Friday, December 16, 2011

Organic Pastures released from quarantine!

This is where my milk comes from.

Just thought I'd share the good news.

From the Organic Pastures Dairy Company website:

"December 16, 2011, Fresno, CAOPDC Raw Milk Product tests prove Negative For E.Coli 0157-H7

After a month long quarantine and investigation, Organic Pastures Dairy has been cleared for release of quarantine.  Hundreds of product and facility environmental samples were taken and all test results showed NEGATIVE for E. Coli 0157-H7 and were found pathogen free.

OPDC was advised today that the last pending CDFA test came back NEGATIVE."

Sadly, I read on the OPDC Facebook page that this month-long recall has cost the company over $500,000.  Hopefully high sales for the rest of the year will help them recoup some of that.  I can't wait to pick up my 3 gallons of raw milk and 5 pounds of raw cheese that I ordered!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Raw milk recall

I quit drinking milk when I was a small child.  I couldn't stand the taste of it anymore for some reason.  I tried several times to force myself to drink it because I knew I needed the calcium, but I just couldn't stomach it.  So for over 20 years of my life, my dairy consumption has been limited to cheese, ice cream, and other more palatable versions of milk products in limited amounts.  After I had my real food revelation, I began seeing things on the blogs I was reading about raw, organic milk from grass-fed cows.  After doing extensive research on the pros and cons (and risks and benefits) of raw organic versus pasteurized conventional dairy, browsing through the wealth of information on the Real Milk website, and reading about raw milk in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, I determined that I wanted to try this milk for my family.  The things I read made so much logical sense - a lot of the problems most people have with dairy products are a direct result of the damage done by pasteurization, homogenization, and the unnatural diet, hormones, and antibiotics fed to abnormal, selectively bred, modern-day dairy cows.  Milk was created by God to be consumed in its whole, pure, natural, raw state by healthy cows in healthy conditions fed a healthy diet.  I live in California - we are one of only 10 states in the country where you can go into a health food store and buy raw milk off the shelf.  There are only 2 licensed dairies in the entire state of California who are permitted to sell raw milk - Organic Pastures and Claravale Farm.  Organic Pastures supplies 95% of the demand for raw milk in the state of California, and it is the only brand available for purchase in my geographic region.  About 5 months ago, we bought our first half-gallon jug of Organic Pastures raw whole milk.  It is the sweetest, creamiest, most delicious milk I have ever tasted.  While our diet has changed dramatically over the past few months, and it's hard to pinpoint a single thing that has resulted in the most benefit, my husband and I have both experienced drastic detoxification, dramatically improved digestion, weight loss, and an overall improved sense of energy and well-being, and our consumption of raw dairy has certainly been a contributing factor.

Needless to say, I was deeply saddened this morning (I have been out of the loop for the past few days), when I checked my e-mail and received a message containing the news that Organic Pastures raw milk has been recalled until further notice.  Anne Marie at the Cheeseslave blog has put together an excellent post about what happened here.  In short, 5 children over an 8-week period earlier this year have been infected with E. coli O157:H7, and a common link has been that these 5 children have consumed Organic Pastures dairy products.  I quote from Organic Pastures' website:

"OPDC milk products are highly pathogen resistant. In more than 120 million servings, and more than eight years of intensive testing, not one single pathogen has been found or detected in our raw milk samples."

And to quote from Anne Marie's article on this issue at Cheeseslave:

"According to the California Department of Public Health, all products collected from the ill patients have been negative for E. Coli 0157:H7. The CDFA tests all Organic Pastures’ products every month for pathogens. Organic Pastures also uses a third- party for pathogen testing multiple times per week. All these tests have been negative."

My sympathies are with the families of these 5 children; however, clearly there has been no proof that these children were sickened by Organic Pastures dairy products.  There is a huge bias against raw milk in this country.  Sadly, what you don't hear about are all of the long-term health issues that are caused by our consumption of dirty, pasteurized milk (which, for the record, has had it's own share of recalls and E. coli contaminations despite all of the pasteurization).  I am fully aware of the risks involved with drinking raw milk and am also fully aware of what to look for in a dairy where I choose to buy that raw milk to ensure that I do not get sick.  I completely agree that conventional milk from dirty commercial indoor dairies absolutely must be pasteurized.  I believe that clean organic milk from the grass-fed cows at Organic Pastures is perfectly safe for me and my family to drink raw, and I should have the right to obtain it.

