Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hippie Spice Rub & a New Beginning!

It has been a length of time since I have visited the blog. An infant, a seven year old, a new career, the building of a hostel, our farm, and a future bright and full have been consuming me in the most wonderful of ways. To say that I am overwhelmed would be understated, but when I go to bed each night exhausted, it is an exhaustion that means something. That I have conquered another day, and that day was so full and spectacular, that I will probably drool and snore as  my tiredness seeps from my bones.

I am wrapping up an almost 8 year career managing the Co-op Deli. I have learned so much and I am grateful for those 8 years. I will be putting my co-operative business background to work as the new Director of the Co-operation Station daycare. I  hope to bring exciting energy to each day, to fill the bellies of our youth with delicious eats, and to feed their minds and hearts with as much of the goodness of the world as I can.

The blog will be continuing on through our Hungry Hippy Farm and Hostel website- I am working with the wonderful local radio station WTIP, to create some new pieces to record and air with a focus on local harvest. I can't wait to continue our food segments on the radio, and I am super excited as I put my first piece together!!

Today there is a chicken- that I set in an aromatic brine of brown sugar, garlic, bay, sea salt, molasses, and water-soaking it up in the fridge. My husband and I will be smoking it this overcast afternoon. There are beets and blueberries simmering on the stove top to be made into baby food. I like to expand their pallets when they are young, and my eldest daughter can contest to eating a wide range of random but usually delicious eats. I also just whipped up a dry rub to slather the chicken with when it is done with its 2 to 3 hour bath, just before it enters the smoker. There are 12 pigs running amuck, grazing the clover and rooting the pasture, awaiting feeding time. The chickens are down to a flock of 3, and one insists on roosting the evenings away with my car in the garage. While all of these things are in action, it's my 6 month old who pulls me in, reminding me that her first teeth are coming in with a vengeance.

This is my world today. Filled to the brim with all of the good stuff my life has to offer. Today I was going to post a special recipe to wrap up this chapter, and I guess that this recipe is special in that it is laden and intertwined so thoroughly into my being and all that is encompassing it. This recipe was created between pureeing batches of beets and blueberries, brining a bird, dodging the dog, and comforting my children from all of life's woes. This recipe is packed with flavor and a days worth of memories. We are calling it our Hippie Spice blend- the mix of spices we used as a dry rub for our chicken before it hit the smoker. A blend of salty, sweet, smoky and a little spicy, this blend will be great on just about everything you're grilling.  I can't wait for the next blog post! Please check us out at!! Belly up!!

Hippie Spice Rub

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon granulated onion
3/4 Tablespoon black pepper
1/2 Tablespoon dry rubbed sage
1/2 Tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 Tablespoon dried chili flakes

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, making sure to mix thoroughly. Store in an air tight container for up to a month!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Skillet

Spring is finally here! I used to loath spring, in its unwillingness to commit- like REALLY commit, to warmer weather. One day spring is so joyous, bringing in the sunshine and the green grass, and the next day it's bringing on the snow. I used to think that spring really needed to get it together. I used to wring my hands each evening trying to predict future forecasts, with my vain attempts shot down by unexpected freezing rain. Ugh. But now, I'm warming up to the spring season. Tulips happen eventually, and spring leads to summer, and we all like summer in northern Minnesota.

Time to think spring I say! Bring on the asparagus and leeks. Bring on the ramps, the sprouts, and the spring greens!  I am reminded of my life in rural Wisconsin, when the Holsteins had their first taste of green pastures. Their raw milk taking on a slightly different flavor, hints of flavor from the pastures they are now grazing. When raw milk cheese is made from milk at this time of year, it has a grassier, earthier flavor and a softer texture. I can see it in the raw milk cheddars we are bringing in at the store. The spring produce and the spring cheeses go together like peas and carrots. There is nothing better than pickled spring onions and raw milk cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches.

Another of my favorite spring cheeses is Manchego. Made from sheep's milk, it has a mellow sheep's milk flavor with a buttery-ness that makes for a really great cheese. Since Manchego is a Spanish cheese, I often find myself pairing it with Spanish Chorizo. In thinking about creating a recipe today, I have more of an ingredient list. A pairing of flavors and ingredients that can be swapped out for others, and can be brought together in a flash. Yeah, lets do that. Let's do spring cheese, spring veggies, and keep it all light and delicious.

Let's start with caramelizing leeks- about 2 cups of sliced leeks, (whites only and thoroughly cleaned), in a hot skillet with 2 TBLS olive oil and 1 TBLS butter, and a sprinkling of salt and sugar. Once the leeks have started to take on some color, it is time to add:

 lets add asparagus, the stems sliced and the spears left big. Lets also add some premade potato gnocchi (potato dumplings that can be found in most super markets, pre-boil them in salted water just until they start to float, then add to the pan).

Now let's finish things off with a BANG. While the gnocchi and asparagus are browning up, lets add some cured Spanish Chorizo ( this is the kind that is ready to eat, like the kind from OLLI SALUMERIA with smoked paprika), diced- about 1/2 cup. Reduce the heat a bit when you add the chorizo. You don't want to burn it or brown it really, you just want to render out some of those really great flavors, and let them melt into the other ingredients. Once that has happened add:

lets do a good handful of pea sprouts. Kale or spinach would work well to. Remove the skillet from the heat. Give it all a taste, adding salt and pepper if needed. Better yet, add some dried chili flakes. Once you've adjusted the flavors, add a ridiculous amount of shaved Manchego cheese over the top. If you wanted to add some fresh notes, some fresh lemon zest would do well. Serve this thing up family style, right out of the skillet. Enjoy! Belly up!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DIY: Homemade Vanilla Extract

Listening to my wise and witty friend and coworker Kim, I have come to many realizations. One is that she is an expert on wellness, hence her profession as a wellness expert at the Co-op. On any given day she can take one look at me and suggest a shot of fish oil and some Joy Tonic to help me get through my day. We discuss tinctures often. She has a recommendation for each of my woes and ailments.  The other day she told me how easy it was to make my own tinctures, and that she often makes them at home. The more I thought about making homemade tinctures, the more I thought about how I could incorporate this new found knowledge into my food world. Homemade vanilla extract was my immediate response. Why not steep vanilla beans in alcohol, instead of medicinal herbs? It sounded good, and the more research I did, the more I found that folks have been making their own vanilla extract for quite some time. I had to try my hand at it.

