December 30th, 2011 § § permalink
Welcome to the last hours of 2011. Here’s the excitement left on my list this year:
1. Finish Seasons 2 & 3 of How I met your Mother.
2. Run the clean cycle on the washing machine.
3. Listen to Carpe Season’s Winter Playlist while REFUSING to leave the house on New Year’s Eve.
As wonderful as the local celebrations are, I’m not sure I have it in me this year. Settling in with a DVD, some cranberry cheesecake, and a glass of wine seems like the best plan. Whether you’re out on the town, heading to a house party with friends or staying in to watch Dick Clark, make sure to include Minnesota-made spirits in your celebration. We’ve done Minnesota wine and beer here before, but it’s always good to remember we locavores should also be loca-pours. Here’s a list of what Minnesota drinks you should ring in 2012 with:
Wines–I’d recommend anything on the menu from these Minnesota wineries:
Alexis Bailly Vineyard – Hastings, MN
Cannon River Winery – Cannon Falls, MN
Carlos Creek Winery - Alexandria, MN
Falconer Vineyards and Nursery - Red Wing, MN
Glacial Ridge Winery – Spicer, MN
Goose Lake Farm and Winery - Elk River, MN
Morgan Creek Vineyards - New Ulm, MN
Northern Vineyards - Stillwater, MN
Saint Croix Vineyards - Stillwater, MN
Two Fools Vineyard - Plummer, MN
WineHaven Winery - Chisago City, MN
Beers–2012 was a great year for Minnesota breweries. Support my local favorites:
Brau Brothers Brewery - Lucan, MN
Finnegan’s – Minneapolis, MN
Flat Earth Brewing Company – Saint Paul, MN
Fulton Beer- Minneapolis, MN
Harriet Brewing (New in 2011!) - Minneapolis, MN
Lake Superior Brewing Company – Duluth, MN
Surly Brewing Company - Brooklyn Center, MN
Liquors–If New Year’s won’t be the same without a cocktail or two, here’s a few drinks with a Midwestern heritage:
Prairie Organic Vodka – Benson, MN
Shakers Vodka – Benson, MN
Crispin Hard Cider - Minneapolis, MN
Templeton Rye Prohibition Era Whiskey - Templeton, IA
Death’s Door Spirits (Vodka, Gin & White Whiskey) – Middleton, WI
December 29th, 2011 § § permalink
We’re 5 weeks into the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge and I’m starting to see some trends in the way I eat. First, I am hopelessly, desperately, overly, and unabashedly devoted to local dairy. Veggies, beef, nah. For the most part, I could live with out them during the Dark Days. But ask me to give up cheese, sour cream, and my morning glass of milk and I might not make it.
This is tough for someone who’s trying to figure out the meaning of SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients in my meal. Dairy isn’t exactly kind to the environment. My darling dairy products come from cows. Cows are carbon-machines: input massive amounts of fossil-fuel-intensive feed and output methane gas and a side of milk. Add in fertilizers, growth hormones, and all the other corporate industrial agriculture practices that make me cringe. But I grew up in the middle of cheese-land Wisconsin. My in-laws still operate a small family dairy farm there, whose milk is transported to a local cheese factory and into my favorite food on the planet.
What’s a gal to do when stuck between good food and good choices?
5 weeks of Dark Days Food and a few years of local eating will tell you it’s all about finding a compromise. There are good choices when it comes eating dairy. Choices that support local producers (who demonstrate more concern for their animals and farmland than large corporate mega-dairy farms) and sustainable practices. Here’s where to start:
- Reduce dairy product consumption. My cholesterol and skinny jeans would appreciate a few less meals topped with cheese each week. Don’t want to reduce the number? Double check the portion size in your recipes to start. Many of the hearty Midwestern dishes we all love could be slightly adjusted to reduce the amount of dairy per serving without drastically changing the taste.
- Choose SOLE producers. It may take a bit of research to sift out which dairy producers follow SOLE practices, but in the end it will be well worth it. Look for animals who are pastured, milk that is hormone free, and farms who choose sustainable land practices.
- DIY when you can. Yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, and even cheeses like mozzarella are easy to make at home with some time and basic equipment. The kitchen partner and I have made our own yogurt and cheese for over a year and have had only one failed effort. When you pay for dairy products at the store, most times you’re paying for convenience of prepared food–not special technology. If you’ve identified a SOLE milk producer, you’ve done the hardest part!
In honor of my Dark Days Week 5 dairy obsession, I made a new warm appetizer spread perfect for holiday parties. It has 3 kinds of dairy products, frozen broccoli and corn from our garden, and served with corn tortilla chips from Whole Grain Milling. It’s rich and creamy with a few veggies to make you feel better about eating the whole plateful.
