Hi, my name is Kara and I am a chef, homemade enthusiast, forager of ingredients, and preserver of old ways. I used to reside in the Big Apple with my partner Sean and our two pups. We've moved to South Central Pennsylvania for a more rural lifestyle. This is a time when everything is easily accessible and available right at our finger tips. However, I strive to get us as humans back to our roots. When we had to search out or grow our own food, preserve it to feed our families year round, and if we wanted something we had to use our minds and good ol' two hands to create it ourselves. Sean and I are seeking a happy and healthy lifestyle of self sustainability, eating local and healthy foods free of artificial preservatives or chemicals. We put a lot of thought and time into finding out exactly where our food comes from and how it is produced. The food in our house is always cooked from scratch from the all natural real ingredients that nature intended for us to eat. Most importantly its all easily accessible and nothing short of scrumptious. This is our life, this is The Concrete Forager.
WHY DO WE LIVE THE WAY WE DO?
Eat fresh 'Real' food - Food is fuel. I'm not going to be cliche and say "you are what you eat" but, you are! (Oops, did I say it?) Lets face it, most of what we eat here in the states comes straight out of mass production. If you go to your pantry, take out a box of breakfast cereal and read the label, nine times out of ten there will be more than one ingredient on that box that you cannot pronounce the name of. What are we eating? Is it food or science? Why not spend 20 minutes of your day making some fresh granola with 5 ingredients that you know, love, and most of all are great for your overall health? Most of the food we buy comes from crops and livestock laden with artificial additives, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and come from or feed on genetically modified crops. This is not what nature intended for us. Not only is this directly effecting our health and longevity but it is also greatly impacting our planet.
There's only one way to fix this, and its extremely easy! Always know where your food comes from and what it is made of. Foods that we consider to be 'real' are; fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, meat, fish, and poultry. Most importantly, 'real' food is prepared in our very own homes from the best quality ingredients we can find. Staple ingredients like healthy fats/oils, wheat flours, and sweeteners are great when you are stocking your pantry, just remember to consume in moderation. We don't want you to say or even think the word diet. That word will NEVER be spoken in this blog or in my life. We just want you to be aware of what you put into your body and eat more nutrient rich food. Most importantly, I would like you to learn how to source the best ingredients to cook with and feed your families. My goal is to teach you every tip, trick, and skill you need to navigate this mass produced world and #foragingreal. Foraging real means no matter where you come from, what your budget is, or what style of eating you love, you are able to find healthy quality ingredients and turn them into something scrumptious.
In our recipes, you will see a few processed ingredients that we do use. In this day in age I am not going to expect someone to grind their own wheat to make flour at home. (Even though that would be pretty awesome.) We buy; Flour, sugar, butter, milk, cheese, spices, vinegar, condiments, chocolate, etc. The key to cooking with ingredients like these is buy GOOD QUALITY. That is what #foragingreal is all about. Read your labels and try to find a brand you can trust. Stay away from chemicals, additives, and ingredients you don't know. By joining The Concrete Forager community, I teach you the ingredients that are healthy, and the ones you'll want to steer clear of. If you have any concerns about a brand or product to buy please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help!
-- For more information and facts please visit our Resources page.
Grow your own food - If you are as concerned with where your food comes from as we are, what better way to know than to do it yourself? Anyone can garden. Whether you have a back yard full of crops that you tend to every day or you grow some edible herbs in small pots on your kitchen windowsill, you are getting the rewards of growing your own food. Living in NYC there typically isn't much room for large outdoor gardens but there are plenty of alternatives. Luckily in our village we are allowed a 10x10 vegetable garden in the back of our apartment. This is more than enough for us right now. I am by no means a farmer, sometimes I wonder if I even have a green thumb! I try to grow the things we will benefit the most from, and will give us enough crop to preserve for winter. The best thing about gardening is the experience. Getting your hands in dirt, spending time every day weeding and watering, watching seeds turn to flourishing plants, problem solving when your greens start to wilt and most of all being the care taker for a living thing that will nourish you in return.
Another helpful skill to learn is how to preserve the harvest. This will allow all of your warm weather hard work to pay off even during the cold winter months (New York has somewhat of a dead season because the weather gets so cold.) Preservation comes in may forms; canning, curing, drying, dehydrating, freezing, fermenting, pickling and even smoking. Choose one that seems comfortable to you and try it out, the results may surprise you. Not only are you going to save money when it comes to food cost but, since you are preserving a fresh harvest you will clearly taste the difference!
Forage for new and exciting ingredients - Foraging doesn't necessarily mean you have to pick up mysterious plants in the woods and debate whether or not they are meant to be eaten. It means going out in the pursuit of gathering some fresh and seasonal food with your own two hands. #Foragingreal. Foraging can mean picking wild blackberries because they are fresher and taste better than store bought, or seeking out the best store or farmers market near you that sells the freshest food. I encourage you, no matter where you reside to explore all the different stores around you. Whether it is a local grocery store you trust, a farm stand, local hiking trails or your own back yard. Being a forager means you are seeking out the best quality ingredients that you can find and making them into something delicious! Don't just grab broccoli because you feel like making chicken and broccoli for dinner tonight, look around the produce section, take a stroll. Seek out the freshest,brightest, and best looking vegetable this week. This rule will help you eat seasonally and eat produce at the peak or season, which of course means it'll taste just that much greater.
PLEASE NOTE: Wild foraging should be done with caution. I do not suggest going wild foraging without doing research first. Although there are plenty of safe edibles out there, there are just as many unsafe plants. Be sure to do your research and test everything before eating what you have foraged or before you feed any foraged foods to your family or pets. Some great foraging resources to start with are listed on our Resources page.
Hunt your own meat - OK, this section may not be for everyone. I encourage everyone to please read this section whether you are in support of hunting or not for whatever reason. Who knows, maybe the information you are about to hear may open your mind to some new ideas on the subject. If you are against hunting for a specific reason or diet, WE SUPPORT YOU!
Hunting is not a sport based on killing. Hunting is preservation of animals and the land they live on. Sean and I do not take the death of an animal lightly. First thing you should know is animals will die in the wild whether we hunt them or not. Lets talk about deer. Deer are a great example of an animal that can not thrive without human help. One of the reasons why hunting regulations change from area to area is because of deer population. When the population gets too dense in an area deer will run out of nutritious food to eat, and end up as 'pests' in areas where they don't belong. When you see deer coming for your trash outside and throw them some food, this does not help them. This only furthers poor nutrition and can lead the animal to be too comfortable around humans, who can put them in harms way. Over population is also extremely harsh on the earth because the deer become invasive and eat up everything that grows before it can flourish. Hunting laws and regulations are set by your state and change from year to year in order to protect the species and environment. We as hunters abide by these rules.
Deer also don't do well with old age since they grind their teeth to eat. As they age, their teeth file down all the way until they can barely chew food at all. This does not only lead to starvation. A male deer that cannot get the correct nutrition in their diet cannot grow their antlers correctly. Bucks (male deer) grow antlers every year to protect themselves from predators and show dominance to other bucks during mating season. Deer often fight for dominance in order to keep their herd of does (females). The bigger and heavier the antlers are, the healthier the buck is. If a deer cannot protect themselves using their antlers they will become prey to another species or other big healthy bucks. Hunting regulations are set to conserve the population, it is us as hunters who have control over how well the species and land thrives. A good hunters goal is to harvest an older buck for a few reasons. Firstly if they are getting older that means they have already had a few seasons to mate with different does and further the gene pools in the area. Second if they are getting older and teeth are getting weaker, harvesting that older animal will prevent it from going through the suffering of starvation and/or turning into prey by a bigger stronger animal.
A major controversy about hunting comes down to "morality." Is it right or wrong to kill animals? First thing to remember is every species, including humans, have been predator or prey at some point in history. Humans are scientifically omnivores, which means we are meant to eat both meat and vegetation to survive. Back in the day, humans haven't always had grocery stores to go buy their dinner. Just because we as hunters have a hand in the killing doesn't mean we are barbarians. The meat harvested by a hunter is healthier and has lived a stress free life in the wild. Until the moment the animal is put down it is happily living freely on the land is was meant to. A good hunter won't kill unless they are sure it is being done humanely and quickly. Lets think about the meat your are buying at your local grocery store. We all know it, whether we want to admit it or not, these animals have had a life time of being treated poorly and fed poorly. Not only is this animal cruelty effecting the animals life, but it greatly effects the taste, texture and nutrition we are buying after the animal has been harvested. I like to know that the animal I am eating and feeding to my family had a happy life, was treated fairly, and was fed an all natural organic diet. We believe our duty as humans is to put forth the effort and work for everything we've got. Ask yourself, is it more humane to buy bulk animals who were raised in extremely filthy over crowded captivity with poor diets and little to no exercise, or work hard for hours on end into harvest one healthy animal in its own environment at a time?
My mission is to educate people on where their food is coming from and what the food is made of. If there's anything I would like you to take from reading this section it is to feel like you've got a better understanding of the relationship we have with the animals we eat and the environment it effects. Maybe this will interest you in hunting or maybe it will make you seek out better ways to buy the meat for you and your family. There are lots of local butcher shops or even online stores that can give you better options. If the price seems to be an issue for you, the best advice I can give you is buy better quality and eat a little less meat. Quality is better than quantity! (why are cliche statements always so accurate?) The benefits you'll get from eating better quality meats are far greater than what your are getting from a fridge full of bargain mystery meats that have had terrible diets. If you like to eat healthy, don't eat animals fed unnatural diets.
--For more information and facts please visit our Resources page.
Make it yourself - Oh how I love to make things. Food aside, I am a serious "Susie Homemaker." I learned to crochet by my grandmothers at a young age, and learned to sew from my mom. As the years go by I have tried to pick up homestead/maker skills anywhere that I can. I have since taken on; Painting, watercolor, embroidery, weaving, and spinning. Add a few more hobbies to the list right? Every time I need to come up with a special gift for someone, homemade is always my go to.
Reduce, reuse, recycle! (another cliche, I know) Not only is it much more satisfying to sit in your living room surrounded by little works of art you've created yourself but, creating it yourself also allows you to have a say in exactly how it looks and how it functions! Repurposing things found at a local thrift store or refinishing old furniture you've "picked" off the street on garbage day is rewarding and budget friendly.
Recipes are never rules - Get inspired, experiment, have fun. Food is much more simple than people make it seem. Don't think of my recipes like rules, they are more like inspirational guidelines to fuel your mind, body, and soul. Lets say I post a recipe including almonds and you or someone in your family doesn't like almonds... swap the almonds for a nut you will enjoy! Lets say I post a recipe using red bell peppers, if your red bell peppers are looking a little limp substitute fresh looking orange, yellow, or even green bell instead. Freshness is always the most important thing when shopping for produce. When cooking, flavor combinations are endless! Don't be shy, if you've changed an ingredient for whatever reason, let me know! Id be happy to hear anyone's experiences with our recipes, "good" or even "not so good." (Although, I am keeping my fingers crossed for "good")