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California’s a Big State (Part 4) – Oregon House Farm & High Sierra Beef

We continued to head north from the RV docking point we used for San Francisco.  We’d been so busy with national parks and city touring that we were looking forward to some downtime.  Our first stop was two weeks at a campground/RV park on our Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass in Oregon House, CA- about 1 hour south of Chico.  This is rural America.  The drive in was absolutely beautiful and the country began to remind us distinctly of New England.

Wherever we are, I always check localharvest.org for local farms, farmstands, and farmers’ markets.  Since we eat paleo, fresh meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are our staples.  As you can imagine, this can get tricky.  No rice to fill a 3rd of the plate.  No beans to bulk up a meal.  No potatoes in the storage bin (anymore) to tide us over until we find a decent farmstand or market.  It takes some diligence and planning to ensure that our food supply is plentiful and sustained but it’s something we enjoy (the philosophy and the flavors) and believe in so it’s well worth the effort.  And there is less guilt when I buy those inorganic strawberries because I know our bodies are strong and healthy and can tolerate the occasional insult.
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We’re arriving in the north country a little early for the beginning of the farmers’ markets season so I was hoping I might find a local farm for meat, eggs, and seasonal produce.  My freezer stock of grassfed ground beef and cuts that I loaded up on in Tucson from the University of Arizona was waning.and eating grocery store meat is really a last resort.  We lucked out!  I found Oregon House Farm owned and operated by Jenny Cavaliere just 2 miles away – a cooperative member of High Sierra Beef who also operates a weekend farm store out of her 100 year old barn.  My e-mail inquiry to Jenny resulted not only in stocking our freezer but also a personal tour of her farm – 5 separate pieces of land – which included bee hives, calving cows (and calves!), chickens, sheep, and a peek into the life of a sustainable farmer.  Jenny also invited Sadie to sell her handmade felted pins, hair ties, beaded earrings, and flaxseed packs at the farm store the following weekend.
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Talk about knowing where your food comes from…  Jenny names all of her cows, walks among them in the fields, and they come down to greet her when she calls.  We talked freely about the processes and logistics of sustainable and humane breeding, feeding, and, yes, even slaughtering.  We even walked through the metal corral and down the ‘hall’ used to keep the cows still and safe for procedures and onto trailers for travel.
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You know, traveling is only partly about the places.  That’s how it starts.  The reason it continues and is fueled is the people.  Jenny is one of those people- who would take an entire afternoon to hang around in pastures sharing her passion with a family just traveling through.  Chris and I have been tossing around the idea of farming.  Jenny’s honesty about it’s 24/7 tether has put our dreamy prospect in check.  But this close connection has made us even more dedicated to knowing our farmer and their practices as much as possible.  Truth be told, there are a lot of different phrases used on packaging that are used to airbrush dirty or unhealthy practices.  My decoder ring can’t keep up with the myriad of ways that these practices get off on technicalities or fuzzy language and into the market.

Here are a couple of articles I like about grass-fed vs. grain fed beef:

Health Benefits of Grass Farming

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef

And one to ponder about the ethics of eating meat:

Is Eating Meat Ethical?

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in California, Food, Travel log

 

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If you want it done better, do it yourself (bread)

We’ve pretty much eliminated all processed/packaged foods from our home (RV).  What remains:

– an ever-present jar of organic pasta sauce for busy or moving days

– cereal: the kids choose Autumn Wheats, Strawberry Fields, Kashi Go Lean and the like but the fact remains that they are packaged/processed.  I don’t have an alternative for this currently except that Sadie has mostly stopped eating cereal anyway (having switched to toast/fruit- see below for her favorite recipe) and Elijah loves homemade granola with rice milk or organic oatmeal (scratch recipes welcome!).

– bread: for toast, sandwiches, etc.  It’s always been whole grain, dark breads but…

I want to take back control from big corporations over what is put into our bodies.  I want to know the ingredients and how much of each is in what we’re eating.  And… it just feels good and ceremonious and loving to create in the kitchen and feed myself and my family.  At a park day a few months ago, I told my friend Barb about my frustration that I could not seem to make a loaf of bread that was tasty and would work for slicing.  She told me I just needed more practice.

