Tag Archives: food porn

Random Business

Tuesday was kind of a catch-up day for me. There was a lot of “domestic” stuff that had piled up. I won’t bore you with the details of my day, but I will say I was so productive I almost got ahead of myself. Almost. Nothing warranted a full post, but I did get some pretty pictures, and since I had nothing particular planned as a blog today, I thought I’d share:

Above: washing kale. Below: the end result, kale chips!

I also got some pictures of the garden, which will be up next week.


Monday Food Porn: Heirloom Tomatoes

I suppose I don’t actually need to bore you with the details, but this was so yummy I am going to anyway. The bagel is from a local bakery (I cannot find a website, unfortunately), the cream cheese from the local Menonite store (again, no website I can find), and the tomato from my garden. I should know the name of this lovely little pinkish-red delight, but the tag I had from when I bought it wore out due to the elements (this will teach me not to permanent marker the names of my plants on popsickle sticks!). I’ve saved a bunch of seeds, though, because these are just delicious. And funny looking, which always makes me happy.


A Dinner from My Nephew: Wild Rainbow Trout

My youngest nephew is quite a fisherman. He lives several states away from me, though, so I rarely get the chance to eat his catches, something I lament regularly. I try to fish with him whenever I get back home, and if I had him around, I’d fish a whole lot more here in VA. I’ve watched him grow up with a fishing pole in his hand, a proud smile on his face with every catch. He’s gone from randomly tossing a line in the water at age 5ish to an accomplished, seasoned fisherman at the ripe old age of 17 (how did that happen–man, I am getting old fast!).

Last time I was home, he sent me home with a cooler of frozen, vacuum packed rainbow trout, venison, and wild pork (yep, he and his brother also hunt!).

When we pulled the first package a couple weeks ago, they were beautiful:

We wanted to grill them, so I stuffed them with onions and herbs, and put them on skewers, then rubbed the outside with olive oil, salt, and pepper:

And onto the grill with fresh sweet corn and homemade ciabatta bread:

We put them right over the hottest coals for about 7 minutes a side. Don’t forget to brush the grill with oil first, or they’ll stick and that’s just a mess you don’t want to have to deal with. They came off the grill perfectly, with crispy skin and fully-cooked, roasted meat:

To top off this all-local meal, we sliced tomatoes and basil from the garden, then topped with some local feta cheese:

At the end of the meal, all that was left were the bones:

I can’t wait to make more of this fish. It was beautiful–nutty, smokey, no fishy flavor at all. It was even better because it was wild-caught, responsibly, by someone with a passion for what they do. Thanks, Josh, for the fish and the memories that go with it.

And now, I need to find a place to fish that doesn’t require a boat, because I really miss this kind of fresh fish. My current fishing holes aren’t so productive.


It’s About Time!

Well, in theory, I have internet access again. In reality, let’s not get our hopes up that it’ll last. But, while it does, I am trying to get photos loaded and posts written. First things first: I promised my twitter followers and some other folks a picture of the huge Mortgage lifter tomato we have in the garden, so here it is:

Keep in mind that the fella holding this monster is 6 1/2 feet tall. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it once it gets ripe (other than save the seeds, of course), but it warrants something special. If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments!

If you look closely, you’ll see part of our new tomato trellising system. Our tomato plants completely got away from us this year–some are taller than Thadd, and hanging so heavy with tomatoes even at the ends–so our initial system was a bust. Fortunately, a friend of ours has a huge stand of bamboo, and I have a partner who enjoys engineering challenges. Born of this combination was the tomato trellising system we began installing yesterday:

It’s not easy to photograph, but hopefully you get the idea. We got about about 80% of our tomatoes in the lower bed trellised yesterday before we ran out of bamboo. Hopefully, we’ll get the rest done later in the week. I am not sure when later in the week, since we also have a ton of other food-and-garden related stuff do to:

Yep, the tomatoes are in. Above is just a part of one day’s harvest. So, we’re canning on Thursday.  In the meantime:

Peaches are also in. These are from one of our absolute favorite places in the area, Vintage Virginia. I know their website says “Vintage Virginia Apples,” but  they also do peaches and plums, and everything is an heirloom variety. I’ve never tasted any fruit like theirs, and we try to put up a bunch of the peaches and apples each year (drying, canning, freezing, saucing,etc.). I got 30lbs of peaches yesterday, and plan to get another 30 lbs. next week.

