Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tiny Kitchen

Our tiny kitchen
 Shaun and I live in a small-ish apartment in Minneapolis (we just measured and it's about 400 sq. ft.). One room that is particularly small relative to my idea is the kitchen. When we first moved in we were taken aback a bit the size. Obviously we cook a lot and the space has turned out to be more functional than I originally thought. I figured it would be good to share some of the things we have done to organize the space a bit better.
Peg board backsplash
DIY Pot Rack

 The first thing was to add peg board. We got the peg board at the hardware store and had them cut it for us. I don't remember exactly but I think the peg board and screws for attaching it to the wall were about $20. The hooks were about $10. We used dry wall hooks and haven't had a problem with the weight. You can also see our weird vertical wine rack that we found at a thrift store

Organized Spice Drawer (Finally!)
The most recent thing we did was organize the spice drawer. I am really excited about it. I didn't think to take a before and after picture, but I have been buying spices from the bulk section in little bags for YEARS! Prior to this the drawer (and prior to that a small box) were filled with little baggies of spices, many of them unlabeled (whoops). It was really difficult to find what you were looking for and looked very cluttered. We bought all of the little tins here for $.69 each. We got 20 and when you include shipping and handling the project was about $20. But having organized spices that are easy to sort through has been great. Plus I really like aesthetics of the spice drawer now. 

Shelves that double as additional counter space
Cupboard with baking things and snacks
We were also able to fit one and a half book shelves in our tiny kitchen. Not only do they provide enough storage to make the kitchen functional, the small one is the perfect height for a counter. We got the plastic bins at target for around $1 each. We also found a bunch of mason jars at a thrift store for pretty cheap. I know the internet is full of the many many many used for mason jars, but I'll add my two cents. We use mason jars for glasses, food storage, and food transportation. I love that I can put my morning coffee in a jar, put a lid on it and through it in my bag, then microwave it when I get to work. But the thing I really love about mason jars is that they are STANDARDIZED. So I can go to pretty much any store and buy some lids and know that they will fit any of my jars. Or I can pick up a jar at any random thrift store and know that I have lids for it. I sometimes joke that maybe living in a communist country wouldn't be so bad if everything was like a mason jar.
Cupboard with dishes and glasses
Here are some pictures of our cupboards. They aren't too exciting, it is more to show how we have organized things. Not pictures is the cupboard under the sink which is where we store baking pans and plastic bags. It is not as pretty as these cupboards. Try as we might we still often end up with a lot of plastic bags. You also can't see our dish rack. It usually occupies a square of our tiny counter. But when not in use it lives on top of our refrigerator. 

So yeah, I still hope to have a bigger kitchen someday but I am pretty proud of how we have organized our kitchen and have been surprised at how functional such a small space can be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shaun's Special Birthday Menu

Happy birthday to my wonderful partner and best friend Shaun Daniel! Photo by Lindsay Wallace

 Interrupting posts on what we eat during the week. We sometimes make extra special dishes for extra special occasions. Shaun's birthday was a couple of weeks ago. We celebrated by having a special dinner together at home. The menu included: spinach salad with bacon, roast chicken, wild rice, creamy mushroom sauce.

We very rarely eat meat at home, and Shaun had requested that his birthday menu include some. Both the chicken and the bacon came from a small family farm in Minnesota, though I purchased it at the Wedge co-op, not directly from the farmer. This meal was my gift to Shaun, so it is not reflected in our weekly budget of $85. Many of the ingredients were more expensive than we usually purchase. I think everything including a bottle of inexpensive wine cost about $30, but we had leftover chicken sufficient for several other meals. It was a lot of fun preparing the meal together, and it is still less expensive than if we went out.

Spinach Salad
2 to 3 large hand fulls of spinach
2 slices of bacon
1/2 red onion sliced thin
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

Roast chicken with creamy mushroom sauce and wild rice!
Roast Chicken
1 chicken
1 small apple, cored, and cut into quarters
1 onion, sliced
3 or 4 carrots, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

Mushroom Sauce
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp cream
salt and pepper to taste

Wild Rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth

The chicken before it went into the oven
Start with the chicken. Remove any giblets that are inside the chicken. Put the apple in the now empty cavity. Mix spices and butter. I just used my hands to do this. Pry skin away from chicken and rub herb butter underneath the skin. I try to get the butter mixture under the skin around the breast, because I think that is the part of the chicken that is most likely to dry out, and because it is easiest. I usually rub some remaining herb butter over the skin and put a little in the cavity. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken. Put onions and carrots on the bottom of the pan you are going to use to roast the chicken (I used a large cast iron skillet). Place chicken on top of vegetables. Roast at 425 for about an hour, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

While the chicken is roasting start the wild rice. Wild rice is a 4 to 1 ration so use four parts liquid to one part rice. It takes about 50 minutes to cook.

For the mushroom sauce, saute mushrooms in a little olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. They are done when they have released all of their liquid and turned golden brown. Then just add the two tbsp cream along with some salt and pepper.

For the salad (not pictured) cook the two slices of bacon until crispy and then set aside. Leave bacon fat in pan. Add the red onions and saute in bacon fat until tender. Add all other ingredients and heat for another minute or two. Pour warm dressing over spinach and toss until just wilted. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recipe Review: Vegan Beet Burgers

In the Halloween menu plan that I posted I included a beet burger recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen. They were right, the beet does make the resulting patties look very "authentic". I made some pretty significant changes though that I thought I would share. The biggest one is that I didn't have any cooked rice so I used cooked oatmeal, which is much faster.

