Cherry musings

For those who don’t know, it is high cherry season in southeastern Minnesota. I have a prolific sour cherry on the boulevard grass next to my house. For my family, this is a really big deal.

My maternal grandparents were dedicated gardeners. Their home in southern Pennsylvania boasted a veggie plot, blueberry and currant bushes, and a grove of several fruit trees. My grandpa, knobby as the trees themselves, would adorn his orchard with silly cloth snakes to scare away the birds. My childhood impression of him was that he was a stern man, but seeing him tend to his orchard with a sense of humor and sweetness set the stage for my softer relationship with him later on.

If the cherries didn’t all go to the birds, my grandma would get to canning and baking. She was an inventive home cook, and my family benefited from her imagination and expertise. 

My mom inherited her parents’ love of foraging and harvesting, and she takes after her mother with her cooking and recipe development. In the late 90s, she and my grandma discovered a beautiful, bountiful sour cherry tree in my hometown of Cambridge, MA. They became set in the idea that they had to harvest those cherries! Using my adorable grandma as a decoy, my mom harvested the tree promptly. The ear to ear grin my grandma displays triumphantly in this picture shows that their harvest was a success.

Now I am a woman obsessed, and the build up to the cherry season is very exciting. The excitement that I feel is as much of a touchstone to the past as it is a grounding in the present. Cherries are evocative, and I pause to remember my beloved grandparents when picking them. They also are a reflection of St. Paul, and the bountiful summer we’ve enjoyed thus far.

I have harvested 8 pounds, and the tree is still producing! I’ve made little jars of cherry preserves which will be handed off to neighbors and friends. The cherries that I have yet to pick will be pitted and frozen for my mom and auntie to make pies with. The birds have been merciful, but will certainly go after some of them, just like they did all those years ago in my grandparents’ orchard.

This is one connection that I have with my family. Maddy has countless more with hers. These connections inform us, the people we are, the business that we do. The integrity with which we approach our work is a product of the way we were raised- by our parents, our families, our communities. I encourage you to look beyond the harvests you bring in this summer- be they edible or of another nature- and to peer into how they represent the past, the present, and the future.

Happy summer solstice to you and yours!

 

Healthful Hints: Pre-prepped Ingredients

How often do you eat homemade meals made from whole foods? 

If you’re anything like me, not often at all! That is, until last week when I participated in a cleanse through Push Fitness which was perfectly complimented by the skills and knowledge of Julie Johnson, a holistic health coach. It was a fantastic experience, and motivated me to prepare whole ingredients in bulk quantities, ahead of time. The ingredients are so versatile that they can mixed and matched, added to most meals and snacks.

Since I’ve been planning ahead, I have experienced a drastic drop in food waste, a smaller weekly food budget from not eating out, and a higher consumption of veggies, fruits, and lean proteins.

You can do it too! The suggestions below are a few of the uncountable ways that a couple of hours of prep can set you up to make healthy eating choices;

