Thought For Food

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As I sit and look out at the 7 inches of snow that has just fallen here in Minneapolis, I sigh. It’s April, Minnesota. April. At least I can enjoy my morning granola and steaming cup of coffee, and a few great reads.

In case you are interested:

The Best Diet? Real Food

Where to Live? Anywhere, Intentionally

Still Hate Kale? Give your taste buds a chance

Want to Save on Food? Stop eating out so much…

And now back to coffee and card-making, enjoy this day everyone!

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A Little Corny…

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Anybody else ready for summer? Or at least the taste of it? As the never-ending winter continues, there is a need to find foods that provide comfort and a bright, sweet memory of summer.

I can’t think of a better food than corn to do this. And not the type of corn you find in a grocery store (did you know if you melted down the contents of a grocery store, 30% would be corn syrup…?!) – but real kernels of sweet corn. While there is no substitute for fresh corn on the cob, the frozen stuff will do just fine for now.

Corn comes in all different colors, and is full of antioxidants. It’s also a good source of fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C. I’d recommend going with some non-GMO corn, but perhaps you aren’t concerned with your health or the dangers to the environment….I could go on, but I won’t.

So once you’ve got your corn, you just need a few other ingredients, and you can whip up a batch of sweet cornbread – perfect for snacking, dipping into chili, or eating alongside some bbq.

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Or try some corn chowder, with a different flavor spin than you might be used to. But a coconut-y, curry taste that’s perfect for these chilly, gray days.

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A Little Kooky…

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Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been holding out. All these months of farm-grown, seasonal foods have been wonderful and delicious…but they wouldn’t have been complete without a little sweet thing at the end of a meal here and there.

Yes, this farmer has got a sweet tooth, and I’m ready to share a very simple recipe with you. A chocolate-y, chewy cookie, which only needs a bowl, a spoon, and an oven. Because some days, you just need a fresh out of the oven treat.

IMG_0671And I’ve got quite a few more where that came from. Other recipes coming up for your enjoyment (and of course, my tummy’s absolute delight): 5-minute truffles, fudge-y brownies, and creamy blondies.

What are you waiting for? Eat your vegetables, and treat yourself to a sweet thing afterwards!

Pass the Polenta

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Apparently there’s a lot of negative press surrounding polenta, something about it being a weird texture, something else about having to stir it constantly, and something crazy about lack of flavor.

Well, I’m here to tell you: don’t listen to the haters! They don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. Polenta can have the creamiest texture, its certainly not any fussier than rice or quinoa, and by golly, if it isn’t more flavorful and delicious because it’s grown all over the country!

It’s interesting, so many people are readily jumping on the organic, local, heirloom bandwagon for their fruits & vegetables…but why don’t we think the same way for our grains? Or our beans, nuts, seeds, oils, etc….but that will be for another post!

I bought some locally-grown, freshly-milled polenta at a farmer’s market, though you can also get it online – and gosh darn, if it wasn’t the most flavorful grain dish I’ve ever had! Yes! I’m including ALL grains! Ever!

And simple. Without further adieu:

Creamy Squash Polenta

If you want to try a bit fancier, though not really complicated recipe – try this one. Basically it enables you to make creamy polenta hours before you want to serve it, and then let it sit, undisturbed, becoming creamier & richer. Can’t complain too much about that…

And the really great thing about polenta, is that it makes wonderful leftovers. It’ll harden up in a few hours and then you can serve it cold or fried, or some other creative way that I don’t know yet. For me, I gave it a little pan fry and then made a sun-dried tomato pesto for the top. Yum.

So get on the polenta bandwagon! Support your local grain farmer – and avoid those pesky GMOs! And enjoy some truly delicious, nutritious (dietary fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium and lots of beta-carotene) meals!!

Healing Herbs

It’s the middle of January. It’s cold, quiet, and grey. My face hasn’t seen the sun in what seems like ages. How to beat these winter blues?

I don’t know about you, but being curled up next to a fire, with a good book, and a steaming cup of tea sounds like the best kind of medicine. Instead of grabbing that ol’ faithful bag of black Lipton tea, why not take the extra 5 minutes and make your own blend.

