Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading for a good laugh: Monsanto wants carte blanch for Roundup Ready alfalfa.

I mean it.

Monsanto wants "unregulated" status from the USDA for its Roundup Ready alfalfa. Read the EIS (environmental impact statement) required as per court order here. It's HYSTERICAL!

I feel like this should be on that Saturday Night Live Weekend Update sketch "Really?!? with Seth and Amy".

Basically, Monsanto wants it's genetically modified alfalfa to be unregulated by the USDA. No biggie, right? The plant is pretty benign. The threshold question is whether it poses any risk to plant pests or not. Well, the crop itself probably doesn't. Except loss of biodiveristy, but that's another ball of wax.

The problem is the spraying of Roundup across miles and miles of alfalfa fields (literally as alfalfa is grown in 48 of the 50 states). Well, guess what? The USDA doesn't regulate the use of herbicides. The EPA does. The USDA only regulates the use genetically modifed crops. So, at the end of the day, we can debate the hazards of herbicides and pesticides on our water supply, other plants and animals, and in our food all we want to the USDA. They can't do a damn thing. It all seems like an academic exercise. Just another example of the ridiculousness of regulatory scheme of a substance that each human being needs to survive: food.

By the way, the main use for most of the alfalfa grown in the US? Food for dairy cows. Dare I ask what happens to alfalfa that has residue of Roundup on it when it's eaten by a dairy cow? Well, Monsanto assures us (I and TOTALLY trust them...) that it is excreted through urine and feces, not milk, in lactating animals. Can you hear Amy Poler exclaiming "Really!?!" in the background?

Nonetheless, anyone reading this should still comment. The public comment periods runs until February 16, 2010. Here's where you comment. For more information, check out Civil Eats' article here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Delicious Potager!

What a fabulous Christmas! Packed full of family, food and presents. Lots of wonderful presents. But notice I listed family first. I'm not totally superficial, after all.

I must've been a very good girl this year. Or everyone is tired of hearing me go on and on about my gardening and canning and cooking. I got a tiller, a pressure canner, a hot water canning kit, two packages of jars and lids, and a kitchen scale. Next year, more people will get these recession-proof gifts from me.

The pressure canner and hot water canning kit will make the Tigress' Can Jam a cinch. And, since I have an abundance of pears and oranges laying around, I'll probably "put those up" before the can jam gets rolling. And, I had already sketched out my garden for next spring, but I can't wait to get the tiller out now and get started.

Dark Days Challenge Week 6

Sweet Potato Quesadillas ... mmm.

When I was eating this for dinner on Monday, it seemed like something that would be on the menu at a trendy bistro or something. Very edgy. But, really, really simple. You know what I mean... those local eateries (every town has at least one) where they make delicious, simple food. That happens to be local and organic. Because that's what's in vogue now. Here in Charleston we have sister restaurants, Tricky Fish and Bluegrass Kitchen. It's awesome how more and more people are thinking about where their food comes from and what they're eating. I think we can thank the recession for that, but that's a whole 'nother blog entry.

This recipe is from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle.

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp basil
1 tsp cumin
chili powder to taste
extra virgin olive oil for saute
4 flour tortillas
soft cheese such as brie
winter greens such as kale

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes and microwave 5 minutes (more if not soft). Let cool and peel. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Finely mince garlic and add to skillet. Add onion. Saute about 5 minutes until onion turns translucent and softens a bit. Add spices and sweet potato mixture and mix well. Keep warm. Oil a large cookie sheet and place tortillas on it to lightly oil one side. Spread the sweet potato mixture on half of the inside of each tortilla. Top with brie and chard and fold to close. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Cut into wedges for serving.

My sweet potatoes, onions and garlic are from the Monroe Market. The oil and spices, of course, weren't local. Neither were the tortillas or cheese. I used goat cheese, by the way, because it's what I had in the fridge. And I didn't have any winter greens, so I skipped that.

I served the quesadillas with polenta, made with butter and a dab of milk. The cornmeal was also from Reed's Mill Flour, sold by the Monroe Market. Check out this news piece about the mill. It's pretty fascinating. When I did the Eat Local Challenge, I had ordered some flour from them, and I called to see where they get the grains from. They actually grow their own wheat and corn. It's basically this one guy, and he is the nicest guy ever. He talked to me for a good while, and I guess was just happy to be able to talk shop with a stranger who was interested. The butter and milk in the polenta were from Homestead Creamery, where I get as much dairy as I can. I am waiting for them to expand to cottage cheese and sour cream, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What gardening foodies do in the winter

We watch read books and watch movies about gardening and drool on seed catalogs.

It's the dead of winter around here. Saturday pretty much confirmed it when we got 7 inches of snow and I made a big pot of french onion soup for lunch.

Last week, the library finally received its copy of Food, Inc. on DVD. I was the first person to check it out. I should get a sticker or something for being such a geek. Go get this movie and watch it. Un-freakin'-believable. Although, it wasn't much of a shocker for me since I read The Omnivore's Dilema and Chew On This this fall. And, checked out Fast Food Nation from the library. BTW, did you know that you can check out DVDs from the library? For free? It's good stuff. Anyway...

Oddly enough, Friday in the mail, I got a seed catalog that was mistakenly addressed to the former owner of my house. Right in the front of the catalog in big bold letters is "All our seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. We DO NOT buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis."

I'm sold. If this doesn't mean anything to you, like I said, go watch Food, Inc.

So, all weekend, while the snow fell. And fell. And fell. I poured over exotic heirlooms and dreamed about all the tasty stuff that'll come out of my garden this summer. I'm officially a geek, and it's really funny, cause when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last spring, I thought the same thing about Barbara Kingsolver when I read the part about how she snuggled up with a seed catalog on a snowy afternoon and flagged pages with seeds she was interrested in. Like Barbara, we'll see who's the geek when I'm serving caprese made from tomatoes from my garden that are still warm from the sun. I can almost taste it right now.

By the way, here's the link for the seed catalog I got in the mail: http://www.rareseeds.com/. Never heard of them before, but I'll probably be placing an order in the next few months.
Anybody else have a reputable source for seeds or seedlings? Give me a shout out.

Dark Days Challenge Week 5: Cabbage soup that will knock your socks off!

After an unseasonably warm fall, the air finally has a chill to it, and we've been building fires in our fireplace the last week or so. Puts me in the mood for soup. I freakin' love soup. Probably because I like being warm and cozy, and nothing makes you quite as cozy as a hot bowl of soup. This week, I've made both cabbage soup and yesterday, in the middle of the snow storm that slammed the Mid-Atlantic, I whipped up some French Onion soup. But, the cabbage soup really hit it out of the park.

