Tag Archives: winter

Sunshine in winter cooking

Over the last nine months I’ve been working for Schenectady Greenmarket. In that time, my life has changed quite a bit. One main area of change is my kitchen. Sure, I have always been a pretty ardent home-cook, rarely eating out, rarely purchasing prepared foods – but I haven’t the kind of person that eats truly seasonally. All that has changed since now most of my grocery shopping is done on Sundays as I run around the market.

Among the celeriac, beets and kohlrabi, there has been one humble reawakening – carrots. This cooked carrot salad is now a staple of my weekly dinners and lunches. It brings sunshine and warmth to my day regardless if it is actually sunny outside (and -12) or snowing.

Spicy Cooked Carrot Salad
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 lb. carrots – diced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt
2 t. sweet paprika
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 T. chopped parsley
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese

1. Boil the carrots in salted water until tender but not soft (about 3 minutes).

2. In a large bowl, smash the garlic with a pinch of salt. Stir in the paprika, hot pepper flakes and lemon juice. Whisk in the oil.

3. Add the carrots and half the feta cheese. Toss until fully combined. Sprinkle the remaining feta on top and serve.

This salad is wonderful on its own for lunch, perfect wrapped up in a pita with falafel or grilled chicken and amazing served for dinner next to some freshly grilled chorizo.

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Filed under Basics, Food

Which would you choose?

Last night I had one of my best friends over for dinner. I needed to pick his brain and get some advice. His support, guidance and insight are things I treasure – even when I don’t agree – and any chance to sit around the table and chat is a good time. We might come from different backgrounds, but we share a similar passion: agriculture…or farming.

You see, we both have strong opinions on what the best term to use is. He prefers agriculture, I like the word farming. We had a “discussion” on why the other should change their mind. Neither of us won…but were were both right in a way.

My friend is a fourth generation farmer with an ag degree. He works on a large dairy and raises hay. He is a leader in the ag community. Farming, to him, conjures an outdated picture. Today’s agriculture is far removed from American Gothic. Agricultural professionals raise our food, wear suits, are involved in their community and civic organizations. They are educated, forward thinking, business leaders and (some) are even tech-savvy.

All of this is 100% true. And I agree that farmers are far from the romantic ideals so many of us hold on to. Sure, there’s likely to be a pick-up truck and a farm dog riding shot-gun, but it’s just as likely that there is a GPS in the John Deere tractor as they plant a field of corn.

I still prefer using the terms “farming” and “farmer.” As a marketer and communicator, I want to evoke the positive, warm feeling American Gothic and the like elicit. A familiar image or idea of farming is a great place to start a conversation. Got that happy picture in your head? Good, great! Now, here’s how today’s farming – big and small – hold onto the ideals, principles and culture that antiquated picture represented. Farming is still about family and community, no matter how the size of the farm. Today, the family has a degree, marketing skills, financial forecasting experience. The community in which the family farms is likely o be diverse, eclectic and contain more people living and working off the farm than on.

To me, when you use “agriculture” or “agricultural professional,” the image that comes to mind is big business and science. True or not, accurate or off-base, this isn’t the place from which I want to start a dialogue so I choose “farming.”

Which would you choose?

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Filed under Day to day

Not quite tortillas

I love food and I love to eat, but I’m not above confessing that during the week my dinners are less than extraordinary. Weekends are meant for good food, weeknights not so much. To be honest, weeknights are the path of least resistance (and fewest dishes). I’ll eat ice cream from the carton (spoon), cereal (bowl and spoon) or, most often, tortilla with cheese (cutting board, plate, knife). Great meals with more than a bowl or heaven forbid a pot are not in my regular Monday thru Friday rotation.

So, I live on tortillas. I tried for a long time to find an easy, delicious tortilla recipe. The results were just that: easy and delicious – but they were also hard and crisp. I ended up experimenting and came up with the following easy, delicious and soft recipe. No, they aren’t traditional, but they are good…Really good. I keep them in a zip-top bag in my fridge and pull out one or two a night for dinner.

1 1/2 t. yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 t. sugar
2 t. olive oil
3/4 c. (plus or minus) flour

1. In a medium bowl, combine yeast, water and sugar. Let sit 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and combine until it forms a slightly sticky ball.
3. On a well floured surface knead dough for 3-4 minutes. Return to bowl and cover with towel. Let rest 15-30 minutes.
4. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll out to 7-inch disks.
5. Heat a dry skillet. Place dough on the skillet one at a time, cooking 45 to 60 seconds each side. Place cooked tortillas onto a plate to cool.

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There are so many things

I’ve had a phrase rolling around and around in my head. Every time I go to put pen to paper the phrase fills my brain and pushes all the good thoughts out.

There are so many things…

That’s it, nothing more. So what are these “things” and why won’t they leave me alone? I have no idea. I think that these days I have so very many ideas, thoughts and concerns on my mind that I can’t quite focus on any one. It is like cleaning a closet. You have to first pull everything out of it. From a small space comes a great, big, overwhelming, insurmountable mess and you just don’t know where to start – So you go to the kitchen for a sandwich and leave the mess. To avoid. To adjust.

Saturday morning I sat at my work-table with a cup of tea, a pen and a pad. I was going to write but the phrase came instead. So I wrote “There are so many things” at the top of the page and then I pulled from my emotional closet. There are so many things…That scare me. That I excel at. That I want to try. That I want to leave behind. That I want to be better at.