Also, we’ll have damson plums from a neighbor to deal with later this week, and I can barely keep up with my basil. So, it’s a busy week, but I know we’ll really appreciate all the work when we have fabulous food all winter. What are you preserving right now?


The Garden

An online-friend and fellow healthy-n-frugal foodie asked me to post some garden pictures, something I really should have been doing all along, anyway.  We’re really excited to have a garden this year, since it’s the first year we’ve ever been able to have one of our very own. We live in a rental, and didn’t anticipate that the landlords would be keen on the idea of us tilling up the backyard. Turns out, we were wrong! They even tilled for us, how amazing is that? It did go in late, which means we had to plant in too much of a hurry for us to do a lot of what we’d like. But, that’s part of starting a new garden, right? We’re already laying out plans for our fall/winter garden, which will include more co-planting and more careful spacing, for starters.

The garden isn’t huge–we’re certainly not going to be able to live on it alone–but it’s a start. We’ll be putting a lot of it up for winter, and it’ll also help keep our costs down during the summer. Plus, fresh-from-the-garden just tastes better. And, our other neighbor has a garden that must be the size of Texas, because holy cow does that guy have produce. He’s been giving us some of his extras, and we’re going to return the favor in canned goods. Bartering for the win.

So, here it is! (Note: my good camera battery was dead, so these aren’t as beautiful as I’d like. I’ll get around to it soon).

We planted a slew of morning glories around the short fence we put up. This serves three purposes: it makes it really difficult for animals to get into the garden, it attracts loads of pollinators, and mostly it hides the very-functional-but-not-so-pretty fence nicely!

We planted 16 tomato plants, all heirlooms of various varieties. We got our first grape tomatoes this past weekend, and our first big tomato on Tuesday!

Above is the “hedgerow” made by the morning glories. We actually need bigger stakes for some of our tomatoes, which will get done as soon as the temperature drops below 99 degrees. Below, our pickling cucumbers and wax peppers:

And, of course, the basil:

This is just one plant. I have several of these, and I’m having to harvest about every other day. Thankfully we love pesto! Not pictured are several other kinds of peppers, the rest of my herbs, a random accidental volunteer zucchini plant, and my blueberry bushes. I’ll try and get some pictures of them soon.

So far, our harvest has been fabulous. We used one shot of homemade garlic aphid spray, and that was it. No chemicals. We’re looking forward to a long season of eating food from right out of our back door, and putting it up for fall and winter, too. I’ve already done a pile of ice-cubed basil (in both water and oil), pesto, sauteed squash, pickles, and some dried hot peppers from the garden.

How is your garden growing? If you’ve got garden pics or a blog, link to it in the comments!


Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipes: Booze Smoothies!

I promised you the last recipe today. I also promised you a wrap-up. One of those promises is going to be fulfilled, the other is going to have to wait until my writer’s block goes away, hopefully Monday. I have to say, though, that while I love all these recipes, these two are my favorite. Not because they’re the most gourmet or anything, but because damnit, I want some fruit and booze (hey, it’s been a long week)!  So, take it away, Gaylin!  (As a note, if you guys haven’t been checking out the recipes and comments on her blog, go there now–there’s all kinds of extra goodies over there from this series, as well as bunches of yums otherwise unrelated!)

