Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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How to Make Homemade Butter

wpid CAM03139 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

When we first learned about the benefits of raw milk (and the harm of pasteurized milk from non-A2 cows) we decided it was worth switching to healthier dairy products. Buying a herd share was a no-brainer first step. Our herd share enables us to obtain raw milk from the cow we lease and yogurt and cheese made from her milk. We’re not big milk drinkers so keeping our consumption (both for straight drinking and baking) to 1 gallon a week works fine for us. Unfortunately we’re not able to purchase pre-made butter at the same time.

That’s too bad because though we don’t drink much milk, we do use a lot of butter. A lot. I seriously considered purchasing a second herd share just to have a enough cream for butter making. Unfortunately that’s not in the budget at this time. So instead, I’ve been making a habit of skimming the cream off our weekly gallon of milk and freezing it. I skimmed the milk by pouring it out of a gallon milk jug and into a gallon container with a wide mouth and lid. After a day or so the cream rises to the top and easy to scoop off. (You can see the cream line in the picture below).

wpid PicsArt 1395688899006 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

After four weeks of skimming I ended up with about 7 cups of cream. These jars look very full, and they are, because of course the cream expands as it freezes. I want to be sure to say that I only filled them about ¾ full before placing them in the freezer. Filling them to the top would cause them to burst.

wpid CYMERA 20140324 135231 How to Make Homemade Butter

After collecting to jars’ worth of cream, I decided it was time for my maiden voyage into butter-making.

First I put the frozen jars into the fridge (on the bottom shelf because it is the warmest place in my refrigerator). I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it took the cream to thaw, but it was somewhere between one-and-a-half and two days.  With thawed cream on hand, I was ready to begin.

How to Make Butter from Scratch

These are the tools and ingredients I used:

  • 3.5 cups of cream (approximate)
  • A blender or food processor
  • 1 cup of ice water
  • A strainer
  • A medium to large sized bowl
  • A spatula
  • Paper towel or a cheesecloth
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Bakers twine
  • Salt (optional)
For instructions and pictures, please visit our website by clicking here.
 
 

Green Eggs & Ham Popovers Recipe

dye free green eggs and ham popover recipe

St. Patrick’s Day is one week away. And earlier this month some of us celebrated the birthday of children’s author Dr. Seuss. To celebrate both I’ve created a green eggs and ham pop-over recipe that’s family friendly and dye-free. Our kids loved them! Consider adding these tasty green egg pastries to a St. Paddy’s day brunch or even dinner.

You could eat them here… or there… or anywhere!

Click here for the recipe!

dye free green eggs and ham popover recipe

st. patrick's day recipe

Here’s our spinach-only version!

 
 

Carrot Butter Recipe

carrot butter recipe

Earlier this winter I made crock-pot apple butter. We’ve used it on toast and to sweeten our plain yogurt. Our foster-daughter seems to especially like it this way (in yogurt). Since she’s a bit of a picky eater when it comes to vegetables, I’ve had to find some creative ways to sneak them into her food. One day while slipping some pureed carrots into her bowl of apple-butter-and-yogurt I had an epiphany moment: What if I made vegetable butter?

I considered several veggies: Turnips, sweet potatoes, parsnips. At the end of the day I decided to start by experimenting with carrots. The result is good. The recipe below calls for apple juice or cider at two different stages of the process. I personally used apple cider vinegar during the second stage. Because of this, the carrot butter turned out a wee-bit tart (only a wee-bit!). I still like it – and I think it’s heavenly in yogurt – but I would  probably enjoy it more with bread and butter if I had used juice instead of vinegar.

At any rate, here is the recipe for carrot butter. Even as I type this I’m working on a crock-pot version of parsnip butter (or rather, the crock pot is working on it!). I can’t wait to share the results with you soon!

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

Click here for the recipe and more photos!
 
 

Love Potion #10 Tea

diy valentine tea

Ok. Not really. It’s not a potion. No magic here. Just a yummy cup of tea that happens to be full of herbs known for their aphrodisiac qualities. It’s a sweet and simple handmade gift your tea lover will love on Valentine’s Day. If you’re an herb connoisseur you probably have everything you need on hand already. Otherwise, a quick run to the health food or grocery store will provide what you need, including:

  • Round Coffee Filters
  • Bakers Twine
  • Stapler and Staples
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Rose Petals
  • Lavender
  • Oat Straw
  • Whole Cloves
  • Lindon
  • Ginseng

First, create the tea mixture in a small bowl by stirring together all of the dried herbs. The mixture makes 3-4 tea bags. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 tsp Stinging Nettle
  • 3 tsp Rose Petals
  • 1 tsp Oat Straw
  • 1 tsp Whole Cloves
  • 1.5 tsp Lavender
  • Pinch Ginseng
  • Pinch Lindon

diy valentine day tea

 

Click here for the complete tutorial and more photos!


