Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is it Spring Yet?

Before starting this blog, I have a quick note:  Russia, where did you go?  Germany just passed 100 hits.  You're only at 84.  84!  Come on, Russia, I know you can do better!  Let's make a deal.  You click around and get your hits up to 100, and I will make Borscht.  I do love me some beets!

When I started this project, my goal was one year.  That one year mark is quickly approaching!  That's exciting in a sense, but I am in no way counting down the days.  As I said on day one, I haven't been depriving myself.  If I am craving a salmon fillet, I'm going to believe that it's because I'm lacking some Omega-3 fatty acids and my body is telling me that, and I'm going to go get me some salmon.  Not every week, but when I need it, I do cheat.  And I've been pretty open about that.

I'm also not running low on food.  I do recall a point when I first started this project when I couldn't find any food to eat.  It was meat and parsnips.  There weren't even any potatoes!  I know I'm not to that point in the year yet - because it hasn't been a full year yet - but I don't feel like things are nearly that bad.  It could be that I'm doing a better job at sourcing things, but it also could be that there is just more available.  It's hard to tell if I'm noticing things that were always there, or if things are starting to pop up.  Milwaukee has always been a little slow - maybe we're finally getting on board with the locavore movement.

Can I take partial credit?  Would that be wrong?  After all, I am an award winning food blogger.  No, my blog hasn't won any awards, but I won an award, and I blog... same thing, right?

I probably shouldn't take credit.  But I might anyway.  Just in my own mind if nothing else.

I don't expect my eating habits to change much once the one year mark is up.  More seafood for sure, obviously off of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Sustainability Guide.  Download the App.  It's a good time.  Another App to download, although it has nothing to do with this post, is ShopNoGMO.  It can help you avoid purchasing genetically modified food.  There's a lot of it, and it's sneaky.  It doesn't announce itself.

(True story, Monsanto - the company that develops and sells most genetically modified seeds - says that there's no reason to test their genetically modified seeds to see if they're safe for humans.  Their argument read like circular logic to me.  We don't test because there's no evidence that anything's wrong... which how could there be if no tests were done...?  But, hey, I'm no scientist, so what do I know?)

Anywho, I'm mostly just ready for it to be warm.  This has been a very mild winter in Wisconsin, but it seems even more draining than usual.  I think it's because there hasn't been any snow to play in.  Snow or be warm, damnit!

But I do have food to eat.  And, I feel that my meals over the past week or so have been leaning towards the warm weather side.  I was especially excited to try out my newly delivered sausages.  I made a Greek inspired Summer meal in the middle winter, and it tasted delicious.

It would have helped if I didn't need to put on a sweatshirt right after eating it because I was cold!

Gyro Sausage with Pickled Zucchini Relish, and Spicy Squash with Garlic Yoghurt

Actually, there's really no recipe here.  Bet the bolded title threw you off!  Heat up delicious gyro sausage (or whatever kind of brat you want).  Place on bun.  Top with delicious pickled zucchini relish.  You can also crumble on a little feta cheese, if you're feeling feisty.

I also made the same squash that I made for Christmas this year (last year?  This past Christmas.), but I made it in a pan instead of in the crock pot.  I really didn't notice a difference in flavor/texture/anything on the eating end.  I did notice a difference on the cooking end, when I dropped the squash into the slightly too hot oil and got grease burns all over my face.  And, instead of being smart and going and washing off my face or sticking my face in the freezer or anything else to make it stop burning, I just hopped around the kitchen going "AHHHHH!!! HOT!" while my pets stared on confused.  It's a good thing I wear glasses, or I might be blind right now.  This, by the way, is not a part of the recipe.  Don't follow this step.

Other than that, though, I thought the squash came out exactly the same.  It cooked a lot faster, so if you don't have a reason to use the crock pot (like, not having access to a stove...), I would recommend using the stove top method.

I totally did just copy and paste this from the original post.  Does that count as plagiarizing myself?

