Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
Eat healthier. Save money. Create local jobs.
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Give that farmer a tip!

moonique dairy cows kriannmon Give that farmer a tip!

Dairy cows from Moo-nique
{Image Credit}
Kriannmon on Flickr

Today I wanted give you a brief peek into a sweet conversation that recently happened at our house.

Owen has been experiencing some growing pains lately. I heard once that a dose of extra calcium can help to soothe growing pains, so I always offer him a glass of milk. Maybe it’s an old wives tale… maybe it’s all in his head… but he usually calms down and goes to sleep afterwards.

The other night at bedtime I was laying down with him and he said “Mom, can I have a glass of milk?”

“We’re all out” I replied.

“Can’t you just go to the store and get some?” he asked.

“No, because in a couple of days we’re going to get more and it would be wasteful to spend extra money on milk from the store when we’re already paying for milk from the farm, especially since it’s kind of expensive.”

He paused for a moment.

“Umm… Mom? Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy milk from the store?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you mean ‘Wouldn’t it cost less money?’”

“Yeah!” he replied “Couldn’t you save money and just get our milk from the store? Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Well, yes, it would cost less money” I said, “but it wouldn’t be better. Here are a couple of things...

Click here to read the rest of the conversation. (It's cute... I promise!)

 
 

Why Raw Milk?

Why Raw Milk?One of the commitments our family made as part of the Locavore90 challenge is to find local sources for our meat, eggs and dairy. This week I had the privilege of speaking with several local dairy farmers as part of my search for the right source of our family’s milk. As I began thinking through our personal dairy needs I started asking myself a bunch of questions, like…
  • Should we even be drinking milk?
  • Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?
  • How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?
  • How am I going to find a way to purchase enough milk to drink and make our own butter and cheese?

That’s when it occurred to me that before I can share information with you about where to find local, raw milk, first I should share about why you should find local, raw milk.

Local and Raw

Yes, I said local. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. After all, the mission of our farm revolves around buying local and Locavore90 is all about incorporating more local foods into the diets of families in Southwest Michigan. (If you’ve not yet become convinced that buying your food locally is beneficial to the health of your wallet, your body and your community, click here.)

I also said raw. This post may be a little long, but it will explain to you why during our Locavore90 conversations about dairy I will be talking exclusively about milk that is:

  • Local (see above)
  • Raw (unpasteurized)
  • From grass-fed animals
  • For cow’s milk, from A2 cows only

 

Raw Milk

Research – both scientific and anecdotal – suggests that raw milk has several health benefits not retained by its pasteurized counterpart. Or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is that pasteurized milk has been altered in ways that reduce its health benefits and, in some cases, actually cause the milk to be more harmful than healthful.

The general premise is that raw milk contains proteins, antibodies, a perfect balance of minerals and good bacteria that are destroyed, altered or diminished during the heating process of pasteurization.

Pasteurization

According to Wikipedia:

“Pasteurization… is a process of heating a food, which is usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a predefined length of time and then immediately cooling it after it is removed from the heat. This process slows spoilage caused by microbial growth in the food.

Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all micro-organisms in the food. Instead, it aims to reduce the number of viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurized product is stored as indicated and is consumed before its expiration date). Commercial-scale sterilization of food is not common because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product. Certain foods, such as dairy products, may be superheated to ensure pathogenic microbes are destroyed.”

In general terms, Americans pasteurize milk to reduce the possibility of “viable pathogens” causing disease or spoilage in the milk. Sounds good, right? But in reality “some research suggests that unpasteurized milk contains antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk. These studies found that pathogens grow more slowly or die more quickly when added to raw milk than when added to heat-treated milk. This does not mean that raw milk cannot be contaminated with bacteria, nor does it mean that raw milk ‘kills pathogens’. Rather, unpasteurized milk may be somewhat less susceptible to contamination than pasteurized milk due to its probiotic bacteria and antimicrobial enzymes.”

Natural News provided an excellent overview of the health benefits of raw milk – all of the things we’re missing out on when we drink commercially pasteurized milk from feed-lot cows. Here is a verbatim copy of the info they shared here.