 
 

Muhammara Recipe

wpid CAM01752 300x222 Muhammara Recipe

Once upon a time I followed a very strict Candida diet and experience several great health benefits including weight loss and increased energy. The benefits for me outweighed the costs, namely food I had to give up. In fact those benefits are so great that I’m looking to realign the food I eat with the diet again. Unfortunately one of the items that doesn’t align well (ok, at all) with the Candida diet is traditional hummus (because it is made of beans which are a no-no).

Huge bummer, because I really like hummus. (Really!). As much as I like it, I like having energy a lot more so I started searching for a suitable substitute. I’m pretty pleased with what I found: Muhammara. It’s a delicious red pepper dip originating from Syria that, while I can’t say is a perfect substitute for hummus, is still super yummy and satisfies my need to snack. The recipe I found was good as-is, but it was missing something. To get it just right, I made some adjustments and now I especially like it (and so does Ryan)! Here’s my new-and-improved slightly altered recipe for Muhammara.

Click here for the recipe.

 
 

Crock Pot Apple Butter

red delicious apples

Last month our partner in Arcadia Growers Group gifted us with some fresh, pesticide-free produce. One of the items was a half bushel of red delicious apples. Per their name, they are delicious! But… they’re not very pretty. Pesticide-free means I choose to trade a perfect-looking apple for a perfectly edible apple that might look a little less than appetizing. (They look 10 times better in this photo than in real life!) They polish up decently but with a few soft spots here and there they really needed to be peeled before eating.

I’m not complaining at all – they were worth the 60 seconds needed to peel! But, if I’m being honest, apples are usually a grab-and-go snack at our house so even just the 60 seconds of peeling was enough to keep us from eating them as quickly as we normally would. Besides that, there were so many that I knew I’d need to process some of them before the entire batch went to waste. The problem is, red delicious apples aren’t exactly known for their cooking and baking qualities. Fresh eating? Yes. Baking and cooking? Not so much.

I asked our readers on Facebook what they thought I should do with our apple gift. The best suggestions were making apple chips and making apple butter. Honestly, I wanted to try both (and certainly had enough apples for that) but with the Thanksgiving holiday and simple busyness abounding in our lives lately, the apples sat a smidge too long. They started to get a smidge soft. And making apple chips started to sound a smidge unrealistic.

But… soft apples are right at home in apple butter.

canning apple butter

 

I’ve never made apple butter before. After looking up several recipes, using the crock pot seemed to be the most fool-proof way to go. I found lots of recipes online, many of them with essentially the same ingredients but with slightly different amounts and cooking times. I used all of those recipes as a guide to make my own.

The process takes about 12 hours, mostly hands-free. I realize not everyone has as flexible a schedule as I do. This might be a great Saturday project. Otherwise, you could cut and gather the ingredients the night before, start the process in the morning (7:30 AM) reduce the heat on your way out the door (8:30 AM) and be home in time to add the vanilla bean (5:30 PM). After dinner you’ll be ready to puree and process your apple butter (7:30 PM). The jars will be cool and ready to enjoy for breakfast the next morning!

canning apple butter

canning apple butter

Crock Pot Apple Butter Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • 6 lbs (8-10) Apples [Note: I ended up using 12]
  • 3/4 Cup Granulatd Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into small pieces.
  2. Add everything but the vanilla bean to the crock pot. Stir.
  3. Cook on high for 1 hour.
  4. Stir the mixture again. When replacing the lid, move it partially so that it remains slightly open. Cook on low for 9 additional hours.
  5. Slice the vanilla bean down the middle with sharp edge of a knife. Then run the flat edge of the knife down the length of the bean to push out the inside. After 10 hours of cooking, add the vanilla bean and simmer mixture on low for another 2 hours (12 hours total).
  6. Remove the vanilla bean. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. (You could also use a blender/food processor and puree the mixture in batches. Be careful not to slosh hot apple butter onto yourself!)
  7. Ladle hot mixture into sterilized jars. Leave a ¼ inch of headspace. Use a butter knife to press along the inside edges of the jars in order to remove air bubbles. Securely add sterilized lids and bands.
  8. Process jars for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Remove jars and set them on a towel or wire rack to cool. Allow jars to cool completely before handling. (If you don’t want to can your apple butter, you can store the jars in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freezer-appropriate containers of apple butter can remain in the freezer for two months.)

