Appreciation for things in the past and easy weeknight Greek salmon

The beauty of hindsight is 20/20.

Growing up, one of my dad’s friends/work associates was a fisherman. He was a big man, probably 6’6″ or so. He spoke many languages (read: 6 or 7) including Japanese and German. The knowledge of many languages came in handy when selling his catch on the public docks. He would show up at our door, often unannounced, with a garbage bag of surplus whatever he had caught. Sometimes he brought shrimp, other times it was sockeye salmon. At the time, I didn’t eat either of these things and would retch inwardly at the sight and smell of these “gifts”. The polite me would say thank you as a well raised child will do.

I have memories of my mom canning salmon for what seemed like forever. Boiling and peeling shrimp consumed entire weekends. There was one salmon that was so big, it took my mom, older brother and myself to hold the body still while my dad used, possibly, a hacksaw to cut off the head. We placed that behemoth on the empty kitchen table, covered the entire floor and table in newspaper to catch the gore and had some family time beheading the beast. Scales were flying in every direction. The cats were sharking all around the kitchen trying to claim a prize.

Flash forward many years and the knowledge of the health benefits of wild caught fatty fish. Oh and the appreciation for well prepared seafood. Living on the west coast, seafood is readily available here. Want to be a real hunter/gatherer? You can be at the water, go out in your wee boat, throw in a line and if luck is smiling on you, catch your dinner all in an afternoon.

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Hot weather means I don’t want the oven on for extended periods of time. I don’t want to heat the house any more than I have to. Hello broiler!

Easy Greek salmon:

  • 1 side fillet of salmon, approximately 1 pound, cut into 4-6 servings
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 2 tablespoons Greek salad dressing

Cover a rimmed cookie sheet in foil. (easy clean up here) Grease the foil with the ghee in the area you will be placing the salmon fillets.

Place oven rack to the highest position and set the broiler on high.

Cook the salmon for approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove and baste with the Greek salad dressing. Return the fish to the broiler for another 2 minutes. Test for doneness.

Serve this with a big chunky salad drizzled in the same dressing.

Wasn’t that easy? You seriously can’t use the “I don’t have time” excuse to whip this up for dinner. Start to finish takes around 20-30 minutes and that includes cleaning up.

 

Prep once, cook twice and making the easiest Greek salad dressing

Is making salad technically “cooking”? Hmmm. . .

I know I have mentioned a certain laziness I possess. Maybe not lazy per se, but I have bursts of insane busyness followed by moments of sloth-like conjoining to the couch with a book or cat or Netflix or any combo thereof. When I am in busy-mode, it’s best to stay outta the kitchen unless you like loud music and organized chaos. It’s not uncommon for me to have about 4 different things on the go at the same time along with splattered notepads scrawled with cryptic notes and thoughts on future versions of whatever I am making.

When I am in accomplishment mode, I like to have things do double duty for me. Prep once, eat twice. Take the easiest Greek salad dressing going. This will be bathing all the beautiful chunky veg of my Greek-styled salad and then get slathered on some wild sockeye salmon that will be going under the broiler for dinner tonight.

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After trying probably 7 other extra virgin olive oils, my heart has settled on this one by Kasandrinos. The taste is light enough to drizzle on food as a finish without masking the other flavours. I keep a mini bottle in my purse to put on salad when I am dining out. Yes, I really do. I don’t care if anyone looks at me weirdly. I order my salads without dressing and ask for a slice of lemon on the side. Eyes on your own plate people.

Be an ingredient snob within your means.

Use real garlic, not the stuff in a plastic jar that is sitting in citric acid. Citric acid is often derived from corn or sugar beets. Those two crops are often genetically altered for all the reasons any crop is modified, so if you are trying to steer clear of GMO’s, you owe it to yourself to use real garlic. Just one more reason to read your labels. Hate the tedium of mincing garlic with a knife? Buy a garlic press or heck, a Slap-Chop for that matter. Placing the flat of your chef knife on the clove and giving it a quick pound will smash your clove of garlic and make slicing or mincing much easier. This also releases the oils from the clove if you are going to drop it into a dish whole.

Easiest Greek salad dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk everything together and let sit until ready to use it in your salads or as a marinade. This allows the garlic and oregano to release their flavours into the oil and acid mixture.

Whisk it again before using.

When life gives you lemons, do a double or triple squeeze

Quick and easy kitchen hack.

Lemons. Limes. Yes you can buy them juiced in coloured plastic bottles that are reminiscent of the fruits from where it came. Yes, that may very well be convenient too. However, you deserve better. The freshness and lively flavour from squeezing a real lemon versus pouring it out of a bottle are like night and day.