Here is roughly what I used:

1 cup uncooked lentils cooked and drained
1 cup uncooked oatmeal cooked in 1 1/2 cups water
3 to 4 small beets, grated
4 tbsp. finely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fennel
salt and pepper to taste

I don't have a food processor so I just mixed all of these ingredients together and then used an immersion blender to puree it very slightly. I let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. When it was time to prepare the burgers I followed Isa's advice and made very large burgers and cooked them for a full 6 minutes on each side.

Beet burgers with sweet potato fries
I was really happy with how these burgers turned out, and in fact they are making a repeat appearance on this week's menu plan. I liked using oatmeal because it is quicker, and also very sticky so I think it helped the patties hold together without any egg. The fennel taste came through quite strongly, and I realized I am not a big fan of fennel. I will probably change the spices up a bit when I make them again on Thursday.

These patties were also relatively quick to make and the ingredients are very inexpensive, especially if you are buying beets in season (and at the time of writing it is beet season). The most time consuming parts of the process are grating the beets and cooking them on the stove. If you own a food processor, the grating part is no problem at all, and even without a food processor I would estimate it took me 15 to 20 minutes to grate the necessary beets. I made these patties on the stove because I wanted the outside to be slightly charred a la a hamburger, but generally I think it is much easier to make veggie burgers in the oven. I will try the oven method on Thursday and let you know how it turns out.

All in all, I would highly recommend this recipe! Thank you Post Punk Kitchen

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday: Roasted Cauliflower Curry over Barley

 This meal was part of the menu plan for the week of November 11th. I like to make sure I have plenty of leftovers on Sundays so that we have something to take for lunch on Monday. Recipes that can be easily doubled or tripled are good. This recipe made 6 servings.

Cauliflower Curry
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Cauliflower curry over barley
1 tbsp oil
1 to 2 cups cooked beans, I used soy beans (about one can if using canned, or 1 cup un-soaked if using dry)
1 can coconut milk
2 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup raisins
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups barley
4 cups vegetable broth or water

For curry,
Preheat oven to 375. Spread oil on a cookie sheet or in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add vegetables, onion, and garlic in a single layer on top of the oil. Roast vegetables for about 35 minutes or until tender.

While the vegetables are roasting you should start the barley. You can use rice, or any other grain you like, but I happen to really like barley. Bring vegetable broth to a boil, add barley. Cook covered for 30 to 45 minutes, or until barley is tender and broth is absorbed.

When the vegetables are done combine them all of the other curry ingredients in a large pot and simmer on low for about 15 minutes. This is to give the flavors a chance to combine, but I think it would be delicious even if you only waited a couple of minutes for everything to heat through. Regardless, any leftovers will have plenty of chance to combine flavors. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Menu Plan week of November 11th

Winter seems to have arrived in Minneapolis. It snowed a little a couple of weeks ago, but then it got warm again. I was actually able to where short sleeves yesterday. And then today the high is in the 30s and it is predicted to stay there. I am kind of excited. Moving from Oregon I kind of psyched myself up for a super intense winter, and last year it was very mild (by Minnesota standards). The cold weather is cozy. It is nice to sit in my apartment and thing about all of the delicious things I plan to make this week.

Despite the cold weather and impending snow, we are still receiving our CSA box. I forgot to take a picture of it last week, and will try to remember on Friday when we get our new box (winter CSA boxes come bi-monthly) . In our last CSA box we got: carrots, red onions, winter squash, collards, loose salad spinach, savor cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, and radishes. We used up the collards and spinach last week, but you will see the other items featured prominently in this weeks menu plan.

Cauliflower Currey over barley

Radish salad

Cabbage and Barley Casserole

Black bean soup with roasted squash

Beet Burgers
Roasted Potatoes

This is when we will be getting a new box of veggies!

I will try to add links to actual recipes as they are completed and tested, but sometimes I find it helpful just to look at ideas for what to serve for dinner. I am sure there are delicious versions of all of these things on the internet somewhere.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

What about those goals you mentioned?

I talked yesterday about menu planning which was part of a series of goals focused on "planning ahead" for this fall. Menu planning has been very successful, but there were five other goals I set for myself this fall. How am I doing on those? Well, let's recap, my goals were:
  • Sign up for a winter CSA
  • Purchase staple items in bulk
  • Can tomatoes
  • Make meal plans at the beginning of each week
  • Give up the clothes dryer
  • Ask farmers market growers about their practice
I have to admit that I have not been perfect on these. I did sign up for a winter CSA that actually starts next week. I am super excited about it. I live in Minnesota and last year found it very difficult to find local food during the winter. For some reason this resulted in my purchasing less organic food, and more processed foods. Hopefully the CSA will help keep me on track. The CSA is through Featherstone Farms.

My tiny kitchen
I have started purchasing more items in bulk. I have purchased bulk items for a long time. I love buying in bulk. For some reason it feels more natural, plus things are often a lot less expensive. In the past this has resulted in having many small bags of 1/4 cup of millet, or maybe quinoa? This fall we purchased several plastic containers, the kind usually used for shoes for about $1 each from Target. We have been purchasing" garbanzo beans, black beans, soy beans, wheat berries, barley, oats and sugar in bulk.

It has been really nice to pretty much always have these things on hand. It has also made it easier to make a big pot of beans a couple of times a week in the pressure cooker and then have them prepared different ways for the next couple of days. It is very convenient to have cooked beans on hand to throw into things. It's not the best picture, but you can see some of the bulk containers on the shelves in this picture. You can also tell how tiny my kitchen is and see the cool pot rack Shaun and I made.

