Food · let's visit

Let’s Visit: How We Talk About Food

windmill

Hi! It’s Wednesday! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing…just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

So, let’s pretend we’re in my living room, and you’ve been a real pal and you’ve brought Starbucks with you because, well, you’re a real pal. We’re all comfy and just chatting away, okay? Hokay.

Today, I’m talking about something that’s not beef-specific, but is still a food thang. I thought of it this morning as I was making my morning cup of tea. I like a little caffeine and a lot of peppermint, so I use one bag of Bigelow’s Plantation Mint Green Tea, and one bag of Celestial Seasonings’ Peppermint. As I was pulling out the box of CSP, I noticed something that made me sad:

tea

Now, honestly, I try not to buy products with this seal, but I order lots of things on Amazon, and so I don’t see the actual product before I purchase and the pictures online don’t always show the most recent branding (not to mention I’ve been drinking this exact tea for over ten years because it’s my very very favorite). Also, the selection at rural grocery stores is often wanting for variation, and as more and more companies are choosing to brand their products this way, I don’t always have a choice. But branding is key here, because that’s all it is. More often than not, that little seal is a marketing tool. Why? It’s simple: there aren’t that many GMO crops, and I see this label on things for which GMO crops don’t exist. For example, on a quick perusal of my pantry, I found the following items with this seal:
Paprika
Cilantro
Fennel
Parsley
Quinoa
Salt (?!)
None of these have GMO counterparts, particularly salt since minerals have no genes to modify. So why on earth would they have a seal saying they are non-GMO? The same reason that products that don’t contain gluten and never have are branded “gluten-free”: marketing. And it makes me mad, because it doesn’t mean anything, but it imparts a message and is part of a greater campaign of fear-mongering in the way that we talk about and market food.

Think about all the terms we now use to describe food in this country: “guilt-free” means that we should associate guilt or shame with eating certain foods. “Clean” implies that other foods are dirty. “Cheat days” imply that we’re doing something bad by eating certain foods. Touting cleanses to rid the body of toxins imply that we are poisoning our bodies with the food we eat and obfuscates the function of the liver, which is actually responsible for ridding our bodies of toxins. “GMO-free” is supposed to make us feel better about what we’re eating, which implies that GMOs are bad.

I’m not saying this to condemn or judge the way people eat. I’m saying this because I don’t think we should let food companies or marketing firms influence our diets or our feelings about food. We, as consumers, should decide how and what we want to eat, with the help of our own doctors and healthcare team.

As far as GMOs go, there is no science (NO SCIENCE. As in NOT ANY) that shows that genetically-modified foods are harmful to our bodies or the environment. There is science, however, that shows that genetically-modified foods can help us feed the world by increasing yield and pest and drought resistance. There is science that shows that certain GMOs can fight malnutrition through added vitamins. Eating a genetically-modified apple is not going to be any different to your body that eating a conventional one.

(Well, it might be different to your toddler’s body because everyone knows that consuming—nay, even licking—a slightly browned apple slice will actual cause physical pain and harm to a three-year-old. (That was sarcasm there, guys, in case you didn’t catch it.)

The thing is, where this whacky marketing is concerned, food companies are only responding to what consumers say they want, or what they think consumers want. So, it’s time for us as consumers to help food companies understand that we don’t want fear-based or irrelevant marketing to become the norm in how we do food in this country (or anywhere). The best way to do that is to get to know our food and learn the truth about what’s in it for ourselves. Because, at the end of the day, companies are trying to sell us something to make more money, and it seems that there’s not much they won’t do to sway us to buy their product.

You know what I’m going to say next: ask a rancher. Ask a farmer. We know what we’re growing and have a whole lot more invested in it than just a paycheck. And instead of paying attention to fad diets, or Instagrammers, or the next gal that tells you surely you will die a toxin-filled death if you eat anything that’s not “clean”, paleo, and organic, listen to your own body, and talk to your healthcare team if you notice something that isn’t working for you. See how the foods you eat make you feel. We’re all different, and we all need a variety of foods to be our best selves.

