Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poem to Joel Salatin

What did you do with
Sweet spare moments
Before the Internet?
Joel, he avoids the Web like the plague.
He works hard on his farm and
between chores
sits on a bale of hay
surveying his green fields
watching the calves at play
pondering his next task or
sometimes, when his eyes follow the long fence line to the horizon,
he considers original ecological regeneration
the beauty of sustainability and
the glory of God.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eggs: The Delicious, Nutritious Perfect Protein

The chickens are making a racket out there this morning. Not only is the rooster crowing, but all the hens are cackling. What do chickens have to cackle about at 5:30 a.m?

Seventy chickens can make a lot of noise. They also lay a lot of eggs, and here on 2 Pond Farm, we’ve been eating them (and selling them).

With fresh asparagus to harvest every day, I’ve taken to making quiches. For the onion flavor, I clip tufts of onion grass in the yard, rinse it thoroughly, and snip bits in with the sliced asparagus. Paired with a salad of fresh greens, quiche makes a wonderful spring meal.

One night for dinner I used snow peas from the garden in a pea salad. You know the type, with hard-boiled eggs, onions, celery and mayonnaise? I served that over a bed of garden greens. And that was our meal. So good, and most of it from our property.

For breakfast a few Sundays ago I made Strawberry Brunch Soufflé. The strawberries were starting to accumulate and, yes, I could have frozen them, but I preferred to eat them. Something there is about eating in season. Anyway, I’d never made a soufflé before. Even with substituting some of the white flour with wheat flour, it rose splendidly. Spread some sliced, slightly sweetened strawberries over the top and serve with a dollop of yogurt.

But don’t eggs raise your cholesterol? That outdated scare continues to prevent many people from enjoying what many experts call the “perfect protein.”

According to the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, yolks contain most of the nutrients of eggs. The yolk contains 100 percent of the carotenoids, essential fatty acids, vitamins A, E, D, and K. The white does not contain 100 percent of any nutrient.

The yolk contains more than 90 percent of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12, and 89 percent of the pantothenic acid. The white does not contain more than 90% of any nutrient, but contains over 80 percent of the magnesium, sodium, and niacin.

The yolk contains between 50 percent and 80 percent of the copper, manganese, and selenium, while the white contains between 50 percent and 80 percent of the potassium, riboflavin, and protein.

So eggs — whole eggs — pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Eggs can also help with weight loss, writes Margaret Furtado, a dietitian with John Hopkins Medicine.

“Eggs also help you feel full, because your body produces a hormone called PYY when you eat high-protein foods,” writes Furtado in a recent YahooHealth article. “PYY tells your brain you’re no longer hungry, so if you’re trying to lose some pounds, opting for a high-protein snack like a boiled egg can really help you feel full (and it’s only 75 calories).”

Furtado says she prefers organic eggs high in omega 3 fatty acids (the healthy fats), from chickens raised without hormones or chemicals. Omega 3s are good for your heart.

We like to keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for quick high-protein snacking. On mornings when I have no time to cook breakfast, I often grab one or two hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit. The fruit is a nice counter-flavor to the egg, complements the nutrition, and cleans the egg from your teeth and gums.

The husband’s favorite egg dish to cook is egg foo young. It also contains lots of vegetables, including bean sprouts, onions, celery and peas. With a bit of rice (I eat brown, he eats white), it’s a meal in itself.

The husband found a video online where this “drunken chef” demonstrates how to make the dish. The husband says I shouldn’t watch the video because the drunken chef’s language and manner are pretty crude. But the chef must know his stuff, because the husband’s egg foo young comes out perfect every time.

The problem is, every time he makes it, he has to watch the video first. Does he truly forget how? Or does he just like watching the video?

I have several egg cookbooks, which contain many main-meal ideas, variations on deviled eggs and lots of desserts.

Lately, my source for recipes has been the “Simply in Season” cookbook. That’s where I got my quiche and soufflé recipes. It’s divided by the seasons. So just flip to the Spring chapter, and you’ll find recipes for greens, asparagus, strawberries, peas … all those first-of-the-season foods.

Well, the chickens have finally quieted down. Bon appétit!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chocolate: It's Good For You!

Yesterday, a friend pulled out a small colorful bag from his pantry and offered me the foil-wrapped contents. Of course I took one. It was chocolate. Dark chocolate.

We’d been filming all afternoon at his place, a project for work. It had gone really well. Still, it was hot because we turned off the noise of the air conditioner. Plus it was late afternoon, the time of day when I feel weary and irritable.

As the chocolate melted in my mouth, pleasure took over. The tension tangibly fled, replaced by a sense of happiness. He offered me another but there was no need. One was enough.

Dark chocolate is good for you.

Research continues to uncover chocolate’s many benefits. As an antioxidant, its polyphenols help to prevent heart disease by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol so it cannot stick to artery walls. The polyphenols also reduce the clumping of platelets, making chocolate a weapon against arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. It also helps prevent clotting, which leads to heart attacks or strokes. It acts as a blood thinner much the same way a baby aspirin does.

Chocolate reduces blood pressure in people with “mild hypertension,” research shows. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney failure or dementia, among other things.

No wonder Dr. Agatson, the cardiologist who created the South Beach diet, encourages dieters to have a bit of dark chocolate a few times a week.

In the case of chocolate, more is not better. It contains fat in the form of cocoa butter and, of course, sugar. Eating too much will make you fat. It doesn’t take much chocolate to gain its health benefits. Just half an ounce per day, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Make that dark chocolate, by the way. Milk chocolate adds more fat and sugar and contains less polyphenols and other good properties. It can actually raise your blood cholesterol and contribute to acne.

Chocolate contains mood-enhancing substances, too. One is phenethylamine, which triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins and potentates the action of dopamine, a neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure, writes John Robbins in a Huffington Post article. Phenethylamine is released in the brain when people become infatuated or fall in love.

Another is anandamide (from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which means peaceful bliss), which is naturally produced in the brain, so it has to be good, right? Turns out it binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as cannabinoids—the psychoactive constituents in marijuana—and produces feelings of elation and exhilaration.

Chocolate also raises serotonin levels in the brain. People with depression have less serotonin. Medications to treat depression, like Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, work by raising serotonin levels.

So that’s why that piece of chocolate made me feel better.

To make the pleasure of eating chocolate last longer, I learned from my daughter to let it melt in my mouth over a few minutes. She claims that, in an experiment once, she made a piece of chocolate last for 20 minutes.

As it melts in my mouth, I like to experience the dark chocolate in different areas, letting it coat the top of my tongue, then sliding it beneath my tongue, along my gums and all inside my cheeks. In this way, I experience many of chocolate’s variations in flavor. I wonder, too, if it gets absorbed quickly into the bloodstream this way, thus explaining its immediate effects on my mood.

I buy organic, fair trade chocolate. Eating organically grown chocolate assures me of its total health benefits. It has no toxic effects from chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Why fair trade?
•More than 15,000 child slaves work on cacao farms in west Africa.
•Cacao farming has stripped the world of hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest.
•Though the U.S. spends $13 billion a year on cocoa products, many cacao farmers are impoverished.

Buying fairly traded chocolate assures me that my momentary pleasure is not causing harm, even if it is on the other side of the world. As I let that chocolate melt in my mouth, I have no regrets, no twinge of conscience.

Mmmmm. And that makes it taste that much better.