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Posts Tagged ‘organic food’

Recently it occurred to me that while we generally do a good job of seeking organic, local food, we have a few major flaws in our consumption.  One is real parmesan cheese, which we use judiciously.  The other flaw has to do not with what we eat but what we drink.  Bottles of wine, after all, can come from all over the world, and they may not be produced under ideal environmental conditions.  Therefore, I went hunting for US-produced organic wines.  If you don’t have an incredibly sophisticated palate for wine (we don’t!–and neither do most people), the organic wines that are readily available to have with dinner and are affordable are just fine.  All are more than a few steps above Franzia.  All are appropriately priced for any wine with their attributes, organic or not.  As a matter of fact, one recent study indicates that they may be underpriced!

Have you tried organic wines?  Which are your favorites?

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I guess if I had to explain this recipe inspiration, I’d say it’s the dried figs and bleu cheese sitting in my fridge and the chicken in my freezer.  I’ve been getting a tangy, creamy bleu cheese (blue cheese) from a Minnesota creamery that rivals European bleus.  The figs are organic but, sadly, all the way from California.  The pasture-raised chicken came from Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, Arkansas.  All of the ingredients are available either certified organic or, like the chicken, organically raised without certification.  Together the ingredients meld into an elegant dish that might work for date night.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or less–the figs already make this dish sweet)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • seasoning:  salt, pepper, dried oregano
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed (We thought 4, sliced, was too much.)
  • 6 dried figs, cut into bite-sized pieces and soaked in 1/4 cup brandy or marsala (non-alcohol alternative:  use 2 tablespoons of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar)
  • 2 ounces of crumbled bleu cheese (alternative:  try goat cheese!)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pound the chicken breast between plastic wrap until it is thinned to be about double its non-pounded size.  Lightly sprinkle on salt, pepper, and dried oregano on the inside.  Spread the fig pieces (save the brandy or marsala!), crumbled bleu cheese, crushed garlic and walnuts over about half of the chicken breast.  Roll up the chicken sushi-style, stuffed side first, and position it in the baking pan with the seam on the underside.  I used a 2-quart Dutch oven and was able to push the ends of the roll into the pan sides, helping to hold in the bleu cheese. Lightly sprinkle the outside with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  If any figs fell out during the rolling process, put them in the pan too.

Mix together the mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, and brandy or marsala left over from soaking the figs.  Spread half of the mixture over the top of the rolled-up chicken.  Reserve the rest for basting.

Bake chicken in a 325 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, basting every 5 or 10 minutes while the chicken bakes.  Cut the chicken on an angle into 2 or 3 servings.

I served this chicken with a hearty whole-wheat roll a big salad of mesclun and grated radish and carrots.

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Regular readers may recall my unbridled enthusiasm on learning about Ballymaloe and its cookery school in Ireland a little over a week ago.  I used to indulge in purchasing cookbooks regularly, but several years ago I concluded that I had more than enough and needed to appreciate what I have.  Darina Allen’s cookbook from Ballymaloe was irresistible, though, and I ordered it.  It arrived a few days ago, and I’m convinced it is worth every penny I paid ($26.40).First off, this book is huge.  It really has about 600 large pages with color photos and 700 recipes.  And if you, like me, got into cookbooks in the past three or four decades (let’s call it the Moosewood years for those of us who embraced the granola life at one time or another!), then Forgotten Skills of Cooking:  The Time-Honored Ways are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why will have old-fashioned recipes that will add to your repertoire and help you get back to basics.  No doubt you’ll meet my versions of some of these recipes over the months to come, but for tonight I just want to highlight a few that intrigued me.

Among my favorite things about the book are that it is frugal.  I’ve always thought that you should be able to use the pods from English peas, somehow.  You can.  They taste good, but the texture is the problem.  Puree them into a soup.  Strain them to get out the strings.  Eat.  Enjoy.

Speaking about peas, folk traditions are another of my favorite things about the book.  You may recall my recent discovery of pea tendrils.  Do you know what people in Ireland call the pea tendrils?  Wizard’s whiskers!

And how about traditional foods that are just hard to find?  Ms. Allen has a recipe for ginger beer, one of my all-time favorite beverages.  It looks a little time-consuming but not difficult.

I can’t see myself pulling a Julie and Julia and cooking my way through the book page by page, but I know I’ll be reaching for it regularly in the months to come.  I like too that it gets me back to my family roots in Ireland and Scotland.  The food sounds comforting to me as if it is tugging on my ancestral memories.  I know the whole family will enjoy it.