Super Easy. Here's what you'll need:

8oz glass bottle or jar
6-8 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka (you can also use bourbon, rum, or brandy)

1. Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and place in the bottle. It may help to slice the beans into smaller chunks for the ease of getting them in the jar, and that is A- Okay!

2. Pour the vodka over the beans, and make sure they are fully submerged.

3. Shake. Once or twice a week will do.

4. Wait about 8 weeks, and tada, you've just made vanilla extract! You're amazing!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I love you, chocolate chip cookies.

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and I mean like right there at the intersection. So what are you going to do? Flowers? Candy? Movie? All of those are great ideas, and I personally think that the three should make it into your Valentine's Day. But what about those of us who don't live near a theater, or who's sleep deprived and busy lives have us totally exhausted and needing Valentine's Day to be an 'in house' experience. I have just the thing. The BEST chocolate chip cookies. EVER. Chocolate chip cookies radiate love and a dearness that just claims your never ending affection towards your ones and onlys. There is nothing more satisfying than watching your loves eat warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies.

This BEST EVER chocolate chip cookie has you melting the butter and adding lots of vanilla. I think those are the key to having these cookies go from good to excellent. This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated, and I am thankful that they have scientifically tested this particular cookie. It is a long story, but to sum it up, melted butter makes for a chewy cookie. When butter is melted, the fat and water molecules separate. When melted butter is added to a dough, the proteins in the flour immediately grab onto the freed water molecules to form elastic strands of gluten. The gluten makes an cookie chewy.

Yeah, science is cool. Anyway, here's the recipe. It will keep your loved ones close. To further the kind act of home baked cookies, you could sandwich delicious ice cream between two cookies and maybe a slather of hot fudge sauce. Just an idea. Show the LOVE!!

Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons unbleached all -purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1- 11/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

Roll about 1/4 cup of dough into a ball. Place on a nonstick baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, about 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Cool and enjoy! Belly up!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charred Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

I'll be the first to admit that I used to think there was not much joy in a salad recipe. But this recipe is more about using produce that is looking good this time of year, exciting cooking techniques, and ingredients that made it to Organic Gardening's 9 best foods to eat in January. What are those 9 besties? Grapefruit came in as number one, followed in hot pursuit by beets, brussel sprouts, turkey, cauliflower, pumpkin seeds, avocados, eggs, and yogurt. For more info on why these 9 contenders should make it to your plate, check out Organic Gardening's webpage.

I'm focusing on grapefruit and avocado today. The health benefits are amazing! Grapefruit is not only good for your nose and your ticker, but it's vitamin 'C' content has been found to reduce cold symptoms by 23%, and we could all use a cold fighting boost right about now! Avocados are rich in magnesium and monounsaturated fats which provide a more sustained form of energy than the quick burning carbs that folks tend to crave this time of year. Having sustained energy levels will keep your mood elevated too. Pair these two power foods together and prepare to conquer, or just be better equipped to face the day.

This salad is easy and requires just a bit of prep time. As a base, I used a blend of chopped kale, romaine, and beet greens. Use whatever greens you have on hand. I topped the salad with a good amount of avocado and grapefruit, tossed it all together with a scallion vinaigrette, and topped it off with some pumpkin seeds ( they are rich in magnesium which helps your body convert tryptophan into serotonin). The charred grapefruit flavor comes from a burnt citrus salt that lends a smoky and bright flavor.

Charred Grapefruit & Avocado Salad
serves 4

8 cups chopped greens- romaine, kale, butter lettuce, beet greens, or whatever you have
2 avocados- halved, pitted, and sliced
2 grapefruit- peeled and segmented (to segment a grapefruit simply cut eat slice between the membrane leaving you with the tender and juicy grapefruit segments)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and sprinkled with burnt citrus salt
scallion vinaigrette
burnt citrus salt

Toss the greens with a liberal amount of scallion vinaigrette. Divide dressed greens amongst four plates. Top each pile of greens with about half of a sliced avocado and half of a segmented grapefruit. Top each salad with 2 Tablespoons of toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with a bit more scallion vinaigrette and sprinkle each salad with burnt citrus salt. This would also make a wonderful entrĂ©e topped with a portion of grilled salmon. Enjoy! Belly up!!

Scallion Vinaigrette
6 scallions, pale and dark green parts only, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (you could sub apple cider vinegar)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon water
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped

Whirl the above ingredients together in a blender or food processor until blended well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This vinaigrette tastes fantastic on grilled fish and vegetables too!

Burnt Citrus Salt
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from 1 lime and 1 grapefruit. Place zest side up on an aluminum lined baking sheet fitted with a rack. Using a blowtorch, torch zest until lightly charred. Let cool. mince, and stir into 1 cup flaked sea salt. Store at room temp up to 1 month. This recipe and other burnt food ideas are from Saveur. It turns out I'm not the only one who likes burnt toast, burnt marshmallows, and burnt bbq bits!