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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our November 2013 Potluck Dinner Meeting: A Review of the 2013 International Wise Traditions Conference

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

A small group of energetic souls braved a cold dark rainy evening in the canyon to attend our November potluck dinner meeting.  I missed the dinner portion myself, but when I arrived, about 8 people were gathered at the table listening intently to stories from the 2013 Wise Traditions conference told by fellow member Rolf Hastrup.

The conference which took place this year in Atlanta, Georgia, was an inspiration to many.  As always, it offered an amazing assortment of local foods, vendors, speakers, classes, special events, and field trips.  If you are among those from our area who could not attend the conference this year, you may be interested in ordering conference recordings. Just check in regularly to keep track of when the recordings are posted.

Though your Pasadena chapter leaders Karen Voelkening-Behegan and Aaron Zober could not attend the conference this year, we did share some highlights from the conference at our local meeting.  Read on for some important announcements from the conference, the latest news from the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and a link to some interviews with 8 prominent conference speakers.

Here are the announcements I shared from the conference:

1) The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) is coming out with an app of their Shopping Guide.  It will give the WAPF more visibility and enable everyone with a smart phone to carry the guide wherever they go.    One very generous donor funded the development of the app which is scheduled to be available at the App Store on December 10th.  In the meantime, if you'd like to order a hard-copy of the Shopping Guide, just go to the main Weston A. Price Foundation website and click "Order Materials" in the side menu of any page.

2) The Weston A. Price Foundation is working towards establishing a food research lab at the University of Illinois to serve as a resource for accurate information about the nutritional value of nutrient-dense foods.  The Foundation needs donations of $300,000 per year to make this happen.  Today when most funding is profit-driven and geared towards patenting drugs or selling highly-processed nutrient-poor synthetic foods, we need to find a way to scientifically test the real foods that no one can patent.  Finding donors who stand nothing to gain from funding the research can be quite difficult, so the Weston A. Price Foundation has taken the Public Radio approach by asking the public for their support.  Just as we make donations to public radio because we want accurate news, we also need to fund nutritional studies if we want accurate information about the food we eat.  In order to be truly non-biased, scientific studies need to be supported by individuals and groups whose only agenda is to discover the truth.  So please help spread the word, go to the Weston A. Price Foundation website, click the biggest button on the homepage, and donate whatever you can!  Then Chris Masterjohn, PhD and the esteemed Dr. Fred Kummerow can continue the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and lead the nutritional studies we’ve been waiting for. 

At our November potluck dinner meeting, I also spoke about the latest news from the foundation’s sister organization, the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF).  The FTCLDF is spearheading the effort to defend farmers, vendors, artisans, and consumers who produce and consume sustainably-raised nutrient-dense foods from government harassment, both local and federal.  Every year on the eve of the conference, the WAPF holds a fundraiser dinner and special program for the FTCLDF.  A recording of this year's 1-hour-45-minute-long program is available online at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv_oydmwVls.  If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, here are some of the highlights:

At the fundraiser, FTCLDF president Pete Kennedy spoke about the Fund’s latest accomplishments and goals.  There are now 35-40 states where consumers have access to raw milk, up from 25 just a few years ago, the most recent additions being North Dakota, Arkansas, and Michigan.  Close to ¾ of the states in the USA have passed cottage food bills for the unregulated sale of a variety of homemade foods, while other states have allowed for small-scale on-farm cultured processing, which is mainly unregulated.  Also, in most states people can produce and sell eggs without a permit. 

Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm To Consumer
Legal Defense Fund
Pete’s most passionate message was about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (aka FSMA) which puts unreasonable burdens on small farmers, and would essentially put them out of business and establish a 2-tier food system in the US:  one that offers regulated food produced by factories and factory farms, and unregulated, highly processed, imported food.  Pete encouraged everyone to contact their representatives and ask them to preserve the Tester-Hagan exemption, which would protect small farmers from crippling over-regulation.  Pete’s ultimate goal is to establish an alternative 2-tier food system, one that protects consumers' rights to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice, whether regulated or unregulated, and one that encourages the growth, development, and consumption of sustainably-raised nutrient-dense foods. 