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

 
 

Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallow recipe

One of the icons of summer is a backyard campfire. And that icon conjures up images of another summer must-have: S’mores.

This year, I decided to try to make all the ingredients needed for homemade s’mores. Crazy, I know…

To get things started, I created marshmallows. I’ll be honest… I’m not personally a very big fan of marshmallows. (I am, however, a big fan of fire, so I’m obliged to eat each one that I burn in the backyard.) The thing about marshmallows is that they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup AND often contain artificial blue dye. (Seriously…) These factors make them a big no-no in our household and we eat them rarely. (See confessions above…)

Our homemade marshmallows are made with honey instead of corn syrup. I think they taste just like the store-bought version and Owen loves them. We’ve yet to try roasting them, but mostly that’s because I haven’t finished making chocolate and graham crackers yet. Can’t wait to share those adventures with you!

Meanwhile, click here for the video that inspired my marshmallow creation. They were pretty easy to make. FYI, I used cornstarch to dry mine. Next time, I think I’ll use powdered sugar. Also, they barely dried. And lastly, mine are a lot lumpier on the top than the pretty pieces you’re about to see. But they still taste good!

For a printable recipe, click here.

 
 

Making Strawberry Jam for Dummies

how to make strawberry jam

Why can’t my life be simple?

Let me preface this post by saying that, when all was said and done, I ended up with delicious, beautiful, properly-thick strawberry jam. If you’re here looking simply for instructions on how to do the same – without the ‘dummy’ narrative surrounding the process – you’ll want to scroll to the end of this post. Look for the heading that says Strawberry Jam Recipe. If you’d like to learn a little about what not to do whilst making jam, read on…

Jam Making for Dummies

We had a lot going on Monday night so I wasn’t able to make jam as planned. No worries – I decided I’d go to bed early, wake up early and get crackin’ on jam right away Tuesday. And that’s just what I did – got up early, put away some laundry and filled up the canner all before 7:00 AM. Still in my jammies, I started smashing berries and going over recipes.

Berries smashed – check!

Lemon juice added – check!

Canner rolling – check!

Jars sterilizing in the oven – check!

Pectin added to berry mixture – cheee… uh… wait…

My recipe calls for tablespoons but my box of pectin tells me ounces. Do I have enough? Surely Google will know. After quickly pulling up Google’s conversion calculator and entering the pertinent numbers, I determine that I’m short on pectin. By half. Crap.

I scour the cabinets. No more pectin. I text a neighbor (who is probably thinking “Who wants pectin at 8:30 in the morning??). I think about the dreaded amount of time I’ll spend driving to the store and back if I leave now. Then I remember that I’m wearing my pajamas… and I’d have to put on real clothes and possibly bathe myself before going into public… and that seals it: I’m gonna have to wing this.

Winging It

Thank God for Google (kind of… more on that in a minute). I started searching for pectin alternatives… there are several out there, but keep in mind I’m a jam novice so some of these “just use green fruit” (which I don’t have) or “just add cranberries” (which I do happen to have but are you kidding me?) options just aren’t going to cut it. In the end, I settled on two possibilities:

  1. Cornstarch and a little sugar.
  2. Boiled down orange peels.

Cornstarch and “a little sugar” sounds like a pretty safe, almost-like-my-packet-of-powdered-pectin option. Buuutttt… then I see all these warnings about “it burns” in your recipe and also I’m trying to make jam that leans more towards natural than unnatural and who knows what’s really in my cornstarch. And how much is “a little sugar” anyway?… no one in the cyberworld seems to know.

On the flip side, we don’t eat oranges. Ever… except (!!) many months ago when they were on such super-duper sale that I bought some… and I saved the orange peels in the freezer with plans to make orange extract out of them (because, we never eat oranges and I thought having extract around would be handy for natural flavoring). In all of my Google-please-help-me searching I ran across an experienced cook’s shot in the dark at how you could get usable pectin out of orange peels. Sounds natural enough – why not?

boiling orange peels for pectin

So…

Split strawberry mixture into to two covered bowl and place them in the fridge – check!

