Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cocoa Mix

Yesterday I made what will probably turn out to be the last batch of cocoa mix for the season. The cocoa mix you find in the store is full of pseudo-food and sugar, but when we want a cup of cocoa we also don't want to turn on the stove just for a cup, so I make my own mix. This way I get a good product, convenience and I save money, too. To make the mix, I stir together 4 cups of nonfat dry milk, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and 3/4 cup of unsweetened baking cocoa. I keep it in a clean coffee can. You can adjust these things to your taste. You can also add cinnamon to taste or a vanilla bean, if you like. To use the mix, place 3 teaspoons (not measuring teaspoon, but the ones you'd use to eat) of mix in a cup and fill with boiling water. Stir. I sometimes make myself a mocha by adding some instant coffee or espresso powder to the mix before adding the water. You can throw in a dash of vanilla soy milk if you'd like, or top with whipped cream--really, it's up to you!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Supporting Local Farmers


This afternoon we went to the new member orientation for the CSA we joined at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick.
I am so excited to be a part of this whole thing. Not only will we get our box of veggies each week, but there is also a U-pick field where members can pick things to supplement their food pick-ups--things like peas, beans, herbs, flowers, etc. We can just go hang out at the farm if we want and there are hiking trails available for use.

In addition to the veggies, the farmers are really working hard to make the farm a one-stop shopping experience so that people can meet as many of their food needs there through local suppliers. So they will be a pick-up spot for the Port Clyde Community Supported Fishery and a group of lobstermen out of Harpswell. They will have dairy products from local producers as well as Vermont maple syrup. They will have an egg share available to people. And they will do a tofu/tempeh/mushroom program with local producers and growers! They will have lamb and pork available, too. In addition to the people who pay for shares, and the other local fishers and food producers that the farm helps, they also support the local food bank by donating surplus to them. This is a program that I am happy to support and I am so glad to live in a place where such a program is supported by enough people to make it feasible. This is beyond food, although, of course, that is the organizing principle. We will be getting organic, sustainably grown food in a much wider variety than I would get by shopping at the grocery store. While grocery stores are trying to buy more local food, this farm is 2 1/2 miles from where I live. The food is being grown almost in my back yard--it doesn't get much more local than that. So there is the health benefit of having a wide variety of organic, local produce at my fingertips. I will have to go to the grocery store much less often. The food I am consuming will not be trucked from all over the earth, burning fossil fuels every inch of the way. The plants and animals at this farm are cared for in ways that do not harm the earth. Even though the animals will be slaughtered, they will live happy lives and their ends will be humane, too. This model is the complete opposite of mass-production/agribusiness/factory farms and it is good for the entire community, not to mention my own spiritual well-being.

I am excited about the prospect of picking up boxes that contain food I am either not familiar with or that I have heard of but not cooked with before. It will be great creative fun for me to see what is there every week and figure out what to do with it. I am impressed with the farmers and their commitment to not only their farm, but to the larger community as well. These people are not talking about theoretical possibilities. Well, maybe they are, but they don't stop there--they put on their wellies and go out in the mud. They muck around in the barns in the pig and sheep manure. They are up in the middle of the night in the middle of winter to make sure the hoop houses don't collapse under the weight of a heavy, wet snow. They are making their local community and their world, not to mention the lives of the people who join the farm, a better place. Aside from the practical benefit, they are also providing education and another model for what is possible. They are helping all of us learn more, open our minds to new experiences and ideas, and encouraging us to think more about what we consume and how it comes to us. All of these things help us broaden our thinking so we can make better choices.

We will probably be starting our pick-ups soon. We plan to observe, photograph, and explore on the farm itself. The food craft will be ongoing. We will document as much of it as possible. What fun!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trout


I made some trout the other night. I don't know much about cooking fish since I haven't done much of it, except for cooking lots of salmon when we lived in Alaska. The first summer we were there we went and got as much free salmon as we could carry. It was trucked up from the coastal area to Fairbanks because all the processors wanted was the eggs. The fish got put on a refrigerated truck and they put a notice in the paper for people to come and get what they wanted. We brought our cooler and got some. Then I had to fillet it and everything--not a pretty picture. And when that was gone, there was local wild salmon, abundant, sustainable, and fairly inexpensive, so we ate a fair amount of it. That is the extent of my fish experience. Bill really likes white fish so I would make that sometimes and usually resort to throwing it on a pan and sprinkling some garlic and Italian seasoning on it before baking it. I had this trout, though, and wanted to do something different. I have never cooked trout before and don't think I have ever even eaten it, so what to do? I placed the fish in a square pan that I had sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. I sprinkled some garlic podwer and chili powder on top of the fish. I chopped up a red bell pepper and a small red onion and placed that over the fish, then I poured some frozen corn over all of that. Finally, I spread some chipotle salsa over the whole thing and cooked it at 450 degrees for about half an hour. The fish was nicely cooked and the pepper and onion were crisp-tender.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pizza


I made pizza last night. I make it in many different ways--making the crust dough in the bread machine, using whole grain baguettes or pita bread, tortillas, or even sliced whole grain loaves. This was pretty basic--pita bread and baguette for the crusts, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and then the toppings. Heather had a baguette topped with turkey pepperoni and red bell pepper, I had that on pita along with red onions and broccoli, and Bill had his on pita minus the bell pepper. We've been finding it somewhat difficult to find really good pizza here--most every place we have tried seems to use sauce without any kind of herbs whatsoever, so the pizza is always pretty bland. Too bad--we've had a few pizzas that would be really excellent if they had used good sauce, but because they didn't, I am unlikely to go back. So I will just keep on making my own!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Skillet Medley


Tonight for supper I went back to an old standby in my kitchen. For lack of anything better to call it, I shall name it "skillet medley." I use this basic idea as a base for many different kinds of meals. It is easy to vary and to make your own. It is also very easy to make just the one skillet of stuff and let everyone have it the way they want it. My daughter had hers as it came out of the skillet. I had mine with chili sauce. Bill had his with pineapple salsa. Here's how I made it this time.

I put some olive oil in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. To this I added cut-up boneless, skinless chicken breasts, some chopped broccoli stalks, a few carrots, a red onion, and a red bell pepper. I turned the burner to high and stirred everything around until it was just about cooked through, then turned off the burner (the cast iron skillet retains the heat) and I added the broccli florets, some dried oregano, basil and garlic powder, and kept cooking until the florets were crisp-tender and bright green. I spooned this over brown rice.

You can change this to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. I don't eat pork or beef, but if you do, you could use that instead of the chicken. Make it meatless by using a meat/chicken analog or some crumbled veggie burgers. Use tofu--regular, baked, or marinated. Use leftover meat if you have it, or try it with fish.

Use whatever veggies you like/have. Use frozen if that's what you've got--I add frozen peas to this kind of thing often. Add spinach or other leafy greens. Summer squash is good.

Spoon it over rice or some other grain--millet, quinoa, etc. Use pasta, pierogies, or tortellini instead of grain and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Use whatever sauce you want--marinara, sweet and sour, one of the many sauces you can find in the grocery store, or make your own. Or you can have a sauce buffet and let people try whatever sauces they would like--great for accommodating different tastes.

I cut up the chicken breasts while they are still partially frozen because it is easier to do--just make sure the chicken or other meat is thoroughly cooked.

And, as always, I try to make enough for leftovers. This is great for lunch or to use the next day in a completely different way for dinner.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bundles


This is what I made for supper last night--bundles, Mexican style. I threw together in a bowl some refried beans, cooked brown rice, frozen corn, extra sharp cheddar cheese, chopped pickled jalapeno, and salsa. I microwaved it enough to make it easily mixable and spoonable and put a dollop in the center of an egg roll wrapper, which I then folded over and baked at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until they were starting to get crispy. I used pineapple salsa in some and chipotle salsa in others. You can vary the salsa and the cheese according to what you like and have on hand.