Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Plans

The week has come! This Thursday marks the culmination of all that planting and harvesting, scouring farmers markets, and attempting to put food up for the winter. I feel like I'm about to take a final exam as a local eater. Even though I have learned so much more over the past year than I knew previously, I'm concerned that I will still earn the same grade--no improvement. While I surpassed some of last year's efforts, I am sadly lagging behind in others. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the Three Sisters Stew makes an awesome starter to a Thanksgiving dinner--but not to mine. I'm sorely lacking a number of ingredients. I saved no corn. I am loathe to use one of my only two cans of tomatoes, and I have used all of my Anasazi beans from the Four Corners area. I'm telling myself the lack of soup will make my life simpler...

Other grand hopes have been dashed as I have no green vegetables put up at all--no cans, none frozen, none even dried. That means I will serve no green beans--another Thanksgiving staple as far as my family and I are concerned. My family's traditional green bean dish was the Green Bean Casserole consisting of a variety of store-bought canned goods stirred together, so I wouldn't be making that anyway. Although, the infamous casserole could be made locally with a little finagling. Alas, I have no green beans, so it doesn't matter. I do have kale. I picked up a whole bag from Chad's Produce last Friday. It will make its debut this year as my Thanksgiving green vegetable.

The rest of the menu seems to be holding together relatively well.
Thanksgiving Menu
Apple Cider
Rainbow Carrot Sticks
Herbed Goat Cheese
Whole Wheat Crackers
Sliced Beehive Cheddar Cheese
Main Event
Roast Turkey
Old Fashioned Bread Stuffing
Baked Acorn Squash Rings
Sauteed Kale
Cranberry and Pear Relish
Dinner Rolls
White or Zinfandel Wine

And all the details:
Apple Cider
Farnsworth's, purchased from Harmon's

Rainbow Carrots
purchased from Chad's Produce at his Oasis Cafe market

Herbed Goat Cheese
Shepherd's, purchased from Harmon's

Whole Wheat Crackers
either purchased and brought by a guest or homemade. Find the recipe here.

Sliced Beehive Cheddar Cheese
from Harmon's

from Wight Turkey Farm--ordered and purchased from Liberty Heights Fresh. The turkey will be rubbed down with olive oil or melted butter and salt, and roasted on a bed of sage with some carrots, onions, and garlic tucked inside.

After searching the web for a stuffing recipe that could be made locally, I gave up. The crux was the celery. Almost every recipe includes it, but I don't have any. I've decided that celery is necessary. That many recipes can't be wrong. Plus, I grew up with this specific recipe, and I LOVE it! It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it. Of course, I will still keep my eyes open for some locally grown celery.
Here's the recipe for Old-Fashioned Bread Stuffing with my own adjustments to make it more local:
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup butter (I'll be using oil--no dairy for one of my guests!)
1 tsp ground sage (I'll use fresh, but I don't know the amount until I'm doing it.)
1/8 tsp salt
8 cups dry bread cubes (I'm making bread all week for this.)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet cook celery and onion in oil or butter until tender but not brown. Remove from heat. Stir in sage and salt.

Place dry bread cubes in a large mixing bowl; add onion mixture and pecans. Drizzle enough broth to moisten, tossing lightly.

Place stuffing in casserole. Refrigerate until ready for baking. If cooking a turkey, place alongside in oven during last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking, or until heated through.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 11 ed.

Baked Acorn Squash Rings
I chose this because it looks fancy but easy to make, and I have an Acorn Squash in my pantry. Most of the online recipes include using sugar or syrup, but I believe that the local squashes I find are sweet and delicious enough to stand almost all on their own.

Slice the Acorn Squash into 1/2" to 3/4" rings and remove the seeds for later baking and eating. Place the rings on a greased baking sheet and brush with melted butter or oil. For added fun, stir salt and/or herbs into the butter or oil. I will likely gather some fresh oregano and sage and some dried savory for the job. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

To give you an idea of how fabulous this can look, here's a photo of acorn squash rings.

Sauteed Kale
Over medium heat, toss kale and minced garlic in oil or melted butter until it starts to look limp. Add salt and dried pepper (or other seasonings) and toss.

Cranberry and Pear Relish
Yes, you are correct--there are no local cranberries that I know of. The first Thanksgiving did, after all, take place in New England. Our offerings here are slightly different. I was almost considering not making this dish, but I caved. That's all. No excuses except that this one will feature some local pears. I liked this particular recipe because it uses honey as the sweetener and did not go overboard with a ton of non-local ingredients. Recipe for Cranberry Pear Relish.

I am actually making this tonight (now it is Tuesday). It turns out that a blender just doesn't cut it, so unless you have a fancy food processor, this recipe needs some help. I opted to cook the cranberries and honey together on the stovetop for about 8 minutes and then added the pears and lemon to cook for another 10 minutes. I did not use the sugar--it tastes fabulous without it.

Dinner Rolls
I will use the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 11 ed., but it really is just a basic recipe that can be found almost anywhere. Here's a link to a standard recipe on-line. Note that the on-line recipe calls for sugar. Honey could be used as a substitute if you use half the amount and reduce the liquid in the recipe to keep the liquid amount even. I simply ignore the sugar entirely to keep things easy. If folks want added sweetness, I can always put some honey on the table.