Spicy Squash with Garlic-Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lb squash, peeled, cut in half, and cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices (I used a combination of butternut and an orange squash that I bought because it was pretty, but which I have no clue what it is)
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 small diced Thai chili (frozen from my garden)
  • 1/2 pint tomato sauce (from my canning frenzy!)
  • 1/2 cup honey (this time I used buckwheat honey.  I liked the less sweat flavor that added)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
 For the Yogurt Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  •  1 tbsp fresh chopped dill
In a large dutch oven, over medium high heat, warm the olive oil.  Working in batches, add the squash, season with salt and pepper, and saute until evenly browned, about 7 minutes.  (DON'T BURN YOUR FACE OFF!).  Once the squash is browned, remove it from the pan. You may need to work in batches to avoid overcrowding.  To the pan, add ginger, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, curry, and chilis, and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce, the honey, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil.  Return the squash to the pan and stir gently to combine.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer until the squash is tender - about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, or the day before, combine yogurt, garlic, oregano, dill, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Did NOT Buy a Cow

***A note to any of my regular readers.  I have removed the post entitled "An Actual Shit Ton of Meat."  I decided that, in addition to being callous and rude, the post was not in the spirit of this blog and was unnecessarily mean.  In addition, it took away from the joy that the post should have contained.  For those of you who read it, you will see some of it here.  The repeat material starts near the end, but there is a little new content at the very bottom.  I personally think it's funny and worth reading.  For those of you who didn't read the original post, don't worry.  This one is better!***

I did not buy a cow.  I need to stop saying that I bought a cow.  I bought a steer.  More so, I bought a quarter beef.  But that's just not as exciting as to say as "I bought a cow!"  I didn't buy a cow.

After much review, I decided to go with Ney's Big Sky.  The beef is organic, but not 100% grass fed.  It was a debate, but, realistically, I can't imagine a how cattle could be raised in Wisconsin 100% grass fed.  Because, six months out of the year, the grass is covered with snow.  Not this year, but most years.  So, I went with organic, pastured (meaning they are actually out in the pasture.  Some cattle have "access" to outside and are therefore called free range, but are really just in a barn with an open door.  Cows Steer are not the smartest of animals, and I would not trust them to find their way out of a barn.)  This cattle is grass fed as much as possible, but does receive grain as necessary to supplement their diet.  They do not, however, receive growth hormones or antibiotics, and the supplementary feed is free of animal protein or bone, is free of plastic (really.  Plastic.  Often used as a fiber substitute. Plastic. Think about that next time you're eating a steak...), and and is not genetically modified.

The farm is located in Manitowoc, WI, and I had experience with them in the past.  They have a booth at the South Shore Farmer's Market, and  I have purchased beef, pork, and chicken from them in the past.  And brats.  They have the best brats in the history of ever.  If you are a Wisconsinite, you know what a big deal this is.  I personally prefer flavored ones (cheddar jalapeno, gyro, etc.), but I've been told the plain ol' beer brats are pretty damn good too.

At the start of the year, I purchased a freezer.  And I purchased what I considered to be a shit-ton of meat to fill it.  It was not.  Do you know what is a shit-ton of meat?  A quarter cow steer:

This is what a quarter beef looks like.

Plus this part that wouldn't fit on my table.  I tried to pile it high, but the animals were teaming up to try to knock stuff onto the floor.
I do not intend to eat all of this.  I split the meat with my mother.  Still, though, it's a large amount of meat.  With some vegetables from the fall a few chickens, a little bit of lamb, and a few pieces of pork, my freezer is full.  I'm interested to see if the electricity bill goes down, because it absolutely went up when I got the freezer.

So is it worth it? That is the question of the moment, after all.  That is really the question that this past year... my "one year experiment" is less than a month from being completed...  asks.  Is it worth it?  What I would call "real" food costs more. 

Or does it?

I don't enjoy the math, so I won't sit here and tell you I tracked everything, but I don't feel like my food bill has gone up.  I do have to do MORE shopping.  More looking.  More searching.  More stops each week to fill up the fridge.  Each Saturday: to the farmer's market for meat and whatever fruit/veggies I can find.  To the Usingers factory (yes, the factory) for lunch meat.  To the Public Market for cheese.  To the bakery for bread.  And finally, to Outpost (our local co-op) for whatever else I can find.  Sometimes, I just wander the store looking for their little "buy local" sticker.  I keep hoping for pretzels.  I haven't found any yet.  So extra time, yes.  To the extent that my wonderful husband has started going to the "real" grocery store for non-grocery things, and the non-local things that he or I can't live without (he's not giving up cereal.  Neither of us is giving up orange juice). 

So extra time, yes.  But I don't feel like it costs more.  I prepared, with canned what not, which cost money up front... but not more than what it would have cost me to buy the actual canned goods.

