Saturday, December 31, 2011

Becoming a Less-Meat-atarian



Susie Middleton, Fine Cooking, suggests 10 Ways to Eat Less Meat, which is pretty much how I became a less meat-atarian, to borrow a phrase from Mark Bittman, food editor of the New York Times.

When a vegetarian moved into my life, he put a lot of pressure on me to eliminate meat from my menu. He gave me a gazillion good reasons. That's when Mr. Irresistible Force met Ms. Immovable Object. So he quickly learned to let me find my own way to a healthier and more environmentally friendly diet.

I never swore off meat; I gradually shifted it off the center of the plate. Now when I do indulge in animal protein, it's got to be a pastured food-animal or nothing.

My dog, on the other hand, is 100 percent carnivore. Not negotiable.

What are your reasons for eating less meat?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Organic Sweet Potato Latkes



Organic sweet potatoes meet tradition on the Hannukkah table. Makes 16 pancakes or 4 servings.

Sweet Potato Latkes


Ingredients

1 large sweet potato
1 large white potato
1 medium yellow onion
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup sour cream (optional)
1 cup naturally sweetened applesauce (optional)


Preparation

1. Peel and coarsely grate potatoes and onion. Drain the vegetables then wrap them in a dishtowel for a few minutes to get the moisture out.

2. Thoroughly mix in flour, eggs, pepper.

3. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium to medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, scoop in spoonfuls of the potato pancake mixture and flatten them with the spoon or a spatula.  Cook the pancakes for several minutes per side until they are browned.  After each batch, add 1 – 2 tablespoon oil to the pan and let it heat for a minute or two to keep the pancakes browning nicely.  If they start to get too browned on the outside before the middle is cooked, reduce the heat.  Transfer the cooked pancakes to the baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while the rest cook.

4. Serve them topped with the sour cream and applesauce.

~Adapted from a recipeAviva Goldfarb

Update on Food Safety Reforms

In a word, poor.

Mark Bittman bemoans the glacial to no progress in Bacteria 1, FDA 0 - alluding to the emergence of superbugs from the over-use of antibiotics in the U.S. food supply.  The effect is a 1 in 4 chance that the hamburger you buy at the supermarket contains bacteria that will make you sick and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Congressional resistance to reform ensures that the FDA is virtually powerless to change this.
Here’s the nut: The F.D.A. has no money to spare, but the corporations that control the food industry have all they need, along with the political power it buys. That’s why we can say this without equivocation: public health, the quality of our food, and animal welfare  are all sacrificed to the profits that can be made by raising animals in factories. Plying “healthy” farm animals (the quotation marks because how healthy, after all, can battery chickens be?) with antibiotics — a practice the EU banned in 2006 — is as much a part of the American food system as childhood obesity and commodity corn. Animals move from farm to refrigerator case in record time; banning prophylactic drugs would slow this process down, and with it the meat industry’s rate of profit. Lawmakers beholden to corporate money are not about to let that happen, at least not without a fight.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kocurek Family Charcuterie to Close



The new year, 2012, ushers in sad news. "Adieu" to Kocurek Family Charcuterie, a farmer's market favorite since 2009. But for those who fell in love with the joie de vivre of LeAnn and Lawrence, visit them at their new gigs.
Lee Ann is managing at Perla's in SoCo, and Lawrence will be Chef de Cuisine at Lost Pines Resort, Stories; their fine dining restaurant.

Look back at the relish they have for their craft in this beautiful, little film by Christian Remde.



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

270,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto!

It's about damn time! A report in Grow Switch Blog reports on Organic vs. Monsanto.
More than 270,000 organic farmers are taking on corporate agriculture giant Monsanto in a lawsuit filed March 30. Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the family farmers are fighting for the right to keep a portion of the world food supply organic—and preemptively protecting themselves from accusations of stealing genetically modified seeds that drift on to their pristine crop fields.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Gifts? Why not?

If you didn't quite complete your gift-giving at Christmas, the Daily Dish from LA Times has a tasty idea for a New Year's present.


“Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy” by wine importer Charles Nealcomes to mind. Picture yourself (or your giftee) in a big armchair, sipping your way through some of the amber apple brandies described herein as you bone up on Calvados.