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A few weeks ago, a reader asked me to post my whole-wheat pizza recipe.  Truth is, I don’t have a single recipe.  I have several. You see, we live where no pizza place will deliver, so if we want pizza, we have to make it. Today I’m going to share with you a recipe for a crisper-crust pizza. This will make a round about 13 inches.  I also ordinarily use my home-canned marinara sauce on my pizzas, but you’ll have to wait for summer to get that recipe, so I’m going to give you an alternative sauce.  This pizza has really traditional toppings, so it should have familiar tastes for a family that is transitioning to healthier, homemade food.  You can get all of the ingredients for this pizza as organic products or at least those produced without chemicals.

makes 8 generous slices

The Dough

  • 1 tablespoon yeast (less, like a teaspoon, if you have all day for the dough to rise–if you want pizza in an hour or two, use the full amount)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 scant cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon wheat gluten
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of salt and/or Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

Put the water and yeast in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Add the flour and other dry ingredients.  Process just until the dough pulls into a ball.  You can easily make this dough without a food processor.  Just work in the flour with your hands and knead for about ten minutes. Put in a bowl coated with olive oil, turn dough over to coat with oil, and put in a warm place to rise.  When it’s doubled in size and an indentation you make with your finger  no longer refills quickly, it’s ready.

The Toppings

  • 1 small can tomato paste (you’ll have a few tablespoons left)
  • 1 tablespoon total dried oregano, rosemary, and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • about 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 spicy Italian sausages (we use chicken), cooked whole and then thinly sliced
  • 8 large portobellini mushrooms, sliced and lightly sauteed in olive oil to release their liquid
  • 8 good pitted black olives, sliced in half
  • 1 ounce (about 1-inch cube) real parmesan cheese, grated finely

Heat the oven to 450 degrees, and put your pizza pan in the oven. (Yes, a pizza stone works really well for this recipe.  Unfortunately, my largest, narrow-rimmed cast iron fry pan is only 12 inches, so the dough would be thick on it.)  Punch down the dough and then gently work it to the 13-inch size on a bread board sprinkled with corn meal.  Now take the hot pizza stone out of the oven, sprinkle it with corn meal, and transfer the shaped dough to it.

Spread all but a couple of tablespoons of the tomato paste on the dough (lightly, not too much!) and sprinkle on the herbs and fennel seed. Cut the mozzarella in slices and place around the pizza evenly.

Now lay down  the sausage, followed by the mushrooms and olive halves. Now use a fine grater to cover everything with the parmesan cheese.If you use a really fine grater, a  single ounce of cheese goes a long, long way. Pop the pizza stone in the hot oven (450 degrees F) and bake for 10-12 minutes, more or less depending on the consistency of your oven.  When the pizza is getting brown on top, take it out. Let it sit a couple of minutes and then slice it.   Eat.  Enjoy.

Does this pizza look good to you?  Are you interested in more pizza recipes?  Try one of my deep-dish, whole-grain pizzas baked in a cast-iron skillet!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use the photographs.

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Apparently our household commitment to seasonal, local food hit its limits this week when my husband found some beautiful organic blueberries and I found some organic strawberries.  We bought them.  Tonight I served them with pound cake made from scratch.

Pound cake used to be a once-every-few-years kind of thing in our household, because with today’s smaller families and healthier outlook, we just don’t need a big heavy cake.  That’s why tonight I set out to make pound cake in miniature, using really wholesome, organic ingredients.  The concept is simple.  You need a few things to make pound cake:  (1) equal parts by weight of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs; and a tube cake pan, so that the heavy cake batter bakes all the way through to the middle.  Hmmmmm.  I can weigh and divide.  I have two mini tube pans. Yes, this plan could work.  I made not pound cakes but ounce cakes!

This recipe serves 4-8 people, depending on how hungry they are and what you serve with the pound cake. If you make it 8 servings, each serving will have a little over two hundred calories–much better than if you ate a big wedge of full-sized pound cake!

Special supplies

  • two miniature tube pans, each of which will hold one cup of batter with room to expand as they bake (about 4 1/2 inches wide at the top)

Ingredients (as always, organic is best!)

