Day 311–Pork Roast with Apples, Cider and Thyme

Onions, apples and cranberry make a nice base for this slow cooker roast!

Last week my friend Sarah commented on a dish she made involving pork roast and apple cider. Hmmmmm, sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to take a try myself and use the leftovers for our football tailgating lunch. This slow cooker roast takes advantage of our fresh, local apples and apple cider. I also added some dried cranberries, which were tasty. We served it with our delish purple potatoes!

Pork Roast with Apples, Cider and Thyme

  • 1 pork roast or Boston Butt
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 granny smith or fuji apples
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup organic, dried cranberries
  • 3 cups fresh apple cider
  • Olive oil
  1. Peel onions and slice thin. Put in bowl of a slow cooker.
  2. Peel and core apples. Slice thin and add to bowl of the slow cooker.
  3. Sprinkle dried cranberries and thyme over onions and apples.
  4. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Brown pork on all sides.
  5. Place pork roast on top of onion/apple mixture. Pour cider over all, cover and cook on low for 7 hours or on hi for 4.
  6. Serve pork sliced or pulled with apples on top!

 

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Day 61–Coon Rock Farm

Lately I have been buying produce and eggs from Coon Rock Farm, a family owned farm on the Eno River in Hillsborough. From Harukai turnips to fresh carrots and tatsoi greens, everything I’ve purchased has been delicious. At the Western Wake Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, I tried a sample of their chorizo (it is impossible to pass their tent without trying it since you can smell it cooking and for “some reason” I am always hungry). It was amazing. I keep forgetting to add it to our rotation, but maybe next week.

Coon Rock Farm (www.coonrockfarm.com) is the epitome of “farm to fork”. The Holcomb family not only operates the farm (which dates back to the 1800s), they also operate two highly reputable restaurants, Zely & Ritz in Raleigh and Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. Both restaurants feature the vegetables, fruit, eggs, lamb, beef, pork and eggs produced on the farm.

According to the Holcombs, farm produce is all organic and mostly heirloom varieties (which explains why my carrots were unbelievably “carrot-y” in flavor). All animals are pasture-raised and grass-fed, with no hormones or antibiotics. I love that this is a family all working together to bring us good food while nurturing the young farmers who will continue to feed us into the future.

Coon Rock Farm sells at three local farmer’s markets–Midtown Farmer’s Market at North Hills, Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Cary and the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. They also have a CSA which you can read about on their website.

As for the name? Apparently, the name Coon Rock Farm comes from a large rock that juts into the Eno River and has the historical name of “Coon Rock”.  Regardless, the food produced by this family is wonderful, sustainable, healthy food, and I for one am looking forward to some chorizo on Saturday!

Day 41–Farmhand Foods Meatbox

Meat in a box. When we began our journey almost 7 weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what resources were available to our family other than what we could find at the farmer’s markets (and that was more than I though also!). What a wonderful coincidence that I saw a tweet from @farmhandfoods for a winter meat box. Meat in a box sounded strange, but in the spirit of adventure, we thought we would give it a try. I promised an update on our experience, so here it is!

Farmhand Foods of Durham works with NC pasture-based beef and pork producers who have a commitment to sustainable livestock production and who raise antibiotic and growth hormone free animals that are pasture-raised and pasture-fed. After doing a bit of research and reading their online protocols, I found that Farmhand Foods is a highly reputable organization with a sincere passion for improving food supply options. Founded and operated by two smart women–Tina Prevatte and Jennifer Curtis, Farmhand Foods also works with small-scale, inspected processing facilities that practice humane animal handline and care. Together with Sales and Distribution Manger Drew Brown, Farmhand Foods connects pasture-based farmers with the consumers who love their products throughout the Triangle area. I really love their business model and commitment to having a sustainable food system.

But back to the meat box. When we ordered our box in January, I wondered if it would be an affordable addition to our budget. We ordered three boxes (Jan, Feb, March) and each box worked out to $45. Each box includes three different cuts of meat–a braising cut, a grilling cut and a roasting cut. Two of the cuts are beef and one is pork. I’m not positive, but I think our first box was about 8-10 lbs of meat, which is a decent amount of food for three people!