She was right.  A few weeks ago, I decided to go out on a limb (the one in the back of the tree far away from the knowledge-about-yeast-etc. limb) and try my hand at combining a couple of my favorite bread machine recipes to see if I could tailor one to our desires.  I did it!  This recipe received two thumbs up from our resident bread aficionada, Sadie.  So it’s only fitting that it bear her name.

It’s in the machine right now! 

Sadie’s Crusty Spelt

In large breadmaker combine:

14 oz cold water*

3 cups organic unbleached white flour

1 1/2 cups organic spelt flour

1 Tbsp honey

2 1/2 tsps sea salt

3 1/2 Tbsps unsalted organic butter

2 Tbsps dry goats’ milk

1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast (chilled)*

Set bread machine to ‘wheat’ setting and you’re done!  Allow to cool slightly before slicing and store.

kitchen bread

Homemade bread spoils before store-bought as there are no preservatives to enhance shelf-life.  It doesn’t matter because this bread is so yummy that it’s gone within three days.  We use it for garlic bread as well (butter, freshly minced garlic, onion powder, garlic powder- toast in oven).

Sadie's crusty spelt

* I’m no yeast expert.  This bread has risen out of the drum and into the machine (mess) twice recently and I realized it was because I had either used warm water or allowed the yeast to come to room temperature (or both) before baking which enhances the activity of the yeast.  If using room temperature yeast, decrease the amount used to eliminate major frustration, potential for cursing, and a foul smelling breadmaker.

What’s next? Milling my own flour? I just talked to a woman at a park day here in Florida that has her own grain mill. I thought about it… There a few reasons why I think it would make me insane- another small appliance in my RV under-storage, another appliance on my already miniature kitchen counter, more weight in the RV, another step in my process… I’m sure it will happen some day but it doesn’t seem likely or interesting at present.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Food

 

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New Orleans, Louisiana

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Wow, I finally made it to New Orleans! Chris visited several years ago to celebrate the birthday of his brother while I stayed cozy in our New Hampshire home with two young babes. He came home bursting with stories of the beauty, culture, and delicious food and vibe of the area. Then came Hurricane Katrina. Chris was heartsick that he would never be able to share the experience of New Orleans with us after the horrible devastation the area and people had incurred. Five years later, the French Quarter is back. While there are signs of rebuilding continuing around New Orleans, the downtown is just as Chris remembered it and I imagined it – alive with music, smiles, beauty, art, food, and a plethora of things to see and do.

We pulled in to Pontchartrain Landing RV Resort which is about five miles from the French Quarter.  I highly recommend this place – they allow supervised children in the hot tub, have a fenced, grassy dog run area, and keep a clean, quiet, lovely park with a great location!  And they’re half price Sunday-Thursday for Passport America members!  As we’re meeting an RV park reservation in Florida, we had only two full days to take in the city. Here’s what we did:

Day 1:
Having purchased the Association of Children’s Museums membership while in Texas, we were pleased to find that the Louisiana Children’s Museum was on our list of reciprocal museums and were able to attend this fantastic museum FREE (our membership paid for itself in the 3 visits we made to the Austin Children’s Museum… 🙂 Wow- this is a great museum and really worth the visit. Most of the exhibits were unlike ones we had seen before and we were all really engaged.
Sadie hoops it up- Louisiana Children's Museum
Elijah balances freighters at the Louisiana Children's Museum

From the museum, we walked (parking near the museum was only $6 for the day!) over to the Riverwalk and had a quick lunch in their food court in order to (barely and breathlessly) make the 1 o’clock showing of Hurricane on the Bayou at the IMAX theatre. Chris and I remembered in the first few minutes that we had seen this on TV a few years ago. It was well worth it to see it again on the IMAX screen. The flights over the bayou were breathtaking and I was shaken to tears by the hurricane footage. The kids were interested in information about Katrina, remembering all that we had researched about Ike when we were in Galveston Island, TX during the summer so this movie was just the thing.

