Archive | July, 2012

How do you perfect potatoes?

25 Jul
by Deanne

Last week I was buzzing along the highway when I saw this billboard:Link to picture of McDonald's BillboardOnly the billboard didn’t have a question mark. I added my own cynical punctuation;).  Ad people somewhere decided to make a bold statement about our obsession with french fries.  They’re hoping we’ll say, “YES!” And drive right on into the drive-thru lane at the next golden arches we see. 

Even before seeing this sign, I spent many years craving and hunting down McDonald’s french fries. I can remember that when I worked at a Wendy’s in high school, I would go to McDonald’s for the fries.

Something inside me must be changing because now when I see a sign like this I ponder…what is the best way to prepare those potatoes we picked up at the farmers market over the weekend?Photo of new red potatoes

We asked that question this week when deciding what to offer for our Farmerchef special at our restaurant.  We whipped up a simple potato salad. I have to be honest, I felt a bit bummed when people chose fries instead of a freshly made potato salad with just picked green onions from the garden.

Here’s the recipe we created to perfect our new red potatoes.

FarmerChef Potato Salad

makes about 12 servings
  • 10-12 new red potatoes
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • ½ cup scallions,finely diced
  • ½ tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Wash new potatoes and boil until soft and a fork can pierce them. Drain and chill. 

Boil eggs until hard and peel.  Mash yolk to add to the dressing ingredients: mayo, relish, mustard, scallions, celery seed, salt, pepper and sugar.

Dice whites and add to the diced chilled potatoes. 

Mix all ingredients together and serve chilled.

Picture of Potato Salad

How do you perfect your potatoes?

Adventures in Raspberry Jamming

17 Jul
Hi there! Today our friend D’Lisha is sharing her recent FarmerChef experience.  D’Lisha works with us at our restaurant; and her family is definitely into growing and eating real food…last fall she brought us some beautiful red tomatoes. We’ve never made jam (or canned anything for that matter!) so it was interesting and helpful to hear about her experience.

Adventures in Raspberry Jamming

Hello Real Local Cookers!  Thank you to Deanne and Francine for inviting me to share my experience of making raspberry jam for the first time.

Last week was hot and muggy, but I had the opportunity to gather raspberries from the family farm.  There’s a large patch that grows wild; my father-in-law found it in the grove this year.   (For those of you that don’t live in on the prairie, a grove is a bunch of trees strategically planted as a  windbreak.)   In addition to the wild bushes hidden among the trees, my husband, Brian, also has an established patch in one of our many garden spaces.  As our buckets grew full and I chased my energetic 3 year old, Tyler, in and out of the grove, I knew that whatever I made with these berries, it would need to be straightforward and somewhat quick since most of my is spent running after my little man.

A photo of raspberry jamI found this quick and easy recipe on the Seattle Examiner’s Farmers’ Market recipes.  The recipe only called for berries and sugar and promised to take less than an hour to make a few jars. Hooray! Just the ticket, I thought as Tyler climbed to the highest point of our couch, ready to jump from his imaginary mountain.

I’m new to jams so I was unsure how to seal the jars after I got the jam ready. Thank goodness for all the information on the internet! There are many ways to seal jam jars. I discovered that most people use the hot water bath method.

Meanwhile I had purchased Gulf Wax (household paraffin wax) at our local grocery store. I saw that it was for canning and many other uses…who would have thought that you could seal jars and wax a surf board with the same product!!  I was a little put off by its many waxy uses, but I was still willing to find out more about using wax for canning. The more I researched, I found it was not the safest product to use. If you don’t get a good seal you could encounter mold problems in your jams and jellies…and no one wants moldy jam!!

I decided that the best jam jar-sealing method for my family would be to get the jam ready while boiling the lids and jars and preparing the sugar+berry jam mixture.  The recipe I found was very easy to follow.  But next time I would use a different pot and a big whisk, if you use a spoon to stir the boiling jam mixture for 15 minutes you’re bound to get a few burns, like I did…oops!A photo of raspberry jam

After the jam reached my desired consistency, I carefully poured it into the already hot jars (which I’d boiled when making the jam).  Then I put the lids on and flipped them upside down and left them until they were cool to touch which was about an hour. By the time I flipped the jars back over, they were cooled and a nice seal had formed.

I’m so glad that I figured out how to make raspberry jam! My family has been enjoying our raspberry jam with bread I made.  That is a first too!  Tyler really likes to eat the jam on vanilla ice cream.

Have you ever made raspberry jam?  Which method for sealing the jars do you use?

Thanks again for letting me share my FarmerChef experience.  Happy jamming everyone!

Aren’t these hedgehogs by Anne Solfud cute!?  Francine loves hedgehogs and Deanne went strawberry picking a few weeks ago…perfect!

Chinese Cucumber Salad

12 Jul
by Francine

It is finally cucumber time!  We’ve been waiting to share this great tasting salad that Luke and I figured out how to make when he visited me in China last summer.

