So, I am taking advice from my good friend Rachel. She once sang an amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way” to her ex-boyfriend. She’s totally my pretend friend from Glee, by the way.
I’m not really Kim’s friend.
Anyway, I have decide to go MY own way! You might have noticed that this blog has posts with major gaps between and quite a strange mix of topics. I’ve been struggling to decide just which way this blog would go. While I want it to be a discussion ground for all things food, I also want to talk about my own food passions. Stop talking in circles girl, get to the point!
Ok, so after my experience with real food and Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, I have slowly been taken hostage by eating only…well, real food! So that coffee creamer I talked about in post number one, gone. I actually had some creamer in my coffee at church on Sunday and couldn’t drink it. How quickly my taste buds have jumped their artificial ship! So, this blogger found her voice and it speaks REAL! Booyeah, now we can get rolling.
*Oh, I say totally outdated things like booyeah and amazeballs. We watch a lot of Nick Jr., Alvin and the Chipmunks and My Little Pony. Sorry, I will work on my sassy talk.
So, wanna journey through the world of real food with me? No? Then check out Kendi, she has a delicious fashion blog. For the rest of you, I’d love to introduce you to a real foodist’s book list!
While I give you some time to click each book photo above, I will go finish making the “cake” I made with my son tonight. We started cooking the Basic Cake recipe from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” I didn’t read the recipe ahead of time. It’s almost bedtime and I promised Dallas we would make a cake while I was in the middle of a conversation with my friend Lisa. Anything to get in some adult chat time, right? I should say, mom chat time. Adult chat time sounds like something else.
Halfway through the recipe I read that we needed to ground 1/2 pound of almonds? Uh, no thanks. I just threw in some flour, milk, eggs and more sugar in a good ole’ willy nilly fashion. I’ll let you know how it all turns out. (I’m guessing the next post will be called, “Cake Gone Wrong.” More real food talk to come as well.
The chocolate syrup I made yesterday was a huge hit. Dallas wanted to dip anything he could find in it!
I used the concotion to add flavor to another cooking first (in my home at least,) homemade pudding. I have bought many blue boxes of Sugar-Free, Fat-Free Jell-O and Jell-O pudding in my day. I hope to never buy a box again. Making pudding at home was seriously easy, seriously cheap and SERIOUSLY yummy! So yummy that a spoonful prompted Dallas to announce, “Mommy! This is better than Safeway pudding!”
Just for comparison sake, here are the listed ingredients for a package of Sugar-Free Jell-O pudding mix:
Water, xylitol (baby laxative), modified food starch, cocoa processed with alkali, milk protein concentrate, contains less than 1% of hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut and palm kernel oils), salt, sodium stearoyl lactylate (for smooth texture), sodium alginate, sucralose and acesulfame potassium (sweeteners), natural and artificial flavor, artificial color.
1. Put 2 cups of half-and-half or milk, sugar and salt in a small or medium saucepot over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into milk or half-and-half using small sharp knife, then add pod. Cook just until mixture begins to steam.
2. Combine cornstarch and remaining milk or half-and-half in a bowl and blend; there should be no lumps. Fish pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in butter and vanilla extract, if using.
3. Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish or 4 to 6 small ramekins or bowls. Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent formation of a skin, or do not cover if you like skin. Refrigerate until chilled, and serve within a day, with whipped cream if you like. Whisk to remove lumps if needed.
What a fantastic resource! I am in love with http://www.realtimefarms.com/ and all that they are attached to! Use their handy website to find local food sources, food artisans, restaurants and Farmer’s Markets.
I have been hoping to take my boys to visit a dairy farm and this site has been the perfect starting point. If you are interested, you can register with Real Time Farms and connect your favorite farms/markets or otherwise to the rest of the blogosphere. Pretty interesting!
While on the subject of visiting dairy farms, I should talk a little about my new favorite food. Brown Cow Yogurt. Seriously, it’s my FAVORITE food right now. This is how the Brown Cow describes itself, “We use only natural ingredients, like fresh, wholesome milk, the finest fruits, pure maple syrup, honey, real vanilla, coffee and cocoa and never any preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or refined sugar.” I challenge you to pick up a Creme Top yogurt, check out the ingredients for yourself and give it a taste.
Oh Lordy, it is amazing! Apparently, someone in the world started using the words “amazeballs” in the past year or so and yes, Brown Cow is amazeballs! I’ve stopped eating low or no fat foods after some research and trial. It’s true that fat does not make you fat. I can never, ever go back to eating the yogurt of the past. Dannon Light N’ Fit? Gag me.
I really enjoyed watching videos from the Brown Cow dairy farmers (here). After hearing how well these cows are cared for and fed, you may start to wonder about the cows we don’t ever hear about. You know, feedlots, antibiotics, all that…well, crap.
