I’m still in disbelief that today is the last day in August and the end of the Eat Local America Challenge. 31 days, 614 photos, and 27 recipes later, the blog has hit a few milestones this month. Crossed the 100 post mark earlier this week, became a finalist in CBS’s Minnesota Most Valuable Blogger award, and as of this writing have had more than 9,400 unique views. No small feat for a wannabe foodie. Many thanks to all of you who have checked in to see all the month’s dishes. In case you missed any, here’s a recap of all the great local dishes the kitchen partner and I ate in August:
There is the noticeable absence of desserts on this list. Seasoned locavores know that desserts with only local sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, etc.) are tough to come by. At least ones that still taste like dessert. There’s usually some refined sugar in there. But for 31 days, I’ve managed to survive without dessert and have lived to tell you all about it. Tomorrow evening when I am home from work however, you can bet that I’ll be putting on my apron and baking pie. One day of bending the rules (and lemon merengue) never hurt anyone.
When I started posting the recipes this month, I wanted to demonstrate that eating local in Minnesota is not only affordable and tasty, but also 100% feasible for a 20-something in today’s food economy. If one time per week for 27 weeks, each of us prepared a recipe I posted this month, we would all be eating 27 fresh local meals, making 27 contributions to the local economy, and making 27 more environmentally sustainable choices. Multiply that by all the folks who have read my story this month, and you have the beginnings a meaningful change in our food system.
So without further delay, here’s the final Eat Local America Challenge recipe. Kudos to The Curvy Carrot for the inspiration. And thanks again to everyone who has followed along! Happy Local Eating!
1. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F and prepare a small baking dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Wash and remove stems from tomatoes.
2. Gently cut a thin slice from the bottom of each tomato to create a flat edge (no more than 1/8″ removed).
Flip each tomato over and cut the top off at about 1/4″ Spoon out the core and the seeds leaving as much of the outer edge of flesh in the tomato as possible.
3. Evenly distribute the mozzarella cheese into each tomato cup and gently crack an egg into each cup. (*Warning: this takes a bit of practice and a sense of humor. Don’t worry if your first egg runs down the side of the tomato!). Place each tomato cup in the baking dish.
4. Bake for 10 minutes or until egg white just begins to set. Top each egg with the parmesan and return to oven for 10-15 minutes more or until eggs are set and parmesan forms a golden crust.
5. Garnish with black pepper if desired. Serve warm.
For anyone who has taken on the Eat Local America Challenge, a big component of the diet is finding all the things you love to eat within a few hundred miles. The best locavores learn to not see it as a “sacrifice” or “giving up” all the good things. Instead, they celebrate the small victories that come with finding a new producer, a new shop, or a new local food. When I’m out-and-about and spot the Minnesota Grown sticker on an untried food, (and the kitchen partner can attest to this) I’ve been known jump up and down with excitement. The same thing happened last year when we visited the Dairy Building and found Minnesota Grown strawberry malts right next to the butter sculptures.
Local Strawberry Malts @MNStateFair
A Happy Locavore at the State Fair
The ice cream can’t be beat, and knowing I’m supporting a local producer among all the deep-fried wonder foods is even better. If you’ve already made your pilgrimage to the Great Minnesota Get-Together, or if you’re going to miss the strawberry malts this year, here’s a quick strawberry shake that to carry you over until next year.
1. In a blender, combine strawberries, yogurt, 1/3 C. milk and ice cream. On medium speed, blend until smooth about 1 minute. Add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time until shake reaches desired consistency. If you like to eat it with a spoon, use less milk; use more to drink it with a straw.
Somewhere in another life, I was a dumpling. Or a dumpling maker. In this life, I am a world-class dumpling lover. If you read the Wikipedia entry for dumpling, you’ll understand why:
Dumplings are cooked balls of dough. They are based on flour, potatoes or bread, and may include meat, fish, vegetables, or sweets. They may be cooked by boiling, steaming, simmering, frying, or baking. They may have a filling, or there may be other ingredients mixed into the dough. Dumplings may be sweet or spicy. They can be eaten by themselves, in soups or stews, with gravy, or in any other way.
You got it. Dumplings are my perfect little balls of whatever yummy thing I’m hungry for. I’ve made them about 18 million different ways and still have yet to be disappointed. Tonight it was a fresh green bean dumpling soup with carrots and homemade stock. The dumpling recipe is from a terrific friend, who I had a chance to catch up with this weekend. Sometimes good Monday food helps make the weekend fun seem to last a little bit longer. A little reminder.
Well. At least dumplings are good reminders. I’ll bet most of us have at least one fond memory with dumplings; Mom’s sauerkraut, pork and dumplings in the slow-cooker, eating potato dumplings with gravy at a church picnic, warm chicken dumpling soup after playing outside in snow, having take-out pot-stickers after midnight while re-hashing the night’s events, spoonfuls of creamy potato gnocchi at a fancy dinner to celebrate landing your first job. We’ve all got at least one good dumpling story. Make this recipe and start a new one. You can never have too many memories with food this good.
Green Bean Dumpling Soup
Adapted from St. Paul Farmers’ Market Cookbook
Ingredients For the Soup
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cups carrots, sliced in coins
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 C. green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
For the Dumplings
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C. whole wheat bread flour
1 C. skim milk
2 tsp. salt (optional)
1. In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium-low. Add onion and carrots and cook 1-2 minutes. Pour in stock and seasonings and bring to a boil, uncovered.
2. Meanwhile, combine flours, eggs and milk in a small mixing bowl. Mix with a fork until dough is evenly moist (it will be sticky!). Set aside and allow to rest for 4-5 minutes.
3. When soup is boiling, add green beans and reduce to a simmer for 3-4 minutes. While soup is simmering, drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dumpling dough into the pot. When all dumplings are in the pot, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook 12-15 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. (Dough will be firm but not sticky on the inside).
If you’re headed out to the State Fair this weekend be sure to stop out for these local food events:
Sunday August 28: Be sure to stop in at the outdoor stage in Carousel Park for Minnesota Cooks Day. Every hour from 9AM to 4PM there will be cooking demonstrations, discussions about local food, and skill demonstrations by the students of Le Cordon Bleu. Network with local farmers and take home a recipe or two.
Sunday August 28 & Monday August 29:Eat Healthy Local Food will be the theme of the State Fair parade both days at 2 pm. Stop along your state fair visit to see the vegetable puppets, and some kitchen and farm friends.
Wednesday August 31:The Minnesota Food Bloggers will have a table at the Healthy Food Booth with a sample of recent blog posts, a list of Minnesota food blogs and a chance to meet some of the great food writers in the area.
Daily 2:00-5:00pm: Meet the Winemaker demonstrations in the Ag/Hort building will be happening this year, offering visitors a chance to meet a local winemaker, try some local wines and support this growing industry in our state.
Be sure to also check the schedule in the Creative Activities and Ag/Hort buildings, there will be ongoing food demonstrations throughout the fair. Cooking with Honey, Minnesota Super Foods, Lasagna Gardening, and an apron history talk. I’m all about aprons.
I’m still all about eggplant this week also. If you haven’t had a chance to prepare one this week, try a classic eggplant parmesan. It’s a perfect summer-is-winding-down dish to have on an evening on the patio. Serve it with a big glass of Minnesota Marquette red wine. Just make sure you have mozzarella for topping. My co-jack substitute (hey, it was all we had in the fridge!) just doesn’t look the same!
Recipe Adapted from The St. Paul Farmers’ Market Cookbook
1/4 C. sunflower oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4″ slices
1 egg, beaten
1 C. bread crumbs (Homemade) mixed with 1 Tbsp. dried Italian Seasoning
1/4 C. parmesan cheese finely grated
2 C. pasta sauce
mozzarella cheese, grated
1. Preheat sunflower oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. One at a time, dip the eggplant slices in the egg followed by the bread crumb mixture. Tap on the side of the bowl to shake off any extra breading. Place in the skillet 3-4 slices at a time and gently fry until both sides are golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F and spray a 9 X 13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put 1/4 C. of the pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and spread to evenly coat. As each eggplant slice finishes frying, place it in a single layer in the baking dish. When all slices are in the pan, cover with parmesan cheese and remaining pasta sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.
3. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve warm.
Doing a little filming this morning for a Gardening Matters clip and I wanted to pass along a short clip that Cassidy at 20Food.net posted this week. It still makes me smile. Pretty sure that most days this is what my family and friends think about my crazy food fascination…