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Archive for the ‘Pretty Pictures’ Category

And that means I’m drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with the neighbors, not writing exciting blog posts to keep you all entertained. Today (Thursday) was a banner day for hits, and I appreciate all those who have stopped by to read. Welcome! If you’re not familiar, the blog is a combo of rants on food politics, thoughts on life and my journey towards owning a farm, and tales of cooking and eating. Since the past week has been mostly rants, for Friday, I’m giving you an entirely non-controversial blog post (unless you don’t think humans should eat wheat, in which case you will disagree with me violently).

So last weekend for a holiday party, I decided to make crackers. I was inspired by Miss Zumba, who had made them for my holiday party. I typically buy a lot of crackers, because I love eating them with cheese, and so the idea that I could make them and eat them that way rather than buying them was terribly appealing.

And so it began. You can find the recipe over at Fit for Life. The dough was rolled out:

Early in the process:

More crackers:

And finished, sprinkled with sea salt and baked:

These are actually super easy to make. I thought they’d be something like sugar cookies, which are a pain in the butt to roll and cut out. But this dough rolls out super easily, and I just cut out the shapes with the pastry wheel my mom bought me like a year ago that I’ve never used. It makes those cute scalloped edges. And I just sprinkled a little sea salt (because I love sea salt), and there you go. 7 minutes in the oven and you have crackers.

Now I used whole wheat flour, Miss Zumba used regular all purpose. Hers were a little softer (maybe she didn’t leave them in the oven as long either), and I thought mine where a little crunchier and a little closer to what I think of as a cracker texture (but I also buy whole wheat crackers from the store). They went over very well, and were almost entirely gone by the end of the night.

But then again, maybe that was the cheese. I also put together a cheese plate of Eve’s Cheese:

Jalepeno colby, garlic and chive colby (?), and cheddar. Yum.

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Well, last Saturday I had a holiday party, which kept me busy all day and from posting too many exciting pictures. This Saturday you get the make up for that: pictures of all the amazing desserts I made with raw dairy products! Bwahahaha!

So it started with an apple cake. Apples were from Lockbriar. The recipe was from my brand new local food cookbook, Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. Beautiful photos, and everything I’ve made from it has been delicious so far. It has a brown sugar icing made with, you guessed it: raw cream! Before hand:

And after:

Mmmm. Delicious, really sweet icing.

Next up was a pumpkin pie, of course made with a little local pumpkin (from Redman Farm). It also included some raw cream, and plenty of local eggs, and flour. Recipe was from Joy of Cooking, and it was served with delightful raw whipped cream! Yay!

The spread from afar:

The spread up close:

It included the pie and cake, of course, but also some fermented veggies (also farm fresh and unpasteurized), crackers made by my friend Ms. Zumba (can you believe she MADE crackers? I’m still amazed), raw cheeses, bread from Against the Grain bakery, and the whipped cream plus some chocolate mousse, which didn’t make it into the picture as I believe they were still in the fridge. The arrangement is by Ms. Native Daughter Nursery, who you can also find at the farmers’ market.

The chocolate mousse actually turned out to be the hardest thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I am flat out terrible at making anything that involves beating eggs for long periods of time. I get bored about halfway through, or I decide I’ve been going for too long and get afraid I’m going to over beat them or something. As a result, they weren’t as fluffy as they were probably supposed to be. But let me tell you about this mousse. I hadn’t really realized mousse is mostly eggs. I think I was thinking of ganache, which is just cream and chocolate. Mousse is butter or cream, chocolate, and eggs. Julia (whose recipe I was using) called for coffee and orange liquer, neither of which I had at the time. So I just added a dash of Kahlua.

And boy, was this stuff amazing. A-fing-mazing. So amazing that I didn’t mind that I accidentally spilled egg literally all across my kitchen (the floor, the wall, and on into the bathroom). I mean, I’ve always loved chocolate mousse, but this was on par with the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted in my entire life. Just flat out mind blowing. It disappeared faster than anything else on the table (except the raw cheese and Ms. Zumba’s crackers).

Especially when paired with the whipped cream.

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I have all these grand intentions of taking pictures of things I make, and then I get caught up in the cooking and completely forget. For example, last Sunday I made brussel sprouts au gratin, and they were delicious. I took a very blurry picture of the stalk of brussel sprouts:

And that’s all we’ve got. The actual dish itself I took over my neighbors’ to cook in their oven, and then we just ate, so no photos were taken.

Thursday night I made a ton of food- butternut squash and carrot soup, spinach risotto, and parmesan chicken. And I was in such a rush, because I was running so behind (thanks to stupidly putting the chicken in last even though it takes the longest to cook) that I again completely forgot to take pictures. Even though I was thinking about it as I was assembling everything to again carry it over to the neighbors’.

Instead you only get pictures of leftovers:
(if there is nothing here it’s because I forgot again)

All the recipes (except the chicken) were from Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. The soup was actually supposed to be pumpkin soup, but I decided to make butternut squash soup instead. And then I realized I didn’t prepare enough squash. And that I probably should have used some of the ten pounds of delicatta squash I still have sitting around my kitchen. So instead I just used carrots… but it seemed to turn out all right. I also used a cup of milk and a very large dollop of cream, rather than two cups of milk. I have to say it was quite a good consistency.

The risotto tasted a little funny to me, but maybe that was just the wine I was using. I’ve never cooked risotto in wine, and I imagine it takes a lot of the flavor of whatever wine you use. And I had no idea what to select, as far as the wine, so I just grabbed something and hoped for the best. Will definitely have to work on that concept.

And I have to remember that chicken takes a long time to cook. Right. Still haven’t really gotten over being vegetarian…

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And now… our Thanksgiving dinner, in photos! My cousin and I spent most of the afternoon cooking- she did the rolls and cupcakes for dessert, I did stuffing, squash, and mashed potatoes.

First, we made rolls from a recipe in Food Network magazine.

Ingredients…

Our lunch:

Homemade mac and cheese with local cheese and raw milk. Yay!

Potatoes from Colchester:


ooooo.

aaaaa.

Delicatta squash:

Apple stuffing with scallions and fresh bread from Against the Grain bakery (apples from Lockbriar farm, scallions from Colchester, and homemade chicken stock):

Stuffing before being baked, with plenty of raw butter on the top:

Devil’s food and pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate ganache topping:

Rolls, before baking:

A full plate:

Stuffed delicatta squash, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed carnival squash, and of course, a roll! The rolls were amazing- they tasted kind of like really good soft pretzel dough. They will definitely be making another appearance at dinner.


Yum.

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So before Thanksgiving got started I did a lot of baking. This is because I go to four Thanksgiving- that’s right, four. And because these are all packed one after another, I find that at least getting all the baking done the night before leads to smoother sailing on the day of.

Because it is Thanksgiving, I make everything with pumpkin. And the secret to making things with pumpkin taste really amazing is to actually use pumpkin. By which I mean a real, live, pumpkin, not the stuff that comes in a can (cause who can be sure what that stuff is).

It is easy to prepare pumpkin for baking. You simply cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, then you can either bake, boil, or microwave the halves. I typically bake them at around 425 for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft. You can also boil them in some water, or put them in a microwaveable dish with some water and microwave in bursts until soft. Once the pumpkin has cooled off somewhat, you can scoop out the flesh (or peel off the skin), and put it in a food processor until you get most of the lumps out. You can also mash the pumpkin with a fork.

I also make my own vanilla. It is easy enough to find vanilla beans (I get them at the Renaissance Festival, at the herbalist), and then you just need a bottle and some vodka. When the bottle is filled for the first time, you need to leave it for several weeks to steep, but once it’s all ready you can just top it off every time you use it. Every so often you should exchange the vanilla beans for new ones to make it stronger. This is basically what the vanilla you buy in the store is made from- plus loads of bizarre artificial ingredients. That’s why when you leave it too long it gets all alcoholic.

And with homemade vanilla, eggs from pastured chickens, and delicious raw butter you get…

Cookies! This is the first time I’ve made cookies with eggs and real butter in years and years. I’m not sure that I actually like them. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the vegan version, but I feel like these are a lot sweeter and, well, boring. They taste like all the other cookies. I’ll have to experiment- maybe using eggs but margarine, or egg replacer but butter. We’ll have to see.

Finally, a new recipe from my new favorite recipe book: the Joy of Cooking!

Which makes…

pumpkin bread! I ran out of cinnamon about half way through the process, thanks to the pumpkin cupcakes I had made earlier, and had to run next door to the neighbors’. That’s what makes it so nice, living where I live. It’s guaranteed that even at 9:45 at night, I can call up my neighbors and run next door with a spoon for a teaspoon of cinnamon.

I love baking, and I love when the whole house smells like cinnamon and pumpkin… and getting to eat lots of delicious pumpkin treats!

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All this talk of going underground just makes me want to farm even more. Why do I want to farm? Why do I want to commit my life to a load of hard work and sunburns and probably being in debt for the rest of my life in order to get a little spit of land?

Somebody’s got to do it. Somebody has to figure out how we’re all going to continue to eat. And somebody needs to take the risks, take the steps, to figure out how we are all going to survive this mess. I mean it. It’s not just about happy red tomatoes. This is life or death stuff we’re talking about. The food system we have in this country (and throughout much of the world) is completely unsustainable, and when it comes crashing to the ground, we need to have alternatives in place, and we need people with the knowledge of how to actually grow food without massive petroleum based inputs and trucks and irradiation and the rest of it.

The FDA has declared that it has no interest in those alternatives. Fine. If the FDA wants to declare war on small farmers, and on fresh, unadulterated foods, a war they will get. I’ve always been one of those people who likes to do things just because it will annoy the hell out of others anyway. That’s why I spent half of college with pink or blue hair. That’s half the reason I went vegetarian in the first place. If I can do something that people are going to question, that is probably what I am going to do, because people need to ask questions. People need to learn that things aren’t always what they seem. This is such an obvious statement, but it needs to be said, because there are millions of people out there who eat fast food on a daily basis without thinking twice about it. And it is obvious that they are not asking questions.

I want to farm not just because I have my idyllic visions of sitting on the front porch with friends eating loads of fresh food and playing music, and not just because I love food and growing things, but because I am so tired of doing work for organizations that don’t share the same values that get me out of bed in the morning. I am really tired of pussy footing around the idea that we need alternative forms of farming simply because oil is going to run out and if we don’t transition things are going to get really ugly. I am really really tired of people claiming that these alternative forms of ag based on ecosystems don’t work, and that they can’t feed people. I want to prove them wrong.

Of course, this is all difficult when land prices are something around $6000 an acre. If I could figure out a way to squat a big enough piece of land to farm, I’d be on it in about a minute. The problem is that if you then want to turn around and get your produce to people, they are going to ask questions about where you are farming… and then in come the regulators. And the expenses. And the fact that to afford to be a farmer, you or your spouse or whoever needs to have an off-farm job or a trust fund.

AGHGGGGGGGGGGH. Does anyone have at least a lot they’d be happy to pay me to transform into a homestead? I come pretty cheap. I just need enough money to house me and the kittens and my library, and keep buying my raw milk and grass fed beef.

And on that note, let’s look at exciting pictures of cupcakes:

These are my famed pumpkin cupcakes, adapted from a recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I say adapted because I no longer make them vegan, of course. Raw milk and butter all the way. I’ll have more photos and stories about my baking efforts tomorrow.

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So, this week there’s going to be a lot of posts on food. It is, after all, Thanksgiving week. And as I cook for four different Thanksgiving dinners, there will of course be lots of pictures of food.

Last night, however, I was not cooking for Thanksgiving. I also had to use up all the vegetables in the fridge, because this week is our last CSA pickup (until next year!!). And last week’s pick up included a whole head of cabbage. I can’t recall the variety at the moment, but it’s possible I’ll be able to find out from the farmers it came from. And a whole cabbage can only mean one thing: sauerkraut. To the cabbage I also added some grated carrot and a bit of jalepeno from my friend’s garden. In theory you can make sauerkraut with just cabbage, but, well, it looks prettier with all the other things. Don’t you think?

So I’m not sure about all this sauerkraut making. I’ve only done it once, and that was in a class. So I’m not at all sure this will turn out right. And considering I’m not even a fan of sauerkraut (despite being Polish by descent), I’m not sure how I’m going to taste it to make sure it’s all right. The handsome fella (for whom I am in actuality making the sauerkraut) will have to be the judge. Well, I should admit, it’s not just for him- he’ll probably end up eating most of it, but a big part of my decision to make sauerkraut was to a) use up the cabbage and b) experiment with fermentation. I love fermentation. It’s one of the most magical processes in the world, and apparently, sauerkraut is one of the most magical foods in the world. Ms. Sally Fallon Morrell credits it with all kinds of amazing properties. I’m not so sure about that.

The trick of this sauerkraut making is that, according to Wild Fermentation and according to the person who taught me in the first place, all you have to do is add salt. This is supposed to draw out the water in the cabbage to make a brine in which the cabbage can ferment. And all of this is supposed to keep the cabbage from spoiling. Trouble is, no veteran sauerkraut maker actually measures the salt they add to the cabbage. And while Wild Fermentation does suggest a quantity, the quantity is for five pounds of cabbage and I haven’t the faintest how many pounds the rather enormous head I have weighs. So I just kind of liberally salted it, and figured if it ends up too salty I’ll just have to wash it. Though as of this morning, there doesn’t seem to be any brine in the jars, so maybe I didn’t add enough? Or maybe I didn’t pack them down enough? Wild Fermentation says to weight the sauerkraut, but it also says to use a crock and since I can’t find one…

But it does look pretty, doesn’t it?

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