January (or should we say June-uary?) is coming to a close and I’m battling my first full-blown cold of the season. I had my suspicions I was coming down with something on the weekend and the yesterday it came on with force. I’ve slept more the past two nights than I have in several weeks. Due to the tissue attached to my constantly running nose, I haven’t been much use in the kitchen. Instead I thought I’d share my favorites of January both here and from my fellow bloggers.
January at Minnesota Locavore
January was the biggest viewership month to date for this little blog. Nearly 4,000 views of what the kitchen partner and I were up to. Many came to check out the Dark Days Challenge posts and others came via Facebook.
Three new features also appeared this month, A Find it Local Map including all of the Find it Local Friday featured products and a cookbook shelf, featuring all of the cookbooks that inspire the recipes you see here. Lastly, there’s now an official contact form on the Send A Message page–nothing too exciting, but I was mighty proud I figured out the plug-in all by myself.
When it comes to bread-making, there’s no one that teaches it quite like Julia:
If it were only that easy…
Despite having watched this video over and over and given my best shot at the gamut of yeast breads, I am still challenged to make a made-from-scratch loaf that does not resemble a masonry brick. I share Liz’s (from Carpé Season) sentiment that most of my breads could be classified as weapons. The kitchen partner has taken over all the bread duties at our house, but even he only makes it in dinner roll packages. A full loaf still evades us.
That doesn’t mean I don’t continue to try…
On a recent trip to Golden Fig in St. Paul, I ran into a local mix that promised a “just add water” sweet cardamom bread. The mix is one in a line of gourmet products manufactured by Cannon River Kitchens in Red Wing, MN. Cardamom is a recent addition to our kitchen, but I’m especially fond of its warm earthy aroma this time of year. It’s so distinct that when I smell it now, I instantly am reminded of fresh cardamom pastries. Can’t picture what I mean? Try this mix and you’re guaranteed to have a cardamom memory all your own.
Here’s what you should know about Cannon River Kitchen’s Sweet Cardamom Bread Mix:
Everything you need is in the package, including the yeast. Which is a good reminder that this, like all yeast breads will take you all afternoon to make. It doesn’t need constant attention, but is not something you should start an hour before your dinner party either.
It has instructions for bread machine and conventional oven. I baked it in the conventional oven and think I suffered a bit in height and texture. (I never seem to knead and rise enough!!!) If you tend to struggle with bread crumb, it’s probably best to stick with the bread machine if you have one.
The Golden Fig sold the 1 loaf package for $6.95; seems a bit pricey, until you consider what an artisan loaf of cardamom bread might cost you at the grocery store. If you could find it in the first place!
Next to the package were instructions to make the mix into a holiday bread with dried or candied fruit. I’m not a big fruit-in-my-bread fan, but I think the mix would be fantastic with chopped walnuts.
In all my ranting yesterday about chicken pot pie and my eye-stomach connection, I didn’t have time to squeeze in the recipe for the actual chicken pot pie we had for dinner. My long-windedness doesn’t surprise you then? The kitchen partner also pointed out that if I’m going to talk about things like the eye-stomach connection, I should probably do a bit more research into the real scientific terms. His feedback about my post yesterday: You can’t just make stuff up you know.
So. In order to appease my ever-skeptical spouse, here’s three other ways some fancy science folks are trying to say it:
Google Scholar has more than 4,000 results for food advertising and visual cues. In the end, they all say the same thing: when a catalog comes in the mail with chicken pot pie on the front, I’m in big trouble. On goes the apron, out comes the rolling-pin. It’s pot pie time.
*Note: The original recipe made 2 pot pies, so I chose to split the recipe and adjust the ingredients to decrease the amount of butter and increase the veggies. If you’d like two pot pies at once, click the link above to see how it can be doubled.
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into larger chunks
1 medium onion
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen vegetables (I used green beans and corn, but peas would work well also)
Pie Crust for a double crust pie (Use this recipe I found for all local ingredients)
1. Preheat oven to 450°F and prepare the bottom pie crust in a 9″ pie plate. If desired, use a floured cookie cutter to add decorations to top crust.