The recipe is from my Jamie at Home cookbook. I love it because it is organized by season, and he provides gardening tips for the featured vegetables.

The stock I used was a combination of stock I made from my Thanksgiving turkey from White Oak Ridge Farm, and some Wolfgang Puck organic free-range chicken stock. Instead of savoy cabbage, I bought an organic head of white cabbage. The kale, garlic, and rosemary came from the Monroe Farm Market. The bacon also came from White Oak Ridge Farm (when I picked up my turkey, I took a cooler and stocked up). The butter was from Homestead Creamery. The fontina, parmesean and anchovies were whatever I could find at the grocery store. The bread was frozen leftover bread from loaves of bread I buy throughout the year. I hate the heels of bread, or when it's been in the fridge a while (yes, I always keep my bread in the fridge) it gets dried out. I just throw it in the freezer and use it for stuffing or croutons or whatever.

I made this soup last winter with red cabbage, and the soup turned purple. It tasted fine, but it wasn't very appetizing. Speaking of tasting just "fine", last year, I used turkey bacon (this was before I was in the "know" about eating local) and here's another reason to eat local: this soup will blow you away if you use real bacon instead of turkey bacon. And, if you're gonna buy real bacon over the lower fat turkey bacon, you might as well make sure the pig was fed a natural diet with no hormones or antibiotics and didn't have it's tail cut off or was not weened too early, nor lived in crate, for that matter. The taste is like night and day, too, by the way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Week 4 (Martha Washington would be proud.)

This summer, I went to a conference for work in Philadelphia. One of the highlights of the week was dinner one evening at The City Tavern. If you're not a history buff, don't worry, the food is still awesome. But if you are, this place is really neat.

The notable thing about The City Tavern is that, in a city filled with so much history, this is another facet. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, all dined here. Regularly. It became the unofficial happy hour, if you will, to the Constitutional Convention. In the earliest days of our nation's history, it was the most famous restaurant in on of the most famous cities.

So, when you eat at The City Tavern, the menu is the same as it was when it opened in 1773, the staff not only dresses the part, but knows all the nuances. And, I had such a good time, I bought the cookbook they were peddling when I was leaving. I probably bought the cookbook because of the venison. I had venison at the restaurant. There's half a dozen venison recipes in the cookbook. I have a freezer full of venison. That's how I roll.

The venison was local (yay, hubs). I substituted local onions for the shallots and leeks, local garlic, rosemary and butter. In the demi-glace, the flour. butter, tomato paste (I didn't use a roma tomato), and onion was local. And the mushrooms and barley weren't local, but organic. Basically everything was either local or organic except the wine and bourbon and spices.
Pan Seared Venison Medallions

1 1/2 pounds venison tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
2 cups red Burgundy wine (I actually used Shiraz)
3 medium shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves pulled
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 medium leek (white part only) well-rinsed and cut into 2-inch lengths and julienned
1 1/2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup bourbon
2 cups demi-glace (see below)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the venison into 1/4 inch thick medallions (about 3 oz. each). Place medallions in a medium shallow dish and add wine, shallots, garlic, rosemary and sage. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 8 hours to overnight. Remove venison from the marinade and discard marinade. Pat the venison dry with paper towels. Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat, add the venison, and cook for 3 minutes on each side (for medium rare), until brown. Remove the venison and keep warm. Add the leek to the pan pan and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute about 3 minutes, until soft. Add bourbon to deglaze the pan, loosening any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the demi-glace, reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 3 minutes, until the demi-glace comes to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked barley or egg noodles.

Demi-glace (makes 3 1/2 cups)

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup sliced white button mushrooms
2 Tb. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. full-bodied red wine
3 1/2 c. beef stock
1 roma tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped leek
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
3 Tb. all-purpose flour

Melt 2 tb. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until translucent, about 2 or 3 minutes. Toss in mushrooms and saute until any liquid they release has evaporated. Stir in tomato paste, then add 1/2 cup wine to deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits on the bottom. Simmer until almost dry, then deglaze with another 1/2 cup of the wine. Simmer until almost dry again. Add the rest of the wine, stock, tomatoes, leek and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. In a medium-size bowl, knead together the flour and remaining butter to form a paste. Whisk the paste into the demi-glace and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is smooth and velvetly. Strain through a sieve and cool te demi-glace in an ice bath. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Week 3

It really was a challenge this week to cook one local meal. Especially, since I didn't really cook a meal this week. The closest I came was putting some pinto beans in the crockpot on Tuesday with some local bacon, and throwing together a pan of cornbread with local eggs. Not local enough to count for the challenge.

I planned on making a meal out of a spaghetti squash I ordered from the Monroe Market a few weeks ago. But, we ate on Thanksgiving leftovers two nights, grabbed dinner on the way to Jeremy's parents' house one night, and Saturday night got invited to go out to dinner with my brother and his girlfriend. Saturday night, I roasted the spaghetti squash and put it in the fridge.

I've never had spaghetti squash before, and for my first attempt, I took the Paula Deen approach. You can't go wrong on trying a new food with copious amounts of butter. Also, a spash of white wine leftover from Thanksgiving, parmesean cheese, garlic, and a bit olive oil.

Maybe you noticed the pasta and bread. That's called Plan B: a frozen Bertolli Mediterranean Skillet Meal. The hubs was not willing to commit to a meal of spaghetti squash in case it turned out we just didn't like spaghetti squash. Actually, it wasn't too bad!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

1 2-lb. spaghetti squash
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash down the middle length-wise. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 mintues.

Let squash cool until cool enough to handle. Scape flesh out into a bowl with a fork to make long strands.

At this point, you can flavor the squash with whatever you like. I tasted it plain, and decided it would lend itself easier to a savory dish, but if you're creative, you could do a creamy sweet sauce. It doesn't get mushy like spaghetti noodles, so the sky's the limit with sauces. I added 2 Tb. local unsalted butter, 1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 c. of grated parmesean, 3 cloves (yes, I love garlic) of local garlic, and dash of salt, some dried parsely, and a splash of non-local chardonay leftover from Thanksgiving dinner. I think I would make it again. It would make a fabulous side dish to fish or chicken.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Turkey Sweet Potato Dumplings

Here's my first offering for the Dark Days Challenge. I, of course, used leftover Thanksgiving turkey, onions, carrots, celery and frozen bell peppers. The carrots and peppers were from my garden, the onions were from the Monroe Farmers Market, and the sweet potatoes were from my father-in-law's garden. I had to buy celery, but it was organic. I used the non-local usual exceptions of flour, oil and spices. Even the broth was from my turkey. Also, there wasn't any buttermilk from the local brand I usually buy. Imagine that, the grocery store out of buttermilk on the day before the biggest culinary holiday of the year. I had to take what they had--store brand. Boo!

