Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Dear #kale, I’m sorry.

June 22, 2013

I hate admitting when I’m wrong.  And by hate, I mean hate.  Being wrong is something that doesn’t sit well with me.  For a few years, I’ve spent confounded at the ‘love of kale’ that a few friends have touted.  Me? I found the stuff disgusting.  I was flipping through a few food blogs looking for ideas for the impeding CSA season and noticed a key tidbit.  Kale, especially the dino kale, needs to be deveined.  Really? I texted a kale lover who I’ve known for years.  And pretty much got back the response of a-duh otherwise it tastes bitter.  (Yeah, I can tell you ALL about bitter kale).  Armed with this piece of knowledge, I jumped off the cliff kale cliff.

The results? Kale and avocado pesto has made it into my summer cooking schedule.

2c of roughly chopped kale (offending stems and veins removed)

2 avocados

4T minced garlic

2T olive oil

1/4c sliced almonds

 

add kale, olive oil to food processor, blend.  add in avo and almonds.

Serve over pasta (I made my sure pasta was cold before adding in) or shockingly as a spread in a sandwich.

Sigh.  I can’t believe what I’ve been missing.

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The (mostly) organic, completely #glutenfree banana nut bread

May 15, 2013

For Christmas, a friend gave me a 5 pound bag of Jules Gluten Free Flour. She swore by it. I’ve had enough total failures in trying to find the “correct” gluten free flour for baking simple things like banana bread that I’ve all but given up. I’ve had that once in a blue moon craving for banana bread and thought, why not. I mean, worse case? I toss it after making it. This is a modified recipe from Simply Recipes.

4 medium slightly overripe bananas

1/3 (5T) melted Cabot unsalted organic butter

3/4 c of raw sugar (it’s a bit ‘less’ refined than the normal white sugar). Making it again, I’d debate about dropping it to between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup

1 medium egg beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c walnuts

The original recipe says your don’t have to use a mixer. For me? Meh. I’ll use a mixer the next time just for the simplicity of not have 3 kitchen tools, a bowl and a measuring cup to clean up.

Mash the bananas, stir in the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla. Blend. Sprinkle in baking soda. Mix in flour.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Mine turned out moist and a bit browner than normal because of the use of the raw sugar.

This recipe is a keeper for the foodie files.

 

 

Soup that’s good for the SOLE

January 1, 2012

As usual, I goofed on the deadline for the publishing dates for the Dark Days Challenge (maybe I should use the calendar that I was given for Christmas?).  I was reading the re-caps of the others participating and came upon a fantastic article the at explains (for me anyway) one of the reasons the entire SOLE “trend” is very important.  Barbara at the Crowing Hen posted a wonderful article about the conditions in the meat industry in the US.  For me, it’s that PLUS the insane amount of energy we expend getting items from the farm to the grocery store.

As the writers over at EmptyWheel noted regarding a complex cotton subsidy program:

“In WTO language, Brazil was allowed to suspend its obligations to  U.S. companies under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property  Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This constituted a major threat to the profits  of U.S. agribusiness giants Monsanto and Pioneer, since Brazil is the  second largest grower of biotech crops in the world. Fifty percent of  Brazil’s corn harvest is engineered to produce the pesticide Bt, and  Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Pro is a popular product among Brazilian corn  farmers. By targeting the profits of major U.S. corporations, the  Brazilian government put the U.S. in a tough spot: either let the  subsidies stand and allow Brazilian farmers to plant Monsanto and  Pioneer seeds without paying royalties, or substantially reform the  cotton program. In essence, Brazil was pitting the interests of Big  Agribusiness against those of Big Cotton, and the U.S. government was  caught in the middle.

The two governments, however, managed to come up with a creative  solution. In a 2009 WTO “framework agreement,” the U.S. created the  Commodity Conservation Corporation (CCC), and Brazil created the  Brazilian Cotton Institute (BCI). Rather than eliminating or  substantially reforming cotton subsidies, the CCC pays the BCI $147  million dollars a year in “technical assistance,” which happens to be  the same amount the WTO authorized for trade retaliation specifically  for cotton payments. In essence, then, the U.S. government pays a  subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers every year to protect the U.S.  cotton program—and the profits of companies like Monsanto and Pioneer.”

