Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beef Brisket in Crock Pot

I was walking around the farmers market near my house & imagining cooking in my crock pot. It must have been the slight chill in the air. I picked up some Prather Ranch Beef Brisket. The boys had sold out of pot roast and rump roast meats. I let fate take it's course. If you don't know about organic and humanly raised cows from Prather Ranch, you gotta see my video interview later with the owner. Purchased most of my vegetables from local farmers, Ladesma, Capay, Happy Boy Farms, who all have great produce. I was really amazed at Ladesma Farms red cabbage & those lovely red spring onions. Yukon Gold Organic Potatoes were from a conventional store, but still grown in California, which I was very glad about.

Then I got home and dusted of my crock pot. I hadn't used it since winter, but the weather was to be cooling and it would be good to be prepared for a nice warming meal. It's okay to use your crock pot in late spring!

Place your meat in bottom of crock pot and add the can of diced tomatoes, fresh is always better friends. I like to add pepper and salt and this point.
Chop all veggies into small cubes or moons. 

Place all veggies, except zucchini, which you can add later to the crop pot mix. I made the mistake of adding them in the beginning.
This is how lovely the vegetables look together in the crock pot before you place the lid on top. The best part about this meal is  doing other activities, while your crock pot is cooking a delicious meal.

Beef Brisket 1.5 - 2 lb
Diced tomatoes 1/2 lb or 1/2 Can 12 oz of Muir Glen Organic Diced tomatoes
5 cups of H20
6 Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 part Red Cabbage
4 carrots
4 zucchini
6 red spring onion
1 green pepper
1 bay leaf
1 TB oregano
1 TB powder garlic
1/2 Tsp of Cumin
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Allow crock pot to cook all ingredients for about 5 hours on high. Add zucchini in last possible hour. If you are home, give a stir and move meat around so it gets the flavor of the vegetables. Taste again for proper seasoning.

Ready to eat when meat dissolves easy with fork. 
Enjoy with Family and friends!
Serve with rice or fresh baguette and butter!

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Durable Local Economy at Grand Lake Market.

"The logic is clear: in a world threatened by ever higher energy prices and ever-scarcer fossil fuels, you're better off in a relatively self-sufficient county or state or region. In a world increasingly rocked by wild and threatening weather, durable economies will be more useful than dynamic ones. And in both cases, the increased sense of community and heightened skill at democratic decision making that a more local economy implies will not simply increase our levels of satisfaction with our lives, but also increase our chances of survival in a more dangerous world." 
 ~Bill McKibben from Deep Economy,The Wealth of Communities and Durable Future.

Today I present you some items from Grand Lake Farmers Market, representing our local economy. Fresh produce, grown locally, vendors with handmade products & great talent.  It's the kind of community I am proud to be a part of. We move through our days and slowly our world seems a little bit more dangerous and tenuous, but then my spirit is lifted by the possibility of our community creating urban gardens, making their own soap, medicines, and generally becoming self sufficient into itself.  It's a beautiful thing and completely in line with how our future might actually look and feel, right after we have exhausted all our natural resources to move products around the world freely. We would need more of these: The Institute of Urban Homesteading. These lovely people, I encountered today, were offering classes in gardening, urban animal husbandry, food preservation, brecraft, herbal medicines, and much more. Many urbanites already have in place orchards, drought tolerant gardens, compost systems, chicken coops, mushroom beds, food forests. It's the first signs of a new paradigm around creating a new "durable economy" no longer focused on unlimited growth and economic hyper-individualism, but sustaining strong local communities and healthier physical environments. Here are the following blessings I found today.

  Tasty sugar snap peas grown by Happy BoyFarms.

Cherries that Joe Gotelli & Sons told me arrived a few weeks later than expected.

Fresh made Kettle Corn by The Gold Miners Kettle makers. 

Capay Farms had these lovely radishes

Tomatero Farms had the first of sweet strawberries coming into season.

Nancy Funk Ceramics made these Sumo Soaps and more. 

 Oulen Studio  made hand crafted items so lovely. 

Buy local, Eat Organic, Save the Planet!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Happy May Day! May the spirit of the Pagans inspire you to bring in the flowers of May and celebrate the immense fertility of the Earth.  I was recently on a foraging expedition with an expert forager, Kevin Feinstein, a local wild plant forager & writer. In a wandering food expedition along the Contra Costa hills, he taught us how to recognize wild edible plants, how to prepare them, and how to respect them. For me it was a great awakening to the bounty of nature. So accustomed to the farmers market, I had not known the joys of what our ancestors had done long before we began domesticating plants. 
Every region and climate will have its own unique plants and therefore, this is will only be pertinent to North America, near 37 degrees latitude. What is most important for sustainable foraging is harvesting only 1/3 of the plant leaf or flower, and never pulling up the roots of delicate plants.  For example, we  found a lovely patch of Miners Lettuce (below).  This delicate plant is a winter green, which first appears as a spade shaped leaf, then turns into a full circled leaf. It’s best not to pull out the shallow root, so that it will return next season. It’s also best to cut the leaf at the base of plant with scissors.  This lovely lettuce has a buttery and delicate taste. I enjoyed a fresh salad with baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, topped with olive oil, salt, and fresh ground pepper.  This plant was very popular with the California 49ers, who ate it while on expeditions for their precious Gold; and therefore its local name. This delicate plant is nutritious and reseeds itself every year. How amazing is nature?! 

Learning about native plants gave me great insight into the Ohlone, this region's indigenous people, who foraged from the wild for over 3,000 years. The land was covered with great Valley Oaks (right), very large trees that produce acorns. The Ohlone were able to leech the harsh tannins of the acorn by placing them in the streams and allow the running water dissolve the tannin out. This precious seed sustained them and was their main staple. The acorns were ground down into a very nutritious paste. Their culture evolved around harvesting these acorns that did not always arrive every season, but when they did arrive it was a bountiful harvest for these people. 

I also encountered the California Bay Leaf bush (left), which is 3 times stronger than the European Bay leaf. The flower buds can be picked to make capers!  Cannot wait to try this.  The nuts from the fruit can also be roasted and eaten, but be careful as the nut has a strong caffeine property.
The elderberry is a wonderous plant for its medicinal properties as an anti-viral. The fruit can be harvested and made into jams, jelly, or frozen for a later idea.  Later in the summer, these buds (below) will be ready to harvest by gently shaking off berries from the branch. The berries are sweet and perfectly tart. It was also recommended to put the berries in Brandy or Vodka for a few weeks to make a strong medicinal tincture. Flowers appear in May or June, are cream color, and can be used for tea.  
In the foraging expedition Kevin warned of poisonous plants and never eating anything not recognized. The dreaded Hemlock plant, with purple blotches on stalk, being the very first plant that he showed us. This plant will certainly be the end of you if ingested; just as it was used for poisoning great philosophers and leaders. It is best to avoid anything that resembles wild parsley or carrot leaf plants, to be safe.   
Recently I heard on NPR, a conversation with an East Coast urban forager who was speaking about how to recognize edible wild plants growing in the City; but I would discourage anyone from eating plants near a highway, growing out of the concrete, or near a parking lot; as the plant will pull contaminants through the roots. It is always best to thoroughly wash off plants in cold water. Also, urbanites must be careful with the law, as some city parks do not support foraging; even some state and national parks discourage foraging wild plants for good reason. I suppose this is the reason we have organized farming! 

In your area, go out with those that have experience, Happy Foraging!