Turn off the burner under the roaring canner – check!

Look with disdain on my 1.75 ounce bag of pectin – check!

Start boiling orange peels – check!

Put on a bra and take a shower – pshaw!

Getting Pectin from Orange Peels

So for those of you who are as new to jam making as me, you might be wondering what this magical pectin stuff even is. According to our buddies at Wikipedia, pectin is:

“a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot. It is produced commercially as a white to light brown powder, mainly extracted from citrus fruits, and is used in food as a gelling agent particularly in jams and jellies. It is also used in fillings, medicines, sweets, as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks, and as a source of dietary fiber.”

In short, it helps your jams and jellies to thicken rather than being a runny mess. The recipe I found for extracting pectin from orange peels looked pretty much like this:

  • Peels from 2-3 oranges (frozen in my case)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce mixture by half (20 minutes). Remove peels. Reduce by half again. Cool in fridge… add to strawberry mixture.

So that’s just what I did. And here’s what I ended up with:

Orange Peel Pectin

Here’s hoping there’s a whole heapin’ mess of pectin in this boiled-down-orange-peel water.

Making Strawberry Jam (Finally)

What if the pectin-from-orange-peels doesn’t work? I decided not to take the chance of ruining ALL of my strawberry jam so I set out to make two separate batches – one with store bought pectin and one with orange peels pectin.

And that’s when it happened.

I opened up the pectin packet to measure out the 3 tablespoons of pectin needed for half of my strawberry jam recipe… and oddly enough, there was some left over. And oddly enough, the leftovers measured out to 3 tablespoons. Now it’s been a while since I’ve had an arithmetic test, but according to my math, 3 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons = 6 tablespoons, which is the amount needed to do the WHOLE recipe. 6 tablespoons… right there… in the little 1.75 ounce pouch I’d been looking upon with scorn all morning. Everything I needed… right there… the whole time.

Fie on you, Google conversion chart, for telling me that 1.75 ounces is only 3.5 Tablespoons!

At this point, I’m sure the sensible thing to do would have been to just mix everything back together, make the jam as designed and get on with my life. But after all the effort I’ve invested into this orange-peel-pectin thing, I’m all in now! When am I going to have (or rather, take) another opportunity to see if this works?

So with the berry mixture in two separate sauce pans, I begin boiling. The recipe says “Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.”  And that’s just what I did. The only problem is, in my haste to do two separate batches (Why did I feel the need to do both at the same time?) I unwittingly placed the orange-peel mixture into a too-small saucepan. A too-small saucepan now sporting a strawberry goo in a “rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.” It can, however, explode over the side and onto the burner. Also, because of its high sugar content, it can quickly catch on fire. But it cannot be stirred down… just so we have that part straight…

Fortunately after catching fire, it can be extinguished.

Me: Owen – pause that game, I need you to come here quickly!

Owen: Do I have to?

Me: Yes!

Owen: *Owen appears* What?

Me: Open the door and the window so the smoke can get out…

Owen opens both…

Me: Now come and stir this for me so I can catch up on the other one. I don’t want them to burn.

Owen begins stirring… two seconds later

Owen: Do I have to do this?

Me: Yes.

Owen: Mom – it’s burning me alive.

Me. No it’s not.

Owen: Yes, it is.

Me: Just keep stirring…

Owen: *singing* Just keep stirring, Just keep stirring… much like this…

 

Once everything was under control and Owen was no longer singing while burning alive, I observed that, alas, the orange-peel pectin mix was not thickening. My guess is that if I let it boil a while longer, it would eventually. However 1) I didn’t want to lose all of the goo that would evaporate to make that happen and 2) I was a little afraid of what might happen next if I kept going! So, I abandonded the experiment, added about 1.5 tablespoons of pectin and moved on.

The end result? Six hard-won jars of appropriately thick strawberry jam! And also a disastrous kitchen mess…

how to make strawberry jam

Victoriously secured in the face of both flame and mental anguish (even if they were self-inflicted obstacles…)

Strawberry Jam Recipe

What to make your own? Here’s the recipe (adapted from this one).

