Are you familiar with the hubbard squash? I'd read about them, but hadn't actually seen one in the flesh until last week. We walked past it at the farmers market and I immediately thought "That's so ugly! I have to buy it!" Apparently, Jeff thought "Whoa! It looks like a zombie brain!" We made it ours for a mere $8, and set it up next to Charlotte for a size comparision.
It weighed in at 22.6 lbs, (I tried to get a pic of the scale reading but wasn't fast enought) which is around 6 pounds heavier than Charlotte. Our standard practice with squash is to cut it open, scoop out seeds, oil the cut side, roast in the oven for around an hour, then scoop out the flesh. Simple enough, right? It was no easy task cutting it open. I took our biggest, sturdiest knife and gave it a whack as hard as I could. It didn't even pierce the skin. No lie. I called for backup. Jeff attempted the same, and managed to get the tip of the knife in, and then the blade of the knife but there was no way he'd be able to actually slice. So he brought in the heavy artillery.
Yep. That's a hammer. He pounded the knife all the way around the squash, and managed to get it split in two.
We got it in the oven (one half at a time) and roasted it at 450 for just over an hour. Once the first half was out, Jeff sliced it and scooped the flesh out. It lokoed even more like a zombie brain cooked!
I sauteed a chopped onion with salt & pepper, then put the onion in about 4 cups of chicken broth, added a few chopped carrots and a few teaspoons dried sage, then put in a bit less than a quarter of the squash flesh and cooked it. (The rest of the squash flesh went into the freezer for future use.) When the carrots were soft, we pureed it it right in the pot with our immersion blender. Jeff suggested adding the roasted okra we'd made and it was inspired. The combination was amazing. This soup is definitely going on our winter menu rotation.
I'm sure other squashes could be subsituted in for the hubbard, in case you can't find one or don't want to go to all of the effort, (and understandably so!)
We had the pleasure of visiting our families in central Illinois over the July 4th weekend. It's a bit ironic, being smack in the middle of all that farm country and not being able to find locally grown organic food, (we did eventually find it, see post coming soon.) A lot of people have backyard gardens, however, you'd be hard pressed to find a backyard garden not treated with a combination of Sevin and Miracle Gro. While I applaud the effort in growing one's own food, it saddens me that these backyard gardens are treated essentially the same way as large-scale industrial farms. One person told me, "We've never sprayed our orchard or our garden, but last year the bugs got our apples so bad we didn't have any for ourselves." I understand the frustration in putting hours of manual labor into growing food only to have it be *stolen* by bugs, rodents or rabbits, but don't just go running for the Sevin. There are plenty of natural remedies out there, (what do you think people did before chemical pesticides?), for example, a little spearmint oil in a lot of water deters caterpillars. Diluted clove oil kills weeds and doesn't poison the water supply like RoundUp. And it should be a no-brainer, but compost does double duty of reducing waste sent to landfills and fertilizing better than Miracle Gro ever could.
Other comments we heard while we were there:
"I read your blog about the yogurt. It was interesting...but isn't it just easier to buy yogurt from the store?" Well, yes. Would it be easier for me to get into my car and drive to the nearest supermarket and pick up a tub of vanilla yogurt? Sure. But that's not the point. It would also be easier to just buy vegetables from the grocery store instead of trying to grow them ourselves, or even buying them from the farmers market. After all, the Safeway is open 24 hours and the farmers market is only open for 4 hours on Wednesdays. But that's not the point. In fact, it's kind of the anti-point. We're doing our best to distance ourselves from a life of convenience, when the convenience comes with these kind of price tags: lower nutritional values, chemicals in our food, inhumanity to the animals involved, lining the pockets of food industry executives while farmers are barely scraping by, or not scraping by at all and losing their farms. This isn't to say we make things difficult for the sake of making things difficult. In the fall, Jeff makes gallons of tomato sauce, we blanch and freeze vegetables, and we stock up on whole wheat pasta. It only takes a few minutes to boil noodles, toss in some sauce, vegetables, cheese and occasionally meat. Pasta has infinite variations: red sauce, white sauce (which only takes a minute to whip up), different vegetables, different noodle types, meat, no meat, different cheeses, etc. so even though we eat a lot of pasta, it doesn't feel like we're eating the same thing over and over. We're big on Crock Pot soups, too. Toss in everything in the morning and by dinnertime there's a meal all prepared. In the summers we eat a lot of fresh foods, salads and vegetables from the market, homemade pizza with a no-knead dough for crust. My point is that just because we try to avoid processed or pre-made foods, it doesn't mean our lives are difficult because of it. We just have a different mindset about it. And spending time making yogurt, for example, gives me time to think about where my food's been and what it is. Now maybe that's a bit too weird for you, because who thinks about where their food's been? But maybe that's the point. If we were a bit more mindful of where things we're putting in our mouths had come from, things would probably change a lot, and for the better.
