Archive | January, 2014

What if… Everyone Had Knife Skills?

29 Jan Photo of Knife Skill Teaching
by Deanne

The “What if” question for last week involved encouraging people to cook at home.  If we want to cook at home we can save ourselves a lot of time and money in the kitchen by developing our skills with a chef knife. 

For some reason I  never developed the practice of using a chef knife until we opened our restaurant in 2008.  Steve and Luke both taught me how to use one. In fact our home kitchen didn’t have one until my sister-in-law noticed and gave us one as a gift.  I don’t think I am alone based on the number of people I have talked to about cooking at home.

This video does a pretty good job of teaching the basics.  

I have also included a video from Luke’s cooking series on the chiffonade technique for cutting greens and making things look pretty.

If you want to select some other knives besides a chef knife, here is a good article that can help when picking out knives.   Let us know your thoughts on our what if…..real food Wednesday questions.

Just Right: Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

27 Jan

by Deanne

I have been working on this recipe for awhile.  I found a recipe online but it made the pancakes too rubbery.  I liked the recipe because there is no added sugar.  The sweetness comes from the apples. With a few adjustments I knew I was on the right track and then Sunday morning Steve and I tried them again. They were delicious! Photo of Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

You will find this to be a super easy wheat-free recipe that doesn’t have any special gluten-free flour or any of the gums usually added to gluten-free flour.   If you are sensitive to gluten, you know the drill by now, to purchase oats that were processed in a gluten-free facility. 

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes  (makes 5 medium to large pancakes)

2 apples, peeled, sliced and cored

1 1/2 cup oat flour*  (156 grams)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup milk  (we used coconut milk)

Start by cooking the apples in a pan over low heat.  The apples will  get soft and you can mash them and continue cooking.  If you use a low enough heat you will not need to add any water. 

Combine  oat flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon mixture in a bowl. 

To the dry mixture add the cooked apples, mix in eggs and milk.  Mix away!

If you’ve made wheat flour pancakes in the past you have been told to not over mix the batter. (Like in this recipe by Alton Brown) The reason for this caution is that the gluten in the flour will start to develop to the point of making the pancakes tough.  For this batter you can mix it as much as you like since there is no gluten to develop. So when making pancakes with kids this would be a good recipe to use.

Heat a dry non-stick skillet and spray with a pan release product before you cook your first pancake. 

*How to make Oat Flour

Making oat flour is as easy as taking old fashioned oats and pulsing them in the blender.  If you make extra you can use in other recipes like the Oatcake recipe we did in the past.   Thanks, Francine for teaching me that. :)

What if… Restaurants Promoted Cooking at Home?

23 Jan
by Deanne

It seems like a crazy idea for a restaurant to promote cooking at home.  But being concerned about the quality of prepared food that is normally served in restaurants, we instigated a promotion during the month of August and September called The FarmerChef Project. Photo of Pickle Recipe  We recruited two other restaurants to join our restaurant in offering recipes of dishes that we prepared using local ingredients.  Then offered recipes for customers to prepare the dish at home.  Even though the promotion is officially over, you can check out the recipes by clicking on our icon which will take you to the  pinterest page. Logo for FarmerChefs

As part of the promotion we worked with University of Minnesota Extension to help us survey restaurant customers about their preferences for local food and cooking. There is a myth that says people won’t pay for better quality ingredients. Our survey respondents reported that they were willing to pay from 5% to 25% more for a meal prepared with local ingredients?

Would you like to see more restaurants promote cooking at home with local products?  If they did, would it help to repair our broken food system?

What if… Your Neighbor Was an Organic Farmer ?

15 Jan Photo of Pinterest Board
by Deanne

What if… your neighbor was an organic farmer?  Photo of Pinterest Board

The lead article in yesterday’s Des Moines Register begins with this line:

A Des Moines-area developer is betting Iowans not only want to know the farmer who grows their food, they will also want to live next door to him.

I would change “him” to “him/her” because there is also another trend that says women farmers are on the rise.

The article doesn’t mention the location that the developers are considering.  There is a realization that housing developers have moved away from golf courses because they are expensive to maintain.  It is exciting to see this trend develop.  I actually know two farmers who are in the process of building an organic farm and teaching center on 10 acres near Ankeny.  In fact, we had dinner them last night and had a chance to see their plans.  As their story unfolds I look forward to sharing more. 