We just finished the last of our January box for Super Bowl Sunday, and I think we all agree as a family that it was a great choice. Our January box included two meaty beef shanks, a large skirt steak and a 3 lb. mini boneless ham. The beef shanks were braised for an Italian ragu and they were, quite frankly, amazing. The skirt steak was very flavorful and surprisingly tender (I think I had confused skirt steak and flank steak, but skirt steak is much, MUCH better). And the ham, which we roasted with a local honey and mustard glaze, was so darn good that I dreamed about it. Really. I have never had ham that tasted so good.

Each cut of meat provided more than one meal for our small family (the ham alone provided at least three meals), so were able to work it into our weekly budget very easily. The meat tasted a lot better than store-bought, was healthier for us, and provided us opportunities to experiment with new recipes and cooking methods. All in all, we deem this experiment a success. And we can’t wait for our February box, which arrives next week!

This is all to say, that if you are in the Research Triangle area, Farmhand Foods is a high quality resource that we recommend. If you aren’t in this area, I would encourage you to find out if something similar exists near you and to give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised!

Day 40–The Meatrix (Agribusiness and Your Meat Supply)

Could chickens roam Cary backyards?

Today, the Town Council for my town (Town of Cary) will vote for the fourth time on whether to allow residents to keep backyard chickens. Cary is known for being extremely proactive when it comes to parks and greenways or the arts, but not so much with chickens. I still can’t figure that out. My neighbor could have a dog that barks all night, but they couldn’t have quiet chickens. Poultry bias at work?

In honor of this (hopefully) historic vote, we are having quiche again with eggs from our favorite chickens, Coco Chanel and Oprah. You can access the quiche recipe by clicking on the “recipe” menu at the top of the blog page and go to Day 25. Yummy!

Moopheus, Leo, Chickety, and Agent Industry explore food production in "The Meatrix"

In the meantime, I’m sharing a series of entertaining, sometimes gross, and always enlightening animated shorts called “The Meatrix.” If you have seen the movie “The Matrix,” you will probably love them. The protagonist pig Leo is guided by hero Moopheus to learn the truth about agribusiness meat production (The Meatrix I), dairy production (The Meatrix II), and the fast food industry (The Meatrix II 1/2). The series was produced by The Sustainable Table project and has received numerous film awards.

The Cary Town Council should probably watch these before their vote 🙂 Go Chickens!!!

Day 35–Grain Fed or Grass Fed–Is There a Difference?

Is there a difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef or is it just marketing?

Our family is not a statistically representative sample by any means, but in our 5 weeks of eating locally produced, grass-fed, grass finished beef and pasture-raised pork, we can say that yes, there is a definite and pronounced improvement in taste with the pasture-raised animals. So, is it just a taste issue? I recently read a wonderful article “Grass Fed vs. Feedlot Beef: Is There a Difference?” by Gail Nickel-Kailing in Good Food World (www.goodfoodworld.com) and she graciously gave me permission to share some of it with you. For the entire article, go to http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2012/01/grass-fed-vs-feedlot-beef-whats-the-difference/. Here are some interesting points:

Studies have shown that an animal’s diet can have an impact on the nutritional content of the meat on the consumer’s table. Grass-fed meat has been shown to contain less fat, more beneficial fatty acids, and more vitamins and to be a good source of a variety of nutrients. According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2009, eating grass-fed beef provides many benefits to consumers(3):

  1. Lower in total fat
  2. Higher in beta-carotene
  3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
  4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
  5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
  6. Higher in total omega-3s
  7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
  8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
  9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
  10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
Lower Fat – Meat from grass-fed cattle is much lower in fat, and therefore lower in calories. A 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished animal has almost 100 fewer calories than the same sized-piece from a grain-fed animal. If, like the average American, you eat about 67 pounds of beef a year, switch to grass-fed beef and you’ll save nearly 18,000 calories a year.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that are essential to human health. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass is omega-3, which is formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves. Grass-fed cattle can contain as much as two-to-four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals.