How many sustainable jobs would $147 million dollars create for local economies?  Yes, I live on a dry bones budget: there are 2 things I simply cannot avoid buying from big time producers: cat food and cat litter.  I have a 14-year-old cat: I’m not switching his brands, he’s too old.  Part of my resolution for this years is to buy as much as I can from SOLE providers, then local merchants and local chains last.  Will it do anything to help revive the economy of my community: doubtful.  Is it a teaspoon in bucket? Yes.

Any way, for my blogged about SOLE meal of the week, I made a huge pot of Cuban inspired black bean soup.

2 lb black beans from Baer’s Best Beans (soaked overnight, drained, rinsed)

2 quarts canned whole tomatoes from Old Nourse Farm (summer CSA), with juices

3 medium onions chopped from Shared Harvest

3 medium jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, chopped (from Mass Local Food)

4 cloves garlic also from Shared harvest

2 quarts cold water (you may need to add more while cooking the beans).

For me, it was simple, dump everything into a big stock pot cook until beans are soft.  Blend with an immersion blender.  Add hot sauce/salt as needed.  I garnish with a local cheese.

 

Localized Gumbo

December 18, 2011

For various reasons, I missed my annual trip to New Orleans.  I love New Orleans (maybe not as much as Tim Tebow loves the church, but it’s probably pretty close).  Eating in New Orleans is like taking a cab ride in China. . . . it’s a culinary adventure being deathly allergic to shellfish and all.  Still, I’ve found ways to eat (and drink) across the Crescent City.  I laughed when a recipe for gumbo floated across the in-box this week.  Aside from the obvious miscues (roux and okra?), the processed food and urging people to buy pre-chopped goods to save time (hi, your making ROUX people. . . . you can chop celery.), I started re-formulating the recipe in my head to make a GF, shellfish free gumbo.

1 cup of olive oil or melted butter

2 1/2 cups of GF Flour (I used King Arthur’s)

1 lb of sausage

3 cloves garlic

1 quart of whole tomatoes/basil

1 tsp of thyme and basil (dried)

4 cups chopped onions

4 cups chopped celery

8  cups chicken stock

2 green onions, chopped.

meat of 1 chicken shredded

1 teaspoon gumbo file

Hot sauce to taste

Ok, making roux is a pain and lost art (check out Top Chef from a few weeks ago if you don’t believe me).  You have to heat the oil and gently stir in the flour.  Then cook without burning to your prefered shade of brown without burning.  Initially you have to stir it consistently and constantly but for the last hour (yes hour) you can stir every 5-10 minutes.  The trick is to get a deep brown color without burning; after about 40 minutes it should look like the color of peanut butter.  I bake the sausage in the oven at 400 until done while making the roux.

Remove from heat allow to cool a bit.  Here is the fun part: whisk in the chicken broth quickly to minimize clumping.  I’ve found it’s easier to minimize lumps by putting the stock on the stove top and allow to warm via the heat from the oven.  Dump in the remaining ingredients, and cook on low for several hours.  I skipped the celery because I didn’t have any.

Easy after you get past the roux: it’s easy to see why this dish is one that was used to stretch food budgets.  Wikki has an interesting article on the history of and variations on gumbo.  Suffice to say, it’s a regionalized chilli cookoff. I wound up with enough for lunches this week and froze enough for almost a second week of lunches.

Meat: 8 O’clock ranch

Produce: Nourse Farms (peppers and tomatoes preserved from the summer)

Piccadilly Farms (onion, garlic)

Shaw’s Farm (butter)

King Arthur’s Flour (GF flour)

Best laid plans. . . .

