Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For Our Own Good

Creamy French Silk Chocolate Pie
Last weekend was so wonderful. It finally rained! We got a nice, slow, five-inch drenching over the course of about 24 hours. And not just in our little neck of the woods either. All of Texas got at least a little. Those folks that have been battling fires down around the Austin area and over by Possum Kingdom lake needed it even worse than we did, which is hard to imagine. To top it off, just last night we got another 2.2”. We didn’t expect that!

The morning before the rain started, I got 50 pounds of “Austrian Winter Peas” broadcast in the big, north garden. That garden is roughly 1/3 of an acre and it’s where I plant larger crops, like sunflowers, sweet and dent corn, tomatoes, pumpkins and winter squash. The winter peas are a nitrogen-fixing legume, and in past years have supplied enough nitrogen that I don’t have to fertilize in the spring. They are very winter-hardy as well and can handle much colder temps than any we have to throw at them!

They are also a boon to the local wildlife. With so little rain this year, the deer are practically starving. There’s no grass to graze, nor are there any acorns on the oaks. Deer LOVE winter pea shoots. And I’ve no doubt the smaller varmint population has suffered this year, meaning my chickens are going to start looking mighty tasty to the coyotes and bobcats here pretty soon. The peas will offer food and cover for cottontails. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will take anything small enough to kill. The bobcats and ocelots however, actually prefer wild game over domesticated meat and I’d just as soon them have rabbits to snack on instead of my chickens! Our own cats are also quite fond of tender, young cottontails…

So the peas are a good investment all the way around. Here’s what they should look like in February before I mow them down and till them under:

Winter Peas in the North Garden
(That's Wilson-Prairie Cemetery Road to the right.)
The ground really soaked up the rain fast and I should be able to till the fenced-in garden in a few more days. That’s where I’m planting the garlic and onions this year. I made the mistake last year of not putting the garlic behind a fence, and between my chickens and our neighbor’s obnoxious 120-pound Lab, a lot of it got dug up or stomped on. The chickens got really excited over the mulch of oak leaves and I could hear them talking amongst themselves: “What do you think she’s hiding under all those leaves? Grubs? Worms maybe?” “I can’t believe she’d keep something like that from us. We’d better go remove those leaves and see what’s under them!” That was the end of the mulch and quite a bit of the garlic as well. I’m not even going to mention what they did to the rhubarb after I mulched it. J

I popped all of my garlic cloves last week. There’s a little over 30 pounds of it to plant and I’m hoping it will eventually evolve into a nice little cash crop. Garlic seed stock sells from anywhere from $14-$32 a pound. In addition, nematodes got into the garlic crops up north and into Canada last year, so stock for sale has been reduced, making it more expensive and near impossible to obtain some varieties unless you order VERY early in the year.

I ended up with near 10 pounds of good quality stock of my own to replant this year, which includes Ajo Rojo, Shilla and (my favorite!) Romanian Red. From Sharron at Crazy Horse I ordered another 21 pounds. Sharron is a private grower and a pleasure to do business with. I’ve not been as happy with some of the garlic I’ve gotten through the larger, better-known companies that have a monopoly on garlic internet sales. From my friend at Sonnenhof Polyfarm, I received a couple bulbs of elephant garlic that are near the size of baseballs, along with some Egyptian Walking Onions. I’m looking forward to expanding those for our personal use.
Disturbing news in the food world this month, but what else is new? The “Cantalope Listeria” outbreak has now caused 21 deaths and 109 illnesses. Last time I checked. So far, they have not been able to track the exact cause. Someone mentioned to me that they’d read the shipper may be responsible for not rinsing out the truck between shipments, but I’ve not been able to find any links for that. Either way, the grower is likely to lose his farm whether he was directly responsible or not. I find the whole thing terrifically scary from a market-farming perspective. All the more reason to grow for your family alone or to use your surplus as barter rather than selling it outright to perfect strangers.

Even more disturbing is the new “Fat Tax” Denmark just implemented last week. As much as I intend to keep this blog as free of political and religious opinion as possible, I just can’t let this one slide by. It reeks too strongly of “Big Brother” and I guarantee you, it won’t be long before our government tries it out on us. Actually, they already are.

A couple weeks ago, the USDA released new guidelines that would completely eliminate potatoes from school breakfasts and drastically reduce them in school lunches. Further, the guidelines seek to reduce all starchy vegetables to only 2 servings a week. That includes corn, peas, lima beans and potatoes. Course I don’t know too many kids who’ll be disappointed about the peas and lima beans. J

WIC is also pushing for low-fat foods while exonerating high-glycemic carbs, like juice, whole and processed grains and pasta. Not that I’d normally care about WIC or the USDA’s food stamp program since I think it should also include mandatory drug, alcohol and tobacco testing, but sure, let’s make certain that pregnant and breast-feeding women, infants and children don’t get the nutrition they need so they can stay on the program forever. Let’s churn out more kids living below poverty level that will need advanced healthcare in the future.

Then you have Mrs. Obama deciding to single-handedly reform obesity in children. A noble goal, I suppose, except that you can’t fix the system if you won’t fix what’s broken within the system first. The USDA has recently replaced their outdated “Food Pyramid” with a new concept called “My Plate”. It does give a little more leeway in choices and it’s easier to understand, but as long as they continue to villify whole-fat dairy, push hard-to-digest oils rather than butter and lard, and insist we keep eating so much of the grains that are making us fat and contributing to diabetes, not one single child is going to lose weight healthfully. I DO commend Michelle for insisting that more exercise and “limiting screen time” be an essential part of every child’s daily activities. (Course it wouldn’t hurt more adults to participate in those 2 activities as well!)

But I’m still convinced the USDA is comprised of a panel of aliens whose sole mission is to fatten us on grains and corn syrup so the rest of their race can stop by and harvest us later. (Has anyone checked for X-shaped wounds on the back of their necks?!) McHumans… will they make us into nuggets or grind us into burger? I wonder what alien children get in THEIR Happy Meals?

Think you can avoid intervention from the food police by sending a bagged lunch for your kids? Last year in Britain, the mother of 2-year-old Jack Ormisher packed him a lunch that included an “unhealthy” cheese sandwich. The lunch also contained a vegetable and a slice of melon. It was the first time she had packed his lunch and she did so because he was getting sick from the food being prepared at the nursery school he attended. Staff at the nursery school confiscated his sandwich and informed his parents that in the future, cheese sandwiches must contain lettuce or tomato to pass muster. Thankfully, she found a new nursery school for him to attend. Too bad more of the parents didn’t do the same.

I don’t have time or space during THIS post to address this issue adequately, but the information is readily available to anyone who goes in search for it: It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that fats and cholesterol do NOT cause heart disease or stroke! It has been proven over and over and over, yet the information is still ignored by most in the healthcare industry, who pass it along to us in the form of our politically correct dietary agendas. Further, evidence suggests that if we do not get enough of the protective foods (eggs, dairy, animal proteins) in our diets, we set ourselves up for all manner of health-related problems later – diabetes and cancer included. I am not suggesting we live on fats and oils, but in moderation, they’re not death-on-a-stick as many would have us believe. A calorie is NOT a calorie whether it comes from fat or carbs and our bodies treat them differently, no matter WHAT Weight Watchers tells you! These are subjects I’m going to be focused on a LOT in future posts.

One of Denmark’s primary food industries is dairy. And yet the Danes are not an obese people in the first place. It’s estimated that only about 10% of Danish people are obese, compared to about 33% of adults and 17% of children in the United States. (The USDA estimates much higher numbers of overweight and obese Americans, as many as 66%.) Butter and other whole-fat dairy foods are not making the Danes obese any more than they’re making Americans obese. We have high-glycemic carbs, especially wheat & white flour products, to thank for that!

The food tax in Denmark is not about making people healthy, it’s just another way to generate revenue for the government, just as it will be here if it’s ever implemented. Further, the tax only punishes the poor – everyone else will manage to afford the tax hike. One Danish resident said it best: “We get the taxes, but never a reduction on anything to complement the increases, such as on healthy foods.” Well, sounds to me like a tax on whole-fat dairy IS a tax on healthy foods!

The pharmaceutical industry is making BILLIONS on drugs that lower cholesterol, but they are NOT preventing heart disease or helping people live longer. And the constant brain-washing we get from the pharmaceutical companies, the AMA, the FDA, the USDA and countless other “well-intentioned” organizations makes it almost impossible to think for ourselves, even if we wanted to.

It has been suggested that statins to lower cholesterol be added to our drinking water supply. Pharmaceutical companies and many doctors will tell you these drugs are safe for everyone, but if you go in search for information about these drugs, you will find that just the opposite is true.

And it’s not enough that a very high percentage of adults take cholesterol-lowering drugs. Now they’re being specially formulated for children. Lipitor has been approved for use in children aged 10-17 since 2002. But just last year, Pfizer came out with (and got approved for) a chewable form for children 10 and up. Really?! Cholesterol meds just for children?!

I know. We’re too stupid to think for ourselves and it’s all for our own good….

Creamy French Silk Chocolate Pie
There used to be a pie kitchen in Arlington where you could buy a magnificent French Silk Chocolate Pie. They added some Grand Marnier orange liquer to it and it was just incredible. I tried adding an ounce of orange liquer to this recipe, but it wasn’t enough for the flavor to really shine through and I’m sure my teetotaling family would have a cow if I were to do that for the holidays, so I’m going to try it with a teaspoon of orange extract next time.

You can make this with a deep-dish graham-cracker crust, but it isn’t as good. You will need to put a fluted edge on a 9” crust in order to get all of the filling in the pan. There is a recipe at the bottom I developed myself for a gluten-free crust. It is quite good and simple to make. Be sure to use a deep-dish pan if you use the gluten-free crust. I usually make the filling first, then the pie crust, since the filling needs to be quite cool before the last step.

This came from the back of an old Pillsbury pie crust box. It is the richest pie I have ever eaten! I notice if you google it, you get a completely different recipe from Pillsbury, one that’s much lower in dairy fat. I haven’t tried it. However, I have eaten all but two slices from TWO pies using this recipe in the last couple weeks, and I have not gained a single ounce of weight. THAT’S BECAUSE WHOLE-FAT DAIRY ISN’T FATTENING!!! J

Butter Crust:
(Purchased, refrigerated crust may be used)
1 ½ cups flour
6 tablespoons cold butter
Pinch salt and sugar
3 tablespoons milk or cream

¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ½ cups WHOLE milk
1 cup (6 oz by weight) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 450. If you already know how to make pie crusts by hand, go ahead and do so; otherwise place the flour, butter, salt and sugar in the food processor and whirl until the butter is incorporated. Pour in the milk or cream and whirl until mixture comes together into a soft ball. Roll the crust out and press it into an 9” pie pan. (A fluted edge is necessary.) Prick the crust all over with a fork (be sure and get the sides!), then bake the crust for 10-15 minutes or according to package directions if using a storebought crust. Cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; blend well. Add milk, cooking over medium heat until mixture just comes to a boil and thickens, whisking constantly. (This doesn’t take long!) Turn off heat, add chocolate chips and vanilla and continue to stir with the whisk until chips melt and mixture is smooth. (If the chips don’t melt, turn the heat back on for a jif.) Put a lid or cover on the saucepan and set it in the fridge to cool for about an hour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine COLD whipping cream and powdered sugar; beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Beat cooled chocolate mixture at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Pour about half the whipped cream into the chocolate mixure and beat until blended. Spoon into pie shell. Top with remaining whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate curls and orange zest, if desired. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until set. Keep refrigerated.

Diane’s Basic Gluten-Free “Graham Cracker” Crust
4 cups Rice Chex cereal
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter

Whirl Rice Chex and sugar in the food processor until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter and whirl until well-blended. More butter may be used if mix doesn’t press into pie pan easily, but it’s harder to cut through after it chills. For this recipe specifically, I like to add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (Special Dark is also good!) and a dash of cinnamon to the crust mix.

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