"The first watermelon I had this year [in May] was, like, a 10. Every one I've had since then has been, like, a 3." My initial response was, "You've never had a watermelon that's a 10." Because until you've eaten a melon that was just picked this morning, you've not had one that's a 10. If you've only ever eaten them from a grocery store, you might've had one that was a 10 on the grocery store scale, but a 10 on the grocery store scale is a 4 on the real world scale. The reason all of those grocery store melons taste like a 3 is because they were bred for uniformity and the ability to be shipped, not for tasted. They were grown in Mexico or Central America, picked before they were ripe and trucked the thousands of miles it took them to get to that grocery store in Illinois. No wonder they were no good! As for that "10" at the beginning of the season? My theory is that it tasted so good because of it's long absence on this person's plate, not because it was really that good. Think of what it would've tasted like if she had waited until August when they were actually in season! I mentioned to this person that the watermelons weren't great because it'd be at least two more months until watermelons were in season. She said "Watermelons come into season that late in Colorado?" to which the answer is, of course, no. They come into season that late in North America. I say this not to poke fun at this person, but to point out how far removed the average American is from seasons of fruit and vegetables. In our country where you can get practically anything practically anywhere, whenever you want, it makes sense that someone would equate Memorial Day with Summer with Watermelon. But it just doesn't work like that. There's a timeline to nature, but even most people in a rural town in farm country are unfamiliar with that timeline except as how it applies to corn and soybeans. Part of what we're trying to do here on this blog and in real life is work to change that.
It's not actually complicated, but a lot of people have a hard time understanding it. If we said, "We're vegetarian," some people would roll their eyes, but most would accept it and move on. But when we say "We only eat some meat," it raises quite a few eyebrows. We get a lot of "Just chicken and fish then?" But no, that's not it. As I explained to my 11-year-old niece, we only eat meat that was treated well when it was alive. I call it "ethical vegetarianism." (Her response was "So you only eat happy cows. Okay.")
DISCLAIMER: Before I go any further, let me say that I certainly do not condemn those that are vegetarians. I simply do what I feel is best for me and our family, and I trust that others do the same.
As Wendell Berry said, "I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade."
That pretty much sums it up, but I don't really find it ethical to eat only plant foods, either. (!! I know, heresy! Especially from a self-proclaimed hippie.)
For one, I don't know that it's healthier. Okay, hear me out. I do think a vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet of factory-farmed meat. Factory farmed cows are fenced in tiny pens full of their own excrement and are lucky if they have the space to turn around. They're fed exclusively corn, because corn is cheap and fattens them up quicker than grass. ("Grain-fed" or "corn-fed" are expressions in the Midwest that are synonymous with wholesome, but corn-fed cows are far from wholesome.) Cows evolved eating grass, not corn, so it wrecks their systems, and makes them ill, which necessitates the use of antibiotics in their feed. Add in a dose of growth hormones to make them bigger faster, and you've got yourself the typical beef that is found in restaurants and grocery stores all over the country. Jeff is fond of saying "Think about what your body would be like if you ate only french fries. That's what beef is like that's been fed grain. Why would you want to eat that?" But grass-fed beef, on the other hand, is so lean that it won't even stick together to make it into hamburgers. Pigs who eat only grass and grain (on which they evolved,) instead of soy, are also pretty lean too, for pork. It's probably only as fatty as CAFO (confined animal feeding operations, another word for factory farms) beef. I don't think it's healthier to eat highly-processed foods made from plants instead of ethically, responsibly farmed meat.
As far as the ideal that some vegetarians have, to not eat "anything with a face", I can't get behind that. Rodents, bugs, birds, etc, are sacrificed for soybean farming, (tofu, tempeh, and other vegetarian main dishes are made from soybeans.) Soybean farming is almost exclusively done on large scale farms, that often use genetically modified crops that kill a certain type of caterpillar that "threatens" the soybean plants. As a result, this moth is almost extinct, since all of its larva is being killed off in order to protect they soybeans that may eventually end up in a vegetarian meal.