December 12, 2011

There are a million reasons I could never be a parent.  Most of them involve my utter lack of ability to plan and execute to a “normal” level.  Take today for example.  ALL day I sat around thinking “potato soup”.  I completely obsessed about it: and came home to find out that I didn’t have any potatoes. Massive #fail!  Sigh.  Fortunately, I had some onion soup left over from when my mom visited: 100% local (except the cognac).  I mean, my mom whipped this up one afternoon when I was at work. WHO whips up onion soup? (aside from the obvious?).

Onion Soup

Oh winter soups . . . .

I was so glad to have this to come home to have as my Plan B!  I spent the weekend in Atlantic City: had a good time but realized how bland commercialized food can be.  Honestly, I found myself wondering how much junk I put into my body when traveling: I honestly would have flunked tell this salad from its companion apart.  The food wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t good.  I’ve become used to the freshness of food.  Somebody remind me of this come January when I’m looking for an avocado.

So, for the soup:

Broth based on veggies from Shared Harvest CSA and beef from 8 O’Clock Ranch.

Onions from Red Fire Farm

Cheese from Grasse River B Ranch (via 8 O’Clock Ranch).

Not local: Cognac.

 

Oh Monday. . . .

December 5, 2011

A complete and total Monday.  The good: I managed to trouble shoot an issue with my car (I know nothing about cars but understand basic circuitry and figured out the positive cable from the battery was loose causing the light to come on.  My plan was to open the hood and tighten it but hey, I don’t have the grip strength to do that so off to the mechanic I go on Wednesday. Joy.)  One of my co-workers called in sick so I tried to deal with double the normal work load while pretending that the pounding migraine might just go away before oh, Christmas.  (It did after a copious amount of caffeine infusion).

I finally received the package from Best Buy Worst Store Ever.  Still haven’t heard from them, don’t expect to but hey, my sister’s Christmas errand is complete (trust me, I’m grateful, even if it is on my kitchen table).  Today would have been the perfect day to grab takeout, hit a drive through (ok, I do admit to hitting the golden arches today during the quest for caffeine, I hadn’t had any in a few days and was suffering …. I’d say like heroin withdrawal but that might be an exaggeration: on which side, I’m not sure) or something else.  Instead I made it 2 for 2 in my I’m not buying prepared food, I’m eating only what is in my pantry/kitchen/ and as local as possible (I do have somethings that are not S.O.L.E sourced left over that I’m not going to just toss).  What can I say, I’m drawn to the Dark Days Challenge in the sense that it forces me to think in advance about what I’m going to eat and where my food came from (couple that with the fact I’m still shaking my head at McDonald’s being an Olympic sponsor for some reason) and who is ‘profiting’ from my purchases.  Hey, I’m all for people making money: I’d just prefer it to be small businesses.  Again, based on zero scientific evidence, I do have to wonder if the increase in allergies, migraines and other expensive but not deadly health conditions is related to fillers in our food (but I’m a history major with a masters in theology, I know how to ask questions …. lots of them).

Anyway, today I wanted meatballs. Not a heavy pasta dish with meatballs.  Just meatballs (don’t ask me why).  For some reason, I had taken out some sausage from 8 O’clock Ranch this morning, grabbed an onion,  opened a jar of whole tomatoes from my CSA share at Nourse Farm I canned over the summer and mixed in some dried rosemary from my mom’s garden and mixed it with some GF bread crumbs.  I wound up freezing 1/2 into a meatloaf for later this winter and cooking the rest.  I made a sauce with some Fromage Blanc from Foxboro Cheese, half and half from Shaw’s Farm and a few leafs of spinach stirred in from the Somerville Winter’s Market.

I’m sure, oh, mid-January, I’m going to be screaming for the love of an avocado but right now, my past 2 attempts have been tasty.  The 2 items out of the radius, the meat and the rosemary.  If I make this again, I’ll add a pinch of salt: it needed a bit to offset the acid.

Meatballs and Spinach

Comfort food for a Monday

Why I shop local, can and all those other things.