Cutting a lemon in quarters and trying to pinch squeeze it isn’t anywhere near as effective as a hinged citrus press. You can pick these up in almost any grocery or kitchen store without breaking the bank. Invest in one. You’ll be glad you did.

How to get the most out of your lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit. Wash the peel of your fruit first.

  1. roll the room temperature fruit firmly on the counter
  2. trim the ends off so you see the flesh of the fruit, not just the white pith
  3. cut it in half
  4. squeeze for all you are worth

     

  5. flip your lemon over and do it again

     

  6. Like Britney Spears, flip it over again and do it one more time (I’m paraphrasing here as I don’t listen to her music)

Using a citrus press also minimizes the inevitable lemon juice spraying in your eye problem. Your work space will also remain cleaner too. I will add the squeezed “shells” of the lemon to my water to give it the lightest flavour without bathing my teeth in excessive acid.

Go get your squeeze on.

 

Thoughts on James Bond and when dessert doubles for breakfast 

Sean Connery. David Niven. George Lazenby. Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton. Pierce Brosnan. Daniel Craig. What do these names have in common?

These gentlemen are the most well known faces of 007. Depending on your vintage, there is an argument as to who played Bond best. Sean Connery and Roger Moore have donned the tux for the most movie roles so far but Daniel Craig is racking up his credits.  Each of these actors brought a certain quality to their portrayal of our favourite agent.

The question is, will there be another 007? If so, who would fit the bill best? With his quintessential tuxedo, gadgets and quick wit, the safety of the free world was never out of reach.

Probably the most quoted James Bond line is “shaken, not stirred” in reference to his martini preference. We won’t get into how a true aficionado would view a shaken martini with disdain due to the increased ice melting and subsequent potentially cloudier cocktail. We aren’t here to discuss the merits of a perfect martini. As with everything in life, it comes down to personal preference.

What does James Bond have to do with breakfast or dessert for that matter? You’ll see.

Back to breakfast. Or dessert. Maybe both.

Chia pudding is such a time saver in the morning. The few minutes it takes to prep this before you head to bed, will pretty much guarantee you a great sleep. You will drift off to slumbertown with a smile on your face knowing you have the luxury of hitting the snooze button at least once and still have time for a satisfying breakfast.

Chocolate chia pudding:

Shake or stir (see, you knew I’d tie this to James Bond somehow) everything, cover with a lid and leave in the fridge overnight to work it’s gelatinous magic. Done.

Get up in the morning and spoon into a fancy bowl if you are that sort of person. (Or eat right out of the container you mixed it in.)

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Some days I add a few raw cacao nibs or Paleo style granola on top for a bit of crunch. One of my favourites is from This Pie is Nuts. I met Diana at Paleofx this year. Her smile is infectious and you walk away feeling energized from being in contact with her. Her heart and soul is evident in every bite. This Granola is Nuts is both Paleo and Vegan. See, she looks after everyone. You can eat this with wild abandon. This stuff is addictive, in a good way.

 

 

 

 

***I thought you said this was Vegan? Skip the collagen and you are good to go

 

Let’s chat about an attitude of gratitude

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When people ask me how I am, my reply is always swift and honest.

I’m awesome. I’m fantastic. I’m like gravy, good with everything. I’m so good, there should be two of me. (for many, that would be a scary concept) I’m on top of the world. (literally, aren’t we all on top of the world? Buried folks not included, obviously)

How? (each day as it comes) Don’t you have days that suck? (yes, but I don’t let that take the wheel and steer my head and heart) Don’t you ever get angry or upset? (yes, but again, I don’t let that take the day from me) Don’t you ever feel crappy? (compared to what?) Aren’t you ever disappointed? (no, what were your expectations in the first place?)

This all becomes a lesson in perspective doesn’t it? A quick flash back to my grade 8 Industrial Education teacher, Mr. Nelson, and that helps refocus my mindset. The post regarding him and how he shifted my outlook at the age of 13 is here. Talk about an epiphany.

Back to that attitude of gratitude. Or mindset if you prefer.

I wake up. Right off the bat, that is a win. Not everyone has that luxury. Some folks pass in their sleep. They are not given the opportunity for another day. I have shelter and an abundance of food and clean water. I have a job. I have been fortunate to create a family of my own. Not everyone can. My family is more complete because we have furry family members who share our lives and keep us humble. My family is healthy. Again, this isn’t a claim everyone can make. My heart goes out to those who have loved ones fighting battles. Perspective. Always perspective.