Neal explains the varieties of apples (or pears) used, how the fruit is picked, made into cider, and then distilled and aged. But more importantly, how to taste and appreciate this unique spirit.

He has been working on this book for more than 10 years and contributes an insider’s view, tasting notes and short profiles of more than 200 producers. Though he’s no Avedon, he’s captured some wonderful faces in his snapshots. The 766-page tome is clearly a labor of love put together over a couple of dozen trips and thousands of kilometers through the Normandy countryside.

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eating Animals - The Benefits to Sustainable Agriculture



Rare is the vegan or vegetarian who can be open to the possibility that eating animals can be healthful, environmentally appropriate and ethical. These three -  interviewed by Nicolette Hahn Niman in this thoughtful piece published online in The Atlantic - stand out in their considered opinions as to the overall value of an omnivorous diet.
As any attentive observer of nature knows, life feeds on life. Every living thing, from mammals, birds, and fish to plants, fungi, and bacteria, eats other living things. Humans are part of the food web; but for the artifices of cremation and tightly sealed caskets, all of us would eventually be recycled into other life forms. It is natural for people, like other omnivores, to participate in this web by eating animals. And it is ethically defensible -- provided we refrain from causing gratuitous suffering.

 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Butter Cookies

Photo courtesy of LA Times


Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. If you haven't gotten your holiday sugar fix yet, Russ Parsons of the LA Times Daily Dish contributes a quick, easy recipe for basic butter cookies.


50 kitchen-tested cookie recipes from LA Times

Plus have a look at the LA Times e-book with more great, kitchen-tested cookie recipes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy the Food System - Willie Nelson

The consolidation of the food industry into the hands of only a few companies seriously tilts the playing field against the little guy (and gal) who bring you fresh, natural, organic, local, fair, ethical, sustainable food.  As local farms are lost to Big Ag, so too is food quality and safety.

Singer, songwriter, social activist, Willie Nelson schools us in yet another reason to support your local farmer.
Our banks were deemed too big to fail, yet our food system's corporations are even bigger. Their power puts our entire food system at stake. Last year the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) acknowledged this, hosting a series of workshops that examined corporate concentration in our farm and food system. Despite the hundreds of thousands of comments from farmers and eaters all over the country, a year later the USDA and DOJ have taken no action to address the issue. Recent decisions in Washington make clear that corporate lobbyists have tremendous power to maintain the status quo.

In November, the Obama administration delivered a crushing blow to a crucial rule proposed by the USDA (known as the GIPSA rule), which was meant to level the playing field for independent cattle ranchers. The large meatpackers, who would have lost some of their power, lobbied hard and won to leave the beef market as it is -- ruled by corporate giants. In the same month, new school lunch rules proposed by the USDA that would have brought more fresh food to school cafeterias were weakened by Congress. Food processors -- the corporations that turn potatoes into French fries and chicken into nuggets -- spent $5.6 million to lobby against the new rules and won, with Congress going so far as agreeing to call pizza a vegetable. Both decisions demonstrate that corporate power wins and the health of our markets and our children loses.

.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Too Busy to Cook? Fresh Meals!

If you love to eat fresh, natural, organic food, but don't have the time or talent to cook, Melanie Haupt, food writer for the Austin Chronicle, rounds up local sources who will be glad to handle that chore for you. Almost all of them use fresh, natural, organic, local ingredients.

From meals-in-a-kit to oven-ready to personal-chef prepared, here's where to satisfy your appetite without breaking a sweat in the kitchen.
Ask any working mother which of her domestic duties she would prefer to outsource, and she might say cooking or cleaning house or doing laundry. But I don't clean the house or do laundry 75 times a week, nor do I spend hours planning, budgeting for, and preparing to clean or do laundry. So, my answer is, hands down, that I would love to outsource some of my duties as executive chef at home; if such a wish were to be granted with the added bonus of a tear-free mealtime, even better.

