Thursday, November 24, 2011

There is so much to be thankful for


I am thankful for the growers and producers that dedicate countless hours tending to the crops and flocks that reach our plates and nourish us.
I am thankful for those that are dedicated to helping increase awareness and accessibility to locally grown and sustainably produced foods.
I am thankful for those that are committed to educating others on why it is important to eat locally, organically and sustainably.
I am thankful for each person that takes a moment to be conscious about the food choices they make, weighing the benefits of how the food was grown and being willing to pay a bit more for higher quality, less processed food.
I am thankful for the slow but steady movement away from our current industrialized food system to which we have been conveniently complacent for too long.
I am thankful for a keener awareness of where our food comes from.
I am thankful for the impact we can have with loud voices regarding our food choices
I am thankful to you for reading this and pondering your part.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas


Everything about this recipe screams autumn to me.  The colors of the vegetables match the hues of the season, the heartiness of the ingredients fill you up on a chilly eve.

Roasting is one of my favorite ways to bring out the flavor of vegetables, allowing the natural sugars to brown and caramelize. Many would prefer this as a side dish, but with the addition of garbanzo beans it can also make a nice vegetarian meal. Knowing that even one meatless meal a week can make a positive impact on our health and the health of our environment, I try to cook at least one vegetarian meal a week for my family. Another perk: meatless meals are often very affordable and a great way to save some money for a splurge later on.

The recipe: Combine about 5 sliced carrots, 3 peeled & cubed sweet potatoes (Lee Farms), 3-4 peeled & cubed white potatoes (Marble Creek Farm), 1 chopped red onion, 5 cloves chopped garlic (Bellew Creek Farm) and 1 can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) to a roasting pan. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. rosemary, 1 tsp. brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Drizzle the oil combo on top, toss well to coat.  Roast at 400 F for about 30 minutes.

A tip: any time using canned beans, make sure to rinse and drain before adding to your recipe. The liquid in the can is filled with undigestible sugars causing some "unpleasant side effects" that can clear a room in no time. (recipe adapted from one published on recipe.com and Better Homes and Gardens)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scientist or Artist ~ Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Squares


I am not much of a baker, rather more of a “cooker”.  Baking is more of a science in that you have to be precise with measuring each ingredient in order for the product to turn out well. To me, cooking is more of an art, allowing more flexibility and creativity with ingredients, mixing and matching whatever is on hand or what seems like should be added. 

As part of my CSA share, I acquired whole-wheat pastry flour from the Missouri Grain Project.  I used small amounts of the flour for fish batter, but in order use up all of the flour, I realized I would have to awaken the scientist in me and get to baking. 

I decided to make Chewy Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Squares based on a recipe from Woman’s Day magazine (Sept 2011).  I chose this recipe since cookies are a forgiving type of baking, allowing a bit more flexibility with the ingredients. I also like dessert recipes that offer some nutritional value.  Ingredients for this cookie bar include cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, dark chocolate chips and dried cherries, each providing a boost in vitamins and minerals. I used the whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour for additional nutrients and fiber. With so much goodness, one can almost justify eating these for breakfast!  Baking soda, vanilla, salt, butter and sugar are also ingredients certainly not helping the nutrition profile but are necessary to make the science happen and the end product taste good!

Tip: when a recipe calls for nutmeg, use a microplane to grate whole nutmeg-it really makes a difference! 

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (Missouri Grain Project)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 
2 sticks unsalted, softened butter 
¾ cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs (Good Earth Egg Company, Bonne Terre, MO)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then slowly add in the eggs and vanilla.
Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. (this is important in baking: if you over-stir, you will create too much gluten and your product will be tough)
Spread in a prepared 13x9 baking pan.
Bake at 350 F for about 16-18 minutes until golden brown.



Friday, November 4, 2011

T.Y.O.P. (i.e., “Top-Your-Own-Pizza”)

Our family loves “Top-Your-Own-Pizza” night. Everyone gets to place their favorite toppings on pre-made crusts. It’s a great way for me to try out more unusual toppings that perhaps the rest of the crew would be less enamored by.

With local pecans available at the farmer’s market, I decided to make Apple, Chevre & Pecan Pizza inspired by a recipe from Cooking Light (October 2011). The pizza crusts are from St. Louis Custom Crust, obviously a St. Louis based company. These crusts are super thin (just like a St. Louis style pizza should be), flaky and are whole wheat. They come 5 to a pack, perfect for everyone to make their own personal pie.

I topped my pizza with chevre cheese (Heartland Creamery), pecans (Missouri Pecan Growers LLC), slices of apple (Echo Valley Orchards) and a sprinkle of fresh thyme (my garden).  As the “pizza sauce”, I combined olive oil, grainy mustard (Sandhill Farm), a squeeze of lemon juice, and a drizzle of honey (Sam Crowe).  I tossed the arugula in this mixture and placed on the pizza.  Popped into a 450 degree oven for about 6 minutes.

The pizza of course can be adapted to your liking and to whatever ingredients you have on hand. The chevre can be subbed for feta or gorgonzola, the pecans could be walnuts or pine nuts, and the apples could be swapped for pears. Or, of course, you could replace all of the ingredients and go for the traditional pepperoni and cheese like my kids did! Everyone eats happy on T.Y.O.P. night!
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