Even though my blog is obscure and in its infancy, I wanted to post about this issue and let you know what you can do to help.  This morning, I sent an e-mail to Steve Lyle at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, voicing my complaints and requesting that the government health bureaucracies respect my right to choose food that I feel is healthy for me and my family.  If you feel the same about this issue, I would urge you to contact him below:

Steve Lyle
Office of Public Affairs
(916) 654-0462

According to this article, it looks like Organic Pastures won't be back up and running possibly until after December 1.  This is truly a sad day for our family as we have no other option unless we drive 50 miles to purchase Claravale Farm milk between now and then.  The moment Organic Pastures milk becomes available again, I will be the first in line to stock up our fridge with this wholesome, nourishing food, and vote my dollars towards something I wholeheartedly believe in.

Real green bean casserole

Sometimes I get discouraged at what I perceive to be a lack of progress on my part, but when I reflect upon where I used to be, I realize how far I've come.  I find it very amusing to sit here and think back to last Thanksgiving.

I usually celebrate Thanksgiving day with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law prepares the turkey, and the rest of us help with sides.  My signature contribution is green bean casserole.  Here is the recipe I have used every time I've made green bean casserole up until this point.  It will probably be very familiar to most of us:

  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 2 2/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

  • Canned soups, including my beloved Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, contain a lot of sodium and almost always have MSG (look for the term "monosodium glutamate").  MSG is a neurotoxin and is found in an alarming number of processed foods.  MSG has a long list of potential harmful side effects.  Some people have noticeable reactions to it in small doses, which include headaches and dizziness - for most of the rest of us, we are being slowly poisoned over time without realizing it.

    When I would make green bean casserole, I would usually add insult to injury and use canned green beans because frozen made it too crisp for my taste.  Commercially canned vegetables contain almost no viable nutrients and usually have added preservatives and salt, not to mention that I never had a clue where those vegetables came from or how they were grown.  Additionally, did you know that a lot of canned food comes in cans with BPA plastic coating on the inside?  For most of us, our primary exposure to ingestion of this endocrine-disrupting poison is not from shower curtains and water bottles, but it is actually from leaching into canned food.  I try to keep our intake of canned foods to a minimum for these reasons.

    I looked up the ingredients for French's fried onions: Palm Oil, Wheat Flour, Onions, Soy Flour, Salt and Dextrose.  Honestly, they were not as bad as I thought they'd be, but still a couple of questionable ingredients.  That soy is probably genetically modified, and what on earth is dextrose?  I try to avoid eating chemical compounds and ingredients that I can't picture growing on a vine, hanging on a tree, or sprouting out of the ground.  And again, where did those onions come from, and how were they grown?

    After having my real-food revelation back in May, I determined to myself long ago that this Thanksgiving would be different.  Tonight I did a practice run and prepared a real green bean casserole.  Pictures and recipe are as follows.

    Would you believe that I have never bought truly fresh green beans?  I have only ever used canned or frozen in all of my cooking.  I bought a whole bunch of fresh green beans at the farmer's market this weekend to use in the green bean casserole.  I would suggest buying about 1 pound of fresh green beans.  This translates into approximately 8 cups of raw green beans.  You could certainly do frozen green beans as well - my guess would be that a 16 ounce bag would work out perfectly.

    If you are going with fresh green beans, you will want to snap off both ends of each bean and then further snap them into smaller 1-2 inch long pieces.  This part was fun for me having never done it before.  You will want to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you are doing this part.

    Next, wash and rinse the beans, then add to your boiling water.

    I boiled the beans for about 10 minutes.  I taste-tested them several times until they were slightly more crisp than my ideal for the finished casserole to allow for additional cooking once in the oven.  Once cooked, drain and set aside.

    Cream of Mushroom Soup

    Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking, one of my favorite blogs, has an awesome recipe for a cream of mushroom soup substitute.  I use this recipe a lot to convert some of my favorite recipes from my former food life into healthier versions.

    Chop up a dozen or so mushrooms into small pieces.

    In a small or medium sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add a quarter cup white, unbleached flour and one teaspoon or so of freshly ground celtic sea salt.  Stir to form a roux.  Add mushrooms and saute for a minute or so until softened.  Add 2 cups of milk.

    Stir and simmer until thickened.  Add a bit more flour if necessary to thicken.  Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  This is the equivalent of 2 cans of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup - just enough for our recipe here.

    In 9 x 13 casserole dish,  combine green beans and cream of mushroom soup substitute.  Mix and add additional milk if necessary for desired consistency.  Bake covered in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (do not add the fried onions yet at this point).

