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A Celebration of Local Food: Downtown Farmers’ Market

27 Oct
 by Deanne

Before I left Southwest Minnesota, many people told me about the weekly celebration of local food that occurs in downtown Des Moines every Saturday morning from May until October. Photo of crowd at DSM Downtown Farmers Market

I have been able to visit the market three times since we have arrived in September. This last Saturday was the final day for the market this year.   Photo of lovely colors at DSM Farmers Market

It was a brisk, yet bright and breezy day to take in the sounds (local entertainment), sights (bountiful displays of vegetables and fruit), and the tempting aromas (lots of food vendors).  I got a little distracted by the beautiful fall colors at the honey table but then I snapped into focus and started filling my bag with eggs, eggplant, apples, garlic, spaghetti squash, bok choy, and watermelon radish.

Photo of eggs, garlic, eggplant etc.

I so admire the spirit of the farmers who work hard all week and diligently arrive (from long distances) early in the morning to set up their booths. More than a few farmers wore costumes and held down their canopies as the breeze turned into winter-y gusts that ripped through the canyon of city blocks.

Photo of vendors in costumes

In the end, I found a brochure that lifted my spirits…The Winter Farmers’ Market in November in December. (It is inside!)

I had a chuckle from this article that was re-tweeted on Saturday.  It explains the five types of people you might see at the market.  Check it out…which one are you?

 

 

Carp – It’s what’s for dinner

4 Jun
Hi there! Today our friend Mike Bartz shares his recent FarmerChef experience.  It is really a FisherChef experience.  We NEVER thought of eating carp but now with this insight it might be a possibility. However, I’d invite myself to Mike’s home before I’d actually catch a carp and gut and skin the fish. :)   Thanks Mike!

Photo of Marinated CarpCarp – It’s what’s for dinner

A few days ago my buddy Kurt called and wondered if I might enjoy a beautiful fresh caught Carp from the Cottonwood River. Now most people shun the ruff fish and most anglers heap them up on the bank hoping to rid the river of the “garbage” fish but Kurt and I know a little kept secret – Carp are quite delicious if prepared right. Here’s how I fix my carp…

Grilled Carp

First, gut and skin the fish. An ideal fish is about 3-4 pounds (just big enough to fit on a charcoal grill, about 2 inches thick across the back). To skin the fish simply slice the skin behind the head and use pliers to pull the skin and scales towards the tail.

Next, “brine” the fish, soak the fish in salt water over-night in the refrigerator – I don’t know is this does anything but the fish seems less fishy…

The next day…An hour and a half before dinner, prepare the marinade. Remove the fish from the brine and let it dry slightly, next “score” the sides of the fish, (slice the side of the fish every half inch or so, along the side. This allows the marinade to penetrate the meat and for ease of grilling. Marinade the fish for 1 hour in a baking pan in the refrigerator…

Start the grill…enjoy a cool beverage…say hello to the neighbors and when they ask you what you are grilling tell them carp and enjoy the funny looks you’ll get…

The grill must be HOT. Don’t skimp on the coals…this is carp not Ahi Tuna…

Grill each side 6-9 minutes, depending in thickness. Turn the fish 1 time. The fish is done when the meat begins to flake. I like to pour the left over marinade over the fish while grilling…

The carp is sure to be tasty and a big surprise for those dining…Most people know carp are a very boney fish however the majority of the bones are in the top half. We eat from the middle to the bottom of the fish and avoid most bones…

Photo of scored carp

I served mine with a fresh cabbage salad and Garden Asparagus gifted from the neighbors, very delicious! Happy eating!!!

