Friday, November 30, 2007

Think Healthy this Holiday Season

This email came in from KAXE's girl in the woods, baker and public health advocate, Amber:

I definitely enjoy baking during the winter months, however I usually make yeast breads and lefse, and rather few treats. As for the cookie question, I'm a big fan of spritz cookies with almond extract used as flavoring. Many listeners are probably familiar with these, they are a traditional variety made with chilled dough and the use of a press. It is important to use real butter for these cookies, for the flavor.

I want to remind listeners that while they are making treats this baking season, it's important to take care to use healthy, or healthier oils and fats. Any margarine or vegetable shortenings that contain "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils" are the worst and should be avoided at all costs. While health experts generally recommend REDUCING saturated fat intake to very small amounts, they also recommend ELIMINATING trans-fats, or those hydrogenated vegetable oils. This is because these fats are made in a lab, and are not found in nature, thus our bodies cannot metabolize them, and they affect our blood and cholesterol in a way much more severe than even animal fats and saturated plant fats (the traditional villains). This is why butter is preferable to margarine. Many recipes that call for margarine can also be made successfully with liquid vegetable oils, such as olive, walnut, grapeseed, canola, soybean, etc. If using olive oil in sweet treats buy a very light colored light flavored variety. There are also non-hydrogenated margarines available, and are generally marketed as such. "Earth balance", and "Smart balance" are two brands I know of. Always always read labels. This goes especially for snack foods.
It's really important to do all that we can to avoid coronary heart disease. Eliminating hydrogenated oils is essential. Remember ANY alternative found in nature is better for you. The holidays are a good excuse to bake some more wholesome homemade treats that are much better for us than those industrial packaged goods that tempt people from grocery store shelves! More information on dietary fats, and specifically hydrogenated oils, can be found on the Harvard School of Public Health Website

Thanks for listening everybody, take care!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Groceries on a Local Food Diet

One of the questions Dennis and I are asked most often about our local food diet is “How much do you spend on groceries?”

I admit that we haven’t been tracking that very well, but we believe we spend much less for groceries now than we used to. Last summer we probably spent more on food than usual. We bought seeds, bought bushels of tomatoes and other veggies at the farmers’ markets, and wine at Forestedge Winery, among other things. But now that the harvest is in, we’re mostly living off the larder.

This morning I looked through my checkbook for the month of November, trying to get an idea. I write all our debit card purchases in the checkbook as if they were checks, so that’s included, but Dennis may have made some cash purchases (mostly eggs).

I found 6 food-related entries. We spent $47.09 on butter and milk from Dahl’s dairy (this was actually for October and paid on October 31). That was a higher-than-average month for dairy. There was also a $30.67 check to Harmony Food Co-op (mostly for the thanksgiving turkey, but all food-related). Otherwise we spent $18.79 at Lueken’s and $31.61 at Teal’s. Those last two are supermarkets. We buy laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, paper towels, and other non-food items there. I remember buying 2# wild rice at Teal’s and some local onions there. We get cream and milk from Blackstar Dairy at Lueken’s. The bulk of those purchases were non-food items though.

The other two entries were from dining out. We ate some pizza on our way home from a day in Brainerd ($22.04) and I bought lunch for myself and some other folks at the Effie Café this week during a work-related trip ($55.74). We also ate out with friends one time when we went to see a concert, but we paid cash that evening (I estimate $60 for the night, including drinks???).

So that’s it!

Eating out for any reason is a big expense, but we still do it from time to time, if we’re away from home, working, or spending time with friends.

Indians, Racism and Sports

That's a picture of Charles Bender on the left and Louis Sockalexis on the right. Both of them were Native American ballplayers who played in the major leagues between 1897 and 1915. In the 1890s and early 1900s there were a lot of Indian athletes in college and professional sports. They endured intense racial abuse, most of them were nicknamed "Chief" as in Chief Bender, Chief Meyers and Chief Sockalexis, but unlike blacks, they weren't explicitly banned from the games.

