Adventures in cooking sustainably, healthfully, and locally

Until Dave puts the kybosh on it anyway.

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.

Enjoy.

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 allrecipes.com) 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.


Verdict?


... 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

Ingredients
  • 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: "So...do 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!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sprout's Update

Sprout's email response to my plea for equal representation for local foods:


Hello Lori,


Thank you for your inquiry! Regarding our local produce items, the bulk of our produce in Colorado does come to us from local areas when available to us. We label our produce with USA grown rather than each small town where it comes from due to our quick turnaround in products. Broccoli could be from one small town one day and the next shipment could come from another. It is also tricky to label products as local as the definition of "What is local" varies from store to store, and person to person.


Unfortunately, we are not always able to carry local produce year round due to customer demand vs. supply in those areas, as well as the fact that those items are not always available to us year round due to seasonal changes. Being able to offer produce from both local areas, as well as from around the world allows us to offer a large selection of produce items that may not always be available in the US year round.


We do also carry an array of local Colorado items throughout our stores as well anywhere from our dairy to grocery, and beyond.


I hope this helps! Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Sincerely,


Raechell Brown




All in all: fair response. I can understand the rationale behind wanting to provide a variety of products to a fickle species with not much consistency in wants. I am not one to deny anyone a banana from South America nor an apple from New Zealand (although I still think that is a bit far to go for an apple...don't you?).

Still, I had to press the issue a bit more (as well as put in a minor complaint about other signage):


Hello Raechell,

Thank you for your response and information.

I'm wondering if the company could start doing some simple signage to help people like me recognize Colorado food. Like by the broccoli sign have a sticker that says "Colorado Grown".

Or are you saying that, depending on deliveries and such, a bunch of potatoes could be from Colorado AND another state? I wouldn't need exact towns, just the state to start. I'm proud to buy USA, of course, but trying to eat more local requires a bit more scrutiny.

On a completely different side note, for the people who don't know what an endive is or what kale looks like: the signage at my Sprouts makes it hard to determine what is what on the top shelve of the produce areas. Along the top of the produce section there are usually 6 different signs for pricing on certain items, but they don't seem to "go" with the produce underneath it. Does that make sense? Is there any way to get signs
and prices right next to the produce? I can take a picture if you need to, in case I'm not explaining it right.

I can say that this has prevented me from trying new items because I don't like to not know the names of things.

Also, I wanted to suggest a local vendor here that can supply local flour and local beet sugar; I haven't been able to find these products anywhere else and I know the owner is on the prowl for some retail outlets for her products.
www.coloradoeasyeats.com

I personally have nothing vested in the company, but I'd definitely buy it at my Sprouts if only to save me the time to drive into Denver to buy my flour and sugar.

Anyway, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.


After re-reading my email to Raechell above, I noticed I misspelled a couple of words and my excuse for wanting more precise and accurate signage above produce came off as weak. Because "I don't like to not know the names of things?"

Seriously? I couldn't come up with something better than that? Well I didn't want to come out and say that it annoys me (yes, I'm that anal about pricing and signage) that if I don't know what in the world I'm holding, be it a beet or a jerusalem artichoke, I just won't buy it. Does that make sense? Or does that make me sound even more lame?

Well tough nuts! I may be lame, but at least I'll know the names of my veggies. So there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You Say Buff-alo, I Say Boo-falo

A recent restocking of the meat (just around starting this little adventure) we bought a load of meat from Costco. Chicken, beef, lamb, and bison. All of which we now know can be procured from our local meat farms.


We pulled out some of that bison later last week. Dave's turn to cook!

It really isn't a recipe really; Dave simply seasoned it with a rub (typically a mix of onion salt, garlic, or Lawry's seasoning), pan seared the chunk o' meat, and baked it. The baking called for it to be covered in aluminum foil:




Paired with mashed potatoes and corn and dipped in huckleberry BBQ sauce, the meal could have been 99% local (Hidden Valley dressing in the mashed potatoes, BBQ sauce)



Dave and I both gave this 3/5 stars: a good solid meal that we would make again.
This meat had a very slightly gamey taste and proved to be a nice substitute for the good old fashioned steak. Red potatoes were used in the mashed potatoes, skin on. Corn was simply a frozen bag of corn.
What an all American meal, eh?


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Accidental Mexi-Pork Soup

Our pork loin dried out int he slow cooker. We filled the crockpot with water, popped in the loin, and after 10 hours it was sitting in about an inch of water and it was DESERT dry.

What to do? Make soup of course. Dave mentioned that some beans, rice, corn, and tomatoes could be good. So here is what we tried:

Ingredients:

1 - large, overcooked chilean lime pork loin, shredded

1 can corn (no sugar added)

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 zucchini, julienned

1 lb pinto beans, already soaked and drained

1 pkg of Mexican Rice, by Knorrs

Several cups of water


Toss in slow cooker.



