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!

Image may contain: food
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

FIGS!!!

My introduction to figs was Fig Newtons and boy oh boy I could eat a package by myself. Love them.  I was introduced to fresh figs the summer of 1972 when walking across a field in Israel with one of my cousins. We came upon a large tree and he said , “I don’t know the name in English but it is very good to eat.” It reminded me of something but I could not place it. After all, dried/fresh  tastes differ slightly and it was not wrapped in a cookie. We got back to his house, pulled out the Hebrew-English dictionary and my gastronomic education had been enhanced.fig tree

Here in Oregon we have a lot of figs and I have been trying for several years to get some. This year I have connected with three different people who have fig trees and it appears that the first is ready to be gathered this weekend. I am so excited!!!

Assorted milk & plain chocolate in blue bowl
Assorted milk & plain chocolate in blue bowl

So I have two ideas of what I would like to do with them…..I tasted an amazing fig-orange preserves at the Fancy Food Show in January and hope to replicate that. I also would like to prepare a fig paste that people can use many ways, and with a recipe I will provide, bake their own version of fig newtons.homemade fig newtonsfig-orange-jam-5

I wondered if any of you have made any fig preserves of any kind and had a recipe to recommend. I’m also interested in savory recipes, as I will dry a bunch and hope to develop a dehydrated recipe for the 2017 season.