Monday February 08, 2010
Last summer I decided it was time to really know the farmer. And that farmer was me. (On a very small scale of course.) I wanted to raise our own meat chickens for a variety of reason. I wanted to be in control of everything they ate - all organic feed, fresh spring water, grass, worms and bugs!! I wanted them to be truly pasture-raised. And I wanted to see if I could eat those adorable day-old chicks once they were ready to be harvested. Well the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Those birds were bred to grow. We jokingly called them the oven-stuffer-roasters. They were eating machines and preferred to eat, then sit.
Once they were fully-grown we brought the birds to real farmer friends, Sean Stanton and his brother Jeremy to be "harvested." Our birds weighed about 7-8 pounds and can feed a family of six, no problem!!
I just roasted one of the chickens for dinner on Saturday.
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, minced
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix together to form a paste and infuse under the skin. Rub any leftover on the skin of the chicken. Cut up an onion and lemon and place in cavity. Bake in oven at 375 for an hour or so - I use an instant read thermometer to be certain it is done. I roasted sweet and russett potatoes and onions along side the chicken and served some steamed broccoli as well. A yummy and delightful meal.
What's best, however, is that I have gotten more than one meal out of the big bird! For lunch the next day, I chopped up the white meat and mixed it with some chopped shallots and a dab of mayo and served it on a baguette with a spinach salad.
And today, the soup was on!! I put the carcass in a large stock pot with 8-10 organic carrots, chopped, 2-3 onions, chopped, celeriac, peeled and chopped, 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and a can of diced Muir Glen tomatoes.
I added some cooked rice and it was the perfect hearty soup for a cold winter weeknight meal. And best of all - there's plenty for lunch tomorrow.
Thank you BIG BIRD!!
Sunday January 31, 2010
When Matt Finnerty, my step son, found jars of Nutella in the pantry he immediately asked me if I knew how to make crepes. And I answered with a sly smile, "But of course!!"
"Well, okay," he said, "so let's make them." Such exuberance cannot be resisted. And I love the fact that a 14-year old has developed a taste for crepes with Nutella spread on them. He had them when he was in France with his Mom and 2 sisters and hadn't seen Nutella since then. Just the very sight of Nutella brought his memories of a big fat french guy making large fluffy crepes with Nutella. He said they were, "the best!!" Matt wanted to get right down to making them ASAP. What I had to explain is that crepe batter must be made ahead - it needs to sit for a few hours so the flavors meld and the flour hydrates.
We made the batter on Saturday afternoon. We made the crepes on Sunday after a vigorous snow shoe outing - so we earned them!!
Crepe recipes are actually quite easy. Flour, water, melted butter, milk, sugar...
Here's the recipe:
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup half and half
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp melted butter
lemon zest from one lemon
Blend all ingredients. Store covered overnight.
Using a well-seasoned crepe pan or non-stick 5-6" frying pan, heat on low-medium flame, brush pan with canola oil or melted butter. (I usually do a tester before I really get started to make sure pan it hot enough etc.) Then ladle the batter into the pan and swirl it so it spreads into the entire surface. Cook until the edges start browning and top seems dry. I use a fork but a spatula would do the trick as well to loosen the edges. Then flip the crepe and let it cook for a few seconds. (I find this is a feel sort-of-thing - you just can tell when it's ready!!)
Matt took each crepe as it came out of the pan and spread Nutella on it. He ate several on the spot and took the rest back with him to his Mother's house to delight in at a later time.
I don't know about you but there is NOTHING more satisfying than making food that makes people happy!! Thank you Matt!!
Wednesday January 27, 2010
Berkshire Grown's mission is to support our local farmers and promote locally grown food, which results in strengthening our local economy and preserving open spaces. It's a winning mission and one that I support whole-heartedly!
Last night I hosted the newly formed Development Committee for Berkshire Grown.
Our goal is to make Berkshire Grown "sustainable" without state funding. In 2010 we have to do without a $50,000 state grant. And personally, I think that is OK. We just need to do and think differently.
Our goals are to run events that are meaningful and in line with our objectives of helping farmers connect with food buyers - both restaurants through the farm to table program; and people through farmers markets and CSA's. We need to reach out to the community and build membership, and pursue corporate sponsors who want to align with our message. Restaurants play a key role for Berkshire Grown. Their commitment to buying local ingredients and serving them is critical to the sustainability of our local small farms and our local economies. If you are a local or own a second home in the Berkshires, please consider sending a donation to preserve the connection between farmers and eating. I do. I do it through my membership to Berkshire Grown (www.berkshiregrown.org), my membership to 2 CSA's (www.indianlinefarm.com and www.farmgirlfarm.com), raising my own chickens for meat and eggs, and using my land to raise Scottish Highland Cattle for grass fed beef for my family's consumption and ultimately for sale.
Food glorious food! Don't we all live for that? Don't we all want to put what's best in our bodies and lower our carbon footprint? If you answer YES - then support Berkshire Grown or support your local farmers wherever you live - DO IT TODAY!!
And, yes I did serve food. Our meal consisted of organic rice, chicken breast with chick peas and tomatoes and a green salad. Laura Meister (Farm Girl Farm) brought chocolate chip cookies and local ice cream.
Chicken with Chick Peas and Tomatoes
2 whole boneless chicken breast, cut into 8 pieces
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup minced cilantro
1 cup plain yogurt (I like 2% greek but any will do!)