Frozen Fruit Booze Smoothies
I had originally meant these smoothies to serve as an alternative to breakfast, but when it came right down to it, the bottle of local rum was staring me in the face when I started the whole process and before I knew it, we had what we like to call in our house “booze smoothies.”
The recipe starts with fruit we freeze during the harvest time, when they’re in season. Strawberries typically come from Maple Creek Farm, our CSA, but we occasionally get them from other farms that sell at the farmer’s market near our house. One of them isn’t on the web. Burda’s Berry Farm, located in Three River’s, Michigan. Their berries are always great quality and when they feel the fruit has passed its prime for eating out of hand, it’s picked and turned into other things, like jams and jellies. In addition to strawberries from them we also get blue berries. Another berry farm we get fruit from is Bigelow’s Berry Farm.
Most of the berries we get from our farmers are super ripe when we get them, so we process them the same day they land in our kitchen, for maximum freshness. What we can’t use that day or the next, we’ll clean or hull, and then spread out in a single layer on cookie sheets that fit in our freezer. Once completely frozen, the individual fruits go into freezer bags and await whatever insanity we have planned for them in the middle of the cold months when we’re craving the fresh fruit that’s never available except from far flung places off the American continent.
So, to make our fruit smoothies, I put an extremely generous cup full of mixed, frozen berries, into the blender, and to that I added an equal amount of frozen peaches. I topped this with the last two scoops of homemade peach ice cream that had magically survived my husband’s assault (ok, I confess, I hid it so I could have some and then I promptly forgot about it). To top all this off, I added a good cup full of a locally made Pinot Gris called “Gris Gris” made by Vintner’s Cellars, a custom wine maker just down the street from my house (how cool is that for local!). This didn’t produce quite enough liquid for the processing, so we topped it all off with about half a bottle of our newest local spirits find, Freshwater Amber Rum from New Holland Brewery in my hometown of Holland, Michigan.
Whir the dickens out of all of this, and poof, booze smoothies, without ever having to resort to adding water from ice cubes. “Sheer genius!” was my favorite compliment from sharing these. They traveled in the cooler quite nicely in our large thermos (the one that’s never seen coffee in it) and were gone in the blink of an eye when people got wind of their yummy factor.

Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipe: Venison

I’m a big fan of healthy food you can take on the go, especially since Thadd and I are pretty active. And, he needs hand-held foods for lunches because he’s often eating it while running between classes.  Empañadas are perfect, and this recipe is one I plan to try out as soon as my nephews get me some more venison (hey, guys, if either of you two are reading, this is a hint!). Take it away, Gaylin!
Venison, Wild Mushrooms, and Caramelized Onion Empañadas
My husband’s family is big on hunting for several reasons. Foremost among them, however, is our ability to control our source of meat and how it’s processed. Almost all the red meat in our house comes from deer we’ve taken off his family’s ancestral farm. Last year’s harvest included two good-sized bucks and we still had some of the ground bits left (the tenderloins were the first eaten, of course). I caramelized a white onion that I’d diced up, though that onion had seen better days and really needed to be used. To this, I added several cloves of mince garlic and the venison for a quick fry. The meat cooks alarmingly fast because of how lean it is. We still had some of the mushrooms left from the other dishes I cooked, so I added those to the pot too.
Now this is where my amounts get a little iffy. I’ve cooked a dish like this since before I was married many years ago, so I don’t really know the exact amounts, but I can tell you roughly what else it has. The venison needed a little sauce to really keep it from being dry in the meat pies. I cast about in the fridge and found a lonely little bottle of homemade stout beer that a friend had gifted my husband with and it bravely sacrificed itself to the cause. To this, I added a goodly splash of soy sauce and another goodly splash of some homemade white vinegar I had on hand. Spices added included a large quantity of black pepper, but also a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, long pepper, cubebs, and salt. All this simmered away merrily at medium low heat until the liquid had turned to a thickened gravy and everything was nicely coated.
 This is where I used Shawn’s awesome crust recipe using some of the last of the homemade apple sauce I had on hand.
The flour was the whole wheat flour I had from Hampshire Farms. I love this crust because it behaves so very nicely to everything. My next goal with it is to roll it thinner. I am so glad Gaylin liked this crust, though I really can’t take credit for it personally. Vegetarian Times really hit a winner with this one. We make it in triple batches, freeze it with the banana-black bean filling they have in their recipe, and freeze them for snacks and lunches. They come out perfectly every time, and it’s nice that we have a use for any extra applesauce we make and don’t get eaten!
After the mixture had cooled to room temperature, I separated the pie crust into 6 good sized chunks, rolled them out into thin ovals, set the filling in the center and rolled them up, crimping the edges. These went into a 350F oven for about 45 minutes until the crusts had browned nicely and I was confident that the filling was hot through. Onto a rack to cool completely and then I packed them away from the trip, layered between wax papers just in case there was any residual moisture that leaked. I didn’t want them to stick together.
These would likely work with beef, too, and I may give that a try soon since I doubt I’ll get any more venison before winter (since it is, after all, illegal to hunt them at the moment). Tomorrow, the finishing touches, and a wrap-up of how this whole thing worked out!

Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipe: Spring Rolls

I love spring rolls. They’re a great way to make salad an on-the-go food, for one. But, they’re also versatile and beautiful. I suggested them to Gaylin in my menu ideas, and she thought it sounded like fun. Since she’d never used the rice wrappers before, I mentioned that I often double them up to keep them from ripping open (they’re fairly delicate, so if you’re using anything that has sharp edges, like carrot sticks, this can happen fairly easily).

Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

I have to confess the idea of using rice paper wrappers terrified the bejezus out of me when this was first floated as a possible recipe. I mean rice paper? It’s tissue paper delicate, right? My big fumbly fingers can can chop and dice with the best of them, but I am not a decorative cook by any means. And rice paper wrappers look…elegant. Delicate. Special. When I went to my favorite little Asian market near my house, I made the mistake of walking down the wrapper and noodle aisle (yes, they have a whole aisle dedicated to this!). And when I saw the neat little packages of square wrappers next to the round ones, I thought “Well, if it’s square, then it’s more like origami, right?” And into my cart went the packages. I’m so glad I did. These were my favorite dish of the whole trip.
The filling was key here.
I started with the last of several small containers of grains that I had gotten as gifts from people who know my love for trying new things (otherwise I would have used the grains from Hampshire Farms). Most of the grains had very little left in their containers, so I mixed them all together in an effort to clean the cupboards. In the end, the mixture included black rice, red rice, brown rice, purple barley, hulless barley, and rye berries. It was about two pounds of dried grains. I put these in our fuzzy logic rice cooker (one of the best high-cost items I’ve ever gotten for my kitchen), followed the directions for mixed grains, and let it work its magic while I was cooking the rest.
But here’s a little secret. Before I closed the lid on the rice cooker, I nestled 5 raw eggs still in the shell onto the mix. The rice cooker fit them all quite comfortably and when the grains were done cooking, I had 5 already hard-boiled eggs that didn’t require yet another pan on the stove. I use this trick almost every time we use the rice cooker because hard-boiled eggs are a go-to protein source for our household, whether they end up getting used on salads or simply eaten out of hand when we’re rushed for time and on the go.
While the grains were cooking for the filling, I sliced up some of the lion’s mane mushrooms we’d soaked ahead of time, adding both those and some red onions to my frying pan in some olive oil over medium-high heat. I wanted the onions to soften, but not to brown. As these were cooking, I defrosted the last of last year’s pea harvest (so happy to have found these lurking in the freezer). Once the mushrooms and onions were done, I tossed them together and let things cool for about ten minutes, then added a goodly amount of leaves and stems of sorrel that we needed to harvest before we left on the trip. The plant was already starting to bolt and we needed to use it up or lose it. The already green sorrel turned a lovely bright green when tossed with the rest of the ingredients. A splash of white balsamic vinegar, a quick adjustment of salt and pepper spices to balance the flavors, and this all went into the fridge.
The grain mixture cooked along its merry way and when it was done I spread it all out in a large baking pan and let it cool completely. This went into the fridge with the rest of the filling. Once everything was good and cold, I pulled out the grains, oiled my hands with a little olive oil, and broke up the large chunks of grains that stuck together, coating each of the grains in just a little oil. Into the oiled grains I tossed the mushroom mixture and mixed everything together completely, checked the seasonings again, and then got to work rolling them in rice paper.
Spring rolls make a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, and are so quick and easy. They keep in the refrigerator for several days, too, so you can make a bunch up ahead of time for cool summer snacks (try them with fruit salad, they’re great!). 

