Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewell 2011

It has been a hectic end to the year, as it usually is! Gail and I are off to Portland, ME in just a few hours to visit friends and ring in the new year by seeing my favorite band, moe. play for 2 nights at the State Theater.
I'll be back sometime in the early part of next week sharing some new years goals and more kitchen and garden misadventures!!

Happy New Year to all my readers and fellow bloggers out there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mini Irish Soda Bread Scones

I've always been a fan of both Irish soda bread and pretty much anything in the scone family. Gail makes the most incredible mexican chocolate scones, and I had past success with the cranberry-orange variety last year.
A few weeks ago I picked up a container of dried currants with the intent on snacking on some and using a portion of them in some sort of soda bread or scone concoction. After dinner on Saturday night I whipped up this classic Irish Soda Bread recipe and made scones out of them. Though they looked troublesome as they went into the oven the final product was over 2 dozen mini scones that tasted great and were not too dry, but just dry enough that they go great with tea or coffee in the morning or as a late afternoon treat.
Another plus is that the recipe was pretty simple and start to finish took less then an hour.  The recipe comes from Stephanie's on Newbury which is known for the bread and offers up the recipe on a little card with the bread.
Irish Soda Bread/Mini Soda Bread Scones
via Stephanie's On Newbury
makes 1 loaf of bread or approximately 2 dozen mini scones
4 cups flour
1/4 lb butter
1/2 tbs baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup currants
Preheat oven to 375 F. 
Place flour baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a blow. Incorporate butter into flour until mixture represents cornmeal. In a separate bowl add eggs to the buttermilk. Whisk thoroughly then add to the flour mixture. Mix until all liquid is absorbed but do not over mix. The dough should not be smooth. Shape dough into 1 egg loaf or for mini scones scoop 1 tbs of batter onto baking sheet. Score an X mark on the top of each loaf.  Bake soda bread for 1 hour. Baking mini scones for about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dark Days Meal #5: Chrismukkah Breakfast!

The Dark Days Challenge is on! Running until March 31, 2012 over 100 participants will be doing our best to cook and blog about one meal per week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. Recaps will be hosted by the blog collective Not Dabbling in Normal where you can follow along with all of the other participants.
Gail and I are both Jewish and Christmas was never celebrated in either of our households growing up. The very common practice of Chinese food and a movie for Jewish families on Christmas is one I am very familiar with. Gail's sister is married to a great guy who celebrates Christmas. They visit his family on Christmas eve and their kids get to celebrate with all their aunts and uncles. For the past few years Gail and I have had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas day, and sometimes Chrismukkah when the calenders align like they have this year! 
We spend the afternoon munching and early evening playing with what seemed like an endless array of new toys and games with a pair of hyperactive 5 1/2 & 4 year old's  munching on a ton of great snacks, and enjoying a delicious (and very not local) Chinese food feast with Gail's sister, brother in-law, and their kids. It is a really nice tradition we have started with them and one, I hope to continue for many years!
Before we headed over to the Murphy's, Gail and I decided we would make a nice Christmas breakfast together(which I hope will also develop into a nice tradition), and figured we could easily make it a local meal. We filled our bellies with scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese & red pepper, buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, Irish soda bread scones, bacon, and drank local cider and locally roasted coffee. The pancakes and scones were made from Garelick Farms buttermilk and King Arthur Flour, but did feature some baking ingredients that are pantry staples(Check back tomorrow for the Irish Soda Bread/mini-scones recipe). Gail even tried a few pieces of the very crispy bacon, enjoyed it and declared 'all bacon should be crispy!' Given that she is slowly integrating meat into her diet any successful attempt is worth noting. The Bacon was from John Crow Farm, the cheddar Cheese from Grafton Village Cheese, and the red pepper from The Herb Lyceum and their greenhouses while the eggs are from Spring Brook Farm,  and the maple syrup from the Vermont part of Cooks Farm operations. The apple cider is from Pine Hill Orchards and is slightly sweeter then the 'made from local apples' blend that many of the farmers put their apples towards. The coffee was a light roast Rwanda Coopac from the Barrington Coffee Roasting Company and their new Boston Cafe . 
With New Years celebrations this coming weekend I would guess our next Dark Days meal will come during the later part of next week and will probably feature something from our freezer or canned goods!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Somerville Winter Market & Taza Factory Store 12/24

I know last week's trip to the SoWa Winter Market seemed like our last market trip of the year but our schedule's were clear so Gail and I took a quick trip to the Somerville Market on Christmas Eve. Following the market we took a stopped in to the Taza Chocolate factory store where we picked up a few goodies that re factory store exclusive!
Here's the rundown of what we got at the Somerville Winter Market:
Sweet Italian Sausage from Stillman's Farm
Milk from Shaw Farm
Apples from Apex Orchards & Cider from Pine Hill Orchards (via Apex Orchards)
A loaf of Light Rye bread from Big Sky Bread
Carrots & radishes from Wintermoon Farm.
Fresh mozzarella from Fiore Di Nonno, and on our way home we also stopped at the market and picked up a small block of cheddar cheese from Grafton Village.
After our time at the market we headed over to the Taza Chocolate factory store. Unfortunately we weren't able to fit a factory tour into our schedule but we did enjoy sampling many of the great products including some factory store exclusives! We even brought home some goodies: a can of chocolate covered cashews, a can of chocolate covered golden berries (factory store only), orange flavored chocolate mexicano discs, and a small bag of chocolate covered ginger (factory store only). It seems like a lot of chocolate, but we will nibble here and there for a while on this supply. Plus, I really love Taza chocolate so if I am going to splurge on a treat for myself it will be on something I really enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy [insert wintertime holiday of your choice]!

