Adventures in cooking sustainably, healthfully, and locally

Until Dave puts the kybosh on it anyway.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heading into winter, locally

We've had a month's worth of home delivery of local food, both vegetables and fruits and an array of dairy products.

On Royal Crest Dairy:  Fail.  Don't get us wrong!  It is a great service, with lotsa milky products available (as well as some non-local options).  However, I really overestimated the amount of milk we drink.  In fact, we actually don't drink any milk.  I was on a cereal bender there for awhile and I did make some ice cream, but over all... just isn't worth it for a non-milk drinking family.  Maybe when we get around to having children, it may be worth it.  But for now, nah.

On Door-to-Door Organics: Success!  What I love about this particular service is that during the summer months you can request local foods in your delivery.  Once winter hits, you still get fresh food including options for some local stuff when it is available.  Why this is good for our family: I think I stated it before, but I'll say it again...  I'm too cheap to buy organic foods in the grocery store.  I see bushels of apples for 99 cents a pound and then see the same kind in the organic section for 3x the amount.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm investing in my health.  This way, through the delivery of organic produce, I'm ensuring that I'm getting no chemicals schmooeyed all over our food.  This last delivery, I'd wager about 1/3 of the delivery was still local.  I had bananas and oranges delivered, but also local potatoes, squash, and apples.   All organic, and that has to be better than before. 

Another thing that has been bothering me: I feel that at this moment in time, I'm not ready to go 100% local over the winter.  I didn't prep well enough for it, so throughout the winter we'll be investing in some not-so-local foods.  Like candied apples.  Sure, the apples were local and the sugar was local.  But the mix?  Heck, I didn't know what was in the mix!  :)

I do intend to not make this whole thing into a food blog, although I have a ton of fun cooking and such.  But living a local life is more than food.  It is frequenting some of our local restaurants (Warhorse Inn, Moonstruck Bistro) instead of some of the chains.  Pay attention to where things are manufactured and try to stick to items that are made closer to home rather than half-way around the world.  Planning for the spring garden, enjoying the sights to see in Colorado.  You know, that sort of stuff.

With that to ponder, we leave you with this.  Poached pears in a white wine sauce, served hot and topped with vanilla ice cream (not local, but hey... sometimes efficiency is necessary on improvisation...).

Questions for readers:  Do you try to shop local?  If so, how do you do it?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Culver's? Eat your heart out

Ok. So how in the world did I figure out how to make frozen custard... without an ice cream maker?

I did what any red-blooded American would do: I googled "how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker."

After a quick perusal of my options, I followed the Ice Cream Recipes website, using this particular recipe for the vanilla ice cream.

4 egg yolks (LOCAL!)
1/2 pint (250ml) milk (LOCAL!)
1/2 pint (250ml) double/heavy cream (can get local, but didn't have any yet...)
4 oz (100g) sugar or caster sugar (LOCAL!)
1 vanilla pod (scored down the middle) (probably not local)

Yep.  Those measurements aren't in cups.  So I had to pay attention to the mL part of my measuring cups for the first time as well as the grams option on my scale.

The recipe on the website instructs to simmer milk in a pan over direct heat.  I know better.  I learned a long time ago that I shalt not simmer milk over direct heat.  I rig up a makeshift double boiler and do it that way.  Can't burn milk (or chocolate) that way.  How do you double boil something?  Get a small pot, fill part way with water.  Bring the water to a boil.  Whatever you want to heat up or melt, pop it into a metal bowl that fits part way into the pot, but not all the way in.  The heat from the boiling water heats the metal bowl, thereby heating the material inside the bowl without fear of boiling it.  Careful not to fill the pot too much with water; you don't want to have the boiling water directly touch the metal bowl of milk.  Why?  I dunno.  I just read it somewhere.  Anyway...

So boil that water and pour milk into a metal bowl.  Place metal bowl of milk over the boiling pot o' water.

Toss in the vanilla bean.  I have no idea if this would work with extract.  I fortuitously had a random vanilla bean hanging around my spice cabinet so I lucked out.
Let the bean simmer in the milk for about 20 minutes.

Here's my sugar.

 Here are the yolks and the sugar.  Beat 'em til thick.

Note the thickness? 

Ok.  As per instructions:  Carefully remove the vanilla pod from the pan of milk and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Pour the milk into the mixture of egg yolks and sugar whilst stirring.

Pour the mixture back into the bowl (not the pan like the instructions state) and heat gently over the double boiler, stirring until the custard thickens - DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL OR IT WILL PROBABLY CURDLE. <----see, this wouldn't happen if you'd just use the gosh darned double boiler.

