I think we’re having our first true Minnesota winter in a long time. Days so cold I cross my fingers and crunch one eye in hopes the car starts. Mornings where I wake up to a ground again covered in white and I run to the television in hopes of a 2 hour delay from work. (Still waiting SPPS…) I’m a winter-freak. I love every part of it, with the exception of slow traffic. Snowshoeing. Skiing. Extra large snowbanks. All this winter stuff we’ve got going on this year is spectacular. (I’ve been told this enthusiasm is because I’ve never actually had to pick up a shovel since I moved to Minnesota. Not sure I entirely agree.)
Want to know what I think the very best part about winter in Minnesota is? The food. It’s no coincidence that Minnesota is famous for the casserole. There’s nothing better on a cold, snowy evening than a warm hot dish out of the oven. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch for those of us who ate tater-tots with ground beef or tuna casserole our entire childhoods. But it is true that Minnesotans know how to warm up the house with a soup, stew or casserole better than anyone around.
My cast iron dutch oven has had one form of soup, stew or hot dish a brewin’ almost non-stop this month. Beef and barley have become our favorite warm up ingredients. My in-laws raise Black Angus cattle and graciously fill our freezer with chuck roasts and round steaks perfect for long Saturday afternoons of simmering on the stove. Last Saturday I made a beef barley stew with one very special local ingredient: Brau Brothers Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout. Brau Brothers is located in tiny Lucan, MN (population 220), where the grow their own hops and source as much of their ingredients locally as they can.
That’s right. I make my beef stew with beer. Let me tell you there’s no better way. It only gets better with dark beer.
Wait. That line describes me too…
Brau Brothers Beef and Barley Stew
1 tablespoon oil
3-4 pounds of beef – (I used round steak, chuck roast or any beef shank cross-cut for this recipe) For the Stock
1 1/2 bottles of Brau Brothers Moo Joos (or your favorite stout beer)
3 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups carrot, cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup celery with leaves, cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, cut into 1″ chunks
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the Stew
1 cup uncooked barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup carrot, chopped into coins
1 cup celery, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1. Heat oil in dutch oven over low heat. Add whole cut of beef, beer, water and salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam (This will reduce the remaining fat later).
2. Reduce heat, add remaining stock vegetables and pepper. Cover and simmer 3 hours.
3. When beef is tender, remove broth from heat. Spoon beef out and allow to cool slightly. Using a knife and pincers, cut the beef into 1″ pieces. After the beef is cut, skim any remaining fat from the top of the broth. You can also skim out the stock vegetables if you wish, but this is not necessary.
4. If stock has reduced to less than 6 cups, add in additional water to equal 6 cups. Return beef to the pot and add in barley and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add in remaining vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 30 more minutes until stew vegetables are tender.
Note : The stock steps can be made the night before and refrigerated. Return the beef to the pot and follow step 4 up to 3 days later.
5 days left to go before Christmas. Are you ready?
This morning I’m finishing up the last of my shopping. One final exchange and one d.i.y. project. If you’re still looking for that last-minute perfect holiday gift–or if you’re just getting started on your shopping–I’m recommending you check out these locavore gift guides. They’re from some of my favorite blogs and Minnesota-grown websites. Tons of ideas to help you wrap up the last of your holiday buying!
The Heavy Table is always a good place for local gifting ideas. This year their Local Gift Guide has ideas from $10 or less up to some more pricy gifts for that extra special person on your shopping list. My favorites: Food Lover’s Guide to the Twin Cities and Minnesota dish towels designed by MCAD students.
Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply in St. Paul has been posting gift ideas on their Facebook page all month. They’ve got great choices for everyone on your list: the Canner, the Cheese-lover, the Gardener, $10 and under, supplies for the backyard chicken coop or mushroom grower. Wait, am I the only one with friends like this?
Image provided by Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine
MplsSt.Paul Magazine’s food writer Dara Grumdahl offers up her local giving guide in the form of the best local food gifts in town. I’ll second her recommendations – especially the pannettone from Cossetta’s in St. Paul!
Amanda at Healthy Life, Happy Cook summed up some of her (and my!) favorite gifts this year – spill proof iPad sleeves for the kitchen and The Northern Heartland Cookbook by Minnesota author Beth Dooley.
Do you have a happy place? You know, somewhere you can visit a hundred times and always regret having to go home. You regularly catch yourself day dreaming about going there when you’re stuck in traffic or having a bad day at work. The place that “fills your bucket.” Since our first trip nearly 5 years ago the North Shore has been my happy place. I love Duluth and beg the kitchen partner to buy me a house there all the time. We try to make it up there 3-4 times every year–to relax, get away from the city noise, and take in Lake Superior.