Proteins

Raw cow’s milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, which saves our bodies the work of having to convert any into usable form. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins (reasonably heat stable but easy to digest). The other 20% fall into the class of whey proteins. These are also easy to digest, but also very heat sensitive.

The immunoglobulins are an extremely complex class of milk proteins also known as antibodies. These provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria and bacterial toxins and may also help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms. Research has shown a significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is pasteurized.

Carbohydrates

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. It is made from one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose. People with lactose intolerance do not make the enzyme lactase and so cannot digest milk sugar. Raw milk has its lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact. This may allow people who traditionally have avoided milk to drink raw milk.

Fats

about two thirds of the fat in milk is saturated. Saturated fats play a number of important roles in our bodies. They construct cell membranes and key hormones, they provide energy storage and padding for delicate organs, and they serve as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is abundant in milk from pastured cows. This is a heavily studied, polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid that has promising health benefits. Some of CLA’s many possible benefits are (1) it raises metabolic rates; (2) it helps remove abdominal fat; (3) it boosts muscle growth; (4) it reduces resistance to insulin; and (5) it strengthens the immune system and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass-fed raw milk has 3-5 times more CLAs than the milk from feed-lot cows.

Vitamins

Whole raw milk has both water and fat soluble vitamins. No enriching is necessary. It’s a complete food. Pasteurized milk must have the destroyed components added back in, especially the fat soluble vitamins A and D.

Minerals

Raw milk contains a broad selection of minerals ranging from calcium and phosphorus to trace elements.

Calcium is abundant in raw milk. Its benefits include a reduction of some cancers, particularly colon; higher bone density in people of all ages; lower risk of osteoporosis in older adults; lowered risk of kidney stones; the formation of strong teeth; as well as a reduction of dental cavities.

An interesting fact about minerals as nutrients is the special balance they require with other minerals to function properly. For example, calcium needs a proper ratio of phosphorus and magnesium to be properly utilized by our bodies. Raw milk is in perfect balance.

Enzymes

The 60 functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing assortment of jobs to perform. Some of them are native to milk and some come from beneficial bacteria growing in raw milk. When we eat food that contains enzymes devoted to its own digestion, it’s less work for our pancreas. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer for us to drink.

Cholesterol

Milk contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram. Our bodies make most of the cholesterol we need. This amount fluctuates by what we get from our food. Cholesterol is a repair substance. It is a waxy plant steroid that our body uses as a form of water-proofing and as a building block for key hormones.

Beneficial Bacteria

Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. As most food goes bad as it ages, raw milk gets better. From helpful bacterial fermentation, the digestibility of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals all increases.

Flavor

In addition to all of these health benefits, many people think that raw milk has a superior flavor and texture to pasteurized, homogenized milk. Here is a quote from Emily Weinstein who blogs for The New York Times. She describes her first raw milk experience in this way:

“The milk — oh man, the milk! — was creamy and full of flavors, not white like supermarket milk, but yellow-tinged. It was milk with a taste that wasn’t just defined by it texture — it was distinct, satisfying, delicious. All food should be like this, I thought, so natural it seems to redefine the word.”

With all of this fabulous info in mind, it’s difficult to believe that selling raw milk is illegal in all but 1 of the United States, isn’t it? More on that later (don’t worry – there is a legal way to still get it.)

Who cares what the cow eats?

Dairy From Grass-Fed Animals

For optimal health (and conversely, to avoid health detriments) it’s important for raw milk to come from humanely raised, grass-fed animals. Why? Because dairy animals (we’ll focus on cows and goats) have a digestive system that includes a rumen. The rumen is the first chamber of the digestive system of animals that graze (including cows and goats). It serves as the primary site for microbial fermentation of ingested feed. The rumen was not designed to digest grains such as corn – it was designed to digest grasses. When we feed grain to cows (the majority of US dairy cows are not pasture raised but eat corn and soy) we are feeding them an unnatural food and their bodies react in unnatural ways. Add on top of that unsanitary, inhumane and anti-biotic laden food-factory practices and you have a recipe for ‘milk’ that is not the same product as the milk our grandparents and great grandparents used to drink.