I let it heat up for about 5 minutes.  Instructions state that when the spoon gets a thin film over the back of it then it is done.  Well, the mix is so thick already that it immediately has that film, so I just let it cook for a bit. 

When you feel like it (after at least 5 minutes, folks), remove the bowl from the double boiler and let it sit on the counter for awhile.  I put it on a trivet and then a cookie rack to speed up the process of cooling it. 

When cool, pour into a large, wide container.  I think this is to optimize the cooling/crystalization process.
 Again, I diverted from the instructions for the manual freezing process.  The instructions say to refrigerate it for up to 2 hours.  I said, "No.  I ain't waiting that long for ice cream."  So I popped it into the freezer.

Here comes the important part: you gotta stick around for 2-3 hours for this to work.  Cuz after every 30 minutes, you have to whisk/immersion blend/stir that  ice cream to break up the crystals.  This is key to the smoothness.

When you are done, you get this...
 and this...
  and THIS!!!

And oh, my lordy... this... 

Local potential: darn near 100% if it weren't for those pesky foreign vanilla beans.  I guess I'll just suffer. 

Dave rating:  3/5 stars.  He said I got docked stars for being cocky.
My rating: obviously 5/5 stars.  Yes.  I am being cocky. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Make It Easy: Get It Delivered

Sometimes, when you want to go local, a very convenient option (and surprisingly affordable one I might add) is to have it delivered. 

'round these parts, Royal Crest Dairy and Door-To-Door Organics does just that.

Juice, cottage cheese, and buttah:

Funky squash, lettuce, collards, spinach, and yellow onions...

Cilantro, pepper....

Honey crisp apples and pears....

And pea sprouts (haven't a clue what I'm going to do with this)...

Plus some heirloom cherry tomatoes and fingerling potatoes:

I also have a boatload of milk in the fridge.  All local.

The only disappointing thing was that I bought cheese from Royal Dairy expecting a local vintage.  Instead, I ironically had delivered to my door a nice brick of Wisconsin cheddar.  Heh!

In all fairness, they do try to point out when things aren't local (tangent:  like that juice, plus a loaf of bread that was Sara Lee and her 46 different ingredients for bread.*hangs head in shame* but that is a whole other "clean eating" post, not necessarily a "local eating" post).

A downside to Door-to-Door Organics is that they only guarantee local produce during the growing season and I got their very last delivery of 100% local stuff.  From here until spring, they promise local when they can but the rest is organic.  I figure organic is good for us anyway.

Tangent:  Here is the odd thing.  When I go to a grocery store, I will avoid organic produce because of the price but I end up buy a ton of processed food.  I figure, just pay someone else to pick out my organic produce and the money I spend on it would have been the money I would have dumped on other super processed food. 

Not that there is anything wrong with a Dorito every once in awhile. 

Perhaps next year I'll be ready to only eat in season.  For this winter, I'm going to lean on my organic delivery and figure out what in the world one does with pea sprouts. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beets Me

I saw the beet.  I bought the beet.  I conquered the beet.

Beets have often harbored a dark and lonely place in my mind that is reserved for foods that I don't particularly like or want to taste, along side items such as liver and sauerkraut.  Something about the beet deterred me for years, and I'm not sure why.  Over the years, some friends have encouraged me to try them.  A couple of weeks ago I finally tried some roasted beets at a friend's house.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

They do taste good.  Firmness of squash, texture is pretty smooth and not gritty, and the taste is sweet and earthy. 

So I picked them up at last week's farmers market.

Here is what I did:

  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

  • I trimmed off the beet greens and set them aside.  Left about 1" of stem attached to the beets.

  • Popped the greens into a plastic bag (or other container) with a dry paper towel and refrigerate.  They taste like lettuce so it makes a great salad base.

  • Rinsed and scrubbed the beets like I normally do with a potato.  They bleed bright magneta so... don't wear white.

  • Lined a 9x13" glass  baking dish with aluminum foil and sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray, then chucked in the beets.

  • Drizzle ~2 tablespoons of olive oil over the beets, along with pepper and salt.

  • Covered tightly with foil and put in over for an hour. 
  • Have some blueberry pancakes.

  • All done!
After they cool slightly, you're supposed to rub them with a paper towel to remove the skins.  I found that too taxing (mine were all the way cooled off before I got around to it, so maybe that makes a difference?), so I just ate them with the skins on. 

I cut them into chunks and sprinkled with herbed goat cheese; nuked for 1 minute just to warm it up. 

No Dave stars today.  I didn't even bother to force this on him, but perhaps next time...