From the theatre, we walked down part of Bourbon Street and then over to Jackson Square where we lounged on the grass before locating Cafe Du Monde around the corner and taking in their world reknowned cafe au lait and bignettes. They lived up to their fame!
Relaxing in Jackson Square, New Orleans
Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

We came home utterly exhausted and already planning what we’d like to see/do on Day 2…

Day 2:
We spent the morning troubleshooting some veg. system issues. It’s always something but usually nothing… big.  Chris and I have become quite the mechanical team for this house on wheels.  Tomorrow will tell us whether we’ve remedied the issue or need to play in the veg. some more.

We arrived downtown a little after noon and hopped aboard the historic St. Charles streetcar ($1.25 per person each way) to tour the garden district. The ride was much longer than I’d imagined and the children were utterly bored. Chris and I agreed that although the scenery and homes were beautiful, listening to the cell phone calls and social conversations of the locals in their own dialect was much more interesting and enriching. We did have some fun with the camera as the streetcars are very cool looking- inside and out and enhanced our natural photogeneity  :).  Are you a Facebook friend?  Most of my photos are there!
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The kids were happy when we pulled back up to our stop and exited the streetcar. And I was even happier hearing loud, melodic horns and drums booming from the corner of Bourbon Street.  There, swaying and bobbing on the corner were 6 or 7 young men playing trumpets, trombones, tuba, and two varieties of drums.  The music could be heard for blocks and I felt full of what I had come here for – jubilant, passionate music!  Having appreciated that for a few minutes, we decided to walk to the beat to the French Quarter for another menu item for which the city is known – the po’ boy. We tried to hit up Johnny’s but apparently the fact that they’re a ‘lunch counter’ really means they only do lunch. We arrived to padlocked doors and groaning children. The meter was running on the car so we walked back in that direction open to whatever interesting restaurant struck our fancy- Hard Rock Cafe and The House of Blues were not what we were looking for… The French Quarter Pizzeria and Bar looked inviting. Wow. Their mild wings knocked our socks off and the po’ boys were out of this world. I told the story of the origin of the po’ boy which everyone found interesting (check it out!) and the kids got to make their own pizzas! Chris and I also indulged in our only alcoholic beverage during the New Orleans visit- a Nawtea (apparently known for its medicinal qualities). It was a little fruity and a lot relaxing.
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With the check went the sultry evening and in came the torrential rain. We had 12 minutes to get back to our car meter and had never been in wind and rain like this. We squealed and ran and yelled about how amazing it was as the wind whipped and the raindrops pierced. It was an exhilerating end to another full day. We compared the mph speed of the wild wind we experienced (Elijah almost blew away waiting at a crosswalk) to the speeds that Katrina brought which really put it in perspective.  When we got home, wet clothes were peeled off and jammies were put in the dryer to warm chilled kiddos. It feels good to be cozied up again.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2011 in Food, Louisiana, RV, Travel log

 

We Are What We Eat (aka- Eating well on the road)

We’re accruing a list of frequently asked questions.  One of these has been coming up relatively often lately as people dig a little deeper into how we are living full time on the road.  People want to know- what do we eat?  First, I think there is a pretty common misconception that living in an RV is like camping.  When we embarked on this lifestyle, it was with all of the comforts we considered necessary in mind.  We were all very clear that this should in no way ever feel like we were sacrificing in some way.  And I can safely say (we talk about this regularly) that everyone feels completely satisfied and comfortable with the RV life.  We have a perfectly regular living quarters with all of the regular areas- just laid out a little differently and squashed into a smaller space.

As far as the kitchen goes, our food knowledge, planning, preparing, and consumption is always changing and improving with our awareness.  And, while I lack the vast counter space of our suburban dwelling, the way that I consider and prepare food has not ever back-stepped with our change in living quarters.  In fact, we’ve become even healthier!  I believe in whole ingredients.  I believe in preparing food from ingredients that are recognizable and basic.  I was recently asked where I keep all of my boxed and canned pantry items in the RV and I was confused for a moment.  I have only the occasional organic jarred pasta/pizza sauce and a box or two of Annie’s organic macaroni and cheese.  Why would these require lots of space?