Another important mission of Pete Kennedy and the FTCLDF is to inspire all of us to work towards passing Food Freedom legislation at the state level in all states.  As an example, the Commonwealth of Virginia has just passed two Food Freedom bills, and is currently working towards 5 more:  the creation of zoning regulations which support the production and distribution of real foods, the protection of on-farm sales with no regulation, the protection of home processing, the legalization of the sale of raw milk, and the protection of consumers’ rights to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice.   Everyone needs access to sustainably-raised nutrient-dense foods, unhindered by over-regulation.  In Pete's estimation, the health and well-being of all our children and grandchildren depends on it!

Vernon Hershberger receiving the "Never A Doormat"
award from Pete Kennedy and the
Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund

At the end of his talk, Pete gave out the 2013 “Never a Doormat” award, given annually to the individual who stands up against government harassment to carry on providing sustainably-raised nutrient-dense food to their community.  This year the award went to Vernon Hershberger of Wisconsin, who paid the price for his beliefs when he stood up to the government during 3 raids against his farm and farm store, and still kept the raw milk flowing to his consumers in spite of being charged with 4 misdemeanors generating 7 thousand pages of documents.  Mr. Hershberger was acquitted of 3 out of the 4 charges, and Pete is confident that they will succeed in having the 4th charge dropped in appeals.  To see Mr. Hershberger’s response to receiving the award, you may want to forward through the video of the fundraiser program.

The main feature of the evening was “the GMO debate of the decade” between Natural Health Expert Dr. Joseph Mercola and American Farmer, Lecturer, and Author Joel Salatin.  In the "Joe versus Joel" debate, Dr. Mercola argued for the urgency of implementing GMO-labeling to save lives and improve the health of our nation.  Based on the number of chronic debilitating diseases he has seen in his practice and the number of patients who get well when they remove GMOs from their diet, Dr. Mercola sees GMO-labeling as a form of triage to help the ill and dying have a chance at healthy lives.  Joel Salatin, to the contrary, argued against GMO-labeling as a form of government interference, and that we don’t want the government telling us what to do, defining our labels, or regulating us.  Joel’s philosophical position is that we should all take the responsibility to educate ourselves on our food choices, and not rely on the government to do that for us.  The debate was definitely a lively one that gave us much food for thought.  Tune in to figure out where you stand and see Sally Fallon's response to the debate.

Finally the president and founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon addressed the attendees of the annual FTCLD soirée.  Besides praising the work of the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Sally also gave us a list of the top 5 goals she'd like to see realized before she dies “at the ripe old age of 105.”  Sally would like to be able to buy non-GMO Kombucha at a ballgame in National Stadium and at any airport in the country; she would like to see butter recognized as a healthy food everywhere, and reach the point where everyone laughs at anyone who speaks out against butter; she would like to see a wide variety of legumes eclipse soy in our food supply, see soy considered a cruel and unusual punishment in prison meals, and see it banned from school lunches and baby fomulas; she would like to see the memberships of the WAPF and the FTCLDF reach 100 thousand members each; and finally she would like to see raw milk available in every state in the USA.

Sally Fallon, President and Founder of the
Weston A. Price Foundation
To finish up the evening, Sally said she was very proud of the FTCLDF and the difference it has made in the availability of nutrient-dense foods in the USA since its founding in July 2007.  Though she gives considerable credit for this trend to consumer education, increased demand for real food, and a growing numbers of small farms, Sally truly believes that the Farm To Consume Legal Defense Fund is making the biggest difference.  The main reason we are able to get more sustainably-raised nutrient-dense foods now in more states, according to Sally Fallon, is that the FTCLDF is leveling the playing field, and federal government agents are thinking twice before harassing small farmers.  In Sally's words: "They think about it first before they mess with us."

At our November potluck dinner meeting, we also learned about 8 prominent conference speakers from our Chapter Co-leader Aaron Zober.  Aaron runs a radio show called the Appropriate Omnivore in which he explores the growth, preparation, distribution, and health benefits of nutrient-dense foods.  For the past couple years now, Aaron has made it a tradition on the Appropriate Omnivore to interview a number of conference speakers during the weeks preceding the annual Wise Traditions conference. This year, Aaron interviewed: 


Dr. Joseph Mercola - Osteopath, Mercola.com

Joel Salatin - Farmer, Polyface Farms

Chris Masterjohn, Phd - Researcher, University of Illinois

Hannah Crum - Owner, Kombucha Kamp

Sandeep Agarwal - Owner, Pure Indian Foods & Curator, Butterworld

Joann Grohman - Author, "Keeping a Family Cow"

Pete Kennedy - President, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Sally Fallon - President, Weston A. Price Foundation

As a service to our chapter, Aaron created a Power Point presentation illustrating the highlights of each interview, complete with sound bytes.  To see Aaron’s presentation and listen to portions of the interviews, go to:  The Appropriate Omnivore Wise Traditions 2013 Speaker Series.   To read Aaron's blog and hear the full interviews, go to the Appropriate Omnivore. Thank you, Aaron for putting together this presentation and finding some key sound bytes for us to listen to.