I did not can tomatoes.  I did freeze about 15 tomatoes. What, freeze tomatoes? Yes! You can wash tomatoes and then freeze them in a plastic bag. You don't have to freeze them on a cookie tray first or anything. Later you can just pull out a frozen tomato and through it into soup or something. The resulting texture is pretty similar to canned stewed tomatoes. But it does take up a lot of room in the freezer, and we have already used most of the tomatoes we freeze. I have also not developed a list of questions to ask farmers at the farmers market. Part of me doesn't want to know how they can sell such a giant bushel of tomatoes for $10. Also, I have not had time to do any research on what types of growing practices I particularly want to support. If anyone has a good set of questions I would love to hear it. Though the farmers markets are all pretty much closed for the season at this point, and like I mentioned, my CSA is starting next week!

I will have to talk about line drying in a future post. I need to take some pictures. The drying racks set up in the office are kind of funny.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Menu Plan

One of my goals for this fall was to create weekly menu plans. I haven't written about it recently (technically I haven't written about anything recently), but this is a goal that I have had a lot of success with. I started trying to develop menu plans last year and found it really helpful. My partner and I ate healthier. We also saved money because less food was going to waste and we plan meals so that we have something for lunch the next day, thus saving the expense of going out to lunch. For some reason my menu planning tapered off last winter/spring and had to be re-invigorated this fall.

Minneapolis in the fall - photo by Shaun Daniel
I usually make a menu plan on Saturday morning and then got to the Farmers Market either Saturday or Sunday. This week we went to the farmers market today (Sunday) so that's when the menu plan starts. I thought my efforts at menu planning might be helpful for others. We are predominantly vegan and you may notice that a lot of the recipes come from the Post Punk Kitchen (one of my favorite sites) or Veganomicon, which I recently checked out from the library and will likely have to purchase since I have been using it so much.

  • Tofu Enchiladas - don't have a specific recipe, but I was planning on mashing up silken tofu with some sauteed onions, garlic, cumin and oregano - wrapping this mixture in tortillas - pouring some type of tomato based sauce (I usually add Mexican spices to store bought tomato sauce and call it enchilada sauce) over it and baking it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Salad 
  • Mexican Millet - recipe from Veganomicon
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Biscuits (probably half whole wheat flour, half all purpose)
  • Sunflower "cheese" sauce - the recipe for cheese sauce is also from the Post Punk Kitchen, I really like it because it is tasty, easy, fast, and does not use cashews which are expensive
  • Beet burgers - also from PPK - this is a new recipe, but the picture looks quite "meaty" which is intriguing
  • Sweet potato fries 
Wednesday (Halloween)
  • Pumpkin Saag - from Veganomicon - I am particularly excited about trying this recipe as saag is one of my favorite Indian dishes.
  • Barley (rice would also be good)
  • Pasta e fagioli - Veganomicon - but I know their is also a good recipe in the Vegetarian Epicure 
  • Salad
  • leftovers! 
I'll let you know how some of the recipes turn out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three things to do with beans

I mentioned that we are staying at a farm where we have been eating a lot of beans and grains. One of the things we have been eating a lot of is tacos. We started out pretty basic (beans and cheese). But I thought I would share some of the ways we've been changing it up.

All of these recipes utilize kidney beans, because that's all we have. Every couple of days we soak about two cups of dried beans before we go to bed. The next evening when we want to make dinner we bring them to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until they are tender. I season them with some salt and pepper, chili powder, and cumin. We then use the beans in various recipes, including but not limited to, tacos.

Basic Tacos
To the left is our first taco attempt. It is pretty basic. Each taco has some beans, shredded lettuce, grated carrots, and about a tablespoon of feta cheese. It's not really feta, it's a salty kind of goat cheese that they make here on the farm. But I think feta would be a good approximation. Obviously we used corn tortillas.

I didn't take a picture of it but I think my favorite is when we saute 1 or 2 mild green peppers and then add one cup of beans and two eggs. We use corn tortillas.

Post Punk Kitchen Lettuce Wraps
This next one isn't really a taco, more of a wrap. But I think the essence is the same. The recipe is from Post Punk Kitchen, one of my favorite cooking websites. The original recipe is titled Portland Porche Lettuce Wraps. It is a bean and nectarine filling wrapped in lettuce and topped with edamame pesto. I also liked it because I think there description of Portland, OR was pretty funny. It was a good mix of recognizing the really awesome things about Portland, while still recognizing that people can be kind of pretentious about it. I think the PPK recipe would be delicious, but I made some substitutions based on what I had. I used sugar snap peas instead of edamame, and I didn't shell them. I also used sugar snap peas instead of asparagus. And, of course, kidney beans. I thought it turned out really well. The dish was particularly visually appealing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sweet Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes
Usually you make fried green tomatoes in the fall when some of the tomatoes don't turn green before the first frost. We transplanted a bunch of tomatoes late, so they already had little baby green tomatoes on them. We had to pick the green tomatoes so that the plant would put energy into establishing its roots and putting out a full crop of tomatoes later. It seemed like a waste to just compost all of those baby tomatoes... so obviously we decided to fry them. I can't quite remember why we decided to make them sweet, maybe because we had already had dinner?

This was an experiment, and I am not sure I would actually repeat it. The tomatoes were tasty, but they were tasty in the way that all fried foods are tasty. I don't know that they really added any tomato-y-ness to the final project. But should you find yourself which a bunch of tiny green tomatoes that you simply can't throw away, this is probably as good of a use as any.
Fried Green Tomatoes - before they were fried

Sweet Fried Green Tomatoes
Lots of small green tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
1/2 cup corn meal
1/4 sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 egg beaten
1/4 milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Vegetable Oil

Mix cornmeal, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl mix egg, milk, and vanilla. Heat oil to medium high. Dip tomatoes in egg mixture and then corn mixture. Place tomatoes halves in oil. Flip after about 30 seconds, or when the first side is suitably brown. Cook until the second side is suitably brown. I think they would have been extra good over vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Savory Carrot Pancakes

We have been harvesting carrots on the farm. As you can see, in addition to the usual orange, they come in several beautiful colors. It has been really fun trying to wiggle them from their homes in the dirt. 