Warm Broccoli-Corn Cheese Spread
Adapted from Patricia Moore’s recipe in the Taste of Home Cookbook
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 C. frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
1 C. frozen corn, thawed and drained
1 C. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Corn Tortilla Chips
1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a shallow 2 quart baking dish with non-stick spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, and spices. Beat well until no chunks remain. Gently fold in vegetables and 1/2 C. of the shredded cheese. Pour into baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve warm.
December 27th, 2011 § § permalink
Welcome back after a little holiday vacation. My hometown in Wisconsin even squeaked out a White Christmas this weekend. I had an amazing holiday break and hope that you and your family shared the same. I’m fully rested and ready to make the most of the last days of 2011. Rockin’ New Year’s Eve plans anyone? I thought I’d start the New Year’s count-down early and share the Best of Minnesota Locavore this year. It’s a list of the posts that captured the most views and comments since this little blog began in March. It’s been a phenomenal year full of surprises and new beginnings. All in the name of local food. How cool is that? It’s an unofficial list, based entirely on the ever-so highly scientific Google Analytics. Be sure to comment on your favorite posts of 2011 either here or over on our Facebook poll. I’d like to put together a “Reader’s Choice” list of all your favorite posts too!
So. Without further ado. The envelope please…
Minnesota Locavore’s Top 11 of 2011
1. Classic Rhubarb Cake Posted May 17
This recipe continues to be the most-viewed post on the blog EVER. Coincidentally, my rhubarb bread recipe over on 20Food is also my top post of the year on that blog. It may not be in season now in Minnesota, but there’s still several views per week of people anxiously awaiting spring and fresh rhubarb. It’s a Minnesota classic after all.
2. Flax Seed Pumpkin Bread Posted October 11
This was the kitchen partner’s and many readers’ favorite recipe of 2011. A hearty pumpkin bread with local flax-seed from Whole Grain Milling. If you haven’t tried this in 2011, find some time this week. It’s the best way to top off a year of good food.
3. Baked Eggs in Two-Cheese Tomato Cups Posted August 31
This post was famous for marking the end of my crazy Eat Local America Challenge month of August. It was quite the month. 27 new local recipes in 31 days, ending with this simple parmesan crusted egg, baked in a fresh tomato from our garden. With this recipe came a complete list of the Eat Local America Challenge recipes I ate during the month. It’s a good bookmark to keep handy if you’re looking for some new local recipes in 2012.
4. Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Posted May 31
Memorial Day weekend was my first chance to try out my new canning equipment on a strawberry-rhubarb jam. I managed to preserve a few different recipes in 2011 (not as many as I planned), but it was a good start for my first year. My jams came away as the favorite by all the visiting taste-testers we had. I loved being able to give the jars away all summer and during the holidays this year. There’s nothing better than the taste of late-May captured and jarred on a piece of toast in chilly December.
5. Egg Nog Ice Cream Posted December 11
As a food blogger, finding the perfect recipe to post at just the perfect time is no small feat. The recipes that come out of my kitchen aren’t always what the rest of the world is interested in putting on the table. My egg nog ice cream recipe added just a few weeks ago, quickly jumped up as one of the most popular posts ever on Minnesota Locavore. It was just in time for the holiday season and one of my all-time favorites.
6. Homemade Horseradish Sauce Posted October 3
When horseradish was the 2011 Herb of the Year, I knew I had to give making my own horseradish sauce a try. This weekend when my dad put the holiday ham on the table, it was served with a jar of my homemade horseradish. It made me smile (insert warm fuzzy food feelings). And then my eyes started to water (end warm fuzzy food feelings). So not joking when I mentioned it gets stronger with age.
7. Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Posted June 6
Ice cream was a common feature for me in 2011. Somehow I am certain that 2012, 2013, and 2014 will be the same. I love the freedom of homemade ice cream. To me, there are no limits on what you can mix with sugar and heavy cream. I scream you scream for more ice cream in 2012!
8. How to Cook a Pumpkin Posted October 9
2011 was about learning new things for me: How to create a blog. How to Photograph / Tweet / Facebook about said blog. How to grow A Little Acre and make pickles. How to share my kitchen failures without cursing like a sailor on a blog. You get the idea. I learned A LOT in 2011. As an added perk, you let me share it with you week after week. Learning how to cook a pumpkin was one of the many things I learned, and the most popular How-To post of the year.