To finish up the evening, Aaron announced the location of next year's 15th annual International Wise Traditions Conference: The conference will take place in Indianapolis, Illinois in November 2014.

Thank you to everyone who attended our November potluck dinner meeting, and thanks again to my Co-leader Aaron for helping me share some important messages from the 14th annual International Wise Traditions Conference.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving with plenty of good food and harmony among family and friends.  Enjoy the rest of this holiday season, and please join us for our upcoming Holiday Potluck Dinner Meeting in December.

Your Chapter Leader, Karen

Friday, November 1, 2013

Our October 2013 Potluck Dinner Meeting: An Introduction to Organ Meats, Their Health Benefits and Preparation Methods

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

Tuesday night's meeting brought 25 participants and a vast array of hearty winter soups, stews, sauces, and accompaniments.  Unlike our summer meals which tend to favor side dishes, salads, and cold foods, this repast was a literal banquet of warm dishes and entrees, many containing delightfully prepared organ meats.  The sides included fresh garden kale, sauerkraut, homemade gluten-free mini-muffins, and even a tasty gluten-fee lemon custard pie.

As a nutritional therapy practitioner and founding chapter leader, I initiated our Introduction to Organ Meats before dinner with a quick demonstration of a red wine Dijon mushroom sauce sautéed with beef kidney, liver, and heart, and served over freshly baked butternut squash.   The recipe was a modification of one I found by Clotilde Dusoulier at chocolateandzucchini.com.  It had great reviews online, so I hope the crowd approved of my alterations.* Considering that the dish was all but gone by the end of dinner, I think they liked it!

After dinner and announcements, I proceeded with a Power Point presentation that highlighted the health benefits of offal.  The photographs shown in this article came from the presentation.  To give credit where credit is due, I've linked the photos to their original sources.

Unlike most other foods, organ meats contain high concentrations of many important essential nutrients.  These nutrients happen to be the ones that most Americans are seriously deficient in, including vitamin C, many B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, a variety of minerals, and some very important fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.  It is no surprise that nationwide deficiencies have emerged and grown to alarming levels ever since organ meats went out of fashion, along with the depletion of our soils, the rise of factory "farms," aka confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs, and the decline of traditional agriculture.

The nutrients found in organ meats are the very same nutrients so widely recommended in supplement form by doctors and nutritionists. They're the same nutrients found to be deficient in numerous common health conditions, including blood sugar problems, digestive problems, hormonal problems, mental health problems, and many more. It is certainly no coincidence that many chronic ailments have been on the rise ever since we abandoned these important foods, once considered sacred.  Though what doctor has ever prescribed pastured organ meats like tripe for irritable bowel, liver for reactive hypoglycemia, PMS or infertility, heart for depression, or skin, bones and brain for aggression?  I hope this presentation brings home the point that organ meats, when sourced from healthy pastured animals, are among the most nutrient-dense foods in the human diet, and rather than optional, they are truly essential for good physical and mental health.

Fig, Liver & Onions
The importance of procurring your organ meats from pastured sources can not be understated. Since most meat in our country now comes from factory "farms," the organs from that meat tend to be of poor quality, due to the inappropriate feeding of the animals, inherent deficiencies in their diets, lack of fresh air and sunshine, over-crowded conditions, tendency towards infection, and overuse of antibiotics. Organ tissue is more sensitive to the damages of toxins and tends to absorb toxic overload, which is plentiful in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.  The most nutritious and flavorful, freshest, highest quality, and safest organ meat comes from grass-fed animals raised at local sustainable farms.

Blood Sausage
To culminate the presentation, I showed published photographs of lovingly prepared organ meats in mouthwatering presentations.  My goal was to use some attractive and enticing images to illustrate just how appetizing organ meats can be, and take the mystery and fear out of consuming them.  At the end, the presentation provided links to a number of local sources for good pastured organ meats, as well as a list of resources on how to prepare them.