2. In a small sauce pot, cover potatoes and carrots with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes or until for tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add onion and cook until tender. Slowly sprinkle in flour and stir continuously until evenly coated and bubbling. Slowly add in broth and milk. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken.
4. Add in chicken, frozen vegetables, potatoes, and carrots. Simmer until all ingredients are warmed through. Pour into bottom crust. Cover with top crust and gently flute edges to seal.
5. Bake for 45 minutes or until inside is bubbling and crust is golden-brown.
In all the time I have spent in the past year writing/dreaming/eating/thinking about food, I am still amazed by how visually connected we are to our food. I love cookbooks that have full color images for every recipe; rarely do I choose to cook something if I haven’t seen the final product. You could be the best food writer in town but if the images on your blog are sub-par, odds are your message won’t stretch far.
Yesterday I had a perfect example of what I like to call “The Eye-Stomach Connection,” and how powerful it is, little control over it I have.
I came home early from a pretty stressful morning at work. Let’s just say the office hasn’t been the source of good employment news lately. I grouched upstairs, dropped my stuff in the office and went straight for my pajamas and slippers. It was 11:30 A.M. With my cup of tea in hand I started to comb through the mail when I there it was. The answer to my day’s problems:
Oh, chicken pot pie. Right on the cover of the February King Arthur Flour catalog. With a perfect heart-shaped golden-brown crust and warm creamy inside. What I’m about to tell you really happened, I swear. I was ogling the catalog when the chicken pot pie spoke to me. I was in the middle of drooling and it just started to talk. It said “Amy. You look a little sad today. No worries friend. My perfectly golden-brown heart-shaped crust still loves you. And I promise that I taste as amazing as I look. Don’t eat the catalog. Just make a pot pie for dinner.” Oh, chicken pot pie you are perfect. And something perfect is what I needed. Skip the lame Dark Days dish I had planned, we’re having pot pie tonight!
See what I mean about the eye-stomach connection? Open the mailbox and out goes my self-control. One good image communicated so much about comfort, safety, and warmth I changed all of my plans to recreate it. The looks-so-good-I-could-eat-the-catalog chicken pot pie said “make this and your problems will go away.” Clearly, those King Arthur marketing folks know what they’re doing.
Fast forward a few hours…
As I’m eating my SOLE chicken pot pie (with local carrots and potatoes, frozen green beans and corn from the garden, and a chicken from my dad’s flock), I started to think more about marketing and its role in promoting local food. Let’s be honest. We Americans have some of the worst eating habits on the planet. We have an obsession with high-fat, low-nutrient convenience food. We love it, and in obnoxious quantities. But do we love it because it tastes good, or because it’s heavily marketed to us? Do we choose the frozen pre-packaged dinner because it’s fresh and full of nutrients? No way! We eat something that tastes like salted cardboard because we were told it would make us more healthy, lean, and beautiful. Do we choose a supreme-sized steak and potatoes meal because it’s the best choice on the menu, or because it’s packaged in a “I’m a man. And men should eat big hunks of meat,” package?
Here’s another example: When the kitchen partner and I are out for beers we order what we both prefer; I order a Guinness and he chooses a light beer. More than half the time, when the server brings the drinks back to the table, the Guinness is set in front of him and I get the light beer. Why? Because alcohol is one of the most heavily marketed products in the food industry and Americans have received some strong messages about who drinks what. Guinness is for rugby-playing pirates, not for a 5 foot gal in a scarf and matching shoes. Duh. Women don’t drink Guinness. And what self-respecting man drinks light beer? We’re marketed like crazy to believe women drink the lightest calorie-free beer possible.