Charlie Bender was an Anishinaabe born and raised in the Brainerd area. He was an outstanding pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, helping them win three World series before World War I. Before Dave Winfield in 2001 and Paul Molitor in 2004 were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Bender was the only native born Minnesotan in the Hall of Fame.

Louis Sockalexis had a much shorter major league career. He was born in Maine, a member of the Penobscot tribe there. Sockalexis was a good-hitting, mediocre outfielder who played three years (1897-99) for the Cleveland team, then known as the "Spiders".

Most Indian athletes blend in easily with the multi-ethnic sports scene today. Twenty-two year old Winnebago, Joba Chamberlain (below), made a big splash as a rookie pitcher with the Yankees this summer. But look closely at the pictures of Charles Bender, Louis Sockalexis, and Joba Chamberlain and consider the dominant images of Indians in sports today: the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.

For seventy years the professional football team in Washington, D.C. has been called the Redskins. I'm amazed this "mascot" identity has lasted that long. There are positive and even noble meanings associated with "Braves" and "Warriors". I've never heard the word "redskin" spoken in way that didn't imply a prejudice toward Indian people. It's a racial slur. As we followed the tragic story about the Washington pro football player who was shot and killed last Monday, I was reminded how comfortable most sports reporters are using the nickname. A "White, Brown or Black-skins" mascot sounds absurd and no doubt would offend a lot of people. Most ethnic slurs common before 1960 would offend today. So why is "redskins" still OK? Certainly it's not OK with a lot of Indian people. The Indian population is relatively small and widely dispersed around rural America. Perhaps offending Indian people isn't bad for business or politics.

Another take on the same subject: When I was growing up in Missouri in the 1950s, the image white America wanted me to have of African Americans was that of a bright-eyed, big-smiling happy people content with their lives of second class status. That image was shattered in the 1960s, but when I recently saw the Cleveland Indians logo on their caps and publicity material, it was the same happy, buck-toothed image in red face instead of black.

We give lipservice to respect and tolerance, but commercial and political consequences are still the most powerful agents of change, and I guess Native Americans don't have enogh clout in either of those spheres. Are sports reporters as naive and clueless as many of the young athletes they cover? Or do many of them feel the same commercial and/or social and political pressure to not make waves about such flagrant symbols of racism in sports?

Prosperity on the Range

The Range is trying to get ready for prosperity. It was really hard to write that sentence with conviction. Over the last 26 years, most of the economic news on the Iron Range has been about how people and communities have struggled to ride out the boom and bust times that have characterized the economy of the Range since World War II. Since the 1980s over ten thousand good paying jobs in the taconite industry have disappeared. Now, during a downturn in the U.S. economy, it appears the world steel markets have created a window of opportunity that may dramatically transform the Iron Range. For the first time since iron ore was discovered on the Range, the new Minnesota Steel facility near Nashwauk will produce steel here, rather than ship processed ore to the blast furnaces in Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Mesabi Nugget near Hoyt Lakes will produce an enriched steel pellet that opens up new markets for our ore. I still won't say this will happen for sure, but it seems closer than ever.

The challenge for Iron Range communities is to prepare for the influx of new workers. The new prosperity will create challenges that will strain our ability to recruit, house, and educate a whole new workforce. Thousands of people will move here for the jobs. Will we welcome the new arrivals? Or will their arrival cause social, cultural, or even racial tensions? Wayne Nelson has more on the story in the December edition of Business North.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Brine and Bouillabaisse

During our conversation with Chef Billy from Cooking Light magazine today he talked about a maple syrup brine he used on HIS thanksgiving turkey. It sounded really good....

I asked him advice on things to do with venison, since we have an abundance of it at our house. He suggested a bouillabaisse. It sounded really good, but afterwards I realized I didn't know how to make a bouillabaisse. I've been looking online and so far have only found fish based bouillabaisse. I may try this and just subsitute venison. Has anyone else tried it?

How about other good ideas on what to do with venison?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How was your Thanksgiving?

Was there lots of turkey? Stuffing? Cranberries? What will you do with the leftovers?