Fortunately, our education was not just visual and auditory. Given the adventurous and generous spirit of our participants, the appetizing smells and tastes of locally grown pastured offal abounded throughout the evening and into the final presentation by Dr. Rosann Volmert.

Dr. Volmert who regularly prepares organ meats as part of her family's dietary regime, spoke in detail about bone marrow and heart meat.  She began her presentation by demonstrating how quickly and easily you can prepare some mildly nutty-flavored and health-giving bone marrow.  Simply lay it in a baking dish, add salt and pepper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut.

While the bone marrow was baking, we learned about its mono-unsaturated fatty acid content, most certainly associated with some important fat soluble vitamins, according to Sally Fallon and many other nutrition professionals.  (Once the Weston A. Price Foundation develops its research facility for testing the nutritional value of real foods, we will finally have the non-profit scientific studies we need for validation!)

Roasted Bone Marrow
For anyone who needs some serious digestive healing, bone marrow is a traditional cure which, according to Dr. Volmert (and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the GAPS diet) should be consumed every day for optimal results.  Whether you eat it plain, as a spread, or even as a sauce drizzled over meats, it is an indispensible tonic for digestive health, and just like a medication, should be taken every day at regular intervals to stimulate adequate healing.

The next part of Dr. Volmert's presentation addressed the nutritional value and preparation methods of heart meat.  We learned not only about its high concentrations of B vitamins, minerals, and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, but also about one of its star nutrients, Co-enzume Q10.  Of all the organ meats, the heart has the highest concentration of Co-enzyme Q10.  The reason for this is that Co-enzyme Q10 aids the production of ATP in the mitochondria of the cell.  ATP or adenosine triphosphate, is the molecule in our body that stores energy and releases it as needed.  The heart muscle, which never rests as long as we live, has the greatest requirement for energy and one of the highest concentrations of mitochondria, Co-enzyme Q10, and ATP in the body.  Our lives literally depend on the heart not running out of fuel, and Co-enzyme Q10 is the catalyst that makes fuel production possible.

Grilled Deer Heart with Peppers
The Co-enzyme Q10 molecule is so important in the production of energy, that we can actually build our own supplies when we don't consume enough, assuming we have the appropriate building blocks from eating a nutrient-dense diet. But to avoid risking deficiency, we would be well advised to consume more Co-enzyme Q10 to keep our energy levels up and keep our hearts beating.  This is especially important for those taking statin drugs for high cholesterol, which deal a devastating blow to the internal production of Co-enzyme Q10, resulting in low energy and depression for many statin patients.  If medical doctors in this country received any meaningful education in nutrition, then prescribing heart meat with statins (if not finding and correcting the actual cause of high cholesterol) would be standard protocol.

Dr. Rosann also discussed how to prepare heart meat, and recommended some recipes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  One of Rosann's family favorites include heart kabobs, followed by a delectable red meat chili with beef heart (from Nourishing Traditions' South of the Border section) which she shared during our potluck dinner. For preparation, Rosann noted that it helps to soak the heart in a solution of olive oil and apple cider vinegar for 24 hours before cooking, to help soften the flavor.  But whether or not marinating is needed depends primarily on personal preference as well as the type, age, and feeding habits of the animal it came from.  Hearts, like other organ meats, tend to be milder in flavor when they come from younger pastured animals.

For her grand finale, Rosann pulled the baked bone marrow out of the oven to share. We all had a chance to taste it, and most of it was gobbled up by the happy crowd, even the rare pieces.  Thank you to my co-presenter Rosann for some valuable information and a demonstration illustrating just how simple it is to add some important nutrients to our diets.

Veal Sweetbreads
I hope that as a team we successfully inspired you to add pastured organ meats to your regular dietary regime.

Come join us now and take The WAPF-Pasadena Offal Challenge: Treat yourself to one meal of pastured organ meats per week, and in doing so realize the benefits of not only improving your physical and mental health, but also helping your budget, and mindfully supporting sustainable farming, animal welfare, your local economy, and the environment. There's a reason these foods were once called sacred, and it's time we pay forward our karma to restore our collective health and repair some of the greatest ills of this nation.

Bheja Fry
I hope to see you next month when we kick off the holiday season with a lively discussion about the 2013 annual international Wise Traditions Conference which takes place in Atlanta Georgia, November 8-11, 2013.  Until then, enjoy experimenting with some delicious and nutritious offal!