We're fortunate in Austin to have a wealth of businesses devoted to providing families like mine with ready-made meals available for pickup or delivery. I decided to focus on locally owned businesses that, for the most part, specialize in family dinners. The services I chose range from purveyors who use grocery-store-quality ingredients to those whose menus are dictated by what's available at the farmers' market. While the pros and cons of each service will vary on a family's tastes, budget, and geographical location, my evaluation takes into consideration taste, quality of ingredients, nutritional value, ease of preparation, cost per serving, and whether my children cried at the sight of the food.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where to Buy Christmas Tamales in Austin

If tamales are in your Christmas tradition, thanks to Addie Broyles, food writer for the Austin American Statesman, for a great list of tamale makers.  I can highly recommend The Gardener's Feast. But don't dawdle. The deadline for taking orders looms.
Many, many Mexican restaurants in Austin sell tamales right now, but some of the perennial favorites include Santa Rita (323-2000, 5900 W. Slaughter Lane, 1206 W. 38th St. santaritacantina.com), Izzoz Tacos (916-4996, 1503 S. First St., izzoztacos.com) Gardener's Feast (512-278-1775. 100 E. Parsons St. in Manor or at almost all the area farmers markets, thegardenersfeast.com), Guero's Taco Bar (447-7688, 1412 S. Congress Ave. guerostacobar.com), El Meson (442-4441, 5808 Burleson Road, 2038 S. Lamar Blvd. elmesonaustin.wordpress.com), La Mexicana Bakery (443-6369. 1924 S. First St. la-mexicana-bakery.com) and Curra's Grill (444-0012, 614 E. Oltorf St., currasgrill.com), For vegetarian options, try Mr. Natural (477-5228, 1901 E. Cesar Chavez St., 2414 S. Lamar Blvd., mrnatural-austin.com).

 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Global Warming: NIMBY

Tony Davis, Grist writer, reports on polls that check the public pulse on concern about global warming. Why are we so blase'? In a nutshell: It's Not in My Backyard.
People are much more likely to react to personal experience than to numbers, Weber wrote, and climate change hasn't smacked Americans in their guts enough to prod them into action. If she is right, we're the proverbial frog in a pot: As long as the water warms at rates that are not easily perceptible, we'll be frog soup before we realize it's too late.

Leiserowitz, in a previous job as a research scientist in Oregon, found in a 2005 study that many Americans are convinced that climate change is warming someone else's pot altogether. In his national survey of 673 U.S. adults, published in the journal Risk Analysis, 68 percent of respondents were most concerned about global impacts such as declining living standards, water shortages, and damage to nature. They rated local impacts "as somewhat unlikely," with only 13 percent most concerned about those. Of 24 categories of images associated with global warming, people responded most heavily to melting glaciers and polar ice.

In other words, he found that most people think "It's the polar bear's problem, not mine -- and as long as it's not my problem, I frankly have more pressing things to worry about."

Ask Texas farmers what they think. After a year of drought and the hottest summer on record EVER, I don't think you'll find a lot of skepticism here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cookies for Breakfast?

Mark Bittman, New York Times Food Editor, looks at the problem with breakfast for children. Particularly the excessive sugar that goes into cereal and the money behind it. Jaw-dropping factoid:
At least 44 cereals recently studied by the Environmental Working Group contain more sugar in a cup than three Chips-Ahoy cookies.  A cup of the most sugary cereal ,  Honey Smacks ... contains more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie.

The money food companies to lobby for self regulation is equally fantastic. No surprise that the industry's agreement to regulate itself is met with a wink and a nod.

Our children deserve better.

 
 

 

 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Edis' Chocolates for the Holidays

Nice piece about Edis' Chocolates and the new location we announced a few days ago. Flourless chocolate cake. mmmmm

Edis' Chocolates
Black sea salt truffles find a home
By Kate Thornberry, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011



Edis Rezende

Photo by John Anderson



3808 Spicewood Springs Rd., 795-9285
Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 10am-4pm
www.edischocolates.com

Beloved local chocolate-maker Edis Rezende, who has been selling her luscious handmade chocolate truffles online and at the Barton Creek Farmers Market for the last eight years, has moved into a real brick-and-mortar store at last. For Rezende, it is a long-held dream come true to finally sell from a spick-and-span, temperature-controlled storefront. Although she will still be at the farmers' market every Saturday from October through May, now there's a place to get Edis' Chocolates any day of the week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stocking Stuffers for Fresh Chefs

It's that time of year again. Here a little something that for all us fresh cooks - teak measuring spoons from Merchant no. 4.  Santa, baby. Are you listening?


Chabatree call their products 'peaceful' meaning they are environmentally conscious, using plantation farmed wood with no chemical finishes. Wash with warm soapy water, but never leave to soak. Not dishwasher safe.

H/T: The Daily Dish - LA Times
 

 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Phony Honey? Another Reason to Buy Local



Food Safety News reports on what has to be the 59985th reason to shop locally for fresh, natural, organic, clear, fair and sustainable food.
More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.
Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The contents were analyzed for pollen by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation's premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey.

Bryant, who is director of the Palynology Research Laboratory, found that among the containers of honey provided by Food Safety News:

• 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

• 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.

• 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

• 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald's and KFC had the pollen removed.

• Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and "natural" stores like PCC and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn't ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Local - A Short Documentary by Christian Remde

Is your food really organic? This film from Christian Remde explores the ideal, the hype and the reality.



LOCAL - A Short Documentary from Christian Remde on Vimeo.

 
With the rise of farmer’s markets and more and more chefs sourcing their ingredients from local farms, consumers are now able to meet and talk to the people who are growing their food.

LOCAL discusses the rise of the local food movement, the challenges of sourcing locally and how it’s become a growing part of the Austin, Texas food scene.
 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Provencal Butternut Squash and Garlic Gratin



Cool-weather squash and garlic in a silky gratin brighten up autumn nights and holiday feasts. Serves 6 to 8.

Butternut Squash Garlic Gratin

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
8 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
2 teaspoons thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup Gruyere cheese, or a mix of Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 3-quart baking dish or gratin pan.

2. Peel squash, remove seeds and membranes and dice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

3. Reserve half the bread crumbs and cheese, then toss together all ingredients; bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring frequently for even cooking.

4. When the squash starts to brown and stick, remove it from the the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the top and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the topping turns crusty and browned, about 10 more minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Butternut Squash Garlic Gratin

~Adapted from Simple Proven├žal Winter Squash and Garlic Gratin, New York Times

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Honey Sour-Dough Bread Pudding



Is bread pudding a healthy dessert when you use local honey instead of sugar? All I can say for sure is that it was possibly the best bread pudding ever! Serves 6 to 8. 

Honey Sour-Dough Bread Pudding


Ingredients

12 slices sour-dough bread
4 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup golden raisins

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. (350F for sugar only)

2. Tear bread into bite-sized pieces. Remove the crusts if you wish.

3. Whip together in this order eggs, cream, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter and stir until blended. Use the remaining butter to grease a 9x12 baking pan or gratin dish.

4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the bread and toss until well mixed. Stir in the raisins. Pour into greased pan and place in the oven.

5. Bake 45  to 60 minutes or until the top starts to brown and the pudding springs back when touched.

6. Remove from the oven. Let stand 10 minutes to set. Serve as is, with whipped cream, ice cream or hard sauce (if your arteries can stand it.)

sour dough honey bread pudding

~Adapted from The Perfection That is Bread Pudding on the blog, Slow Like Honey.

Cooking with honey

Honey is sweeter than sugar and products made with honey will brown faster than those made with sugar. So I reduced the temperature from 350 to 325 degrees. I recommend you watch the baking time and adjust the oven temperature accordingly. To exchange honey for sugar use ¾ cup honey to 1 cup sugar and reduce liquid by 3-1/3 tablespoons. If sweet milk is used in the recipe, add ¼ teaspoon baking soda to 1 cup milk to neutralize it since honey is an acid. Note: in this recipe, I used a full cup of honey for a highly sweetened dessert.

It is widely believed that local honey relieves allergy symptoms developed from reaction to local flora. Honey also helps to promote healing and energy. It is made up of 35 percent protein and is a highly concentrated source of essential nutrients and minerals. It has large amounts of vitamin B complex plus vitamins C, D and E.