Monday, May 31, 2010

Make your own Honey Graham Crackers

I recently had the super-munchies for graham crackers. My first thought was, "I'll make some." I'd say, that's kind of cool because usually the first thought would be, "I'll go to the store and get them." You don't have to go to the store though. Graham crackers are very easy to make. Just let Alton Brown show the way.

With Alton's recipe, it comes together within minutes in a food processor. Blend the dry ingredients, then toss in the cold butter cubes - pulse until the mixture resembles corn meal, then add the wet ingredients. Flatten to a half inch thickness, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

After the chill time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment. Roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into whatever shape you like and dock each section with a fork several times.

If you happed to be out of parchment paper like I was, grease your baking sheet well. When the grahams come out of the oven, retrace your cut lines and scrape the grahams off of the sheet with a spatula. If you don't release them from the sheet, you'll have a crumbly mess on your hands. Scrape and let them cool on the sheet.

Tada! They even look like real graham crackers! Get the recipe here: Alton Brown's Graham Crackers, and I invite you to watch the episode so you can grasp Alton's techniques.
Videos from his cracker episode: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Side note: Alton uses molasses in his graham crackers, but I'm partial to honey flavored grahams. Simply substitute the molasses with honey. It worked well for me. Have fun!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh, Canada - part 2

On Sunday, Brother and I ventured to Sherbrooke, a city about a half hour away from the farm, where the kids go to college. We, full from breakfast, just had to stop at Chef Jaqualine's Creperie. Creperies - why aren't there more of them in Indiana?

Brother ordered this beast: La Quebecqoise, a crepe drowning in sugary buttery goodness topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was too much for Brother to handle, so I handled it. I don't mess around.

I washed it down with a cappuccino.

This was my crepe, simply filled with strawberries.

In Sherbrooke, we walked around a bit and desperately searched for the year-round farmers market. We eventually gave up and took to the supermarket - Maxi. Brother loaded up on his gummy and hard candy stash. The Kinder egg was mine. I love those German kid treats.

Brother would take a daily, literally DAILY, nap on the kitchen table after lunch. Teenagers!

Brother was elated to see that burgers were on the menu. Not just any burgers, but organic, firewood grilled burgers.

We eventually had to depart. Before leaving we stocked up for the road. Baguette, apple juice soda, cheese curds, orange, and a hazelnut candy bar.

Our last item on the list of things to do: eat Poutin. Poutin is apparently THE Quebecqiose junk food. It consists of French fries and cheese curds dredged in brown gravy. Brother was more enthused about it than I was.

On our drive home, we kept seeing this fast-food place called Tim Horton's. I'd never seen it before, but it had more stores than McDonalds. We had to investigate. I guess this chain was started up by a hockey player. They specialize in coffee and donuts. We got some. They were donuts.

Our last real meal of the trip was eaten in Rochester, NY at Olympia Family Restaurant. We were hoping to get Mediterranian grub, but the place didn't look like much from the outside. It was rather discouraging actually. We went in anyway and found it to be quite pleasant. We each ordered the Gyro Platter which was twice as much as we were able to stuff down. It was very satisfying and I would recommend Olympia to anyone. High five for hole-in-the-walls!

Overall, we had a great trip. We met a super cool family, ate some fantastic food, covered some serious ground, and had a lot of laughs along the way.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oh, Canada - part 1

A couple of weeks ago, my brother and I took off to Canada for a workation. I think this was my last workation. I've done two now, and I've decided that I would just rather take a vacation that doesn't involve work. The principle behind a workation is that you can travel and meet new people for cheap because instead of paying a lot of money, you're working. It's a good option to have. We both heard of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) from friends and decided that it was high time to take a brother/sister road trip. Brother wanted to practice his French, so Quebec was our destination. We picked out a wonderful family to stay with and started our drive on Mother's Day. (Sorry, Mom!)

On our way up, we made a detour to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I love this city. We walked around, indulged in some much needed bubble tea and picked Conor O'Neill's for lunch. Brother got a roast beef sandwich and I got Conor's Ploughman: Sauteed vegetables served on grilled seven-grain bread with farmhouse cheddar and pesto mayo. It was amazing.

We bunked in a hotel just outside of Toronto, then kept on driving the next day. Our second lunch was had at a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop in Kingston: Paradiso. It was fully loaded and hard to finish, but we did our best.

We made it to the farm after about 950 miles of driving. The family was very warm and welcoming. Brother picked this farm because they have kids about our age, which made things more fun. Our first assignment was to help Mimi, the oldest, cover the greenhouse/tunnel with it's plastic top. After seeing how easily one of these comes together, Brother and I want to build one at home.