  1. Cook large batches of proteins to add to your meals all week. Combine 3 pounds of raw, ground turkey or chicken meat IMG_2673with 1 (2.2/2.5-ounce) container of no salt added seasoning. My suggested seasonings are Trader Joe’s 21 Salute Seasoning and Penzeys Mural of Flavor Seasoning, but any salt free mix works. Knead these ingredients together until they are combined. Rest this mixture at least at least 2 hours, or overnight, to allow the seasonings to meld with the meat. After resting, heat a medium skillet on your stove over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to each one. Working in 2 batches, add the meat to the pan, scooping it out in small quantities with a metal spoon. You are aiming to keep the scoops as even as possible for thorough, even cooking. Let the meat cook for 5 minutes, undisturbed. Flip the meat, add 1/2 cup broth, put a lid on the pan, and continue cooking. Cook until the meat registers 165, or until the meat is opaque with no pink inside. Add 4 ounces of this seasoned ground meat to salads, stir frys, and soups. This recipe creates 12 servings. Once cooked, it should be used within the week.IMG_2675 (1)
  2. Chop your veggies, and shake them into everything. Wash all of your vegetables before proceeding. Chop into very small pieces (smaller than your pinky fingernail) 1/2 head of cabbage, 4 kale leaves, 2 carrots, 4 radishes, and 1 broccoli floret. Store this chop in a gallon container or ziplock bag with a paper towel to absorb the moisture and keep the veggies fresh for longer. Add 1/2 to 1 cup to every savory dish you eat.
  3. Embrace healthful snacking. Fruits and nuts are a great snack. Processing them by adding salt or IMG_2695removing moisture (roasting or drying) will make them tastier, but can also lead to snack attacks! A portion size is 1 medium fruit or 1/3 of a cup of nuts. To help ebb excessive noshing, raw, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit, I find, are easier to fill up on and be done with. Keep unsalted, raw nuts, pre-portioned in a sandwich baggie in your bag or purse for moments when you feel peckish. Peel oranges and slice apples and keep them in a container or baggie for the same purposes. I always use my senses when purchasing fresh fruit. Here’s an article from The Kitchn about what to look for when choosing the tastiest fruit.
  4. Bring the spa with you by dressing up your tap water. Fill a reusable bottle with water, then add aromatics to make it a delicious treat. I refrigerate 2 (32 ounce) bottles in the evening to enjoy the next day. 1 (3 inch) slice of cucumber and a wedge of lemon always tastes great, but anything goes. Strawberries, mint leaves, any type of citrus, ginger root… really, you can make this your own. Three things to keep in mind. 1) Cut the ingredients in small enough sizes that they can be easily removed from your bottle, but not so small that you’re going to get a mouthful of them with every swig. Evaluate the mouth of your bottle and determine what size and shape you need to cut your ingredients to. 2) For 32 ounces of water, I normally use 1/4 cup of aromatic ingredients.  3) Drink your water within 1-2 days, to ensure the freshest flavor.
  5. Have frozen bone broth on hand for instant gratification. Bone broth is a great ingredient to get to know better when embarking on healthy eating initiatives. Its versatility is made apparent by the fact that it can be enjoyed as a savory beverage all on its own, or it can play a supporting role turning pan drippings into amazing sauces, and adding flavorful low-fat/high protein moisture to sautees, casseroles, and stews. The beauty of stocking high quality frozen broth in your home is that it can be added to almost any savory dish with great results. The best part is, you can enjoy it knowing that you’ll feel good after indulging your broth craving. What could be better than that?

Learn more about the benefits of broth

Join our growing team!

Want to get in early with a growing start up? Interested in clean eating? Enjoy being in front of a crowd?

Taking Stock Foods is hiring for the Summer 2017 farmer’s market season. We will be sampling and selling our drinkable broths at pop up Broth Bars. Our Offsite Events Operators will be launching this concept in May, and here is an exciting opportunity contribute big time to a small company.

  • Part time positions begin May 18th.
  • Entry level, sales experience preferred.
  • $15 an hour
  • Saturday and Sunday morning shifts available.
  • Additional store demo shift opportunities available.

Email info@takingstockfoods.com for a full job description. TS_Logo_Block

6 clean eating and consciousness raising practices to alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress.

Here’s a brainstorm for enhancing life.

I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for the last three months in addition to stressing out and being more anxious than I normally am. I started physical therapy today, leading me to consider a full lifestyle refresher. I wrote this list to remind myself of some basic truths, developed for a clean living reboot.

6 clean eating and consciousness raising practices to alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress.  

Eat a diet largely comprised of fruits and vegetables. Duh, right? Fresh foods require regular shopping, hands on preparation, and more money than eating processed, ready to go foods. These are the main barriers that stop us from eating this way. A trick that I’ve developed to make clean eating less tedious is to steam and cut vegetables as soon as they’re brought home, which allows me to turn them into a snack or meal in no time. When getting started, it’s important to realistically evaluate how many fruits and veggies my partner and I can go through to eliminate costly waste. Starting with a small shopping list and scaling up as we replace processed foods with fresh produce works for us.