See what happens. Cuz I'm not sure yet. ***Update!*** This morning, after 8 hours in the slow cooker, it was a glorious hot mess that was more the consistency of dip rather than soup. Could use some onions and more liquid, but I just enjoyed a nice lunch. Makes approx. 8 - 1 cup servings. Lori rating: 3/5 stars. Dave's reaction: "Ugh, that looks disgusting." So ok, I need to work on presentation too. But if anyone likes refried beans, they'll like this.


Origin Breakdown:


Pork - unknown
Mexican Rice - "Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients"
Hunt's Diced Tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion: ConAgra, out of Omaha
Kroger White and Gold Corn: Distributed by Droger, out of Cincinnati. Made in USA.
Kroger Pinto Beans: Same as the corn, but no reassuring "Made in USA" on the package
Zucchini - Home Grown!

How we can improve this and make this more local:

Pork - find a pig farm.
Mexican Rice - utilize my own spices and keep looking for rice*.
Tomatoes - this is a no brainer. First: do not let your garden get overtaken by psyllids. Second: harvest good tomatoes. Third: Harvest enough to warrant actually canning something. Easy.
Corn - we have popping corn for next years garden. Perhaps I could plant a stalk or two of normal corn?
Pinto beans - Er.... lemme look that one up... Oh, well look at that. Turns out I can grow them. I wonder if it matters that I failed at growning green beans this summer...

Lesson: I could actually take this from 1 local ingredient out of 6 to 5 out of 6. ~17% to ~83% local.

How will I encourage this? By donating all of our canned goods to feed the hungry and starting over. It won't be much, but at least some people will get some decent food and we can start over in the canned goods department. Here's hoping!


*I may have a lead on the harder-to-find items! Not rice, but I found local flour AND sugar beets! In fact, my lead popped a comment in a previous post. www.coloradoeasyeats.com is a local vendor that has my home grown baking essentials right in the Denver Metro area. I'm going to be picking some up within the week. Then we can test out a few recipes with Dave...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Me and my local grocery store

I love Sprouts. It is a nearby grocery store chain that simply prides itself on providing organic options at reasonable prices.

"Purchased from local growers, when possible."

Unfortunately for my store, that seems to include only peaches. Much of the produce is from the U.S.A., but I was thinking a tad more local than that. Bags of potatoes? California. Strawberries? California.

Strolling down the aisles revealed exotics from as far away as New Zealand. Some home grown honey, but that was the only thing that truly caught my eye. Even our Boulder distributed Boulder Canyon Potato Chips doesn't really tell me where they get their potatoes from (except that it comes from the U.S.A.). Now, you could do a whole lot worse than these tasty chips that come in a compostable bag from a company that prides itself on sustainability. That's all cool.

But I want *local* potato chips, even if I have to make them myself. Which may be the case.

Anyway, I decided to ask the cashiers why I wasn't seeing more local produce. One of the girls mentioned that it depends on what is in season. Like the peaches...did I see the peaches? Yes, but I didn't want peaches. Judging from the farmer's markets, squash, onions, and potatoes are just a start of what should still be chugging out of farms right now and could potentially be on Sprouts shelves. And eggs are always in season. "Well, that would cost more." Yes I know this, but I'm in a position to spend a bit more on food I want, and I'd like to support more local companies and farmers (and less Monsanto-run companies). They were all very polite about it, very nice, and seemed to be a bit taken aback by a concerned customer. I didn't cop an attitude and they in turn were very helpful. One of the many reasons I like to support this store.

I asked how a person like me could lobby a chain like Sprouts to include more local produce. The website, they said. I'd get a quick response.

So I sent in my little request about an hour ago, and I will let you know what happens.

Of course I'm allergic to vegetable gardens

Good news: the veggie garden doesn't seem like a complete loss. I'm going back to the nursery tomorrow on my way home from work to pick up a second dose of the pesticide. I came home from this weekend to two huge zucchinis, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a couple of romas. Very exciting.

Bad news: upon contact with the squash plants and tomato plants, I developed a burning welting rash on my hand.

Conclusion: I'm allergic/sensitive to my veggie garden. *sigh* After a quick search on the all knowing Google, associated content informed me of the most likely diagnosis:
Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD): If you're allergic to a certain type of plant, and you touch it, the rash that can follow is commonly known as, "Allergic Contact Dermatitis." The rash can appear in as little as a few hours. Or, it may take up to 3 days to show up after you've made contact with the plant. The severity of the rash will depend on how allergic your body is to the plant. You may see a mild, pink-to-red-color, itchy rash. Or, you may see bright red, itchy skin with watery blisters and
open sores on your skin. You may also experience hives or welts.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis (ICD): If you have sensitive skin, and you
handle prickly plants, then you may get a rash that's called, "Irritant Contact
Dermatitis." This rash is usually tiny pink-to-red bumps that itch, and may even
burn. Fortunately, this plant-induced rash can be a temporary condition that
clears up quickly.

Considering I have a prickly garden, I probably just got irritated, but then again an antihistamine/anti-itch spray made my hand feel much better.

Lesson: wear your gloves, Lori. Der.