Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FRESH Peach/Apple/Pear Crisp

We are just past peek for peaches here and I finally got off my but to make hubby and the kids some seaonal peach crisp.  I know I posted my MIL's recipe for peach cobbler a while ago here.  While it can be used with fresh fruit, it really shines when using frozen or canned fruit.  That is exactly what I needed when I was dealing with morning sickness and first trimester fatigue... something easy, delicious and comforting.

Now that I'm feeling a little better and have a little more energy, I thought I'd share my go-to recipe for fresh fruit crisp/cobbler.  It is less sweet than my MIL's version which allows the fresh fruit flavor to come through stronger which I love.  It is also a lot healthier.  It is a very simple recipe requiring just a tad bit more effort.  I use the same recipe for apples or pears in the fall.  The only addtion I add to the apple/pear version is cinnamon.  It's a good base recipe that you can add your own flare too.

Yummy Peach Crisp

Fresh Fruit Crisp

Topping
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour (I prefer whole wheat, it does not overwhelm the crisp)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick margarine or butter, softened

FruitFilling
6 cups fresh fruit
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tb. of water
(1 tsp. cinnamon for the apple version)

Heat oven to 375.  Combine the Topping ingredients.  Peel and slice the fruit if needed.  Place the fruit in a Pam sprayed 11x13 pan.  Throw in the  fruit.  Drizzle the lemon juice and water over of the fruit.  Sprinkle the topping over top.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Farm Tour 2010

We started our morning off really early today so that we could tour local farms as part of the Meet Yer Eats Event.  The first tour started at 8:30 in the morning so we rushed out the door to learn a little about sustainable farming in our area.  I thought I'd share what I gained from the tours.  Please note that the highlights below may or may not be entirely accurate as my memory is less than perfect!

Wolf Creek Farm

Wolf Creek Farm specializes in grass fed beef and was the first stop on our farm tour today.  It was incredibly interesting to see what it takes to run a medium sized cattle farm.  The owner discussed his difficulty finding good labor, the cost of  processing his steer, what it takes to keep his heard healthy without antibiotics, the roles of heifers vs. steer, as well as how the cows are selected and bred. I knew that most of our grocery meat was from feedlot cows but I wasn't aware that most of our grocery store hamburger is actually from spent milking cows.  The milking cows are often only 3 or so years when processed (i.e. they generally last just two milking cycles) whereas his heifers last 15 or so productive years until they are sold to less selective farms for their meat. The meat from Wolf Creek farm is exclusively from steer.

Wolf Creek Farm!
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 Ladybug in her boots.
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 Along for the ride.

Waterpenny Farm

After the awesome two hour tour at Wolf Creek, we headed on over to Sperryville to take a self-guilded tour of Waterpenny Farm.  It is a 10 acre farm growing a plethra of organic vegetables and chickens.  I learned so much information about gardening problems I can't possibly discuss it all here!  It was well worth the Farm Tour Ticket!! 

Here are some of the highlights:

-The owner stressed the importance of mulching EVERYTHING to reduce erosion, minimize the spread of disease, keep the vegetables clean, add organic matter to the soil, provide habitat for soil microbes and reduce soil compaction.  However, they warned us to not use hay for horses as the high quality hay is routinely treated with Picloram which is devestating to broad leaf plants.  Know your hay source!

-The importance of providing habitat for beneficial insects near your garden, i.e. areas that are unmowed and untouched.  They used Echinacea, BeeBalm, and Rudbeckia beds to provide good refuge for beneficial insects.

-To deal with flea beetles on eggplant the owner said she sprays the ground with Pyrethin (organic pesticide) before transplanting the eggplant and then uses floating row covers until the plant flowers.  Only then does she remove the covers.  After that she periodically sprays as-needed but once the plants are established they usually aren't a problem.

-To get rid of squash bugs the owner sprays her squash crop with kelp and baking powder every two weeks. By contrast, Radical Roots (see below) deals with squash bugs by growing his winter squash in flats and transplanting them.  He then uses row covers until the squash plant flowers.  Once the squash flowers the covers are removed and the squash bug impact is usually minimal. Good to know, right?!
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 The Mobile Chicken Unit


Radical Roots Farm

Radical Roots was our last stop on our tour.  By the time we got there it was already 3 in the afternoon and we had been farm touring since 8:30 in the morning.  It was a miracle our kids were not nightmares by that hour.

We chose to visit Radical Roots Farm (there were 18 farms to chose from) because it was the size of our property and we were curious to see how productive a community farm the size of our property could be.  We were pleasantly surprised!  They grew an amazing range of fruits and vegetables (even figs) as well as chickens.  Their system closely resembled Waterpenny's.

They had a lot of "pilot" programs/experiments including some untilled beds and such.  Radical Roots Farm was located on a hillside with sloping topography.  This was of particular interest to us because it too resembles our own yard. The owner talked quite a bit about the importance of entrapping water flow to reduce the need for irrigation. The garden beds ran parallel to the contours, hugging the hill.

These owners live by their sustainable ideals in every facet of their lives.  Even their home embodied the basic eco-principles of biomass and energy entrapment. For example, their floors were made of compacted adobe to retain and hold heat during the winter months.  The exterior walls were 18" thick and made of bricks made from recycled wood pallets and concrete pylons.  The owner was gracious enough to give us a tour of the entire home.  The house was only 1000 SF (20'x50'). but it was masterfully planned such that it felt like more than enough space for their family of four.  I was blown away.

 The Owner of Radical Roots.

Another mobile chicken unit!

Lasagna Mulching (Cardboard with wood mulch on top of black plastic). 