Using UCLA’s body scan guided meditation, evaluate how the body feels once or twice a day. Shifting the focus away from the demanding, achy mental and physical parts of ourselves is helpful. My pain becomes less encompassing when I realize that most of my body doesn’t hurt at all, and actually feels good. This meditation eases you into relaxation, and offers a break from tension and stress. It is a simple free practice for enhancing your life.

Shed some pounds, maybe, but diet because you love yourself- not because you want to change yourself. Healthy eating is often about losing weight. Weight loss can be life changing. It can also take over your life. I have a great body which has always served me well. My weight has gone up, it’s gone down, and naturally ebbs and flows with my valuable, exciting life. Body shaming is a national past time, and at thirty two, I am mature enough to reject it. Breaking this cycle requires me to question my motive for weight loss. Is it to be sexier? Is there a better goal? How about being able to canoe in the Boundary Waters at seventy five? Yes.

Walk out the door and spend some time moving, completely unplugged. I got a fancy smartphone for work in 2015. It’s awesome. With DSC00752it comes an unusual urgency to engage constantly. I have made the conscious decision to spend one hour a day tech free. This gives my mind room to roam free, and allows me to observe and connect with my surroundings. I haven’t discovered a situation that can’t wait for one hour, or that can’t be anticipated by contacting a person ahead of time. I travelled for a month alone in Europe in 2002 at the age of seventeen. No cell phone. No laptop. My reasoning is, if I could do it then in a foreign country where English wasn’t the first language, I can do it now in my hometown for one hour.

The foods/drinks that are most loved are best enjoyed in moderation. I love culinary luxuries. Coffee. Hot spaghetti. Whisky. Cape Cod potato chips with Red Hots in them. I hold the common belief that if one is good, twenty must be better. Not true! When I refused to be parted with my best friend as a child and would hide in her house, my mother sang a song called “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” This can be crooned to a bag of chips or a pot of spaghetti. Consider the reworked wisdom ‘absence makes the heart grow stronger’. It’s fitting, as the toll that a regularly consumed bag of chips has on the heart is significant. Another pearl of wisdom- anticipation is a key component to enjoyment.

When experiencing pain, anxiety, or stress, focus on breathing and being present in the moment. 

The isle of Iona in Scotland... Totally worth the flight.

The isle of Iona in Scotland… Totally worth the flight.

I have struggled with an acute fear of flying for years, an anxiety connected to a lack of control. When I was flying back from Los Angeles last Friday, we had a bumpy ride. My heart started pounding, my palms started sweating. I was unbearably uncomfortable and knew that there were still hours left in the flight. What did I do? I closed my eyes and did my body scan. I slowed my breathing, then my heart rate, while clearing my mind. The turbulence suddenly felt less exaggerated, the plane felt less sinister. I was okay because I was in the moment and, in reality, I was comfortable, safe, and in a situation that was being controlled by  trained pilots and an excellent flight staff. The danger that I had created in my mind seemed real enough, but when I assessed the situation, I found it to be fabricated. Grounding in the present is a vital tool that I use when intense stress and anxiety hit me. Normally, my fear of what could happen and the truth of what is happening are divergent paths that will never to meet.

 

Bone broth shipped for free to the upper Midwest

Broth… Every Day!

All of us are looking for ways to improve our well-being. Easy ways, if possible.

Clean eating for health is a time honored tradition, more true now than ever before. Online retailers and brick and mortar purveyors are stocking their shelves with foods that are clean label, organic, and locally sourced.

Taking Stock Foods specializes in frozen broth programs. These programs are easy to purchase, receive, and enjoy. They contain frozen containers of 12-hour cooked bone broth and/or vegan broth made from mushrooms. Our broths are made with as many as 7 and as few as 4 ingredients. They’re simple. They’re tasty. They’re satisfying.

Those who participate in our programs love having this versatile kitchen staple on hand to drink as a nutritious snack, and as a base for cooking. It is perfect for cleansing, but can be enjoyed on any occasion.