Here are a couple of videos that do a much better job of informing you about the consequences of feeding grain to dairy cows than I ever could.


This video may seem a bit long and off topic at first, but hang in there! You need the corn explanation to get to the cow-pertinent part at the end.

 

Devil in the Milk

What is an A2 Cow?

While talking to a local dairy farmer this week I learned about the important difference between an A1 cow and an A2 cow. I’m no expert, but let me do my best to piece together resources from those who are experts and provide you with an introduction. The most direct way I know to give you a solid overview is to share this article at www.mercola.com verbatim:

“Prominent food researcher Dr. Thomas Cowan has been involved in thinking about the medicinal aspects of cow’s milk virtually his entire career.

His studies on the subject started in earnest when he read the book The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized, by maverick physician, William Campbell Douglass, MD.

Cowan became convinced that a large part of the disease in this country is related to the way we handle, or rather mishandle, milk and milk products.

However, he still felt that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Many of his patients, in spite of eating only the proper dairy products, still had illness and still seemed not to tolerate milk. Recently, he was asked to consider writing the foreword to a book called The Devil in the Milk, written by Dr. Keith Woodford, which was again an eye-opener for him.

All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain 229 amino acids in length. Cows who produce this protein in their milk with a proline at number 67 are called A2 cows, and are the older breeds of cows (e.g. Jerseys, Asian and African cows). But some 5,000 years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are called A1 cows, and include breeds like Holstein.

Proline has a strong bond to a small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from getting into the milk, so that essentially no BCM 7 is found in the urine, blood or GI tract of old-fashioned A2 cows. On the other hand, histidine, the mutated protein, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk.

BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. Dr. Woodford’s book presents research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

Simply switching breeds of cows could result in amazing health benefits.”

Conclusion

At the beginning of this post I shared some questions with you – questions I’ve been asking myself about the dairy products I feed my family. You may be asking some of the same questions, so I thought I’d conclude with some answers.

Should we even be drinking milk?

There are some schools of thought out there that milk should be avoided completely because of the (substantiated) negative consequences milk has on health. I do not refute in any way that milk consumption has caused health issues in our society, but after learning more about the negative health consequences of pasteurizing milk, it stands to reason that the issue may not be milk itself but the unintended consequences of our attempts to improve upon nature. How ironic that the same food which has been discounted as dangerous to your health actually has medicinal value when consume the right (natural) way! Our family will continue to consume dairy – the right way.

Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?

In short, because raw milk contains numerous health benefits while, conversely, processed milk can be damaging to health. The significant benefits of raw milk and the significant risks of processed milk make it a clear choice. Some would argue that raw milk is actually dangerous to drink because there is an increased chance of pathogens (it hasn’t been boiled at high temperatures like pasteurized milk). Click here for more scientific data to address that claim.

How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?

The reality is, buying local, raw milk will cost you more than buying a gallon of pasteurized milk at Meijer. Local, raw milk costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 per gallon but, depending on the farm, can be as high as $8. That number comes with some sticker shock when you’re used to spending $2.99 per gallon! We personally drink about 1 gallon of milk a week. Your family may drink more, but let’s use the 1 gallon per week rule as an example. Before you decide that you can’t afford to buy raw milk, please consider that there are very reasonable ways to save an extra $3 per week on other items (i.e., drink one less latte a week; grow your own spinach; conserve gas so you buy one less gallon, etc.). On the flip side, the real cost to you in allergy medication, over-the-counter gas treatments and other potential side effects of pasteurized milk cost more than $3 per week. In some cases, the difference between your life drinking raw milk verses pasteurized may be the kind of difference that a price tag cannot depict.

How will you know if you don’t try?

Now What?