Last weekend we snuck away for a 3 day weekend before the holiday rush begins. We experienced a mini-version of “The Gales of November” with mist, rain and 6-10 foot waves from our hotel room overlooking the lake. What better reason to snuggle in with a cup of tea and work on my NaNoWriMo project. I finished up a Simple Good and Tasty Thanksgiving post that went up this week and prepped for the big Give to the Max Day campaign for the foundation I work with: GiveMN.org: Autism Recovery Foundation. Two big items I’m proud of this week!
The weather didn’t keep us locked in all weekend though. We also saw the new James Bond movie – if you haven’t seen it. It’s simply excellent. And we ventured out to dinner at a locavore hang out in the area. The Duluth Grill was so good the kitchen partner and I went not once, but twice last weekend. First for Friday night dinner and then for brunch on our way home on Sunday. If you’re heading to the North Shore for your winter activities this season, I suggest making a stop off I-35 for some of the best local food in the area. Here’s 4 things you’ll love about the Duluth Grill:
Caramel Pecan Roll – Duluth Grill
1. The Classic Tastes- The Duluth Grill promises fresh, organic and locally sourced meals without the “trendy” hype these buzz words have gotten recently. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the gastronomic creations the farm-to-table folks put together in the Twin Cities. But local food doesn’t have to be fancy or more full of trend than taste. The dishes at Duluth Grill match what you’d find at any American diner including burgers with local beef, breakfast served all day, and a lasagna worth the 3 hour drive all on its own. The kitchen partner had the largest pecan cinnamon roll I’d ever seen for brunch on Sunday morning and I had the beef and vegetable pasty on Friday. This pasty is my new Iron Range staple – with local grass-fed beef and root vegetables. Perfect for a late-fall dinner in the blustery weather we had.
2. The Local Ingredients - 33% of Duluth Grill’s ingredients come from small family farmers. Not an easy task for a smaller market restaurant making a go way up North. Cage-free eggs, organic eggs from local farmers, fish from the Lake Superior Fish Company, tomatoes from Bay Produce in Superior, WI and organic produce from the University of Minnesota-Duluth farm during the summer. Even the ketchup that comes to the table is homemade from local ingredients. What’s not local is often organic or sustainably sourced – including their coffee, tea and hot chocolate. We had the hot chocolate on Sunday morning and I’d definitely recommend it!
The Quack and Cluck – Roasted Duck Omelet – Duluth Grill
3. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - Okay, so maybe Guy Fieri doesn’t sell you on restaurant choices. But his visit to the Duluth Grill showcases my favorite item on the menu: the banana cream pie. There’s another North Shore favorite for pie that will go unmentioned…because this pie is so much better! Check it out here:
4. They Grow it the Parking Lot We were too late in the season to see the fresh produce, but there were lots of pictures around the restaurant showcasing the fresh greens, tomatoes and produce grown in the parking lot of the restaurant. That’s right. The restaurant has a garden manager who supplies the kitchen with as much fresh food as they can grow in the greenhouse behind the store and in the large raised-bed planters out front. Edible landscape for the storefront. Oh, and did I mention they keep bees on the roof? Check out what they’re growing in a “Parking lot gardeners” feature on Relish.com
Welcome to November! It’s shaping up to be a busy month around here. I’ve got guest posts planned, knee-deep in an online graduate course, and finally committed to participate in National Novel Writing Month (Have you heard about NaNoWriMo?). November 2012 is the month I’m finally going to take the book idea that’s been sloshing around in my brain all year and spew it on paper. NaNoWriMo encourages writers to hit the 50,000 word mark in 30 days. Kate in the Kitchen inspired me last year with her November blog series so much that I’m already approaching the 1,000 word mark. Keep checking back this month for updates.
Despite all that, my brain has been totally focused on turkey. Many local farmers start taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving turkeys this week and I’m stoked to order our bird. I’m lucky not to have to cook on Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t stop me from putting on a huge dinner the weekend after for the kitchen partner and I. There’s no such thing as too much turkey at our house! Wanting to know where you can order your own local turkey this year? Check out this list and MinnesotaGrown.com for your local farmer:
Find it Local: A Minnesota Thanksgiving Turkey
1. Ferndale Market – http://www.ferndalemarketonline.com
Located in Cannon Falls, Ferndale Market has fresh and frozen turkeys available in their store as well as at Twin Cities Kowalski’s and co-ops around the state. They also ship frozen and smoked turkeys up to 16 pounds.