Here's the dinner table where we shared three square meals a day. I absolutely loved that they kept a wooden cutting board on the table at all times. It was there for slicing the bread and for keeping hot pots from scorching the tablecloth. We had an abundant salad every evening with dinner, and for breakfast there was fresh homemade bread. Almost everything we ate was organic. Bonus!

Since we did such a good job on the first greenhouse/tunnel, we ripped off and re-covered their other one. It looked so nice when we were finished. We also weeded some of their garlic patch. Their primary crop is garlic. They sell the bulbs, the flowers, and beautiful braids of garlic at their local farmers market.

A couple of evenings we went for a walk/hike on their 150 acre property. The cats were desperate to come with us, but we had to scare them away because they just can't keep up with our pace.

Saturday morning, we were surprised with homemade crepes! I had mine with some real maple syrup, of course (it's Canada after all,) and others were topping their crepes with yogurt and apples. Yum!

They had some chickens in a coop that their grandfather had built. They move their coop daily so the chickens can get new grass and bugs. They especially like grubs found from the gardens.

We went lumber jacking Saturday afternoon. We pulled a couple of fallen trees from the ski/hike trail, chopped them up, and lugged them back for fire wood. The family lets the local cross-country ski lodge use some of their trails for skiers. There are many many trails.

Flippin' cool, fresh milk! Mimi took Brother and I to their dairy farmer friend down the road. He was from Switzerland and his cows were very happy. The family gets their milk from him for wholesale price. Score! You can't get fresher milk than this. And it's raw so it can be digested easier. It tasted magical.

Mimi and I made a pretty dang good dinner Saturday night. We shredded some butternut squash and tossed it with some garlic and olive oil and baked it. The soup was made from the chicken stock that was brewing all day long. It was the best chicken noodle soup I've ever had.

Mimi showed me how to make cream cheese. She's getting into cheese making. She has made goat cheese and feta cheese as well. I used the cream cheese to make a batch of St. Louis Specials. They were a hit with the family after dinner with garden-picked bergamot tea.

Check back on Thursday for part 2 of our Canadian adventures.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ooout of Town (That's "out" in Canadian)

You may have noticed my absence this week. I just got back from a workation in Canada. I will fill you in on my adventures next week. For the time being, feast on some randomness.

You can't beat fresh pasta. I picked up some pappardelle at one of the local farmers markets. The girls who run it are about my age, so I bonded with them immediately.

It's so pretty! And so fresh! They have so many other shapes and flavors, but I never get to the market in time. Damn, early birds getting the...pasta.

Breakfast discovery shortly after Easter, obviously. Schmearing avocado on toast - with a sprinkle of salt. I'm addicted.

My first harvest! This spring and summer, I'm attempting to grow my own veggies. I picked my first spring lettuce leaves right before I left. Not bad for a window garden crop. I just finished potting three different types of peppers, butternut squash, acorn squash, zucchini, cucumber, Roma tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes. Let's see if anything produces! See you on Monday, regular time, with the down low on my venture.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not your standard yogurt.

There has been a whole lot of hoo-ha about how cow's milk is bad for us to drink. I don't know what to believe, honestly. Some say that you can drink raw milk and be OK. Some say that as humans, we don't have the proper enzymes to digest milk. I happen to love milk - especially 2% organic milk. And don't get me started on half & half and cream. The more fat, the better. Anyway, to be on the safe side, I suppose, I ventured to Whole Foods to see what alternatives they had in the yogurt department. I found three different types and took them home to taste test.

#1 - Goat Milk Yogurt. I know, it's still dairy, but some say that goat's milk is easier to digest because...the goat has a smaller stomach compared to a cow who has four (or at least one giant stomach with four compartments - however you want to break it down.) I found this yogurt to have a perfect texture, strong like Greek yogurt. On the other hand, in terms of flavor, the goat yogurt was my least favorite. It tasted like straight up chevre. No surprise there. I just couldn't get over how cheesy it was. Not a fan.

#2 - Soy yogurt. Supposedly ladies aren't supposed to have too much processed soy either. I'm kind of sick of all of this catch 22 crap. Food scientists, please just admit that you don't know what the hell you're talking about. Thanks. Anyway, the texture was a bit separated. I had to stir it up for consistency. Of the three, this one had the most bite, like sour cream with a hint of rice. This was my second choice in terms of flavor.

#3 - Coconut Milk Yogurt. I knew right off the bat that this one would be my flavor favorite. It was slightly tangy and just sweet enough. The coconut milk flavor definitely came through. It was the farthest from tasting like traditional cow's milk yogurt, but I still liked it.