I hope you’ll review this information carefully and talk with your family about it. For those of you who’ve decided that local, raw milk is worth serious consideration, I’m going to be sharing info next week that answers these questions:

  • If it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Michigan, how am I going to (legally) get it?
  • Where can I get raw milk?
  • Show me the numbers – how much is it really going to cost me?
  • What about milk from animals other than cows, like sheep and goats

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

10 Ways to Save Money on Food

pie chart

If your household is similar to ours, the grocery slice of the budget pie is sizable enough to get your attention. Most “experts” recommend budgeting 14-20% of your take home pay for food (groceries, lattes, eating at restaurants, etc.). A recent study shows however that Americans are spending less on average than ever before on groceries – 11% of income. That might sound like good news, but consider the story behind the numbers.

A separate study from 2012 shows that while prices – for meat in particular – have gone down, American consumption has in fact gone up or remained the same. What happened? The advent of the factory-farm has succeeded in pushing the price of meat way down. A 2012 article by Tom Philpott (The American Diet in 1 Chart) explains the phenomenon well:

“American eaters have gotten a windfall from the the era of cheap meat that dawned in the early ’80s. Meat prices tumbled as small farms shuttered, to be replaced by massive factory-scale farms that stuffed animals with cheap, subsidized corn and soy and kept them alive and growing to slaughter weight with daily doses of antibiotics. Regulators looked the other way as these gigantic facilities created messes they didn’t have to pay to clean up. Meanwhile, as Mother Jones’ Ted Genoways showed in his blockbuster piece last year on Hormel, corporate meatpackers managed to bust unions, speed up kill lines, and drive down employee wages. It all added up to bargain-priced meat.”

What America Spends On Groceries

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Consequently, our consumption of processed (read: cheap) food has skyrocketed. In 1982, 11.6% of a family’s budget was spent on processed food and sweets. Today processed food tops the budget break down at 22.9% of the budget, followed by meat (21.5%), fruits and veggies (14.6%), Grains and Baked goods (14.4%), beverages (11.1%) and dairy products (10.6%). So in layman’s terms, we spend less money on food now because the bulk of our diet is ‘food’ processed and engineered with more regard to its cost than its quality.

Save Money, Eat Healthy

So what do you do if you’re interested in saving money AND eating healthy? Don’t despair  – here are some tips.

Cook at Home

When you buy pre-packaged food or eat at a restaurant, you’re paying for more than just the ingredients you consume. (Someone has to pay to keep the lights on, right?) With practice, cooking at home can be just as delicious (sometimes more delicious!) than eating out. Eating at home can save you up to $2,600 a year! And with some savvy, budget-friendly tips (like the tips you’re about to read) you can save even more money! If you’ve never been much of a cook, don’t let that stop you. (Everyone has to start somewhere, right?) I recommend beginning your journey into homemade meals by using a crock pot. It’s so easy – I promise – and the great-tasting meals you produce will give you a boost of confidence to try something new!

Make a Plan

Like a lot of things in life, it’s hard to win without a plan. Your grocery plan starts long before you jump in the car to head to Meijer. Here are some tips. First, keep a pad of paper in an accessible area (on the side of the fridge?) so that you can keep track of grocery needs on an ongoing basis. Did you use the last of the olive oil? Write it down now so you don’t forget it later. The next two tips go hand-in-hand – make a menu and check for sales. Making a menu (meal planning) helps you make purchases that will form complete meals rather than buying a bunch of things that sound good but don’t add up to a complete meal. Having a pre-made meal plan saves time as well because you don’t have to figure out what to make each night. Planning a menu around what’s on sale will naturally save you money. The next tip is to take stock of what you already have so you don’t buy unnecessary duplicates. All of this should be complete by the night before you’re going shopping: Menu created (check!); Inventory taken (check!); List created (check!). Now when you get to the store, you’ll be able to stick to your list without worrying that you’ve forgotten something, and perhaps with a little more resolve to skip over impulse buys! (You can also decrease impulse purchases – like a candy bar at the checkout aisle – by having a small snack before you go shopping).