So, is it worth it?  Approximately $550 for beef is a lot, even when split with your mom.  But, it turns out a shit-ton actually ways 120 lbs, which comes out to about $4.50 per pound.  Okay, sure, $4.50 is a little high for ground beef, and super high for nonsense like soup and dog bones, but it's not high for rib-eye, porterhouse, NY strip, or t-bone steaks.  In fact, it's down right cheap.

Why else does it matter?

Only recently, in 2002, with the passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, did it become mandatory for the country-of-origin to be indicated on the label of meat.  And, even now, it's not obvious.  Go to your local grocery store and pick up a package of meat.  Try to figure out where it came from.  See how long it takes.  Are you sure you know where you're meat has been?  Does that matter?

(I should note, for those of you who don't know me personally, that I'm an Academic Advisor for a University.  So, while I fully acknowledge this is a rant, it is certainly a well researched one)

In 2010, 2.297 billion pounds of beef were imported to the US.  The US produced 26.41 billion pounds, and exported 2.3 billion pounds, leaving 24.11 billion pounds for US consumption (USDA, 2011).  This means that only 10% of beef consumed in the US was imported, which I say isn't that bad.  And, with country-of-origin labeling required, those of us who want to eat only local beef have the tools and resources to do so.  That is, of course, unless you're eating at a restaurant or purchasing your meet from a butcher shop - they're exempt from country-of-origin labeling.  But 10% isn't that hard to avoid, right?  You've got a 90% chance of getting it right regardless.  It doesn't seem worth spending extra money, time, and/or storage space on on a 10% chance.  Does that matter?

But is US produced beef the same as local beef?  Is there a benefit to knowing your farmer?  To knowing your farm?  Does that matter?

What do you care about?  What do you worry about?  Greenhouse gasses?  Fossil fuels?  How far has your meat traveled from farm to plate?  In 2008, the shipping of food from farms to retail outlets averaged 3,000 ton-kilometers per household per year (Weber& Matthews, 2008).  That means, for each US household, the equivalent of hauling 6614 pounds for 622 miles.  The average food item travels a total of 1230 miles (Cox, 2010).  Now, since I promised a well researched rant, I feel it important to point out that food production takes up far more fossil fuels than food delivery.  In addition to the food delivery, the average household requires 9,000 ton-kilometers per year per household on food production.  This includes shipping of fertilizer, animal feed, and other requirements for growing food (Weber & Matthews, 2008).  So, maybe more important than WHERE your food is grown is HOW your food is grown. Factory farmed beef and pork, for example, require far more resources to produce than family farms.  Better still is to avoid red meat entirely (Weber & Matthews, 2008).  Perhaps I was wrong to purchase this meat.  Perhaps I should have cut red meat out of my diet entirely.  I frankly don't think this is in my best health interests, or my taste interests, although I respect those who do.

Maybe you worry about the safety of your food.  The Air Force Institute of Technology, for example, is worried about the threat of biological terrorism from imported foods - specifically food imported from Mexico (Nelson, 2011).  80% of seafood, 50% of fruit, and 50% of nuts are currently imported, over 50% of this coming from Mexico and China (Nelson, 2011).  Does that matter?

I personally worry about hormones, pesticides, and other things that are fed to the food that I eat.  This is a debated topic, and one for which I recognize it is a challenge to find reliable sources.  I could find plenty of scholarly sources that confirm my point of view.  On the other hand, though, I could find as many - just as good - that oppose it.  The only thing that I can do, then, is think it through on my own.

I start again, with, the notion that you are what you eat.  We worry about antibiotics, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.  And yet our food is being fed antibiotics as a part of their normal care.  Are those antibiotics not going into my system?  Reducing the efficiency of future antibiotics that I may need to fight off infection?  And, we would never consider eating food that we know to be coated in pesticides.  According to documents given out individuals studying to be certified pesticide applicators, consuming pesticides can lead to tumors, cancer, and changes in genes and chromosomes.  But who is washing the pesticides off of the grain fed to the cattle?  Is that not traveling through the cattle, into our bodies? What about growth hormones?  Would a hormone given to promote the growth of cattle not also have the same effect on me?  Does THAT matter?

I want to know what I eat.  I want to know that my food - my food that was once a living animal - was treated well.  Because happy animals taste better.  Because it's better for me.  And because it was once a living animal, and that means something.  I eat meat, but I don't believe in the torture of animals.  Some may say that's the same thing, but I've been to farms where, as far as I can see, the animals seem happy.  Happy is a field.  Happy is room to move around.  Happy is not a factory farm. Does that matter?  I think so.