The house's interior.

One of my favorite features was this woman's pantry.  What a beautiful use of old canning jars!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Experiments in the Kitchen - Carne Adovada

With the recent harvest of green chiles and New Mexico on our mind, hubby mentioned how he has been craving Carne Adovada since we left New Mexico.  He's had the dish at numerous reastaurants on the East Coast but they weren't the same as the kind you can find in Albuquerque.   I don't know what posessed me (maybe the crazy human currently habiting my womb), but I decided why not try to recreate it at home and bring the flavors to us?!

Pork marinating in a red chile liquid.

I visited the local Mexican market for a few key ingredients but I wasn't able to find the chimayo chile powder nor the chile caribe needed for the traditional version of the recipe I found here.  Chimayo and chile caribe are particular to New Mexico and it's not terribly surprising I couldn't find them locally.  I didn't let that stop me.  I perused the local Mexican market (consulting a market employee) and purchased some guajillo chile pods (for flavor) along with some arbol chiles (for heat).  When I got them home, I processed them as finely as I could along with the other marinade ingredients to create the ground red chile flavor found in the traditional recipe.

My improvised recipe went like this:

Ingredients:
6 lbs. pork butt, cut in 4  to 5 inch cubes and trimmed (leaving bone in during marination and cooking process)
4 c. diced onion
4 T. minced garlic
4 c. chicken broth
4 c. water
4 t. ground coriander seed
4 t. dried Mexican oregano
16 Guajillo Chile Pods
16 Arbol Chiles Pods (in retrospect I will use double the arbols for added heat)
4 T. honey
4 T. red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Place the coriander, oregano, chiles, honey, vinegar, onions, garlic and salt in the food processor. Add one cup of the chicken broth.  Mix thoroughly.  Once mixed and peppers are minced thoughly, add an additional 3 c. of chicken broth. Process until combined. (I tasted the sauce at this stage and worried that the pork would be too hot.  The final cooked pork turned out fine.  It could have even used more heat as hubby likes it crazy hot.)

Pour the marinade mix over the meat in a large pot, cover and refrigerate overnight. Pour the meat and the marinade into an ovenproof casserole or pot and bake, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender. (I slow cooked mine in a crock pot on high for 6 hours.)  Remove the meat and fork shred it.  Discard any fatty bits.  Pour some (a cup or two) of the remaining cooking liquid over the shredded pork to taste.  The more sauce, the more heat you will add back into the meat mixture.  Add salt to taste.  Discard any unused sauce.

Fork shredded pork.

The result for us, while not made completely traditionally, replicated the flavors we remembered.  We chose to serve ours as we had it in New Mexico.  Usually, the meat was served in a tortilla with red sauce and some shredded cheese on top and baked until the cheese was melted.  My husband routinely ordered his "Christmas" style using both green and red sauces. Green sauce is not a traditional choice, but a tasty one. 

The Final Product.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Monday Garden Update (early, late? you decide)

There was no garden update or any posts last week because we left for Hatteras Island for a family vacation.  Unfortunately, there was a mandatory evacuation on Wednesday morning so we were forced to cut it short.  We were disappointed but we are making the best of it!   Since then, we've been back home doing a few day trips and enjoying the rest of hubby's time off.

When we got back, it was nice to find that we had a nice little harvest of eggplant and peppers.


I had enough peppers from my one meager plant that I actually decided to go ahead and roast them.  I also saved what I could of some of the seed for next years crop prior to roasting. 

I learned how to prepare New Mexican Chiles while living in New Mexico.  During chile season there you can buy a GIANT 25 lb. bag of roasted green Hatch chiles for a whopping 19 bucks.  It was such a great deal, I couldn't pass it up.  Of course, I soon learned why they were so much cheaper (by comparison a tiny, itty bitty tiny can of canned, roasted green chiles costs about $2).  When I got the chiles home, I spent the next 6 hours slumped over the kitchen sink peeling and seeding the chiles in two sittings and vowed never to do it again!  It was a crazy amount of chiles and I had yet to master how to peel and seed them efficiently.  It was a huge pain but we enjoyed the green chiles throughout the following year.  Green chiles freeze well and I saved a bundle compared to the canned versions.  The flavor is also phenomenal.

There is an interesting article about New Mexican chiles in the most current issue of Organic Gardning (Oct./Nov. 2010). You won't find the article on the web just yet (I checked).  I imagine they won't post it until the magazine officially releases in October.  The article was eye opening. Apparently Hatch chiles are grown on infertile sandy soils often using genetically modified seed and traditional gardening practices (i.e. heavy fertilizers and pesticides). It's nothing too suprising but apparently there are heirloom varities grown in the Northern part of the state on richer soil that are grown more sustainably. It's a very interesting article I suggest anyone interested in growing New Mexican chiles read. This year I grew New Mexico Jim's. My peppers aren't near as big as I thought they should be but I'm pleased to know they didn't lose a thing as far as flavor and I know what's in them!

Our Homegrown Green Chiles

You can roast chiles many ways but as our grill is out of commission I went ahead and roasted them in the oven.  To roast in the oven, I broiled them on high for 20 minutes, rotating them every five or so minutes until I got a nice char on all sides.


After that I put them in a sweating bag (a.k.a ziploc bag) for 10 minutes.  Doing this makes them easier to peel as they continue to steam in their own skin.


After that I put them in a water bath to make them even easier to peel.


I then peeled, seeded, and chopped the chiles.  Easy as pie. 

Peeling and Seeding Green Chiles


Cutting the Chiles


The Final Product