White or Zinfandel Wine
purchased from the State Liquor Store--probably a Castle Creek Wine

However you celebrate a year of local bounty, enjoy every bite!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chad's Produce on Friday this Week

An addendum to the post below on winter markets:

Chad's Produce will be at the Oasis Cafe, 151 South 500 East in SLC, today (that is Friday) from 11:00 a.m. until dark. Saturday's weather looks dicey, so today is the day to shop from Chad if you want some of his produce for Thanksgiving.

He will resume on Saturdays in December.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Search of Winter Markets

This is the time of year when all of my positive thinking swings around to laugh in my face. Yes, yet another summer and fall have passed during which I planned and planted. The planning included amazing harvests and amazing days full of canning. I am not amazing. I am normal. Some people are amazing. I know them. They have successful gardens and more tomatoes than they know what to do with (I'm not talking about the green ones), and they preserve their bounty without comment or drama.

I did some canning, and I did so with drama because I still think that canning is a lot of work. I enjoy it, but it takes time, effort and know-how. It also takes produce. I had an abundance of peaches from a volunteer tree in my yard (read--no effort to grow) and did can those, but my painstakingly planted and cared for garden vegetables yielded just enough for summer food with little excess.

Now it's time for the back-up plan. I really must visit winter markets. I started with the Market on State last Tuesday afternoon. This relatively small group is located at 1050 South State St. in SLC.

Morgan Valley Lamb was there with lamb bacon!

I could stop with that, but there was more. They also had lamb salami--a treat I'll purchase next time around. He had tons of other cuts that are very hard to find in the stores and took the time to advise on a good cut for a crock pot. With that I purchased my bacon and a front shank. Canyon Meadows Ranch neighbors the Morgan Valley Lamb. That helped me with planning my purchases as I could look at the availability of cuts from both ranchers at the same time. Canyon Meadows also had a gazillion different cuts, so I was able to purchase some lean ground beef, beef jerky, and a rump roast. Fowers Fruit Ranch had a great spread of many different kinds of apples and pears, onions, winter squashes, and potatoes. They also had raspberry preserves and peach cobbler. I picked up some of the preserves which will be delicious on homemade toast with Winder butter. I also picked up some more pears to mash up for my baby. They are a big hit at the high chair!

I'm still in search of some greens since the kale in my winter garden is a bit dispirited. I'm hoping that Chad's Produce which appears at the Oasis Cafe parking lot most Saturdays from 10-3 will have some. I have high hopes as the photos they sent last week included kale along with carrots, beets, and potatoes. Another possibility is the Locavore Market at Caputo's downtown which also runs from 10-3. No one I've talked to there knows who's coming, and the list is not yet formalized, but they may post some news on their Facebook page.

I sincerely hope that our local farmers and ranchers will continue to sell in these market settings during the winter. They can only do so if the demand is there, so happy winter market shopping to you!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eating Pumpkins

Whenever I look at the pumpkins stored in my pantry, I laugh. I get the chuckles because Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle states so eloquently our relationship with our food, specifically pumpkins, when she says,
"Every single recipe started with the same ingredient, '1 can (15 oz) pumpkin.' I could see the shopping lists now:
1 can pumpkin (for curry soup)
1 of those big orangey things (for doorstep).
She laments that we are perfectly capable of hollowing out and carving faces into this huge vegetable, but that we can't seem to just cut the thing up and eat it.

Admittedly, I only discovered the wonders of pumpkins (and other winter squashes) once I moved here 5 years ago and started using a CSA. I had grown up in a household where fabulous meals were cooked from scratch, but we still only used canned pumpkin (and pretty much just for pumpkin pie). This left me clueless. Once I started receiving pumpkins along with a variety of other mystery giants in my CSA box, I found myself doing a lot of internet research, and I discovered an amazing world of atrociously vitamin-rich and versatile tastiness. I also learned that I find it easier to cut open a winter squash using a sturdy paring knife rather than a big French chef and that all winter squashes have edible seeds. If those seeds make it off of the baking sheet because they have survived snacking, they go great into any dish where you might use nuts or sunflower seeds.

Here are links to a couple of my favorite pumpkin recipes:
Three Sisters Stew
This vegetarian stew can be a completely local dish if you don't use the cumin and black pepper. Either way it's delicious. I made this last year as an appetizer soup for Thanksgiving dinner.

Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce
You can do so much with this dish. It can be made ahead of time to fit your schedule. It is delicious with chicken, pork, beans, or turkey. I've used leftover holiday turkey as the filler many times now. This can also be 100% local if you make your own tortillas.

Pork with Mashed Pumpkin

This dish is fabulous, but it is also more time-consuming that the others listed above. Since it takes so much time, I typically double it so I can freeze some and have it ready-made after a great day of skiing or snowshoeing. Again, this is an almost completely local dish unless you count the cumin, coriander, and vinegar.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feeding the Baby

When I first gave birth to my little one, folks would often have a great time pointing out that my baby had the most local diet of all. Since I was breastfeeding, this was quite true and keeping my baby on a local diet didn't take too much thought or preparation. Now that he is almost 8 months old, he is eating more and more solid food (meaning not just milk).

