Using Kim Chee

Oddly, I find myself using kim chee frequently.  Maybe you attended my lacto-fermentation class, or read an old post of mine, Anticipation,  where you learned about it.  You got a bunch of napa cabbage, and kohlrabi, and various other greens, and you made a lot of varieties.  And it is all in your fridge.  You aren’t eating Korean food every night, so now it is just sitting there.  In this world of diversity, there is more to do with this spicy side dish than merely pairing it with bulgogi!  You can mix things up and put some on a burger or hotdog.  Not things we would normally put kim chee on, and I do not know what possessed me to try it, but I did and both were really great.  Scrambled eggs benefit from a dollop, as well.

Here are some other recipes I came up with that use kim chee as an ingredient:

Kim Chee Slaw

  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup of kim chee

In a large bowl, mix this all together.  I know, I know.  It sounds gross.  Mayo and kim chee.  Please trust me on this.  It is the best slaw.  So, so good!

Changed Overs

Do you have members of the family who won’t eat leftovers?  Here’s a way to recycle leftovers:

  • 2 cups leftover meat, cut up in bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 cups leftover vegetables
  • 1 cup of kim chee

In a large bowl, mix all of this together.

If your family prefers hot food, you can put this in a casserole dish and heat it in the oven, just until it is heated through.

In the summer we like this room temperature or cold, served over hot rice, or tossed into pho (rice noodles) that have been soaked in boiled water for about a minute.

Don’t think about kim chee as a stand alone side.  Think about it as a way to flavor other things!  In the winter, I love to heat up some stock (make your own — Stock Going Up!) and add about a 1/4 c of kim chee.  Fast, easy, delicious and really good for you!

Living La Vita Locale: Blueberry Season is Here

Image result for blueberry whitesbog

My heart leaps when I see that little blue sign by the side of the road that says, “U-Pick Blueberries” with a bright orange arrow with “3.5 miles” stenciled across it.  It is the annual symbol that blueberry season is here.  The season for the most valuable crop in New Jersey, the official state fruit.  My little home state ranks fifth in the nation for blueberry production, behind Washington State, Oregon, Georgia and Michigan (not in that order).

Fun fact: The commercial blueberry was first cultivated in Whitesbog, NJ by Elizabeth Coleman White, and agricultural scientist Frederick Coville. The low-bush wild blueberries were very prolific throughout the Pine Barrens, and White read about Coville’s work on the  blueberry in an agriculture journal.  In 1910, she and her father, cranberry barron and landowner, Joseph White, convinced Coville to join them in Whitesbog to continue his work with the added efforts of White.  The result is the blueberry as we know it today.  If you are in the area, you can take a tour of the historic Whitesbog Village, and maybe even pick a few blueberries.

This year, I think I finally perfected a no-bake blueberry pie filling that set up beautifully in about an hour in the fridge.  It is a very straight-forward application that highlights the blueness of the berries, is low sugar, and gluten-free.

No-Bake Blueberry Pie Filling

  • 1 prepared 9-inch pie crust   (use whatever kind of prepared pie crust you like.  The recipe on the link is a traditional flour crust and therefore NOT gluten-fee)
  • 6 cups fresh blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 T organic cornstarch*
  • 1/8 t sea salt
  • 1/4 C sugar**
  1. Put 2 C of the blueberries and the sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Whisk together the water, cornstarch, and salt until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the sugar and berries.
  3. Cook over a high heat until bubbles appear.  Reduce the heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly until the berries darken and the mixture gets thick (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let is cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Carefully stir in the remaining 4 C of berries and continue mixing until all of the berries are well-coated.  Let the mixture cool a little more (about 5 minutes).
  5. Pour into your prepared pie crust.
  6. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to ensure the set.

For added pizzazz, top this with whipped cream, or serve next to a scoop of ice cream.

*I call for organic corn starch as a way to avoid GMO corn.

**You can use many types of sugar, but do not substitute with things like stevia or truvia.  The sugar is part of what thickens the mixture.

This will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I mix it in yogurt, top ice cream, and make a no-bake cheesecake with it as well.  So make a double batch!