Marinade

2 Limes – squeezed

Small bunch of chives – finely chopped

5-7 Cloves of garlic – minced

Teaspoon Cumin

Cup of Cilantro – chopped

¼ cup olive oil

Sea Salt to taste

Dash of heat (cayenne or other pepper) – if desired

Photo of Plated Carp

Camelina: Seed to Oil

8 May
by Deanne

Last March, after looking in the Minnesota Grown directory, Francine and I drove out to a little farm just south of Lamberton and met Kathleen Smith.  You might have read our posts about this local grower’s product.  From that original meeting we have created some great tasting recipes like the Sunshine Grilled Chicken Salad, Rhubarb Scones, and Two Sister’s and a Friend Salad in a Jar.  The one ingredient these recipes have in common is an American grown oil that comes from a tiny little reddish brown seed called the camelina seed. 

Camelina-Blog-Post-530x350

Last summer our son/brother, Lucas Bryce decided to capture their family’s story.  While editing the production he got excited about their message and the beauty of their family farm and decided to submit it to the 2013 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.  It was selected as a film to be shown for their Earth Day, Minnesota Made category.

When you submit a film to a festival you are not able to show it publicly until it premiers during the festival.    Now we are finally able to make it available here.  It is titled Camelina: Seed to OilWe hope you enjoy watching the film.

Learning from Leon

30 Apr
by Deanne

Prior to our trip to the UK last November, I briefly connected with The  Intolerant Gourmet, author and blogger, Pippa Kendrick  via twitter.Photo of Leon Front End

She offered suggestions on several places in London that work well for people with food allergies or food intolerance.  One particular restaurant called Leon looked interesting to us because they do quick service food in a way that incorporates good ingredients and tasty food. That caught our attention because we were hoping to adapt  the menu of our new restaurant to better meet the needs of people on a variety of diets.

Steve and Luke visited the Regent Street location in London during the very busy lunch hour. Here are some pictures of the food they ordered:

Photo of Grilled Meatballs on a Seasonal Salad

The food was fresh and flavorful and the service was quick.

Back in our little restaurant we have added our own version of the rice box. We call it the Flavor of the Day Rice Plate.  The response has been surprisingly good.  Whenever I take a rice plate out to the dining room heads turn and people ask to know more about the dish.

Photo of Garlic Chicken Rice Box

Posole: A Great Dish for Leftover Pork Roast

15 Mar
by Deanne

Photo of Posole

I love the idea of using leftovers in new ways.  Here is an interesting soup or stew from Mexican cooking that was there in Mesoamerica before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Anyone remember the grade school rhyme well enough to shout out the year?

In preparing our version, you have a choice:  You can add shredded leftover pork roast directly or you can twice roast the pork using a little stock, liquid smoke (if you like that flavor) and some sauteed onions.  If you pick this route, just spread the mixture on a cooking sheet and bake in an 350 degree oven until crispy but not burnt.  Then use this crispy pork in the recipe below.

Pasole

 2 Tablespoons oil

1  onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Anaheim or Poblano pepper, diced

2 and 1/2 cups chicken stock

3/4 pound of twice roasted pork

1 can hominy, drained

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced

4 scallions, diced

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Instant Corn Masa Flour, just enough to thicken

Salt to taste

Garnish with shredded green or red cabbage, radishes, scallions, tiny diced red pepper and/or cilantro

1.  Mince and dice onions, garlic, Anaheim peppers, cilantro and scallions.

2.  Heat oil over medium heat.

3.  Add onions, garlic, and peppers and sweat until they just start to brown.

4.  Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan. 

5.  Add roast pork and any drippings if you have them.

6.  Add remaining ingredients, salt to taste and thicken with masa.

If you like the history of food, it is probably worth noting that I found a potential skeleton in the closet when researching the history of this dish.  Honest Cooking, an interesting online cooking magazine, explained the history of Pazole and it’s adaption since ancient times.

Real Food Is…

8 Mar

by Deanne

Real food is….food prepared in a kitchen using simple culinary skills and whole food ingredients. For flavor, real food utilizes dried spices or fresh herbs instead of added salt, sugar, and fat. Photo of spices

-as defined by owners of Solar’s Real Food

In our last post we asked how you define real food.   We didn’t get much conversation going, but a lot of views on the blog.  While the definition may change as we venture into the world of real food, we are starting small by making a distinction between food that is prepared vs. food that is processed.  

