Category Archives: food
Welcome to my new annual post where I share some of my favorite things from the past year. They say word of mouth is the best advertisement, so maybe Lucchese will throw me a bone and hook me up with some boots (ha ha). Maybe this will help with your Christmas shopping. Without further ado let’s start! I’ve made it easy to check out each of these items, I’ve linked back to their respective websites, so happy shopping!
- Obviously my Lucchese boots made this list. I have several (cough, cough) pairs of cowboy boots. My Lucchese are by far the most comfortable and eye catching. I wear them when I want to be noticed and they never fail me.
2. My Dogeared necklace. I’m a big fan of quirky, handmade or unusual jewelry. Not only are they cool, it’s a good conversation starter. My WTF (where’s the food without the farmer) necklace has started all kinds of conversations about food and farming. My favorite place to buy Dogeared jewelry is at my local shop called Ruby’s.
3. I received Marrakesh Endz Argan and Hemp Oil Therapy in one of the beauty boxes I get every month. I have fine, long, blonde hair so a detangler/leave-in conditioner is a must for me especially because working outside like I do has a tendency to really dry out my hair. This stuff is miracle in a bottle and it smells good. It makes me have shiny princess hair and I dig that.
- When I went to Europe I experienced bidet use for the first time. I now understand why they think we are dirty Americans. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back.
5. The knife I didn’t know I needed. I used my havalon for everything. From skinning things to castrating things. I feel like a surgeon and I like it. You don’t sharpen the blade, you put on a new one. It’s a great gift for the outdoors man or woman in your life.
6. Umai Dry kit. I’ve wanted to learn how to do charcuterie for years. It has intimidated me though. Something about giving myself e.coli or something. So when this company contacted me about doing a review for this blog, I was all about it. I made lomo, prosciuttini and bresaola – it was delicious. This is a great product to learn with. I highly recommend it.
7. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory – I read this book last year, but it stayed with me. It talks about an fact of life most of us won’t talk about, death. It’s done with humor and a frankness that I really appreciated.
I met John a few weeks ago and we immediately bonded over our mutual love of food. He impressed me with his knowledge of heritage pork and all things gravy (a great mix, FYI). Since then, he’s been gracious enough to teach me more about Southern food and culture.
I was 30 kinds of excited when he taught me how to make these collards. I absolutely loved them. I have some in my fridge right now! I cannot believe this isn’t a “thing” out here. Seriously. I feel like it is important to share this magical concoction with as many people as I can, so I asked John to author a post for this blog, you know, in the interest of education. Make these. Promise me? You need to try them, they are delicious.
Let’s Talk About Collards, Y’all…
Food is a huge part of southern culture, and the magical ways in which true southern country dishes, or soul food, are prepared are varied and complex. Recipes usually aren’t written down or gathered in great collections. This sacred knowledge is often times only accessible through the family cooking cult’s supreme leader; in my family, this is Granny. Granny is the culinary queen of Coosa County, Alabama and the patron saint of Rockford; the nearest town to our family farm. If she’s not on the front porch reading the Good Book and talking to her hummingbirds, then she’s in the kitchen rattling every pan she can get her hands on. If she’s not in the kitchen, then she’s probably at church because those are the only places this lady goes.
In our house, food is love. You know your Granny loves you because she makes an effort to see you smile every time you eat. Your Granny knows you love her because you eat the mound of savory beauty she piles on your plate. You eat all of it. You say thank you. Then you get some more.
One of my all time favorite loves that my Granny makes is collard greens. They grow very well in that area of the country, and because collards don’t mind being frozen or canned, they are a regular appearance on many a plate in the south throughout the year.
It has come to my attention, since moving to Northern California back in May, that the mighty collard is underutilized in this particular region of the country, and drastically under appreciated by everyone except the health nazis who think that greens should just be eaten raw, or even more appalling, juiced! Blasphemy, I say! Blasphemy! I feel obligated to share a true southern recipe for preparing collard greens. This is Granny’s way. She’d be so pissed if she knew I was doing this…
As I mentioned earlier, southern dishes like collard greens are prepared in many different ways, whether it be from region to region, family to family, or generation to generation. This is how I learned, and even though I am very much biased I’ve had them all, and I believe this is by far the best way to prepare the greens. If you don’t like what you get, try something else. Collards are magic food that can take on a bunch of different flavors, so don’t be afraid to mess around with flavors and spices you are more drawn to or comfortable with.