At the same time, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. A ratio of four to one or lower is considered ideal, Grain-fed beef has a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than wild game or grass-fed beef. In grass-fed beef the ratio is approximately 2 to 1, while the ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1.

More Vitamins – In humans vitamin E is linked with la lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Meat from grass-fed cattle is higher in vitamin E.; as much as four times higher in vitamin E than meat from feedlot cattle.(4)

Rich source of CLA – Meat from grass-fed animals is the richest known source of “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. Grass-fed cattle have been found to produce 2 to 5 times more CLA than cattle fed high grain feedlot diets. In laboratory animals, a  diet containing even a small amount of CLA greatly reduced cancerous growths.

The full article provides citations for her information and those are pretty interesting as well. The article and our own preference for the taste of pasture-raised beef and pork reinforce to us that we would rather eat a smaller portion of meat in our diet and have that meat be of higher quality that fill up on higher fat, cheaply produced meat. Whatever you decide for your family, it is interesting to note that even what animals eat influences how they affect our own bodies!

Day 15–Starting Week 3–Budget and Menu

Pizza with corn and za'atar at Pizza B'Riboa i...

As we end week 2 of our family challenge, I think we did really well. We met our 75% locally produced/sustainable meal challenge! Some things worked better than others. We made good use of the food we had purchased and had much less food waste than usual. The bison chili with lentils and pumpkin was great to us adults (really more like a stew than a chili), but a flop for our pre-teen, who likes mom’s regular chili. The recipe made a HUGE batch, so we had lots of bison chili lunches to pack last week. We are anxiously awaiting the reopening of Earp’s Seafood Market in downtown Raleigh so we can get some locally caught seafood (Earps was destroyed in the tornado last April). That is one part of our diet we are missing, but hope to get it back in swing in the next couple of weeks.

My recent lack of success with using a pre-established grocery list at the farmer’s market prompted some interesting suggestions on how to use the ingredients I brought home. One, from our pre-teen, is a pizza Iron Chef competition for our family using ingredients from the farmer’s market (well, mostly). We will make our own pizza dough and that should be fun, interesting, and maybe hilarious. Family members are already working on their ideas! Another idea was having breakfast for dinner. We recently won some TN country ham at a family Christmas party, so we will share some and eat some for dinner/breakfast.

So, how did we do on this week’s budget? Here is a breakdown:

  • Lowe’s Food (yeast, a pizza’s worth of artisan pepperoni): $1.83
  • Farmer’s Market (bok choi, greenhouse strawberries, kale, local apples, onions, carrots): $20.00
  • Mae Farm Meats (pork chops, ground pork, Maple View Farm milk, farm eggs): $39.95
  • Trader Joes (frozen organic fruit, peppers, rice, cheese, organic chicken, organic butter): $51.96

Our total this week is: $113.74 Over a bit, but we should have some carryover into next week (esp. pizza cheese!). I splurged on a couple of impulse items (like greenhouse strawberries and bell peppers) and we replaced grocery store milk with milk produced in Chapel Hill by Maple View Farms, but we will use them all in the mix.

What is the menu this week? Here it goes:

  • Sunday–organic chicken, bok choi and pepper stir fry w/organic brown rice
  • Monday–pizza Iron Chef competition w/homemade pizza dough and local veggies
  • Tuesday–Tortiere (French Canadian meat pie w/Mae Farm pork), sautéed greens and sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday–leftovers
  • Thursday–Breakfast for dinner (farm eggs, country ham we won at family Christmas party, homemade biscuits)
  • Friday–date night 🙂
  • Saturday–Mae Farm pork chops, sautéed apples, sweet potatoes, greens

We’re heavy on the pork this week (see my post about grocery shopping with a specific list from Friday), so that isn’t good, although no one in my house is complaining. Will definitely need to do better next week and have more meatless or chicken options. And a better shopping strategy 🙂

So, here we go with week 3!