Processed food is …. a food-like substance engineered in a lab, prepared in a factory and re-heated or combined with other ingredients in a restaurant or home kitchen. Processed food became a larger part of our collective lives during the 20th century.  Now in the 21st century, processed food is under increased scrutiny for health concerns.

Last week Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us was published by author Michael Moss.  The book tells the fascinating story about the business of selling food. If you don’t have time to read the whole book you can read this excerpt called The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.

Most food companies are doing what businesses do: maximize profits by meeting customer’s needs. Unless they are a smaller food company with a distinct mission, they are probably not set up to give us healthy food choices, those choices are for individual consumers sort out for themselves.

Link to Photo from nytimes articleLike most people, I didn’t pay much attention to all this processed food.  In fact I remember when Oscar Mayer came out with Lunchables. I actually got excited about the ease of use and bought them for special treats.

According the the excerpt from the book, many of us have been buying food that has been engineered to taste good, convenient, and as affordable as possible. As a result, we have become addicted to these food choices. That is really good for food companies and their shareholders but maybe not so good for us  in the long run when it comes to our health.

When enough people want something different, the food companies will scramble to change so they can continue to make money. However because of the addictive nature of processed foods, change is really hard.

I know I have felt overwhelmed by the ubiquity of processed foods in our  busy lives and cravings for tasty convenient food. Confession time…as I write this, I am nibbling on empty sugar calories.

This summer our business will run a mostly real food cafe. We hope people discover that real food can taste good.  Our new menu will feature both real food and processed food on the menu.  When meeting the needs of people with allergies and  food intolerance, and those on special diets,  real food with simple ingredients, makes it easier for people to determine what to order.

As an example, a person could order chicken strips and fries…a fairly traditional fast processed food or a Southwest Rice Plate which is less processed and prepared in our kitchen. The ingredients for the rice plate will be listed on the menu and include things you might find in your own kitchen.  The ingredients on the bag of the chicken strips is not as easy to understand but we do make it available for those that ask.

Solar Gardens-1

In the summer, when the farmers market returns and our garden is producing, we will also feature FarmerChef specials like we did last year.  Change is slow but because we are starting to want these kind of choices when we eat out and travel, we want to provide them to our customers.  

How about you, do you look for restaurants that offer more real food options?

What is Real Food?

27 Feb
by Deanne

RealFood_LogokitcafeOur new business is called Solar’s Real Food: Kitchen and Cafe.  The name brings about two implicit questions: 

  1. Who the heck is solar?
  2. What is real food?

Solar Drive-In was the name of our family’s first restaurant . We originally named the restaurant Solar because we installed solar panels. We had really good luck in the restaurant business. The food tasted wonderful, the customers supported us immensely, and the employees where bright-eyed.  

Following our passions, we planted a raised bed garden outside our building and the food grew really well with just a  few challenges.  This beginners luck soon began to take on the name “Solar Magic.”  With all of that going for us you can see why we would want to hang on to the name solar.

Photo of fresh food and quote from Julia ChildAs for real food, we could say a lot.  But  before we explain our own perspective. It would be great to know what others think?  Perhaps it needs no definition, perhaps we all intuitively know.   Here is a quote by spunky Julia Child to help us ponder the question:  What is real food?

Deanne’s Favorites of 2012

1 Jan
by Deanne

This Real Local Cooking journey has been a fun way to record the things I learned in 2012 and having a blog to chronicle all this learning allows for many moments of reflection.bagel

2012 was a year of change in terms of my awareness about food (something I’d previously never thought much about).  It was also a year in which I (and my husband) put our values into action and  decided to close our drive-in restaurant in August. 

Cooking is where it all began .  I took an interest in cooking again after many years of seeing it as a chore.  I cracked open my Joy of Cooking book and made Chicken Cacciatore and learned how bagels are made by making a batch in our kitchen.