Ingredients

  • 5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 (8 oz) half pint glass canning jars with lids and bands

Instructions

  1. Fill boiling water canner and heat to boil water.
  2. Sterilize jars in the oven (225* for at least 10 minutes) or heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
  3. Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Add all of the sugar at once, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  5. Scoop hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim clean and place the lid and band on tight.
  6. Process jars a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
 
 

Sourdough Bread for Gluten Intolerance?

SAMSUNG

Last week I shared that I brought home two large boxes of frozen grass-fed beef only to find that our second freezer wasn’t working. Our best guess – thanks to input from a friend and reader – is that the garage freezer stopped working because it is attached to a refrigerator which also stops working when the temperature outside is colder than the temperature inside the appliance. We expect it to start working again once the weather warms up. I wasn’t about to let hundreds of dollars of meat go to waste so I got busy clearing space in the kitchen freezer. (Our neighbor graciously offered to store half of the beef.)

My kitchen adventures that day included dehydrating veggies, toasting hot dog buns into breadcrumbs and stumbling upon a sourdough starter lingering in the back of the fridge. The starter had been there since September… obviously I forgot about it. No worries though – the flavor of sourdough just gets better with age.

Click here to read the rest of this article, including info on:

 
 

Garden Apps Wish List

Wish List Wednesday | Garden Apps (from seed to table!)

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing organic or sustainable about apps for your mobile device. At first glance it may seem a little off-center that a website about living sustainably is featuring a Wish List of Android and iPhone apps, but please, hold the phone! Our take on sustainable living is a wee bit different than you might expect. In this recent post about the topic of sustainable living I mentioned that “the beauty of sustainable living is that we can (responsibly) enjoy the comforts of modern resources without worry for what we’ll do if or when they’re gone. Living sustainably does not mean utterly forsaking modern resources, but it does mean that we have a plan for living well should we need to live without them.”

So in the spirit of smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, I give you this month’s Wish List Wednesday! There’s a whole world of nifty apps out there just waiting for you to discover them! Check out these neat programs that can be accessed from your mobile device and can make garden planning, planting, watering, harvesting, local eating, cooking and recordkeeping one step easier.

Square Foot Gardening Spacing

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing Cheat Sheet. Its written to be easy to read from your mobile device so you can check it on your phone while you’re in the garden. {Arcadia Farms}

 

Gardening Toolkit
The Gardening Toolkit – The app that loves to grow! Organize your plants in multiple gardens. Advice on what to grow and when to grow it. Data and photos for 1000 plants and vegetables.

 

Gardenate
The garden calendar shows the vegetables and herbs you can plant every month. A detailed guide to growing the most popular garden vegetables, with local planting information for the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

 

Green Drop
Green Drop is a full featured garden/plant manager. – Organize your plants into gardens with locations – Monitor and get reminders when plants need water, food, or are ready for harvest. – Keep notes on your plants. – Manually adjust watering, feeding, and harvest dates if needed. – Keep a gallery of pictures of each plant with notes and date picture was taken (to track growth).

 

Herbs+
Herbs+ gives you images and information on the most popular herbs in an elegant, fun-to-use application. Each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and a crisp image to help you identify the herb.

 

Bugs in the Garden
Quickly ID common North American insects in your vegetable garden. Includes realistic illustrations and photos of both adults and larva (caterpillars and grubs). Gives basic advice on management and damage assessment. If you have seen while gardening: * Beetles * Moths * Aphids * Caterpillars * Grubs This app will help identify them. 33 pictures of 23 bugs all on one page to swiftly pinpoint the bugs in your garden.

 

Mother Earth News
The new MOTHER EARTH NEWS app acts as a virtual library of our electronic resources, conveniently bringing them all together in one handy tool. You can browse through our resources and download those that most interest you. Our How to Can and Food Garden Guide tools, previously available only as separate apps, are offered for free within the MOTHER EARTH NEWS app and together will guide you through growing a great organic garden and preserving your fresh harvests.

 

Garden  Guide (Mother Earth News)
The Food Gardening Guide from Mother Earth News is a one-stop gardening app from America’s leading magazine on organic gardening. The app provides expert advice on Crops and Techniques, plus a Resources section to find even more helpful information. Shown with beautiful illustrations, the Crops section includes planting and harvesting instructions along with recommended varieties, pest control advice and extra tips to improve your garden’s yields.

 

How to Can (Mother Earth News)
This app explains how to can fresh produce using both water bath and pressure canners. Complete basic instructions plus timing details for over 20 crops make this free app a must-have for anyone who cans or wants to learn how to can. Incorporates advice from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ball brand home canning products company. The Basics section will fully equip even the most novice of canners with all the information needed to get started.