This is a common cold salad that’s available at many restaurants; although each restaurant prepares it a little bit differently…some add roasted peanuts and others sprinkle the salad with sesame seeds.  I really loved having this salad during the hot summer months (which are now a forgotten memory since I had to wear a jacket and scarf whilst picking strawberries. In June.)A photo of a little dinner guest

I love that they recently served this salad as a FarmerChef special.  While reading over this recipe, I felt like I was sitting at a plastic table, enjoying some barbecued meat on a lazy summer evening! 

And it reminded me of this photo.  That little girl kept toddling over to me to give me boiled peanuts as her mother called me aunty. :) (A shout out to Jo…take-er of the photo.)

Chinese Cucumber Salad

makes 4 servings
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (a good brand is Lee Kum Kee)
  • 1 tbsp canola or another vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 dried bird chili, de-seededphoto of Chinese Cucumber Salad

First wash the cucumbers and cut off the ends. Halve the cucumbers cross-wise. Then cut into half lengthwise and then cut into quarters. Cut the seeds out and slice each quarter into 1 inch pieces.  Place the cucumber pieces in a large bowl. Generously salt and toss them, then refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile combine the soy sauce, canola oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and chili powder in a separate bowl. Mince the garlic and cut the green onions into 1/2 inch pieces. Add the garlic and green onions to the dressing.

Cut the dried red chili into ¼ inch pieces and remove all the seeds. Add to de-seeded chili pieces to the sauce.

Remove cucumbers from the refrigerator and drain off the excess water. Pour the sauce over the cucumbers and stir to coat each cucumber evenly.

One note about the presentation—the oils quickly set so stir the salad once more before serving or throughout the meal.

Another thing you can do is reserve any leftover sauce (once the cucumbers have disappeared) as a marinade for a great stir fry!

Have you ever had cucumbers in a Chinese dish?  In Chinese the word for cucumber is huang gua (黄瓜) which translated literally, means yellow melon….it seems odd at first because cucumbers are green not yellow. But the yellow refers to the yellow flower of the cucumber.  Isn’t that fun!?

Snapshots from England: Breakfast Edition

10 Jul
by Francine

When I was in elementary school, we lived on an Iowa farm (it was a research farm run by Iowa State so it was a big farm with lots and lots of cows). 

In front of our house there was a large feed lot that was often full of cattle.  In the fall when the calves were weened it was very noisy!  BUT the best part of having cows in your front yard…cow friends. 

I would go near the fence and hang out with some of the cows, stroking their soft noses and watching them munch on silage.  Most of the cows were black and dark brown, but there was one that was a pale brown and had a dark nose. It was my favorite.

Around that same time I came upon a framed print of a Jersey cow and I was super excited. “Yes! This is my favorite kind of cow,” I remember proclaiming. Since there weren’t any Jersey or dairy cows on our farm (ours were beef cattle), I was left to admire the ones that were fawn colored and dream of pretty Jersey cow friends.  (The print I discovered as a cow-loving child looked similar to this.)A photo of Jersey milkWell you can imagine my delight when I arrived in England and discovered that you can buy the milk of Jersey cows from the supermarket!  (You can also buy Channel Island milk which is a blend of Jersey and Guernsey milk.) We recently got some and discovered that it makes the best lattes!  It’s 5% fat so it’s extra creamy.  And of course, I don’t mind seeing my lovely Jersey cow friend on the label. :)

On Sunday morning we also had some fresh eggs from Sondes Place Farm.  The eggs are from different breeds of chickens, which is why contents of the egg carton resemble a rainbow and the yolks were deliciously golden.A photo of the eggs

We also made some bacon.  The brand I prefer to buy from the supermarket is called Spoilt Pig.

A photo of the yolks

Another breakfast treat was some leftover treacle tart, I’d gotten Saturday afternoon at this cafe

“What is treacle tart?” you might ask (I asked the same thing).  The answer is sweet, slightly lemony with just a touch of shortbread crust.

A photo of our breakfastIt’s fun to have a leisurely breakfast on the weekend.  Do you have any weekend breakfast traditions?

Also, do you want to see the absolute cutest little lamb?  I saw this little guy when I was looking up the farm from where our eggs came from.  He has one black leg and pink-est ears ever!  Can I get an awwww….?!

PS. I feel the need to disclose my general ignorance about cattle.  I don’t know much about them except that I enjoyed having them around as a child.  If you are cattle farmer and reading this post, I apologise for my probably improper use of the words ‘cows’ and ‘cattle,’ I know there’s a difference, but that’s all I know. ;)

Kohlslaw: A Fresh Twist on a Traditional Recipe

6 Jul
by Deanne

We usually make coleslaw at our restaurant with cabbage.  However last Saturday the farmers’ market, the one that we hold in our restaurant’s parking lot, had kohlrabi.  It is something I’d never heard about before living in Minnesota. I thought it looked really strange, kind of like a little alien with lots of arms.  Since it is not an alien, but an abundant crop this time of year, I did a little research and found this picture and helpful information from Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Florida.Picture of kohlrabi looking like an alienI heard farmers’ market patrons as well as restaurant customers proclaim that they love kohlrabi.  I’ve asked them how they like to prepare it.  The most common response…just bite into it like an apple.

