While living in the high desert of California in 2010, we made the decision to cut meat out of our diet. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet were one reason for this change. The lack of access to pasture-raised, antibiotic/steroid-free meats was the other. Until our move to California, we had been enjoying the Onslow County, North Carolina Farmer’s Market and especially, White Dove Ranch and Apiary. White Dove Ranch raises goat, lamb, chicken, and pig—all pastured and certified humane raised and handled. Because we could get this type of meat, we enjoyed it for dinner a few times a week. While in California, we didn’t miss the meat. The farmer’s markets there were filled with every vegetable and fruit imaginable. “Well of course,” you say. “It’s California after all!” I was thrilled to explore the world of vegetables and grains in hopes of satisfying the hunger and refined palates of my family.
Coming back to a North Carolina that has seen the revitalization of local sustainable farming made leaving the California weather and farmer’s markets a little less difficult. I have been extremely pleased with the pasture-raised, antibiotic-free meats we have access to here. We have reintroduced some meat to our diet; however, it continues to play a supporting role in the meal rather than being the main event.
I won’t get in to the science and political aspects of why pasture-raised meats from local farmers are superior to the stuff you can get in the grocery stores. I will say, though, that the fats in pasture-raised meats have more Omega fatty acids (which are GOOD for you) and the meat overall is healthier and leaner. In an age when we really don’t know what causes most of the diseases that plague us, I feel it is important to remember that the food we put into our bodies has an impact—both good and bad. Food is fuel, and the kind of fuel we put into our bodies is a personal choice. We try to choose wisely, but come on…we also want it to taste good. What if we could have both?
As 2014 begins, my hope is that you will look at the food as fuel choices you are making and raise your consciousness about our country’s food system. If you have never been to a farmer’s market, I urge you to go. Try a new vegetable. Try a familiar vegetable in a new way. Buy some pasture-raised meats or eggs. Talk to a farmer. I tried it, and it changed my life for the better.
Here is a recipe that I love to make and freeze for a quick weeknight accompaniment to stir fry or appetizers for friends! I also want to thank Fickle Creek Farm for providing such amazingly delicious pasture-raised ground pork for the recipe below.
Pork & Chive Pot Stickers
- 1 lb. ground pork (pasture-raised, antibiotic-free if possible)
- 1-2 tbs. minced or grated fresh ginger
- 2 tbs. minced chives
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- half of a small head of cabbage finely diced – about 1-1 1/2 cups (You can use a food processor or a box grater)
- 1 package of dumpling wrappers (round)
- small bowl of cold water
- Combine filling ingredients thoroughly (hands work best).
- Place 1 tbs. of filling in the middle of a wrapper.
- Dip your finger in the water and run it along one half of the wrapper.
- Fold over and pinch closed.
- Make 3-4 Z-shaped folds to keep dumpling closed.
To prepare immediately or when frozen: Place 2 tbs of peanut oil in a non-stick pan. Heat oil on medium high heat. Place dumplings in pan and allow to fry in oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2-cup water to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Allow the dumplings to steam until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove the lid and allow to cook for another minute or so. Should be crispy/golden on the bottom.
Serve with dipping sauce:
2 tbs. soy sauce
2-3 drops of sesame oil
1/2 tsp of rice vinegar
To freeze: Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Do not let them touch. Place in the freezer until thoroughly frozen and put in a freezer bag. This recipe makes about 40-45 dumplings