 

Harvest Plan
Harvest Plan is a neat little application for your mobile device that lets you keep tabs on your garden. With a library of more than 200 popular plants at the start, harvest plan will keep you abreast of what’s where and when it’s going to be ready. Keep track of plantings, losses, and yields – even attach a picture of your plants to the entry. When it’s time to check on your plants, Harvest Plan will post a notification to your device’s notification panel so you won’t miss it.

 

Taste of Home Recipe App
Taste of Home’s recipe app brings provides tons of recipes featuring the season’s freshest flavors right to your phone. Each season brings a new collection of recipes for fresh fruits and veggies. Recipes have photos. Allows you to browse by course, cooking style, cuisine, ingredients or holidays. My favorite part: You can find which locally-grown ingredients are available in your state this season—just choose your location, browse the ingredients, and find hundreds of recipes!

 

AmpleHarvest
While America has more than 50 million people who are hungry or are at real risk of being hungry (“food insecure people”), more than 40 million Americans grow food in home gardens – often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you deliberately planted an extra row of food or just harvested more zucchini (or any other fruit, vegetables, herbs or nuts) than you can possibly use, AmpleHarvest.

 

Honorable Mentions

Fooducate
Don’t Diet – Eat Healthy with Fooducate! Featured App on Android Market Dec 2011. Scan and choose healthy groceries. Over 200,000 unique UPCs! As featured in Oprah’s O Magazine, USAToday, NYTimes, WSJ, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and on ABC, FOX, NBC and more… Instead of trying to decode nutrition facts labels and ingredient lists… …use your Android phone to: ? Automatically scan a product barcode ? See product highlights (both good & bad) ? Select better alternatives

 

Locavore
LOCAVORE: It’s your seasonal, local food network. Locavore makes searching & sharing in-season, local food a breeze by mapping farms and farmers’ markets, and what is in season based off your location. Features: 1 – Share photos about local, in season food & sellers 2 – Locate farms and farmers’ markets near you 3 – Browse what’s in-season and soon to come 4 – Find who is selling it and where 5 – Get details about your local farmers’ market 6 – Post what you ate locally to Facebook

 
 

Dye from Natural Causes

Straining natural blue dye through coffee filter

I heart food (and my belly shows it!). I hate food dye (and my baking shows it!).

Well, I don’t hate food dye – I hate artificial food dye. My distaste for Red 40 and other unnatural food colorings began when our son started having major issues with hyperactivity, attention deficit and unexplainable mood swings. His school was convinced he had A.D.D., needed to see a doctor and should be on medication. We were convinced that he was an energetic BOY with a very creative imagination… but agreed that he did have trouble following directions, often for no explainable reason because he knew what he should be doing and all signs pointed to the fact that he wanted to obey. While I concede that medication is a good choice in some situations, we much prefer to look for natural answers to issues before jumping for pills.

So we started doing some research… it didn’t take long before we discovered the link between artificial food dye/coloring and health problems in children, especially hyperactivity. Attention deficit and extreme mood swings were also in the list of symptoms.

According to www.cspinet.org “the three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens [cancer causing substances], says CSPI. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.”

We did an experiment – no artificial dye for the little guy for as long as possible and then we’d see what happened. What did we see? Several things! First, his ability to follow directions, pay attention and control himself was markedly improved after we cut artificial dye in his diet. Second, when he did eat artificial dye – even a relatively small amount – we could see a spike in problem behaviors. And lastly, we saw that artificial dyes are (expressly and sometimes covertly) in a significant number of things that simply don’t need coloring! (Marshmallows have blue dye, some ‘fresh’ tomatoes have red dye on them, meat sometimes has red dye to make it look fresh, etc.)

Angry Grocery Shopping

We quickly discovered how difficult it is to feed kids without giving them artificial color. I had recently become a label reader because of my concern and curiosity about what’s in the ‘food’ we eat. Now I do it religiously. Grocery shopping takes longer. It drives home the point for me of how important it is to produce the food my family eats. And to be honest, grocery shopping has evolved into a task that makes me angry. I love capitalism like most people love the Beatles (seriously) but I just can’t fathom how people working for corporations who put these chemical-ridden, processed health hazards with pictures of dinosaurs and princesses onto grocery shelves can sleep at night! It makes me mad that I have to scour the label to make sure I’m not poisoning my family – and that even after reading I can’t be 100% sure I know what’s in there. (Have you ever read the ingredients list for lunch meat? Yeah, I said ‘list’, as in five or six things other than just ‘turkey’.) Grrr…

Happy Frosting

Cupcake with red raspberry dyed frosting

This pink frosting is made using dye from red raspberries.