Blatantly taken from a google image search
Here at Grown Away we celebrate Hanukkah, which began Tuesday night at sundown, though Gail and I exchanged gifts earlier in the month. Regardless of what holiday you choose to celebrate the most important part of the 'holiday season' is spending time with your friends and loved ones. We will be seeing Gail's sister and brother in-law on christmas day, as well as both of our families early next week. We are blessed to live close to both of our families which allows us to see them fairly regularly.
To all my readers I hope you enjoy your various holiday celebrations! Drink and Eat Well! Be thankful and happy for what we have and the great people around us!

In terms of gift giving Gail and I kept it pretty simple this year. She gave me BBC's Life & Planet Earth on DVD and I gave her a enamel pitcher (perfect for sangria) and a mix batch of popcorn from The Popcorn Factor in a festive holiday tin!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dark Days Meal #4: Hearty Beef Stew & Mashed Potatoes

The Dark Days Challenge is on! Running until March 31, 2012 over 100 participants will be doing our best to cook and blog about one meal per week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. Recaps will be hosted by the blog collective Not Dabbling in Normal where you can follow along with all of the other participants!

For this week's Dark Days meal we decided to free up some space in both the refrigerator and the freezer. Gail was feeling a bit under the weather and mentioned that some stew would hit the spot. Back in October I made lots of brisket and a wonderfully hearty beef stew with the leftovers! All I had to do was thaw out the two portions I froze in October and warm it up. To give the meal a little more bulk and free up some additional space in the refrigerator I added a helping of leftover mashed potatoes with the addition of some fresh made horseradish!
Nothing fancy or special here, just warm comfort food. Horseradish was the 'fanciest' ingredient.
For me part of the challenge is using up the great ingredients in all of our canned chutneys, jams, frozen meats, and other food we've preserved.
 Back in August Gail and I made a few loaves of chocolate and plain zucchini bread and muffins when the farmers markets were overflowing with zukes, so this week we are enjoying a loaf with our morning coffee. Various relishes, chutneys, jams and sauces find their way into many of our meals. We canned 4 1/2 gallons of tomato sauce and there is no telling how soon we will run out of our home made sauce! We bulk it up with the addition of various root vegetables or saute greens that we pick up at the winter markets. Thanks to some great producers we have access to handmade pasta and ravioli's full of local ingredients. The increase in availability of local food year round is noticeable. Even looking back just a year or two there are at least a half dozen new winter markets in operation or starting up this season!
A big part of supporting local farms, markets, and producers are the personal connections Gail and I have made. We've turned to these farmers for cooking tips and advice for our own garden, learned about making pasta, roasting coffee, and beekeeping from the great vendors at the various markets we visit. Gail and I are naturally curious people and love engaging in conversation with the different vendors, learning a little bit about what goes into their worse gives us a much greater appreciation for the food while we are eating it.
As we sit on the doorstep of the holidays and new year consider thanking a local farmer or food producer for the work they do!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Loaves - Fannie Farmer French Bread

These two photos are from two different loaves of french bread. I made the dough together and refrigerated one and baked it the next day. The first was made fresh and the second was from the dough that came out of the refrigerator.
These were not baguettes. The only way I can really describe them is as the type of french bread that is perfect for soup or a french bread pizza, but ultimately they were not baguettes. Everyone who tired them though agreed that both loaves were delicious. Being my own harshest critic I felt the second loaf was inferior to the first because as I rolled the dough I did not pinch it enough and the dough had a ring in the center as the layers rose. The first loaf had a great crumb and perfect crust. It was used for an awesome french onion soup. Gail and I visited our friend Sharon, of Thyme to Cook Personal Chef Service for dinner, and she showed Gail how to make the French Onion Soup from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home. This type of bread was perfect to slice up for use in the soup.
The recipe for this 'French' bread comes from an old printing of The All New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook dated 1975. It makes a loaf with a nice golden crust that is not too dense. A good loaf to practice with and adapt.

French Bread
makes 2 or 3 loaves
These long thin loaves with chewy crisp crusts are perfect for French or Italian style meals. If you like shape part of the dough into small rolls. This dough is also good for English muffins or pizza.

Put in a large mixing bowl:

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 package yeast
Let stand 5 minutes. Add:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons shortening (I used butter)
Stir well. Add:
  • 2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
Beat thoroughly with a rotary beater or an electric mixer. Add:
  • 1 cup flour (or enough to make a stiff dough)
Sprinkle a board with flour. Put the dough on it and let rest 10 minutes. Knead well, let rise, punch down and let rise again.
Turn the dough out on a floured surface and divide into two or three parts. Let rest 10 minutes. Flatten each part with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thickness. Roll up each sheet of dough tightly to make a long slender loaf. Press firmly along the rolled edges to seal. Sprinkle cookie sheets with:
  • Corn meal
Put the loaves on the sheets leaving enough space between them so that they will be crusty on all sides. Cut diagonal gashes in the loaves about 1/2 inch deep. Beat together:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Brush over the top of the loaves. Let rise until double in bulk (about 1 hour).
Put a large pan of boiling water in the bottom of the oven with the pans of bread on a rack above. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes. Brush again with egg mixture Reduce the heat to 375 F and bake until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it (about 25 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.