There's also the argument that farming livestock for meat contributes to global climate change. Well, yes and no. Yes because factory farming does in fact produce tons (literally tons) of waste, and methane is a byproduct of CAFOs, which puts the whole system out of balance. Agreed. However, responsible grazing is actually good for the ecosystem, and as long as farms aren't interested in pumping out more (meat) for less (money) they're helping the planet, not damaging it.
If ethically farmed meat is not available, we don't eat it. (We order fish or vegetarian at restaurants.) If there was nowhere nearby where we could get it, farm or farmers market or grocery store, we'd likely eat a lot more soy products, and just would go without meat. This is a good, smart option for those without access to organic, humanely treated meat animals.
This will be an ongoing subject on the blog, I think, because this is a major topic, and therefore not something that can be fully expressed in one single blog post.
This week's take, from Wednesday's market and Saturday's market.
We were still pretty set for produce, so we picked up our milk & eggs, and stocked up on meat. Three lbs. ground beef, two lbs ground pork, one lb of beef summer sausage, beef kielbasa, and of course, a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs.
A bunch of small purple onions, a bunch of white salad turnips, a bunch of red, yellow and orange carrots, a bunch of golden beets, a head of lettuce (but I can't for the life of me remember what kind,) four yellow cucumbers called Blondies, four green cucumbers, four small yellow Hot Wax peppers, one half-pound Ranier cherries, one half-pound Bing cherries, and two pounds apricots.
This is when market season really starts to pick up in Colorado. The market was beautiful yesterday, with gloriously full bushel baskets making up gorgeous displays at all the booths. Okay, I know I'm waxing poetic about vegetables and farm stands, but I see beauty in that stuff more than almost anything else, (the major exception being Charlotte.)
This butter-making post has been a long time coming. We ran out of our last stick of butter two weeks ago before we left on vacation, and I was determined not to buy any more. I would've liked to have timed it a little better, so as not to have run out of the store-bought before I had made any, but it was way too crazy before we left town.
The first step is to leave your cream out until it reaches room temperature. It took all day for our quart of cream to warm up enough.
Next, dump cream into a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (If you don't have a stand mixer, I highly recommend getting one. It is probably the most valuable and versatile tool in your kitchen, after the stove.)
Mix on speed 1 or 2, until butter begins to form in clumps.
The butter will accumulate in the whisk, but if you let it go long enough, it'll spin out to form a ring in the bowl.
Pour off the buttermilk, refrigerate and reserve for baking. (Or drinking, I guess, but we'll be using ours in recipes.)
Next wash the butter. Pour about 2 cups very cold water (if the water is too warm it will melt the butter,) into the mixing bowl. Whisk on speed 1 until water is cloudy.
Pour off the water through a strainer and repeat until water runs clear.
Next you'll need to dry the butter. We used butter muslin, but you can also squeeze the butter in a clean floursack-type of towel. (Don't use terrycloth towels, as you'll want to be able to scrape the butter off.)
I'm not entirely sure how much we made, but it was probably at least 1.5 cups. We got 7+ oz in one container, and another few (5, maybe?) oz in another, plus at least a pint of buttermilk.
And it's seriously the best, buttery-est butter I've ever tasted.
I've been craving popsicles since we moved about 2 months ago. There's something about the ice-cold, fresh taste of a popsicle, but I haven't had any because I haven't been able to find them made without high fructose corn syrup or Splenda. Then I saw this Bakerella post about making your own fresh fruit ice pops.
Of course! Why hadn't I thought of that? I still had quite a few apricots left from the Saturday market, and about a cup or so of the vanilla yogurt I'd made (almost 4 weeks ago, and it's still good!).
I pitted and quartered 7 apricots, about 2 cups' worth. I pulsed those in the food processor with a big squirt of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar. When it reached a texture that was mildly chunky, I added in the yogurt and pulsed it a bit more to mix it. Since I don't have any official popsicle molds, I went a bit old school and used ice cube trays and toothpicks. (Be sure to cover the trays with foil and insert the toothpicks through the foil, to keep them upright.) They went into the freezer overnight, (though they would've been ready in a few hours) and I admit I had 5 for breakfast. That's not really much of a confession I guess, since they're just fruit, yogurt and a bit of sugar. And five ice cubes' worth is not actually a lot.