Carrot Porn
The carrots were not thinned very well, and have grown into some, rather "unusual" shapes. These shapes have inspired Shaun has to go into carrot porn... Not really, this is the only sexual carrot pictures that has been taken (cross my heart)

If pictures of carrots that vaguely resemble human body parts are not what gets you off (and I kind of hope they don't) carrot pancakes are probably a better idea if you .

Carrot Pancakes

3 large carrots, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup feta cheese
2 tbsp dried italian seasoning

Mix all ingredients and fry 1/4 cup portions in 1 tbsp vegetable oil for a couple of minutes on each sude. This recipe made about 6 pancakes, which ended up being two good sized servings. The carrot pancakes were crispy and slightly sweet. We had this dish for lunch with some watermelon slices and boiled potatoes tossed with a little bit of butter. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Polenta Bowl

Kind of like a teriyaki bowl, or maybe a soba bowl, but this is a polenta bowl. As opposed to rice or noodles, the base of this bowl is polenta. Shaun and I are WWOOFing at Pine Meadow Farm and are learning how to eat very seasonally. In addition to produce Pine Meadow has goat's milk, eggs, and staples such as beans and grains. So right now we are eating a lot of beans, grains, lettuce (not featured in this recipe) and beet thinnings. Garden tip: You plant beet seeds in very dense rows and then pull most of them out so the healthiest can grow to full size, but you can still eat the greens.

You can only eat so much beans and rice, so we started looking for another grain we could use. We arrived at corn.Expect more bean related posts in the future...

OK here are the components of the bowl:

Kidney Beans
Sauteed Beet Greens

For the polenta
Polenta is super quick and easy. We have been eating a lot of it on the farm since it is so much faster than rice. When making rice you usually use a two parts water to one part rice. With polenta it's four parts liquid to one part corn meal. I combine four cups of liquid (some combination of water, broth and/or milk) with one cup of corn meal, stir, and let simmer on low stirring occasionally to frequently for five to ten minutes. Or until the mixture looks thick and porridge like. I use normal corn meal, sometimes fine grind, sometimes corse grind depending on what I have. While on the farm I have been using two cups of goat milk and two cups of water for the liquid. At home (where goat milk is in much shorter supply) I usually use four cups of vegetable broth and then a little half and half or a tablespoon of butter added at the end.

For the Beans
I had leftover beans... They had no seasoning what so ever, so they were pretty bland. For this preparation I used two cups of cooked kidney beans and tossed them with a quarter cup of balsamic vinaigrette.

For the beet greens
Take all of the beet thinnings you have, or remove the tops of one large bunch of beets and use the root for something else. I might suggest beet feta gratin. Saute the greens and one or two minced cloves of garlic in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the bowl
For each bowl I used one cup of polenta, 1/2 cup of beans, and 1/4 of the available greens. I thought the assembled bowls were quite visually appealing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meet the Goats

Hello! I am a baby goat
OK, this post is going to reveal how little I know about farming/how disconnected I am from my food - even AFTER shopping regularly at the farmers market for years and spending six weeks working on an organic farm. I mentioned in my last post that Shaun and I are now WWOOFing on a farm outside of Spokane that has goats. I have seen some blog posts from sustainability minded people and urban homesteaders who have dairy goats. The idea greatly appealed to me, goat cheese is delicious after all. The potential to learn about goats was one of the reasons Shaun and I chose this farm.

This is where I reveal how little I knew about milk producing animals. So, um, getting milk from goats requires them to have baby goats. There are ten female goats at Pine Meadows Farm (and one adult male goat). These ten goats had babies, and that's why they are able to give us milk! I think if I had really thought about it I would have been able to figure this out, but that's kind of the point, I hadn't really thought about it. I don't know that I have ever really thought about where milk comes from.
Entrance to beautiful Pine Meadow Farm

That's the big, obvious thing that I have learned thus far. There have been a couple of others as well. We separate the baby goats from their mommas every evening so that all of the momma goats are able to be milked in the morning. The babies spend the day with their moms and are able to nurse. There are a couple of goats who for various reasons don't nurse and they get milked in the evening as well.

It was both harder and easier to milk a goat than I expected. Goats I have interacted with in the past (mainly in petting zoos) have been very obstinate. These goats knew their names and jumped up on the milking stanchion as soon as it was their turn. Actually squeezing the teet to get milk to come out was challenging for me. It's kind of like squeezing liquid out of a balloon. For some reason it took a lot of thought to get my hand to move in that particular way.

Goats hanging out in the pasture
In the evening the milk is for the chickens, so sanitation isn't so important. We drink the milk in the morning, often raw, so sanitation is VERY important. The goat's utters are sanitized with a mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide. The first squirt of milk, where most of the bacteria is, is thrown away. And the containers that we milk into are carefully cleaned.

Goat being milked in a stanchion
When I got to Pine Meadow I was a little unsure about drinking raw milk. I guess I am still a little unsure about it. I know there are a lot of people out there (The Weston Price Foundation seems to be the most vocal) who believe that raw milk is the healthiest, safest thing out there, and I understand where they are coming from. There are also a lot of people (the CDC for example) who consider it dangerous. I was talking with Chris, the primary farmer, about it, he pointed out that pasteurized milk has no bacteria. The complete lack of bacteria means that once some type of bacteria is introduced it has a super awesome environment to colonize. With raw milk there is bacteria, but (hopefully) it's the good bacteria. Since the milk is already full of bacteria there is no room for the bad bacteria to get in. Or that's the theory at least. I think I am opening up to the idea of raw milk. Thus far I have mainly used it in in cooked dishes like oatmeal and sauces. Others on the farm have been drinking multiple glasses a day, some have been drinking it for years. Everyone appears the picture of health.

