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Tuscan Ravioli Salad

Recently my Mom was laid up for a few weeks. It was hard on her because she is incredibly active here on the ranch. There really wasn’t much I could do to help her with Dr. ordered rest, but I could make her comfort food. There was a lot of tomato soup, grilled cheese, broccoli bacon salad and this little gem of a recipe. There are about a million versions of this floating around the internet, this one happens to be our favorite. I think next time I might switch it up a little and add some sweet purple onion. It’s always a crowd pleaser so think about making it for your next pot luck.

Yum.

Yum.

Tuscan Ravioli Salad

1 lb. cheese ravioli
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Dash of red pepper flakes
salt
ground black pepper
1 cup cooked bacon or pancetta, crumbled
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

I like this salad because it has lovely colors. Makes me happy.

 

Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, mix olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and peppers to taste.
In the large serving bowl add bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and dressing, toss until well combined.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

I had to add a picture of bacon. Had to.

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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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Bacon Broccoli Salad

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…

Here it is, in all it's glory - Bacon Broccoli Salad

Here it is, in all it’s glory – Bacon Broccoli Salad

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)

    I like it because it's colorful too, almost makes it seem healthy!

    I like it because it’s colorful too, almost makes it seem healthy!

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.

Bacon

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Wordless Wednesday: Oh Hey

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Roasted Broccoli

Growing up, I always liked broccoli. My Mom steamed it and served it with mayonnaise. I never cared for the mayo, because I liked how broccoli tasted! It’s delicious! But just TRY and make me eat onions, I’ll have a temper tantrum, to this day! I can safely say, I loathe onions and the more that people give me a bad time about that, the more I hate onions.

Speaking of, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed learning new and different methods of preparing my favorite foods and avoiding those I loathe. Roasting has quickly become my new favorite way to eat broccoli! And the good news? NO ONIONS IN SIGHT!

This recipe will change the way you feel about broccoli.

This recipe will change the way you feel about broccoli.

Roasted Broccoli

1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped into bite size pieces (about a pound)

4 cloves of garlic, minced (you could use less, I really like garlic)

2 tablespoons olive oil (use lemon infused for a real treat)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Broccoli, olive oil and garlic, yum.

Broccoli, olive oil and garlic, yum.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix the broccoli, chopped garlic, oil and salt together in a bowl, making sure to evenly coat. Spread on a cookie sheet, in a single layer.  Roast for about 15 minutes, until tender. Then place the cheese and pepper on the broccoli and roast for 5 more minutes or until your cheese is golden.

YES!!!!

YES!!!!

I’ve also made this recipe with bacon, citrus zest and juice, and all different kinds of finishing salt. If you omit the cheese and add bacon, it’s paleo! If you add cheese and bacon, it’s a main dish! There are so many variations with this recipe, it’s easy to keep it interesting.

Enjoy!

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Adult 4-H: Processing the Hogs

This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Locker and watching my hog get cut up. Like watching a master musician or artist create a masterpiece, watching Craig the butcher break down these hogs was just breathtaking.

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cuttinh order. It's so fun!

Linda holds your hand and very nicely walks you through your cutting order. It’s so fun!

The best thing about raising your own meat, or buying from people like me, is you get to decide how you want your meat cut and wrapped. That means you can decide what meat cuts you want, for example a pork loin or pork chops. You can decide how many chops you want in a package, how thick you want your chops, or bacon. For a foodie, it’s like a dream come true. I like it because it makes my life convenient – since I live alone, I only got two chops per package.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

The whole pig. It took less than 30 minutes for them to break it down.

If you want a more in-depth explanation of these pictures please read Jenny’s post here

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It's MINE.

This is MY half. It will live in my locked freezer. It’s MINE.

The hog has been split into two sides. They will process one side at a time.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

The first thing Craig does is remove the leaf lard. This is supposed to be the best lard ever for making baked goods. I’ve never had any before so I requested them to save it for me. I will render it down in my oven and then make heck of pie crusts and tortillas! Yum!

Kidney lives in the leaf lard, if that gives you an idea of where it is.

BACON

Check out this video of Craig cutting my beautiful chops.

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

Pork chops! Glorious chops!

This is the one time you will hear me say "look at all my beautiful fat!". Don't be jealous, I might share some if you ask....

This is the one time you will hear me say “look at all my beautiful fat!”. Don’t be jealous, I might share some if you ask….

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he's all there.

This is a whole pig, granted he was small, but it is still pretty cool he’s all there.

This is my Dad’s pork. It’ll get him through a summer of BBQing, it’s nice to change it up with some pork! We love beef, but variety is the spice of life!

This will be sausage.

This will be sausage.

All the scraps are saved for sausage, I wanted my sausage “southern style” because it is my personal favorite and makes the best biscuits and gravy. For reals. Come over for brunch, I’ll blow your mind!

Again, it's mine! It's all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Again, it’s mine! It’s all mine! It even has my name on it like an adult!

Yeah, I’m excited. This was a lot of work right here!

My bacon and ham. Yum.

My bacon and ham. Yum.

The bacon and ham will take longer to get, because they must cure it. They said I would have my ham in time for Easter! YAY!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

The Man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Dewey. Thank you so much for being so transparent and awesome! I love you guys!

So my next blog will be what this whole project was about – pork!!!! I cannot wait to try it. Even though I raise animals for a living, I’ve never had this caliber of pork before. I’ve been dreaming about it! What should I try first?!

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Bacon Leek Pasta

This is one of my favorite recipes right now. It’s easily adaptable to your tastes too! Use Pancetta, more or less wine and or chicken broth. I love me some sauce so I double it anyway. I mean you have to have something to dip your garlic bread in!

1 pound of Pasta, Cooked Al Dente (I like farfalle)
Reserved Pasta Water, If Needed
1 pound of bacon –chopped (Use GOOD bacon)
3 whole medium Leeks, Sliced Thin (again use more or less to your taste)
½ cup Dry White Wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
½ cup Heavy Cream
½ cup parmesan cheese – shredded fine (or more! Tee hee)
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese, Shaved

Cook pasta until al dente and set aside. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Saute bacon until fat is rendered and it starts to brown, remove from heat, chop into 1 inch pieces. Remove excess bacon fat (leave some, you are making a sauce afterall! But if you used good bacon like I said, this might not be a problem) and add sliced leeks and cook for 8 minutes or until tender.

Pour in wine, then cook an additional 3 minutes, until reduced. Add chicken broth. Reduce heat to low, then pour in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in shredded Parmesan and bacon.


Toss in pasta, adding a little pasta water to thin as needed. Serve with Parmesan shavings over the top.

*Also very good chilled, if you don’t make extra sauce! Try it as a pot luck salad!

 

 

 

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Bacon Jam

1 pound good bacon
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 cup coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
fresh cracked black pepper
Whisper of liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cook the bacon in batches over medium high heat until it’s lightly browned and just starting to crisp. Let cool.


Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent about 15 minutes and hey a little carmelized onion never hurt anyone.


Slice the bacon into small chuncks.
Put the bacon chuncks back into the pan and add the brown sugar, coffee, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke and maple syrup. Bring to a boil then let simmer.


Simmer over low heat stirring every now and then for 3-4 hours until you can no longer tell the onion from the bacon and it has a thick consistency and deep rich brown color.
Let cool for 30 minutes than transfer to a food processor. Pulse for several seconds to finely chop and blend the mixture.
Return to the pot. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
With a spoon, scoop the majority of the fat from the top of the jam. Place the pot on the stove turning the heat to low. Add the black pepper to taste, smoked paprika, and red wine vinegar. If you desire more heat, add another squirt of Sriracha. Cook for 45 minutes until almost all the liquid is evaporated.
Store in the frig. in a mason jar.
 

 

This is Sriracha. Just in case you didn’t know. You’re welcome.

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