Monthly Archives for: November 2011
I have been in the natural meat business for well over half of my life, some 30 + years to be exact, and to this day one of the most difficult and confusing aspects of my business is to create a clear picture about what the word ”natural “ really means. At this time of the year, I would like to address turkeys.
Put simply, the USDA states that any meat product, such as Turkey, can be labeled “natural” providing it has not been marinated, brined or otherwise altered after it has been harvested.
The USDA definition of “natural”, however, does not address how the turkey was raised prior to being harvested, which includes whether or not it had been administered antibiotics, fed vegetarian feed or whether or not it was humanely treated. Some retailers (in my opinion, those that wish to trick you) use this USDA “natural” designation and pretend that it means all of the things that we want it to. No antibiotics, no hormones, all vegetable fed, humanely treated, etc.
Natural to Me and to Alfalfa’s means ALL the below (as officially noted on Our Definitions page)
• No antibiotics ever
• No hormones administered ever
• All Vegetable fed
• Humanely treated (cage free, range grown, pasture raised, etc.)
So how will you know if your turkey meets The Alfalfa’s standard for “natural” or if it’s simply being passed off as the real thing even though it simply means nothing. I’ll tell you how…
Force your retailer to show you the label on the turkey itself. Some retailers will verbally declare the callouts, “no antibiotics, etc.” if asked, but cannot substantiate it on any written label. This is a solid warning that the bird meets none of the more stringent criteria. So, If the label simply states minimally processed no added ingredients, and no added hormones but does not include any of the Alfalfa’s standard statements, YOU AIN’T GONNA LIKE IT.
These days, getting a good night of sleep is a privilege to most of us. We take work home. We have little kiddos to care for and school projects to help with. We have exams and pull all-nighters. We have our favorite shows to catch up on. We have to train for this, or prepare for that. Eight hours of sleep every night just isn’t on our priority list. But, I’m not here to talk to you about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, I’m here to help you make the most of the sleep you do get. Below are my top 10 favorite ways to ensure you get a good night’s rest.
1. Eat light at night
Night is time to let your organs have a rest, you will sleep better by allowing this to happen.
2. Use herbal tonics
For so many of us, sleep is an issue of stress, so adaptogenic herbs, such as Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Reishi Mushroom, or Eleuthero are awesome tonifiers for our exhausted adrenals.
3. Make your bedroom smell really good
Kind of a no brainer! An aromatherapy candle, some lavender oil nearby, no kitty litter box in the bedroom.
4. Have a bedtime ritual
Having a bedtime routine helps send a message to your nervous system that it is wind down time. Light a candle, turn off the lights, moisturize your feet, read an inspiring passage from a favorite book, do a couple of stretches, you get the picture.
5. Moisturize your feet
I think I heard this from Ayurveda, and it’s a personal favorite cause it really makes a difference for me.
6. Keep your bedroom dark
The darkest you can get it! Light gets through the eyelids and keeps your brain alert. Use black out curtains, or a fantastic eye cover from our store made by Mindfold.
7. Don’t use Melatonin regularly
It’s a hormone, not a supplement, and only for occasional use, will hurt your sleep if used regularly.
8. Practice meditation, biofeedback, neurofeedback, prayer, or mantra
Train your mind to be quieter, you will sleep much better.
9. Get regular face massages
Relax the tension in your face, sleep better, and age more beautifully.
10. Turn off the TV 2 hours before bed
We’ve all heard this, it’s true!
If better sleep is what you need, join our FREE Sleep Well Class Wednesday Nov. 16th from 6pm to 7:30pm.