Does anyone out there drink raw milk? Have an opinion about it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Moving On

Shaun and I are spending the summer WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). We spent the first half of the summer in Oregon at Kings Valley Gardens. I would highly recommend the experience. John and Andrea, the owners, are deeply committed to their work as well as teaching others. Our primary reason for WWOOFing was to learn how to grow food. We learned a lot about gardening, and I think increased our confidence to put these ideas into practice. I thought the most powerful part of the experience was living in such a wonderful community. There were seven of us on the farm (2 farmers and 5 WWOOFers) and we were all working towards the same goal. We were living in balance with our environment and having a lot of fun! Kings Valley Gardens is near my parents house, and I am glad we will be able to visit in the future and continue to develop our friendship.

Despite how lovely Kings Valley was, we have moved on. We have crossed the cascades from the moist climes of Western Oregon to the drier plateau south of Spokane, WA. We'll spend the next 5 weeks on Pine Meadow Farm. Spokane is kind of where Shaun is from. Shaun is technically from a town of 250 people right before the Canadian border and there weren't many farms in that area, but his brothers and several other friends live in Spokane. Plus Shaun will be able to attend his ten year high school reunion in a couple of weeks.

Pine Meadow is a little less organized then Kings Valley (it's only 3 years old instead of 12) but it does have something Kings Valley does not - GOATS! My next post will be all about the goats and what I have learned so far. The farm has a beautiful setting with both pine forrest and meadow (as the name suggests), plus it's only about 10 miles from Spokane and 8 to Cheney with a regional bike path nearby. 

Our summer is about half over, but I know the next month will fly by. We already have several adventures planned, including a backpacking trip to the Selkirks! With little time remaining it is a good time to evaluate what my goals were for the summer and recommit myself to being open and learning. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Garlic Salad Dressing

Shaun working in the outdoor kitchen

I have tried to get in the habit of making my own salad dressing, but have never quite stuck with it. Andrea, the farmer at Kings Valley Gardens where we are WWOOFing makes a delicious garlic salad dressing. I posted previously about the beautiful floral salad that we made as well as the delicious and nutritious kale salad we had. Both of these salads featured this dressing. One might be surprised by the 20 cloves of garlic (I know I was) But I think the garlic mellows as it marinates in the oil and vinegar. Even after we had just made it no one found the garlic overwhelming. This makes enough for about 3 cups - or one large mason jar (if you are on a farm) :)

The crew at Kings Valley Gardens enjoying a lovely meal
Mix the following in a jar and shake well before using
  • 20 cloves of minced or finely chopped garlic1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tamari
Side note: You may notice that there doesn't seem to be any salad or salad dressing in the photos I chose? That's true, both of these shots are from our last meal at Kings Valley which ended up being a Fourth of July pancake breakfast. Shaun made pancakes for everyone and we topped them with blueberries, strawberries, and shredded coconut. I thought they were much cuter that a shot of a jar of salad dressing. I am sure you can all imagine what a jar of salad dressing looks like and aren't these better?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hazelnut Encrusted Tofu

One rainy day at Kings Valley Gardens we spent an afternoon sitting in the hoop house cracking hazelnuts (otherwise known as filberts, I am unsure what, if any, the difference is). The hazelnuts had been gleaned the year before from a nearby hazelnut orchard. I love hazelnuts and for my designated cooking night (we take turns) I wanted to feature them. I had heard of people encrusting various things with them, and tofu seemed like the only available thing to encrust. I was really happy with how the meal turned out and I know others liked it because a repeat was requested the next week. 

In a past post I mentioned including more recipes that actually fit the name of the blog and were cheap, quick and local. This meal fits the bill... but only if you have hazelnuts and strawberries that you grew/gleaned. I am guessing this is a relatively small portion of the population. If hazelnuts are too expensive or not available you could use any nut you have on hand. The strawberry sauce was delicious but if it's not strawberry season the tofu would be good on its own, or I would probably eat it with catsup. 

The hoop house where we sit on rainy days to crack nuts
The hoop house where we sit on rainy days to crack nuts

The full menu that I served the was:
Hazelnut Encrusted Tofu
Strawberry Merlot Sauce
Macerated Kale Salad

For the tofu:
1 container tofu
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup flour (I used brown rice flour to make it gluten free)
pinch of salt and pepper
1 egg (you could leave out the egg to make it vegan, but the coating may not stick quite as well)
1 tbsp stone ground mustard
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp honey

Hazelnut encrusted tofu, strawberry wine sauce, quinoa,
and macerated kale salad
If you are doing the full suggested menu start the salad first (scroll down for the recipe)

Tofu Directions
Pre heat oven to 400 degrees and grease a large cookie sheet.

At Kings Valley I was introduced to using frozen tofu which I would recommend, but fresh will also work well. To freeze tofu start by slicing it into 1/4 inch pieces. Drain as much water as possible and then simply store it in the freezer. The defrosted tofu will be much more spongy than its fresh counterpart. If you froze tofu a couple of days/weeks/months ago you will need to remember to get it out of the freezer the day before you want to make this dish (probably obvious, but you never know). 

Hazelnut encrusted tofu, strawberry wine sauce, quinoa,
and macerated kale salad
If using fresh tofu start by slicing the it into 1/4 inch slices, or whatever shape you want. We did some "nuggets" and they turned out really well.