TURKEY WITH SWEET POTATO DUMPLINGS (from the Whole Foods website)

Serves 8

A new take on chicken and dumplings made with Thanksgiving leftovers. For leftover vegetables, choose green beans, carrots, peas, broccoli or others that were cooked simply with few other ingredients. You can cook a turkey breast for this, but if you use leftover turkey from a whole bird, the cost per serving will be even less!

1 tablespoon 365 Everyday Value Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 cups raw, cooked or frozen chopped vegetables
1 1/2 cups 365 Everyday Value Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, divided
2 cups 365 Everyday Value Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 cups (about 18 ounces) shredded cooked turkey
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (or a 3/4-pound sweet potato, cooked and mashed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and cook until softened and hot throughout, whether you use raw, cooked or frozen veggies. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour over vegetables, stir well and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in turkey, salt and pepper; transfer to a 9-x13-inch baking dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, gently combine 1 1/4 cups flour, sweet potatoes, baking soda, buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to make a thick batter. Do not over mix. Drop batter in large spoonfuls over turkey mixture to form 8 dumplings. Bake until dumplings are golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Per serving (about 10oz/292g-wt.): 280 calories (60 from fat), 7g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 640mg sodium, 34g total carbohydrate (4g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 21g protein

Alton Brown knows what's up.

My Thanksgiving drama has been retold too many times for me to repeat the story one more time. Here's the summary: I offered to host Thanksgiving, bought a turkey, talked to my mom on the phone a couple weeks ago, was under the impression she was having Thanksgiving at her house, found out on Tuesday that we were in fact eating at my house.

So, let me catch you up. Last weekend, I was watching "Dear Food Network", a special on Thanksgiving dinner. Alton Brown, (I love this guy) was talking about how to cook a turkey. First, he said, to unthaw the turkey quickly, put it in your sink. Turn the faucet on to the barest trickle it will trickle. Basically, turn it on just until it's almost turned off. Let this run on the turkey. He says it will create convection on the turkey and unthaw it very quickly. "Whatever," I said.

Well, Tuesday evening, I took the turkey out of the fridge. It had been there since Friday, and it was barely unthawed. I tried the Alton Brown trick, and by golly, it worked! Started the "trickle" at 7:30 and it was pretty much completely unthawed by 9:30. Alton Brown knows what's up.

So far, he's one for one. Wednesday, at work, I downloaded his brine recipe. I also downloaded Martha Stewart's. Just in case. I combined the two. Let me just say, I've never brined a turkey before. Last year, I set out to do so, but the attempt was thwarted. My mom was making the turkey. I bought all the (very expensive) ingredients for the brine. When she put it in the brine, the turkey was still frozen inside. After she brined it, it was still frozen inside. So she soaked it in lukewarm water after the brine. It pretty much rinsed all brine off and took away any effects it might have had. This year, I'm in charge of the turkey. We unthaw according to Alton Brown. We take a gallon of vegetable stock, a couple shakes of pepper and a couple shakes of allspice, half a pint of honey and a cup of pickling salt. The turkey goes in a garbage bag and the brine gets poured into the bag. The turkey goes into a cooler overnight, and all goes as planned. I actually turned the turkey over in the brine after soaking breast-side down for about 12 hours. We soak for another 4 hours.

According to Alton Brown's recipe, you rinse the brine off, which is good, cause the salt had kinda formed a paste on the breast meat. I trussed the turkey up tight and "liberally applied canola oil," according to Alton's instructions. He said a 14-pound turkey should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to roast. My mom was skeptical. This turkey got really brown. The recipe said to roast it for 30 minutes at 500 degrees, then turn the oven down  to 350 degrees for the remainder. Thirty minutes at 500 degrees might have been a bit much. The turkey got really brown really fast. But, just like the directions said, after 2 1/2 hours, when I put a thermometer in the thigh, it read 160 degrees. This bird was done.

So I let it rest, as recommended. I let it rest a little too long, since I didn't have the other dishes ready. I wasn't planning on the turkey actually being done in 2 1/2 hours. But this was the JUICIEST turkey I've ever eaten. No lie. Juicy.

I think it was the brine. We're doing this next year. Here's the turkey in the cooler.

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Dark Days Challenge -- I'm in!

Oh, how I love a challenge.

I just read about the 2009 Dark Days Challenge on the Eat Local Challenge Blog. Basically, you have to promise to eat at least one local meal a week and blog about it. Easy, right? Maybe.

It's hard in the winter, hence the name "Dark Days Challenge." Most consider 100 miles eating local. Like the Eat Local Challenge I participated in in October, I'm saying 250 miles is local. Why? That's how far away the dairy is that the milk I buy comes from. If there was a dairy closer than that, I'd be buying it there, but I haven't found one yet.

So, I'm already a week behind, as the challenge kicked off on November 15th.  This week will be a challenge, since it is Thanksgiving. I'll do the bulk of the cooking I'm gonna do this week all on one day. My turkey is local, though. But, my mom is sharing in the cooking duties, and what she's makin' ain't local. Cheez Whiz doesn't grow around here. Not that I'm complaining. She's making her broccoli casserole at my request.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So easy, even the hubs can do it.

Here's my shout out to Susan at She's Becoming Doughmesstic for the Wanchai giveaway back in September. Just like her, sometimes I'm just too tired to whip up something fabulous in the kitchen. Case in point, last Wednesday when I went to a conference at Stonewall Resort during the day, drove from there to Philippi to pick up my "heritage" turkey, then rushed home for a Junior League Board meeting. When I got home from all that running, Jeremy had Wanchai Ferry Sweet and Sour Shrimp in a skillet almost ready. I made egg drop soup while it was finishing and Voila! Better than takeout! Best part is that those chopsticks are aluminum--dishwasher safe! Booya!