In March I reached out to meet people who care about local food.  I discovered that Kathleen and her family live nearby and they grow and produce Omega Maiden Camelina Oil onA photo of the oil used in the dressing their farm. We’ve enjoyed creating recipes, like scones and dressings, with camelina oil.  We’ve also enjoyed the friendship of Kathleen, her husband Justin, and their sweet daughter, Amana and we got to know the rest of her family when we held our first Veg-In in September.

Saying good bye to Francine in April was a difficult but an important step in my growth as a mother of adult children. 

When Francine moved to England, I had a chance to learn about another culture in many of her posts…this snapshot post stands out as an early memory for me or her first month in her new home.  I also learning about cobnuts in her A What Nut post.

A photo of the granola

In August, the Minnesota Cooks event at the Minnesota State Fair turned out to be educational when I unexpectedly learned more the importance of adding Omega 3 to our diets.  Go Omega Maiden!  (It is a great source of Omega 3.)Photo of 2012-13 Mn Cooks Calandar

As Steve and I dream about the future of our business and clarify our vision for opening a new restaurant this summer, we remember the visits we made at various UK Farm Shops in November.  It was wonderful to  discover that the English have found a nice marriage between restaurants and locally grown products.  

Photo of Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop

Now, as the new year begins, Steve and I visiting family in California.  We peeled our first pomegranate and made a toast to our dreams for 2013.   

Cheers everyone and here’s to a wonderful 2013!A photo of a pomegranate

Pomegranate Cocktail

(from the book we purchased yesterday, The Art of Real Food)
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Veg Out or Veg In?

9 Sep
by Deanne

Vegging out…according to phrase.org it means that we “relax in a slothful and mindless manner.”  While it’s sometimes nice to be slothful, in my experience it’s also the main way to deal with stress–large and small.

May I propose a new method of dealing with stress…vegging in?  Vegging in involves family, friends, cooking and of course, vegetables!  (Vegetables?   Yes.  Many a gardener will attest that planting a seed, watching it grow and caring for it is one of the best activities to bring calm to a stressful life.  We’ve found that it’s a mindful activity that has paid us back in flavour and adventure.)-The idea of vegging in is to take the vegetables, fruits, herbs, or another ingredients that you’ve grown or purchased at a farmer’s market add family or friends and head to the kitchen to cook together!

Our family vegged in to celebrate Labor Day here in the US.  We invited another family, looked at our box of veggies, divided into teams and then went into kitchen in teams to create a meal from the ingredients we’d gathered together.   That full box of veggies is what we had to work with (lucky us!)  If we were in the UK, Francine tells me that we’d call it a box of “veg” not veggies. :)

Photo of box of veggies for veg in

We discovered that a veg in is the opposite of mindless and slothful.  It was energizing to cook, share ideas and discover new ingredients with our friends. There were some non-cooks and shy cooks (me included) in the group, but that wasn’t a problem; they teamed up with a cook for awhile and then helped out by picking flowers or setting the table.  We found that the regular stress of having friends over for dinner vanished because we were all in it together.  And the final result of our veg in…delicious and precisely seasonal!

Photo of the meal we prepared at our first veg in

So Real Local Cookers, if you live close to us would you consider coming to our next veg in?    There is no cost,  just circle the date on the calendar and bring what you’ve grown or purchased from a local grower or an interesting ingredient you purchased from the local grocery store.  If you don’t live near us, will you try vegging in with your friends and family?

Fiery Corn and Black Bean Salsa

3 Sep
by Deanne

Yesterday in our garden tour  post, we showed pictures of our abundant tomatoes.  Here’s a delicious way to use them up and practice your knife skills at the same time! In his most recent GamerKitchen episode, Luke makes a great tasting salsa that can double as a snack or dinner-sized salad.

Luke used one Serrano pepper – the heat was just right, but I’m sure one jalapeno would be good too.

What heat level do you think you’ll choose?