Rant over. 

On a very morbid side note, I asked the kind people at Ney's some bizarre questions about my cow steer.  He did not have a name, because that gets them too attached to the animals.  I do not have that problem, so I have decided to name him Stewart.  Stewart Steer.  They do number the cattle, and my steer's number was 100626.  I did learn, however, that the number is the birthday!  My steer was born June 26th, 2010, which definitely has gone into my calendar and will be celebrated with steaks and, if I can find one, a cow steer (different shaped?) shaped cake. 

I'm weird.  I know.  I think that matters, too.

Look, references!

Cox, S.  (February 19, 2010).  Does It Really Matter Whether Your Food was Produced Locally?  Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/food/145673?page=entire

USDA Economic Research Service: U.S. Beef and Cattle Industry: Background Statistics and Information.  (May 25, 2011).  Retrieved from http://www.ers.usda.gov/news/BSECoverage.htm.

Weber, C & Matthews, S. (2008).  Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States.  Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es702969f

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Here is Where Guy Fieri Would Say Something Obnoxious and Rhyming

So... I won.  It's pretty crazy, actually.  Even when I was a finalist...  Even when the people at Cherryland's best emailed me to ask if I was going... I didn't really think I was going to win.  I don't have any training.  I've never worked in a kitchen.  I'm really just some girl who is screwing around in her kitchen and decided to blog about it.

And yet, I won.

Apparently there were almost 100 entries.  And, somehow, I won.  This is going to take some time to process.  I may be a good talker, or at least a good writer, or maybe I'm not even that, but those who know me know that the one thing I'm not good at is taking complements.  There's always room to grow, and always room to get better, and the concept that my recipe was "the best" is pretty shocking.

All I can hope is that this opens up some opportunities to pimp my blog.  I'm going to have to work harder at acting like I'm damn awesome if I want to get my own show on Cooking Channel.  Practice makes perfect, right?

Somewhere, there's some video of me winning.  I had to talk and give an interview and junk.  I'm much more eloquent in writing than I am in person. (True story: My high school English teacher, Mr. Mooreland, said to me on my graduation day, "Kate, I have never in my entire life met someone who writes the English language so well... and yet speaks it so poorly."  Thanks, Mr. Mooreland.  One of these days, I'll get around to reading The Great Gatsby).  I do know that, when they gave me my winnings ($100), I did do the dance of Capitalist Superiority ala Anya and Dawn on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I couldn't find a video of this, but I did find a picture:

Hopefully I will find the video of me doing the dance, and then I can post it here too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I am Such a Nerd

For many reasons.  Not the least of which is my love for Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battle Star Galactica, to name just a few.  That's not the reason tonight, though.  I have to admit that I am legitimately geeked for the MKEFoodie event at Branded tomorrow.  They will be announcing the winner of the Cherryland's best cherry recipe contest.  Apparently, it's sold out, too.  I do not have a speech planned for if I win, however I have been practicing smiling and hugging the winner Miss America style for if I don't win.  Do you think there will be a call for that?  I really hope so.

Strangely, though, I'm almost most excited by the fact that they made the finalist recipes and took pictures of them.  This is what my food would look like if I had a food stylist and photographer:

Surprisingly, this is not that far off.  I used more of a baguette style bun, and my steak is never that pretty, but the slaw looks spot on.

My food.  Professionally made.  Professionally photographed.  I'm freaking out!

On a side note, tomorrow is Paczki day (pronounced Poonchkie).  For those of you who don't live in Wisconsin, Paczki (I believe Paczki is the plural, Paczka is the singular) are polish doughnuts, specifically made for Fat Tuesday.  Now, I don't specifically celebrate Fat Tuesday, as I am not specifically Catholic, but I DO specifically celebrate doughnuts.  I took the day off and spent it deep frying little balls of dough with my mom.  And eating them.  And drinking wine.  Good times.

When I see Paczki in the store or at bakeries, they look like jelly doughnuts, but in my family they've always been unfilled and more like doughnut holes which are then rolled in sugar or (even better) cinnamon sugar.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm A Finalist!

My steak sandwich and kohl slaw recipe is a finalist in the Cherryland's Best Great Wisconsin Cherry Recipe Contest!  Click on the link to check them out, please!  http://stores.cherrylandsbest.com/StoreFront.bok.  Also check out the link to the contest's co-sponsors: mkefoodies.com.