As I get more and more into talking about the world of dairy and how we should be slurping up the full fat milk from local, grass-fed cows, I pose a challenge. As a great first step into dairy awareness (OK, pause here to just make it known that it is REALLY hard to type dairy without constantly typing DIARY instead) check out where your milk is from!
Go grab your milk, copy the code into the handy website listed above and check out the distance between cow and your fridge! I’ve found the best source of local-ish, organic milk to be Fresh & Easy. They carry Humboldt Creamery and it is pretty good!
We are lucky enough to be immersed in farmer’s markets where we live. In addition to the standard Saturday markets, San Ramon also has a Thursday artisan market. As if that weren’t enough, Walnut Creek (10 minutes from San Ramon) holds a fabulous Sunday market, too. I’ve been making a point of hitting at least one farmer’s market a week, lately it has been the Thursday artisan affair. The market caters to the local business lunchers and stay at home moms.
One of our favorite finds have been strawberries from the guys with the giant yellow banner. What, you don’t know who I am talking about? We also stalk the Kettle Corn man, the guy who sells peaches and nectarines, Dairy Goddess cheese, Jamaica Iced Mocha, the Brentwood corn man and our newest found love, the EMPANADA man!
I normally prefer my pastries to contain anything sweet, but after trying a little meat pie from the El Porteno man, my eyes have widened! I wish I knew more about the man who sells the empanadas at our farmer’s market, but I can say he is not from California! Empanadas can be found all over South America (except for Bolivia, where they are called saltenas.) Anyway, he is just the person I want to buy empanadas from. An old, striped sweater and linen M.C. Hammer pants, curly hair, braces and an indistiguishable accent. The kids and I ate two chicken pies for lunch and brought three beef home for dinner. El Porteno has a San Francisco location in addition to their farmer’s market booths. Check it out!
Berries from the yellow banner guy, Dairy Goddess cheese on our sweet potato and a carne empanada from El Porteno.
Whoah. That can prettty much describe how I felt about three minutes into cooking my first JO meal. He was serious when he suggested I read through the recipe first! This meal is listed in the 20 minute or less chapter and is described as something you’d order at a posh noodle-bar. 20 minutes? Technically, yes. A better description may be, 20 hectic, iron-chef style, sweat-inducing minutes.
To be fair to Jamie, if I would have done what he said and fully stocked my pantry first and read the recipe over (more than once), it would have most likely induced less sweat. I found my produce at the local stand (Windmill Farms) and my chicken & dry goods at Fresh & Easy.
I shopped for the items with both kids in tow. Both kids fell asleep on the way to the produce stand. Maxwell wakes up well from naps, but Dallas…oh, Dallas. If there is not a saying that goes, “Let sleeping 4 year olds lie,” there really should be. I prepared to wake him by picking up a burger at In & Out and crossed my fingers. As planned, Max woke up and was ready to go, while Dallas acted like I had slapped him awake with an iron glove. Why am I telling you this? I am hoping you’ll understand why I didn’t want to make the trek to a third store (Trader Joe’s) to pick up the required Chinese Five Spice or thin asparagus and baby corn.
Back to the kitchen…
First, the seed combo needs to be toasted. Why did I not know how EASY it is to toast nuts & seeds? It really brings out the flavor! I always thought it needed to be done in the oven, but apparently that is roasting, not toasting.
While the toasting happens, heat a large saucepan on high and pour in 4 cups (I learned that 4 cups = 1 quart) of chicken broth. Don’t comment on my lack of metric conversion knowledge, it’s a weakness, I know. The broth boils quickly and is truly where the magic of this recipe happens!
Before adding anything to the broth, I removed the seeds and cashews from my extra hot pan and tossed in some olive oil and chicken strips. The strips should have been doused in Five Spice, but…you know why they weren’t. Instead, I gave them a sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and cinnamon. I then proceeded to overcook the suckers, just like Jamie warned me not to.
Back to the broth. Now that the chicken is on its way, I dropped some fresh ginger in the broth. JO never says just how to cut the ginger, he only calls for it to be the size of your thumb. A good note in his book might have mentioned smaller is better! The big chunks of ginger are a do not repeat for this recipe! Next, drop in a few small handful of veggies. In this house, we had frozen peas, green beans and corn, so that’s what went in. Soy sauce, lime juice and then the my favorite new food, RICE NOODLES!
The recipe offers the choice of vermicelli if you do not have rice noodles, but I am so glad Fresh & Easy had them! The package was a little over a dollar and I only needed a third of it. Rice noodles have the same texture as traditional pasta, but without the heft. They cook quickly, too!
Just as the chicken finishes cooking, or in my house overcooking, the meal is complete! I ladeled the noodles, veg and broth over a handful of spinach in my big, fat bowl. Laid the rubbery chicken on top, sprinkled with toasted poppy seeds, sesame seeds and cashews and chose to eat, rather than pass out!