There were so many things – that I filled two pages. And, just like cleaning, I’m a little overwhelmed. Bit by bit I’ll reorganize, readjust, toss or keep. I’ll put the important bits back, I’ll get rid of the bits that don’t work anymore and I’ll make room for new things too – experiences, people and successes.

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Filed under Day to day

In honor (or dishonor) of Mr. D

After 34 years of giving Mr. Darcy types the benefit of the doubt, my empathetic compassion and an understanding ear, I have come to one fundamental conclusion – Mr. Darcy was an asshole. Really, how many men – living, breathing men – can you count off who were crotchety, conceited jerks at first meeting but who ended up having hearts of gold with deep rivers of passionate emotion for you flowing under their icy surfaces? And, by the way, I don’t mean all those thoughts, feelings and un-acted upon desires that we project, infer or fantasize they are tormented over either.

My answer is none. Once a jerk, always a jerk.

I sound jaded, bitter and an all around bitch so of course no man would want to be around such a sour lemon of a woman, but I’m not in fact, I’m just the opposite. I am a friendly, flirty and fun girl who everyone wonders “why is she single?”. This question I can answer simply and succinctly: Because I have wasted my heart and emotions on the Mr. Darcy’s of the world. That is why I have vowed off boys for a year, why I have professed again and again that boys are a drug and I’m going cold turkey…except I had a relapse the other day…and this is my pep talk back onto that wagon…

I ended up thinking about the Mr. Darcy in my life – the crotchety jerk I’d met years ago who on very rare occasions showed me his heart only to turn to ice immediately afterward. I found myself wondering if, despite past experiences, he really did care, but just couldn’t figure out how to express himself. I pictured the wonderful, breath-taking, heart-stopping moment when he’d grab my hand as I went to leave, the way he’d stroke my face with his coarse hands and tell me he had been a fool – that he loved me.

I allowed myself to slip into the warm, hypnotizing pool of hope for an hour or two and then snapped myself back to reality and repeated the words “Mr. Darcy is an asshole” over and over again until I was more angry than melancholy and I didn’t want anything to do with any Mr. Darcy every again. No, there will be no Mr. Darcy’s, Ferrar’s, Willoughby’s or any other of dear Jane’s men (good, bad or tempting) in the rich world my head and my heart create.

I don’t want the romantic angst and self-doubt a Mr. Darcy creates – I’ll leave that to fiction – instead, I want a real man. A living, breathing man who let’s me know he wants me more often than not and who appreciates a smart, sassy and sexy woman such as myself…But then again, maybe such a man is even more of a fantasy than Mr. Darcy himself. Either way, it’s back on the wagon I go – that is, until I suffer from another, inevitable, romantic relapse.

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A review and a re-examination

I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few weeks thinking. Thinking about my past, thinking about my present and future. Thinking about where I’ve gone wrong and where I can do right. Granted, I just had surgery and haven’t been able to do much more than sit and think. All this personal introspections, I suppose, comes at the right time – being the beginning of the year and all – but I feel like I’m always in the throes of one self-examination or another and never really fix anything.

Is that how things are supposed to be? Always striving to be a better person and never really feeling like you’ve gotten there? If it is, the whole process is exhausting.

Anyway, as part of this “life thus far” review, I took the time to print up all 218 posts from the blog. The past three years of my written life were then divided into four categories: Farming, Food, Observations and Relationships. It is so interesting to step back and see things in nice, neat piles. But where do I go from here? And what, if anything, do I do with the information I already have?

I don’t have the answers to these and other questions yet. I guess it will require a little (or a lot) more thinking on my part.

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A New Year’s Resolution

January, in so many ways, is a month of fresh starts and new beginnings. Most of us have made our resolutions: to lose weight, to exercise, to spend more time with family, etc. Many of us will put these well-intentioned resolutions to the side before the month is over. But what if you had a resolution that required a commitment of only one week? Would you be able to keep it? What kind of change could a one-week resolution have on your life or your perspective of the world?

The answer is quite a bit.

Here is the resolution I am asking you to make: For one week stop to consider the people who make your meals possible. Don’t focus on the factories or grocery stores, don’t focus on whether the food you eat is healthy or not. Think beyond these things to the farmers, the men and women who grew the wheat in your morning muffin, the corn in your tortilla chips, the beef in your burger. You don’t need to spend time debating the method of farming – conventional or organic, large or small scale, you just need to take time to picture the people.

If every one of us took just a moment to stop and wonder about who raised the food we eat, what kind of impact would that have? Regardless if your dinner consists of chicken nuggets and French fries or baked chicken and mashed potatoes – proud farming families cared for and raised the food you are eating.

When you begin to focus on the people that make your meals possible your perspective changes a little. Take one moment before a meal to imagine the faces, the hands, the hearts of the nation’s farmers. When you do so, you begin to connect to the food they worked hard to raise and harvest, closer to the animals they care for and the land they tend.

As a member of a proud farm family, I’d like to ask you to make this one-week resolution. My family raises cows for milking and for beef, my brother combines local fields full of wheat, oats and corn, my friends tend to salad greens, butternut squash, and other veggies grown for both processing and local markets. Farm families come in different forms and sizes but the passion for the work we do is the same, the pride and care we take in providing safe, delicious food is the same as well.

Happy New Year from my farm family to yours.

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Filed under Basics, Common Ground