By creating fear and misinformation about food, we are inhibiting the advancement and spread of technologies that could help us feed the world more efficiently. Many of us in this country are so lucky to have a huge array of food to choose from, but we can’t forget that not everyone in the world (or the United States) has that luxury. This fearmongering, misleading marketing, and holier-than-thou food shaming is such a privileged perspective to take about food when there are millions (billions?) of people hoping to just have enough food to stay alive.

So, let’s start changing the conversation about food. To start, #AskARancher! I’m right here!

 

Food · let's visit · On The Ranch · Personal

#AskARancher

let's talk about food

This is something that has been on my heart for a long time. And this is a long ole post, y’all, I know. In the future, though, I’ll be sharing short and sweet posts on my Instagram and I’ll try and keep the novels to a minimum.

All around us, in this age of the Internet, we are surrounded by information about everything. Which, you know, is really stinkin’ cool in a lot of ways. We’re so connected, and that’s something that I love because it helps me feel less isolated out here. But, there are a lot of things I, like a lot of people, don’t love about the Internet, and the at the top of my list is the misinformation spread by people who pretend that they know what they’re talking about.

Spoiler: they don’t always know. Not so much. I mean, come on, people are eating Tide Pods. It’s a crazy world out there, folks.

Unlike eating Tide Pods, eating food is important. It’s *literally* what keeps us alive. So, I understand the heated debates and the emotions that surround food and how it’s grown and made. But, it breaks my heart to see people being scared about the safety and quality of their food or how it was raised based upon information they found online, put there by someone who either a) has no idea what they’re talking about, b) might know what they’re talking about but has an agenda or is sponsored by a specific product or company, or c) is also just freaked out and is acting accordingly and sharing anecdotal evidence like it’s verifiable, evidence-based science.

And listen, I know there are lots of people online who are totally, 100% qualified to talk to you about your food, and I’m so glad. But to me, it feels like for every one of those, there are ten more who are the modern-day equivalent of medicine show guys with their bottles full of sugar and heroine. It seems like the very, very passionate voices on either end are drowning out the reasonable, voices in the middle, and that’s no good.

 

Please, I implore you, if you have a question about beef production, ask a (real) cattle rancher or farmer. If you have a question about fruits, vegetables, or other foods that grow out of the ground, ask a (real) farmer. If you have a question about the nutritional content of anything, ask a (licensed, non-biased, professional) nutritionist. If you are concerned that your diet is incomplete or that you are unhealthy, ask a (board-certified) doctor or consult a (registered, accredited) dietician. Use your best judgment to choose players for your team who are going to give you the best, most inclusive information. Do not turn to people sitting behind screens who harp upon the dangers or benefits of things they don’t know about, or who are peddling products or a lifestyle that doesn’t suit you. When you read articles, look for the science. Look for the proof. Look for the citations, and where they’re from. Learn about who’s doing the writing, and why. And if they are evangelizing their food choices to others to scare them, belittle them, or make them feel poorly about their own choices, I would choose to be wary of the information they are offering up.

However, wariness aside, I am absolutely not here to attack others. I am not here to tell you that you should eat beef, or what kind of beef you should eat. I’m here to show you that the people who raise your food are just like you. We are wives and husbands and parents and business owners and sports fans and Netflix enthusiasts and environmentalists and democrats and republications. We love our communities, and our people, and want to meet you and know you and welcome you into what we do, because you have a share in this, too. We love our jobs, and our ranches, and our farms, and our animals. And we want you to trust us, because this is our life’s work, and where our hearts live. It’s not a hobby, it’s not something we are merely passionate about. Growing food for you is what consumes our days, in one way or another.