The recipe above is at is presented in the cookbook. Obviously give some time for the oven to warm up and to boil the water before you bake the bread. As I said at the top of the post, I make one loaf fresh and refrigerated the other one. Though the recipe claims this can make 2 or 3 loaves I think 2 is more accurate, as 3 loaves would be fairly small. As a note, I had better results with the loaf that was made fresh then with the dough from the fridge, but both had a pretty nice crumb and a great crust.

(submitted to yeastspotting)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Austin to Boston Food Swap Package

Way back at the beginning of the month I wrote about the package I sent to Jess of forgiving martha for the Austin to Boston Food Swap! Yesterday I received my package in the mail! It was a welcome surprise for a Monday!
As I bounded up the stairs with the package in hand I was filled with giddy anticipation to find out what was inside. I definitely was not disappointed with it's contents, as Jess treated me to a variety of great local goods and some homemade deliciousness...I mean some serious deliciousness!! Here is a look at the great stuff Jess sent:

Coffee!!! My favorite kind of coffee - locally roasted in small batches by people who support their farmers. I can't wait to try the Market Blend from Texas Coffee Traders. While I sip the coffee I'll be able to enjoy some delicious chocolate too as Jess included a package of Kakawa Cocoa Beans. Kakawa beans are whole roasted cocoa beans, layered with white, milk, and dark chocolates then rolled in cocoa powder! This seems like a genius idea and if they're half as good as they look I might be addicted soon! In case if I need a break from the coffee and decide to have a cup of tea I've got a jar of Round Rock Honey to enjoy it with! Round Rock is a local wildflower honey out of Round Rock, TX. From the peek I took at their website they took their honey very seriously and take a tremendous amount of pride in their results. I can't wait to try it! Small batch roasted coffee, delicious cocoa beans, and honey... I'd take that as a great package any day of the week, but it got better!
Moving from locally produced to locally preserved- Jess' package included two jars of canned goodness from Winfield Farm an organic sustainable farm with it's own commercial kitchen in Rock, TX! They use miniature goats to control the weeds and chickens to control the bugs. How cool is that?! Along with their produce they also produce a variety of prepared and canned foods, and as their website says "Everything we make is made in small batches to maintain the highest quality and changes according to what is in season." Miniature goats eating the weeds, chickens keeping down the pest population, and they produce their own edibles and canned goods? This place sounds like it would be right in my wheelhouse!! I know I'll be enjoying the Harvest Moon Pear Jam in the coming days with some of the delicious zucchini bread that I just pulled out of the freezer! Gail and I are also really excited to try the Pickled Jalapenos which will undoubtedly make their way to our plates very soon. I see quesadillas, nachos, or a spicy breakfast hash in our very immediate future!
At this point anyone who enjoys locally produced food items would be delighted with a package like this....and I really was delighted with all the great stuff Jess sent, but believe it or not it actually got better!! How could this have gotten any better??? BAKED GOODS is how!
As if the coffee, chocolate, honey, jam, & honey wasn't already enough the absolute awesomesauce of this package was set in stone with the inclusion of dark chocolate covered red velvet cake balls! Let me just type that phrase out again for you: Dark Chocolate Covered Red Velvet Cake Balls! Doesn't just reading that phrase on your browser have you salivating?? Just look at these things - they're bigger then a golf ball:

These were so tasty that despite all the yummy baked goods and holiday treats we've got in our kitchen, Gail and I had to open these up and try them before dinner... and have another one for dessert!
If you've made it this far I hope you can see how much I enjoyed this package and the entire Austin to Boston Food Swap experience! I owe my appreciation to Jess at forgiving martha for putting together such a thoughtful package and sharing some of the gems of the Austin food scene with me. A massive thanks also goes out to Rachel of Boston Food Bloggers and the folks at the Austin Food Blogger Alliance for organizing, planning, and overseeing the entire swap!
This was a really fun experience and a great way to discover the food culture of Austin while rediscovering some of my favorite local producers here in Boston.  I hope all of the other participants enjoyed the experience as much as I did and I really look forward to participating in swaps like this in the future! Kudos to all involved.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SoWa Winter Market, Sienna Farms micro-store, & The Butcher Shop 12/18