Weeked Cooler Challenge: Zucchini Galettes

Because I am a total moron, I forgot to put this fabulous picture of Gaylin’s Clean-the-Cupboards Granola on the first blog post:
Now I have to go back and edit it, but I wanted folks who may not necessarily re-read all my blog posts (though you should, they’re more fun the second time around when you can really take the time to pick apart all my grammar and spelling errors!) to see how yummy this looks!
Once I realized I’d done this, of course, I took more care making sure all the hard work Gaylin did snapping pics didn’t go to waste. So, there’s food porn with your next recipe!For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, my guest blogger this week and next is Gaylin from “More Than Just the Food.” If you read me regularly because you like my food paradigms, you need to check out her blog–you’re going to love her. And now it’s time for me to shut up and let her share her next recipe…
Zucchini Galettes
I love this recipe. It uses up a huge amount of shredded zucchini and it freezes really well. The crust comes together with 2 cups wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 cup unsalted butter, 3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold vodka (come on! of course we have this in the fridge!), and another 3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water. This got cooled for while I made the filling and then rolled out into two equal portions on a floured surface. 

Now the filling is a little troubling. It had about 5 cups of zucchini that I’d had sitting in a strainer salted and draining.
I squeezed the crap out of it to get it as dry as possible. Added an egg to this and about 1 cup (lightly packed) of two cheeses. I confess I splurged here. You can use any good cheese you like, honestly. I used a haertkase (mild white) and a Spanish mahon (cheese is one of the few food items I get at the grocery). Mixed up quickly to moisten, spiced with some of the smoked sea salt (still blame you), and plopped half each in the middle of each dough circle. I folded the edges over in the style of a rustic tart and then baked until everything was golden and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes at 375F.

In retrospect, I should have split this recipe into 4-6 much smaller galettes. It would have been much easier to portion out. Cutting these into servings was really kind of a pain in the middle of a hotel room.
This is a perfect summer recipe all around, since most of the folks I know end up swimming in zucchini by mid-July. I can’t wait to make up a batch of these for the freezer.
Swing back by tomorrow  for Gnocchi with Asparagus and Peppered Bacon!

Weekend in a Cooler: What the Hell is That Smell?

Yes, there are recipes in this post. Hold your horses, sit back with that cup of (hopefully Fair Trade Certified) coffee, and read on.

Gaylin has a way with words as well as food, and one of my favorite things about this series has been the chance to email with her more. Why?  I’m glad you asked…

Obviously, part of the challenge was that everything had to fit into a cooler and a tote. While we were putting notes together for the write-up, I get this email (er, lightly edited for language, because I know a few of you have work filters):

I have to tell you about the cooler too. Oh you’re going to love this. So…you know (her husband) hunts, right? Well when he brings back a deer (or three), we process it ourselves. He’s incredibly picky about the processing and we get far better quality by doing it ourselves. So we got two deer this year and processed them. Guess what Don forgot to take out of the cooler IN NOVEMBER? Yep. One small ice cream bucket of broth cuts. Junk meat, essentially. But the cooler was so well sealed the whole time that we never smelled it.