I am currently in Nairobi, Kenya for a work related project far different from the landscape and responsibilities I had at Alfalfa’s. I accepted a short term assignment with a London based organization, ActionAid, with the responsibility of directing the construction of a single classroom in rural Africa for two teams of volunteers from the UK. The original project was outside the beautiful coastal town of Malindi but recent terrorist activity by Al Shabab thwarted that project in the eleventh hour. Fortunately, we were able to find another classroom construction project with Maasi in the Masa Mara area. With the dramatic change in venue, I traded a comfortable 4 star hotel for a tented campsite in the bush but could not be happier. I think it will work out favorably as this is a unique opportunity to live amongst the Maasi and immerse myself totally in the bush and the culture that is the Maasi.
October 20. Nairobi, Kenya. 5:00 am.
We leave in the cool of the morning, the roads void of cars and people. Nairobi is known for massive gridlock and given our robust schedule an early departure is essential. I am traveling with four other colleagues in an ageing but comfortable Toyota Landcruiser, tricked out for the bush and unforgiving terrain. My companions are mostly local Kenyans with various connections and responsibilities to this project.
The light rain that masked our departure has lifted and the first sparks of sun unveil the African landscape that is a mixture of small towns and forested land. The main road out of Nairobi is new and smooth and when I remark on its quality, Patrick, the man driving this project and successful businessperson, explains that the Chinese have constructed many of the roads in the area but due to inferior materials, the roads will be useless in three to five years. I cringe with the news and see it as another example of outside intentions falling short in the long term prospects of Africa establishing a good infrastructure. True to his word and a short distance later we encounter a Chinese built road that is pock-marked and so severely impaired that the shoulders have become the preferred route.
We climb out of the valley and reach a promontory point with stunning views of The Great Rift Valley that stretch as far as the eye can see. Africa is still relatively young in terms of its discovery and settlement so it wasn’t too long ago the area below was teeming with wildlife. Even from a distance it holds a feeling of being untamed and raw, still immune to the encroachment of man and progress.
We arrive in Narok, now three hours removed from Nairobi, to stretch our legs, refuel, and take in the clear air that punctuates the landscape. This is the last outpost and we are keen to press on. A few miles from Narok we take an unmarked, deeply rutted road for the Masa Mara that beckons and tugs at our sense of adventure.
The temperature is pleasant, probably in the low 80’s so we drive with our windows down but are vulnerable to the sudden dust squalls that are without warning. When we encounter one, our vehicle is immediately engulfed with a fine layer of dust, leaving a brown coating on our skin, clothes, and food.
The road, in spite of its difficulty, offers wonderful surprises in the form of animal life that now dot the landscape and energize us. We have now transitioned from a human dominated environment to animal dominant. A 360 degree perspective yields wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala, and an occasional ostrich to break up the four legged dominance provided by “the Grazers” as my African friend Jez points out. There is much to learn about the Mara, or the Bush as Jez lovingly refers to it. Jez Bennett was born in Africa and except for schooling in England, has called Africa home his entire adult life. He currently lives in Zimbabwe and spends his free time in game parks of eastern Africa. He has become our unofficial tour guide and begins a running commentary on animals, raptors, and even the local flora, down to its Latin origins. His fascination and respect for the magnificent ecosystem is unwavering. With a voice dripping with enthusiasm, he points out a specific Acacia tree that harbors ants inside its pods. Should a strolling giraffe decide to dine on this tree, its tongue is soon met with the stinging ant bites and the giraffe moves on, with the tree and ant carrying on their symbiotic relationship.
Thirty dusty kilometers later we reach a beautiful, open glen ringed with several species of trees and a verdant carpet of lush grass, compliments of a natural spring hidden amongst the African copse. We encounter two Maasi tribesmen, their herd of scruffy goats bleating a commentary on the Mzungus they see before them. I ask Jez if the world is passing the Massi by or if their existence has changed in some fundamental way. He tells me their range of movement has been compromised and with the recent allocation of land from the Kenyan government, the Maasi in this region will actually settle down and relinquish their nomadic lifestyle. He also informs me the Maasi now venture into the Mara with cell phones and text each other on the movement of their herd or any problems they may encounter. I later test part of his theory by calling my London-based friends and the reception is crystal clear with nary a cell tower in sight. Jez recounts the time he phoned his partner in Zim from the summit of Kilimanjaro and never had a problem. Go figure.