Now, more on that "heritage" turkey. I've mentioned on this blog before that hertiage turkeys were ones that were native (or sorta native) to North America. They were introduced to North American by the Spanish, but not totally sure. Anyway, the one's you buy at the grocery store? Well, they weren't. They are a special breed which yeilds more white breast meat because that's what consumers want. And that's perfectly fine. But what got me was that this particular type of breed, Broad Breasted White, because of it's unnaturally large breasts, can't reproduce naturally. And, if left to live beyond, say 14-18 weeks of age, when most are slaughtered, wouldn't survive anyway. Their legs would not be able to support their bodies. Anyway, I digress. Because Butterballs can't get it on naturally, I decided this year, I would order a heritage turkey. Well, I called the WV Deparment of Agriculture to find a breeder, and they gave me the name of a place in Philippi, White Oak Ridge Farm. I called and placed an order, for what I thought was a Bronze turkey. Only when I picked it up, I realized it was a Broad Breasted Bronze, a crossbreed of Broad Breasted White and a Bronze. I'm a little miffed. I did pay $2.99/lb., afterall. It's disappointing to no get what you want. Nonetheless, this turkey was free-range and allowed to eat it's natural diet of bugs and grubs, not chemically engineered feed designed to make it grow unnaturally fast and fat. But, I'm sure my turkey will taste fantastic, anyway. Hopefully.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: The Grand Finale!

Breakfast: local egg and salmon sandwich on whole wheat toast
Lunch: My office took a coworker to a Mexican joint for her birthday. It most likely wasn't local. I had shrimp nachos. They were still freakin' good.
Dinner: local grass-fed beef and onions braised in beer with local mashed potatoes.

Breakfast: oats with local milk and honey
Lunch: local roasted tomato soup with leftover Bertolli pasta from last week.
Dinner: shepherd's pie and green beans. Pretty much a 100% local meal. Shepherd's pie was made from local carrots and bell pepper in ground venison, topped with local mashed potatoes. The green beans were canned by my mother-in-law last year. The only not local thing was the butter in the potatoes and cornstarch in the gravy on the meat.
Snacks: homemade granola (recipe from a couple weeks ago with local walnuts and honey), local pastured hard-boiled egg, Martinsburg apple and cabot light cheddar

Breakfast: oats with local milk and honey
Lunch: leftover shepherd's pie and green beans.
Dinner: meh. LaRocca Mexican Restaurant. Ordered shrimp chimichangas and a pitcher of Dos Equis. At least there was no CAFO meat on my plate...
Snacks: granola, homemade coconut cream pie courtesy of a coworker, apple and cabot cheese.

Breakfast: Egg white with smoked salmon on whole wheat toast
Dinner: Roasted (local and free-range) chicken with not-shallots. Basted in local butter. I also made roasted local butternut squash with stilton blue cheese. I'm still not sure if I like that side dish or not. Maybe not. It was odd...
Snacks: granola and hard boiled egg, cabot light cheddar and gingered pears

Breakfast: egg white with smoked salmon on whole wheat toast
Lunch: leftover chicken and butternut squash
Dinner: sushi from Krogers and a bag of Garden of Eatin' blue corn chips. Also some Harpoon Ale. Not my best showing...
Snacks: granola and egg, cabot and an apple

Breakfast: omlet with local eggs, bell peppers, onions and a tomato, and goat cheese. De-licious!
Dinner: not-local pot roast and local baked potatoes at my inlaws. Marie Callender's lemon meringue pie.
Snacks: half a bag of Funyons and a bottle of V8.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Week 4

Breakfast: sandwich of smoked salmon and a local egg white on whole wheat toast
Lunch: leftover Colasessano's pepperoni roll with some local sweet and hot peppers
Dinner: Shrimp Pesto Fettucini. The pasta and the pesto are all local.
Snacks: roasted local pumpkin seeds, hard boiled local egg, Cabot light cheddar cheese snack and a Martinsburg apple.

Breakfast: smoked salmon and egg white sandwich
Dinner: leftover shrimp pesto fettucini
Snacks: Cabot light cheddar and apple

Breakfast: smoked salmon and egg sandwich
Lunch: Roasted tomato soup (frozen made from all local ingredients) and baked potato (local)
Dinner: ehh. I had gnocchi planned with homemade marinara sauce, but the gnocchi didn't turn out--dough was too runny and I ran out of flour trying to stiffen it up. So ... we had a Bertolli frozen skillet meal. Hey, I tried.
Snacks: cabot light cheddar and an apple

THURSDAY through SUNDAY afternoon:
I was at a conference in Denver... Most of the food was provided by the conference. It was not very local. I did reach the very disturbing part of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilema about factory farmed pork while I was on the flight out. I diligently tried to avoid eating any factory farmed meat this weekend, although having food provided presented a challenge. Luckily, I was under the influence of the book a few weeks ago when I made my conference reservation and requested vegetarian meals.

Dinner at home: Stuffed shells with white sauce. I remember making these this summer and freezing them. I was doing the "Penny Pinching Pantry Raid" and was cleaning out the pantry and fridge. I had a ridiculous amount of zucchini on hand, given to us by Jeremy's uncle. So, I cleaned out the fridge and made stuffed shells with zucchini, green peppers, spinach and basil mixed with cottage cheese and parmesean, and made a quick bechamel sauce to cover them, then froze them for an evening when I didn't want to cook--i.e. last night. We split a mini black rasberry pie that my in-laws brought back from Amish country (local, yes!) last weekend for dessert. Delicious and easy!

Now, I'm in the last week of the challenge, and I'm reflecting. It has definitely been a challenge, and there were times when I wish I'd done better or been better prepared. On the other hand, I feel like I've at least raised awarness to those around me. At the conference I went to last Friday with my mom at Tamarack, she told our table that I was doing the Eat Local Challenge. One young lady started asking me about it, and I told her about the Monroe Farm Market. I hope she found her way there on the world wide web...

Some things I've missed. (I'm really craving some chili. I use Spicy V8 to make it. It's the first thing I'm gonna make in November). Some things I'm surprised that I haven't missed. (Cereal. I used it eat it everyday. I don't even miss it.) The one thing that I've noticed, though, is, with all the travel I did, I wish there were more restaurant options for local food. We have a couple good places in Charleston, but I suspect there are more eateries around that just don't advertise that they're using local food. Hello?!? I will def give you my money if I knew you were!!!

We put a lot of emphasis on food in America. Maybe other places do, too, but food and family events always go hand in hand. Cultural observances are tied to food. Eating locally has heightened my awareness for what's in season. And another way to relate food to observances. Late summer = tomatoes. Fall = apples, pumpkins and squash. I know I'll be looking forward to early spring for the first asparagus of the year as well as spring lettuces. And, because I've put off buying the South American asparagus I saw in Sam's Club a couple weeks ago, I'm hoping the spring asparagus tastes that much more delicious!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Week 3

At the halfway point!!