grocery bag

Buy (and Preserve) Produce In-Season

There are lots of great reasons to buy produce when it is in-season. First of all, the taste is so much better than out-of-season veggies that you may never want to go back! Second, buying in-season, local produce (check out your local farmers market) is great for your community and area farmers. And third of all, it costs less to buy food in-season than it does to buy it when it has to be grown hundreds of miles away and shipped to you through the snow. And if you team up with tip #9 below, you could save even more money at the farmer’s market; Many sellers are willing to give you a discount for buying large amounts of produce if you ask politely. Worried about what you’ll do with all those [fill in the blank here]? If you can’t eat it all now, preserve some of it! Can it, freeze it, dry it. Don’t be intimidated – you can find tons of how-to help on the web (or by asking your Grandma). Then in January when you want wholesome [fill in the blank here] you can skip the trucked-in-from-California produce section of your grocery store and turn to your pantry instead.

Use Sales and Coupons

I confess – I missed the Extreme Couponing movement. I’m not coupon-wielding expert, but I do know that the Sunday paper is full of coupons. As long as those coupons are for things you will actually use, you can save money by using them. Consider taking advantage of frequency type clubs for items you usually buy or places you usually shop (i.e. “buy 10 get the 11th free”). Meijer has a great website (and a great app for your mobile device) for looking up sales. Planning meals around what’s on sale can save you big bucks. If you can swing it, try keeping a “Sale Fund” set aside (perhaps $50 or $100) so that when a great sale comes up, you can stock up and fill your freezer. (Earlier this year we scored some unbelievable Buy One, Get Two type deals at Harding’s… our freezer has never been so full of meat!) Just remember – using a coupon to buy something you otherwise wouldn’t buy doesn’t save you money, even if you get 10% off.

Buy in Bulk

Our favorite place to buy in bulk is from Country Life Natural Foods in Pullman, MI. It’s quite a drive (about an hour) from our home in South Portage, but if you buy several things at once, the trip is worthwhile. We’ve saved money on organic Quinoa (a year’s supply for $30), a year’s worth of honey (1 gallon for $38.50) and 7 pounds of coconut oil ($12.90). They have practically everything you can think of and some of it is Michigan-made. Check out their catalog here. To save even more money, carpool with a friend (thanks Darci!) or take orders from each other and take turns doing the pick up. I’ve never tried it but apparently they also deliver for certain order sizes. We also now save money by buying our herbs and spices in bulk at Sawall Health Foods in Kalamazoo.

Leftovers? What Leftovers?

A great way to save on food is to avoid wasting it. Plan your meals to make the most of leftovers. Here’s an example from our life: Every other Sunday we have a roasted chicken for dinner with carrots, potatoes, peas, beans, onions or other in-season veggies. Monday I use the leftover chicken and veggies in a meal like chicken salad over spinach or a chicken pot pie. After that, I turn the chicken carcass into stock and make soup with it (sometimes using remaining veggies from Sunday’s roast). Even sour milk can be saved from going to waste! You can’t stretch everything that far, but there are lots of leftovers that would go great in an omelet, a salad or soup. If all else fails, send unwanted leftovers to the compost bin rather than the garbage can.

Brown Bag Lunch

lunch bag

A great way to bloat your food budget is to eat out for lunch every day. When my day job involved working from an office instead of working from my living room I discovered some tips to making the brown bag lunch work. I don’t know about you, but there were typically three reasons why I ate lunch at a restaurant instead of from a lunch bag. The biggest hurdle to jump is just remembering to bring a lunch. If you’re serious about saving money, taking a few minutes the night before to pack tomorrow’s lunch is key. Another issue: What’s in the bag just doesn’t sound appetizing. The simplest way to avoid that conundrum is to bring food you’ll look forward to eating! My main way of addressing this was to make fabulous dinners and make sure there were always leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  The other reason I skipped a bagged lunch was because I just needed to get out of the office! In warm weather, you can accomplish the same thing by taking your lunch to a nearby park. In yucky weather, sometimes just sitting in your car provides enough peace and quiet to count as “getting away.” I also made sure to bring or keep healthy snacks at work to curb my desire to buy a little something in the afternoon. I always had something sweet (yogurt, a cucumber, dried fruit, etc.) and something salty (crackers, mixed nuts, etc.) on hand to keep my snacking healthy and cheap.You could save more money by stashing homemade snacks like granola.