Sunday's haul from the whirlwind
south end  shopping trip
Not only did I visit the final SoWa Winter Market of 2011 yesterday, I also popped into the Butcher Shop and the newly opened Sienna Farm micro-store right next door to the Butcher Shop! All of the vendors I spoke to, including the folks at the Sienna Farm store and the butcher at the Butcher Shop were in a great mood with this being a pretty busy shopping weekend spirits were high! Once again I found myself having some great conversations with some of the vendors about various winter markets, freezing pasta, growing herbs, and cooking! It was great to catch the market one more time before the holidays and wish some of my favorite vendors a good holiday season and a happy new year!   I brought home a ton of really great stuff from the market, Sienna Farm store, and Butcher Shop. I tried to stock up on some goods as I know SoWa will be cosed the next to weekends and we may be busy celebrating with friends and family to visit the Somerville market as well.  I ended up bringing home a nice mix of produce and specialty goods yesterday:
Beef Ravioli & Truffle/Wild Mushroom Ravioli from Valicenti Organico
Smoked Mozzarella, White Bean, & Sage Ravioli from Nella Pasta
Beef Stew meat from John Crow Farm
Red Onion's from Silverbrook Farm
Tomatoes (cherry and fully sized!) peppers, and Brussels sprouts from The Herb Lyceum
Spinach from The Food Project & Earthquake cookies from Sofra Bakery via the Sienna Farms micro-store
Hot Coppa from The Butcher Shop!
I also placed an order for some bottled iced coffee from Captain's Coffee Brewers. He had run out at the market and would be delivering in my neighborhood when I'm working from home which is really great! Gail and I really like their iced coffee!
I had been to the butcher shop a few other times. The most memorable being a few years ago for my birthday when Gail and I went for a pig butchering demonstration with talk from Dominic Polumbo of Moon in the Pond Farm. This time I wanted to visit their selection of charcuterie and housemade goods and pick up a treat for myself. When I arrived the restaurant was bustling and the butcher was helping someone with a lengthy order. I quietly snuck up to the refrigerated cooler that housed much of their charcuterie. I was greeted with a great variety of sausages, pates, and cured meats. Everything looked so good it was tough to decide what looked most appealing. Ultimately I took home some hot coppa and the desire to come back again soon for a meal, and a few more times to sample all the delicious charcuterie they had for sale!
I after all the shopping at SoWa and the stop at the butcher shop I was ready to go home, but right next to the butcher shop was the recently opened Siena Farms store. I had read about it and am very familiar with Siena Farms, Sofra Bakery, and Oleana restaurant. They were having a little party that day so I was told to help myself to some of the great cookies they had available for nibbling on. I looked around the 'micro farm store' and was impressed with all the produce and food I saw. Leeks potatoes, kale, parsnips, turnips, onions squash, mushrooms, apples, baked goods, taza chocolate, and more! I ended up grabbing a bag of spinach from the non-profit food project and a package of Earthquake cookies as a treat for Gail and a friend who were back at the apartment. 
The cookies were fudgy and rich and a perfect treat on what seemed like the first really cold day of the season. We shared them after a lunch of mini grilled cheese sandwiches and warm soup, the perfect lunch on a chilly day.

All in all it was a very fitting(possibly)final local food buying excursion.  I was able to wish some vendors happy holidays and good new years as well as making a special stop at a few small business.  Despite the chilly temperatures everyone had big smiles and warm wishes for each other. I say possibly final excursion because the Somerville Winter Farmers market is open on Christmas Eve, and maybe even on New Years Eve but in all likelihood I may not have the time to drop in.
Have you been stocking up on local produce or treating yourself to local prepared goods ahead of the holiday season? What is finding it's way into your kitchen from local markets?? 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 2011... in progress

December 2011... in progress
12/11 - 12/17

Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager (finally finished)
Jars of Plenty - ScienceNews
Landreth Seed Catalog (which is gorgeous), Twitter, Blogs

listening to:
Nerdist Podcast with JJ Abrams

The new Muppets Movie
The Good Wife
This Insane Burger Ad From Russia featuring hardcore rap, in Russian. Seriously this is INSANE!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Brigadeiros/Chocolate Truffles/Amazeballs!!

A few weeks ago, during a lull at work I was scrolling through twitter on my phone when I saw a tweet from the America's Test Kitchen Feed about how easy it is to make the Brazilian chocolate truffles known as brigadeiros. They looked so rich and decadent I knew I had try it out to see just how easy it was.
There was discrepancy between the step-by-step instructions and the recipe page as to how much butter to use. The step-by-step instructions called for 3 tablespoons of butter and the recipe page called for 2 tablespoons. Not much of a difference, but given America's Test Kitchen's methods of rigorous testing of recipes in pursuit of ones that work well and are easily reproduce at home that has made them a standard and go to source for recipes, techniques, reviews of equipment and all around kitchen knowledge I decided to reach out to them to correct the recipe!
I sent an email last weekend and got a response Monday morning from Christine, an associate editor of social media with America's Test Kitchen thanking me for my sharp eye, confirming that 2 tablespoons was the correct amount and letting me know that both the instructions and recipe linked above have been updated to reflect the accurate recipe, which is posted below in case you are too lazy to click a link:

Brigadeiros (Brazilian Chocolate Truffles aka Amazeballs!!)  via America's Test Kitchen
makes 30 (though I ended up making 40 so it really depends on size)
If the candies stick to hands while rolling, spray them lightly with cooking spray. The thickened chocolate mixture can be chilled up to 24 hours. The finished candies can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter (might be 3 tablespoons, but I used 2)
sprinkles, powdered sugar, crushed nuts, etc for coating
1) Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter in medium sauce pot over medium-low heat.
2) Cool. stirring frequently, until mixture is very thick and rubber spatula holds its line across bottom of pan, about 25 minutes. Pour into a greased 8"x8" baking dish and refrigerate until cooled, at least 30 minutes.
3) Working with approximately 1 tablespoon pieces at a time, roll into 1-inch balls. Place toppings in bowls and roll chocolate in coatings until covered.

Really, that is it! This was as easy as described above. Rolling and coating the balls is a bit messy but this was not a complicated process. My mix cooked a little faster then 25 minutes, closer to 15 but they came out great and this was pretty idiot proof, just keep stirring!!