Monday, was a state holiday, so I spent almost all day in the kitchen. I finished canning the apples I bought at the farmers market, and whipped up a couple recipes using the peppers Ike and Tiff sent a couple weeks ago. I don't like hot stuff, and am not crazy about hot peppers at all, so the fact that I would eat these creations, should say a lot. I made cheeky chili pepper chutney from my Jamie At Home cookbook. I love Jamie Oliver's recipes. They are usually very simple dishes, often seasonal and he always uses lots of fresh vegetables. The love the cookbook because it is arranged by season and ingredient and has lots of gardening tips. I also canned some green tomato and jalepeno jam, but substituted TWO habaneros for FOUR jalepenos. This stuff is hot! I was going to make hot pepper jelly, but used all my cider vinegar. Next week, maybe...

Breakfast: homemade waffles with local flour, eggs and milk. Topped with 100% pure maple syrup (I will never buy the brown-colored sugar water again... the taste is completely inferior compared to the real deal) and gingered pears. I have to hand it to my mom on this one. She made the pears and canned them. So, so, so good on waffles.
Lunch: leftover Italian Wedding Soup and some stale tortilla chips.
Dinner: Crispy and sticky chicken thighs. They weren't really either crispy or sticky, but they were very good. And it was an easy one-dish dinner.

Breakfast: waffles with pears and syrup. I made a pile of waffles yesterday to eat on all week. Did you know that you can freeze them and make them in the toaster just like store-bought waffles? No need to buy the store-bought ones ever again. My recipe makes 14 waffles, which is more than enough.
Lunch: leftover roasted tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. I put the chili pepper chutney on the grilled cheese, for some heat. I don't like this stuff plain, but with gooey melted American cheese, it was pretty good.
Dinner: Venison pot roast with local potatoes and carrots, and pan of Mexican cornbread with local hot peppers, eggs and milk. I am not happy about having pot roast two weeks in a row, but I thought it was a wild turkey breast when I took it out of the freezer. I was planning on making turkey pot pie, but no. It was a venison ham roast, I think. I didn't have the time or energy to find a recipe using a hunk of deer meat. The quick search I did only gave me pot roast recipes. I braised it in about a cup of red wine and chicken stock, so we'll see how it is...
Snacks: leftover granola and a hard boiled egg (free-range and local, of course), apple and cabot cheddar cheese snack.

Breakfast: waffles
Lunch: leftover pot roast and cornbread.
Dinner: BBQ Ribs, baked beans, baked potatoes, deviled eggs and hot rolls at my in-laws. Not local, but I ate way too much really GOOD food.
Snacks: granola, egg, apple, cheese

Breakfast: oats
Lunch: roasted tomato soup and leftover cornbread
Dinner: navy beans and cornbread at my Mom's.
Snacks: granola, apple and cheese

Breakfast: some kind of cornflakes with berries and nut clusters at my Mom's.
Lunch: I was at a conference with my Mom in Beckley. Lunch was provided. It was typical of conference fare... too salty and generic. Garden salad and rolls. Grilled chicken with green beans and new potatoes. Pound cake with peaches.
Dinner: headed up 1-79 to Morgantown for the game. Got a Colasessano's Everything Pizza at the recommendation of a co-worker from Fairmont. DELICIOUS. Thick crust with pepperoni, swee and hot peppers and LOTS of mozzarella (not the generic frozen shredded cheese either. I wouldn't be surprised if it was "real," if not fresh mozzarella.)
Snacks: fresh fruit and granola bar at the conference

SATURDAY (Game Day!!!)
Breakfast: leftover pepperoni roll from Colasessano's
Lunch: Oktoberfest Spread: smoked sausages, kraut, German potato salad and Yuengling. Lot's of Yuengling. Also, soft pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and some horseradish dip Christy made. Hey, it was game day... I'm going on the assumption that Yuengling is within 250 miles of Morgantown... I can't get either Google maps or Yahoo maps to tell me.
Dinner: leftovers

Breakfast: bacon and local eggs (White Oak Ridge Farm in Philippi. This is where I ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from. The eggs and bacon are awesome. We didn't have their bacon today, but Erinn has fixed it for us before. If the quality of turkey is anything like the eggs and bacon are, this Thanksgiving meal will be awesome!)
Dinner: Manicotti at my Mom's. She used the spaghetti sauce we made this summer, which was local. Also, garden salad and broccoli slaw. For dessert, she made pear cobbler with local pears. I'm rubbing off on people!!! Yay!
Snacks: we stopped by my in-laws who had gone to Amish Country in Ohio this weekend. They brought us back some goodies, which incidently were all from within 250 miles. Smoked pepper jack cheese, blackberry cinnamon roll and a slice pumpkin roll. It was all yummy, but I'm on calorie overload from this weekend...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Literally. Some food for thought.

I just read this article. It is quite long, but if you have some time, it's worth a read. You can even skip to the third page or so. Very thoughtfully written, and not like those annoying, in-your-face, vegetarian vigilantes.

That being said, I'm not saying "don't eat meat." God knows, I do love meat. But while I've been on a locavore kick since the spring, and have started buying organinc foods whenever possible, the one thing related to all of the above, that I think is the most important, and makes my heart hurt more than anything, is factory farming. Don't worry, I'm not including any visual evidence why it makes my heart hurt. It's one of those situations like when pro-life advocates show people the photos of aborted fetuses (I detest that tactic, so I'll spare you guys the farm photos... But if you're curious, I'd encourage you to do a google search. I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'. )

I've been involved with womens' issues, and I work in politics every day. I consider myself a socially aware person (whether or not I generally act or my awareness...) but I swear, there's never been an issue hit me so hard before. The whole situation just seems so desperate, mostly because so many of us are unaware of it. But, I don't wanna be one of those annoying, in-your-face vigilantes. In the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the co-author, Camille Kingsolver, writes she learned the hard way that's not how you win people over to not eating factory-farmed meat. Nobody wants to be told what to do, or that they are eating the wrong things. Look at the healthcare crisis, for example. Doctors have been telling people for years to avoid bad foods, and it doesn't look like anybody is listening. There are more links between the healthcare crisis and not eating local than you can even imagine, but that's for another post. Ever notice how the prevalence of chronic disease follows the expansion of commercial agriculture???