~ Your Chapter Leader, Karen

* The only changes I made to the recipe were: 1) sauté the ingredients in ghee or lard instead of olive oil, 2) add some baby portabella mushrooms to the ceps (porcinis), 3) add 3x the garlic and 3x the crème fraîche, 4) use 1/3 the amount of kidney, and equal parts liver and heart (about 250-300g each), and 5) slice and marinate the liver in milk and the heart in olive oil & apple cider vinegar a couple hours before sautéeing. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Our September 2013 Potluck Dinner Meeting & Movie Night: Lessons from the Film "Statin Nation"

The dish of the evening
looked something like this.
by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

Thanks to all who attended our September meeting and to all who brought dishes to share.  This time, one of the most memorable contributions was a sampling of a very traditional dish from Mexico, brought by our friend Gayle:  sautéed onions and grasshoppers; lovingly prepared to sprinkle as a condiment on a fresh rice salad wrapped in organic corn tortillas.  Apparently the critters came from a top gourmet restaurant in LA! Thank you, Gayle for taking the plunge, and kudos to all those who tried her dish!   If anyone took any photos, please let me know and I'll post them here.  At first glance, if no one had told me about the grasshoppers, I would have thought the dish was some form of large, long-grain, wild rice!  It actually looked pretty appetizing.  Gayle said the grasshoppers would taste a bit citrusy.  As chapter leader of a traditional foods group, I felt obligated to try a sample ... but truthfully, I had such a big mouthful of rice & tortilla wrapped around the smallest critter I could find that I could hardly tell it was there.  And believe me, I chewed and swallowed as fast as I could!  My utmost respect and awe goes out to all those who took more generous helpings.

Which reminds me, the other day, when one of my daughters began complaining about the texture of a soft avocado, I took out a small plastic cup with a sampling of the sautéed onions and grasshoppers, and said, "It's the avocado or the grasshoppers!  Pick one!"  She ran from the table screaming.  (A gooey avocado never looked so good.)  On a more serious note, insects are a significant traditional food source for a large part of the world's population, and a great source of protein.  But as my famous geography professor Dr. Karl Butzer of the University of Texas at Austin used to say, "Adopting foreign foods has always been the most difficult cultural adaptation for people to make."  I would have to agree.

On to the subject of the evening, the story of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, there has been a lot written about the film Statin Nation by producer/director Justin Smith, and I've included some links below for those who wish to learn more.  As a chapter leader, all I have to add is that in Nutritional Therapy school, we learned all about why it's a bad idea to artificially lower cholesterol levels.  When I say "artificially," I mean "'with the aid of pharmaceutical drugs."  In a nutshell, here's why:  When your cholesterol levels go up, it is generally a sign that damage is happening to your body on a cellular level.  Even a paper cut will raise your cholesterol levels.  The question is, why?  The answer:  to protect us and help us heal from the damage.  

As Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride says, the firemen found at the scene of a fire did not set the fire.  Something else did.  So if you get rid of all the firemen, what happens?  The fire burns out of control!  So why would we want to lower our cholesterol levels artificially, and let all that damage burn out of control?  

Although statin drugs are truly very successful at lowering cholesterol, they are also very successful at letting the damage caused in the absence of cholesterol run wild.  That's why people with "artificially" lowered cholesterol levels die sooner of all causes, including heart attacks.  The reason:  statin drugs can cut your cholesterol production in half, by inhibiting the very same pathway that builds your supply of Coenzyme Q10, effectively cutting your supply of Coenzyme Q10 in half too.  What does Coenzyme Q10 do?  It is the fuel that feeds your mitochondria, the powerhouses or batteries of all your cells.  With half the normal amount of Coenzyme Q10, you have half the normal amount of energy.  So which organ requires the most mitochondria and the most consistent flow of energy because it never gets to rest?  The heart.  The film explains this, and much more.  

I was also very moved by Justin Smith's portrayal of the politics behind the drugs, but you'll have to see the movie to find out more about that.

Ultimately, for truly better health, if you want to lower your cholesterol levels naturally, then find out what's causing the damage and stop it.  Then your cholesterol levels will automatically go down without any pharmaceutical intervention or "side"-effects.  But you certainly would never want to keep your body from mobilizing its cholesterol defenses in response to a threat!   A body that mobilizes cholesterol well is a body that can defend itself well again damage, and rebuild itself efficiently when it needs new cells.