For me: 3/5 stars.  Tasty small meal.

P.S. I have no idea what is going on with the odd bullets.  Chalk it up to an eccentric artistic flair.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colorado Bootleg Cider

 How to make the Colorado Bootleg Cider

First: fill large tumbler with ice.

Then: add two shots of Colorado Whiskey (or your own local vintage).

Top off with apple cider from Colorado (or your own local vintage).

Stir.  With a fork. 

Add a dash of cinnamon.

Makes it pretty.


100% local.  Even the ice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"C" is for Cookie: Good enough for Dave

It's no secret: Dave likes himself a good chocolate chip cookie.  And once upon at time in a land far far away called Wisconsin, I OWNED making cookies of all kinds.  I made some awesome soft, chewy, yumyumyummy cookies. 

Somehow, in the course of moving 1000 miles to the west and 5000 feet up in altitude, I lost my cookie making mojo.

My once tried and true gooey cookies all came out as (ironically) hockey pucks.  And I tried everything!  I tried reading up on how to bake in high altitudes.  Add more flour, use shortening instead of butter, substitute brown sugar for regular sugar.

Alas.  I failed. 

But I never gave up hope.  Perseverance (and a mild obsession with lead me to the Ultimate High Altitude Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. 

Hesitant and afraid of another batch of door stoppers, I ended up holding onto the recipe for more than a year.  When I finally made the cookies earlier this year, I swear I heard angels from on high singing the praises that their prodigal daughter has finally returned home to her Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Ok, perhaps not "singing" as much as muttering "thank God she's done complaining about making stupid cookies."

Anyway.  Ingredients:
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar*
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
The non-local ingredients:

 The local ingredients, including fresh eggs from Blue Barn and beet sugar and unbleached flour from Colorado Easy Eats.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until blended, then mix in the chocolate chips so they are evenly distributed. Drop cookies by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets spacing 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges begin to turn golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

The true test, both with overall cookie goodness AND whether or not the use of beet sugar and local flour made a difference, lay in Dave's tummy.

Obviously he was skeptical:

But then he took a bit and was very pleased:

4/5 stars.  At least that is what I heard as he was chewing.  :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Goat Vote

Taken from my favorite goat farmers at Blue Barn!

Half of you are willing to actually try goat milk. That half included me.

So I tried it.


... other than a very vague grassy aftertaste, it tastes completely like 2% milk. Swear to god. That jar of goat milk sat in my fridge for days, taunting me, daring me to take a sip. I don't know what my problem was... I mean, really, I've drunk gallons of the cow version throughout my life. Why am I having such an issue with a silly goat? It's practically a pet, like a dog. Ugh, I totally wouldn't drink Hailey/Queen Bubbles (our yellow lab) milk. Ew. She farts way too much.

But I met the goat that provided me the milk...and she didn't smell...

Finally, last week I filled up an inch in a small tumbler and took a hesitant sip: hm! Tastes exactly like normal milk. As I poured myself a bowl of Kix and topped it with goat milk, I finally got the very vague sense of grassiness on my tastebuds.

With Kix, no lingering taste at all.

If you are allergic to cow milk, I'd actually recommend it.

If the thought of drinking goat milk still gets to you on a mental level, then just think of it as the hotdog of the milk world. Tastes great; just don't think about where it's from.

I guarantee, though, that fresh goat milk (not the canned!) is less mysterious and nefarious than those Oscar Meyer Weiners.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Denver Urban Homesteading: A Journey for Flour

This last Saturday I was finally able to get myself up to Denver Urban Homesteading (DUH... lol that is an awesome acronym), where Terri Clauss sells her Home Grown flour and sugar beet sugar. I really wasn't sure what to expect at DUH, so of course I had to put my game face on.

Check it.

I am going to be honest here. This was not the rosy suburbs I'm used to. It seems to be in an old warehouse/factory district in Denver and not the shiny new kind. It looked, for a lack of a better phrase, a little "run down" in the sense that I'd not want to walk the streets at night. Ever. However, the building DUH is housed is quite charming:

Even have a little water for the passing pup:

Inside, the classic bright sunshine of a Colorado morning was pouring into the space. Vendors were still setting up goods:

But Terri had all her goodies out, including cookie mixes, flours, the sugar, and flour tortilla mix (which I purchase on a whim; we'll have to show you the pics of that in another post - we had the best tacos that night!):

She was a bit frazzled this morning so I didn't want to bug her for a shot or anything. She was doing a charity pancake thing (I had one: delish!):