November 27, 2011

My friend the author of Vegaparadise, posted a link on a recent article that appeared in the Washington Post regarding the increase in of ‘urban gardening’, canning and other activities that seem to be taking hold with members of GenX and GenY . The article which you can also find floating around FB, raises a few interesting thoughts.  Are those who are participating taking a step back for “feminist ideals” (note, yes, that was a gagging sound you heard coming from me) or empowering.  Ok, how about something that isn’t a simple cliché answer.  Maybe we are the generations that aren’t interested in chasing the a 24×7 lifestyle? Maybe after a hard look at the rampant consumerism which lead to an economic collapse, we’ve decided to try to be as local as possible (let’s face it, most of us would be pretty hard pressed to live a 100% locally sourced life – especially if we take any medicine).  I’m not going to rant on the evils of processed foods (I like them … and I know they are bad for me.  Some days, really, all I want is a donut) but maybe part of the resurgence of canning/cooking/scaling down is a recognition of just trying to minimize the chaos.

Part of the “local movement” does come from my desire to support small businesses in my area. Why? It’s better for me.  Chances are a local business owner lives in the surrounding area.  Local businesses have to pay taxes to my town, county and state.  Big box retailers often receive tax abatement deals to come into a town: often with disastrous consequences for the local and state economies.  There are a series of studies that can be found here.   Maybe my decision to support local business, farmers markets and other  local initiatives is one way I can contribute back to my local economy in an easy manner.

Perhaps there is another lesson in this: maybe the GenX and GenY members, having lived through a more, more, more childhood and early adulthood started to settle down when the economy started to nosedive (pick a time), realized there was more to life than a McMansion with a pool and never thought of it is an oppressive act.  I know for me, there is a certain amount of self satisfaction in opening a jar that I canned.  I know what is in the jar.  I know the food is probably not going to be under a recall.  I know that I can pronounce every word.  When I make the decision to spend the extra $2 on fairly traded items, I know that the people involved will be compensated fairly.

Maybe for me, part of my decision to be a locavore is based on this: I can’t ship jobs out of the country.  But I can make sure that where I spend my money supports my local economy so I’m not shipping my money out-of-state or out of the country.  And another reason I like to can, for me anyway, there is something meditative about the process: about combining, mixing and creating.

But I’m 100% sure I’m not taking a step backwards for women: I’m pretty much doing it for me, for the fun and the adventure.  And it’s a small way I can help my local businesses.

Eating Local in Winter

November 19, 2011

For November . . . .

I stumbled upon the Shared Harvest CSA earlier this fall and found it to be a perfect addition to the summer canning madness (and it was madness, but I have to admit that even I find a bit of self-satisfaction with that pop of a jar I’ve canned. . . . ).  Yes, I found another slightly bat shit insane challenge to partake in (it keeps me creative in the kitchen and when you’re cooking for one …) during the winter.

Is buying 100% local the most economical: no.  Is it something I can realistically do.  No.  I’m not 100% committed to giving up citrus and avocados and those don’t grow IN New England.  Plus throw in the allergy to shellfish (only our most common protein) and a gluten-free diet, it’s not feasible.  I’m not going to rant (at least today) about the benefits of local economies, see the Occupy Wall Street stuff for that (although I could probably make a more coherent argument for the benefits of local foods, industry than some of that mess) debate.

There is a challenge floating about on the web, Dark Days of Winter Challenge, that is about one meal a week that is S.O.L.E (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical).  Will it be a challenge, yes, maybe? There are a few farmer’s markets in the winter (Wayland, Somerville, Winchester), plus the Mass Local Food Co-op.  The challenge will be finding the flavors, getting over my unrealistic fear of kale.  I’m going to try for 2 days a week for a few reasons.  First, I’m cooking for one so I don’t have to worry about kids and flavors.  Second, I did a ton of canning/freezing this summer.  Third, there is something inventive about cooking.  I cook on the fly.  While that will be possible, it will be a bit harder. And fourth, while we don’t have a long growing season here … we do have dairy.  Yup, I’ve already stalked out my local ice cream source.  Isn’t that all I really need to survive? It will be an adventure and I promise to try to post pics and recipes.