It is also important to keep in mind that cholesterol has many other jobs besides injury repair.  It is a major building block for every cell in your body, and it plays an important role in the building of hormones and the functioning of neurotransmitters.  Cholesterol is your friend!  Lower your cholesterol and you're in big trouble.  You'll simply start falling apart, both physically and mentally.  Just ask the people in the movie.   'Nuf said.  For more info about the film Statin Nation, check out the links below!

Chapter Leader Aaron Zober's podcast with Statin Nation Producer and Director Justin Smith on the Appropriate Omnivore

Tim Boyd's review of Statin Nation, published in the Weston A. Price Foundation's quarterly magazine, Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts, Spring 2013

Review of Statin Nation by award-winning medical journalist Jerome Burne

Dr. Mercola on Statin Nation

Reviews of Statin Nation on Amazon

I hope to see you at our next meeting when we will be discussing some of the most nourishing and important foods in the traditional human diet:  organ meats!

Have a great October!

Your chapter leader, Karen

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our August Potluck Dinner Meeting: Baking Gluten & Grain Free Fun Food with Suzanne Peters

by Aaron Zober

Our potluck dinner for the month of August focused on gluten and grain free fun desserts. As people are becoming more aware of Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity plus of the hybridization of modern wheat, there's a growing interest in learning how to bake gluten free foods. Additionally, gluten and grain free dishes are also GAPS, paleo, and primal friendly.  Suzanne Peters teaches classes about how to make gluten free treats. She shared her knowledge with the Weston A. Price Pasadena Chapter this month by showing us a demo at the Nature Friends Clubhouse. 

As always, the meeting began with the potluck dinner. Many people followed the theme by bringing their own gluten free dishes, such as hamburger patties sans buns, spaghetti squash, and frozen grapes. Therese Cardinali, who also has knack for gluten free baking, brought in some delicious lemon squares based on a recipe from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, but used coconut oil where the recipe called for grapseed oil and added organic low-glycemic coconut nectar instead of agave.  Also, Suzanne brought in some of the coconut flour muffins she'd later show a demo on for us taste.  She had both the sweet vanilla and the savory muffins made with homemade chicken broth, green onion, and garlic.   

After the dinner outside in the nice August weather, people gathered inside to watch Suzanne as she explained the secrets to baking the best tasting gluten and grain free desserts. Before getting into the demo, Suzanne gave us a little background about how she's been living a gluten free lifestyle and has become grain free as well more recently.  She read a piece from the Wheat Belly Cookbook about the problems the gluten from modern wheat is causing due to its hybridization.  Questions arose as to why wheat became hybridized. Suzanne explained that this was so the crops could grower fast and the farmers would have more yield.  It also made the wheat easier to rise for baking purposes.

Suzanne handed out a recipe on how to bake the vanilla muffins and began to show us the process she goes through. She had all of the ingredients and baking equipment laid out on the table.  Another important thing she emphasized is that every type of flour has different requirements on how to bake it.  The muffins she was making used coconut flour.  If she were baking ones with almond flour, the instructions would vary in terms of what and how much ingredients would need to be used.  

Suzanne said one of the keys to baking the vanilla muffins was to use six eggs, which are more eggs than are typically used for muffins. Along with the eggs, vanilla extract and either honey or money syrup are added.  Suzanne used honey, so the the muffins could be GAPS friendly.  

For oil, palm shortening, butter, or coconut oil can be used.  In the demo, Suzanne brought in palm shortening.  Many people weren't aware that the Spectrum palm shortening she was using is available at most Whole Foods Markets.  Palm oil, due its controversy, is often hard to find.  Others that had seen the product in stores were confused, because it says vegetable shortening on the container, leading them to believe it's made from genetically modified canola, soy, or corn.  But the product consists of 100% palm oil.  

After Suzanne mixed all the ingredients together, she then poured them into the baking cups.  She passed around the baking to emphasize the importance of using ones that are toxin free.  The cups she had were from If You Care and were unbleached and chlorine free.  She also showed the mold that the cups were placed in.  Suzanne used a aluminum mold and explained that aluminum is okay in this case, because the batter doesn't touch the aluminum as its protected by the cups that they're poured into.  