Explore our programs to decide which one is right for you. Use the code BROTHINSIDER at checkout to get $8.00 off your online order.

Cheers to your health!

Supporting Local: One Step Further

Are you as impressed with the local food movement as I am?

Becoming an entrepreneur has offered a different perspective, but since I moved to Minnesota in 2007, here’s what I’ve seen:

  • The cry for local food has moved this specialty category beyond the co-ops into grocers en masse,
  • Farmer’s markets are so plentiful that it’s hard to visit them all in one season. More winter markets pop up every year.
  • Social media and online platforms allow growers, makers, and restaurants to connect with their customers more effectively.

Customers, it seems, have tasted the difference and crave the fruits of our economic labors here in the Upper Midwest.

As it happens, it was a different local phenomena that drew me to Minnesota for the first time in May of 2006. I caught a ride with my aunt, potter Mary Barringer, from Chicago to be her helper at Robert ‘Bob’ Briscoe’s site on the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. Over the years, I’ve learned loads about vegetarian cooking from working in the kitchen and amassed quite a few beautiful thrown and hand-built pieces.

I am enamored with using mugs, plates, bowls, and platters built by my Pottery Tour friends. Functional art, such as pottery, brings a liveliness to the dining experience. It also completes another part of the circle that a holistic local food movement should encompass.

If you are a business owner who wants to educate your clients about bone broth, contact becki@takingstockfoods.com to book a Taking Stock tasting with the mug collection on loan from Matthew Krousey. This collection includes his work as well as that of other potters featured on the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour.

To visit this unique festival, plan ahead to take time off over Mother’s Day Weekend. The experience will enrich your love of all things Minnesota, and you might even meet some exciting out of towners!

New products, new site, new ways to engage with Taking Stock Foods.

We’re officially pleased to announce our two new products to add to your clean eating grocery list!

Our first new product is a Ginger Turmeric Broth. This broth is aromatic, warmly spiced, and ready to drink! Borrowing from Ayurvedic traditions, we infuse our salted broth with fresh ginger and turmeric roots. This is a great breakfast broth, and as the season gets colder, you will welcome its warming ginger glow.

With that in mind, our second new product is a Vegan Mushroom Ginger Broth. We were inspired by fresh King Oyster mushrooms grown in Minneapolis by Mississippi Mushrooms. To enhance the mushroom’s umami flavor, we add dried oyster mushrooms from Forest Mushrooms. This broth is finished with chopped fresh ginger root and salt. We wanted to offer a fantastic vegetarian broth to Minnesotans.  Our Vegan Mushroom Ginger Broth has become a Taking Stock flavor powerhouse, and early research shows that mushrooms may be great immune boosters too!

Both of these new products are available online.

We are currently working towards relaunching our website. Please be patient as we go through these changes, and do not hesitate to email us info@takingstockfoods.com, write us a note on our Facebook page, or contact us through our contact form.

Why Our Broth Is Better Than Homemade, Part 1

Although Maddy and I have 25 years of combined professional cooking experience, the heart of what we do at Taking Stock is driven by our passion for cooking at home. Taking Stock began when we observed the lack of slow cooked, made from real ingredients broth and stock options available on the market. We wanted to offer our customers a product that we would be proud to serve to our own families, at our own tables.

Most of our customers either cook broth on a regular basis, or have attempted to do so. We love to hear from home cooks who use their slow cookers or left over rotisserie chicken carcasses to make broth. These techniques are sound and economical.

One advantage that we have at Taking Stock Foods is access to a walk-in refrigerator and freezer. These temperature controlled rooms allow us to safely chill our broth rapidly once it has completed cooking. They also allow us to package our product in cool conditions that ensure that the broth remains below 41 degrees.

We identify our individual cooks by batch number, and have extensive logs detailing their temperatures throughout the cooking day and the packaging day. Over these two days, we temp our product hourly to keep the product safe from bacterial growth.

We are serious about food safety. Our customer’s health is always on our minds.

We hope that this fact is evident to you, our customer. Visit us at our farmer’s markets this week for tips on home kitchen safety and to answer any questions about making broth.

Broth Bowl Inspiration

This summer, we are finding ourselves with more vegetables than we know what to do with. CSA members , ambitious gardeners, and market shoppers may have similar mid-summer vegetable fatigue. Don’t you just want someone to come up with a recipe that will help you cook smarter next week?

We are here to offer you a solution.

Taking Stock is incubating a meal kit or broth box concept. To stat, we will be curating market ingredients, using them to develop a weekly recipe.

Starting this week, we will be shopping the market, assembling key ingredients to make an awesome broth bowl. The types of ingredients we feature are:

  • Fresh vegetables, chosen from what’s widely available that week.
  • Value added products, such as fermented foods, sauces, and spices.
  • Starches such as noodles or dried beans.
  • Animal proteins, with a vegetarian option featured in the recipe.

We are figuring a way to best display the broth bowl ingredients. We may be grabbing them from various vendors and placing them in a basket, or taking a picture ahead of time to give you an idea of what the final dish will look like.

This is an exciting way for us to encourage broth users to branch out of their comfort zone.

Stop by our booth, where you can talk to us about our recipe plan. Better yet, click here to sign up for the weekly recipe.

Let’s Bowl!

Organic? Local? Small Farms? What’s the best choice?

While refining Taking Stock’s description across our social media platforms, I found myself obsessing over the wording of our local, sustainable, small, and slow food message. It’s hard to reduce such a big thought into a small blurb. I decided to move this topic over to the blogosphere, where it can stretch out a bit.
Taking Stock was built to be a ‘for us, by us’ business. We want our customers to have a sense of ownership in our brand. We encourage ownership by basing our business growth on customer feedback versus simply analyzing market trends. In one instance, we were reminded by vegetarians that we have no broth available to offer them at this time. To amend this, we have been developing a rich and tasty vegan mushroom ginger broth. The development of this broth has been given the same thought and consideration as our classic broth. Dialogue with our customers informs many of our business moves, so please keep the feedback coming. We are listening!
We also listened to customer feedback when we switched from antibiotic, hormone free, air chilled chicken to certified organic, free range chicken. We were prompted by our customers wishes for us to use organic chickens, and for us to continue our investigation into the best product available that will yield the most wholesome broth.
We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tour the farm that we used to source our chicken from, and were impressed with the family company, the treatment of the chickens, and the transparency – we even toured on slaughter day and saw where the chickens live!
Then our customers came forward and let us know that they want certified organic and free range chickens.
When we were asked what our position was on sourcing organic food, we had to delve into what being a certified organic product means. Certified organic products adhere to sound principles that encourage healthy food systems. There also happens to be a wonderful organic poultry farmer in the region, which has made our transition seamless.
To add yet another layer to this topic, Taking Stock Foods has a long term goal to source chickens from even smaller farmers, with flocks of 2,000 or less. We visited a couple these farms this spring and were rewarded with a new sense of understanding of what small agriculture looks like in Minnesota.
Despite the amazing experience that we have had at these small farms, we know that working with small farms requires more work than working with large farms does. We run the risk of our broth being less consistent in taste and color because of the variety of flocks and environments that small farm sourcing ensures. Small farmers may not have the capitol to fund organic certification, even if the farm uses organic practices. And, the logistics of gathering chickens from small farms all over will need to be handled by someone who does that type of work professionally – It’s a job within itself!
How, then, do we decide what is best for our business? Larger farms have the infrastructure that makes it very easy to consistently get a product from them, especially as our business grows. Smaller farms have the ‘story’ that we like, but may not be able to afford the organic certification that many of our customers want, and can come with other headaches.
As it turns out, this is a rich discussion, rife with preferences. We always want you to know that we do our best to create an atmosphere where our customers’ opinions are heard and matter. We’d love for you to weigh in with your thoughts about organic/conventional/small farm/local food debate. We’d like to know your overall thoughts, as a consumer, on how you weigh a food product based on these different categories.
Thanks! We value your opinions!
Molly