silver lining of the economic collapse is that the cards are on the table. Finally, the voices of old hippies and tireless activists are welcome and needed. The public continues to become informed and grows in wisdom as the next generation begins making its mark in history books and business reports. Let’s fill their bellies and minds with good things.

Remember that I love you

All My Relations,

Gramma Willi

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Gramma Willi has been working with IICPH since 1997. Expressions of her dedication to the clean food revolution can be found at http://roughtimes.ca and http://YouTube.com/roughtimescooking.

~~~~

Here are a few more resources to get you started if you want to do more about clean food:

http://www.foodsecurity.org/
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)
is a non-profit 501(c)(3), North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times.

http://www.toronto.ca/health/tfpc_index.htm
Toronto Food Policy Council
, 277 Victoria Street, Suite 203, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W1l: Wayne ““Taking control of our food” Roberts, Project Co-ordinator: 416-338-7937. Friends of Toronto Food Policy Council is on Facebook.
Their aim “is a food system that fosters equitable food access, nutrition, community development and environmental health.

http://www.foodsecuritynews.com/Resources.htm
The Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador
have a great page full of links to action going on all over!

Please email to Gramma Willi if you know of any more independent and reliable resources to help our Rough Times mission:

Good Clean Food For Everyone!

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 2:00 PM  Leave a Comment  
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SPIN-farming – Let’s Grow Our Own Food

The info in this article for city and town folk who want to buy local or farm their own Small Plot Intensive (SPIN) food is a beautiful gift – they’ve even considered how to minimize pollution! I hope that some of you take the opportunity to try it out… and share your stories with us.

Good Clean Food for Everyone!

SPIN Farming and Soup Service Are Yielding Profits

by Elaine Morin; Alternatives Magazine, 35:1 (2009); www.alternativesjournal.ca.

What happens when food production moves to the city and downsizes in the process? Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen of Wally’s Urban Market Garden, a Saskatoon farming operation, are showing that some 30 backyard plots totaling less than half a hectare can be as profitable as, and more ecologically sustainable than, their old eight-hectare agribusiness in rural Saskatchewan. The program they’ve developed, Small Plot Intensive or SPIN farming, aims to maximize crop yields of smaller gardens. “The key,” Satzewich says, “is to produce high-quality niche crops.” The enterprising duo grows garlic, spinach, salad greens and other produce, which they sell at city markets and to local restaurants. Reduced transportation costs and less food spoilage help boost profits, as does their low overhead since they have no tractor or paid work crews. Another advantage of co-opting backyard gardens is that many urban homeowners don’t have time to till, and will often rent their backyards for little or no fee.

“One acre [less than half a hectare] is about the right size for one couple to farm,” says Satzewich, who has no plans to expand. “You can always intensify production, if necessary.”

With the majority of Canadians living in cities, urban agriculture makes sense. Shrinking the distance between food production and markets means fewer trucks on the road and thus fewer carbon emissions. At a time when most food travels vast distances to get to the table, local food production can drastically cut the need for processing, packaging, refrigeration and hauling. And local, just-produced food can be fresher too, an important benefit.

Market gardens scattered throughout the inner-city, on abandoned lots for instance, can improve air quality and help offset urban heat buildup. Captured rain and wastewater, if deemed safe, can be used in place of treated municipal water, and organic solid waste can be composted to fertilize crops. And then there’s the issue of food security. More local agriculture reduces dependence on uncertain global food and fuel supplies.

Small-scale farming has its challenges. Urban gardens compete with municipalities for freshwater supplies. Rain and wastewater can help, but must be free of toxins. Abandoned lots must also be cleared of contamination before food crops are grown. And uncertain tenure on abandoned lots and borrowed backyards makes long-term projects a challenge. Satzewich’s and Vandersteen’s success comes from competence, dedication and hard work, but what they produce is a drop in the bucket beside the capacity of massive agribusiness. Still, city gardens have a long precedent and small plots are plentiful. Toronto’s Annex Organics, for instance, uses a warehouse roof for its garden.