Anyway, I figured if I could get one more person to be more contientious about what he or she eats, I will have accomplished something that means a lot to me. And, let's face it. The hubs is the likely target, since I do the grocery shopping and cooking. He doesn't have a lot of input in what we eat at home... But, I did have show him the movie "Fast Food Nation" so he'd quit getting fast food for lunch. So far, we're commerical ground beef-free!

I'm not saying I'll never eat factory-farmed meat again. That's impossible. People invite us over for dinner, and I try to be gracious. Sometimes you're just really hungry and can't be choosy if you're away from home. As the article points out, that factory-farmed meat is 99% of the meat consumed in the U.S. But, I do recall each time that I have eaten it since the beginning of September. These days, I'm thinking about where all the food I eat comes from. There is a saying "You're thinking about this way too much." I say that's never a bad thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Week 2

Week 2 and I'm on a roll... This is fun!

Breakfast: homemade granola (I substituted local black walnuts for all the nuts and local honey for the maple syrup)
Lunch: leftover white pizza from Sunday night and a local salad with feta cheese and homemade balsalmic vinegarette
Dinner: grass-fed beef pot roast with carrots from my garden, potatos from my father-in-law's garden and farmer's market onions. Braised in 12 oz. of Mountaineer Brewing Company Stout Ale (okay for drinking, but better for cooking) and 2 cups Wolfgang Puck organic veg broth. Throw in a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Voila!
Snacks: homemade carrot cake muffin (local carrots and applesauce), string cheese, local Rome apple and local free-range hard boiled egg

Breakfast: homemade granola, milk
Lunch: leftover pot roast and a side salad from the cafeteria
Dinner: Calzones made with local flour, onions, spinach, all-local homemade red sauce, hot peppers, and not local goat cheese.
Snacks: carrot cake muffin, egg, string cheese, apple ... do we see a pattern here??

Breakfast: granola and milk
Lunch: Roasted tomato soup
Dinner: Open-face roast beef sandwiches with leftover pot roast and gravy, local mashed potatoes, and homemade hamburger buns made with local flour
Snacks: apple muffin (local flour, apples, eggs--I left the pecans out), egg, Cabot snack cheese and apple

Breakfast: granola
Lunch: leftover open-faced roast beef sandwich
Dinner: Italian wedding soup with venison meatballs, carrots from my garden and local spinach. I hate to admit, but I used store-bougtht chicken broth, but it was Wolfgang Puck organic free-range chicken stock.
Snacks: same as every day...

Breakfast: granola
Lunch: the best BLT I've had in a while from Bluegrass Kitchen. I love this place cause the food is awesome, and guess what? The bacon was from Jackson County. I also had their blue cheese coleslaw, which I highly recommend.
Dinner: Graziano's Pizza. Booo! But it was good and I was busy handing out 5K packets to pre-registered runners for the 5K on Saturday. Convenience food. I also bought some Starr Hill Brewery Red Ale on my way home. The brewery is in Charlottesville, VA. 241 miles away. I checked...

Breakfast: granola
Lunch: Pork BBQ from the food vendor at Pumpkins in the Park. Not even sure the name of them.
Dinner: Fettucini with Meatballs made from venison and homemade sauce. Almost 100% of this meal was local. The breadcrumbs in the meatballs weren't. Everything else was local or is on my list of exceptions. This is getting easier the more I do it.

Breakfast: two eggs and whole wheat toast with peach jam I made last year.
Lunch Roasted Tomato Soup. I am wearing out this recipe. I made a double batch and froze most of it. Wish I had this recipe when tomatoes were in high season.
Dinner: Stouffer's Vegetable Lasagna. Hey, when Mom offers to make dinner, you can't turn it down.
We also drank a bottle of Fisher Ridge Pork Barrel Red. This is my new favorite red wine. Sorta spicy. And, its from Putnam County. Good stuff for $14 a bottle.

Here is my recipe for venison meatballs. Last year, we must've put up 15 pounds of ground venison in the freezer. The problem with deer meat is that it has a wild taste, which limits you on using it in place of ground beef in some recipes. I found this meatball recipe from Simply In Season, which I've checked out from the library a handful of times. It's a pretty nice cookbook, as it is organized by season, and has a section for all-year things like breads and sauces. The recipe is specifically for venison, but I'm sure you could substitute lean beef.


1 lb. ground venison
1 egg beaten
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. diced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and form 1 inch balls. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350 for 30 minutes.

These freeze very well, too, BTW.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Week 1

Well, I've made it 4 days...

Breakfast: omlet with 1/4 cup egg beaters and 2 free-range local eggs, filled with all local potatoes, onions and red bell pepper, and goat cheese.
Lunch: Tricky Fish!! (Thumbs up and perfect score on "Behind the Kitchen Door" on WCHS news) I like to eat here because a lot of their food is organic, free-range and most of the meat is from local farms. I had 2 crispy chicken tacos with red beans and rice. Too bad Charleston doesn't have more places like this to eat.
Dinner: I had the salad (all local) and PB/J sandwich I packed for my lunch and didn't eat. BTW... peanut butter is my "10th" exception. I also made a homemade balsalmic vinegarette that is better than Kraft's.

Breakfast: Got up early and made biscuits and tomato gravy. I thought I'd never had tomato gravy before. (My mom told me I had.) To be honest, I'd never even heard of it until a few years ago. It's a "country thing." Basically, you make gravy and add diced tomatoes and crush them with the back of your spoon a little bit. My mom said that she made it a few times when I was little, but she'd never heard it called "tomato gravy," just creamed tomatoes. At any rate, Jeremy said his Mawmaw Jones used to make the best tomato gravy. She would brown some bacon and use the bacon fat for the roux for making gravy. Then when she was finished, she'd put the crumbled bacon back in the gravy. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Here's the recipe I used and it was pretty darn good. Next time, I'm using bacon, though.
Lunch: we took Sandy to the Olive Garden for her birthday. I had Grilled Shrimp Caprese and gratuitous amounts of bread sticks and salad.
Dinner: Okay, here's where I messed up. I wasn't planning on eating dinner. Big lunch at the OG. Well, Jeremy bought some wings at Sam's Club that afternoon, and took them up to my mom's to make while we sat around a fire pit drinking non-local wine. (She had some opened she wanted to finish...) And I had some wings.

Breakfast: oats with milk, coffee and creamer
Lunch: Roasted tomato soup (all local)  and Olive Garden leftovers
Dinner: a local salad with feta cheese and homemade balsalmic vinegarette and the best white pizza I've ever made. Made the crust with local flour. Topped the pizza with some homemade bechamel sauce with local basil, and topped the pizza with tomato, roasted garlic, a diced cherry pepper, carmelized onions, spinach (all local) and goat cheese.