Blend/process the nuts, flour, and salt/pepper until everything is a fine powder. Pour this coating mixture into a small bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients (egg through honey) in a second small bowl. Dip each slice of tofu into the egg mixture and then the nut mixture and lay it on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with all available tofu. 

Cook tofu in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. 

Sauce Directions
Once the tofu was in the oven I started the sauce. For the sauce I simply cooked 2 cups of strawberries and one cup of red wine (in this case merlot) on simmer for about 5 minutes and then mashed the strawberries with a fork. 

Salad and Quinoa 
Do the salad FIRST so that the kale has time to marinate which makes it more tender. This salad is also delicious the next day, when it has had even longer to marinate. I just tour up a large bowl of clean fresh kale and tossed it with about 1/2 cup of garlic salad dressing (which I will post the recipe for next week) but you could use any dressing you like. You may want to start with a smaller amount of salad dressing and continue adding dressing until the kale leaves seem evenly coated.

I used a pressure cooker for the quinoa. The pressure cooker makes is very quick so you can start this after prepping the sauce. I put

  • 5 cups water
  • 4 cups quinoa

in the pressure cooker and turned the burner on to high. When the pressure cooker reached pressure, on mine this is marked by the gauge on the top rocking back and forth, I immediately turned it off and let it sit. If the pressure cooker is not ready to open when you want to eat run it under cold water for 30 to 60 seconds and the pressure should drop.

This was a lovely summer meal. I look forward to experimenting more with nut encrusted tofu and varying the flavors to match the season. I think walnuts and maple would lend themselves to an autumn dish...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Planning Ahead

Planning Ahead

A couple of months ago I read the book Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon about a couple in Vancouver, BC who ate only food grown within 100 mi. for a year. I highly recommend it. While I am not ready to banish coffee, cocoa, and bananas (among other things) from my diet it was inspirational to see that it is possible, even in a small apartment in a big city. The authors included good tips and information about how they accomplished their goal. 

Bread requires planning ahead and setting aside a
couple of hours
One of the things that stood out to me was how much planning the project took. This is something that's kind of hard for me as I am still getting used to not moving every 6 to 9 months and the idea that I might someday have a garden that I plant asparagus in (asparagus requires waiting three years before you actually get to eat any). Smith and Mackinnon had to can much of their food and stored things like onions, squash, potatoes and nuts so they would have something to eat in the winter. 

Minneapolis has a great local food scene, and several wonderful food co-ops that source a lot of local food. BUT almost all of this delicious local food disappeared from grocery shelves at some point in the winter. At some point beginning around February I noticed that Shaun and I were a) spending a lot more money on produce and b) eating more exotic things (like bananas) and fewer organic items. You might say, "well, you live in Minnesota, I've heard it's an icy tundra covered by 12 feet of snow for 6 months out of the year. Of course there is no local produce in the winter".  That was more or less what I though as well, and then I found Featherstone Farm. 

Gardening requires starting seeds weeks in advance, and
preparing your soil (among other things)
Featherstone Farm is a certified organic, family farm, and they offer a Winter CSA! In Minnesota! They deliver to several places in the Twin Cities, Rochester, and a couple of other places. A friend of mine got the Winter CSA last year and highly recommended it. Another particularly great thing about Featherstone was that they offered multiple payment options. You can pay the whole amount upfront or you can pay in four installments. The installment plan is great since Shaun and I are WWOOFing all summer we have a very tight budget, but spreading the payments out means we're able to make most of them when we start working again in the fall. Installments also mean that you can use SNAP (formally Food Stamps) to pay for a CSA more easily since you don't have to use more than your entire month's benefit to pay for the CSA one month. 

Thus far Featherstone is the only winter CSA I have found, and last year they sold out and I wanted to make sure we signed up early. So Shaun and I planned ahead and are looking forward to being able to source at least some of our produce locally this winter! I'll be sure to share some of the recipes we develop here.

Making jam requires harvesting fresh fruit and not eating it
all at once :)
In addition to signing up for a CSA I have come up with a couple of other goals that require planning ahead that I think will help me more locally sourced and sustainable food this year.

  • Sign up for CSA (check)
  • Purchase Staples in bulk - tentative list of staples to be purchase in bulk:
    • hard red wheat berries
    • barley
    • oats
    • chickpeas
    • black beans
    • kidney beans
  • Can tomatoes (I am thinking 52 jars but that may be a stretch as I have never done tomatoes)
  • Make meal plans at the beginning of each week
  • Give up the clothes dryer
  • Ask farmers market growers about their practices - I like to think that all of the growers at the farmers market use more or less organic methods, but I know this isn't true. I need to do some research as to what types of methods I really don't want to support, a certain chemical for example, or if they spray after the plant has fruited, and come to the market prepared with specific questions.

Can you think of any other ways that I can use planning ahead to eat more locally and sustainably grown produce?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Floral Salad

So, in naming my blog "cheap, quick, local" I fully intended to focus on really quick meals made with inexpensive seasonal ingredients. I have realized (and written about) the fact that most of these recipes are not particularly "quick". I really like to cook, and spend over an hour most days in the kitchen.

Here is an idea for jazzing up a summer salad that is actually really really fast. Just add flowers. In addition to fresh, local, organic lettuce harvested minutes before this picture was taken at Kings Valley Gardens we added Day Lilies and Calendula petals. I have eaten pansies before and, to be honest, don't find them particularly tasty. The Day Lilies have a really delicate and subtly sweet flavor. They don't just look pretty (although they do look very pretty) They really improve the salad. And if you have Day Lilies growing in your garden they take all of about 30 seconds to add to a salad. See! Cheap, quick AND local!... If you have Day Lilies... I will work on some ideas that fit the bill and don't require specialty products.