For our FarmerChef special on July 4th we re-thought the idea of doing a patriotic recipe and kept it simple by making a slaw with kohlrabi added together with scallions and carrots from the garden.

Kohlslawpicture of kohlrabi and carrots

  • 4-5 kohlrabi
  • 2 carrots
  • 5-6 scallions
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar (could be brown sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Peel the thick skin off the kohlrabi and cut into pieces. Then grate with either a food processor or by hand. 

Peel and grate the carrots.  Rinse and cut the scallions on the bias. 

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.  Then pour over the veggies and mix well until all have been coated.

Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to serve.  

Have you ever eaten kohlrabi? What kinds of dishes do you like to make with kohlrabi?

Vietnamese BBQ Pork with A Rice Noodle Salad

5 Jul
by Deanne

Francine and I are thankful that the cooking chores in our family are shared among the men in our clan.  Both of our husbands are creative and talented in the kitchen. We also have Luke, our talented blog photographer and son/brother.  He is an amazing chef at the family restaurant and  always coming up with super flavorful dishes.  After we eat what he cooks, we crave that dish the entire next day.

We are excited to share the latest episode from his online cooking show.  Luke explains how easy it is to create great, restaurant-quality  Vietnamese BBQ Pork with A Rice Noodle Salad. (This dish is SO good you guys!!) 

Here’s how he explains the dish…

“In this episode of GamerKitchen, we are making Bun thit nuong, which is rice vermicelli mixed with fresh vegetables and topped with barbecued pork served with a lime dipping sauce (nuoc cham). It fits in well because grilling season is upon us and this dish makes a perfect recipe to share with friends for an afternoon barbecue or get together.”

Is your mouth watering yet?

Beet Berry Salad: A Work in Progress

4 Jul
by Deanne
Have you ever had a great food idea in your head, but then that idea didn’t translate to the plate (aka a flop)? 

That is what happened with this salad.  I dreamed it up to be our FarmerChef special for the 4th of July holiday.  It was going to be red, white and blue.

In my head, the beets were the red,the kohlrabi would be the white, and a blueberry vinaigrette would finish out this patriotic plate. 

As you can see from the picture the color of the blueberry vinaigrette and the beets turned out to be a lovely shade of purple, just not the patriotic colors I was imagining.  It tasted pretty good, but we all agreed that the flavor wasn’t quite right (yet!). So Luke snapped a few pictures, donned the salad with a new name and Steve went back to the kitchen to create a less patriotic FarmerChef special.

This salad may show up again with a refined recipe or it may just become an interesting memory.

Photo of Beet Berry Salad

Are you creating a patriotic dish for your 4th of July celebrations?  Do you have a favorite beet salad recipe? 

Have a fun 4th and hopefully there are some flops (the sandal kind) in your day! :)

Snapshots from England: Strawberry Picking

2 Jul
by Francine

I’m pretty excited I was finally able to join everyone else in strawberry picking (and eating)!

Last weekend we were able to go strawberry picking…the strawberry season had a late start due to the especially soggy weather.

A photo of the field

A cloudy summer day for strawberry picking but no rain! :)

A photo of the strawberry plants

The plants were loaded with strawberries!

A handful of strawberries

Working hard to pick as many ripe berries as possible…and trying to stay warm! :)

A photo of me picking

These tiny flowers were growing amongst the rows.

A photo of some tiny flowers

And an update on the salad greens I’m growing on my balcony

A photo of the greensThey’re doing well…a bit overgrown and not very hearty, but we did manage to harvest enough lettuce to put on our tacos last weekend.

Hope you’re doing well and getting ready to celebrate the 4th (if you live in the USA) and enjoying your summer!

ps…In case you’d like to see, here are some more snapshots I’ve taken in England…late April edition and red, white and blue Jubilee edition.

Garden Tour: Late June 2012

2 Jul
by Deanne

It has already been a month since we shared a garden tour of the raised beds and other plants growing near our restaurant.  We have been using the vegetables we’ve grown for FarmerChef specials.

As you can see, the beans have survived their episode with thrips.

Photo of Beans

Summer heat has set in so we are done picking lettuce.  But we are getting ready to harvest our beets.

Photo of Beets

We’ve pulled a few carrots so far.

Photo of Carrots

The onions are showing their shoulders.  Is this a sign they can be harvested?

Photo of Onions

A cute little pepper still on the vine.

A photo of a pepper on the vine

A few weeks ago we wondered about our tomatoes.  The leaves were dry and looked unhealthy.  Our local master gardener, Mike Tomschin, said the only thing wrong with them is they are Roma tomatoes.  He said this with a smile and went on to explain that Roma tomatoes that grow in our area don’t handle the fluctuation in temperature well.  His prediction that they would be fine once the warm summer nights hit, has proved to be correct.  Thanks Mike!

Photo of Romas Growing on the Vine

How’s your garden looking?

( Another BIG thanks to Luke for taking the photos.)