I know we’re not usually the loudest voices on the internet. Part of this might be due to the work-intensive nature of agriculture, or our lack of reliable cell signal or internet.  Part of this might be due to the huge amounts of dollars some of the louder voices have behind them. And it’s scary to put ourselves out there because the internet can be a mean place, where people forget that we are all people deserving of dignity and respect. And sometimes it feels like we have a whole lot more to lose because this isn’t just a job, it’s our whole life. We don’t sit behind laptops in an office to further our agendas and then go home to our house that isn’t connected to our business. We live where we work, and the agriculture industry is already risky enough; it’s scary to open up and add more risk. I’ve had people that I know tell me, unequivocally, that I’m personally killing the planet and should be ashamed (I’m not and you cannot make me feel shame for my life, ps). I’ve had strangers tell me that I’m a bad mother for raising my children where and how I do. I’ve heard offensive and unspeakable things said to people that I respect and heard comparisons about what we do to what we do to the Holocaust (I’m not kidding, people are that classless and crass.) So it’s scary. But, you know, telling the truth is necessary, so we keep sharing, in the hopes that someone will listen to us instead of someone on Facebook sharing photoshopped pictures of animal abuse.

That’s why this blog is here. And guess what? This isn’t the only blog like this. There are piles of blog and Instagram accounts and YouTubers who share the real story of ag, and most of them don’t have an agenda. They just want to share, and to invite you into their lives and communities, and know that the more good, reasonable, smart, forward-thinking, kind voices we have in this community, the better.

You’ll find that most of these folks are like me: raising a family, raising beef, and proud to help feed the world. Here are just a few of the highly qualified folks that you can turn to about your beef, and food in general.

Buzzard’s Beat: Brandi is a wife, mama, rodeo-er, and all-around #girlboss who also happens to have a Master’s in Animal Science. She’s one of my favorite sources for no-nonsense insights into beef, even the hard stuff.

Girl Carnivore: Do you like meat? Do you want to know how to fix it and make it so delicious? Then head over to Kita’s site and get your fill of meaty goodness and gorgeous photography. This girl can grill. 

Cowgirl Boots and Running Shoes: Michaela is an ultrasound technologist-turned-fitness coach (among about ten other things) and she and her husband are raising their three children on her husband’s family farm and ranch in Nebraska. She’s my go-to for beef from a perspective of nutrition and fitness, and is so motivating!

Agriculture At Its Best: Mike has decades in so many aspects of the beef industry from livestock production and sales to 4H and the Extension Service. And, surprise, another Master’s!

Faith Family & Beef: Terryn and her family live in the Sandhills of Nebraska where they raise cattle and have an amazing pack of ranch dogs. She has a background in feeding cattle and shares what everyday life is like on a ranch in the Sandhills with three kids, and also has a ton of great recipes.

Meet Your Beef: Brooke is a fourth-generation rancher, and is also an animal health company territory manager and runs an amazing boutique (do you see the #girlboss theme here?).

Johnny Prime Steaks: Steakhouse reviews, killer photography, irreverent humor, and now a butcher shop. If you like steak–or food–at all, he’s your guy.

Arizona Beef Blog: This is the blog of the Arizona Beef Council. It showcases families and ranches from around the state to show how Arizona does beef. It’s run by Tiffany, who found a love a cattle through her love of horses.

The Circle L Ranch Blog: Naomi and her family raise cattle and horses, and also runs several businesses including a feed store and a rodeo production company. Another #girlboss who talks about everything from cooking to rodeo to parenting to ranch life, and features other dynamite women in agriculture.

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom: Nicole and her family run a farm where they raise crops like wheat and soybeans as well as cattle. She shares recipes, stories, and what it’s like to run a diversified farm operation while being a mama.

Kellie For Ag: Kellie is another diversified farmer who raises crops and beef cattle in Iowa. She grew up in a farming family and has always wanted to be a farmer, and her passion and knowledge of the industry is plain!

Blessed by Beef: Tierra has an amazing story, and raises Angus cattle and bulls on her family’s ranch in Oregon. She’s also a photographer, and has a background in livestock marking.

Blue Eyes and Cow Pies: Kiah is a seventh-generation California cattle rancher (yes, seventh) who now lives and works in Kentucky. She knows her stuff, y’all.