An easy recipe like this that can be made a day in advance, would be a fun activity with kids, and is easy to customize with the variety of coatings you can use! These will definitely be a go to when we need an easy 'special treat' for something!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dark Days Meal #3 Spicy Ginger Stir-Fry with Carrot Udon & recap info

The Dark Days Challenge has begun! Running until March 31, 2012, over 100 participants will be doing our best to cook and blog/write about one meal per week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. Recaps will be hosted by the blog collective Not Dabbling in Normal.

Before I get to this weeks Dark Days Meal that Gail and I ate, I wanted to point out that recaps for Week 1 (here & here) and Week 2 (here & here) have been posted over at Not Dabbling in Normal. It's really interesting to see the huge diversity of meals and ingredients being used by all the participants. Be sure to check out some of their blogs as well.
On to the meal that we had here at Grown Away kitchens:
We had a few ingredients that I have little to no experience with such as jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms. I know mushrooms are a common ingredient and are found in or the base of, countless dishes, but I'm not their biggest fan and have for a long time avoided them all together. The sole exception being my mother's chicken Marsala! I'm trying though, which is why we picked up some mushrooms at the SoWa Winter Market on Sunday.  We also had a small napa cabbage to use, as well as some very fat carrots, scallions, and a few surprises!
I wanted to try something Asian inspired for this meal but had a lot of trouble coming up with a balanced meal, especially with no local source of noodles!
Truth be told, this isn't one of the meals I am most proud of, but it featured a ton of local ingredients, was incredibly healthy and filled us up. Not all the meals are gourmet, sometimes they are just food, and dinner on Tuesday was just that: food.
I ended up dicing the napa cabbage and mushrooms, and stir-frying them with a bit of baby ginger, and a drop of (non-local) chili-garlic paste.
I peeled the carrots, not just the outside i really peeled the carrots and used the peeled carrots as noodles which I tossed into a mix of sauteed jerusalem artichoke, red pepper, garlic, scallions, ginger, and a dash of Chef Myron's Szechuan Sauce (while Chef Myron's does not use entirely local ingredients in their products they are a local small business & specialty food producer that I am happy to support. I was introduced to their sauces at a local food festival a few years ago, and believe that supporting small local food business' is as important as supporting local farms and farmers markets). Once the cabbage and mushrooms were cooked up I tossed them into the carrot noodle mixture and served everything up in one bowl. On the side I served up our first tasting of homemade pickled ginger & daikon (daikon was slightly sweet and absorbed the flavors well, ginger needs more time to develop).
As I said not our best meal, but it was healthy and full of vegetables and we ate all of it, so I must have done something right!
Spicy Ginger Stir-Fry with Carrot 'Udon' ingredients:
Carrots, scallions & jerusalem artichokes from Spring Brook Farm. Mushrooms from Shady Oaks Organics. Napa cabbage from Heron Pond Farm. Ginger from the freezer via Old Friends Farm. Garlic from Allandale Farm. Daikon for the pickled daikon came from Winter Moon Farm , and the Szechuan sauce was courtesy of Chef Myron's.

Obviously not everything purchased at our trips to the winter farmers markets markets that I highlight on this blog make it into our dark days meals. Many ingredients and items are peppered throughout our meals each week and local foods are a major part of our meal planning.

What's coming next week?? I don't know, but I look forward to sharing with all of you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eat Boutique - Holiday Local Market 12/10

This past Saturday Gail and I visited the Eat Boutique Holiday Local Market in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood. The one day event featured 15  regional food producers from as far south as Brooklyn, NY and as far north as New Hampshire and Vermont. Along with the great food vendors they also had four cookbook authors on hand signing their books. It was a great event with lots of delicious food and beverages available for sample and sale!
After circulating around the room, trying various foods, coffee, hard cider, and rum we were left with the tough decision of what to bring home with us.
We ended up with a great haul including: bergamot & salty peanut taffy from Salty Road (Brooklyn, NY), 1/4 lb of vanilla sea salt caramel from Suss Sweets (New Hampshire), vanilla and coffee goat's milk caramel sauce from Fat Toad Farm (Brookfield, VT), gluten free spice cake mix from Blue Egg Baking (Newburyport, MA), Cycledrome coffee from New Harvest Coffee Roasters (Pawtucket, RI), and a few Eat Boutique stickers!!!
Not a bad haul and a really fun event! I hope that it happens again, whether it's holiday time next year or before that I would definitely check it out again!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SoWa Winter Market 12/11

Gail and I had a big shopping weekend! Yesterday we visited the SoWa Winter Market, and  Saturday we went to the Eat Boutique - Holiday Local Market  in Fort Point. I will be looking at our shopping list from the SoWa Winter Market today. Check back tomorrow to see the great stuff I took home from the Eat Boutique - Holiday Local Market.
We had some really wonderful conversations with many of the vendors and farmers that were at yesterday's SoWa Winter Market. We carefully reviewed and smelled most of the fresh pasta's from Valicenti Organico, learned about jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers from Spring Brook farm, had a great introduction to oyster mushrooms from Leif Johnson of Shady Oaks Organics, talked coffee with Andrew of Captain's Coffee Brewers, learned about greenhouses and year round crop production from David Gilson of the Herb Lyceum, talked social media and pork with John Crow Farm, and learned about preserving fresh fruit with Bug Hill Farm!
These conversations and learning experiences allow us connect with what we eat on a deep level, we gain storage advice and pick up cooking tips from people deeply connected and passionate about the produce, meat, and process' we are discussing. The heartfelt thanks we receive and connections we make allow us to put a face to the great people who raise, harvest, and produce our food! 
In the coming days as we enjoy all this great food I will recall all the people we talked with and be glad that Gail and I have so many opportunities to support sustainable and local food producers!
Here is a look at what we picked up at yesterday's SoWa Winter Market:
carrots, scallions, potatoes, onions, & jerusalem artichokes - Spring Brook Farm
peppers, tomatoes, & cucumbers - Herb Lyceum
grey dove & italian oyster mushrooms - Shady Oaks Organics
truffle pappradelle - Valicente Organico
22 oz cold brew coffee - Captain's Coffee Brewers
pork spare ribs - John Crow Farm

