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.