Wag’n Tales: Val is a mama of four boys who farms crops and cows in North Dakota. She writes about everything under the sun, including what it’s like to be a farm mama to a little one with a serious medical condition.

Scott Stebner Agricultural Photography: Do you want to see some absolutely gorgeous photos? You do. You really, really do. His portraits move me to my soul. Head over to his site, you won’t be sorry.

Ag on the Forefront: Kelsey, her husband, and her son raise Red Angus cattle in Eastern Colorado. She’s another sharp-as-a-tack gal with a Master’s and has some amazing posts. I especially love her posts on animal welfare, and antibiotics.

The Truth About Ag: Michelle talks about some really hard things, and tackles head-on some of the most controversial aspects of ag. Her posts are well-researched and are a resource I often turn to, myself!

Dairy Carrie: Carrie and her family are dairy farmers in Wisconsin and I love her blog because she unflinchingly and very directly tackles some of the misinformation out there. I don’t know a ton about dairy (we raise beef cattle), but what I do know I’ve learned from reading her blog. It’s made me smarter!

Mom at the Meat Counter: Janeal (or Dr. Janeal as I refer to her in my head) is a bonafide meat scientist at the University of Arkansas. If you want to learn more about meat, she’s your gal, and a really excellent teacher and resource.

The Cow Docs: Jake and Carolyn are (mostly large animal) vets who also raise cattle. They blog about cow things, industry things, life things, food things…lots of things! But seriously. Two vets. With a blog. Check em out!

So, when in doubt, #AskARancher. #AskAFarmer.

Family · Food

September Meal Plan

I get asked a lot what I do for meals, particularly since we have to be pretty savvy about buying groceries since we live in a rural area, so I thought I’d share what works for us! Especially because this is the first time in TWO MONTHS I’ve actually sat down and meal-planned, since July and August were basically a wash what with all the traveling to interviews and moving and being packed and in between houses and such.

So, at the very end of each month I try to sit down and plan the next month’s meals. I don’t have a formula (“Taco Tuesday” or pizza every Friday) because I find we get sick of meals fairly easily so I try to mix it up a little. We don’t have the luxury of takeout or a quick dinner out if I don’t feel like cooking, so I try to avoid getting in a rut. That being said, I make pretty much the same set of meals each month with one or two new ones thrown in to try, and have a few easy go-tos if we’re home late or I don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.

With each meal, I try to serve a green vegetable–often roasted broccoli/asparagus, or sauteed green beans–alongside if there aren’t already vegetables included in the recipe. You’ll notice that we eat meat every night; I have a husband with a metabolism of a racehorse and a work ethic of, well, a cowboy, and an appetite to match, and going meatless doesn’t work for him at all. We also eat a lot of pasta–see previously cited husband. I firmly believe that everything is fine in moderation, so I try to have more vegetables and meat on my plate than pasta and keep the portions smaller for myself.

You’ll also notice we don’t have tons of beef on this month’s menu–our freezer is almost empty and I’m not sure when we’ll be processing our next cow! I think it’s soon but I’m not sure what schedule our new ranch is on. I’m also trying to conserve our pig a little bit, too, since I’m not sure when we’ll be getting another. A lot of these recipes are the same as the ones in my pre-Buster big batch post, too. We  know what we like, I guess. At least once a month I’ll get a wild hair and throw out the calendar in favor of something new, but that’s not always easy since the grocery store is real far. My wild hairs tend to occur in town in the middle of the grocery store with my Pinterest dinners board open!

cal

Pasta prima: pasta with whatever vegetables I have on hand plus chicken or sausage, topped with pesto. Sometimes I make homemade but I usually just use Kirkland’s jarred pesto from Costco. This is one of our favorite things and it’s really veggie-heavy and quick so we have it a lot.

Stir-fry: I use this recipe, but use a frozen stir-fry veggie blend and it works beautifully. This is also a go-to when we’re low on produce since we use frozen veggies! We also like this with cooked chow mein stir-fry noodles.