The misconception is that cooking from basic ingredients requires more space.  It doesn’t.  In fact, it requires less… and less money, too.  We eat only organic (and local if we can help it) produce and choose the most organic and basic of other ingredients as well.  It is amazing to me to compare shopping carts with those who are buying boxed, frozen, canned, etc. foods.  Their carts are overflowing and their receipts are frightening!  I can make so many different things with the ingredients that we buy and they are so satisfying that my smaller cart of groceries actually amounts to a much more creative, frugal, and healthy lifestyle.

I think I’ll start sharing some of my favorite recipes here.  Please include yours or links to them in the comments section!  I’m always looking to try new things as is Sadie – my 6 year-old sidekick in the kitchen.

I suppose I should have started with some amazing entree with lots of local green stuff but, since the Patriots lost tonight and we are in mourning, I will offer up one of our favorite breakfast items that served as comfort food for us tonight:

Gingerbread Pancakes – Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I alter every recipe I come across.  I use grapeseed oil in place of vegetable and reconstituted goat’s milk in lieu of cow’s (I have also used rice milk with success). For a more crepe-like pancake (and for vegan alteration), we’ve used 1 tbsp of milled blueberry flaxseed with 3 tbsps water instead of the egg. Delicious!
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To save time, I will often make extra of the dishes I make- hot dishes serve well for lunch the next day. In this case, I always make a second batch of the dry mix to put in the pantry for another day when I will just have to whip up the wet mix, combine, pour, and flip!
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Food, RV

 

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Re-use, Grow, Eat- Repeat

We got a late start to planting our veggie garden this year.  With all of the research of and preparation for RV living, I tried not to put energy into anything that would keep my focus on staying in this house.  I felt like rooting plants here and becoming attached to seeing them through to harvest might alter the flow of energy toward our life on the road- not to mention that we were just plain busy.  When the first house deal fell through, I was on a mission.  It was too late in the season to start seeds so I marched off to the market and picked up seedlings in peet pots.  So how to address the issue of rooting here and potentially missing the fruit?  Even after our recent tremendous clean-out, I was able to find five random plastic tubs in which to plant mobile veggies – a container garden.  I have had issues in the past being able to maintain moisture in containers in Texas.  It hasn’t been a problem this year, however.  I was inspired by this article in Mother Earth News and decided to try again. 

– Green beans in re-purposed cat litter bin*

– Green bell peppers in small, re-purposed concrete container*

– Cherry tomatoes in large, plastic pot that once housed a bush that was planted

– Some kind of tiny, bitter peppers in an old, plastic pot

– Cucumbers in an old, plastic pail*

 *holes made in the bottom for drainage by banging a large nail through in several places*

The pots are hiding a bit amongst the moon flowers whose seeds must have blown in from the one I had potted on the patio last year.  The kids get a kick out of the traveling moon flowers and it helps to bring meaning to books like The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle which is one of my kids’ favorites.  I don’t know if it has to do with starting seedlings rather than seeds, the smaller containers that contain the roots and encourage top growth, the occasional shade lent by the moonflowers, or some other variable entirely but all of our plants are burgeoning wildly.  We have eaten many peppers, tomatoes, and green beans already.  While last year we waited all season for one, lonely (yet outrageously delicious) cucumber, this year promises a record-breaking cuke yield.

The kids and I have already talked so much about re-purposing household items, companion planting, helpful insects, garden pests, plant reproduction, etc. that it has been absolutely worth planting and having this time even if we end up not being able to bring our buckets with us on the road.  The cukes are coming, though.  Mark my words.  I will not miss out on that delicious harvest.  The kids have been hoping to make pickles.  What better way than with our very own homegrown cucumbers?

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2010 in Food, Gardening, RV

 

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