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Yes, you heard it here first – those spices & herbs in your cabinet can be used on more than just rosemary mashed potatoes or creamy sage polenta.

So here’s the process:

1) Walk into your kitchen, open your spice cabinet, and search for one or more of the following: black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, nutmeg (for a chai-like blend). Or look for rosemary, sage and thyme (for a warming, uplifting, herbaceous blend).

2) If you’ve got a tea infuser, great – you can put the herbs in there. (You can buy these cheap online, at your local co-op or apothecary). If you don’t, no need to fret! You can put the herbs right into the water, and just pour it through a strainer into your cup.

3) Put your herbs of choice into a pan with some cold water. With the heat on medium, heat the water until almost boiling. Then turn off the heat, and let the herbs steep (keep the lid on) for 10-15 minutes. Or 5 if you’re really impatient.

If you’ve got an infuser, boil some water, and then pour it into a cup with your infuser, and let steep.

4) Curl up, breathe in the wonderful fumes, sip and enjoy.

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If you’re wondering why I chose these spices, it’s because they’re backed with actual healing properties. Especially for the winter time…

Black pepper – warming, energizing, and stimulating properties; use for poor circulation, for colds, or for low energy levels.

Cayenne – wonderful heart tonic, increases circulation, aids digestion and helps the immune system in the event of colds and flus.

Cinnamon – aids the digestive system, increases poor circulation, very warming, plays well with other herbs.

Cloves – pain and fever reliever, wonderfully aromatic.

Fennel – carminative, digestive aid, and clears congestion.

Nutmeg – useful as a remedy for nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

Sage – antibiotic properties, excellent remedy for a chronic winter cough, and used as a tonic for low energy.

Rosemary — high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6, relieves headaches, and used to combat depression.

Thyme — natural expectorant, antiseptic, and antibiotic properties, long used to purify the body & environment, and a natural source of iron.

If you’re a bit more adventurous…
Consider going to the bulk section of your local co-op or apothecary, and stocking up on some other herbs. The world of herbs & herbal teas is wonderful, but can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Here’s a handy chart that lists an ailment you might be having, and the best herbs (according to The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman and All Women Are Healers by Diane Stein) for each of those ailments.

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Start by just trying one or two, ask around, look at the ingredients in your favorite herbal teas, and see where it gets you. Herbalism has been practiced for thousands of years…but even if you don’t get into the healing aspect of herbs, hopefully you can enjoy making your own blend of tea. With a bit more flavor than the average brew…

***The herbs in the photo above, from left to right:
Top row – mullein, hibiscus flowers
Middle – chasteberry, raspberry leaf, shepherd’s purse
Bottom – rosehips, blessed thistle, skullcap

*Try chasteberry, raspberry leaf, skullcap & st. johns wort for a soothing, uplifting, winter blend

Reporting from the Road…

It’s tough to blog while you are traveling, I’ve discovered. Carrying around a computer is a nuisance, and getting out my camera to take a photo of something I’ve cooked is basically unheard of. Even my cooking has gone on break – which is very upsetting to me and all my diners, I can assure you. No one’s been getting to eat these delicious vegan, gluten-free desserts or meals!

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So, since I’ve been on break, I thought I would share with you a list of my favorite blogs and books. Hopefully they’ll tide you over until I start posting again…

Top 7 Cookbooks

The Complete Tassajara Cookbook – Edward Espe Brown
Recipes arranged seasonally using fresh, whole foods based on tasty pairings instead of exact measurements; filled with inspiration for cooking with joyful intention and attention

Local Flavors – Deborah Madison
How to cook seasonal, regional ingredients in simple, timeless ways; written by a former Chez Panisse chef & San Francisco Zen Center student

The Essential Vegetarian – Diana Shaw
Hundreds of light, fresh recipes with lots of variations, information on ingredients, techniques & nutrition

Veganomicon – Isa Moskowitz & Terry Romano
None of that fake meat or egg replacer crap! Just wonderful ways to eat fruits and vegetables, plus great how-to guides – a true vegan classic

Enchanted Broccoli Forest – Mollie Katzen
Great for ideas on vegetarian meals, improvising, and planning menus; beautifully illustrated

Vegan’s Daily Companion – Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
A full guide on becoming & maintaining a vegan lifestyle, complete with stories, recipes, techniques and informational guides on healthful eating & use of unfamiliar foods

Farmer John’s Cookbook – John Peterson
Recipes from a biodynamic CSA, arranged by crop & season, full of random tips on storage, preservation, and philosophical ramblings.