I also roamed around and sampled some of the goods some other vendors had out.
  • There were meat merchants (didn't go by them; not in the market for meat at the moment)
  • I tried raw milk (tastes like, well, milk) at the Windsor Dairy area. Windsor also had cheeses and eggs; all nice but not sure if I want to buy a share in dairy yet.
  • Stopped by Ginger's Gourmet (they sell canned goods) and picked up Ass Kickin' Salsa (we had them with the tacos; great fresh taste).
  • The Spice Guys supplied me with some really good pepper sauces that Dave and I like to eat. None of the Spice Guys were selling locally cultivated spices, but all of the goods they make are done in Colorado.
  • Then I tried some raw food action at the Living Fuel booth. Good eats, but they are more "raw" than "local". Didn't buy anything but definitely got some good ideas. Check out the raw chili and raw apple crisp I sampled:

There were bread, fresh veggies, and pasta. Papardelle's got my business again; this time we're going to try their buffalo ravioli.
Will I go back? To get my flour and sugar, sure. But will it be a weekly venture? Unlikely. It's a half hour drive and I can save gas by just going to our farmer's markets and the grocery store.
I wonder: does anyone else have the same set up in their area? Colorado seems to be a mecca for holistic living. What about elsewhere in the country? One must wonder.
Coming up this week: Report on Raw Goat Milk, and homemade tortillas.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Corn Frittata With Cheese

Corn Frittata With Cheese, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

  • 8 eggs (we had a dozen to be used prior to the local farm purchase)
  • 1 tsp. of dried basil. We also added garlic powder.
  • 2 T. of olive oil
  • 1 cup of frozen whole kernal corn or cut fresh corn (we had frozen on hand)
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini (from the Mulsoff garden)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions (3) (Colorado grown!)
  • 3/4 cup chopped plum tomatoes (from grocery store, none really left in the garden)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese - feel free to use more. We did.
  • Plus anything you may have left from your garden. We popped in a chopped banana pepper and a jalapeno. <--- not sure how to get the tilda above the "n"

Chop your veggies:

Beat eggs with the seasonings.

In a 10" skillet (ours is more like 12", but it's our only oven-proof skillet), heat the oil and add all veggies BUT the tomatoes (we actually added the tomatoes with everything - didn't ruin it). Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or till veggies are crisp tender, stirring occasionally. Well, if you want. I just heated everything through because I'd rather have slightly cooked veggies than way over cooked, which I tend to do. I'll eat it, but Dave will automatically dock a star or two for soggy veggies.
Pour egg mix into skillet over veggies. Cook over medium heat. As mixture sets, run a spatual around edge of skillet, lifting egg mixture so uncooked portion flows underneath. I hope you can imagine how to do this; I have done this with omelettes.
Continue cooking and lifting edges till egg mixture is almost set (surface will be moist). To add to that, for mine it wasn't just moist - there was still some raw egg pooled on top (not much, but some) that I couldn't finagle to the edges for cooking.

Sprinkle with cheese. Place skillet (broiler proof!) under broiler 4-5 inches from heat. Broil 1-2 minutes or till top is just set (I did it a little longer because of how much raw egg I still had up top. Maybe 3-4 minutes?). Makes 4 servings.

The Dave Response:
First impression, while cooking: Where's the meat?
Second impression: Oh, so we're having omelettes. My response: Well, a frittata is an Italian omelette. It's just prepared a bit differently.
Upon suggestion that we serve with sausage: Yes. Of course.
Upon consumption: "Needs bacon, less vegetables, less egg, add a biscuit."
My response: "Really? A McDonald's breakfast sandwich?"
His response: "Mmmmm, biscuits...."
3/5 stars.
I agree. Good solid protein filled meal, easily adaptable for low fat fare. 3/5 stars.
With the exception of the olive oil, everything can be made locally, and it seems like a great summer recipe when all the veggies are coming out of your ears. And hey, I wonder what it would be like with 2 tablespoon of butter (local butter!).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My First Goat Farm Visit!

Time Line for Lori's Trip to farm behind Blue Barn Products:

6:00 p.m.: Lori arrives home from work. Notes that Dave and the pups are out on their daily walk, so she goes upstairs to change into gym clothes. Wednesday is gym night*, after all.

6:20 p.m.: Dave and Lori sit down to a nice dinner of Subway. Eat fresh.

6:35 p.m.: Lori jots down the directions to the farm supplied by Roxie and phone numbers, just in case for some unthinkable reason Tom-Tom decides to lead Lori astray. Roxie's directions indicate that the farm is a mere 30 minutes away.

6:39 p.m.: Lori calls Roxie to let her know that she's finally on her way. She also plugs in Tom-Tom and puts in the address. Tom-Tom says the trip takes 48 minutes. Lori should have realized that this was a warning sign.