Was your turkey dry? Was the gravy lumpy?

Tune in for Chef Billy from Cooking Light magazine on the Friday Morning Show at 8:10. If you have a question for the Chef, email us!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Maggie's Local Food Diet

Here's a posting from Maggie's Local Food Diet.

Local Food Thanksgiving

Today’s the day before Thanksgiving. Already! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There really is so much to be thankful for.

Dennis and I are doing ok on the local food diet. We ate out with friends last night and saw a great music concert at Brigid’s Cross Irish Pub in Bemidji. I think Dennis is at home right now cutting up a quarter of a deer (a gift from Tom and Heidi—Dennis didn’t get a deer this year).

Pretty much all of our garden is in now, except for a little kale and a few “volunteer” suiho greens. Once they’re gone the garden will officially be put to bed. That’s one thing to be thankful for—being done with gardening for the year! It’s fun work, but time-consuming. However…after this our fruits and veggies will come out of the cellar or the freezer or a jar (except for some cilantro in pots, and some seeds to sprout).

Dennis pulled up the parsnips yesterday. They’re in a wheelbarrow on the porch, waiting to be scrubbed and put in the cellar. This is the first time we’ve ever grown parsnips. Joel Rosen said that for maximum sweetness we should wait until there have been temperatures in the teens before picking them. That was a little tricky, because when the temperature heads to the teens the soil starts to get a little stiff (as in frozen). But it worked, and they’re in the wheelbarrow now.

I’ve cooked parsnips before, but just a little bit, mainly adding them to stir-fries or putting them in soup. This morning on the radio I asked if anyone knew how to cook parsnips. Don Boese said to peel them, slice them thinly, and caramelize them in butter. Missy Roach sent some recipes from a Williams Sonoma website that looked great—including mashed potatoes with parsnips and horseradish, glazed parsnips and carrots with sherry, and parsnip and carrot soup.

Ann Sliney from Bemidji sent the following:
When I was a little girl, my mother peeled parsnips, parboiled them, sliced them lengthwise in flat strips, and sautéed them in butter until they were a lovely brown. I thought they tasted so good, they could be served as dessert.

Ann continued: Are you familiar with Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables by John Peterson and Angelic Organics? Bill and I discovered it when several recipes from it appeared in the Park Rapids Enterprise. We liked them so well, we ordered the book from Amazon. I see that Farmer John has quite a bit on parsnips...

Today on the Morning Show Scott and I got to talk to local food producer Roger Hanson of R & R Hanson Turkey Farm in Aitkin County. Roger and his brother have the only remaining commercial turkey operation in Aitkin County (although in the past Aitkin County had many turkey producers—hence the name of the Aitkin High School mascot—the Gobblers).

They just shipped out the last of the 136,000 turkeys they raised this season. Some of their turkeys are “natural’ (meaning they are not fed meat-based feed and are not treated with conventional antibiotics) and some are conventional (the feed contains meat and bone meal and if necessary the conventional birds are medicated). The Hansons sell their natural birds to Trader Joe’s.

Turkeys are harder to raise than other fowl because they are more susceptible to certain illnesses. The Hansons have a confined turkey operation. Roger says confinement keeps the turkeys from picking up diseases from other birds and wildlife. Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state in the nation. According to Roger, this is because of our proximity to sources of feed and Minnesota’s perfect turkey-rearing climate. The Hanson farm is a “small” operation. Some farms in this state raise millions of birds.

Friday, November 16, 2007

KAXE's Winter Stringer Service

The KAXE Winter Survival Service needs listeners to help us get timely information on the air - local weather and road conditions, school closings (we have 37 school districts in our listening area).

A lot of times we are an hour or two late with this information by the time we get it from typical news sources.

Also, if you have a special passion for a winter activity - skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, dog sledding, curling to name a few. - we'd like to have updates on ice conditions, trail conditions, and special events related to those activities.

Click here to sign up for KAXE's Winter Stringer Service (name, home town, phone number, and e-mail, areas of interest).