  • 1 stick of real butter, a little softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla
  • optional:  1 teaspoon brandy
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (use a 1-cup measure, and you can just add in the other dry ingredients instead of getting an extra bowl dirty)
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 shakes/grates of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Begin by creaming the butter with the sugar. Then divide the eggs into yolks and whites. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar and mix until creamy. Stir in the vanilla and brandy.  In the measuring cup, add the rest of the dry ingredients to the flour.  Gradually add the flour to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture.  Now, in a separate, very clean bowl and using very clean beaters, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Do you see those stiff peaks on the egg whites?  That’s what you want.  Fold about a third of the egg whites into the rest of the batter to lighten it.  Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Spoon into well-greased miniature tube cake pans and bake at 325 degrees F for about 35 minutes. Let the cakes rest in the pans for about 15 minutes and then slide a thin knife around the outside edge of the cake and around the tube center. Turn the cakes onto a grid to finish cooling.Do you see those cracks on the top?  That part has a delectable crispy crunch.

Mmmmmmmm.  Real ingredients.  Food like my grandmother used to make.  Cake worthy of blueberries and strawberries.  Enough to satisfy your taste for sweetness and richness.  Small enough that you can indulge without guilt.Where’s my fork?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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As you select your seed for summer, consider planting a flower garden for your salads this year.

If you look closely in this salad, you’ll see two of my favorite edible flowers, borage and pinks.

Borage is the beautiful blue flower that is shaped like a star.  Borage flowers taste ever so slightly like cucumber or watermelon. The leaves are edible too, but since they are a little furry, they aren’t my favorite.  Pinks are in the same family as dianthus and carnations.  Just be sure only to eat flowers that you know were produced without pesticides.  In other words, please don’t bite into your carnation corsage!

In the foreground of this photograph are the unopened buds of chives.  Chives form puffy, porcupiney balls.  I pull the individual frilly petals out and sprinkle them in salad for a really mild onion or garlic taste.

Are you serving chicken salad?  Consider adding the purple tiny trumpet-shaped flowers of traditional sage.  For a splash of color, add the ruby red flowers of pineapple sage.

Other edible flowers include

  • nasturtium:  one of my favorite, both the flowers are leaves taste like mild horseradish; the leaves look like tiny lilly pads, while the flowers come in brilliant bright colors. Pull the petals out of the tough base.
  • calendula:  like a small golden daisy, calendula has sunset-gold petals that are lovely in salads and sprinkled on top of pasta.
  • violets:  violets are sweet additions to salads of baby greens or as edible garnishes on cakes and cupcakes; they can also be crystalized, but I’ve never attempted it.
  • pansies:  like violets, pansies are sweet, but I prefer them in salads.
  • rose petals:  sweet like violets and pansies, with similar applications.

Consider planting edible flowers this year.  You’ll love how they add vibrant color and new flavors to your meals!

Have you used edible flowers?  Which are your favorites?  Do you have questions about edible flowers?  Ask away!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Although family needs out of town prevented me from starting my tomato seeds in early January like I’d hoped, a seed-starting heat mat still got my seedlings going pretty fast this week.  I planted on Monday.  By Thursday I had Camp Joy seedlings, and within hours several other varieties started poking their pretty green heads out of the seed-starting mix.

I was absolutely determined to have no nursery-purchased plants this year, after the nightmare of the Bonnie plants last year.  In case you missed the news (and don’t want to click the link), a major nursery supplier, Bonnie Plants in Alabama, shipped thousands and thousands of plants that had been contaminated with blight (the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine).  Given the extraordinarily wet weather last summer, the blight spread like a wildfire through gardens in the eastern half of the US as well as places a bit further west like Arkansas.  We only had a few Bonnie plants, but that was enough to wipe out our entire tomato planting.  Blight is especially scary for organic growers because organic controls do not work that well on blight, and blight can remain in the soil for years to come.  Your best bet is to abandon the land for tomato growing and any other nightshade plants (potatoes, eggplants ) for several years.

You can also avoid contamination in the first place by starting your own seedlings at home, using a seedling heat mat (if you keep your house as cold in the winter as we do), grow lights, and mini-greenhouses, like shown in these links to Burpee products.  I’m not advocating that you buy all of these things from Burpee, by the way.  My seedling heat mat did come from Burpee, but the rest of my growing kit came from the hardware store.  I reuse my starter pots every year, taking time to thoroughly clean them, including using bleach. Although I ordinarily do not use bleach, I do use it to disinfect all of my garden pots.  Getting seed-starting equipment will set you back a bit, but your cost of producing plants from that point forward will be much less expensive, and you’ll be able to grow greater variety.  That makes starting seeds at home frugal in the long run.

Have you started your seedlings and aren’t sure what to do next?  Read here for my next installment in growing tomatoes.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with a full link to this site 
and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for 
permission to use photographs.

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