This great abundance and variety of ingredients has us looking forward to planning a few great meals this week, including our dark days meal!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011: Silver Palate Sorghum Cookies

This year was my first participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!  My reason for signing up was simple- Gail and I LOVE cookies (who doesn't!?) and the idea of receiving 3 dozen cookies in the mail, of 3 different varieties sounded to good to pass up! All I had to do to join the party was commit to baking and sending out 3 dozen of my own cookies to 3 separate food bloggers. Sounds good to me! For the cookie swap I adapted a recipe from the original Silver Palate Cookbook (not the 25th anniversary edition which is linked). I took the recipe for molasses cookies and made them with sorghum rather the molasses as the taste and consistency are very similar.  Below the photo of a dozen cookies fresh from the oven is a recipe for these moist, chewy, delicious cookies!
Sorghum Cookies
adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook & makes approximately 24 cookies
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sorghum
1 egg
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 F
Melt butter, add sugar and sorghum, and mix thoroughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture; mix well.
Sift flour with spices, salt, and baking soda, add to first mixture and mix well. Batter will be quite wet and sticky.
Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet. Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. These will spread during the baking.
Bake until cookies start to darken, about 8 to 10 minutes. (9 minutes 30 seconds was the ideal time in my oven)
Remove form oven while still soft (they will be very soft). Let cool on foil. Seriously let them cool. These cookies came out of the oven so soft I looked funny at one and it squished the cookie.
That is it. Super simple, easy cookies that are soft, chewy, and moist. Not crisp like ginger-snaps. A great holiday cookie.
I hope that delishiono, Cooking On the Side, & Gustatoria enjoyed their cookies!!

I was lucky enough to receive 3 delicious batches of cookies in the mail last week!
Kate at the forgotten teaspoon sent a box of grandmother's gingersnap cookies, Lily from Small Kitchen College sent a box of meyer lemon almond cookies, and Kat of percent sent a bag of snowballs!! Look at these great packages:

Gail and I have really enjoyed all of the cookies. It was a really nice surprise to open each package and find out what kind of cookies we had received! The suspense was killing us (ha!). I'm really happy to have participated in my first cookie swap. I look forward to doing it again, and maybe signing up for a few cookie swaps in my area next year!

what type of holiday cookies are you baking up??

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 2011... in progress

December 2011... in progress
12/4 - 12/10

Second Nature - Michael Pollan
Diary of a Very Bad Year: confessions of an anonymous hedge fund manager
Organic Can Feed the World - Barry Estabrook

glancing at:
seed catalogs, countless holiday 'treat' recipes

listening to:
Joe Rogan Experience with Shane Smith of Vice

Life - BBC
Louis CK Hilarious

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dark Days Meal # 2: Garlic Horseradish Sirloin with roasted Carrot & Turnip.

The Dark Days Challenge has begun! Running until March 31, 2012, over 100 participants will be doing our best to cook and blog/write about one meal per week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. Recaps will be hosted by the blog collective Not Dabbling In Normal. I will post links to recaps so that you can follow along with other participants. 
It finally started to get cold a few nights ago so I turned toward something hearty for this weeks dark days meal! We started with a too sweet butternut squash soup that I floated a crostini with melted cheddar in. The crostini was made from an extra piece of the crusty dutch-oven bread I made and the cheddar was from Smith's Farmstead which was a great way to balance the overly sweet soup. Our main course is pictured in this post, a delicious garlic and horseradish marinated sirloin steak with roasted carrot and turnips! This wasn't a tough dish at all. Once the steak was defrosted I rubbed a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of garlic pure6, and a tablespoon of horseradish all over the steak and let it chill out, covered in the fridge for a few hours, flipping it occasionally. When it was time for the carrot and turnips to go into the oven I cooked the steak in some melted butter.  As the steak finished resting the carrot and turnips were ready to come out of the oven.  Though the soup wasn't met with glowing reviews (it was edible but nothing special) the steak was good enough that it passed Gail's 3 bite test as she ate a few pieces and even set some aside for lunch too! The veggies were very easy and required very little effort. This type of dish can easily be modified for whichever root veggies are on hand. 
To make the root veggies preheat oven to 425 F,  cut veggies into wedge's or fry shapes and place them into a bowl. Drizzle them with a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt, and a mix of thyme/marjoram/rosemary. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
All of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt, and pepper we used for this meal were sourced locally:
For the soup:
Butternut squash from NorthStar Farm. Onion from Enterprise Farm. Apples and cider from Allandale Farm. Cheddar from Smith's Farmstead.
For the steak & root veggies:
Sirloin from Stillman's. Garlic from farmer's markets this summer/fall. Horseradish from our garden. Carrots from NorthStar Farm. Turnips from Heron Pond Farm, and herbs from our garden.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Goat cheese stuffed chicken breast with couscous & braised kale