When I met Megan a few weeks ago we quickly found that we share a passion for eating, drinking, and cooking, and she has been kind enough to be my Chico culinary tour guide since then, showing me the best food and drink the area has to offer. Last Saturday, we went to the Saturday Market in Chico to peruse the goodies and plan a good meal for a beautiful but chilly day. As we were walking the rows of the market we came upon a stack of fresh kelly green collards sitting on a table and Megan turned around and informed me that she’d NEVER EATEN COLLARD GREENS!!! Her excitement and joy from learning that I know the way of the greens was enough to melt my cold dark heart and dishonor my family by giving away my Granny’s trade secret. We bought two bundles and decided to do the damn thing. We had a blast cooking up all kinds of stuff that day, but Megan was really impressed with the greens and asked me to share how to do these things right with all of you. So, here’s how you make Granny’s Collard Greens. Share them with somebody special!
Granny’s Collard Greens
Warm a medium to large pot to low-med heat. You can also use a big cast iron skillet if your heart so desires. Add some fat –
fatty thick cut bacon, bacon ends, bacon grease, smoked neck bones, butter, something…don’t be scared to get greasy. I prefer bacon ends or thick cuts of bacon, cut into small pieces. You want this to cook slowly and to maintain a soft texture so that you release the fat and smokiness. Low and slow is the way to go.
Let your choice of fat cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, stirring regularly
Add some garlic. 4 – 6 whole cloves should do the trick. Let your garlic sweat until it starts to soften. You don’t want it to fall apart just yet, so don’t let it go too long.
Add some broth. 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth is my go to. You can use beef or pork broths as well.
Heat on medium and let all that get aquatinted together for about 10 minutes.
Add some flavor:
go heavy on the smoked paprika
go heavy on the fresh ground black pepper
add half an onion. Just cut it in half and drop it in there. I prefer reds or vidalias.
add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. If you like tanginess use 1/2 cup, if not use 1/4. If you’re timid, just roll the dice and trust the southerner. I mean you no harm.
Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Prep your greens:
Remove the leafy greens from the central stem. You can use a knife or scissors to cut them away, or you can go old school and simply tear them away by hand. Wash your damn greens. Even if they look clean, collards are a very porous plant that grows near the ground, so the leaves can absorb a lot of soil and grit. The best way to ensure they are clean is to fill your sink with cool water and then add your greens and a half cup of coarse salt. Gently bath the greens in the salty water then drain the sink and rinse the greens with fresh water. I’d even go so far as to spin them as well. Gritty greens are no good.
Add your greens:
Slowly add your washed greens in small handfuls at a time. Stir each handful into your broth and add more as they cook down. When all of your greens are in the pot you want it to look sorta soupy. There should be an ample amount of liquid allowing the greens to not be clumped together or weighing heavy on the bottom of the pan. Add some water or more broth if you think you need to. Continue gently stirring until all the greens begin to darken in color, usually about 5 minutes. Put a lid on it.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Put the lid back on.
Come back and stir it in 20 minutes. Taste your broth. By this time, you should be able to get an idea of what your working with. You should have some tang, some spice, and some smoky fatty goodness going on in there. I usually add more paprika right here. Bring your heat back down to low-med, put the lid back on, and let the magic happen.
Continue checking and stirring every 20-30 minutes until all the green are very dark in color and soft in texture. When you taste them they should not be chewy or crispy or fibrous, but soft and savory. They should be ready to eat after about two hours of cooking.
Serving your greens:
I just slap em on the plate and go to town, but some people do prefer to add pepper sauce or hot sauce to theirs’. Do as you so please. I usually add some more pepper just because pepper is amazing, and a little salt can go a long way if you have undercooked or unevenly cooked your greens and are getting some bitter flavors in there.