    Fried Onions
    I bought 1 large white onion (also from the farmer's market), peeled it, and cut it in half.  Then I cut each half into narrow shoe-string strips.

    Toss onions with about 1/2 to 1 cup of unbleached white flour in a large bowl (do multiple batches to ensure the onions get thoroughly coated if necessary). 

    In a cast-iron skillet, melt a few tablespoons of refined coconut oil, grass-fed butter, pastured lard, or pastured tallow (did you know vegetable oil is bad for you, and that olive oil should not be used under high heat, such as for frying?  This is a post for another day).  Add onions to skillet and fry in a single layer. 

    Avoid the temptation to stir - wait until they appear golden, then flip and brown until golden on the other side.

    Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.  I had to fry the onions in about 4 or 5 batches to ensure that they fried appropriately in a single layer.

    Final Bake
    After initially baking covered for about 20 minutes, remove casserole, sprinkle fried onions on top, then return to oven at 350 degrees uncovered for about 5 minutes, until onions are crisp and golden on top.  Remove from oven and enjoy!

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Grow a revolution

    I once heard someone say that an apartment-dweller with a balcony tomato plant is participating in a revolution.  I think of that quote often.  Sometimes it gets so overwhelming when we think about how dependent we are upon the utility company, the oil industry, the industrial food supply, the government, the grocery store, the medical community, foreign factories and their cheap imports, etc.  It's often easier to decide that there is too much to worry about, and I'd rather not live a life of fear and think about these things.  Unfortunately, if we don't think about these things, we'll never have the chance to change them.  We'll never realize the wealth of things we can do.  We'll continue to make choices that handicap us and limit our freedoms.  And we're likely to venture further down this path of world-dependent, unsustainable living most Americans find themselves in today.  Aren't you tired of having no knowledge and no control over so many things we are exposed to every day?  What right does a corporation have to test out chemical fertilizers, pesticide residues, and genetically-modified crops on my body?  On the bodies of our families and of our children?

    Let me guess - you can't possibly grow all of your own food.  You are in excellent company.  I can't either - yet.  I can't even come close - yet.  But, remember the apartment-dweller with the tomato plant?  We can start somewhere.  Every tomato we grow ourselves or buy from a local farmer is a tomato we don't have to buy from the industrial food system.  The beauty of opening our eyes and learning about what's at stake is motivating - the health (not to mention environmental) dangers of our cumulative, long-term exposure to pesticide residues, the lack of nutritional value (and flavor) in a hybrid-variety, ethylene-ripened tomato trucked in hundreds of miles from a farm in South America in January, the terrifying unknown of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the state of our depleted and abused, chemically fertilized mono-crop soils.  If we start by learning about these things, that education will lead to motivation.  That motivation translates into action in different ways for everyone depending on their own set of circumstances, constraints, and passions.  That action, no matter how small it is, is empowering and will birth more action if we want it to, because if our education leads us to believe that something is important, we will make taking action a priority.  When we understand the reasons why we are doing things, we can start small, and soon we can look back and realize just how much more we are capable of doing than we thought in the beginning.

    I have lost count of how many house plants I've killed.  I used to say it was because I inherited a brown thumb from my mother (she can kill a cactus like no other).  But that's an excuse.  Keeping my house plants alive was never important to me, so I neglected them, and they died.  Why wasn't it important to me?  I guess because I didn't appreciate them much.  I didn't buy most of them - most of them were given away to me or given as gifts.  Once I started learning about the issues with our industrial food system and resolved to buy as much produce as I could locally from my farmer's market, I had the education and motivation to want to start a garden.  My whole life, I never understood people who grew vegetable gardens.  I thought it was the boring person's idea of fun.  I was too busy and important to be bothered with that.  I go to a fancy desk job so I can afford to buy my vegetables at the store and be done with it.  Besides, we all know growing your own veggies doesn't save money.

    Can we put a price tag on the self-sufficiency and independence that comes from knowing how to grow our own food?  From the security that comes from knowing exactly where that food comes from and how it was grown?  And do we recognize the true ecological, social, cultural, economical, environmental costs of that pesticide-coated, mushy tomato from hundreds of miles away beyond the price indicated on the grocery-store shelf?

    Here's my baby-step garden revolution.  I took the challenging route and started everything you see here from seeds.  There are few things that fill you with the awe of our Creator more than seeing a green sprout of life push up through soil from a seed you planted with little confidence in its ability to grow under your care:



    Self-watering containers on my balcony.  Even though I have a house with land that can be (and one day most definitely will be) used to grow, I wanted to start small and manageable until our yard is ready for that.  I found these food-grade plastic buckets for $1 each from a woman in my neighborhood on Craigslist.