And A Couple Others…
The New Laurel’s Kitchen – Laurel Robertson
One Dish Vegan – Robin Roberston
Organic Cook’s Bible – Jeff Cox
Jerusalem – Yotam Ottolenghi
Vegetarian Epicure – Anna Thomas

Top 13 Food Blogs
*I use Feedly to read all my blogs – it compiles them on one convenient, easy to use webpage

My New Roots
Oh She Glows
The First Mess
Oh My Veggies
This Rawsome Vegan Life
Healthy Green Kitchen
Love & Lemons
Healthy. Happy. Life.
Rawmazing
101 Cookbooks
Manifest Vegan
Edible Perspective
Wild Roots

Other Websites
find local food:
eatwellguide.org
localharvest.org

travel & work:
helpx.net
workaway.info

travel & farm:
goodfoodjobs.com
wwoof.org

awesome online library on agriculture, health & spirituality
soilandhealth.org

I hope this list brings inspiration for your holiday cooking and gifting needs! And wishing you all many tidings of peace and love during this wonderful season!

Wrapping Up…

As autumn sets in around the farm, everyone and everything is preparing for winter. Tomato stakes are coming down, eggplants & peppers are sending out their last push, and the farm interns are saying their good-byes. This season is ending, and it is time for us to move on to our next adventure.

With that exciting, slightly nerve-racking thought, I’ve found comfort in root vegetables. Wrapped up in many different ways (or served on gluten-free bread, but that didn’t seem appropriate for this post…).

These wraps are not your average vegan/gf wrap, I’d like to think. Restaurants try to “make it work” by throwing on some lettuce, tomato, maybe some sauteed onions & peppers – regardless of the season. I usually have to request some pesto and “any other vegetables you are willing to throw on.” So I make my wraps as complete as possible: legumes, nuts/seeds, and chock-full of vegetables.

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First up: Collard Wrap with Groundnuts and Roots

I chopped up some carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips, and braised them in a little vegetable broth. Then I added a peanut-coconut-ginger sauce, and a huge handful of parsley. That got piled onto a huge collard leaf atop some raw red peppers, and with a big handful of basil cabbage slaw on top of that. Very satisfying.

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Next up: Chard Wrap with Spicy Eggplant & Slaw

This was a collaborative wrap between me and another intern, Jeremy. I made baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, parsley, lemon juice), and a quick “slaw” (kohlrabi, carrots, peppers in a lemon vinaigrette). Jeremy made his famous spicy eggplant with dill, and a delightfully hot sauce to pour atop everything. I’ll have to tell him to post his recipe, because I certainly couldn’t do it justice.

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And last but not least, Cabbage Rolls with Moroccan Spiced Roots & Tahini Ginger Dressing

Chop up as many root vegetables as you can get your hands on into thin strips. I used carrots, parsnips, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, white yams and sweet potatoes. Roast them with a little olive oil, salt & pepper until soft. Let cool, and mix with chopped cilantro, parsley and mint. Lots of it.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Mix together tahini, tamari, ginger, garlic, scallions, a hot pepper or two, a bit of sesame oil, some rice wine vinegar and water to achieve your viscosity of choice.

Now get your cabbage ready to roll. Remove outer leaves, cut out the core, and steam until leaves soften, and peel off. Put a handful of root veggies in the center, top with some toasted pumpkin seeds, and roll like a Chipotle burrito. After you’ve got ’em all rolled, steam them for another few minutes to seal and heat through. Serve with dipping sauce, and be prepared for people to want seconds.

And that, my friends, is a wrap.