Savory Blueberry Sauce

Lentil Walnut loaf, asparagus, and savory blueberry sauce
Shaun was making dinner one evening a couple of days ago and John, one of the farmers, challenged him to a kumquat sauce. Shaun had his hands pretty full with a lovely dinner, but I decided to take up the challenge. There are no kumquats growing at Kings Valley (or anywhere in Oregon as far as I know) but as I have mentioned, Kings Valley Gardens has some of the best blueberries in all of oregon, and they have a lot of them! 

The full meal was:
Lentil Walnut Loaf
Roasted Asparagus
Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry "Cheesecake"

We got the recipe for the Lentil Walnut Loaf from Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows. I think this is the third time we made it (including one time for Shaun's parents who are fairly dedicated carnivores) and there are a lot of steps, but an amazing result.

To roast asparagus: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash asparagus and cut the tough ends off. Some people say you should only eat asparagus the width of your pinky - I think they are crazy. After eating roughly one ton of asparagus, because when it's in season it's in SEASON, I would say the thick spears are every bit as delicious as the pencil thin ones, plus they are bigger! Anyway, thick or thin, you sill want to cut the ends off. Spread a couple of tablespoons of oil on a cookie sheet and lay asparagus in a single layer. Cook for 8 minutes.

Blueberry Sauce
1/4 onion chopped
1 tbsp oil (or enough to keep the onion from sticking)
2 cups blueberries (I used frozen but I don't think it matters)
1 tbsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in oil using a small sauce pan. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or sauce has thickened to your desired consistency.

This meal is best consumed outside by candlelight :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Formal Submission for the Blueberry Dessert Research Institute

Enjoying a "sweet" blueberry dessert by candle light -
sorry it's hard to see the actual dessert. I will have to make
another one and take a better picture

 Kings Valley Gardens has about a 1/2 acre of blueberries. This equates to a lot of blueberries… and blueberry desserts. Past WWOOFers formed the Blueberry Dessert Research Institute to document their experimentation with… blueberry desserts (kind of self explanatory). Apparently the past favorite was a blueberry bar.

I wanted to do something kind of like a cheesecake, or a blueberry cream pie. But we eat primarily the food grown on the farm and this food is primarily vegan. Coming up with a way to make the dessert creamy was going to be a challenge. One of the people living here is also gluten intolerant and does not eat much refined sugar so I wanted to make sure that she would be able to enjoy the pie as well. I have seen several recipes for vegan cheesecake using either tofu or cashews. The tofu available had been previously frozen which is awesome for stir fry but means that it is more spongy and less creamy. Cashews are really expensive. 

So what do we have plenty of that is kind of creamy?… Beans! When I worked at the county health department one if the WIC recipes we gave clients was for a low fat pecan pie featuring pinto beans so I knew there was a precedent for a sweet bean pie. After some quick googling I found a white bean pie recipe to serve as inspiration (though I think I tweaked it enough that it can be considered original). 

Blueberry "Cheesecake"
dairy, egg, gluten, and refined sugar free
Makes about 8 servings

I got the crust from This Rawsome Vegan Life
1 cup nuts (I used walnuts)
1 cup dried fruits (usually dates but I used dried plums from the farm)
1 Tbsp water (if necessary)

Blueberries from Kings Valley Gardens, Oregon
Cheesecake Filling
3 cups cooked white beans (it helps if they are very well cooked to the point that they are disintegrating)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
pinch of salt

Blueberry Topping
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp Corn Starch or arrow root powder

Equipment: Food Processor OR Blender 8 inch cake pan OR 9 inch pie plate OR spring form pan

To Assemble
Crust: Process nuts in blender or food processor until they are a coarse powder. Remove and place in the baking dish that you chose (pie plate, spring form etc.). Process dried fruit until it is a paste. I had to add the tbsp of water to get this to work, but if you are using a more moist fruit such as a date water may not be necessary. You may also be able to process the nuts and the dried fruit at the same time. The blender I was using is kind of old and I was worried that the fruit would gum it up and the nuts wouldn't get chopped fine enough. Mix fruit paste and nuts with your fingers, you can do this directly in the baking dish. Press crust mixture into the bottom of your baking dish.

Blueberry Topping: Put blueberries and water in a small sauce pan. Sprinkle corn starch over the blueberries and stir with a whisk or form to prevent lumps. Simmer until the blueberries start to break down. You may need to add more water if it seems like the blueberries are sticking to the bottom of the pan. You want a thick sauce at the end. This will take about 5 min. if using fresh berries, and a little longer if you are using frozen. If the sauce does not thicken you can add more corn starch.

Creamy Filling: Blend all ingredients and pour into prepared crust (if you have extra filling save it to eat as "pudding" . 

Pour blueberry topping over the creamy filling. If you have extra save to eat with the "pudding". 

