Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mill, The Garden and Canning

Oh, my.  It's been a good 2 weeks since I've written anything.  I assure you that I've still been eating good food.  I just haven't been chronicling it.  

Right now I'm thoroughly enjoying a week of mother-daughter time.  It's not very often that I get to hang out with my mom!  She drove up from Texas and we're hanging out as long as possible.  This past weekend we went to the Mill City Museum and farmer's market in Minneapolis.  Super fun!  This makes 3 Minnesota Historical Society tours that I've gone to in the past 2 months- Probably time for a membership.  

Ruins from the old Gold Medal Flour Mill

I was showing my mom around the garden yesterday and found a TON of green beans ready to harvest!  (Ok, not a ton.  But 2 lbs. and 10 oz. is still a lot).  We picked all that we could find and also some lettuce, dill, garlic scapes and radishes.  

I stir fried the green beans with garlic scapes and fresh tomato and then added a splash of balsamic and red wine vinegar at the end.  Yum!

The lettuce made a lovely salad with French breakfast radishes, dill and a simple vinaigrette.  I LOVE fresh dill in a salad.  

On Wednesday my mom is coming to one of my canning classes- This will be the first time she's seen me teach, so I'm pretty excited to have her there.  And the class will be packed!  I have about a gazillion canning classes coming up this summer.  I've taught 2 so far (MN Pollution Control Agency and St. Paul Community Ed.) and have more coming up at Mississippi Market, Valley Natural Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, Chakra Khan Massage, Minneapolis Farmer's Market, a couple of community events/fundraisers and various community ed. districts.  My summer will be full of canning even if I don't can a thing at home (yeah, like that will ever happen)!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Some Farmer's Market Love from the Co-op Conference

I had a great time this past week in Bloomington, Indiana at a co-op conference.  But the personal highlight of my trip wasn't at one of the workshops- It was while I ditched the hotel breakfast and morning announcements for the local farmer's market.  After seeing all 3 of the gorgeous Bloomingfoods Co-op stores, the farmer's market was next on my list of must-sees.

Wow, was I impressed!  I love my St. Paul farmer's market, but I admit to being a bit jealous of this one.  To start with, I must have seen a dozen certified organic booths.  Like the St. Paul farmer's market, all the producers were from local farms, but certified organic is pretty darn important to me, too.  My philosophy is that local is great, but just being in close proximity to me doesn't make it sustainable.  I mean, you can grow something next door to me and be planting GMO seeds and dousing them in RoundUp.  It might be local, but I don't want to eat it.

Same goes for organic.  Of all the labels, I trust this one the most (though it still has its issues).  But all by itself this label doesn't tell me a product was necessarily produced sustainably.   Organic food from some gigantic corporate farm halfway across the world is never going to score as high as a local, organic farm in my book.  So seeing all of those little local family farms that were certified organic and selling at this super adorable market just made my day.

Reason #2 for jealousy is that the growing season is clearly much longer here in Indiana.  This market was overflowing with veggies that aren't even close to ready yet in Minnesota!   I started my walk with a pint of big, fat organic raspberries that I bought from a little girl and her father whose farm was only 8 miles from the market.

Next I was so excited to talk with a man who harvests wild sassafras root.  Not only did he endure my many curious questions, he volunteered tips for digging my own sassafras, should I come across a tree.  I think that's one of my favorite things about visiting a farmer's market when it's not crazy busy (it was raining and technically the market wasn't even open yet)- You get a chance to really talk with the producers and they LOVE to tell you about their food.  I know you get a similar effect shopping at the co-op- Most of us love to talk (okay, brag) about our amazing food.  But it's pretty awesome to get one step closer to the farm when possible and talk to the growers themselves.

My third purchase was a giant bag of black walnuts.  I've definitely seen this weird green balls around my neighborhood, but I've never figured out how the heck to get to the nuts inside and then how to make them palatable (They're definitely NOT palatable without processing.  Trust me.).  This guy let me chomp on black walnuts while he explained how to process a small batch or a giant batch of walnuts.  The small scale process involved a mallet.  The large scale process involved putting a crazy amount of walnuts between boards, driving over them in your car and then soaking, cleaning, drying and curing them for  a month.  I gladly shelled out $3 for enough walnuts that I will surely get stopped for a bag search at the airport.

I went on to get some amazing caraway rye bread from a local bakery/farm and a fantabulously moist and cakey vegan peach muffin from the Bloomingfoods Co-op booth.  The muffin was gone before I made a complete lap around the market.

And what did I walk into when I returned to the conference?  They keynote speaker pointing out all the gazillion reasons why supporting local, small businesses is important.  Heck yeah.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some Bloody Good Asparagus

I've gotta give credit where credit is due.  This Bloody Mary Asparagus is (as far as I know) entirely the brain child of VineLady at Locally Preserved.  

She has some super cool canning recipes, including this one: Blood Mary Asparagus packed with horseradish, celery seed and hot sauce!  I'm trying not to open these up yet, but I can't promise anything.  If they're as amazing as they sound and smell, then I might just enter them in the State Fair this year.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Current Obsession

If you've had any sort of contact with me in the past 3 weeks (Facebook, Twitter, blog, passing conversation, spying on me, etc.), then you probably know what I'm going to write about here.  What else could it be?

Wine Slushies, of course!

Until a couple of weeks ago, I never even attempted to make any type of blended ice-based beverage.  I have a KitchenAid food processor and an immersion blender, but no real ice-crushing blender type thing.  I'm not sure what I imagined would happen if I tried to put ice in my food processor.  Maybe it would explode the plastic bowl?  Shoot out the top?  Break the blades?

But on an especially hot day I decided to risk my food processor's fate and now my drink menu will never be the same.  I made a mint, lime and white wine slushie and it was the best thing ever.  And I don't even like wine.

I really have nothing against wine, it's just that it usually doesn't taste good to me.  And I don't drink to get all sloshed anyways, so I've never seen the point of drinking it.  I'd rather drink some lemonade or a ginger ale (Cooking with wine is another story.  I most definitely see the point in that).  Plus, I don't know enough about wine to get all snobby about it, so I feel a little lost when picking it out.  Luckily the little liquor store across from Mississippi Market only carries one variety of organic white wine, so I don't have to pick which one is best suited to meld with delicate slushie flavors.  I just get my slushie supply and some N/A beer for Mike and get out of there.

Back to the slushies.  So far I've made some rockin' variations on my original flavor and most of the fresh ingredients have come from my garden.  Mint, lemon verbena, strawberries, these all make amazing slushie flavors.  I've also done my own little frappaccino type thing, but I really like the wine/fruit/herb flavored ones best.  So go to your blender, processor, grinder, or wooden mallet and crush some ice.  It's time for a slushie.

Strawberry Wine Slushie
1 cup very ripe strawberries
2 very full cups of ice cubes
2 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice/sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Put the strawberries, ice cubes and sugar in your food processor/blender.

Turn it on a setting so high that it looks and sounds like you left your hand and probably some rocks in there.  Keep blending until it's very smooth.  Add the wine and blend again.  Pour into a super fancy glass, like a canning jar.  Go sit outside and watch the squirrels steal all the seed you just put out for the birds.

Mojito Wine Slushie
Idea totally stolen from the Hummus Place in NYC

2 very full cups ice
Juice from 1 lime
A big handful of mint
2-3 Tbsp. evaporated cane juice/sugar
1 cup white wine

Put the ice, lime juice, mint and sugar in the blender or food processor and blend it up until totally smooth and very green.  Add the wine and blend briefly (this last step has potential to overflow the food processor if it's too liquidy).  Sip it slowly if you possibly can or you'll get a serious brain freeze and a big fat buzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gluten Free Vanilla Ginger Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

My buddy's last day at the co-op is Friday and she deserves some cupcakes. I thought vanilla and ginger would be good, so I added vanilla paste and dried ginger to my usual GF cupcake recipe. And I've gotta put strawberries in everything- they're ripening so fast!

There's my justification for baking tonight.
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