Up for tonight? Roasted potatoes, onions, carrots from the Shared Harvest CSA and round steak from my favorite place in the world, 8’Oclock Ranch  (seriously, if you are in their CSA delivery area? What are you waiting for? SIGN UP!).

And given the 3 bushels of apples?? Expect a few more canning adventure tales. . . .

Because I’m always looking for something new to drive me nuts. . . .

November 9, 2011

 

Dark Days

 

So my friend Amy over at Vegparadise found this challenge.  Since I joined her in the no grocery store challenge, she figured (correctly), I was up for the task.  Now we are up to this one: The 5th annual dark days challenge.  Ok, this one is a bit of a twist: in winter, cook one meal a week with items only grown 100-150 miles from your home.  Since I’m a pure lunatic, I’ve decided that I’m going to try for 5 days (15 meals) a week.  I’m adding one caveat: my meat and cheese will come from the fantastic 8’Oclock Ranch in upstate New York which is 300 miles from my for a few reasons: they have humanely raised, organic meats and a fantastic CSA program I’m already a member of!

Now, I did  get lucky in that I placed an order for dried beans from my current CSA from a western Massachusetts farm.  There is also a great winters farmer’s market in Somerville and a decent one in Wayland close to my place.  Finally, for staples like oh, eggs, I can rely on the Mass Food Co-op.  Still, it will be a challenge.  I mean, first, it’s New England: things like oats, rice, avocados simply don’t grow here.  Fortunately, my canning hobby addiction kicked in and I have a variety of items in jars and frozen for the winter.

For me, part of it is about supporting local farmers through the winter – but it’s more than that.  When I leave in the dark and come home in the dark, it’s easy to want to hit a drive thru and head home to curl up.  And yes, there will be pictures, it’s part of the challenge.  Have I mention yet that I created a root cellar in my storage unit? Hmmm.  What can I say? I hate the grocery store!

And remember to chew your food: Day 22

September 5, 2011

Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only  missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow
down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more.”

Eh, not so sure on the back half: there are some leaps of logic as in “if i slowly eat a big mac, you are saying that is better than scarfing watermelon?” floating around in my mind.  This is one that I *try* to follow.  I’m good at it about none of the time.  Breakfast: a Luna bar and caffeine in the car as I listen to NPR if I’m good. Coffee if I’m bad.  Breakfast is always *in* the car.  I’ve improved in the fact that it’s no longer a drive thru breakfast.  Lunch … um. Yeah. It’s either a repeat of breakfast, something I’ve thrown together the night before or something that looks vaguely like food from the cafeteria at work.  Dinner … um.  Ok, I’m in serious need here.  While I like to COOK (more like I like the smell of cooking food), when it comes to sitting down and eating a meal? Like at a table? Well, I’m horrific.

My parents gave me a kitchen table a few years ago.  It was my first one.  I wish I could say I was 20. . . no where close.  My cat found it to be a launching pad.  True story, the first time he *saw* a table it was while visiting my parents ten years ago.  He jumped on it in the middle of dinner.  My parents flipped: I sorta explained he’d never seen one.  Jackson still thinks the kitchen table is a perfect winter sun spot (I see evidence of Jackson ON the table, never have been able to catch him).

The bad thing in all of this? I’m picky about my food: I am a huge fan of the slow food movement.  I am a member of a local food co-op, a meat CSA (LOVE 8 O’clock Ranch!) and a fruit/veggie CSA (Nourse Farm).  Where do I fail: In taking the time to enjoy my meal.  To savor the textures and tastes, to remember that even if I *made* the pickles, eating them for dinner is probably not the best dinner on the planet.

I’m not even going to try to make excuses on this one.  I simply fail at doing this.  It is something I need to work on, to learn how to enjoy and savor a meal.  But really? I have made huge improvements on not eating in the car.