Before I gave birth, I vowed that I would provide my baby with the healthiest food I could provide--organically grown and as fresh as possible. I splurged on this special little baby food processor and started making plans. The grocery store aisles provide plenty of inspiration as I peruse the labels on food jars appropriate to his age and gather ideas. Unwittingly, these baby food companies have suggested all of the following local delicacies to me: winter squash, apples, pears, peaches, green beans, carrots, and potatoes. Seasonal produce provides more inspiration and far more variety in his diet as I can feed him kale, parsnips, beets, and turnips as well. As he continues to grow I'll be able to add in chicken, turkey, pasta, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese--all local!

Does it take extra time? Of course! Most local eating does. However, it's really not too bad. While the little man plays with his sippy cup in his highchair, I cut up the produce of choice and set it to steam if necessary.

Once it's finished steaming, I dump the contents and the steam water out into the blender and mush it up. After that some food goes into a container to be eaten that day (or immediately) or I put it into ice cube trays.

Later the cubes are tossed into Ziplocs and labeled. Defrosting is easy in either the steamer or the microwave.

Perhaps the most time-consuming part of this whole process has been the research. The more common baby care books and websites stick to the usual baby food staples--prunes, carrots, peas... A high-strung mama like myself could go crazy wondering if she is going to poison her child with kale since it just doesn't appear in the Gerber or Earth's Best selections. Fortunately, I have found some great sources. The Wholesome Baby Food website has offered tons of suggestions and, more importantly, helped me with serving sizes and answered my burning questions about feeding my child dairy. Homemade Baby Food Recipes also offers great suggestions and includes foods such as bell peppers and eggplant--some more great produce that just seems to be missing from those little jars in the grocery.

I'm pretty excited about introducing my little guy to our amazing world of food, and I'm glad that he won't have to miss out on parsnips!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Last of the Fresh Peaches

The time arrived. Those last beautiful peaches that we picked at the start of October waited and waited in our refrigerator drawer. I had canned and dried all that I was going to, and we munched through the picked peaches one by one. Sometimes they ended up in oatmeal, sometimes they served as a refreshing snack, and on a couple of occasions they become the stars in Oatmeal Peach Betty. Now, it was time for that most special dish that marks the end of peach season--Homemade Peach Pie. I use a recipe that only strays from local goods for two ingredients. Otherwise, it stays on target, and I find it absolutely delicious.

I double the Butter Flaky Pie Crust recipe found on this blog and use the Peach Filling Recipe detailed below.
Honey Peach Pie Filling
6 cups sliced, unpeeled peaches
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
1. Add flour if mixture seems watery.
2. Pour into unbaked pie shell.
3. Roll out second half of pie dough.
4. Place on top and twist pie edges together.
5. Slice a breathing hole in top of pie.
6. Bake 10 minutes.
7. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake 30 minutes more, until golden.
8. Allow to cool at least 1 hour before serving. (I didn't. Nothing bad happened.)

Now, you'll notice that my crust is pretty bulky. Sometimes I use the extra dough to make some cookies and keep my pie edge nice and slim.

The cookies are so beautifully simple that I'm asking myself right now why I didn't make any this time around. I think I was just a little too excited about the pie.

Pinwheel Pie Crust Cookies
Roll out the leftover pie dough.
Melt butter and spread over the dough using a pastry brush.
Add other flavorings as desired. Some great choices include honey, mashed berries, or very thinly slice apples, peaches, or pears.
Start at one side and roll the dough into a tight spiral.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4" pinwheels.
Lay these flat on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees.
I don't know for how long--I just watch them in anticipation and then eat them all up very quickly.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pollo con Crema

Last night I needed to use up the last of a chicken that I'd roasted a few days back. I most certainly did not want to go shopping but was still determined to do this delicious chicken some justice. Then, I was gifted with a memory of this lovely little Mexican restaurant that we used to frequent in Cleveland, Ohio and my favorite dish there, Pollo con Crema, which is basically chicken, onions, and peppers in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Perfect! I have tons of onions in the bottom drawer of my fridge and peppers that I pulled before the last frost hit. For my cream sauce I used a variation on a White Sauce recipe to which I regularly turn--found in my worn copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 11th ed. Here's how I whipped this up:

(amounts approximate)

1 white onion
, sliced
1 chocolate pepper (medium intensity), sliced
2 jalapenos, chopped finely

1 1/2 cups chicken

Saute the onion for a couple of minutes, then throw in the peppers. Add the chicken right before starting the sauce in a separate pan.

While the vegetables are softening, make up the sauce.
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup grated cheese
(Be sure to have these ingredients ready to go ahead of time--cooking show style. Things move quickly while making this sauce, and you don't want it to burn.)

In a small saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour and salt. Stir in milk all at once. Cook and stir until sauce begins to thicken. Add cheese and continue to stir until bubbly. Cook and stir one minute more.

Pour this sauce over the chicken and vegetables.
Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.

Here it is, bubbling on the stove and almost ready for eating!