Category Archives: food

ONE Alltech Ideas Conference: Part I

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

I had never been to an Alltech convention before this. I, of course, was familiar with them because of their products and I see booths and such at other conventions and events. But I had no idea what I was in for when I packed up my favorite cowboy boots and left the ranch on a red eye flight to Lexington, Kentucky. This two part blog will cover what I experienced during this convention.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn't get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn’t get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

I’ve been to hundreds of agriculture related events in my lifetime. I have never experienced a convention like ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference. Ever. It is a stand alone conference. It was a cross between a Broadway show, a graduate class, a college agriculture party, a field day, and a team building retreat. Over 3,000 people from 71 countries were in attendance. If you are involved in agriculture or food, or even if you have an interest in agriculture, this is an event you need to attend next year.

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Part of what made this conference so unique was the fact it was deeply entertaining. It included keynote speakers that were not from agriculture, which brought a whole new perspective and vibe. The Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, welcomed us the first day. Alan Mulally of Ford, received the Alltech Medal of Excellence Award and gave us some excellent leadership advice, “working together always works”.

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John Calipari, the Head Coach of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team, spoke next. I’m going to make a confession here, and I don’t want you to judge me too harshly. Before this event I had no clue who “Coach Cal” was, however now I’m ordering his book. I loved his outlook on life, “when you make life about other people, it becomes easy”. Listening to him speak about how he was able to practice what he preaches and make life better for his players and community made me ponder how I could do the same.

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This morning plenary left me excited and inspired, deeply stimulated and ready to learn and affect change! Perfectly primed for the in-depth and new knowledge industry experts shared with us in special sessions.

Selecting the special sessions I wanted to attend was the worst part of the conference. I had a hard time choosing because many were both interesting and relevant to me. I ended up seeing part of Global Beef Opportunities, The Business of Agriculture and Opportunities in the Pig Industry. I would have loved to have attended Craft Brewing and Distilling because that’s something I’d like to start doing. The Aquaculture session, especially after last summer’s experiences, and Emerging Markets and Trends and Innovative Agriscience because I love to be on the cutting edge of new ideas.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

 

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

However, the sessions I did attend were perfect for me and what I need to know right now. I started in the Beef session sitting next to a real, live meat scientist. If I had questions about something I could simply lean over and ask her to clarify. It was glorious. I left the session feeling deeply validated about the methods we are using on our Ranch and eager to learn more about how nutrigenomics will continue to play a part.

I then transitioned into the The Business of Agriculture session where I was able to hear Mary Shelman’s session about food rules (there are no food rules!). We learned about brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Emerald, that broke the “food rules” and became very successful. She spoke about how “food is a hot thing to talk about”. Food trends amongst our younger generations are changing, they are rejecting big ag and big food, they want a product that is good for the environment and communities and are willing to pay more. They trust their friends more than advertisements.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn't always mean safer.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn’t always mean safer.

Dr. Johanna Fink-Gremmels took the stage. She covered soils, fungi, bacteria and how they play a part in health. She shared “gut health is the key to animal health and productivity” and “feed the soil and you will feed the world”. She stressed that we have a major responsibility to our partners, our environment and animals, for the benefit of the people.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President, Corporate Accounts, Alltech then spoke on antibiotics. This is a hot topic that I see many people, both in agriculture and on the consumer side, talk about often. He said the  “U.S. estimates 506 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 people annually when only 353 were necessary”. That is  some serious food for thought. He had a term and idea that I loved and I see working for me. Prosumer – the idea of connecting with our consumer and getting them to advocate for you and your brand, business and product. As Ms. Shelman pointed out earlier, our younger consumers want this.

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

Because I still have much to learn about hog production, especially commercial production, I was especially excited to attend the Opportunities in the Pig Industry Special Session. Russell Gilliam started the session with Disease Prevention and Eradication. He pointed out, “is it safe” is the number one priority to consumers. He then covered factors that contribute to poor animal health and how we can prevent them. Lance Barton of Belstra Mills then shared his ideas and experiences about engaging the 98% that are not involved with production agriculture. Jacob Dall and Dr. Mark Lyons then shared information about hog production from Denmark and China. Comparing pork production methods from the two counties was enlightening and I am going to be applying some of my new knowledge to my operation.

from Lance Barton

People’s reaction to a hog farm. From Lance Barton.

I finally had time to visit Alltech’s One Vision exhibit. Again, before this point, I have never experienced anything like this. It was interactive, innovative and inspired. It felt like an utopia of what our world could be. Allergy free peanuts, edible food packaging and lab grown meat were all ideas explored. So often we are bombarded with negativity and worst case scenarios. This was like a breath of fresh air, it was positive and hopeful and I walked out I was asking myself what was the ONE thing I could do in order to be apart of a solution. We need more exhibits and interactions like this.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

The rest of this blog will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime please check out what these other women in agriculture thought…

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom

Dirt Road Charm

Mom at the Meat Counter

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I Went to the South, Y’all!

You might have noticed I took a little break from blogging life for the past few months. It wasn’t planned, I just got so busy I haven’t had the drive or time to do much for The Beef Jar. I’ve written some freelance articles, participated in an AgChat conference and the coolest thing is I went to the South. Twice!

The menu from Saw's. I weep at the memory.

The menu from Saw’s. I weep at the memory.

I haven’t traveled for a long time. In fact, the last time I took a vacation that was away from the ranch for more than two nights in a row was back in 2007. It was time to leave the ranch. The guy I was dating is from Alabama, so I was able to visit him. I went once in December and since I had such a good time, I went back in January!

Coosa County, Alabama

Coosa County, Alabama

It was a wonderful experience both times. I’ve always been fascinated by southern food and culture so needless to say, I was in heaven. I got ushered around the Southeast by a local, eating amazing food and having the time of my life. I got to see several southern places, including Nashville, Lynchburg, Atlanta, Birmingham, Asheville and Washington County, Tennessee.

My ex-boyfriend’s family has a plantation in Coosa County, Alabama. That was home base during my time down there. It was an amazing farm with totally different agriculture from what I was used to. I got to spend several days on their farm learning about local agriculture, history and again, food.

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

Until this point in my life, my knowledge of southern things comes from Paula Deen, Jill Conner Browne, Alton Brown, and other various southern authors. Oh and Reese Witherspoon movies. I imagined magnolia trees, dripping with Spanish moss, acres and acres of cotton, tobacco and sweet potatoes and BBQ everywhere. I’m sure it’s like when people think of California and think we are just beaches and movie stars. The South was so much more varied and different than what I expected (I mean, except for the BBQ part, and that was super cool)!

 

The Places

I was amazed at all the pine trees in Alabama. For some reason I had no clue Alabama had so many pine trees! I was expecting it to be far more open farmland and magnolias. I did see a cotton field and lots of cow/calf operations. However, one thing I noticed that really bummed me out was it seemed like there was a lot of abandoned farms. It kinda made me want to buy one and move to the South.

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

Since I did get to see several different areas of the southeast, that means I also got to see some of the Smoky Mountains. They were beautiful. I’ve seen enough photos and movies about them that I knew what to expect, and they did not disappoint. I want to go back and take pictures and poke around – I might even consider camping there. Maybe.

One of the happiest moments of my life happened in Nashville.  I was in a boot store on the strip. The smell of new leather and BBQ was in the air. I had a slight Pabst beer buzz. I had just seen an amazing country band. I was eating chocolate because, of course, there was an old fashioned candy store next to the band and bar. I actually had to stop and ask if that was real life. The Country Music Hall of Fame was also a major highlight! So many neat costumes, cars and instruments! 

My Nashville boots.

My Nashville boots.

I think my favorite though were the rolling green hills of Tennessee. The farms were all gorgeous, stuff of dreams. I had serious agriculture envy the whole time I was there. I was seriously looking up the farms and ranches I saw for sale, because I really could live there and happy raise pigs and cows.  

I was also shocked at the water. The rivers and lakes seemed to be everywhere and they were huge! Coming from drought stricken Nor Cal, it was almost overwhelming!