A commercial market garden within Calgary would be a boon to Carmie Nearing’s business. A professional chef and owner of Spoon Fed Soup Company, Nearing uses local organic ingredients as often as possible, but with growing demand for her soups, it’s not always easy to find suppliers. In the last five years her company has burgeoned from a tiny home operation to a viable, thriving business. “At each step of the way, I’ve thought long and hard about how to expand,” says Nearing. For instance, she’s kept her original mandate to minimize the size of the area she services. She delivers her soup three times a week, up from once weekly, and only to inner-city Calgary addresses. And on one delivery day, soup will one day be shuttled to downtown customers via cargo bicycle.

In the beginning, Nearing developed recipes in her inner-city home kitchen, peddling them to friends and neighbours. She then borrowed a catering company’s kitchen, producing soups on weekends and delivering Mondays. Since then, she’s moved to a brand new kitchen. As the scale of her operation has increased, Nearing has worked hard to uphold the same principles of sustainability. For instance, she still uses one-litre canning jars, and the $1 deposit encourages a high rate of return. Though she’s careful about expansion, Nearing expects to make her soups available at two local food markets.

Can local, small-scale food producers replace massive agribusinesses and factory-food manufacturers? For a generation habituated to fast-food joints and big-box supermarkets, and with little knowledge of gardening, it’s hard to imagine. Yet the benefits of local food production are difficult to ignore. Interestingly, Satzewich and Vandersteen have been welcoming interns to their operation, some of them families with young children. Interns provide manual labour in exchange for learning the techniques of small-plot farming. Perhaps for the next generation, a major shift is on its way.

Elaine Morin is a Calgary-based freelance writer and recipient of the 2007 Brenda Strathern Writing Prize. She has been frequenting inner-city markets since she was four years old.

Start your own SPIN-farm! Check out http://www.spinfarming.com for do-it-yourself guidelines and examples of several SPIN cities and neighbourhoods. Visit http://www.cityfarmer.org and http://www.metrofarm.com to plug into urban agriculture communities from coast to coast. And if you live or work in Calgary, don’t forget to visit http://www.spoonfedsoup.com to order a healthy and sustainable soup-lunch.

Ginger Recipes – Good Old Time Medicine

My mother taught me to use ginger to chase away colds and flus and to soothe upset stomach and moon-time pain. I love ginger because it makes your breath smell good, its nice hot taste sure does warm up the body and it makes me and my family feel a lot better. Chopped fresh ginger is a great addition to stir-fry meals and curries.
Recently, my pal Tahnee said she’d like it if I put some of my ginger recipes on this blog.
I did a little research first. Among other sources, I found a great article at the University of Maryland web site (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginger-000246.htm). Many reports stated that ginger is a natural antibiotic, helps digestion, gas, nausea, headaches, arthritis and menstrual pain and is a time-honored remedy for cold and flu symptoms. I also read that for children under 2 yrs. and people on blood thinners, you should ask your doctor before using ginger as a medicine. There were a few reports that using too much ginger will cause stomach ache or diarrhea.

African Ginger Drink
I learned this recipe from a strange and beautiful man that I met in the produce section of a supermarket. We somehow ended up discussing that year’s flu epidemic and prophecies. He claimed that this recipe will cure even the new antibiotic resistant strains of flu. This is what I cook up when a really bad cold or flu hits our friends or relatives; I’ve had many requests for more and for the recipe. Look for ginger that has a nice smooth skin; if it’s wrinkled, then it’s old – still usable, but fresh is definitely best.

a fist-sized piece of fresh ginger (1/2 to 1 lb.)
6 quarts of water – enough to fill a Dutch oven (small stew/spaghetti pot)
2-3 C sugar
Peel the ginger with a spoon (use a small knife to remove lumps) and cut into thin slices. Put the ginger and sugar into the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 4-6 hours, let cool. By this time, you should have a nice, hot-spicy, golden-brown “juice.” You can drink this as is; I drink a half cup a few times a day for colds and flus. If you want a thick syrup, boil it down some more until you can eat it by the spoonful – good for kids.