1 can chick peas
1 can of diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the garlic, oil, paprika,cumin, red pepper flakes. Spoon 1 tablespoon in the yogurt and set aside. Place chicken in a baking dish and spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the spice mixture on the chicken. In a bowl, mix the chick peas, tomatoes, remaining spice mixture and 1/2 cup cilantro. Pour over chicken. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve over rice with a dollup or two of yogurt and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy!!
Sunday January 24, 2010
My friend Joanna recently told me that she wanted an immersion blender for her birthday but she didn't know which one to buy. And as you might imagine, I immediately told her which one I purchased, and why. But I know there are a few great models out there - so Joanna - this review is for you!!
Breville BCS500XL 9.6 Volt Cordless Immersion Blender with Recharging Base
This is the immersion blender that I use. One of the main considerations for me was the convenience of a cordless immersion blender. I have limited counter space near my stove where I predominantly use it. It does the trick for me but its controls are sensitive and finicky, and sometimes stalls out. I, of course, have figured how to outwit it but it may frustrate others. I think if you can live with a corded model, I would get a different one. You can buy this model at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Breville-BCS500XL-Cordless-Immersion-Recharging/dp/B000MDASFC
SmartStick Brushed Chrome Hand Blender
I figure when a model is back-ordered due to overwhelming demand and the majority of the reviews are raves, AND if the price is compelling, look no further....Here are the features according to the manufacturer:
Powerful 200-watt motor handles more blending tasks
Stick design reaches into pots, pitchers and bowls to extend blending options
Ergonomically designed grip offers comfortable hold and more control while blending
Operates with a one-touch control for easy, one-handed blending
KitchenAid® Immersion Blender
Here are the benefits according to the manufacturer:
Variable speeds provide greater processing control that adjusts to handle a variety of foods, beverages and soups.
The premium stainless steel blending attachment reaches an 8-inch immersion depth.
The stainless steel splashguard covers the blending blade to prevent splattering of ingredients.
The stainless steel whisk maximizes air in mixtures for fluffier egg whites and whipped cream.
The 4-piece chopper attachment quickly chops herbs, vegetables, fruits, cooked meats, nuts and cheese.
5-ft. power cord provides exceptional freedom to move around the kitchen.
Most of the Kitchenaid reviews were extremely positive. I think these new models have a lot going for them - the 8" immersion depth, for one. And they have made the power cords longer if you can live without the cordless. Some of the Kitchenaid models come in fun colors like red. The one I would have on my wish list, if price were not a concern can be purchased at www.surlatable.com http://www.surlatable.com/product/id/131824.do#
Sunday January 24, 2010
I realize that sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. And for me, it is very obvious to keep certain items on hand at all times in my kitchen so I can whip up breakfast, lunch or dinner. I also have a very organized mind when it comes to cooking and menu planning. While I do enjoy grocery shopping, I know it is chore for some. So I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on weekly menu planning and then provide a list of items to keep in your larder.
I generally do my shopping on Saturday morning. The first thing I do is look in my pantry, fridge, and spice cabinets for items that I am "out" of that I need to replenish. Then I think about meals for the next 6-7 days. What did we eat last week? Will I be traveling this week and need to make extra so there are plenty of leftovers for Jim? I like to eat a balance of meat, poultry, fish, pork and lamb with leafy greens and vegetables. I decide that we'll eat lamb, shrimp and chicken this week. Then I think about how I might want to prepare them. Right now it's winter and I love to make stews and braises. Lamb works up nicely in a stew. Shrimp would be perfect cooked in a risotto and chicken breasts can be done several ways but I know I don't need to decide. If you can tell, these three meats will probably provide six nights of dinner. My shopping list has the three meats, any vegetables that accompany the main meals - for the lamb stew - potatoes and green salad; for the risotto, broccoli or spinach; for the chicken, a green vegetable or two, some root vegetables etc. To then re-invent the left-overs, I would make polenta with the lamb stew night two; I might add some asparagus to the risotto for night two; and with the chicken, I might turn it into a stir-fry - onions, garlic, peppers, diced chicken and rice. My shopping list grows out of my menu. But I don't need to buy everything because I already have many of the building blocks.
Here's the list of must-haves for every organized cook:
Salt ( regular, kosher and sea salts)
Pepper (ground and pepper corns)
Cinnamon (ground and sticks)
Crushed Red Pepper
Coriander (ground and seeds)
Paprika (smoked, spicy, plain)
Vanilla (extract and beans)
Cloves (ground and whole)
Sugars ( granulated, light and dark brown)
Rice (white, brown, risotto)
Canned Beans (chick peas, cannellini, red kidney)
Lentils and Split Peas
Chicken Broth and Bullion Cubes
Vinegars ( red wine, cider, rice wine, tarragon, champagne)
Oils (olive, canola, sesame)
Shortening (I found some non-transfat organic)
Bittersweet Chocolate bars
Potatoes (russett and sweet)
Coffee (beans and instant)
Half and Half
Butter - sweet
Plain non-fat yogurt
Cheese - parm, romano, mozzarella, goat, cheddar, ricotta
Organic Frozen Spinach, Corn and Broccoli
Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
Friday January 15, 2010
Each week I co-host a radio show called Radio2Women with Serene Mastrianni. And Serene decided that she wanted to "interview" me. We had a great time discussing how easy cooking really is. The interview has inspired my next blog post....Alway prepared - must have spices, must have pantry and fridge/freezer items....so stay tuned!!
In the meantime, listen to the interview here and get ready for Heirloom Meals Radio beginning in February!
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