Now, let's talk Nutrition Facts. I compared the calories, fat, protein, sugar, and calcium content of all three. Here's the rundown:
  • Calories (G) 100, (S) 110, (C) 130
  • Fat (G) 4.5g, (S) 2.5g, (C) 7g
  • Protein (G) 7g, (S) 3g, (C) 1g
  • Sugar (G) 7g, (S) 13g, (C) 12g
  • Calcium (G) 20%, (S) 30%, (C) 30%
There you have it, folks. I'll let you do your own research and be the judge. I'm going to the store to get some Greek yogurt.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chocolate Porn

I've already raved about Mast Brothers Chocolate, but that was before my dear, dear friend, Karli, brought ME a bar from the Big Apple. Watch this 4 minute video so you can fully grasp this chocolate's greatness - well, as much grasping you can get without eating the chocolate itself.

I still can't get over that they INDIVIDUALLY wrap each and every precious bar of chocolate. Their efforts shine through in the details.

So pure. So fresh. Que the burlesque music!

Oh, baby.

Now we're talkin'.

This chocolate is seriously, deeply dark and delicious. The salt, olive oil, and almonds are a great addition. Karli, thanks for introducing me to my latest addiction. I can't wait to try their other flavors!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No Fail Broccoli & Cheese Cornbread

Ah, good ol' fashioned carry-ins. Or pitch-ins. Or pot lucks. What ever you call them, they are a good time. I went to one with a group of total strangers for the first Chew On This event in Indy. The event was about bringing people together to talk about local food and related food issues like: what to do with our crops, teaching our children where their food comes from, how to get fresh food to low income families, etc. It was a wonderful experience. I encourage you to start your own Chew On This event. Let's take charge of our food! For this carry-in, I took my no fail Broccoli and Cheese Cornbread. I found this recipe a few years ago on It's the easiest thing you will ever make.
This recipe is a good way to sneak in veggies for the kids. Well, it's not really sneaking because they can see green chunks in their cornbread, but hey, once you get them to take one bite, the green chunks won't bother them.

I literally threw this thing together in under 10 minutes. It's so easy and very difficult to mess up. Seriously.

Here is what the cornbread looks like before it's baked. And did I take an after baking photo? Of course not. Why would I? This is what happens to a chronically late person who never gets to public functions on time. Indeed. But the cornbread was a hit, as usual. Everyone always likes it, even those who don't care for broccoli. I don't know, it must be magic. Oh, and my car now smells like broccoli because of the transportation from house to function. Sigh. Broccoli car.

Broccoli Cheese Cornbread

4 eggs
1 (10 oz) pkg of frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (8.5 oz) box of self rising cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease an 11x8 inch baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine corn meal, salt, and pepper.
In a separate bowl, mix eggs, butter, cottage cheese, and onion.
Pour the wet into the dry and mix. Fold in the broccoli and pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Eating My Way Through NYC Part II

For the second day of our trip to NYC, Travis and I headed over the bridge into Brooklyn. We wanted to explore the Park Slope/Prospect Park areas because I had heard a lot about them from bloggers like design*sponge who lives there. After walking around the neighborhood and strolling through the park we were starving and in need of a New York staple - a hot dog. We could not settle for just any old hot dog, however, but made our way over to Bark Hot Dogs where they serve artisan hot dogs, burgers and sides made from local ingredients.

I devoured the bacon cheddar dog - a griddle roasted dog smothered in white cheddar cheese sauce, braised bacon and homemade pickled onions - while Travis enjoyed the slaw dog.

We shared an order of salt & pepper fries and to wash it down I had the most delicious cream soda of my life from Foxon Park Sodas. Hot dogs and fries never tasted so good.

After lunch we headed over to Bklyn Larder, a retail cheese and provisions store committed to finding international and local producers of cheeses, meats, dairy, jams, honey and oils who showcase their local identity and respect for the earth.

One of my most favorite things on earth is a grocery store filled with delicious, local, high quality goods. In addition to their deli counter and cheese case, Bklyn Larder carries Mast Brothers chocolate bars that Sarah has been raving about for weeks so I had to buy her a dark chocolate, almond and olive oil bar.

I also purchased some fleur de sel chocolate covered caramels from Nunu Chocolates (another local Brooklyn chocolatier) and a freshly baked fudge brownie to eat on the spot.

After filling up on delicious foods and desserts and with a bag of goodies to take home, Travis and I got on the subway back to our hotel in Manhattan. It was a wonderful trip!