Roast chicken: I used Ina Garten’s recipe for the first time for this one, and it got rave reviews! I’ll definitely make it again.

French dip sandwiches: I use my mom’s recipe in the slow cooker. A roast (this time I used a maybe 4-5 lb chuck), a packet of Lipton’s French Onion Soup mix, a bottle of beer, and a cup of water. I’ve found that roasting on high for an hour and a half or two hours for a thinner/smaller roast or 2-3 hours on high for a bigger/thicker roast works for us. I think I have a slow cooker than runs a little hot, though! I serve on deli rolls with curly fries.

Spaghetti and meatballs: I make a big batch of freezer meatballs, and throw them in some sauce to cook. I’ve found success with lots of recipes, so pick our fave! Our favorites are ones with Italian sausage and ground beef.

Baked Cajun chicken: This is one of our very favorite recipes! I like to make it with halved or quartered baby reds and fingerling potatoes, and it’s also good with wingettes and drummies.

Tacos: ground beef, cheese, sometimes cilantro-lime rice, sauteed peppers and onions, and the fixins. I use either this taco seasoning or a packet of McCormick’s. We sometimes do fajitas on these days instead.

Potstickers: this is one of my favorite easy meals. I used to (and sometimes still do) make a big batch of homemade potstickers and freeze them, but more often than not I get a bag of frozen ones at Costco and serve with sesame noodles.

Pork chops and potatoes: thinly-sliced pork chops fried in a skillet with breakfast potatoes (diced potatoes, peppers, and onions).

Chicken cutlets and basil orzo: pounded-thin chicken cutlets breaded with panko, parm, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, sauteed in olive oil and served with orzo baked in chicken stock and then mixed with basil and parm. Loosely based on this recipe, which is one of my faves (sans olives) but Bert doesn’t really like lemon so I don’t make it much.

Short rib sandwiches

Italian sausage and pasta: sliced sauteed Italian sausage with marinara and sauteed red bell peppers served over penne, rigatoni, or something similar.

Lemon brown sugar chicken

Cajun chicken pasta: I use the PW’s recipe but with, like, a quarter of the cream. I can’t tell the difference! Our vegetables of choice are also peppers and mushrooms and red onions. After trying many different Cajun seasonings, this one is our favorite.

Breaded pork chops with wild rice

Ground Italian sausage (we use bucatini noodles)

Chicken Parm: sort of like this one. I use cutlets, bread them, bake them, and then add the sauce and parm about five minutes before taking out of the oven.

Beef with snow peas: I like, quadruple the amount of snow peas. You can use lots of different cuts for this one, I tend to use up round steaks with this recipe. I slice and marinate overnight and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the marinate to help the tenderizing process.

Homemade pizza: I still haven’t found a crust I love love yet, I’ll let you know when I do. We like to do sausage and mushroom with caramelized onions and a little smoked gouda on a wheat crust.

Breakfast for dinner: biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, breakfast potatoes, waffles, sausage patties…it’s whatever we feel like!

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner. This is new this month, so I’ll let you know!

Whew! That was long. If you’ve stuck to it this far, I’m impressed and thank you. Now, this is just dinner. For lunches, we do things like sandwiches, or Bert will make a frozen pizza or a burrito (I know). Lately, I’ve been really liking a sort of snack-lunch approach with crackers, sharp cheddar, a huge amount of fruit, and maybe some salami, with baby carrots or sliced cucumber for a snack later on. Neither one of us is big on breakfast, so I’ll have a bowl of cereal or peanut butter toast, and Bert has…black coffee.  Wacey has a Nutri-Grain for breakfast with a midmorning granola/peanut buttery/cheese stick snack, and likes to have a peanut butter sandwich or quesadilla and a pile of fruit for lunch. He usually eats some variation of what we’re having for dinner, often with extra fruit and some yogurt.

We are not perfect eaters, but I try to make sure we’re all getting lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and good sources of protein. We also don’t eat a ton of sugar, and try to limit snack-y snacks (I see you, Cheez-its).

Happy Wednesday, I’m going to go eat.