Until he opened it, that is, and then jesus god almighty on a pogo stick what the f**k. So he says to me “we can fix this!” and fool that I was, I believed him. He set off to scouring that cooler like it had just held all the hosts of hell and their minions. And I have to admit that when he was done, that cooler didn’t seem to smell a bit.

Until we got to the hotel.

So to make a long story short, everything fit in the cooler just fine. And thank god I’m anal retentive about packing everything double bagged and in containers. The smell still in the cooler was just present enough that I made him take everything out of the cooler and then fill one end of the bathtub in the hotel room with ice. We stored all the food there.

I’m making him throw away that f**king cooler. Best damned cooler we ever owned too.

You can see why I get along with this woman. And, speaking of Gaylin, it’s time to turn things over to her, since my involvement in the recipe-prep portion of this whole wacky challenge was nil. That’s right, it’s time to start the recipe portion of the series! Take it away, Gaylin!

Homemade Rawmilk Yogurt
Our milk comes from Thomas Organic Creamery (but their site is down as I type this). Our cow’s name is “Amanda” and I get regular reports on her health and what she and her compatriots are doing. Right now they’re mostly birthing babies. I love that I know this. Seriously. I mean how many people are connected enough with their food that they know a baby just got born?
Most people cringe when they hear how much we pay for a gallon of milk. We pay $7.50. It’s a lot. Especially when you see how little milk costs in the grocery stores. But what aren’t you seeing in that milk? Safety, for one. And hidden costs, for another. How far did your milk travel? I know. Mine traveled 86 miles from door to door to get to me. I also know what my cow ate most days. Grass. Unsprayed, untreated, grass. I know what my cow did. Largely it wandered around free on that grass, minding its own business and doing cow type things. Happy cows play with each other. Did you know that? It kind of looks like they’re playing tag with each other like little kids. It makes me smile every time I see it.
Here in VA, Thadd and I get our milk from Our Father’s Farm. We pay $35/month, which is still far more than grocery store milk; but, we do it for all the reasons Gaylin does. It’s worth the cost).
I still use the crockpot to make my yogurt, mostly because I still don’t own a thermometer to allow me checking these kinds of things and we simply don’t keep much ice around to cool things down quickly. If I get into cheesemaking more (which I fully intend to), I’m going to invest in one and then. Until then, I make use of my crockpot because I can pretty much ignore what’s happening and just use time as my guide for what’s going on. The original recipe I came up with I’ve modified as best I could to try and lower the temps a bit and allow a lot more of the natural bacterial cultures through to the end. I’ve just not really noted the time changes.
Someday, I need to post my cooler recipe. I keep thinking I have, then realize I haven’t. Ergh.
Clean the Cupboards Granola
Our farmer’s market doesn’t sell nuts and dried fruits (more’s the pity), so we looked for a local source and were pleased to find the Germack Pistachio Company in downtown Detroit. They’re the oldest roaster of pistachios in the United States and one of the few companies in the US that roasts pumpkin and squash seeds. They roast in small batches and they’ve had the same master roaster working at the company for over two decades. They source through Michigan sources whenever possible, though most nuts can’t grow in Michigan. But the fruits they purchase for drying frequently can be grown in Michigan and they try to work with vendors within the state before they go out of state.
With the end of the food year and the start of the next (this is how we think of the transition from Spring to Summer in our house), our cupboards are fairly bare. There were, however, several small bits and bobs of nuts and fruits left in the cupboard. Some dried dates, cranberries, and grapes. Raw almonds we still had in abundance because I’d just bought them. Making up a batch of granola was one of the best ways to use all this up. Technically I don’t follow a recipe (when is that a surprise) but I do have one written up on my blog.
The oats we use in our house come from Hampshire Farms. They’re an organic farm about 78 miles from us. In addition to our oats, we get all of our grains, grain flours, dried beans and peas, and seeds from them. When our Amish farmers can’t make it to market, we get our eggs from them too.

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