Frozen and Dried

Frozen and dried fruits and vegetables are less expensive than fresh and in some cases contain the same amount of nutrients. Resealable packaging helps you avoid waste. For tips on how to store frozen vegetables so they keep as long as possible, click here.

Use Cheaper Protein

Meat is expensive. If beef and chicken are choking your budget, try getting your protein in other ways such as beans, eggs, quinoa or legumes. If you grow your own (including raising backyard chickens for eggs) think of all the money you could save by opting for non-meat alternatives. For fabulous egg recipes, click here.

Shop at Home

Overhead of Gardening Woman

Starting this spring, we hope to transition to a family that produces more of our food rather than buying it elsewhere. What if you could remove vegetables, fruit and herbs from your grocery list because you’re shopping in the backyard? Now think about what a difference it would make to take eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, bread and maybe even meat off the list? We may not all be able to raise our own meat birds or raise goats for milk, but almost everyone (even apartment dwellers) can grow fresh herbs and vegetables. By using an intensive planting method (like Square Foot Gardening) you can grow a surprising amount of food in a small space. Start small with a garden size you’ll be able to easily manage. I think you’ll be amazed at how much you get – and how much you’ll save!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Benefits of Gardening

If you’re a gardener, you know that gardening brings more than just fresh veggies into your life. Spending some time outdoors, digging in the dirt and tending to your plants can merit health, mental, financial and communitybenefits. Here’s a ‘lil infographic to illustrate the point. (Click on the image below to enlarge it)

{Image Credit} www.lochnesswatergardens.com

{Image Credit}
www.lochnesswatergardens.com

 
 

Minimally Process Cookies

cookies on plate

Earlier this month I shared this post about how to make natural, homemade vanilla extract. I had no idea it would be such a hit! After posting it, one reader emailed me with the following question:

“I have a question for you in regard to a comment you made about getting rid of all your artificial stuff. I was wondering the cookie recipe you used and if you would share it? My desire is to get rid of the artificial and harmful and make as much as possible from scratch. Thanks for the help.”

First of all, I was pretty excited to get this email because it was my first reader-I’ve-never-met-responding-to-a-blog-post email I’ve ever received. Second, I’m afraid I had to respond and let this dear lady know that the cookies I referenced in my vanilla post were… in fact… deliciously filled with processed food. I did get rid of all of my artificial “baking stuff” but the way I got rid of my white chocolate chips was by making (delicious) cookies with them. The cookies I made that day tasted unbelievably amazing! Besides highly processed white candy chips, they also contained processed white flour and processed sugar (both white and brown sugar). Here’s the original recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(These are NOT minimally processed – keep reading for the minimally processed recipe)

2 ¼ Cups Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon water

2 eggs

12 ounces chocolate chips

 Instructions

  1. Combine sugars and margarine with handmixer
  2. Add vanilla and water then beat until creamy
  3. Beat in eggs
  4. Add flour mixture (all dry ingredients)
  5. Stir in chocolate chips
  6. Bake at 375* for 10-12 minutes

Make Them Healthier

Despite the fact that the original recipe tastes amazing, this reader’s question sparked a desire in me to develop a less-processed recipe. To make the cookies healthier, I thought I would:

  • Substitute natural/organic whole wheat flour for white, processed flour
  • Use organic butter (I did this originally)
  • Use farm-fresh eggs (I did this originally)
  • Use natural/organic, minimally processed chocolate chips
  • Find a substitute sweetener to replaced the processed sugar

Possible contenders for sugar substitutes included:

  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Pure maple sugar
  • Pure maple syrup

I decided not to use stevia because I frankly don’t care for the aftertaste it leaves. I don’t have any maple sugar and it’s a wee bit expensive, so I skipped on that one too. Because I have a plethora of both honey and pure (made by my father-in-law) maple syrup at home, I decided to use these as substitutes for the white and brown sugars, respectively. But then riiiight before I mixed the cookie dough I remembered that I’m also not a huge fan of the aftertaste honey sometimes leaves when baked so I decided to go all in with the maple syrup.