So there. Every two weeks when I go to the grocery store I get a little hot under the collar. But let’s move on to something a little more sunshiney-puppies-kittens-balloons-and-smiles-ish, shall we? I like to cook and bake so I haven’t minded that whenever Owen is invited to a birthday party, I have to bake some dye-free cupcakes for him to take along. (He doesn’t mind either – he’d rather eat a separate cake than deal with the affects of artificial dye on his behavior!) So far I’ve had a chance to experiment with different homemade cake mixes and frostings. (We especially like this frosting recipe – I substituted almond extract for the vanilla and it was delicious! We’ve had it with and without cocoa.) Once we used the chocolate frosting, otherwise it has been plain old white. Owen doesn’t seem to mind, but I think we would both enjoy a little color.

Owen was invited to a birthday party today, so today I whipped up some butter cream frosting along with natural food dye – red, purple, blue, and orange! Hooray!

Wouldn’t you like to try baking with natural food dyes? Not only are you avoiding chemical health risks, you’re also adding a teeny bit of nutritional value to what would otherwise be a delicious lump of creamy sugar! Scroll down for recipes and my thoughts on how they taste.

How to Store Natural Food Dye

But one quick note before we get to the recipes: Those tiny squeeze bottles of artificial dye sitting among your baking supplies don’t spoil or go bad. {Selah} Natural food dye won’t last a decade like the fake stuff. You’ll need to store it in the fridge in a sealed container (mason jar with a tightly closed lid?). I can’t say for sure how long it will last, but one article I read said it will go bad after two weeks. Signs that the coloring has gone bad are an odd odor or mold spores. If you want to refresh the coloring after one week has gone by, try bringing it to a boil for 30 seconds which would kill any mold spores but will likely deteriorate the color. Consider this your excuse to bake more sweets so you can use it all up in the two week window!

Another idea: Freeze the coloring in ice cube trays for on-demand, small quantities of color at a later time!

Pale purple forsting on cupcake

This pale purple frosting is made using dye from a red cabbage.

Natural Food Dye Recipes and Reviews

When using natural food dyes, substitute the dye for liquids used in your recipe. I’m currently working on developing some concentrated dye that can be used more like conventional dye and that is preserved with ascorbic acid or vodka for long-keeping. I’ll update you when I have those experiments figured out!

Natural Dye Recipe

2 cups chopped fruit or vegetables

1 cup of water (approximate)

* Add chopped fruit/vegetables to small saucepan

* Simmer on medium heat until desired color and consistency is reached

* Once fruit/vegetable is soft, mash with fork or potato masher to expel more color

* Strain mixture through coffee filter or cheesecloth into a glass container

* Clean saucepan; return strained juice to saucepan and boil down to further concentrate color

* Allow dye to cool before using

RED – RASPBERRIES

Taste: There’s definitely a raspberry taste to the frosting when using this dye. I’ve read that beets are the way to go when you want red dye with very minimal taste. However at the time of writing this post I decided to use only things I had on hand, including frozen raspberries. Perhaps I’ll go dig up some beets for a follow-up post.

PURPLE  – RED CABBAGE

Taste: No cabbage taste but there is a cabbage smell to the dye all by itself

BLUE – RED CABBAGE

* Follow same instructions but add small amounts of baking soda to the dye as it cools to obtain the desired color.

Taste: No cabbage taste but there is a cabbage smell to the dye all by itself

ORANGE – CARROTS

Taste: No carrot taste

GREEN – SPINACH

Haven’t had a chance to try this yet!

 
 

Eat Healthy. Save Money. {Homemade Crackers}

One of the major reasons why we started Arcadia Farms was to learn to eat healthy, live sustainably and to be producers instead of consumers only. In October I announced that I would start focusing part of my attention on “homesteading” topics, including how to create your own {fill in the blank here}, save money, save energy and generally provide for yourself. After some trial and error, here's the recipe I came up with for making 100 tasty crackers for $1.32.  [Read More]
 
 
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