The cemeteries were a trip to me. They were everywhere. And the were old. It was a good reminder just how “new” California is. Many families had their “own” graveyard on their family farms. My goal when we were in Washington County was to find my family graveyard. I was so close, but that is for another post.

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

Birmingham was awesome. It was there where I had real BBQ for the first time. I got to go to Good People and Avondale Brewing. Just getting to walk down the streets and see some of the amazing old homes was enough to make me really happy.

I almost had a come-apart in Atlanta when I finally saw a real alligator and an albino one at that! One of my major goals while in the South was to see an alligator. I’d been to Florida in September, and was sorely disappointed I didn’t get to see one then. The alligator I did see was at the  Atlanta aquarium. It was amazing, really. It breathtaking. I missed the Coke experience by a few minutes (it closed), but I’d like to see that at some point.

Oh Atlanta.

Oh Atlanta.

Asheville. I understand why the second Sierra Nevada is there. It has a Chico vibe to it. I made the treck to the second Sierra Nevada, like all Chico natives should. It was a glorious building and the food was fabulous. We went out on the town after Sierra Nevada and again I had a ball! It was freezing and snowed while I was there, but the amazing music and people made the cold bearable. I’d love to go back to Asheville and spend a few days, it deserves it.

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

 

The Food

Let’s talk about the food now. Southern food is better. There I said it. I can simply never go back to how I was before. I actually ate skin from fried chicken and loved it. Sweet tea is nectar from the gods, and BBQ is mana.

I miss the food.

I miss the food.

I actually tried to experience as much regional food as I could. Blue Bell Ice Cream? Check. Duke’s mayonnaise? Check. Boiled peanuts? So good. White Lily Flour? Took 10 pounds home. 30 pound Country Ham?  It was in my carry-on. Okra, I love it now. Fried pickles? I have a recipe. White BBQ sauce? White yum.  (if you send me Duke’s or Lily White, I’ll send you jam, jelly, pickles or California olive oil).

I did my best to bring as much home as I could.

I did my best to bring as much home as I could.

I’ve experienced SAW’S, Dreamland BBQ and Jim and Nick’s. BBQ is not a joke down there. It changed me. Southern’s do magic with a grill and some smoke. Magic, I tell you. If you haven’t experienced real southern BBQ go ahead and just book yourself a flight and go find some. Do it. I’ve been working very hard on recreating many of the dishes I had while in the South, I’m getting good, but it’s just not the same.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

Waffle House. Oh my Lawd, I did not know.  I mean, I’d heard some great things from Anthony Bourdain. But Waffle House is something you must experience to understand completely. Drunk college kids in California do not know how amazing Waffle House is and what they are missing. I was urged to try and have a drunk Waffle House experience, I did, in Birmingham, and was again one of the more glorious experiences of my life. Drunk southerner’s, amazing waffles and smothered hash browns – it should be a reality show.

I loved it there.

I loved it there.

Cracker Barrel – food, candy, clothes, games, all the things. Cracker Barrel is like the mecca of the South. Go there, rock in a rocking chair, eat some chicken and dumplings, and pay your respects.

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The People

Southerner’s are nice. They are friendly. Pleasantries are exchanged at every opportunity. They buy you a lot of drinks when they hear you are from California. They have manners. Door’s are held open, ‘bless you’ said after a sneezes, polite chat is made.

I loved it. I always embarrassed my friends and family because I will randomly start conversations with people. In the South, it felt like you were rude if you didn’t. I’m pretty sure I belong there.

The homes!!

The homes!!

I never really harbored the idea of ever living anywhere but on the Ranch, here in California (this is God’s country after all) but after seeing the southeast, I daydream about owning a little farm in Tennessee. Or Georgia, or anywhere. Seriously, The South is America’s travel secret.

I just renewed my passport and was starting to plan another trip back to Europe. But I’ve decided I’d rather spend my money and time in the South. Learn more my own history and culture.

So I’ve started planning my trip back this winter. A couple of my girlfriends are looking into going back in December or January. I’m in my early stages of planning but I’m thinking maybe about flying into Nashville, doing a bourbon tour, going up to Bristol, Asheville and leaving out of Atlanta. However, I know I have lots of Southern friends, so I am open to suggestions. Is there something I need to experience? Tell me! Give me advice!

But in the meantime if you an agricultural organization and you need a speaker, panelist or moderator, let me know. I’ll waive my fee, just pay for my flight and a bed and point me to the nearest BBQ joint when we are done.

 

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White Bean and Collards Soup 

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Remember a few months back when I posted the collards recipe? Well since then I’ve become even more obsessed with Southern Food and have made collards like 10 times as part of my “practicing”. It’s great though! Collards freeze so well, I always have a stash of leftovers in my freezer for soups and easy meals!

This soup is one of my current favorites. It’s hearty, flavorful and and deeply comforting. It’s also one of those soups that I can toss together fairly effortlessly since I tend to usually have all the ingredients in my freezer or pantry. It’s also great for tossing leftover things into. I had some extra parmesan cheese rind and some tortellini that I used the first time I made this and I cannot imagine not using those again!

See that big white thing? It's the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never through that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

See that big white thing? It’s the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never throw that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

It also freezes really well. Since I do live alone I always have a crapton of leftovers. It’s great though because I ALWAYS have a selection of soup frozen in our deep freezer. If you ever got a cold and need some TLC in the form of soup, call your friendly neighborhood rancher and I’ll take care of you.

White Bean and Collards Soup

1 package of white beans
1 onion, chopped
5 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken or beef broth (I usually use chicken and it usually has hunks of chicken in it because that’s how I use up my chicken carcasses)
Leftover collards (including the sweet, sweet pot likker)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf (remember to fish that sucker out before you serve)
1 package tortellini (optional)

This step adds more flavor!

This step adds more flavor!

Soak the beans overnight in water. Rinse and discard any sub-par beans. Saute your onion and carrots in oil until they start to soften. Add garlic and stir. Add beans, leftover collards, broth and spices. Add water to cover all the ingredients if needed. Cover and simmer for one hour. Add tortellini and serve with some good crusty bread.

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Wordless Wednesday: Romanesco 

  

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Wordless Wednesday: White BBQ Sauce

  

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7 of my Favorite Things 2015

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!

  1. 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.
My Luccheses. Love.

My Luccheses. Love.

 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.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

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.

Hair crack.

Hair crack.

  1. 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. 
    Don't question me. Just buy it.

    Don’t question me. Just buy it.

    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. 

I love my havalon.

I love my havalon.



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.

Bresaola

Bresaola

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.

by Caitlin Doughty

by Caitlin Doughty

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Guest Post: Collards Greens Recipe

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.

Greens.

Greens.

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

Mmmm, Table Mountain Ranch Pork bacon ends..

Mmmm, Table Mountain Ranch Pork bacon ends.

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.

Green prepping

Green prepping

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.

Adding your greens, slowly.

Adding your greens, slowly.

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.

A pot of green love.

A pot of green love.

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Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

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.

Rhubarb is so pretty

Rhubarb is so pretty

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!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

2 cups pureed strawberries

2 cups chopped rhubarb

1 package powdered pectin

¼ cups store bought lemon juice

5 ½ cups sugar

This makes me think of spring!

This makes me think of spring!

Combine 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.

This makes excellent gifts and is breathtaking during the middle of winter! Your friends will love you!

This makes excellent gifts and is breathtaking during the middle of winter! Your friends will love you!

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Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecake

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.

Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecakes

Crust
Gingersnap Cookies (about half of an 10 ounce package)
1.5 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
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?)

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

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.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

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.

I could eat the creamcheese - nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

I could eat the cream cheese – nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

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.

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Monsanto: Evil Empire or Sustainable Ag Company?

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.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

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!

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

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!

 

The Field

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

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!

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

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!

Bill in his squash - he taught me my new favorite word, puduncle!

Bill in his squash – he taught me my new favorite word, peduncle!

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).

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

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”).

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

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.

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

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!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

The Tasting

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.

A proper melon tasting!

A proper melon tasting!

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!

 

The End

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you've ever seen!

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you’ve ever seen!

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!

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