The good news is that Thursday, when Jeremy went to the WVU game, he stopped by Ike and Tiff's to see their new baby boy. And he left their house with this:

Bell, hot banana, habanero, red chili, and cherry peppers. I don't even know what to do with them, but I couldn't be happier. I am def going to make some red chili chutney and some hot pepper jelly. Does anyone have any ideas what to do with a half a kroger bag full of habaneros?

They also sent a gallon zip lock bag full of basil, which I just finished turning into pesto. Yum.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It couldn't be more timely.

Eating local is becoming mainstream. "Locavore" was actually the 2007 Word of the Year in the Oxford English Dictionary.

And, today, this was the featured post on the Hungry for Change Blog. Robert Bates puts it best by saying we've heard a lot about the evils of our industrialized food system, but not a lot about the small farmers producing the foods we are seeking out.

How nice!

Also, today is the first day of the Eat Local Challenge. And, I'm not starting strong... The problem is, I am trying to clean out my fridge of the non-local stuff. I don't think it makes much sense (especially in this economy) to throw out perfectly good food.

Breakfast: omlet with two free-range egg whites (local) and 1/2 cup of egg beaters (cleaning out my fridge), diced potatoes, onions and red peppers (all local), and mozzarella cheese (not local).
Lunch: Roasted tomato soup (all local ingredients, from previous blog entry), baked potato and carrot cake muffin (local ingredients: all purpose flour, eggs, carrots, and applesauce in place of pineapple.)
Dinner: left-over spaghetti. Not local. Ragu and Barilla. Like I said, I am cleaning out the fridge...

Not too shabby, but I know I can do better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The October 2009 Eat Local Challenge

Okay, deep breath. I'm going to do it. The October 2009 Eat Local Challenge.

First, the rules. You set the rules. Do you want 50 percent of the food you eat to be local? 75 percent? 100 PERCENT?!? And, what's "local"? On the Eat Local Challenge site, it's within 100 miles. Well, in Jennelle's little world, it's going to be 250 miles. This milk, which I already buy, and pretty much the local-est milk you can get around here comes from Wirtz, Virginia, 224 miles away. Also, Starr Hill Brewery is 240 miles away. Woot!

Okay, rules. Anything within 250 miles. Most people who do this make a list of exceptions. Coffee, for instance, is so interwoven in everyday life, and a necessity to some (me) that most people put it on the list. I've put a lot of thought into what I am willing to give up for 1 motnth and what I am not. So, here's my 9 things:
seafood (but only what's acceptable according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch)
maple syrup
hard cheeses (or any cheese that I can't make at home--right now that's all of them)

I'll allow myself one more once I figure out what it is... Iknow I'm not going to be able to do 100% all month long. I'll do my best, though. Some of it is out of my hands, unless I starve, which you can bet I'm not even entertaining. This ain't no hunger strike. I am going to Denver later this month, and travel presents eating challenges period, so I'm going to try to eat local, but since some of my meals are provided by the conference I'll be attending, no guarantees. And, Thursday is my mother-in-law's birthday (Happy Birthday, Sandy!!) We're taking her out to lunch Sunday, and she gets to pick. She told us well in advance she's got a hankerin' for some Olive Garden. The rest of the time, we'll see how I do.

I'm kinda excited. Some stuff, I'll miss. Guacamole. Bananas. I don't eat them that often, but it's one of those things when you know you can't have something it seems more tempting. I put in a big order today at the Monroe Farmer's Market in preparation. I'll post recipes and progress.

As for progress, as we speak, I have a pot of milk, rennet and citric acid on the stove. Attempt number three at homemade mozzarella cheese. It's looking like ricotta. Why can't I do this? I'm having trouble finding milk that isn't ultra-pasturized, which I am hanging the blame on. According to the website, even though it says just plain "pasturized," it is usually somewhere in between there and ultra-pasturized, which won't make cheese. I need a good old dairy farmer that will give me some PASTURIZED, or dare I ask for unpasturized, milk and then I'll try this again. I've wasted a lot of money on some fancy homemade ricotta cheese.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I might have bitten off more than I can chew... but it is so tasty!

I mentioned last week, that this weekend, I was going to tackle canning tomatoes and apples. Well, after six hours in a hot kitchen chopping, cooking and canning, you can sorta tell I made a dent in the box of each I bought on Sunday at the Capitol Market.

You can't beat the farmers' market this time of year. Summer produce  is starting to wane and give way to Indian corn, pumpkins, and gourds. The farmers are trying to move the remaining produce, cause none of them want to pack that stuff back home. Today, I got the last box of canning tomatoes for $10. Ten dollars!

I also bought a box of Rome apples, which the guy at the Crihfied Farm booth told me were the best for making applesauce. This guy knows what's up, too, I'll tell ya. And, I bought a pint of honey from them and a butternut squash.

I started out making some tomato paste. I got the recipe from the USDA's Home Canning and Preservation Guide. But I didn't can it, I froze it. I actually froze the tomato paste in a mini muffin tin. I hate when you have a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. So, you buy a 4 oz. can and throw the rest away. Well, the mini muffin tin makes perfect 2-3 tablespoon individual "nuggets" that you can thaw out and use whenever you need. I do this all the time when I make stock. You just pop them out of the muffin tins and put them in a freezer bag. Well, stock "pops" out of the aluminum muffin tins WAY easier than tomato paste. I need to get one of those fancy silicone muffin tins if I'm gonna do this again. Okay, so that only used like 6 tomatoes. Forty more to go.

Next, I made tomato soup that will knock your socks off. I got the recipe here from the Closet Cooking blog. Damn. It was so easy. But it only made two servings. It also made a mess in my oven as the olive oil dripped down onto the heating element. Note to self: next time I make this (and I will be making it again in the very near future) use a pizza pan instead of a cookie sheet with no rim. As soon as I get some more onions, I'll make a double of this and freeze it. Okay, so that took another 5 tomatoes.

I wanted to can tomatoes to last me for a while. I am always buying diced canned tomatoes at the grocery store. Usually like 1 or 2 cans a weeks. Seriously, I put them in everything. They're not that expensive. Was it worth it to spend half a day canning them? Who knows. But I canned 10 pints today, and I have over half of a box left. Processing the tomatoes is quite a process, but after a while, I got a little assembly line going from blanching the tomaotes, peeling them, and packing them in the jars. Don't just throw the skins away after you peel them, though. Extra credit for keeping the skins in your bag of veggie scraps in the freezer to make vegetable broth with later. Everyone does that, right? No, just me? Okay, I'm a geek. It's a little trick I learned from my friend, Martha. Just keep all your veggie scraps in the freezer until you get a gallon bag full. Add some water and the scraps to a stew pot and simmer for 30 or 45 minutes. Strain out the scraps, and I put the broth in my muffin tin and ice cube trays. Just don't use onion skins. They turn bitter.