Most of the time dinner at home doesn't need to be overly difficult to taste good and satisfy, especially when you have been working all day and the last thing you want to do is spend an ungodly amount of time in the kitchen when all you want is something warm, that tastes good, and isn't terrible for you.
This is what drives a lot of my cooking day in and day out. I want my food to taste good without being too terrible for me.
Gail has slowly been incorporating a little bit of meat into her diet here and there. This usually happens in one of a few ways: We are out to dinner and I am enjoying a particularly tasty bit of meat and I offer her some to try, I have brought home some sort of salami or other meat preserve that I offer up, or I cook something in the hopes that she will eat more then 3 bites (which means she might actually like it)

Earlier this week we enjoyed a simple and satisfying dinner of breaded chicken breasted stuffed with goat cheese, garlic couscous, and braised kale. Not everything was local, but I was able to include the chicken breast from John Crow Farm & the russian red kale from Heron Pond Farm.
The best part is that the chicken breast can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator until it is time to throw into the oven. Once the chicken is in the oven (35 minutes cooking you can relax for a few minutes, and then start on the braised kale (20 minutes) & couscous (10 minutes).

Braised Kale
2 lbs kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock
Wash, trim and chop kale. In a medium pot heat oil and lightly saute the garlic. Add kale and chicken stock. Cook covered for 12 minutes.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Breaded Chicken Breasts
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and ground black pepper
cheese filling (I used 4 oz herbed goat cheese from Westfield Farm)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 slices of bread (to make bread crumbs, or you can use store bought)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
For the breadcrumbs: Preheat oven to 300 F. Place half the bread in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Repeat with remaining bread. Toss the bread crumbs with oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring a few times, until the crumbs are golden brown and dry, 22-25 minutes. Transfer to a small dish and let cool completely.
For the chicken: Butterfly each chicken breast by slicing it lengthwise almost in half (start with the thin side) and then open to create a single cutlet. Place each cutlet between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until cutlets are 1/4-in thick. Place cheese filling in the center of each breast. Roll tightly over the filling and ensure the cheese is completely enclosed and forms a cylinder. Press the seam to seal. Repeat for each breast. Refrigerate the chicken, seam side down and uncovered for 1 hour to allow the edges to seal further.
Combine the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish and whisk the eggs and Dijon together in a second shallow dish. Take 1 chicken breast at a time, dredge in the flour, then coat with the egg mixture,, and finally roll in bread crumbs.
At this point the chicken can be stored for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F and place the chicken in an oven safe dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes & serve.

I prepped the chicken breasts early in the morning and left them in the fridge all day.  Everything else was prepared while the chicken was in the oven. No fuss & the leftovers were a great lunch!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

No-knead Crusty Dutch Oven Bread

(submitted to yeastspotting)

Back in October when I cooked up the brisket I made my first loaf in a dutch oven. I wanted to revisit the process but produce something with a little more crust and heft then the loaf I had made a few months ago.  The final result, which is pictured was exactly what I had imagined when I set out to make this loaf. A nice crunchy crust, a heartier taste with an undertone of rosemary. With bread this good that is so deceptively simple, I am sure this style will become a mainstay in my bread making rotation!

No-knead Dutch Oven Bread
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbs rosemary
1 1/2 tsp salt
cornmeal for dusting.
In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour(s), rosemary and salt, stirring well until blending. The dough should be pretty shaggy and sticky at this point. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let it rest for 8 hours at room temperature.
Once the dough is ready lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it. Sprinkle with flour,  punch down and fold on itself a few times. Cover and let rest 15 more minutes. Once rested shape the dough into a ball, place in bowl and dust with cornmeal, turning dough ball as you go. Cover and let rest another hour.
With the dough resting and about 25 minutes left preheat the oven to 475 degrees, with a 6-8 qt dutch oven inside as the oven heats. When the dough is ready carefully remove the dutch oven and lift the lid off. Slide the dough into the dutch oven, shaking it firmly once or twice to help distribute the dough.
Cover the dough and bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until the loaf is a nice golden brown. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a wire rack for an hour.
There you have it, a long on wait time, but low-impact loaf that is very delicious!

What have you been baking lately??

Monday, December 5, 2011

Somerville Winter Farmers Market 12/3

Gail and I took a trip to the Somerville Winter Market on Saturday and came home with a relatively small haul:
Turnips, napa cabbage, & (huge)red Russian kale from Heron Pond Farm.
Butternut squash & carrots from NorthStar Farm.
Onions & eggplant from Enterprise Farm (the eggplant was from FL as part of the east coast food shed they use to supply non local products in the colder months)
Daikon & watermelon radishes from Wintermoon Farm (i think)
Cheddar cheese from Smith's Farmstead via the Foxboro Cheese Co.
Boneless sirloin steak from Stillman's Farm

As I said it isn't a huge haul but there is enough variety and potential for all sorts of great stuff!