In the meantime we can all dream about these types of developments by looking at the ones that already exist.  Check out the pins on our FarmerChefs Pinterest account.

Whole Wheat Honey Biscuits

14 Jan
by Deanne

All the reading I did about Food Trends for 2014 got me hungry for biscuits.  So I followed Steve around the kitchen last night as he put together a batch of whole wheat honey biscuits.  He doesn’t follow recipes so I have to have a pen in hand if I want to re-create it later.Photo of biscuits

Lightly crisp on the outside and warm and steamy on the inside, was the experience I enjoyed when I sampled them.  Oh yes, they have a hint of sweetness from the honey.  The were even slightly FarmerChef-y. The honey was purchased last summer at the farmers market.  If you get a chance, do buy local wheat flour from a local farmer as we have done in the past.

Whole Wheat Honey Biscuits

(makes 9 biscuits)Photo of teapot and biscuit

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup honey

3/4 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and use pastry cutter to mix in the small pieces of cold butter.  Combine until the mixture looks like gravel. Then add honey and milk and combine into a ball in the center of the bowl.  If needed add a little more flour to hold everything together. Place on a floured surface and shape into a square.  Use pastry cutter to cut into 9 or 12 biscuits depending on how big you’d like them to be. Put biscuits on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Snuggle up with a cup of tea and good book and enjoy!

What if… Real Food was Convenient?

8 Jan
by Deanne

What if… real food was as convenient as picking it up at the end of a busy day? You know, kind of like a personal chef but a bit more affordable.

Good news!  There is an expansion going on in the good food movement.  As I wrote this post I got an email with a link to this article. To me, the article shows that there is a growing demand for better quality food that is convenient.

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Lueders who owns The Grateful Chef in Des Moines.  She is the real deal in terms of a chef creating a business that supports her family doing what she loves.  Not to mention that she uses wholesome ingredients for those that want good food but don’t have the time in their day to make it.  I am kinda lucky because I live with a chef, but hey, even he needs a break.

thegratefulchefOn my way home from my volunteer work, I picked up two dishes that I ordered earlier in the week.  The way it works:  1. A person signs up to receive an email with the selections each week.  2.  Once you get the email, you decide if you want to order that week and place the order by Monday evening. 

Brandy uses the commercial kitchen at The Wallace House on 16th Street here in Des Moines.  She prepares the food to order and on Wednesday evenings her customers stop by the kitchen to pick up their food on their way home from work.  Today she also had farm fresh eggs available for sale from a local farmer.

Photo of orderI couldn’t wait till dinner, I just had to dig into the nutty quinoa apple salad.  Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, I saved some for Steve.  I also ordered a Moroccan Style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew.  Both of these dishes were vegan friendly for those that want to eat their #phytosfirst.   We are that new breed of eater who is not strictly vegan but like to order it whenever possible.  In our case we like to learn what you can do with veggies.

Please share with me any kind of service you find in your community that is similar, I would like to do a follow-up post and share ideas to support concept of eating real food.

Photo of Quinoa Salad

Midwestern Food: #1 Trend for 2014

5 Jan
by Deanne

Photo of The Midwestern Table Book CoverHappy New Year!  On this first cold Sunday in January, Steve and I stayed inside and read about all the food trends for 2014. Each publication we read seemed to have a slightly different spin on the trends.  But we liked the list that put Midwestern food, they don’t even call it a cuisine, on the top of the list. A new show on the Food Network called Heartland Table is introducing this part of the world to those who haven’t been here.  The host of the show is Amy Thielen who is the author of the book the Midwestern Table.

One trend spotter, Kathy Gunst, even went so far as to say that the Midwest will be a destination for foodies.

If this is true and you are packing your bags, we are happy to share some Midwestern gems we’ve reviewed:

Birchwood Cafe:  Minneapolis, MN  11+Photo: Walking to the Cafe
Fresh Market and Cafe:  West Des Moines, IA  13.5+
Kitchen Table:  Omaha, NE  14+
River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN  13+
Verdant Tea:  Minneapolis, MN  12.5+
Wise Acre Eatery:  Minneapolis, MN  12.5+
Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI 14+

We have our eyes on a few places in Des Moines and around Iowa worth a visit in the year ahead:  Salt Fork Kitchen, Alba Restaurant, The Des Moines Cheese Shop, and HOQ.  All of these restaurants are on our list because they source local food.