Finally, I got around to tackling the apples. I borrowed my mom's apple peeler, which made the process a little easier. I didn't add anything to the apples, just a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown and a little bit of water in the pot with the sliced apples. I also got the recipe from the USDA site. I cooked the apples for about 20 minutes and put them in the blender. Oh. My. God. Delicious. I'm not even a big fan of applesauce. So, I canned six pints of it yesterday, and froze some in the muffin tins. I measured out 1/4 cup servings to use for baking quick breads in place of oil. Yeah, these don't "pop" out easy either, like the tomato paste. They sorta lost their shape when I ran hot water over the back of the tin to get them out. I have over half a box left, and I'm thinking I'll make some apple pie filling and can it when (if) I ever get the time.

After all that canning, I was starving and I had a hungry hubby on my hands, too. I was on a roll, so I just kept on plugging away in the kitchen. I had some sweet gypsy peppers in the fridge that I'd bought for something else and hadn't used yet. I also had some queso fresco in the fridge I needed to use ASAP before it went bad. Hmmm. Stuffed peppers?

South of the Border Stuffed Peppers

4 peppers (bell, sweet, hot, whatever, as long as they're big enough to hold around 1/2 a cup of filling)
1/2 pound of deer burger (or lean beef or turkey burger)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp. of minced garlic if you're lazy like me)
1 1/3 c. queso fresco, shredded
1/2 tsp. corriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Cut the tops off the peppers and clean the seeds out. Put the peppers in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes to soften them up a bit. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in the skillet and add the diced onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat until onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the burger and brown it thoughly. Add the chopped tomato, corriander and cayenne and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the heat, and add 1 cup of the queso fresco and stir quckly to mix as it melts. Stuff each pepper with the meat filling and place in a casserole or baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining queso fresco over the peppers and broil on high until cheese gets browned and bubbly.

I served mine over some polenta. I added a tablespoon of the queso fresco to the polenta just to give it some richness. I think next time I'll use Anaheim peppers for just a little more heat. It was amazing, and Jeremy even said I should blog about it. The problem was, it was so good, it was gone before I even thought to take any pictures.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Enrolling in home canning 101

Well, here we are. I have a blog, "Keepin' Up with the Joneses" (clever title, right?). It's about my house mostly. More recently this summer, it's been more about cooking and eating. Two of my favorite hobbies, that actually come before fixing up my house on my list of hobbies. Anyway, I thought why mix it all up? This is cyberspace, afterall, and a person can have as many blogs as they like. So, this is my blog about growing food, cooking it, eating it, and all things related.

All summer, I've been on an eating fresh/farmer's market/local "kick." Probably because fresh veggies have been so cheap and easy to come by. (And because this spring, I read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, too. She made it sound like it wasn't too hard.) But if I continue through the fall and winter, maybe it won't be a "kick," anymore. I've been trying to hang onto all these wonderful fresh fruits and veggies now that they aren't as abundant, which is why I decided to really try my hand at canning.

I'm no stranger to canning. I remember when I was little, my mom canned what seemed like mountains of tomatoes, green beans, apples, you name it. She grew up in the country, and "Pawpaw" raised a huge garden even in the late years of his life (Seriously, why do country people feel the need to raise a garden that could feed an army?). So, canning with my mom is sort of nostaglic.

The other thing is, this year, I actually got enough from my garden to can some of it. This spring, I doubled the size of my vegetable garden (it went from 6 feet by 6 feet to about 10 by 6, so don't get too excited) and really set about trying to grow some good stuff that I like. How did I fare? Not too shabby considering I'm a novice at this. I had 7 tomato plants that were planted too close together to bear much. I have 7 bell pepper plants that are still loaded with peppers. My cabbage did not come up. I got about 2 pounds of carrots, a handful each of beets and raddishes (below). My eggplant plants did not bear (again). I got 3 or 4 zucchinis and a few yellow squashes and a really pretty jack-o-lantern. The cucumbers were a different story. I had about a bazillion from the "picklers" I planted, AND I had a volunteer vine from the "Straight 8s" I planted last year. Last year, they were what I called "Fat 4s" but this year, we had so many cucumbers we didn't know what to do with them. My mom and I canned about a Kroger bag's worth of both sweet and dill pickles earlier this summer.

Last week, I made more pickles (ALL BY MYSELF!!) with my remaining cucumbers. Actually, I made Polish dill pickes by adding a clove of garlic and a hot pepper to each jar of cucumbers. And, last night, I made blackberry jam and pickled the remaining green tomatoes from my garden! Yay! I am getting the hang of this. Next weekend, I'm onto tomatoes and apples. I just hope no one gets botulism from my goods.

I found a good website for beginners, the USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning with lots of "how to" and "why" information.

On a side note, I was cleaning out my fridge last night while canning and used the last three ripe tomatoes from my garden to make tomato sauce. They were about to go bad, and I figured tomato sauce would freeze well. It was delicious. Here's the recipe:

Classic tomato sauce:
3 large tomatoes, diced (I remove some of the seeds)
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
about 1/4 a large onion (or 1 small onion), diced small
2 Tb balsalmic vinegar
1/4 c. red wine
1 tsp kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 Tb softened butter blended to a paste with 1Tb flour
handful of chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil for about a minute in a skillet. Add the garlic and onion. (If you want diced bell peper, add it with the onion and garlic.) Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens a bit. Add tomatoes, red wine, balsalmic vinegar, salt, bay leaf and basil. Let simmer about 20 minutes until tomatoes begin to break down. Take off heat, add butter/flour paste, and stir to blend completely. Put back on heat and bring to a simmer for about 1 minute until thickened. Makes about 1 pint.

I think I'll put mine over gnocchi. BTW, I have decided to do the Eat Local Challenge in October. This is the fifth year in a row for the project, and I am actually excited to be participating. I plan to post my progress here and on the Eat Local Challenge website. It really will be a challenge, but I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks, and I think I can actually do it, with some parameters I set myself. So, anyway, I'm saving the tomato sauce for October with the gnocchi I make from the potatoes from my father-in-law's garden. Stay tuned!