Focus on One: Kick the Can

Remember that game? Kick the Can? That brings back summer memories when half the neighborhood convened in our backyard for the after dinner games. The first was always “Kill the Man” which involved everyone running after and trying to tackle whoever had the ball – there were no teams, just every boy for himself (or girl for herself). My sister was great at this game because she was fast and agile and no one could catch her. Then, once it was getting dark, was Flashlight Tag or Kick the Can. And we never had to worry about mosquito bites because the DDT fogger trucks came through every evening.

And while getting out and playing a game after dinner would be a great focus for a month, May is probably not the month – kids are still in school; most sports teams are still playing; in our district it is the time for band concerts and art shows. IMG_0452But May is the month for early summer berries like strawberries and early raspberries. Our favorite ways to enjoy either of these berries is topped with whipped cream or made into ice-cream.

What is your idea of whipped cream? Growing up, we used a lot of Cool-Whip® and I think that was because originally it was marketed as non-dairy. And we loved it – it was a sweet, creamy topping.

Then, one fateful night, my mother bought whipped cream – the kind that comes in an aerosol can. She topped the pudding we were having for dessert and once we had that, Cool-Whip® had to move over.

For a long time I thought whipped cream came out of a can. Imagine my surprise finding a recipe in an old cookbook for whipped cream. On my first attempt, I made clotted cream because I left it whip for too long. It was delicious on scones, but not so great for fresh berries. What follows isn’t a recipe with measurements, it’s more of a technique. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, I add more or less sugar (usually about 2T sugar to 1 C of heavy cream). If I am making a dessert layering berries and sponge cake for example, I will add about ¼ t of vanilla.

There is much made of being sure your bowl and beaters are all very cold before you begin. I found no noticeable difference between room temperature equipment and cold equipment. The big issue is keeping a close eye on the product as it whips. You know what whipped cream is supposed to look like, so whip it until it gets to look like that. The TRICK is not to look away. Do not walk away to do anything else while you are whipping the cream. I am famous for doing things like putting onions on to sauté and then running out to snip rosemary. That is an absolute no-no when you are whipping cream.

You cannot use light cream. You need either heavy cream or Whipping Cream. They are not synonymous! The whipped cream from heavy cream (35-37% milk fat) will hold it’s shape longer than that from whipping cream (29-31% milk fat), but whipping cream whips up faster and fluffier.

Pour the cream into a bowl and start the beaters. Increase to high speed. Slowly add the sugar and patiently watch as the cream whips up. If you are adding vanilla, do so when it gets to the “soft peaks” stage: when the beaters are leaving a trail through the cream, but it is still very soft.

Milk 1: Why we drink Grass-fed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMilk has been an important part of this journey for my family and our impetus for change.  It began with the birth of my daughter.  She was a very healthy newborn and I was breastfeeding her.  Then she got colicky.  We tried the gas drops.  They worked a little, but she was still colicky.  We tried infant massage, but she was still colicky. We tried spacing out her feedings, but she was still colicky.  We tried feedings that were closer together, but she was still colicky.  If you are getting a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” kind of feeling, you are right on target.  The child seemed to cry, cry, and cry, and that was all.  Sleep? Not much.  My favorite breakfast was a grapefruit, peeled like an orange.  Nothing was a better wake-up for me than the aroma of grapefruit.  One morning, we were out of grapefruits, so I had oatmeal instead.  And she was less colicky.  When I mentioned this to one of my friends, she told me that when she was nursing one of her children, if she ate broccoli, her son would spit up.  I began experimenting.  In the end, I avoided onions, garlic, broccoli, and cabbage, and gave up my precious grapefruits and my beloved chocolate.  The colic improved dramatically.  However, she still never wanted to go to sleep, and ten years later, still wants to stay up for “just a little longer…”

            One mournful, chocolate-less night, after rocking my daughter for what felt like going halfway to the Mississippi River, I had an epiphany.  I ran down the steps to share my revelation with my husband:  if what I eat passes through my milk to my daughter, wouldn’t the same hold true for the cows from whom we get our milk?  If what I ate had such an immediate and detrimental effect on our daughter, would the dairy products we consume have a detrimental effect on us?  And what if, because we had been consuming these tainted products for so long, all of this built up in our systems so that we wouldn’t notice enough to make a connection between the dairy and feeling poorly.  He considered; we discussed, and I began researching.

Commercially-produced milk comes from a number of dairies whose main goal is to make money.  The cows eat feed, which may contain genetically modified corn and/or soy and sometimes chicken waste. They are given antibiotics.  In order to increase production, many dairies injected the cows with rBGH, a genetically engineered growth hormone.  How much of this genetically modified material passes through the milk?  What effect will it have on me?  On my growing and developing children?  There were no longitudinal studies done to test the safety and long-term effects of this updated version of milk production.

Who cares, right?  I mean if the cow is getting enough to eat what difference does it make?  But that’s just it!  It makes all of the difference! If what and how we eat affects our health, then what a cow eats is going to affect her health.  If the things that I eat affect the quality of the milk I produced for my children, wouldn’t what the cow eats do the same for us?  What is a cow supposed to eat in order to be healthy?  Easy answer: Grass.  Why don’t commercial dairies feed their cows 100% grass to make them 100% healthier?  Because the expense would be too great.  Feeding cows corn and corn by-products, and the by-products of commercial chicken production is far less expensive.

And so ends my first rant about milk: we drink milk from 100% grass-fed cows.  If you look in the grocery store, you can find it.  Read the labels!  If your store doesn’t carry it, ask the dairy manager to get it.  Also, do a little research in your area.  You may be surprised to find a local dairy raising 100% grass-fed dairy.  Some still do home delivery.  I wish I was so lucky!