9. Sangria on a Stick Posted August 25
Let’s be honest, I love everything about the State Fair. Mostly because there’s ice cream involved (see #5 & #7), and cheese curds. and strawberry shakes. and a bottomless glass of milk. and food on a stick. My sangria on a stick was a tribute to my favorite 2 weeks of summer and a big hit in 2011. Did you know there’s only 240 days left until the next Great Minnesota Get-Together?
10. Stamppot (Mashed Potatoes with Kale) Posted October 31
Kale and I became good friends this year. We were introduced this fall at the farmers’ market and have managed to get together for dinner a few nights each week ever since. I love its versatility and willingness to get thrown into whatever dish I’m putting together. Thank you my friends in The Netherlands for introducing me to kale with this recipe.
11. Find It Local Friday: Minnesota Taco Night Posted November 11
What would 2011 have been without Find it Local Friday? and Minnesota tacos? The last of the Top 11 of 2011 was the best Find it Local Friday post of the year for one of the best local meals on the planet. When going local gets tough in 2012, the tough will make local tacos.
Here’s a special thanks for a TREMENDOUS year of eating and growing local food. I look forward to sharing more of the locavore life with all of you in 2012!
December 20th, 2011 § § permalink
Between finishing up the pre-Christmas things and wrapping up work (I’m on vacation Dec. 23 to Jan 2…wahoo!), this week has been all about my early Christmas present:
The kitchen partner and I have saved for a new computer since early May, religiously putting aside a chunk of our paychecks and any extra spending cash. It’s pretty amazing compared to my tiny work-issued MacBook I have tried to run a blog from. I now have Photoshop and Dreamweaver, tools all the cool kids in the blogging world have. Can I please be in the club now?
It was only after installing them that I realized I have no #*&#% clue how to use any of the CS software. Oops. So much for my technical fortitude. I humbly made my way to the public library yesterday in hopes to make this a self-taught adventure. Looking forward to a hefty shelf of how-to books during my time off. If all goes well, Minnesota Locavore will have a new look for 2012. Be sure to post your comments if there’s something you’d like to see added.
Ever have “there’s-new-technology-in-the-house” mania? I’ve been like a kid in a candy store since it came home on Friday. But it sadly means I haven’t been a kid in the kitchen either. I almost posted leftovers for the Dark Days Challenge meal this week until the kitchen partner volunteered to make black bean burgers for me. After cruising through the Week 3 Recap post, we agreed it’d be a nice contrast with some of the other recipes.
We’ve been tinkering with veggie-based burgers since we got married and spotted the recipe in our Betty Crocker Bridal Edition. We prefer the taste and sustainability over beef and often toss in what we have from the garden. I almost always choose the veggie option when we’re out for hamburgers with friends (I have a strange phobia of eating meat I didn’t cook myself). These black bean burgers are as good as any I’ve had.
For the Dark Days Challenge, the kitchen partner used dried black beans from Whole Grain Milling in Welcome, MN, local eggs and homemade bread crumbs. For toppings, we had fresh lettuce from Living Water Gardens in Wells, MN and rhubarb ketchup I canned this summer. It may have been thrown together last-minute but it still met the week’s challenge!
Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from Betty Crocker (Bridal Edition)
2 C. dried black beans, rinsed and sorted
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 C. plain dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 large egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
Local toppings (tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, ketchup, etc.)
1. Place beans in a large bowl, cover with water and soak at least 6 hours. Rinse and discard water. Place beans in a large pot and add water until beans are covered by about 1″. Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 50-60 minutes or until beans are tender. This step can be done in advance and beans can be stored covered in the refrigerator for several days before using. You can also use 1, 15 oz. can of black beans in place of dried, however the flavor (and local-ness) will suffer.
2. When beans are tender, remove from heat and drain. Place beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3-4 times or until beans are roughly mashed. It should hold together as a paste, but still have larger chunks of beans visible (do not purée).
3. Remove from food processor and place in a large bowl. Add in remaining ingredients except oil and toppings and stir until well blended. Using your hands, shape in the 6 patties (mixture will be sticky, but should hold its shape when placed on a plate).
4. Heat oil in a skillet or electric griddle. Cook burgers 8-12 minutes on each side, turning over when patty just begins to brown. Burger is done cooking when reaches an internal temperature of at least 160° F (to ensure egg is fully cooked). Remove from heat and add local toppings.
December 17th, 2011 § § permalink
If you are like me and haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, the contributors at Simple Good and Tasty have a special treat this week. We came together this week and posted 2 or 3 of our favorite Minnesota and Wisconsin gift ideas. Like the writers, the list is diverse and eclectic; it’s certain to have something for your last-minute shopping. My favorite idea is to gift a CSA share. Perfect for the foodie who loves veggies but doesn’t have garden space. Check out the list: