Saturday, February 23, 2008

All Natural Turkey Hot Dogs? Thanks Garrett County!

One thing about being a kid in America is that hot dogs will inevitably be one of your first forays into processed meat. People LOVE feeding kids hot dogs, even if parents tape a "DO NOT FEED MY KID PROCESSED MEAT" bumper sticker to the young'ns foreheads. I think it's some vicarious pleasure: "Let's feed the kids stuff we can't eat because it would kill us, because they have their whole lives ahead of them." I dunno. Anyway...

I just stumbled upon these all natural, gluten-free turkey franks recently at the DeKalb Farmers Market. We'd gone on a hot dog strike because our two-year-old had pretty much decided all he wanted to eat were hot dogs. And even though I bought the best kosher beef franks I could find, the reality is that the beef raising and processing for that meat product isn't all that different from the generic product, and the hot dogs were still preserved with added nitrates and nitrites. A little food research showed that kosher beef dogs maybe be a little better than the generic hot dog will less additives and preservatives, but not much by from a nutrition standpoint. And hey, processed meat is processed meat, right? Not the kind of thing that should be the foundation of anyone's daily diet.

So for a while hot dogs were out, if only to break the seeming addiction our kid had developed. Then we came across these Garrett County turkey franks which claim to be all natural uncured turkey from birds that are free from antibiotics and made with no added nitrates or nitrites. Their label reads "No antibiotics...ever! No artificial ingredients. Minimally processed. No preservatives..." And the turkeys are fed a vegetarian diet. Well, we HAD to give that a try, and my first response on opening the packages was "Hey honey, come smell these hot dogs. They smell like... food!"

That sums up my Garrett County hot dog experience in one word: food. The ingredients list is short and instantly recognizable as food: Turkey, Water, Salt, Spices, Paprika, Raw Sugar, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder. They smell like food. They taste like food. My son's garlic-laden dragon breath is proof that he's eaten food. Barring his relapse as a hot dog junkie, this food will be the new standard of hot dog around here.

Apparently Wellshire Farms is the more familiar moniker behind the newly renamed producer of natural meat products that now goes by Garrett County. I learned that from this link blog by the Between Two Rivers Coop.

I wanted to post this food find for other parents of young children, or simply hotdog lovers in search of a more natural alternative.

Curried Chick Peas with Spinach

This super easy dish went over big recently at the Health Fair at the Hillcrest Church of Christ in Decatur where I held an hour long cooking demo and presentation: "Superfoods (and how to use them!)". Besides the ease with which it comes together, the other great thing about this quick cooking recipe is that most of the ingredients are staples from the pantry, fridge or freezer. Even though fresh ingredients could certainly be used, sometimes in our "real" life we don't have time to do much more than rummage through the cupboard in search of the answer to the What's for Dinner question.

The amounts listed here are probably double what I would use to make at home because I was trying to make enough to give out plenty to sample. I thought I'd post this version of the recipe because it's a great potluck dish and this amount will give you lots to share:

2 cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons red curry paste (Indian variety such as Patak's)
1 can coconut milk
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup water

This dish, when served with some fragrant basmati rice or earthy brown rice, is a complete vegetarian meal. It's also simple to modify so that you can use other vegetables like adding carrots instead of tomatoes, or fresh spinach in stead of frozen.

You can also omit the coconut milk altogether, reserve the liquid from the tomatoes instead of draining them, and increase the water used or substitute vegetable or chicken stock. Frozen crowder peas and frozen chopped turnip greens also do well in this dish if you choose to omit the coconut milk and reserve instead the liquid from the tomatoes.

So you can see you can experiment with this basic premise.

To make it at home I'd simply halve all of the ingredients, which I've done below. In my home recipe I also spice it up slightly by adding freshly ground ginger and a pinch of red pepper flake, then I serve it with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge with each serving.


Curried Chick Peas with Spinach

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon red curry paste (Indian variety such as Patak's)
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 pinch crushed chili flake

Cooked rice for serving and cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

In a saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil with onion, garlic and curry paste over medium-low heat until aromatic.
Add chickpeas, coconut milk, ginger, chili flake, water and tomatoes and stir to incorporate ingredients. Simmer on medium to medium-high heat for at least ten minutes to allow the peas to absorb some of the flavor.
Stir in frozen spinach and cook another five minutes, stirring so that the spinach heats thoroughly.
At this point the dish can be served or cooled and refrigerated until ready to serve another day.
When reheating gently over medium heat, the dish a little additional liquid may be needed if it appears to be too thick because coconut milk does tend to thicken as it reduces during cooking for long periods of time.
Serve with cooked rice, a few sprigs of cilantro and freshly cut lime wedges for squeezing over the dish.