2. Highview Pastures http://highviewpastures.com
Located in Farmington, Highview Pastures specializes in free-range, pasture raised turkeys. Their animals are raised hormone free and on non-commercial feed. Call 952-985-7577 for pricing and orders.
3, Nature’s Little Farms
Nature’s Little Farms is located 4 1/2 miles from Kellogg, MN. They specialize in heritage turkey breeds, including the Bourbon Reds so many locavores put on their table each year. Turkeys can be ordered by phone at 507-767-4435.
4. L & R Poultry & Producehttp://www.lrpoultryproduce.com
Just a short hour drive southeast from the Twin Cities, L & R Poultry & Produce promises “out of this world-good” free range turkey. Their breeds include the Standard and Broad-Breasted Bronze. Contact 507-649-1405 for on-farm and retail sales of Thanksgiving birds.
5. Coyote Ridge Farms http://www.minnesotahighlanders.com
10 minutes west of Willmar, MN is Coyote Ridge Farms. I’m kinda crazy about their local pepperoni (every locavore’s dream!) but their holiday turkeys free of hormones and medicated feeds are also worth checking out. The farm was also certified organic in 2011. Call 320-220-3235 for ordering.
6. Januschka Farm Fresh Meat
Located in Little Falls, MN (between St. Cloud and Brainerd) Januschka’s offers certified organic free-range turkeys for the holidays. Call 320-630-1430 for details.
7. Birds and Bees Farmhttps://www.facebook.com/BirdsNBeesFarm
Kanabec County and Mora, MN is home to Birds and Bees Farm. It’s an all-natural free range farm offering chickens, turkeys, and produce for the holidays. They’ve also got some jams and jellies you wont find anywhere else to add to your holiday meal. Call 320-679-2816 for ordering information.
8. Simple Harvest Farm http://simpleharvestfarm.com
Located in Nerstrand, MN Simple Harvest Farm offers certified organic and free-range chickens, heritage turkeys, ducks and geese for Thanksgiving. All their animals are pasture fed and antibiotic free. Call 507-664-9446 to order.
9. Windjammer Farm
Windjammer Farm is located in New Ulm, MN. They offer fresh Thanksgiving turkeys that are fed a certified organic flax seed feed and come with a lab tested results of premium nutritional value. Their poultry is also processed by a local licensed butcher. Call 507-359-4140 for details.
10. Treasured Haven Farmwww.treaduredhavenfarm.com
At last check, there was a waiting list for 2012 turkeys at Treasured Haven Farm in Rush City. It’s worth calling to be on the waiting list however, because along with your Thanksgiving turkey Treasured Haven also offers a 30+ pound box of locally grown vegetables with their turkeys for only $35. Have your turkey and all the supplies for your meal in one place! Call 320-358-3581 for openings.
The kitchen partner and I snuck up to Nowthen yesterday to enjoy the fall sunshine and some Minnesota wines. Goose Lake Farm and Winery was the first winery we visited when we moved to Minnesota way back when. If you live in or visit the Twin Cities area, be sure to make Goose Lake one of the stops your list. With more than 40 different wines to choose from (including a sparkling rosé I could have for brunch, lunch, dinner…or all three!) there’s lots get excited about. The drive is about 50 minutes from downtown Saint Paul, perfect for a sunny Fall afternoon.
When you get there, don’t be surprised to see peacocks, goats and assorted other farm animals wandering around the 70-acre farm and vineyard. It is a farm after all. Goose Lake has a unique goal behind their wines: with the exception of cranberries all of the fruit that goes into the wines is grown on-site. From the Minnesota-bred cold hearty grapes to the rhubarb, there are few wines more local than theirs. Whatever mother nature gives them in fresh produce is what they’re able to bottle each year. Even the chickens help with the wine, doing their part to control the bug population so the fruit can remain 100% pesticide free.
Tastings start at $5, but what’s really exciting are all the extras happening this season at the winery. Their tasting room if full of wine and wine merchandise, local canned goods, and chocolates from Bear Paw Chocolates in Elk River, MN. Oh. My. Let me tell you about the chocolates. If you thought 40+ wines sounded good, now imagine them served with a fresh handmade piece of dark chocolate. Or the chocolate covered caramel nut piece of heaven that came with our tasting pass. Swoon.
Saturdays and Sundays in October also feature horse-drawn buggy rides, a food truck, and Sangria Sunday. (Yup. Bring your friends ‘cuz it’s sold by the pitcher!) If you’re interested in learning how to make you’re own fruit wines, Goose Lake also offers classes and winemaking supplies. Something for everyone!!
Goose Lake Farm & Winery
6760 213th Avenue NW
Elk River, MN 55330