I was privileged to have known all four of my grandparents until I was well into adulthood. Many of my grandparents even had the chance to meet their great-grandchildren. How cool is that? Some folks never know their own parents, let alone their grandparents. One of my grandmothers gave me a great piece of advice when I was young, regarding less than pleasant tasks. I say this aloud and think on her often.

“Once begun, half done.” Thanks Evelyn.

The mindset that once you begin something you aren’t really looking forward to doing, you are halfway done, is liberating. This applies to cleaning bathrooms, grocery shopping, a long day at work, writing an essay etc.

Focus on positive instead of negative. Is the glass half full or half empty? Doesn’t matter does it? It just means that I had some and now there is room for more. I don’t allow my thoughts to linger on the guy who cut me off on the highway or the lady in the grocery store who is standing in the middle of the aisle, blocking it. I could care less about them. They aren’t my circus and definitely not my monkeys. I have better things to occupy my mind. You never know what those folks are dealing with in their world. Maybe he was racing home to a sick child or parent. Perhaps that woman is in a daze because her husband was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the idea of grocery shopping was the only thing that seemed normal at the moment. You don’t want to trade your troubles for someone else’s.

I’m grateful for my life, what I have, what I have done and what the future holds for me.

Everyday.

 

 

Sunny days and barbecue sauce

Long weekends. There is something magical about an extra day off.

The morning was spent sitting outside with a cup of coffee and a cat on my lap. I watched the neighbours pack their campers and trailers and haul their homes-away-from-home down the road to go camping. I’m happy for them. The camping life has never held any kind of enticement for me. The street fell silent. I closed my eyes and listened.

The breeze moved the leaves in the Ornamental Cherry Tree back and forth. I opened my eyes to see a hummingbird pay a visit to the feeder then move to the hanging basket on the eave. Daisy lifted her head at the sound of the hummingbird, but closed her eyes again and went back to sleep as she knows she can’t catch them. They are simply too fast. The sound of buzzing caught my ear and I spotted the largest, fuzziest bee lumbering around in the rose bush to my left. It seemed to be stumbling around in the flower as if drunk. His legs were coated yellow in pollen and he floated to the next flower to sample its wares. He flew away, heavily weighted with the mornings collection. It looked as if he was wearing bright yellow jodhpurs. The sights and sounds of summer were in full effect and I had a front-row seat.

Dinner. It always comes down to that doesn’t it?

I had an idea of what I felt like making, but needed some barbecue sauce. This is probably the most personal preference condiment around. Just look at all the varieties on the grocery store shelf.

Some folks like thick and sticky, some like it hot and make your forehead break out in a sweat and some prefer a honeyed taste. Mine is a straight forward version that works on everything from chicken and ribs to burgers and as a topping on meatloaf. This comes together really quickly with stuff you probably have on hand. Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.

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Barbecue sauce:

  • 1 large can of plain stewed tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I use Kasandrinos)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground (I use a mortar and pestle)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Put everything in a large saucepan on the stove. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Use right away or keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Note: when this sauce is warmed, the “heat” factor definitely moves up a notch.

 

A quick trip down memory lane and Ranchish dip

To say my skin hurt, would be an understatement. The itching was deep and constant.

By running my hands under near-boiling water, I would get some distraction relief that was attributed to the pain I was inflicting on myself. For the record, I do not recommend anyone do that. It really hurts. I keep these pictures on my phone as a constant reminder of how far I have healed and why I need to be ever-vigilant in reading labels.

Gluten-free and Paleo are not fads. They are not trends. They are not diets. They are necessary food templates for my health, the health of my gut and my skin. I am fortunate that I do not suffer form severe gastrointestinal distress or life-threatening illness from gluten exposure. Instead, my skin is my health barometer.

Am I ever tempted to allow myself a “cheat” item? No. I’m not. I no longer think of donuts, cookies, cake, bread or cereal as food for me. The resulting backlash of skin distress that will last for weeks or months is simply is not worth it.

Looking at these photos makes me wince. Let’s move on to more pleasant things.

Warm weather and BBQ’s call for veggies and chips and dip.

I gave up dairy when I went Paleo, so, commercial dips went out the window. Plus, can you really pronounce some of those ingredients? I get why there are preservatives in all the things. Food products in the grocery store need to last a long time for profitability. If the manufacturers made things without them, things would spoil before the consumer got them home. My solution is to make what I can at home, and eat it as I make it. Is this time consuming? Yes! Would I rather have my nose in a book or be logging time at the beach in the shade? Yes! Would I rather binge watch Netflix or go for a walk? I think you get the idea. Meal planning and prep is the key. Chop some veg for a few days so it is ready to grab and go when hunger strikes.

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Ranchish dip:

  • 6 tablespoons Paleo mayo (my favourite is (Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo)
  • 2 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk everything together in a small bowl. Grab your veggies, cue the movie and snack away to your hearts content. Chicken wings are also pretty dang tasty dipped in this stuff. Just sayin’.

Vegan: swap for an egg-free mayo and you are on your way

For the love of ghee and screaming for ice cream 

What happens when you blend ghee, honey, turmeric and coconut milk together? Magic.

Ever heard of PaleoFx? IN a nutshell, it is a conference that has everything to do with food, health and wellness. The world comes together for three days to listen to renowned speakers and experts on nutrition and body optimization. Some of the best speakers were found in the exhibit hall too. Friday and saturday, I hit all the booths and spoke with all the vendors. I learned their stories and what makes each of these participating companies special.

I met the most knowledgable man when it comes to ghee and spices while attending PFX17 in Austin Texas. Sandeep Agarwal and his family have been making ghee for 5 generations. They know their stuff. Everything is made by hand in small batches to ensure the utmost in quality. They make their ghee as they would make it for their own family. The heart in their logo is all about the love they put in their products. What does this have to do with ice cream you may be wondering. I will get there eventually. I promise.

In case you don’t know what ghee is, it is grass fed butter that has been clarified to remove all but trace amounts of casein and lactose. Ghee is a nutrient dense food that can be enjoyed in everything from daily cooking to coffee to ice cream. Yes, ice cream. That’s where I come in.

Sleep was elusive to say the least while attending this event. My head was buzzing from all the information I was taking in and the ways to implement everything I was learning in my own world. Saturday night, as my eyes were finally closing, the thought of ice cream and ghee popped into my head. It wasn’t unlike the old chocolate and peanut butter commercial from way back. I couldn’t wait to get to the Palmer Conference Centre.

I left the Pure Indian Foods booth on Sunday with a jar of the Coconut Ghee and visions of ice cream dancing in my head.

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Honey turmeric ice cream:

  • 20 ounces of room temperature full fat coconut milk (cold will cause the ghee to solidify in chunks)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons melted Coconut Ghee (I used Pure Indian Foods)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of Vital Proteins Gelatin (provides amazing texture and gut-healing properties)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water (to dissolve the gelatin)

Pour the coconut milk, honey and ghee into a blender and process until smooth. Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and whisk in the turmeric. Add the dissolved gelatin and turmeric to the coconut milk and blend again unit completely incorporated. Place in the fridge to cool for approximately an hour.

Quickly blend again prior to adding the mixture to the ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturers instructions. My Cuisinart machine took about 25 minutes.  If you prefer your ice cream more of a soft-serve consistency, dig in. Otherwise, transfer to a glass loaf pan and freeze for a couple of hours for firmer ice cream. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to make scooping easier.

I sprinkled mine with some Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes just before eating. Truth time? I had this for breakfast right after my faTT coffee.

 

Beach days and honey roasted carrot soup 

You never know when inspiration will strike.

I am fortunate enough to live approximately a 12-14 minute walk from a beach. Yes, I have timed it. Have I mentioned this before? I never tire of the view and I never take it for granted. People travel great distances to see the ocean and I have it practically in my backyard. Even in the rain, it is a beautiful ting to behold.

Let me take you there.

There is no one else at the beach. It isn’t tropical white sand. The beach here is predominantly rocks. That is ok because they are easy to walk along to get to your final sitting area. The rocks also act as a deterrent to a lot of folks, so that helps keep it more private. The best things always require a bit of work, wouldn’t you agree? A few minutes along and you find the perfect little alcove below the overhanging trees. You are sheltered from winds and are less visible if anyone else happens along the beach. You set up your chair beside a large flat rock to act as your table.

You are sitting at the beach (in the shade) sipping some cold brew coffee and snacking on all the good snacky snacks you packed. An eagle is circling overhead, then dives down and plucks a fish from the water right in front of your eyes. He returns to the nest, which is situated somewhere overhead, with his treasure. In the distance, a seal is bobbing up and down in the tide. You play a minor game of guessing where he will pop up next. In your head you are thinking Marco Polo and wondering if he is doing the same. Secretly, you long to see the dorsal fin of an Orca break the water.

The only sounds to be heard are those provided by Mother Nature. She really knows how to work her symphony. The tide is relentless. The continual sound of the waves releasing their energy to the shore is hypnotic. That is punctuated by the calls of the seagulls and geese. You close your eyes and breathe in the fresh salty air. You could almost fall asleep because you are so relaxed and at one with the universe.

Carrots. Roasted carrots. Honey roasted carrots. Turmeric, honey roasted carrots. Soup.

Your eyes fly open and you nearly dump your coffee in an attempt to put notes to paper as it were (ok, in reality you are pecking away on your phone) before the ethereal vision of this soup leaves your relaxed brain forever.

You feel content having written down your idea but can no longer remain in a tranquil state because you want to try the recipe your brain has gifted you. You quickly pack up your gear, look around, ensure nothing is left behind and head home.

The roasted carrots on their own were pretty darn delightful and by all means stop there and enjoy them as a side dish. However, sometimes you just want the comfort of soup.

Honey roasted carrot soup:

  • 6 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (I love Pure Indian Foods ghee. I had the honour of meeting Sandeep at PaleoFx 2017)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock (home-made is best)
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel the carrots and trim the ends. I left mine whole. Cutting them up would shorten the oven roasting time. Mix the ghee, honey, turmeric, garlic and salt and pepper and baste over the carrots. Roast in the oven for an hour until fork tender. Put them aside to cool slightly.

Once the carrots have cooled enough to handle, puree them using a high powered blender or food processor. Slowly add the stock to the carrot puree. Make sure you are allowing any built up steam to vent as you are doing this. We don’t want any burns or soup explosions. Return carrot puree and stock to a large pot. Stir the coconut milk and heat to desired temperature.

Taste for additional salt and pepper.

Vegan: swap the chicken stock for veg stock, coconut sugar for honey and coconut oil for the ghee

 

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

This question had plagued mankind for a long time. A really long time. This can get one into all kinds of deep and philosophical conversations about evolution and genetic changes.

Does it really matter though?

We have eggs and we have chickens. That’s all that counts, right?

Having said that, all eggs are not created equal. A quick read of the grocery store shelf provides you the opportunity to purchase caged, cage-free, free-range and pasture-raised eggs. I just wanted to buy some eggs. The choices can make your head spin. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

I had the opportunity to attend PaleoF(x) 2017 in Austin Texas. This annual event is where the Paleo world comes together to listen to speakers, witness fitness demonstrations, take part in yoga sessions and walk the exhibit floor with some phenomenal vendors. The folks running the booths are not just there to hawk their products. Every person I chatted with was passionate about their product and company. They were willing to spend the time to explain the science and the stories behind their products. A lot of the Paleo commercial consumer goods were born of personal need. These stories were moving to say the least.

One booth had a gal cooking up some eggs. I stopped because they smelled so good. Plus, the t-shirt she was wearing made me smile. C’mon, isn’t this cute?Girls-on-Grass-ladies-front_1024x1024

I relished the humble scrambled egg she handed me. It was cooked in their grass-fed pasture-raised butter. A match made in heaven. I had to know what made these eggs so great tasting.

I interviewed Amanda (on the right) from Vital Farms about the difference between the types of eggs.

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Me: Hey Amanda, we all love eggs but it can be overwhelming at the store trying to choose between all the types available to us. Can you break down the difference between them?

Amanda: Hi, of course! The easiest analogy is that cage-free is like four human beings living in a bathtub. That’s the amount of space the birds have. They have removed the cages but haven’t given the chickens any more space.

Me: Wow, that is really cramped living space. Do free-range chickens have more space? Is it really as free as we want to believe?

Amanda: Not exactly. Free-rtange is the equivalent of two humans living in a bathtub. They have slightly more space than the cage-free birds. They should have outdoor access but is is regulated.

Me: How does Vital Farms differ with their pasture-raised chickens?

Amanda: Pasture-raised is the highest quality you can get in a grocery store. It is like one human living in approximately a 10×10 area. Each bird has 108 square feet of open pasture. The way we set our farms up, the barn is in the middle. The farm is broken up into different sections and we open up two sections at a time for three weeks. We then rotate the birds through the different parts of the fields so they are constantly vegetating on fresh grass, bugs, worms and grubs. Because they eat what we call “nature’s salad”, are exercising and getting fresh air, it creates an egg with more nutrients. This is healthier for the birds and healthier for us.

Me: What can you tell me about the farmers?

Amanda: We partner with small family farmers. We have over 100 farm partners now. The average size of our flock is about 5,000 hens on 2 1/2 acres. Our farmers practice respectful stewardship of the chickens, animals and farms they keep. They believe in the full circle of the cycle.

If you live in an area that carries Vital Farms eggs and butter, lucky you. Go support them. If not, well, you now have a pretty clear picture of the living conditions of egg-laying hens. Think about it. Would you want to live in a tub with three other people?

The decisions we make as consumers can change the way farming happens. We need to support farmers and companies who respect and properly care for their crops, flocks and herds. Bottom line? Choose pasture-raised when it comes to eggs and butter.

Oh and of course I got a t-shirt.