The classroom site is about one mile away, a short trek through the bush. We follow our guide through undulating terrain with shrub, towering trees, and a slab of rock the size of a football field that seems alien and out of place. I am told it is a salt lick and is frequented by the animals that pass through this corridor as they migrate. I have also stumbled across some rather peculiar burrows, the end result of hungry and acutely attuned aardvarks seeking out the termites that live underground.
We eventually reach the classroom site, along with a welcoming party of a dozen elders from the local Maasi tribe. We exchange greetings and names, discuss the project, and answer their enthusiastic questions. In this particular part of the Mara, schooling has taken on a new importance and even the female population is encouraged to attend school. This fact is not lost upon any of us and we look forward to being a part of the change.
Remember you can always make a difference, whether near or far, be thankful for what you have and pass on the love. Until next time.
Marcus Christopher is a part time employee with a penchant for food, travel, and people. I’ve teamed with Alfalfa’s to share my travel experiences, create dialogue, exchange ideas, and perhaps learn something new that enriches our respective lives.
Winter is near and it’s the perfect time to begin your immune system tonification. A little cold or flue is normal, but you don’t want to catch every bug that comes your way.
There are a lot of immune-boosting remedies and tips out there and sometimes it’s hard to navigate the cold-cure clutter. I like to keep it simple – let food be your medicine. Start eating warmer, longer cooked, more grounding foods. Mushrooms, in particular, are the best herbal and food strategy in my opinion.
Reishi mushrooms, also known as Ganoderma lucidum, are a beautiful mushroom variety. It has been long revered in the east and has been used for more than two millennia to treat and prevent a wide variety of illnesses. Most importantly, it’s known to keep us healthy in a safe and holistic way.
Many other medicinal mushrooms are useful pre cold, flue and allergy season as well. One, Cordyceps, has lung protective qualities. Shitake, has been shown to have a wide range of immunoprotective qualities and also protects the liver.
Let food be your medicine. shitaki’s, maitake and lions mane, are delicious additions to your winter soups and stews. Stay warm. Stay healthy.
We all love convenience and time savers, who doesn’t these days? And sure it’s really easy to grab a can of beans, drain them and toss them into your favorite recipe. But what most people don’t realize is that dried beans are fairly easy to prepare too, and the benefits of using dried beans – in my opinion – by far outweigh the ease of using canned beans.
So, here’s why I choose dried over canned…
- Dried beans are typically less expensive
- Most dried beans are free of added sodium and preservatives
- Cooking with dried beans, allows you to save not waste product because you can buy the exact amount of product you need.
- There are typically more varieties of dried beans than canned beans available, so you can be more creative with your dishes.
Here’s some simple tips for buying and storing your dried beans…
- Try to buy beans that are similar in shape, color and size
- Store your dried beans in a sealed container (zip-lock bag, canister, etc.) in a cool, dark place. These beans will stay fresh for up to one year.
- Your cooked beans can be stored, sealed, in the refrigerator for up to one week
And here’s how easy it is to cook these beans up…
- Pour your beans in a coriander & run water over them, picking out any stones, or shriveled beans.
- Place in a pot with a lid. Cover with cold, fresh water about 3” above the beams, and let them soak overnight for at least for 12-18 hours. I really do find that soaking them closer to 18 hours is better, because it yields a shorter cooking time and the beans tend to stay more intact during the cooking process.
- Once soaked, cook the beans in clean water, and cover the beans by 1”
- Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer & cover for 30-40 minutes or until you can mash one easily with your finger.
- When done, add a little bit of salt and cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Now What? Well, first, congrats on making your first batch of dried beans. There are tons of ways to use them, but here are just a few of my recipes to inspire you: