Juggle Juggle, but don’t drop the Tomatoes

In my weekly market reports recently I’ve been mentioning that we seem to be at the peak of the harvest. How can I tell? Simply, when I walk down Cowls Street as the farmers’ market is setting up I am amazed at the overflowing bins of produce the farmers haul there. Tomatoes of all kinds, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes large and small, sweet corn, summer squash glowing green white and yellow, winter squash in acorn and spaghetti models, strawberries from everbearing varieties, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, and on and on and on.

In the past week in the Can-Do kitchen we handled 50 pounds of blueberries, 40 pounds of Asian pears, 30 pounds of tomatoes, 30 pounds of prune plums, and still have about 100 pound of onions to deal with. Today we were gifted about 20 pounds of peaches and the day is only half over.

asian pears in dyrerI keep our dehydrators running almost all the time now. The Asian pears are in there as I write this (plain and cinnamon) and the peaches will go in next. (Onions after that probably)

Mike, the guy who owns Cream ice cream and I have a good time chatting flavor combinations each week at the market. When I told him I was getting this gift of peaches (more coming this next week that are already planned for 2 types of jams) he suggested something which fed a need of his: powdered peaches he could add to ice cream in the winter.  So we will chop the peaches and then dehydrate it, powdering some, leaving some small chunks.  Mike can get some for his ice cream and you can get some for your yogurt or baking or other yumminess you like to do.

carmelized onionsThe onions……oh my. We add onions to our Loaded Pasta Sauce, so some will be used on Monday when we prepare that.  But I’ve made a few very small batches of caramelized onions for our home kitchen and one friend’s and I suppose you might be able to enjoy after I get some of these 100 pounds cooked up and then dehydrated.

 

So, you might ask, why was that “one friend” so lucky as to gain some caramelized onions?  Well, she presented me with some extra onions she had.  That’s pretty much all it takes and now she tells people she has her own “food processor.” One person responded, “oh yeah, I have one of those chopping machines too,” but you know it’s a tad more involved than that.

Anyway, lots to share with you. If you want to know if I can make something, shoot me an email at BethRankinOR@gmail.com. If there’s a safe way to preserve it, I’ll let you know.

tomatoes

Also, if you want Loaded Pasta Sauce, let me know how many and in pints or quarts. This has been a funny tomato season. It started late (really only about 3 weeks ago) and looks to be ending early. So I probably will not be getting a lot of tomatoes. Right now I have orders for 40 quarts so they will be fulfilled first. If you want some, tell me now. In a few weeks it will be too late.

 

 

My Daughter: My Muse

From the time Lisa was pretty small she made her opinion known about…well, everything.  In regards to food and flavor, her earliest wonderful contribution was to suggest a change in the banana bread recipe I had gotten from a co-worker in 1976. “Remove those raisins!”, she demanded at age 3. “And definitely add chocolate chips!”  We renamed the new recipe “Banana Bread a la Lisa” and enjoy it that way to this day.

age 4 ribs on trip to Vermont
A good eater, even at age 4!

Always willing to try new foods, she encouraged her younger brother on a trip to France when he was 11-years-old that trying escargot was worth it. My budget on the trip became strained as he decided that yes, garlic butter sauce makes everything worth trying and those snails just are not anything like the imagination tried to fool him.

Lisa has become quite an outdoor enthusiast. In the past 10 years she has trekked through New Zealand, Australia and parts of Indonesia. Over to Southeast Asia on another journey she and Josh traveled throughout Myanmar and Cambodia. She’s been to parts of Europe and I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the wonderful places she has seen. Closer to home, she has trekked the John Muir Trail in California, throughout Utah and the Canyonlands and they are planning the Washington leg of the Pacific Coast trail this summer.

Canyonlands
Canyonlands

As I began to explore dehydrating food for Can-Do I kept in mind the way Lisa and Josh need to cook. Most of their food is dehydrated because it is lightweight and condensed. They have to carry their water for drinking and cooking and washing, so I try to keep in mind recipes that do not need too much water. They also must carry fuel because wood fires are not permitted. The risk of wildfire is just too great. So, recipes need to be able to be prepared with minimal fuel usage also.

Once, visiting me with her sibs, we served the Can-Do Real Food Loaded Pasta Sauce and the discussion evolved into the quality of commercially prepared hiking foods. Most have considerable additives and of course, the flavor may be a disappointment.  So, Lisa often prepares the food they bring but the gauntlet was thrown down: I needed to prepare a dehydrated pasta sauce.

Gabrielle and Steven
Gabrielle Keeler and Steven Berger

My Can-Do farm partners have come to my house for a Tasting Supper several years. The last one was the tasting for 3 versions of the dehydrated sauce.

  1. We sliced and dehydrated the tomatoes hard, the better to grind them to powder.
  2. We roasted the sliced tomatoes and then dehydrated them hard for grinding, and
  3. We cut up the tomatoes, macerated them overnight in red wine, then oven roasted them etc etc.
  4. And for fun, we also served our canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.

Each recipe was essentially similar, using the same herbs and surplus carrots and zucchini as the canned version.  The only difference was how the tomatoes were prepared.

We did not tell our taste testers about the difference in the 4 recipes. And we are pretty formal with these efforts, with no talking allowed until after everyone writes down their thoughtful critique and overall rating for the recipe. tasting grid

Perhaps it is no surprise to you that the version that was most enjoyed was the one with the wine. It provided the most complex, deep and enjoyable flavor.

So, there we had the test and next was to wait for the tomatoes. Last summer we prepared what we thought was a significant amount but it still surprises me how condensed dehydrated food becomes when processed.closeup

I have set aside plenty for Lisa and Josh to enjoy on their trek next month, but we now have eight packages of Oven Roasted Double Loaded Pasta Sauce available for you. Each container has one cup of powder which, when mixed with 4 cups of water, makes 5 cups of sauce. Add more or less water depending on how dry or wet you prefer your sauce.  This is enough to feed 3-5 people, depending on serving sizes. double loaded pasta sauce

Excellent with our Forksize Zoodles which take next to no time nor water when mixed into the sauce to rehydrate!  Or enjoy with your favorite pasta.

 

 

 

A New Season Begins

Can-Do Real Food will be back in the McMinnville Downtown Farmers’ Market after a year’s hiatus to permit three joint surgeries to heal. I feel great; completely out of pain, so we are back to share shelf-safe local food with you!

We will be bringing the following canned items for your consideration:

Applesauce – Chunky texture, made with Gravenstein apples and a touch of cinnamon. No added sugar.

Berry Naughty Yumminess Sauce – Perfect for ice cream or an easy topping on a cake or pancakes or French toast or……it is naughty because it has orange liquor in it. OLCC requires us to tell you about that but even kids can eat this. blueberries-blackberries-and-raspberries

Hogan’s Hot Stuff – This is the last of the peach-jalapeno jam until new peaches in a couple of months. Grab it while the grabbing is good. (Message me if you want me to hold one for you.)

Quince Paste – I am sure this will move quickly. Perfect with cheese. If you have never tasted quince, stop by for a fun experience. It has a similar texture as pears but the taste is unique. 

Odds and Ends – Just 2-3 jars left of a few favorites. 

We have been dehydrating thinking of you as well as backpackers so there are some new items:

Mole Meal Mix – You can get supper on the table in less than 30 minutes following the simple recipe on the package. The recipe can feed 8 so way less expensive than fast food! This is a gentle- not hot- take on the Mexican dish……people who like heat will need to add more!

Huckleberry Dust – a powder to add to oatmeal or smoothies or yogurt that is high in anti-oxidants.Huckleberry Dust.pub

yello plum with hazelnut leatherPlum Roll-ups – 3 different takes….”Plain”, “Yellow Plum with Hazelnuts,” and “Pom Plum” which has the tanginess of pomegranate balsamic vinegar added in.

Rhubarb Lace -Just enough sugar to take away the pucker, these will be easy to enjoy!

Apple a Day – cinnamon and “naked” versions for a healthy snack

Fruit Feast – a mixture of dried fruits for healthy snacking

Mushroom Quinoa – Developed for backpacking, this can be enjoyed at home as a side dish or stuffing. Rehydrates in about 20 minutes.  We did all the cooking!

Our raw produce is predominantly sourced from local farms as well as backyard gardeners. No artificial anything added. Small batches, so grab when you see something!thankafarmer

The market starts at noon and runs until 6pm on Thursday. Located on Cowls and in the parking lot behind Town Hall. Plenty of parking within 2 blocks.  Hope to see you there!!!

 

 

 

 

Which Diet?

Recently we had a friend living with us who has diabetes and it made me realize how fragile our systems are when we stray into areas where we react or don’t deal with certain items that are available to eat.  I thought it is time to mention that Can-Do Real Food fits into any number of diets.

Preservative Free

Can-Do Real Food has a couple of tag lines and the one that will help you relax is “Nothing artificial added”. What preserves our food from spoilage is the sugar in the jelly recipes and the low pH (using lemon juice or cider apple vinegar) in our savory canned recipes. The dehydrated foods are dried either to a “bend” (like the fruit roll-ups) or a “snap” (used to powder the item for easy mixes and quick rehydration.

Because we don’t add preservatives, our foods are safe to eat but will taste best if eaten within the time frame indicated on the label. Canned goods are “best by” 13 months after preparing. Dehydrated foods are presented in bags that are rated for five years but I have noticed that some fruit roll-ups prepared over a year ago taste fine but feel dryer.   I use “best by” dates instead of “use by” or “good until” because the food is perfectly safe to eat afterwards, but again, the best taste or texture diminishes over time.

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Low Carb

Whether it is South Beach (the diet we followed while our friend was staying with us) or some other low carbohydrate diet, Can-Do Real Food fits in. Some foods that are vegetable based are without any doubt, allowed. Others, like the fruit snacks, need to be eaten with moderation.

 

Salt Free

We add no salt to any of our canned recipes. In fact, the decision to do that had an interesting side effect when we resubmitted our best selling canned Loaded Pasta Sauce for food processing approval the second year. We added zucchini to the mix (after all, we deal in farmer surplus and anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows how much of a surplus a plant produces) but we also removed the sugar and salt from the recipe. The original recipe had been given to us by a chef and we realized he might have been working with  the kinds of tomatoes that you find in supermarkets in the winter…picked under-ripe to red up during travel, the sugar in the recipe helps with the subdued flavor, as does the salt.  A few customers complained the pasta sauce was not as good but once we suggested they add salt to taste, they once again were happy.   “Add salt to taste” is now on that label.Image result for salt free foods

As we have developed the dehydrated Pasta Sauce, even I realized it has to have salt for better flavor.   Chatting with our backpacking experts made us aware how much salt people doing intense exercise need, so we are adding salt to the dehydrated mix.  If you are on a salt-free diet, do not eat this product.

 

Vegetarian/Vegan

 

We can assure everyone that there is no meat, no eggs, and no dairy in our products. First of all, we do not have a license to work with meat. To add a chicken flavor to our dehydrated Tortilla Soup or beef flavor to our dehydrated Hearty Borscht soup we use culinary yeasts with those flavor profiles. Culinary yeast is an ingredient that is usually marked as “natural flavorings” on labels. Our labels will tell you “culinary yeast”. Image result for vegetarian logo

The ONLY exception (and we’re not sure it will be offered this year) is our popcorn flavoring mix because that has included dehydrated butter or cheese when we made it in the past. It sold well, so we want to make it again, but currently not available.

 

Gluten Free

We’re not a bakery so this is pretty easy. The ONLY recipe that has been altered to stay gluten free is the dehydrated Tortilla Soup where we provide a small snack size baggie of corn tortilla chips to break into the hot prepared soup.

Image result for gluten free logo

GMO Free

As mentioned right above, we use corn chips instead of flour tortillas in the Tortilla Soup mix. We use only organic tortilla chips.  In addition, one of our farm partners, Bethel Springs Farm, is certified organic and everyone else we purchase surplus produce from grows in the organic style with no conventional spraying or GMO seeds. Image result for gmo free logo

Kosher/Halel

No, we’re not certified kosher or halel, but neither do we include any restricted ingredients in any of our foods. Not having a license to process meat, we stick to fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts in our kitchen.  So, you’re level of comfort with this category depends on how strict you observe the religious dietary rules.

 

If you have any questions about any ingredients, please contact me at BethRankinOR@gmail.com or message me on our Facebook page.

The Joy of Having a Personal Food Processor

Here I am toiling away in the commercial kitchen when I get a message from a friend: How about a case of peaches?peaches

Hmmm, more peaches. I have made the Hogan’s Hot Stuff and the Naughty Peach Jam and brought both to the farmers’ market last week. There are more available and local people can contact me to arrange purchase. But as good as those are, both in taste and popularity, these new peaches offer a bit of fun in a different way.

They belong to my friend and I am her personal food processor. She hands over fruits and vegetables to me from time to time and I preserve them for her. This time she requested peach with ginger fruit leather. I love when people want to explore taste combinations and I think she’s right;  I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

My friend loves to cook and she recognizes a good deal on raw produce when she sees one. That’s how she ends up with a box here and large sack there of this and that. And after I work my magic, her pantry is a bit fuller and she’s looking for the next item for stocking up.

I’m doing the same thing in a way for one of my farm partners. They actually have no plans for selling any of the yummies I preserve for them from their garden. All items are for their home consumption. They have gotten to the point where they know they personally do not have the time (or energy) to put up tomato sauce or other things. They call me and I can take care of it for them. Right now we are exploring and agreeing that dehydrated Asian pears are the bomb!

asian pears
Dehydrated pears with 5-spice powder

And I’m doing the exact same thing for one other friend who really hates to cook. But she ‘ll be the first to declare that she likes to eat. She asked me if I could provide her some simple meals in a jar. I had talked to her how I pressure can left over turkey after Thanksgiving into turkey pot pie. Then, if we come home and are too tired to even think about cooking, we can open the jar and heat it up. This friend and I are exploring what family favorites of hers can be canned up so she can have it easier in her kitchen while her family eats delicious and nutritious meals without the cost of eating out.

personal pantry
Bottom 2 shelves of our personal pantry with dehydrated mixes and canned items 

I can do the same thing for you. I can cook it here or there, either way. In fact, if you want to learn to can or dehydrate, working in your kitchen makes a lot more sense so we can do the job together and you learn as we go.

You can eat local food year round!!

The Harvest is Happening and the Kitchen is BUSY!!!

Do you love to eat? Whether you consider yourself a foodie or merely know what you like, whether you enjoy home cooking or prefer to have someone else do the work, Can-Do Real Food has something for you!

Great news! Can-Do Real Food is building inventory as fast as humanly possible as the harvest is happening.  The only news that would be better would be that we are open for business but I want to hold back for another few weeks before we start offering items for sale.  This will hopefully serve to whet your appetite and help you be patient.

Personally, one fun thing I experienced as part of the travel I was lucky to enjoy was the amazing foods and dishes I had never tasted growing up.   Some of these international experiences show up in our easy to prepare meal kits. For example, our Mole Sauce provides all you need except for the protein to fix a delicious quick chicken mole dinner. We make it with a hint of heat, just enough to remind you that this is a Mexican recipe, but not enough to get the sinuses flowing. Even hot-pepper-phobes find it tasty. And if you like heat, you can add more with your own favorite pepper or hot sauce.  Today we prepared a lot of these meal mixes for you and now we need to head to Creo Chocolate in Portland to buy more of their 73% for our recipes!mole sauce

We offer other “international” flavors, including our Moroccan Tangine, which basically is a stew with wonderful spices and fruit. Not spicy hot but again with a small hint, because we want everyone to enjoy it. Again, we do not include the protein.  (Why do we skip that? The government oversees food processing work in two categories. I am inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a representative of the USDA. Food processors who provide meat in their products must also have a license issued by the FDA. The requirements for the inspector to have their own office and bathroom just makes this license unreachable in the commercial kitchen I use at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.  So, no protein in our food products. )

loaded pasta sauce
Like this……but different

This past winter in the test kitchen we explored how to present a dehydrated version of our popular Loaded Pasta Sauce. That sauce was originally developed to incorporate the surplus zucchini and carrots that the farmers had. The dehydrated version does the same. We first macerate the tomatoes in red wine and then roast them for several hours. Then they are dehydrated hard so we can powder them. The carrots also need a bit of pre-cooking before drying; we found in the test kitchen phase that merely using shredded carrots left them with a crunch that just is a bit unusual for pasta sauce. Precooking before drying takes care of that. The rest of the recipe is similar but the end product is a bit different than the canned version. You may be amused to learn that when the people around the Tasting Supper table blind taste tested four versions of the recipe, they preferred the wine version, even over the canned recipe!  Right now we are dehydrating the tomatoes but it will be a while yet before we have the other local produce to assemble the recipe for you.

zucchini noodle startWe will be drying slices from zucchinis that grew too large for the farmers to sell. Since we know many people spiralize zucchinis for use in the summer, this will allow a shelf-safe product for use during the winter when zucchinis are imported and a lot more expensive. It helps people who want to have pasta but avoid the carbs and is delicious with our dehydrated pasta sauce. Additionally, if you are a backpacker, rehydration of the zoodles takes only a few minutes.

Last fall we obtained 150 pounds of pumpkins and butternut squash and have prepared a lot of single serving packages as well as 2-4 serving packages of our award winning Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup. All you need to do to enjoy this soup is boil the right amount of water , mix in the power and 3 minutes later the soup is ready!

Then we have a lot of fruit products include fruit leathers, chunks of fruit, and even a fruit dust. That one needs an explanation I think.   Huckleberry DustLate each year, after the first frost, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm harvests her garden huckleberries. These differ a bit from wild huckleberries because they are actually a different genus. The berry is large and not sweet at all. But when sugar is added, the flavor is that deep rich blueberry flavor we love. Can-Do Real Food prepares a culinary syrup for Ranee to be used on pancakes but especially wonderful in a beverage. Well, when we prepare it, we put the berries through a mill that separates the solids from the juice. The juice of course goes into the preparation of the syrup. The solids are “waste”. But this past December I tried to dry it as a fruit leather. It was too lumpy to roll up, so I ended up grinding it finely and it is absolutely amazing added to oatmeal or yogurt!

quinceAnother item we make that I would guess you might never see anywhere else is membrillo buttons. I first learned about membrillo when I moved to Oregon but apparently quince trees grow in many places around the world. In Spain, membrillo is made by preparing quince paste and then air drying it in deep containers. Before I became a commercial food processor I used a cookie sheet with sides and left the membrillo to air dry for a couple of months. Well, food safety regulations will not permit me to prepare it that way for you, so I put small dollops of the quince paste on a dryer sheet and voila! buttons. They are sweet and tangy and are shelf-safe, something you can carry in your bag or car and have for a easy snack.

Image result for charosetI try to make other unusual things. For example, it is now July and I can see we are going to have a bumper crop of apples from my Gravenstein tree. Besides dried apples, I plan on making a mixture that is a recipe we use for the Passover Seder in the spring. Charoset is a sweet mix that symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt. The recipe I grew up with included grated apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine. I will be making a dehydrated version that can be used as a simple snack or rehydrated with a little water to have a soft condiment that would be superb with chicken any time of the year.

We will have herb mixes as we did before and also another batch of umami dust that can be used to enhance your stews and soups and other savory dishes.

It is our pleasure to play with food and present delicious items from local farms with no artificial anything.

And, since we are in the middle of harvest, if there is something you would like us to consider making, now is a great time to share the concept!

Onward!!

YOUR INSIGHT OF THE DAY
You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-term failures.
Charles C. Noble – 1916-2003, Engineer

I promised you an update and I have been slow to write this because I just have not be 100% sure I can pull it off. My optimism is strong but I have this nagging issue: my health.

Last summer I was a physical mess. Two summers ago I had twisted my arthritic knee and the orthopedic doctor I saw early said it was no big deal and I would never need surgery. I wasn’t asking for surgery, I was asking for help……and got none from him. I started physical therapy but there was no gain. About six months later I went to another orthopedic doc after having an MRI done. He said the same thing. Simply, I was miserable.

Last summer, a year after the incident where I twisted my knee, my opposite hip started complaining. Loudly. Perhaps, if you came by the farmers’ market, you noticed I was sitting on a high stool which kept me from moving up and down. I  usually was well medicated…after all I was at the market for about 8 hours so using an edible helped some. So did being wired with my tens unit. But the pain…increased.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

I really believed I would have to close Can-Do Real Food but my heart rebelled. I developed a plan with a new direction, still keeping the mission.

We had started developing more dehydrated products.  Our Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup which won “Best in Division” at the 2016 Oregon State Fair, sold out quickly.  A mole meal mix also flew off the shelves. We sold dried fruit easily. The dried tomatoes did not sell well, but that was fine since dried tomatoes are in a lot of our products, including our Garden Goodies (my answer to Lipton onion soup mix). So we knew we could make products people enjoy.Image may contain: food

Meanwhile, my daughter and her dude are back backcountry enthusiasts. They back pack, mountain climb, raft, ski, bike and more,  carrying their food, water and fuel on their backs.  No automatic alt text available.Listening to them explain how they pack their food lead me to an idea:

Can-Do Real Food can make delicious dehydrated items that do not contain any artificial anything!  While the backpacking world will be our primary market, anyone who wants food that requires very little fuel and water to prepare will appreciate having some in their pantry.

Preparing the produce we get from our Farm Partners means cleaning and chopping or slicing or pureeing, similar to the prep work needed for cooking for canning. But then we place those items in the dehydrator, set the time and temperature and go home.  Image may contain: foodWhen we  return to the kitchen we bag up the dried items, put more in to dry, and go home.  When we get all the ingredients to a recipe prepared, then we mix and bag. Done. About half the time in the kitchen compared to canning which means less wear and tear on my aching body. Also, the products are lightweight and can be marketed over the internet and mailed at a reasonable cost.No automatic alt text available.

We will be canning a little. Over time we have developed contracts for a few clients. Our blueberry farm partner wants jams and sauces for their pick-your-own farm. A wine tour operator wants wine jelly made with wine from one of our farm partners. R Stuart Winery wants an onion “marmalade” to sell that they have been making inhouse to serve with their cheese plate. One of my farm partners wants Loaded Pasta Sauce to sell to her customers. And finally, one farm partner asked me to make a delightful huckleberry culinary syrup.

I will no longer be canning anything for public sale. So I will no longer be at the McMinnville farmers market every week, but I am hoping to have a booth in September when we have built up inventory of the dehydrated products. Image may contain: food

We will be making the mole meal mix, garden goodies, the winter squash coconut curry instant soup, the Moroccan tangine meal mix, zucchini noodles (to use instead of pasta), and we have worked on a dehydrated pasta sauce inspired by our loaded pasta sauce recipe. It is a bit different but tastes fine!  We will also have dried fruit in pieces or roll-ups or even powder. I even worked on how to make a gingered pear snack because one of my favorites was the Gingered Pear Preserves, and it tastes great!

As for me? I had a knee replacement in December that is healing beautifully and I am scheduled for hip surgery the end of June. I have had a cornea transplant and anticipate a cataract surgery (maybe two) before the end of the year. Bionic parts aside, I am doing okay, but I am recognizing I can’t run at high speed at this point.

So, I will be better at keeping you informed. Next task is to update the website to list all the new products.  See you in September!!!Image may contain: text

I Couldn’t Quit

So about a second after I announced Can-Do Real Food unfortunately had to stop because of health issues I began to feel like that was NOT the best solution.

In 2017 I canned lots of fruit and veggie recipes but I also expanded what we were doing with dehydration. I became fascinated how we could develop meal mixes, not just dried fruit or leathers. No automatic alt text available.

We asked shoppers at the downtown farmers’ market to taste and comment on some new concepts, like dried tomatoes. People responded well by offering suggestions like putting herbs on some, salt on others. One guy said, “Yup, it tastes like tomatoes and I hate tomatoes.” He was a good sport!

We had some disappointments. For example, a recipe we first prepared fresh and thought  a winner did not work the same when dried, so we had to let that one alone.

But others were winners. Our Mole Mix, for example, always sold out each time we prepared a batch. Image may contain: food

And always, we stayed with our mission and obtained surplus produce from farms, helping reduce food waste. We will continue to purchase produce from our farm partners.

Meanwhile, in my private life I was watching my daughter Lisa and her dude go on their back country adventures. They backpack, mountain bike and ski, often in places few people go. They carry their food, their water, and their fuel as no wood fires are permitted any longer because of the threat of wildfires.

I listened to their comments about the dehydrated foods available on the market. There were some they loved and others that were never going to be repeated. Lisa also combined some things together herself to supplement the prepared mixes because there were things they liked and could not purchase.

They already had told us how they enjoyed the Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup mix and challenged me to develop more foods that could be edible with a short fuel usage to bring water to boil.  Our Mole Mix will do that, too!

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Herb mixes

We will be in the test kitchen in the next few months to see if we can develop a powdered version of the canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.   We believe we can come up with something definitely different in texture and  a bit different in taste but still really good. The sauce can be used with the dried zucchini noodles we make from those squashes that get away from the farmer and become watermelon size.

2017gSo, in 2018 Can-Do Real Food will be preparing canned products ONLY for contracts with our farmers or others and about 3 or 4 savory dehydrated offerings and a number of fruit based dried foods.  For example, when we processed one of our farm partners’ garden huckleberries into a syrup, we milled to separate the berry skin from the juice. We then took the solids, added a bit of sugar (in this case only because garden huckleberries are NOT sweet) and dried the mix. Because of the lumpiness of the skins, we could not make a fruit leather, but we grinded it to offer as an add-in to oatmeal or yogurt.

The backpacking community will enjoy this, as well as other campers who want a break from preparing a meal from whole foods. In addition, a supply of some of our foods would make sense to anyone who loses power at home several times a year. If you have a grill, you can heat up water and then you can prepare the mix into a good meal.

We will NOT be at the farmers’ market as we have been the last two summers. Instead we may have a table one week in September when we have built up an inventory during the harvest season. Generally, we will market online and be able to mail these lighter weight foods easily.

Please let me know if you’d like to be on a special email list to announce when we will be at the market or when foods are available online.Image may contain: text

Who Do You Know?

My mom was a nurse and so made sure we ate healthy meals. Each night we’d all sit down together as soon as the parentals were home from work and we’d have a meat and two veggies. Usually a home baked dessert afterwards. Sometimes it was delicious and sometimes I would have preferred to have a “no thank you” helping (i.e, liver).

As I struck out on my own I usually made a meat (never liver) and veggie, trying to skip desserts. Anyone who knows me personally knows I lost that attempt.

And once the kids were on the scene the effort improved and more veggies entered the picture (but never any liver). Most meals were made from scratch in those days but I had my shortcuts, like boboli or frozen bread dough to make pizzas and Betty Crocker brownie mix for the chocolate fix.

About seven years ago I started learning more about how the food we were eating was considerably different from the same food of my childhood. Concerns about pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified foods were one thing. But then I learned about how fish like tilapia was a farm fish which meant it was raised in man-made ponds that were often pretty polluted. And now, to complicate things more, Congress permitted country of origin information to no longer be on labels. So, really, where DOES that chicken come from?

Around the same time I began to get involved in the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia.  To say I knew nothing is not an understatement. I grew up in the New York metropolitan area, and while New Jersey’s nickname may be the Garden State, I lived in the paved part. But I enjoyed visiting farms and asking questions and I learned.

I learned a lot and I learned only a smidgen of what they know. They, the magic makers who take a tiny little speck of stuff, a seed, and manage to make that turn into tomatoes or squash or spinach. Amazing magic. They know how to do it and it definitely takes a lot of skill.

Right now here in the Willamette Valley some of the farmers are finding some fields are drying out enough from the winter rains to get started, but others will have to wait for more sun….or at least more non-rain days.  And then, later, they will deal with the vagaries of the weather, with heat and sunshine and lack of rain. And then, here in Oregon, the rains will start again, maybe in October, maybe in November, maybe with climate change whenever it does.

Those vagaries can make or break a financial year for our local farmers…and your local farmers too. I don’t care where you are when you read this, you have some small farms nearby. About a hundred years ago there were farms all over. The Garden State, for example, had earned its nickname because it was the vegetable garden for New York City.

So, accept this piece: there are farmers near you, raising food you can eat.

Before I started working with the farmers I met in West Virginia and here in Oregon, they used to be invisible. Either I never went down back roads or the roads I drove were not rural enough. But they were there, all along. Maybe just tucked back off a long driveway, or around the hill on the other sides. They are there.

Why am I belaboring that point? Because it is time, past time, for you to know your farmer.

I’ve been using that phrase for years and it seems more and more I am posting it almost weekly as new disgusting things about our food becomes known. But what does it really mean?

It means that it is once again time for you to understand that what you put in your body does make a difference.  It means your food is even more important than who won March Madness.  It means that it is time you understand the difference in your food can make a difference in your life.

I’m not talking any special diet here. I am talking knowing the source of what YOU chose to eat.

First of all, and maybe this is all you need to appreciate, it will TASTE BETTER!  Why? Well, most of the fruits and veggies at the supermarket come long distances, flown in or by train or by truck.  In order to be transported without spoilage, those fruits and veggies are picked green…not ripe. Almost everyone has eaten tomatoes in the winter and then a fresh tomato off someone’s backyard plant in the summer. THAT amazing explosion in your mouth is the humongous difference in eating something picked green and something vine ripened.  ALL fruits and veggies are that way.

Not only that, but if you were brought up with canned vegetables, try all those that you decided you would avoid as an adult one more time, fixed from locally grown fresh produce. If you’re like me, you will be surprised. Those cans of spinach that Popeye crammed down his throat to get strong never convinced me….until I ate fresh spinach in a salad and then braved up and cooked some. Spinach is no longer on my “hate it” list.

Secondly, and this is a bit concerning to me, we know our infrastructure (bridges and highways) have not been getting the maintenance they should have been getting over the past few decades. If there is a problem, as there was with the blizzard here in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge blocking I-84 and the railroad, the transportation of goods (including food) may be slowed.  If I can get most of my food from local sources, I can manage quite well. Now the Willamette Valley is an amazing garden and so much grows here that we could get by with only a few things missing from our diet, but not all areas are this fertile. Nevertheless, there is food near you. Find out what it is and learn how to prepare it for your meals.

Third, while the economic indicators show that the recession is over, it just doesn’t feel that healthy yet. One way to have a tremendous impact on your local economy is to spend more of your money IN it. In other words, use local shops and farms and services instead of the large corporate entities as much as possible. I, for one, discovered that printing my labels for my canned products cost more at Staples than at a small locally owned print shop. A lot less at Copy Cabana! So, when I go in weekly during my processing season and pay for printing, I know that money will mostly stay right here in my town.  The food I buy from local farmers helps the local economy the same way.

So how do you build a relationship with a farmer?  One easy way is to identify where and when your local farmers’ markets are.  Many market managers make an effort to plan the hours so consumers can stop during lunch hour or after work on their way home. Here in McMinnville, our planned market hours are expanding to noon to 6pm on Thursdays from mid May to Mid October. There are markets every day of the week within 30 minutes of here! Maybe in your area too.

When you go to your farmers’ market you will see four or five or more fruit and vegetable stands as well as other specialties with meat,  bread, wine, beer, candy, and preserved items (yeah Can-Do Real Food!).  Speak to the person at the booth. Ask about how they produce their food. They will be happy to speak with you!  They are proud of what they do and love it when people show interest.

Some farmers offer a CSA. That stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture. This is an easy way to get more bang for your buck (more food for your dollar), but there is a catch, maybe two. First, you pay ahead, either by the month or the season or the partial season. This permits the farmer to have working capital during the growing season. Second, you will get some produce you may have never eaten before. That can be a hard hurdle to overcome, but ask the farmer for a recipe or use your internet skills to search for one. Make exploring new foods a regular family adventure. (When Graham and I  first got together we did a cuisine of the week for a few months and learned new ethnic recipes. Now our exploration usually is a new veggie our farmers suggest.)

Look, some people (you?) have a close reliance on a hair dresser, a nail person, a massage therapist. We want what makes us feel/look/move healthy to be a regular, reliable part of our routine.  Where is your decision about the source of your food in that list of important people? Where is the consideration of how you CAN influence your health with what you eat?

It’s easier than you think. There are many ways to find local information, but an easy place to start is Local Harvest. Stick in your zip code and hit the search button. You will then see a list of farms and more that are near you. Have fun exploring…..and share your stories!

 

Name That Food!

My husband has told me that in Texas there is a store where there are a kazillion kind of peppers and the employees must be fluent in two languages and neither need not to be English.  Houston, for example, is a major city with many many immigrants, and a wise business understands that many non-English speakers who live there love those peppers. He said he often brought visitors there because it was fun to play “Name The Vegetable” since the produce department had global selections.

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Today, the regular supermarket has selections that sometimes even a new cash register clerk does not recognize. This is a sad but perfect example of how many people no longer cook from scratch and so they do not know the appearance of “whole food” .

Recognizing a plant that is growing is the next step for many. For example, I am not a farmer. No green thumbs. I do everything I can to support them by buying locally from farmers I know to working with them to use surplus in our recipes so they can have another income stream with shelf-stable foods to offer to their customers. Farmers work hard, long days, no time off in season or if they have animals, all year. The LEAST any of us can do is support American farmers! But I grew up in suburbia and can recognize those few plants my dad grew in our garden.

Several years ago I wrote a blog for Huntingon, West Virginia’s Wild Ramp Market. Visiting a farm I snapped photos of plants in the garden and posted the pictures  asking people to Name That Veggie. Many people were able to guess just about all of them. 

Today I saw something online that provided photos of some common things we eat (and some I personally have never seen let alone had a chance to taste) like coffee and capers. Check it out! See how many you can identify.

And after that, if you can try to eat one you’ve never tasted, let me know!