What did I learn from this recipe? I learned that flavor enhanced broth is easy to make! I also conquered my fear of rice noodles! Most of all, I am more confident in the kitchen! I didn’t expect the last one. I am actually a little sad that my next JO recipe (Baked Camembert Pasta) is so easy!
1 tablespoon mixed seeds (pumpkin, poppy, sun flower)
a small handful of raw cashew nuts
1 quart chicken broth, preferably organic
2 skinless chicken breast fillets, preferably free-range or organic
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
½ to 1 fresh red chili, to your taste
4 ounces rice sticks or vermicelli
a handful of snow peas
6 thin asparagus spears or 4 regular-sized spears
6 fresh baby corn or ½ cup fresh corn kernels
juice of 1 lime
a small handful of spinach leaves
Put a medium frying pan or wok on a high heat and add the seeds and cashew nuts to it straight away, while it’s heating up. Put a large saucepan on a high heat. Fill the saucepan with the chicken broth, heat until very hot, and put a lid on it. Toss the seeds and nuts around until heated through nicely — this will take a couple of minutes. While this is happening, slice your chicken breasts lengthways into 3 pieces and put them into a bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with the five-spice powder and a good pinch of salt and pepper and stir. When the seeds and nuts are done, transfer them to a plate. Put the empty pan back on a high heat. Add a little olive oil to your hot pan with your slices of chicken and cook for 5 minutes, until golden, tossing and turning every now and again.
While the chicken’s cooking, peel and finely slice your ginger and slice your chili. Take the lid off the pan with the chicken broth and add half the chili, all the ginger, your rice sticks (or vermicelli), snow peas, asparagus, and corn, with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Halve the lime and squeeze in the juice. By the time the rice sticks (or vermicelli) and veggies are done, the chicken will be cooked. Take a piece of chicken out and slice it lengthways to check if it’s cooked all the way through — when done, remove all the chicken from the pan and slice each piece in half to expose the juicy chicken inside (please don’t be tempted to overcook it). To serve, divide the spinach leaves between your bowls and pour over the broth, rice sticks (or vermicelli), and vegetables. Divide the chicken pieces over and scatter with the toasted seeds, cashews, and remaining chili.
We can never eat corn at my parent’s house without my mom reminding us of my dad’s old mantra , “Corn is for pigs.” Apparently, after learning that pigs are fed corn, the grain lost its appeal with my dad. He has since gotten over his corn hang up, thankfully. I need grilled corn after swimming in their pool on a hot day. (Yeah, I’m over there a lot.) Know what? I’m not alone in my corn-lovin’ attitude. Most of us love corn and don’t even know how much. Apparently, corn is in something like 4,000 of the 10,000 products sold at the grocery store. Mama Mia! After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I was shocked to learn how corn has become a serious stakeholder in our guts.
“Grown on massive farms, oceans’ worth of the golden kernels and green stalks are then processed, deconstructed, and reassembled in factories into everything from a Chicken McNugget to salad dressing. We eat so much corn that, biologically speaking, most Americans are corn on two legs.” (Powell, 2006)
Pollan describes one of my favorite kitchen staples, coffee creamer as…brace yourself, “a foodlike substance.” Well, poo. I love my creamer! The more exotic the flavor, the better! I am talking about CoffeeMate, International Delight and now even BAILEY’S. I guess my coffee has a bit of corn in it too! Corn is of course, not a bad thing. It’s just the base of a seriously overprocessed thing, high fructose corn syrup. Do I still drink the stuff? You bet. It is a little like smoking a cigarette, I know it is bad for me, but it is soooo good TO me! I don’t actually smoke, just pretending to know how a smoker feels.
The photo above was taken last week at Ardenwood Farms in Fremont, California. Dallas is learning to grind indian corn that was shelled (scraped) off of a cob. We were on a field trip and prepping some food for the farm animals. Too bad I didn’t have my camera out when he dumped that whole bowl of ground corn over while we were preparing to feed sheep. Yes, it was on purpose. His excuse? “The sheep just made me nervous. They were blinking at me.”
So, in addition to pigs, corn is for chickens too (and livestock of all kind that needs fattening.) You know who else corn is for? Corn is for me! That stuff is good! Did you see the move, Nacho Libre? In the movie, Jack Black’s sidekick, named Esqueleto, eats corn on the cob in a way I had never seen before. I’ve searched and found it called, Ghetto Corn, Mexican Corn, Chile and Lime Corn and Nacho Libre Corn! I’d love to try this, but I’ll have to wait a couple more months.I refuse to buy corn on the cob right now while it’s so expensive, but come June I will be expiramenting! In the meantime, do you have a good recipe for Nacho Libre Corn?
Interested in what else Michael Pollan has to say? Read a little more here.