When I was planning to use honey I did some research on baking with honey and found the following common tips:

  • Substitute 2/3 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe
  • Reduce the amount of liquid (i.e. milk) by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used
  • Add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the recipe for every cup of honey used
  • Bake at about 25 degrees lower than called for to prevent over-browning

Maple syrup is obviously different than honey, but I decided to follow these guidelines all the same. They seem to have paid off, although you may be able to get away with just 1 teaspoon of baking soda. (Git it a try and let me know what you think.) With all that in mind, I put together the following recipe. Is it good? Yes!! Is it as delicious as the first recipe? Not so much. But if you’d like something sweet and are eager to eat minimally processed foods, they will be very satisfying. The sweetness of the cookies is very subtle while still readily satisfying that sweet-tooth desire for something sugary.

I used Semi-sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks from Enjoy Life Foods and I purchased them at Sawall Health Foods for $5.19 (10 ounces). They are dairy, nut and soy free, are certified gluten free and are also vegan. The mega chunks of chocolate contain no artificial colors, preservatives or additives. (And they’re delicious!)

Minimally Processed Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ organic whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic butter, slightly softened

1 ¼ cups real maple syrup

1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract

2 natural, homegrown eggs

10 oz natural or organic chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter
  2. Mix maple syrup, vanilla and eggs together on low speed
  3. Add liquids to butter and mix for about 1 minute on medium speed (be careful!) or until well blended
  4. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add dry ingredients to liquid and mix (with hand mixer) until smooth
  6. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Spoon cookies onto un-greased baking sheet and bake at 350* for 10-13 minutes

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract in jar

We do a lot of baking at our house. Because we don’t eat artificial food dye and are trying to avoid artificial everything-else, I recently purged all of the unnatural additives from my baking cupboard. I pitched things like neon food dye, regular food dye, artificial vanilla and a slew of other flavorings like “butter” and “root beer.” All that remained was some pure almond and pure peppermint extract.

If you like to bake as much as I do, you know that a touch of vanilla is an important ingredient in many different recipes. In some cases I was able to substitute the almond flavoring, but you know that’s just not the same. Lucky for me I made a neat little discovery about homemade vanilla extract around Christmas time. (I wanted to share this with you earlier but since I was giving homemade vanilla extract as a gift, I decided to wait.)

The recipe for homemade vanilla extract is below. I’ve baked now with the recommended recipe (2 beans) and my own “recipe”, which really is just double the vanilla beans. Last week I used my double-vanilla extract for the first time. I could not believe what a huge difference it made! These were seriously the best cookies I’ve ever made. Ever.

view of homemade vanilla extract in jar from top

When you look straight down into the jar, you can see all of the vanilla beans laying on the bottom. It looks like there are more than four, but that’s just because I cut them in half so that they would lay beneath the vodka in the jar.

closeup of homemade vanilla extract in glass jar

Looking from the side, the homemade vanilla extract is much darker than artificial vanilla flavoring I’ve used.

 

Vanilla beans can be expensive. For those of you who are in the Kalamazoo area, we purchased our vanilla beans from Sawall Health Food Store. Don’t let the price per pound scare you! I don’t know exactly what it is, but the price is somewhere around $150/pound! I bought four tiny, practically weightless little beans for somewhere between $1 and $2. Vodka can range in price from $10/bottle to $60/bottle. In theory, the higher the quality of your vodka is, the higher your vanilla extract quality will be. We used a $20 bottle and I’m very pleased with the result.

Making your own vanilla extract is super easy!

Click here for the recipe!

 
 

What is Sustainable Living?

In January of this year I wrote Our Story and mentioned that I would eventually share with you why we believe a micro-farm provides health (sustainability) not only for our family but also for the community. Since that time, I’ve used the term sustainable living several times. Now that the main growing season is over and my focus is turning to more of the non-gardening aspects of the farm, this seems like a good time to share those thoughts with you.  [Read More]
 
 
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