The kitchen partner and I shrug it off, and occasionally I’ll do my best rugby-playing pirate impression just to prove I fit in. The point is not to downgrade the server for holding stereotypes about men and women and their beer. The point is one step farther back–because in the end the server puts the glasses down in front of women because women order light beer more often. Not because it tastes better (trust me. walk away from the 55 calorie mess in your glass), but because our eyes saw the commercial and the commercial told us it will make us look, feel, and just plain be better. Eyes tell stomach. Stomach eats what eyes think will make us feel the best. Light beer, frozen low-calorie microwave meal, and chicken pot pie. They’re one in the same.
Which brings me back to local food…
For so long major corporations were the only folks who could afford major food marketing campaigns. Have you ever seen a commercial for carrots? celeriac root? But in recent years, local food has begun to inch into the spotlight and shove out the rest. More restaurants are advertising their support of local farmers. More schools are promoting fresh local vegetables. The farmers’ market has become the trendy place to be. Americans are finally starting to see messages about fresh local food and make new eye-stomach connections. Farmers, food bloggers, and chefs are starting to use the same techniques that make us crave chicken pot pie to get us to buy local.
Why not? Americans love food that makes them feel good. It’s time for local producers to replace the feel-goodness messages of chicken pot pie, with the feel-goodness of eating fresh local food. We already know it’s power to compel eaters into action. Let’s just make sure they’re eating the the right thing.
Well Minnesota. Looks like we’re not going to squeak out that mild winter after all. This morning I’m watching cars creep by outside and the snow pile up on the lawn. I might get to bust out those new snowshoes yet! Days like today call for an extra-large sweater and old-fashioned hearty dishes. Something that sticks with you as you trudge out in the cold, but brings back warm memories of family and fireplaces.
Baked beans anyone?
Okay. So maybe it’s just me that craves baked beans when it’s cold and snowy. I get that they are an All-American picnic food, meant to be eaten with potato salad, ribs and the 4th of July. But I never want a hefty scoop of warm, sticky, bacon-ness when it’s 90 degrees outside. Gross. They are my warm-you-up comfort food, and definitely not a summertime thing.
I want a full bowl after watching pond hockey until my fingers are numb. I want to smell them baking when I come home from a brutal rush-hour commute. I want extra-large spoonfuls while I’m watching the snow removal crew shovel the porch. What? You honestly thought this gal knew how to use a shovel? Please. That’s never going to happen. And most of all, I want them totally unhealthy. Complete with an embarrassing amount of maple syrup and a 2:1 bean to bacon ratio. That’s right. For every 2 bites of beans, there has to be at least 1 bite of bacon. There’s only one rule I have about baked beans. There can never be enough bacon.
I wish I had a secret family version, passed down from my great-great-great relatives through generations of cooks all wishing for the same old-fashionedy feeling on a snowy day. Instead this recipe was adapted from my Taste of Home cookbook. Nothing fancy. But then again, old-fashioned rarely is.
1 pound of dried great northern beans, sorted and rinsed
1 quart of cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard (I used some of our homemade)
1/4 C. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 lb. thick-sliced bacon
1. Place beans in a large stock pot and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn off heat. Cover the pot and allow beans to stand for 2 hours or until soft. Beans will not be fork tender, but no longer hard either.
2. Drain beans and return to the pot. Add quart of cold water and salt. Return to a boil again, cover and simmer until beans are tender (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). This time they should be fork tender. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 C. of the cooking liquid.
3. While beans are cooking, prepare a 13 x 9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place onion, garlic in the baking dish. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine mustard, maple syrup and molasses to form a sauce.
4. When beans are drained, preheat oven to 400°F. Add beans to the baking dish and toss with the onion and garlic. Pour sauce over the top and stir to evenly coat. If necessary, you may add cooking liquid to thin sauce slightly. Spread beans into an even layer in the baking dish and pat down slightly with the back of a spoon.
5. Lay an even layer of bacon over the top of the beans, ensuring that bacon covers entire layer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until bacon is crisp and sauce is thick. Remove from oven and carefully remove bacon to a cutting board. When bacon is cool enough to touch, crumble with a knife and return to the baking dish. Mix to evenly distribute.