The Cupboard Cook and slow food

In this installment, the Cook wants to converse with you about the concept of FAST.  It seems that everyone is in a big hurry to do everything these days.  This fast pace of life invades everything we do.  Fast is good and fast is bad, the Yin-Yang, the black and white.  Fast is good when you are racing (running, swimming, biking, etc.) and want to win.  The Cook likes fast here.  Fast is bad if you are having brain surgery or a heart transplant and Cook really does not like fast there, but when fast relates to food and our kitchens?  Fast food predominates our eating lifestyle, maybe this is good and maybe this is bad.  The Cupboard Cook likes to eat but likes to eat good and healthy so he can be fast when racing.

One does not have to travel far to find fast food establishments in the States, but for fast foods, Cook thinks Japan wins.  Talk about fast food!  Walking down the streets and hunger attacks, what is one to do?  No problem because they have vending machines along the streets for fast food.  Plunk in you coins and hit the button, hot Udon noodles with the trimmings right now!  One hardly has to break a stride.  No drive-in or take-out windows and a much greener footprint plus the added value of burning off those newly consumed calories while you enjoy them.  A stroll down supermarket isles really is a stroll down a fast food lifestyle.  Offerings of canned this, pre-packaged that and instant everywhere else, has doomed us to the lifestyle.  Europe still has fresh markets in each town nearly everyday and the residents enjoy their eating, so much so, that many town activities come to a halt during the meal times.  Could it be coincidence that they have fewer strokes and heart issues than the fast food culture nations?  Cook does not know but certainly thinks so.  And do not get the Cook started on all of the gizmos that one can buy to make things in the kitchen faster.  Why do you need them if you buy all of your food fast anyway?  Oops, the Cook is speaking in dangerous waters as the Cook is working in a store that sells these gizmos.  Aren’t these marvelous gizmos that make things faster in the kitchen just wonderful.

Right then, what is your opinion of fast food and fast food lifestyles, favorite fast foods, etc.?

Now the Cook will pass on a recipe for the best fast food type of fries without the fat added.  Frites is what we shall call them and they can be made in no time.  Well, maybe not near as fast as Mc’Ds or others, but in 20 minutes, you will have some good fries that will keep you fast and lean.

Frites the Cook way (to serve 2)

2-4 medium or large potatoes (Yukon Gold, Russet, or any sweet potatoes or yams)              

1 tablespoon of olive or canola oil

salt, pepper and seasoning to taste.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees

Wash the potatoes and dry with a paper towel.  The best tasting frites have the skins left on as this adds some crunch to the finished product.  Cut the potatoes into 1/3 inch square strips (or to a size you prefer).  They can also be cut into rounds like a chip.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl and toss with the oil just to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper or seasonings of your choice and place on a large baking sheet.  Cook for about 12-15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.  Do not over cook unless you like frites that are incinerated.

Try these and you will not look back at the pull in or drive-up window.

Cook has to go as it is mealtime.  Slow eating to all!!

Change the Way You Eat with The Food Matters Cookbook

Author Mark Bittman experienced a revelatory moment that changed his life.

Bittman, a New York Times columnist and author of several bestselling cookbooks including “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” read a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”  This report, on the connection between the livestock industry and global warming, included a statistic that stopped the author in his tracks: the report stated that about 70% of all the land on earth is devoted to livestock production and generates 18% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, almost 1/5 of all greenhouse gasses produced (the Worldwatch Institute estimates that livestock and other by-products may account for as much as 50% of greenhouse emissions).  This news came at a pivotal time in Bittman’s life: he had high blood sugar levels, was overweight and had sleep apnea.  His doctor strongly encouraged him to change his diet.

Bittman linked all these issues together–his own health problems, Americans’ eating habits, the health of the planet–and came up with a personal action plan to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and legumes, and less meat products.  The result of this shift to a more plant-base cuisine was the 2009 bestseller, “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating.”

The next logical step was to create a cookbook with practical applications for Bittman’s new plan of conscious eating.  “The Food Matters Cookbook” is a collection of 500 recipes of mostly plant-based or whole grain foods that are easy to make and approchable for most anyone who cooks.  The book is broken into three parts: Eating like Food Matters (the Food Matters philosophy defined in depth), Cooking like Food Matters (myth-debunking, ingredients, technique, using the cookbook), and the recipes.  One key ingredient of Bittman’s Food Matters philosophy is simplicity:  as he states in the book, you can skip all the pertinent info in the beginning and jump right into the recipes and start cooking.  And, according to Bittman, you’ll find it’s not hard to re-prioritize your diet and eating habits from meat-centered to plant-centered.  And you can save money in the process.

With “The Food Matters Cookbook”, Bittman is leading the way for an ever-growing movement in America away from bad eating choices and environmentally destructive food production practices toward a more environmentally conscious and healthy way of eating.  And it’s about time.

The Cupboard Cook…an introduction

We have a secret weapon here at the store, a person who knows an incredible amount about food and all things culinary.  He has agreed to write and share a little bit of his cooking knowledge on our blog.   He likes to remain, “under the radar”, so to speak, and will be known as The Cupboard Cook.  I hope you enjoy his additions to the blog.

Introducing the Cupboard Cook (that would be me) and a series of ramblings and words of kitchen trivia, wisdom, gibberish, recipes and other things of a culinary nature.  When approached to write these features for The Cupboard Blog, the Cupboard Cook first had to find out what a blog was.  Sorry, but please know that the Cupboard Cook still uses a Princess dial phone and finds the best keyboard is that of a 1922 Remington typewritter.  Blog:  Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary has no entry for blog so no enlightenment here.  The Cook has been told that writing on a blog is very informal so that the copies of the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style Manual that have been acting together as a plant stand, can remain undisturbed.  Cook has not figured a way to plug the Remington into the blog, so the Cook will just type the words out and leave them on a seemingly appropriate bloggish desk, with the hopes that they make their way to this blog thing.

Take Stock In Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ll admit it, I was not super excited to see the snow this week.

I love Christmas and snow certainly makes thing pretty, but I’ll be honest, I could really, really do without the cold.  See, I’m one of those the thermostat is set to 68 and I still have on slippers, 3 sweaters, mittens, a scarf, and a parka all winter long people.  And that’s just inside. I seem to always be cold.

Photo by Gudlyf

Now I’ve found a few resources to help me combat the winter chill.  There’s tea, blankets, and personal favorite, snuggling.  But if I really want to warm up from the inside out, I go straight to soup.

This works out really well for me, because I love making soup too.  In those moments of CSA share overwhelm, when I’m up to my eyeballs in veggies with no way out, I toss soup together, and often pack away a stash for colder months as well.

Photo by www.WorthTheWhisk.com

When I first started eating locally and making soups, I relied heavily on Better Than Bouillon (still a staple in a pinch) and vegan option Rapunzel vegetable bouillon.  However, when I started taking a real interest in making sure my meat was local as well as my veggies, I started making my own stock.

I’m going to be honest, I started doing this for the sole reason that local meat, good clean meat, is more expensive than I was accustomed to.   And as someone who doesn’t have an unlimited food budget, but is dedicated to be as local as possible, I needed to get every last morsel (and penny) out of a meat purchase.

Once I started regularly making stock, I noticed something else: Homemade stock is delicious.  Most stock recipes are day long affairs, I prefer a quick stock, like in the recipe I chose here.

1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
10 sprigs parsley
10 sprigs time
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
4 pounds chicken legs, wings, and necks
2 quarts cold water

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion; sauté until colored and softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and cook until the celery has begun to get tender, another 3-4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add half of the chicken pieces to the pot; sauté both sides until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to the bowl with the vegetable mixture. Sauté the remaining chicken pieces. Return the vegetables and chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to high; add the water, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then cover and barely simmer until the stock is rich and flavorful, about 30 minutes.

Strain the stock and discard the solids. Cool the stock, then place in a container in the fridge until cold, and all the fat rises to the top and sets. Skim off the fat, then you may keep the stock in the fridge for up to 2 days, and in the freezer for 6 months.

Makes about 2 quarts of stock.

I like to make stock ahead and store bags in the freezer, pulling them out for use as needed.

You’ll want to be sure to stop by the Cupboard tomorrow, Saturday between 1 and 4 pm.  Chef Happy, aka Scott Hapner, and I are going to be talking all things chicken.  Scott’s talking roasting whole birds and a delicious chicken salad.  I’ll be covering the soup end of the bird, making the stock from above, and then turning that into a tasty chicken noodle courtesy of an Alton Brown recipe, found next.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Alton Brown

4 cups chicken stock
1 diced onion
3 Ribs diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 ounces dried egg noodles
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Bring stock to boil for 2 minutes in a large, non-reactive stockpot with lid on, over high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Lower heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add noodles and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and add herbs and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with lemon halves and add squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Soups on!  We look forward to seeing you Saturday!

Sweet Pepper Pile Up?

Last week, when I could hardly close my crisper drawer because of the overabundance of sweet peppers from my Grant Family Farms CSA share, I knew something had to be done.

Problem was it was 9:45 at night following a very, very full day.  I knew I could make sweet pepper jam or pickle those peppers, but both those things, no matter how delicious, required far more than the 20 minutes I was willing to spend dealing with my pepper population problem before sleeping that night.

Common sense to the rescue.

I thought I remembered something about being able to freeze peppers with very little effort. I consulted my Ball Blue Book and remembered this was indeed possible.  I simply needed to wash, remove the stem and seeds, and was good to go.  I could freeze the peppers whole (less steam and seed), in strips (for fajitas!), or diced.

20 minutes later, I had turned 2 drawers worth of peppers into 2 Ziplocs worth of quick veggie add ins.  Not bad!!

What are you swimming in right now from your CSA?  Have a good food storage tip?  We’d love to hear it.  Leave us a comment!