Not as pretty as Bakerella's, but they taste great!
I think I'll try making pudding pops tonight. Mmm. Look for that update soon.
We hit up the Saturday CFAM since we skipped buying produce on Wednesday due to the deluge. Here's what we got:
Bunch of kohlrabi, bunch of small purple onions, two bunches of carrots, 1 lb of apricots and The Score of the Day: 1/2 lb of cherries. They are the sweetest, tartest cherries I've ever tasted. (It sounds like an oxymoron, but I assure you they are the perfect combination of sweet and tart.) And so juicy. It's taking quite a bit of willpower to not eat the remainder of the half-pound every time I walk into the kitchen.
It's the epitome of modern hippie-dom. Or if not the epitome, then at least the stereotype. It's granola.
We eat a fair bit of it around here, but I've never attempted to make it myself. Until just the other day. It's quite easy actually, and made from things you're likely to have on hand. (The reason I decided to make it was that I had absolutely everything I needed in the cabinets, so it required no more planning than a whim to whip some up.)
Quick cooking oats - 3 c
Peanuts - 1/2 c
Wheat germ - 1/4 c
Honey - 1/3 c
Brown sugar - 1/3 c
Water - 2 T
Vanilla extract - 1 t
Salt - 1/2 t
Oil - 1/4 c (Sunflower oil is pictured, but I changed my mind and used coconut oil.)
Chop peanuts in food processor. Some ended up really fine and some were still almost whole; I figured it was a good mix.
Combine oats, wheat germ, and peanuts in a large bowl. Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl. Mix the contents of the small bowl well.
Pour liquid slowly into oat mixture, stirring as you go. Coat evenly.
Spread granola onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake at 250 for one hour...
...pulling the baking sheet out of the oven every 15 minutes and stirring granola, to make sure it toasts evenly. This is the hardest part about making granola, which, really, if this is the worst part then it's really not too bad.
Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
Do your own dishes this time, because fair's fair. ;)
We braved the hail storm and made it to the park for today's farmers market, along with a handful of others and pretty much all of the vendors. We didn't buy anything, just picked up our shares, because we didn't have cash. The market does accept debit and credit cards, by going to the main CFAM booth and buying "market bucks" which are basically $5 gift certificates. Our jeans were mostly soaked by the time we picked up our milk and eggs and had our weekly chat with Doug & Kim, the Larga Vista farmers who do milk, eggs, beef and pork, so we decided to continue playing "clean out the freezer" for meals, and head to the market on Saturday to buy produce.
Gallon of milk, one dozen eggs. No cream this week, due to a "mishap with some milk." I'm not really sure what that means, but no worries, because we've still got 4 qts of cream in the fridge, waiting to be turned into butter and other things.
This post is coming to you two weeks late, due to a combination of patchy Internet connection and being out of state, but I still want to post it to keep a record of sorts of what we get from the market all summer.
This week we didn't buy any veggies, because we still had some left from the two markets the week before, and we need to eat all of that before we head out for Illinois. We did pick up our regular gallon of milk, quart of cream, and dozen eggs (not pictured--I forgot to take them out of the fridge for the photo.) We also bought a loaf of white chocolate lemon bread, (it was supposed to last me a few days as breakfast, but I had the whole thing devoured in less than 24 hours,) a loaf of French bread, and snagged the new issue of Edible Front Range, a quarterly publication "celebrating local Colorado food, farms and cuisine, season by season." It's a great little magazine that's full of recipes and articles about small farms, restaurants that use fresh local ingredients, and other businesses that relate to the slow food movement, (an article about a small, small-scale gelato company comes to mind.) I highly suggest you check it out, if you're on the Front Range, and if not, check out one of the other Edible Communities mags (click the link below to find one in your region.) As a bonus, it's made of heavy cardstock, not newsprint or glossy magazine paper, so it keeps well, and holds its own on the bookshelf with my cookbooks. -Anna
Jeff & Anna
Once went an entire summer without eating anything from a package.
means, well, just that, whole foods. Foods that are whole, are un-processed, and are greater than the sum of their parts. I once read that if your great-grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, you shouldn't be eating it. That means, as surprising as it may be, that lard = good, Crisco = bad; butter = good, Country Crock = bad. And if you've never tried cooking with lard, you should. It's awesome. Plus it's a mono- unsaturated fat, the best kind, like nuts or avocados. See? I told you it was surprising.