You can also mix it with orange juice or put it in cake and cookie mixes. My favorite, put a few tablespoons in a regular cup of tea with milk – tastes like India Chai tea – yummy!

Quick’n’Simple Ginger Tea
My Mom gave me this for tummy aches. It works well. Powdered ginger isn’t as strong as fresh, but it will do when it’s already in the cupboard and you don’t want to run to the store.

1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. sugar or honey
1 C. freshly boiled water
Mix in a cup and drink while warm.

Candied Ginger
Also known as crystallized ginger, it takes a few days to make, but it’s worth it because you get a nice juice to drink and use in teas while you’re waiting for the candy to be ready!

2 fist-sized pieces of fresh ginger (1 to 2 lbs.)
6 quarts of water – enough to fill a Dutch oven (small stew/spaghetti pot)
2-3 C sugar

Peel the ginger with a spoon (use a small knife to remove lumps) and cut into thin slices. Put the ginger and 1 C sugar into the pot, bring to a boil turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, let cool. Drain, keeping the ginger water in a jar to use in tea, etc.

Put the ginger back into the pot, fill it with fresh water and add 1 C sugar. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer partly covered for 20 minutes, let cool and let stand overnight.

Bring the pot to a boil and add 1 cup sugar, stir until dissolved, turn heat to low and simmer simmer partly covered for 20 minutes, let cool and let stand overnight.

Bring the pot to a boil, add 1 cup sugar, stir to dissolve and turn heat to low and simmer partly covered for about an hour, stirring often so that the mixture does not burn or stick to the pot. The liquid should be quite thick and almost like a syrup when it’s ready; if it’s thick when runs off the back of a spoon, it’s done. Let cool.

Put the slices of ginger on a rack to dry (6-10 hours or overnight). Coat the dried pieces with sugar, store in an airtight jar; keep the remaining syrup for tea, baking, etc. Should last a few months without refrigeration, longer in the fridge. Eat as a candy, suck and chew it slowly to get the most benefit.

Tips: I travel with candied ginger and use it for upset stomach, if I get symptoms of a cold or flu and to prevent infected people from passing on their germs to me.

A few drops of essential oil of ginger is a sweet-smelling addition to a bath. It is good and warming, helps to chase the chills out of the body and soothe aches and pains.

Simple & Easy Subversion for Making Positive Change

Gramma Willi’s Random Blogging

5 March 2009

Some pals asked what I’m doing to re-engineer the current systems, subvert it, or any efforts towards positive change. Here’s my answer:

I seek to be, provide and share examples and opportunities for the actual application of change, especially social, environmental and economic sustainability. The thinking that I rely on holds each person as responsible to the next seven generations, as in the famous quotation, “We do not own the earth, we borrow it from our children.” I also say, we borrow from Mother Earth too, we depend on her for everything.

Using these kinds of teachings, I can avoid “stinking thinking.” This means, in a nutshell, “less is more.” The less money and resources that are wasted or destroyed, the more that they are respected and wisely used, the better. The more ways to give back as much as you get, the better.

As an example, I try to always make purchases from businesses that are at least working towards zero environmental impact. Everyone needs to be “in the loop.” I commit acts of subversion in my public questions and statements to people that I make purchases from, e.g. “Have you got a product that is non-toxic?” “organic?” “fair trade?” “made from renewable resources?” If they don’t have what I’m looking for, I sometimes walk away, but more often, I stay and tell them why I won’t buy the inferior product. Quite often, the next time I visit the business, a change has been made … victory!!!

I believe that the combined purchasing power of ordinary people holds the greatest potential for change at this time in history. And so, I commit acts of subversion by letting people know how powerful they really are. Sometimes I do this in groups around kitchen tables, yard sales, campfires and coffee shops; my own family is not immune to my actions to subvert “stinking thinking”.

The purchasing power that ordinary people have is a great tool to help us to make changes for ourselves and work with other ordinary folks.

Lately, I’ve been checking out blogs. This also seems to have the potential for maximizing the gifts of many people concurrently, all at once and in harmony. I like that!

All My Relations