We chatted up a few of the specialty food vendors including an older Asian couple that was sampling a variety of sweet and savory treats that they had made. The pickled jalapenos were delicious and had some great residual heat that had me licking my lips and wanting more!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 2011... in progress

December 2011... in progress
11/2 - 12/3
Second Nature - Michael Pollan
Diary of a very Bad Year: confessions of an anonymous hedge fund manager
New York Food Issue (particularly articles about rene redzepi and growing coffee)
These May Be The droids Farmers are Looking For-
What was on the menu at the first thanksgiving? - Smithsonian Mag
Archaeologists find royal kitchen at ancient mayan city of kabah - Digital Journal
Back to the Future: A road map for tomorrow's cities - Orion Magazine

glancing at:
twitter, seed catalogs,

listening to:
Joe Rogan Experience with Bert Kriescher
Joe Rogan Experience with  Daniele Bolelli
Girl on Guy podcast with Tom Morello
Itunes U Standford University - Ben Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment
Sustainability is Served - WGBH

moe. 1/6/2011 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic DVD
Modern Marvels - the 80s
The Simpsons - The Book Job (w. Neil Gaiman)

winter markets, birthdays, wedding

Friday, December 2, 2011

Austin to Boston Food Swap package & gluten free vegan cookie recipe!

Last month I signed up for the Austin to Boston Food Swap. The idea of getting a package of fun foodie gifts from the Austin area was too good to pass up, and being so into local and seasonal food I thought putting together my own package wouldn't be too hard.
I was paired with the incredibly sweet and fun Jess over at forgiving martha! After making initial contact with Jess via email and praising my love of bacon, cheese, and baked goods I headed over to her blog and found that she has celiac's and it's primarily vegan dishes. This through a wrench in some of my plans, but ultimately I stayed positive and decided I would do the best I could to included a variety of gluten free & vegan items in her package including homemade cookies, because I love a challenge!
Here's a look, followed by a rundown of what I sent Jess, including a recipe for great gluten free-vegan peanut butter cookies!
contents of Jess' food swap package
As i've been preparing for the dark days challenge, I decided that my package should contain as many locally sourced items as possible. I ended up including:
Maple Syrup from Cook's Farm & Bakery. Birdwatcher's Blend Coffee from Dean's Beans. Popcorn Cobs from Enterprise Farm. Chipotle Chili Chocolate Mexicano discs from Taza Chocolate. Dried marjoram, rosemary, & sage that Gail & I grew at our garden. Pineapple Salsa and Plum/Spiced Port Jam that we canned, and a batch of gluten free-vegan peanut butter cookies!
When I decided I would be attempting to bake something that was both gluten free and vegan I knew I would need some guidance. I immediately sought out my good friend, fellow blogger, and personal chef Sharon Shiner! Her website Thyme to Cook and her blog are both linked on the righthand sidebar. 
Reaching out to Sharon was the right choice as she immediately replied to my request for a ideas with a great recipe that had her stamp of approval. 
The recipe is from Terry Walters eating guide/cookbook Clean Foods! Thanks to a 3-way twitter exchange between Sharon, Terry, and myself Terry has given me permission to share the recipe here, so a huge thanks goes out to her for this great recipe which calls for gluten free teff flour, maple syrup, and peanut butter!
Gluten Free-Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
from Clean Foods by Terry Walters 
1.5 cups teff flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chunky natural peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup 
1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 F
Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Pour wet over dry and blend until just combined - do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.
Linke cookie sheet with parchment. Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheet. LEave cokie free form or press down in crisscross pattern with the tines of a fork.
Place in oven and bake for 13 minutes or until lightly browned. The key to these cookies is to not over bake them. 
Remove from oven and place directly on wire rack to cool. Yields about 20 cookies.

I hope Jess enjoys the items as much as I enjoyed putting the package together!!
I can't wait to see what she has in store for me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Buttermilk/Pork Belly Biscuits with Basic Red-Eye Gravy

perfect thanksgiving breakfast
 It is rare that I get to enjoy a fresh cooked breakfast during the work week. Normally I have a cup or 2 of coffee with a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or leftover baked goods (cookies, tea breads, etc). Even with the added bonus of working from home twice a week I still usually don't have the time to make a hot breakfast because I use the extra time to cleanup the apartment, take the trash out, do laundry, plan blog posts, etc.
Last Thursday, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US I was offered the opportunity to wake up and enjoy a hot fresh breakfast in the middle of the week! I took advantage by getting out of bed and baking up a quick batch of buttermilk biscuits, red-eye gravy, and scrambled eggs(with shredded Manchego and chives)! The biscuits had a simple twist, rather then using extra butter or shortening I used some of the leftover fat from the pork belly I had already made. The red-eye gravy was a  thin and sweet topping for the biscuits that tasted great and was nearly effortless to prepare.
Easy Buttermilk Biscuits (w/Pork Belly drippings)
makes about a dozen biscuits
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons pork belly grease (or shortening, additional butter, etc)
1 cup chilled buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 F degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use your fingertips and rub butter &  pork fat into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir until the dough comes together, which will be very sticky.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold the dough over on itself a few times. Press the dough into a 1-inch thick round, cut biscuits with a 2-inch cutter (I do not own a biscuit cutter, I used a lowball glass as my biscuit cutter). Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they are barely touching. Reform the scrap dough and continue to cut biscuits.
Bake until biscuits are golden on top, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Basic Red-Eye Gravy
2 pieces ham or pork belly
at least 1/2 cup leftover coffee (I need coffee if I am up early and baking, so I made a little extra before I tackled the biscuits)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Cook pork belly gently on both sides and put aside the leftover drippings. Add drippings, leftover coffee, and brown sugar to a small pan over low heat until sufficiently mixed and combined.
Pour over biscuits and enjoy!