Refrigerate pie for at least an hour

I was kind of surprised at how well this pie turned out.  It opened up a whole new world of creamy pie possibilities.  Plus it's healthy enough that you can eat it for breakfast without any guilt (I often eat pie for breakfast, but this one's probably a better breakfast than most). We couldn't decide if it beats blueberry bars, but I did get points for originality :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

New and Improved How to Make Bread for a Crowd

My last post talked about bread making, but I realized did not give very good job of actually describing "how to make bread for a crowd", though it did have some lovely pictures of Shaun kneading bread with his feet (which is the key). I figured most people only want to make one or two loaves at a time, but just in case... I spoke with Andrea, the farmer at Kings Valley Gardens, about posting her recipe on my blog and she was OK with it (she's awesome). So here it is:

Basic Whole Wheat Bread
Makes about 10 loaves

5 cups luke warm water (about the 103 degrees, or baby's bath water)
1/4 cup active fry yeast
5 Tbsp Sugar

Combine above ingredients in a medium sized bowl, cover with a towel and allow to sit for 10 minutes in a warm spot. We leave ours in the hoop house, but you could also set it beside a heater, or just turn the oven on for a couple of minutes (2) and then turn it off. This is the "proof"

After you have your proof combine the following ingredients in a large, clean container (we used a 5 gallon bucket)

1 cup sugar
10 cups lukewarm water
1 cup canola oil
3 Tbsp salt
1 quart millet
1 quart buckwheat
1 quart sunflower seeds
the "proof"

Once you have mixed the above ingredients begin adding 26 to 32 cups of flour. Add the flour a couple of cups at a time and mix until it is combined. It is helpful to have one person mixing and one person adding flour as you eventually have to use your hands to mix and they will quickly become covered in dough. When you can no longer stir the additional flour in with a spoon, begin using your hands to incorporate it. You want the dough to reach a consistency where it no longer seems wet and does not cling to your hands as readily.

Turn the dough onto a clean lightly floured board and knead (with your feet!) for 15 minutes. To knead with your feet it is helpful to have someone help you. First, wash your feet very well. Second stomp the dough out until it is flat. The person helping should then fold it back into a tight square and you can stomp it down again. Repeat for 15 minutes.

Coat the bucket, or other large container, with oil and place the dough back in it. The person with clean feet should stomp the dough down in the bucket for a minute or so. Cover the bucket with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about an hour).

Dump the dough back onto the clean, floured board (add some more flour) and begin cutting off chunks that are about the size of a loaf of bread. Knead each chunk for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a loaf. Place each "loaf" into a greased loaf pan, or if you are making round loaves, onto a greased cookie tray. Place all of the loaves (about 10) into the oven and turn it on warm for 2 minutes then turn the oven off. Allow the bread to rise for about 30 minutes and then...

Turn the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. You may want to switch the loaves between the bottom and top racks about half way through.

At Kings Valley Gardens 10 loaves of bread seems to last for two weeks to a month (depending on how many WWOOFers are here and how much they like bread). We freeze the bread in two layers of plastic (trash can bags work well) and then take a loaf out to thaw when we are running low. Fresh bread goes bad kind of quickly in my experience so it is important to eat it quickly (and usually not that difficult)

mmm, I can actually smell fresh bread baking right now! and it is one of the most wonderful scents in the world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Make Bread for a Crowd

10 lovely, local, loaves of bread fresh out of the oven
NOTE: This article includes a recipe for making two loaves, for a more detailed description of making bread for a "crowd" look here.

So apparently the secret to making bread for a crowd is... knead it with your feet. Something I recently learned about bread making is that it is the gluten that allows it to rise. Wheat gluten looks kind of like long viscous strands (appetizing right?). Anyway, these strands form kind of a net and trap the air bubbles that the yeast give off as they eat sugar and poop gas (again, super appetizing).

The gluten also provides structure as the bread rises. Whole wheat flower has less gluten than white flower so that's why 100% whole wheat loves are often really dense. When I first learned this I started adding vital wheat gluten, which is what's used to make seitan. This works pretty well. I even more recently learned that kneading bread is what helps the gluten develop, so instead of adding extra gluten, you can also knead for longer. If you are making 10 loaves at a time, which is the way we roll at Kings Valley Gardens, kneading takes a toll on your wrists and hands. Kneading with your feet helps you avoid this trouble, and is novel enough that it remains fun for the full 15 minutes required to develop the gluten. Shaun was selected for the actual kneading as he had by far the biggest feet (size 13) and don't worry he washed them very well!
10 lovely, local, loaves, in the oven

Living in Minnesota we have no problem accessing wheat and whole wheat flour that was grown within a couple of hours of the Twin Cities. Usually our flour comes from Whole Grain Milling. It is not so easy on the Willamette Valley (where we are WWOOFing for the summer). In the past a great deal of grain was grown here, but more recently farmers have switched to grass seed. Thanks in part to work done by the Bean and Grain Project there has been some return to grain cops in the area. The flour we used for this bread was grown down the road near Corvallis.

The recipe that Andrea uses at Kings Valley is Adapted from May All be Fed, Diet for a New World by Tom Robbins. I am using his recipe (and slightly adapting it myself) since I figure not everyone wants to make 10 loaves at a time? And because Andrea is working on a cook book and I don't want to give away any of her secrets. You can just multiply the recipe by 4 if you are trying to bake for a crowd.

Ocean's Bobs of Love Bread
(Makes Two Loaves)
Shaun using his big feet to knead
1 cup like warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons or 1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
2 tsp salt
6 to 7 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup millet
Oil for brushing the loaves

Mix water, yeast and honey and let stand about 5 minutes (the yeast should be dissolved and kind of foamy). Add two cups of the flouer and all other ingredients. Continue adding the flour until you have a fairly stiff dough. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and knead the bread for 15 minutes or until the texture is similar to an air lobe (as someone once told me). 

Shaping the dough into loaves
If you are going to knead with your feet it is helpful to have someone help you by folding the dough over before you stomp it down. If you are kneading with your hands start with a ball and press it down with the heel of your han, fold it over and press it down again. Repeat as necessary. 

After you are done kneading place the dough in a bowl and cover it lightly with a towel. Place the bowl in a somewhat warm area where it will not be disturbed. I usually put it a turned off oven. Wait for about an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size. Knead it again for 10 to 15 minutes and then shape into loaves. Let the loaves rise for another hour or so and bake them at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.