One final thing that Suzanne talked about when it comes to baking gluten and grain free muffins is how much batter to pour into the cups.  If you want to have muffins tops, then you need to pour the batter close to the top of the baking cup.  If you don't want the tops, then you can pour less batter into the cups, leaving some space in them.  

Many thanks to Suzanne for sharing with us the key to make great tasting gluten and grain free desserts.  As there's more demand for gluten and grain free products, it's an invaluable gift to not only to know how bake them, but how to bake them right. 

For those more interested in learning about grain free baking, Suzanne is offering a two part class.  The course will be held on Thursday September 19, 2013 from 7-9:15 PM a the Unity of Pasadena, located at 3053 Del Mar Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107.  The cost is $35.00 ($10 of which goes to the cost of the materials).  Plus, you'll get to take home bread, cookies, and muffin recipes, a resource sheet for where to find the ingredients, and a small box of gluten free, grain free, sugar free sweat treats.  

Everyone that attended the potluck had great pleasure in seeing Suzanne give her gluten free baking demo.  

Have a great September and join us again on September 26th as we have another movie night. This time we'll be watching the documentary $tatin Nation, which explores the lies told about cholesterol and the dangers of the drug that have created a multi-billion dollar industry.

For a preview of what the documentary is about and what inspired director Justin Smith to make the film, listen to his interview on the Appropriate Omnivore podcast, which will be released on September 9 on the podcast page, iTunes, and Stitcher.  

Your Chapter Co-Leader, 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our July Potluck Dinner Meeting: Backyard Chickens and Primal Pastures - How Supporting Grass-based Farms can Save the Earth!

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

On Tuesday night we welcomed some new faces along with our speaker Paul Greive, his wife, 6-month old son, and business partner, Rob McDaniel.  For our potluck dinner, Paul brought two dishes made with chickens from Primal Pastures. The rave reviews on Paul's tender, flavorful, smoked Cajun chipotle chicken made me wish I hadn't been at the end of the line!  We also enjoyed some pan-seared wild salmon, homemade salads, and a couple cold soups made with garden-fresh produce.
Our Potluck Dinner at Nature Friends Lodge in Sierra Madre

After a pleasant meal under the trees on the patio, we headed upstairs for a presentation by Paul and Rob.  The first half of their presentation was devoted to illustrating just how simple and economical it is to raise chickens in your own backyard.  We were shown slides of many styles of chicken coops, all designed to provide protection from the ground predators so common here in Southern California.  Both bobcats and coyotes are known for their massive killing sprees with the majority of their plunder being left uneaten. To address this problem, you can easily purchase or construct an inexpensive lightweight enclosure containing a coop and some open ground for the chickens to walk around in. 

Once the structure is in place, Paul and Rob advised us to let the chickens eat grass, bugs, and some occasional organic GMO-free feed as needed.  In keeping with the natural order of things, it's best to scatter any supplemental feed on the ground so the chickens don't wait by any trough to be fed.  Better to let them live out their omnivorous lives scratching at the earth and foraging for food as they were meant to do.

It’s important to make sure your coop and enclosure are lightweight for easy maneuvering around the yard.  Whenever your chickens need fresh ground, just move the enclosure over and give the old patch a chance to rest and regenerate.  This will keep the chickens on a fresh diet, provide fertilizer for your yard, and keep the whole operation odor-free.

Slide of a 1918 Poster from the USDA
Every night your chickens will return to their roost for nesting, resting, and laying their eggs!  You’ll get an average of one egg per chicken every other day for about 3 years, fewer in the winter and more in the summer.  But don’t worry about the non-stop egg production.  If you don't eat any eggs one week, you can always share your bounty with your neighbors.  They’ll just love your flavorful homegrown eggs with the dark yellow yolks! 

Finally, after decades of decline, backyard chickens are once again on the rise.  A century ago, they were commonplace, as shown in one of my favorite slides:  a poster from the USDA in 1918 stating that it was everyone's patriotic duty to raise their own chickens, two hens per person in every household!  In fact during times of war it was considered a matter of national security.  Personally I think that still holds true today.  The more diverse and less centralized our food system, the safer, healthier, and more secure we’ll all be.  And how hard could raising chickens be?  If everyone owned chickens at one time, it couldn’t be that difficult.  Paul says, “It's easier to raise chickens than own a dog!”