Saving your greens:
Collard greens are amazing left over, so don’t throw them out if you don’t eat them all. In most cases, they will continue to ferment in that heavenly broth and continue to taste better and better over the next few days. They also can be frozen and stored away for entire seasons without losing anything with the time.
When you’ve had your fill of the greens be sure to keep the broth. The broth is called pot likker, and is the best soup base you could ever ask for. Some old country folks even drink it straight, you know, for vitality and what not.
When I was a little girl, my Parents would always tell me to leave our rhubarb plant alone, because it was really poisonous and it could kill me. Soon after, my Mom would serve some sort of rhubarb dessert. It confused me to no end, why my Parents would eat a poisonous dessert on purpose!
Finally, after several uncharacteristic refusals of dessert someone explained to me that once the rhubarb was cleaned of it’s green leaf and cooked, it ceased to be poisonous. Good to know.As an adult I’ve fallen in love with jam and jelly making. There is something wonderful about being able to preserve the bounty of your garden all year long. One of my absolute, hands-down, most popular jams is strawberry-rhubarb. Both rhubarb and strawberries thrive in my little corner of California, so during certain times of the year, I am almost guaranteed to have all the ingredients right outside my door!
2 cups pureed strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 package powdered pectin
¼ cups store bought lemon juice
5 ½ cups sugarCombine the first four ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Add the sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved. Return to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam and ladle hot jam into sterilized hot jars, leaving an ¼ inch headspace. Adjust caps and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.
A couple summers ago, I was obsessed with these. I made them every week, all the neighbors were gifted them, it was slightly ridiculous. Then I burned out on them, I stopped making them, and honestly, I kinda forgot about them. Until a few days ago, when THE CRAVING came back. I’m posting them here because hopefully I can practice some moderation, not burn myself out on them and remember to make them more often.
Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecakes
Gingersnap Cookies (about half of an 10 ounce package)
1.5 tablespoons melted butter
1 package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup nutella
½ teaspoon running over vanilla extract
1 cup fresh whipped cream (I guess you could use that frozen stuff, but man, really?)
Use your cuisinart to pulverize the ginger snaps. Mix with butter (you might have to use more or less butter) until you get some cohesiveness with your crust. Add about 2 teaspoons of crust into the jar and use the back of a spoon or the mortar from your pestle to tamp it down firmly.
Meanwhile place the cream cheese, the Nutella and vanilla extract in your stand mixture and mix until blended. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Place the mixture in your jars and garnish with more whipped cream.
Serve immediately or put a lid on it, hide it under some vegetables in your refrigerator and eat it when no one else is home and won’t judge you.
In certain circles it’s still trendy to attack or insinuate Monsanto is this giant, faceless, company hell bent on world destruction and/or take-over (take your pick). This stance always puzzles me. My personal experience with them has been the complete opposite. (Also for the record, Monsanto is not that giant, Whole Foods and Monsanto are pretty close in size)
For the third time in so many years, I have been able to tour their facility in Woodland, California. Each time has been different, and quite frankly, eye opening. I have walked away from these tours with a whole new appreciation for what the company does and what it stands for.
Most people are under the misconception that all Monsanto produces are GMO crops. But in actuality they breed over 20 (non GMO) crops. There is much misunderstanding and fear when it comes to our food supply these days. More often than not, it seems like companies will use fear and our ignorance to sell us a product. I can’t stand that. I appreciate Monsanto opening their doors to me, multiple times. Despite the negative press and online movements that urges me to boycott them and sign petitions against them, they have been continually transparent and welcoming to me.
Monsanto has made it a point to urge bloggers, journalists, farmers, and even average consumers to engage with them! In fact the company’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robert T. Fraley has invited celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon to St. Louis! Since I love to stand on my soapbox and preach about transparency, this is something I appreciate!
This trip was my favorite. A small group that included bloggers, teachers, and scientists were all invited to spend the day learning about and touring the Woodland Monsanto Farm. We spent about half the day out in the field speaking with their growers and seeing beautiful produce! The next part was learning about how to set up a food tasting and participating in a melon tasting.
Janice Person was our host. I’ve known Janice for years now. We met on twitter and eventually met in real life -she has even been out to the ranch!
I loved this trip because, I love interacting with the plant growers and breeders. These experts were literally outstanding in their fields, ready to share their knowledge with us and answer our questions. My inner gardener was deeply pleased and I’m going to highlight my favorite things for you below!
We started with peppers. Terry Berke was our pepper expert. He also is the man that breed the Nacho Jalapeno plant, which is currently in my garden and my favorite. I had a huge fan girl moment. Terry taught me that peppers need lots of Nitrogen, something I have been neglecting. He also mentioned that peppers use the Scoville Scale to measure their heat. Peppers are my current garden obsession, I’ve been growing, canning, pickling and fermenting them all summer. I loved the pepper portion of our tour and was sad to move on. Since I was gifted with so many peppers, I had to can some! So look forward to that recipe being posted soon!
We moved on to Bill Johnson, the squash breeder. Bill changed my squash growing game. I learned that “if you don’t harvest, you don’t get to harvest” squash, meaning if you let your squash plants grow into baseball bat sized squash, it is going to affect the rest of your harvest. This is why my zucchini plants are all screwed up now! I wasn’t home and didn’t harvest!
Squash farmers have a short window for everything (remember this is coming from a cattle rancher), the female flowers only bloom once for four hours! That’s such a small window to be fertilized! They must be harvested quickly too (as we learned above).
Watermelons were next. Samples were given, my favorite, by far, was called Summer Breeze. We spoke at length about watermelon pollination, how they breed seedless melons, and how to pick a good one (look for a yellow spot or “belly”).
The one common theme that was constantly mentioned by all of the plant breeders was how different regions (or countries) demand different varieties of produce (check out this watermelon infographic for an excellent overview). Monsanto works very, very hard fulfilling consumer demand. For example, what American’s look for in a jalapeno is not the same as what Mexican’s look for and they breed accordingly. This totally makes so much sense to me, as food is such a major part of cultures, and every culture has it’s own tastes and preferences.
Allan Krivanek and fresh market tomatoes were next on our tour. Fresh market tomatoes are the kind you buy in a store. Processing tomatoes (we also have a lot of those in my area), are used to make ketchup and sauce. It was fascinating to learn how and taste the differences in tomatoes!
After we spent time in the field we headed back inside for lunch and Dr. Chow-Ming Lee. We got to have lunch with all of the employees of this location. Yes, that’s right, they turned me loose on everyone. This is when I got to visit with some of the other guests. I met Maria from Fitness Reloaded, Danyelle from The Cubicle Chick and Sarah from The House that Ag Built . I love these opportunities because I get exposed to blogs and writers that normally would not be on my radar.
After our lunch we got to meet Dr. Lee. Let me tell you, if he ever decides he doesn’t want to be a sensory and tasting expert, he could easily be a comedian. I have never been so entertained during a powerpoint in my life.
Dr. Lee administered a taste test for us. We got to sample different types of melon and compare our results with the rest of our group. I’m pretty sure I could do that for a living, it was super fun. After that we learned how to perform a proper taste test. This is relevant to me because I am a big fan of taste tests and do them often with my pork and beef. Now I can perform tastes tests with better accuracy!
Our day was almost complete after our melon experience. We had one more questions and answer session before we went home. We did cover more topics, and hopefully I will write a blog post about those too. Every time I have been able to tour this facility I leave in shock and awe. I learn so much, I get so excited about the future of my industry! Monsanto gets a bad rap from its critics, and that is unfortunate. If they could put the hearsay and fallacies aside and take the time to explore and learn for themselves, I know their world would be far less terrifying, mine has been.
After interacting with the employees of Monsanto all day, talking to them about their families (some have single sons!!!), and seeing their passion about their jobs and the plants they are breeding, I wanted to apply for a job! I enjoyed my time there immensely, my garden will certainly benefit from it and so will my readers. Again, if you are on the fence about this company, let’s chat about it. I feel like there are so many “unfacts” out there, it can be hard to cut through all the bullshit sometimes, and that is why I work so hard and spend so much time doing fields trips like this.