    Bush beans, spaghetti squash, lettuce.

    Tomato and spaghetti squash.

    My ten buckets of freedom.

    I am growing my own revolution.  These are my baby steps.  I hope I can challenge you to take some baby steps of your own.  Do you know when and where the farmer's market is in your community?  Do you know how exciting it is to find purple potatoes and yellow tomatoes?  To taste freshly sliced apples grown close to home before you buy?  To shake the hand of the person who grew the food that is going to become bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh?  Can you imagine shopping somewhere where the variety of the offerings clue you in to the seasons in your area?  Going to the farmer's market is a great way to get motivated and inspired to grow something.  It's a great way to vote your dollar away from the industrial food system that is destroying God's creation and making us sick.  It is a great way to eat nutritionally-sound, healthy, tasty, naturally-grown local food until you can get your garden off the ground!

    Monday, October 24, 2011


    Let me just start by saying that I am not sure why I created this blog. Maybe it's because I need an outlet. Maybe it's because I have some unknown purpose to fulfill. Maybe it will never become anything.

    I have spent my whole life with my head in the sand, seeing the world the way I want it to be, not the way it actually is. Fearful of knowledge and truth and the action that I would become responsible for if I were to obtain both.

    I am not sure where it started. Maybe it started when I began observing the world around me as a child, wondering where everything comes from and where it goes when we're done with it. Maybe it started 3 years ago when I decided to try spraying down my granite countertops with vinegar and water instead of store-bought kitchen cleaner (which, for the record, I no longer do now that I know that acids and granite are not a good combination). Maybe it started 1 year ago when I became disenchanted with medicine and doctors and pharmaceuticals and began seeking alternatives. Maybe it started with the homemade laundry detergent...

    A transformation is happening. I am beginning to question everything I've been told, everything I've been taught by the world my whole life. My faith in God is being strengthened as I begin to give up these nagging worldly things that I realize have been forcing me to compromise my faith my entire life.

    I do not know a single soul who has done most of these things. I am like a sponge, sucking up every blog and book I can get my hands on. I alternate between cycles of education and cycles of action and sometimes plain exhausted cycles of survival. But I keep creeping forward. I keep altering my routine. I keep chipping away the layers of assumptions that have been so pre-programmed into most of us that we aren't even aware they are there.

    This isn't a hobby. This isn't a phase. This isn't a temporary fleeting pursuit. This is an investment. This is a lifestyle. This is taking off the blinders and looking at the ugly truth and then doing something about it, for the rest of my life. I swim upstream. I wage battles, daily. I lose some of those battles. Perhaps I lose the vast majority of them. But the victories are mounting.

    What is this blog? I am not sure yet. Is it another real food blog? Is it a homemaking blog? Is it a green blog? Is it a personal journal? Maybe it's a little of each of these things. But I am no chef. I am no stay-at-home wife and mommy. I am no environmentalist. And a personal journal isn't personal if it's published on the internet for the world to see. I am a young woman who loves the Lord. I am a wife. I am an employee. I am the one who cooks around here. I no longer have the ignorant luxury of consuming resources, turning on a faucet, flipping a lightswitch, or discarding a plastic wrapper without thinking about the implications. And I can't guarantee that there won't be a personal touch to these posts. Maybe this blog will just be. Maybe it will start out without direction and purpose, and I will have to go back and refine it later. Maybe it will never have a chance to exist if I have to have all that figured out before it just is.

    I have consumed countless plastic water bottles. I have thrown a lot of food away. I have eaten ways my entire life that have probably had some irreversible effects on my health. I have burned a lot of oil. I poured my youthful energies into earning a college degree so I could get a time-sucking, pencil-pushing desk job in the service industry. I married a patient man who thought he was getting something completely different than what I've become, and who I believe loves me even more for it. I bought an urban house when the market was too high. I've bought too many new cars. I've used way too much credit. I've made way too many spendy trips to big box retailers and the mall. I adopted two small, goofy, high-maintenance dogs from a backyard breeder. I have made a lot of decisions that have gotten me to where I am. I probably would have done things a lot differently if I knew then what I know now. But, if those decisions had not been made the way they were, who knows if I ever would have sought out this knowledge to begin with? This is my life, and we have a great God of second chances and clean slates. We have a great God who wants to reveal the truth to us. We have a great God who wants us to live lives of purpose and of example. We have the chance to change. We will make a lot more progress if we start with ourselves.