Thursday, March 19, 2009

Milk - It Does A Body Good

I grew up on a tobacco and beef cattle farm so we did not milk. We had several family members that did milk and it is a highly overrated activity involving getting up way too early and having an aching back all the time. We rarely drank fresh milk or made our own butter. My brother and I grew up in thrall with margerine which starting taking over butter when I was a little kid. Then, according to changing customs and tv marketing campaigns, the prevailing wisdom was that only poor uneducated people made their own butter. Just like only poor uneducated people breastfed. My, how things have changed.

For a couple of years now we have been drinking only non rBGH enhanced milk at the Basilica. rBgh is Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, a Monsanto invention given to cows to increase milk production. Monsanto is the company that practically owns the rights to seeds the world over and everything other thing that juices up production of either plants or animals. Most of these practices have a high moral, physical and environmental cost, including chemical runoff of pasture land into public water supplies, stressing of animals by overloading them with chemicals for production and rapid growth and depleting their ability to fight disease and illness. Japan, the European Union and Australia have all banned use of this product in cattle raised in their countries due to perceived health risks to both humans and animals.

Milk that is rBGH-free is not usually labelled. There are all kinds of political and lobby issues about whether labels can contain this information since Monsanto feels that labeling milk as rBGH-free gives the message that rBGH is a bad thing. Since the FDA, which we all know has our best interests at heart, has not officially said that it's a bad thing, they claim that there are no recognized issues. There is a ton of good information on rBGH here, here, and here.

Because of the labeling issues, it can be difficult to ascertain what grocers actually offer. Kroger, Wal-Mart and Costco have all officially declared that they will not sell rBGH enhanced milk but you won't see it advertised anywhere in their stores. Starbucks uses only non rBGH products. I recently sent an email to ValuMarket, a local grocery chain here in Louisville. They are fanatics about local products and international food items, making their stock extremely friendly to locavores and the Vietnamese, Hispanic, Korean and Bosnian population surrounding their stores. Even so, they deferred my question to Dean's, a very large milk purveyor here in the South and Midwest. Dean's owns the Horizon organic dairy product line and has come under fire from several food policy watchdog groups that claim they are skirting the rules of organic production by feedlotting their cattle and claiming they are grass-fed.

The milk pictured above is Rebekah Grace, a whole and chocolate milk product that comes from a cooperative of small farmers in Kentucky. It is a natural product but is not certified organic. It comes in the coolest old-school glass bottle which is on a deposit and returned to the store. Local product, recycled packaging, not filled with chemicals and tastes fantastic! A perfect combination. Most communities have at least one milk producer that has gone the route of Rebekah Grace, allowing a consortium of small farmers to package their products for local consumption. They are a little more expensive but I believe they are one of those items that it's worth spending real money to purchase. There are also raw milk options, but that is a whole other series of posts and I've taken enough of your time with this ramble. My hope is that I am slowly but surely making astute decisions about where my money goes and how I vote with my dollar. Who gets my milk money is one of those important decisions.

Something, Anything New To Look At On The Front Page Of This Blog

Good lord I am tired of looking at that Key Lime Cake on this blog. I have been otherwise engaged in the social whirl of bunco hosting and book club this week and have left my baby unattended. It's weird to pull it up and see the same thing over and over. I like variety and change so on to something new.

A few notes: Our beloved Louisville Cardinals are the number one seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Whooooohooooo! Very exciting. We are in basketball country here and this is a big deal. Plus it's a great diversion from wanting to do horrible things to AIG bonus getters.

Once again I have to say that 365 Days of Crockpotting is brilliant! I made the Pasta Fagioli soup (based on the Olive Garden recipe) that was recommended on her blog for my bunco group. I actually used a similar recipe on Recipezaar but got the idea from her. Great stuff and full of beans and healthy veggies. We are striving to eat more green things and I have started shoving a carrot into anything that is big enough to hide one. Of course we also had raspberry dessert bars which ruined the whole point of the healthy stuff. I'll share the recipes later.

Interesting article here about dietary fiber and how some of what's advertised on food labels is not fiber your body actually uses. Fascinating how swayed we are by marketing!
Speaking of dietary fiber, one of the searches that brought someone to this blog today was "found something white and stingy in my stool". I kid you not. One might assume they meant to type "stringy" instead in which my scientific opinion is tapeworm but either way I'm thanking karma and my stars that I am not making that search tonight. Hope the person in need found what they were looking for since they landed here on "How I Got Over My Shoe Fetish" a post in which I (surprise!) did not delve into the various things one might find when sorting through one's waste.

And lastly, a little man candy since I have no other pictures today. This is George Clooney in Darfur, an issue on which he tirelessly campaigns. Plus he's a Kentucky boy who's made me smile and laugh many times over. And the next picture down is just plain hot. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Replicating a Key Lime Cake On Demand

I have a friend who bitches incessantly about the Key Lime Cake that used to be offered at Longhorn Steakhouse and no longer is available. He probably only had it once but you would think it was a family legacy that way he raved about it. He rhapsodized about its' tart lime filling and the luscious white cake and the cream cheese icing and extolled the virtues of its' fluffy coconut perched smartly on the frosting.

I have personally never experienced this paragon of baking extravaganza but I've heard about it enough and decided to replicate it for dinner at their house last week. First I cheated and made a white cake from a box. Sometimes it's the only way. It looked like this as I baked it in my trusty tractor tire dented bundt pan and split it in half for the filling:

Then I made the lime curd. This was new for me. I looked at Ina's recipe as she is usually my go-to girl for this sort of thing but she wanted me to process my sugar and lime zest in a food processor and one of those is not available at the Basilica. So I went looking elsewhere and found a blog called Palmabella's Passions with what looked like a lovely lime curd. Here is her recipe which she used as part of a Lime Curd Cream Cheese Tart:

Lime Curd:
1 stick butter

6 large eggs

½ cup sugar

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (I used 4 limes)

zest from 2 limes

Place the butter in a medium sauce pan and melt over a low heat. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs with the sugar and lime juice until frothy. Add lime zest.Pour into melted butter and whisk over a medium-low heat until it thickens and coats a spoon.

It sets up really quickly and it is good. So thanks Palmabella! I sandwiched it between the cake layers like this: And then made cream cheese frosting using Cathy Lowe's recipe on Food Network:

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract.

I actually almost doubled this recipe, using 8 oz. of cream cheese, 6 tbsp. butter, and 3 cups powdered sugar. You can do it almost any way you want, including adding essential oils for flavor such as peppermint or lemon. As long as you are comfortable with the consistency you can pretty much just make it to taste.

And voila! It was declared a winner. So much so that he kept almost half the cake instead of sending it back home with us. I will definitely make this again. I am also interested in canning lime and lemon curd and maybe orange, too. If anyone has any experience with this please let me know. I can think of tons of recipes to use this in and also would love to just have some on hand for putting on toast for breakfast.