*I received a travel stipend for this tour (it covered my gas from Indian Valley to Woodland and back). I also received a crapton of veggies. However, may I just note that this did not sway my opinion in any way, that would take pigs!
This is a deathrow food for me (you know, if I ever have to request a last meal, this will be it). It’s simple, no frills – yet absolutely delicious. If it had carbs and chocolate all my favorite food groups would be represented. People have been know to hide bowls of this in the refrigerator from other family members. I love to take it to potlucks because it is always a hit. It’s also really easy to change depending on your tastes and preferences. You can use raisins instead of grapes, omit the onion, etc. I also enjoy using flavored vinegars. Fruity flavors such as pineapple or mandarin work well. Just go make this, and hide a bowl for yourself…
Bacon Broccoli Salad
- 2 cup seedless red grapes
- 1 pound good bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 2 cup fresh broccoli florets
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (I like to use a mix of a fruity and a balsamic)
In a large bowl, combine grapes, bacon, broccoli, onion, cheese and sunflower seeds; set aside. Mix together mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar; pour over broccoli mixture and toss to coat.
Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Stir before serving.
Last year I had the pleasure to go back to Washington DC and be apart of CropLife America’s 2014 Policy Conference. It was an incredible experience and I walked away with so much respect for this organization. When I heard they are supporting the Food Recovery Network (you guys know how I feel about food waste) by asking people to use social media and show their “green thumbs” – I was even more impressed with CropLife.
CropLife America is holding a social media initiative called the Green Thumb Challenge. They are asking those of us who support all forms of sustainable farming methods and U.S. farmers (and ranchers!) to tweet @CropLifeAmerica, a simple picture of your green thumb, why you support agriculture. Make sure you use the #GreenThumbContest to enter!
Now this is the cool part for every submission on twitter they receive “CLA will donate $1 to the Food Recovery Network.” This is an organization “that unites students on college campuses to fight waste by donating the surplus unsold food from their colleges and donating it to hungry Americans.”
CropLife America is willing to donate up to $10,000 to this organization. Think how much food that would save and how many hungry people that would help. In addition to that donation they are also offering a pretty cool prize to the “best” green thumb – an Apple watch!
Again, all you need to do to enter is tweet to @CropLifeAmerica a picture of your green thumb, tell them why you support ag and use the hashtag #GreenThumbContest. Easy peasy! Go here for complete rules and guidelines www.croplifeamerica.org/green-thumb-challenge.
Please support this wonderful initiative!
One of the perks of having a blog is sometimes companies contact you to review a product. I’m pretty picky about what products I’ll review, it generally has to fit into the wine, meat or boots categories. Back in May I was contacted by the UMAi Dry company. I had never heard of them before, but once I lurked them a whisper, I got super excited. This was right up my alley.
You see, ever since I’ve gotten into heritage pork, I’ve developed an intense interest in charcuterie. I really want to make some superior pork products. You know, like super fancy iberian ham that I can’t afford. But I have a healthy fear of listeria and other food born illnesses. That’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to dip my toes into the cured meat party.
UMAi Dry sent me a kit with everything I needed (except the meat) to make my own charcuterie. I started with Lomo because it took the least amount of time to cure. I figured I would work my way up to prosciutto and bresaola as my confidence grew.
I was able to watch some videos before I actually started the curing process. Their website had plenty of resources. Which made me feel pretty confident about what I was about to do and definitely took much of my hesitation about this away. I went to my local butcher shop, and bought my pork loin. Next time I will use my own pork, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw this up before I do that.
Once the pork was purchased, it was as easy as mixing all the ingredients together, rubbing it on the meat and leaving it alone. No intense math, no fancy equipment I can’t afford, nothing scary at all! To quote the great Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part.”
In three weeks my Lomo will be done. I’m already planning the wine and cheese-board that will accompany my cured pork product. In the meantime I’m going to start my prosciutto and bresaola! I’ll keep you all updated on how things go!
I’ve had fun with this kit. I’ve already learned a lot about charcuterie, and can’t wait to get more involved. This kit is perfect for someone like me, someone that has an intense interest in cured meats, but is just a little too timid to jump right in. My next blog will cover the taste of my lomo and my full review of this UMAi Dry product.