Chickens at Primal Pastures
If you’d like to start raising your own backyard chickens, find out the rules about chicken ownership where you live.  Paul and Rob also suggested checking out the website http://www.backyardchickens.com/, or just give them a call to set up a consultation.

During the second half of their presentation, Paul and Rob discussed the evolution of their farm from a dry, desolate, non-productive wasteland to plush green pasture in just 75 days. What made the difference was adding a flock of sheep and temporarily feeding them hay until the pasture regenerated.  The action of the hooves on the ground pressing in the manure, adding moisture, and working the soil brought new life to the land.  In less than 3 months, the grounds had recovered enough to support all the sheep.  The before-and-after slide slides contrasting the stark brown plots of dirt with the bright green productive fields showed a truly awesome transformation. 

View of Primal Pastures with
A Link to their Presentation
Some believe that Southern California might not be an ideal environment for raising pastured animals.  But Paul believes just the contrary:  “Take any marginal land in Southern California and farm it appropriately and sustainably, and you’ll have year-round productivity!”  Unlike other farms where productivity slows when animals spend winters in barns, here in Southern California, with proper care, our animals can lead happy, healthy, and productive lives all year round. 

Now that the chickens and sheep have done their work, Primal Pastures will soon add some turkeys and ducks to the mix.  It is Paul's and Rob's goal to diversify their farm as much as possible, with the aim of becoming completely self-sustaining.  Like the famous Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, Paul and Rob consider themselves grass farmers first.  The whole idea is to use the animals to create healthy grasslands via holistic management and natural intensive rotational grazing.

Primal Pastures Before and After
Primal Pastures has only been in business for 14 months, and already they’re a big success.  They follow the model of Polyface Farm, and use the same principles of holistic grassland management as taught globally by Allan Savory of the Savory Institute.  Paul's and Rob's farm also reminded me of a farm I visited in Texas late last year after the 2012 Wise Traditions Conference, the only farm in a drought-ridden farming community with productive green pastures.  The contrast between that farm and the surrounding ones was striking, and the message was the same:  To survive the drought, simply use traditional time-honored methods of natural grazing without adding any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, or any other manmade chemicals!  The neighbors who once laughed at that rogue Texas farmer were now eager to learn his secrets, the same “secrets” shared by the owners of Primal Pastures.

Watching Paul’s and Rob’s slide show with images of fresh green pasture in the heat of the dry Southern California summer made me wonder why so many people believe that they're saving the Earth by not eating meat.  But the truth is, undergrazing is equally if not more detrimental to the Earth than overgrazing!  If it weren’t for those animals, our semi-arid grasslands would all be barren!  According to the Savory Institute, the monumental problem of ever-increasing worldwide desertification, starvation, and climate change is primarily due to the disappearance of large herds of grazing animals and the grasslands they nurture.

Sheep at Primal Pastures
In any case, I completely understand boycotting factory-farmed meat, but most people don’t realize that there’s another option.   Eating grass-fed meat is not only healthy and humane, but also helps lower our carbon footprint.  Animals grazing on grasslands sink carbon back into the earth where it belongs!  Grass needs carbon to grow, and any grass that’s being intensively grazed and regenerated on a regular basis will do plenty of growing and regrowing, week after week, month after month, year after year.  Active grasslands are said to use even more carbon per acre per year than mature forests!  Some even calculate that if everyone supported grass-based farming, we could completely reverse global warming within 10 years.
So if you really want to save the Earth with your food choices, then don’t just stop buying meat from factory farms, start funding their competition by supporting local grass-based farms; and seriously think twice about consuming the petroleum-based monoculture and often GMO crops of wheat, corn, and soy that feed all those poor factory-farmed animals and add carbon to the atmosphere.  You will be doing yourself, the animals, your local economy, and the earth a favor!

Paul Greive & Rob McDaniel
of Primal Pastures
Many thanks to both Paul & Rob for an inspiring presentation!  Primal Pastures is currently offering tours, consultations, and even classes on how to process chickens.  It's a skill that's highly encouraged for all those who care to stop depending on industrial agriculture.  After such a great presentation, I for one am very backyard-chicken curious!  

If you'd like to try some of the meats produced at Primal Pastures, they now deliver to Pasadena once a month.  Their inventory is always changing, so don’t forget check their farm shop regularly, and put their delivery dates on your calendar.

Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting our local farmers!  Now go out and Save the Earth: Eat grass-fed meat!

Your Chapter Leader, Karen
July 2013