She didn't.

7:00 p.m.: Lori wonders why Tom-Tom is losing satellites after every hill. She also wonders if she really should be on a dirt road yet. Tom-Tom and Lori start to bicker.

7:10 p.m.: Tom-Tom tells her that CO RD 29 is the next left hand turn. However, much to her dismay and Tom-Tom's continued denial, the next left hand turn is to a cattle farm clearly labeled as Private Property. Lori curses Tom-Tom and tries to call Roxie to admit defeat. Alas, Murphy's Law is not yet done: no signal.

7:20 p.m.: Lori found a paved road she sort of recognizes and heads west. Tom-Tom sulks in silence.

7:23 p.m.: Lori recognizes that the road she is approaching is Hilltop. It dawns on her that she was on the right road. Heading in the wrong direction.

7:25 p.m.: Lori calls Roxie with the update and hopes Roxie will still be up and about at 8 p.m.


Meeting the Blue Barn Family

I arrive late but sound to the father and son of the farm waiting for me in the driveway. Mike and Corey were very cool about me invading their farm in the darkness, and they were perfect gentlemen.

Then I saw my guide for the night: Roxie. They all shook my hands, all with welcoming smiles on their faces. I knew this was going to be fun.

Looking down at my shoes, she asked if I wanted booties. You know: for the chicken poop. I suspected a journey through poopy pastures and so I did wear my nay-so-good shoes, and so I declined**.

And with that, she took me to the barn. There I met the farm cat that was nursing a ton of absolutely adorable kittens. It was at this time that I realized that I forgot my camera. So please click on the link to explore this farm; I actually got to meet the goats and the chickens. :)

Goats a Go-Go

Next up: Annie, her daughter and the Mistress of Goat Milk. And cheese. I got to meet Tinkerbell whilst she was getting milked by Annie. Tinkerbell didn't seem to mind, and when I started asking questions (like: " you just sort of yank it there or is there a twist?") both Annie and Roxie answered gladly.

Then I got to meet the rest of the goats, including Violet and Bailey. They were, in a word, mesmerizing. I couldn't stop staring at these floppy-eared, large-eyed, small deer sized animals. They seemed completely happy and serene; in fact the whole farm seemed like it. The kittens were scurrying around the barn, if they weren't suckling on their mom or visiting the goats. Violet came up to the gate and nuzzled Roxie's hand.

It is about at this time that I decide that I, too, want to have a goat farm. No, I haven't told Dave.

Chicken and the Eggs

Then Roxie takes me out time to see the chickens. They seemed much larger than my mom's back in Wisconsin when she had a flock. They had multiple breeds pecking around as well as some larger young ones that couldn't quite cluck yet. They were peeping in their coop, away from randy roosters.

One odd thing: since Tinkerbell is producing substandard milk in terms of taste (she's going to a new home as a pet soon), all her milk goes to the chickens. Roxie explains that it helps with their digestion, believe it or not! I saw it myself. In fact, I saw them drink with the neighbor's cat. I asked Roxie why the cat wasn't chasing the chickens. She said that her cats do; the neighbor's cat seems more interested in the free milk.

They send their chickens out for processing when the time comes (sooner for extra roosters than for the layers), so no chopping blocks or anything. I can't say I'm disappointed; I was forbidden to name my mother's chickens. I tend to get attached, I guess... *sheepish smile*

Anyway, I got to see their roosts, where they lay their eggs. I even got to shoo them into the coop for the night. I think I'm a natural!

Departure From The Pastures

I only came out to buy some eggs, but Annie and Roxie insisted on a free sample of goats milk and cheese AND soap. I'm a goat milk skeptic, but I'm not about to waste it. So I will get around to a sip or two. I can't thank them enough for their patience and generosity. I wish I had a transcript of my whole conversation because I asked so many questions and didn't think to write anything down. I was thinking more as a consumer and curious student of life rather than a reporter, I suppose.

These people are so sweet and nice that I can't wait until they can add me to their permanent line up for eggs (egg production is slowing down at the moment, but they expect the younger hens to start producing soon).

Here are my prizes!

Soap! Rosemary Mint. It smells heavenly.

The eggs. I love the different colors; something all homey and comfy about multicolored eggs. Maybe because it reminds me of Easter?

Milk on the right and cheese on the left.

I'll be sure to report on the taste of all my new products. And another thank you to the Blue Barn family for giving me a tour of your place!
*yeah, never got to the gym.... got home after 8:45...
**I actually made it through the farm without stepping in poo. Score!