Who Grew Your Food: Shane Robbins

When I lived out west, one of the treats I really loved was getting bison burgers.  I liked the flavor and texture.  This was well before I taught myself much about food.  I was drawn to bison because it felt “western” and “exotic.”  Later, as I was educating myself about meat, bison came up a lot.  It is a leaner animal, and usually ranged, so it is eating grass, what it is meant to eat.  When we looked into obtaining bison, we found two major problems.  First, and foremost, no one raised bison locally, and second, even the far away places we did find it, it was cost prohibitive.  Luckily, as more people look to get involved with food production, more opportunities arise for consumers to purchase things like bison being raised closer to home.

Enter Shane Robbins, owner of Buck Wild Bison.

I had the opportunity to speak with Shane at the Collingswood Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago.  The very thing that drove me to write a book about eating better is what drove Shane to get involved with farming — he loves to eat.  The reason he chose to start raising bison was multi-faceted.  He became interested in the animal upon learning how close they came to extinction.  When one considers that the bison once roamed this country so thickly that a story was passed down about a settler and his family who took three days to pass through a single herd, it is mind-boggling to think that they could have been wiped out.  Shane learned about ranchers’ efforts to save and repopulate bison herds and wanted to be a part of it.

Because bison are an indigenous species, they are naturally adapted to North American living conditions and live “wild” in ways that other species cannot.  Almost every domesticated food animal in the common American diet came from somewhere else, mostly from Europe along with the people who were settling here.  The big exception is the turkey, but what we eat has little resemblance to that splendid wild bird that is experiencing a huge resurgence in Southern New Jersey.  But when that wild bird was prolific along the coast, prior to the 1600’s, it had buffalo for company.  The herds were not as large as those out west, and as the population increased, the buffalo population decreased.

What does all of this mean for Shane?  It means that bison are adapted.  They don’t get sick like other food animals.  They don’t require much more than weekly inspection.  Unlike cows, they calve on their own with no problems.  The caution is this: they are still wild, a little on the shy-side, can run 40 mph, and can jump a 5′ fence.  For the moment, that fence is in Pennsylvania, where Shane is leasing land from a “surrogate” farmer, who keeps an eye on things when he can’t be there.  Long term, though, Shane hopes to get a farm in New Jersey and bring things a little closer to home.

The bison are processed at Smucker’s in Mt. Joy, PA, where they are dry-aged for 21 days and then custom cut.  Shane brings a large variety to the market including burgers, roasts, sausage.  The day that I spoke with him, he was sold out of just about everything.

Why should you try bison?  It is a lean meat, with a nice beefy flavor.  Bison is easier to cook than grass-fed beef, which tends to dry out if you aren’t careful.  The Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is much better than that of conventional beef and is heavy on CLA’s (good for your joints).  It has fewer calories than grass-fed beef (about 20% fewer) and conventional beef (about 35% fewer).

Stuffed Summer Squash

It is almost time.  Summer squash is hitting the farmer’s markets.  And then in a month or so a, your neighbor who grows her own zucchini will be leaving them on your back step.  In the middle of the night. Because yesterday you told her that you didn ‘t really need any more zucchini.  A couple of years ago, I did a post about that over abundance (Zucchini and Summer Squash) that includes directions for freezing squash, a recipe for “faux crab cakes” and one for homemade seafood seasoning similar to a branded spice mix that rhymes with OK.

But right now, we aren’t tired of eating zucchini.  As a matter of fact, we are anticipating it.  One way I like to prepare it is to stuff it and then bake it, but not in the oven.  We bake it on the grill.  If you have a gas grill, you would heat one side of the grill and then put the zucchini on the grill so that it is not directly over the heat.  We use charcoal, so we leave part of the ember pan empty so create a place where there will be indirect heat. Another nice thing about this recipe is that I can prepare it in advance, and then when the grill is ready I can just drop it on there.

Stuffed Summer Squash

  • 2 medium zucchini or yellow squash (patty pan also works well for this), cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2-3 cups spinach**
  • 1 T butter or olive oil for saute
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Scoop the seeds out of the squash, and make a thin cut on the back of the squash, so it will sit steady on the counter.
  2. Chop the spinach, and quickly saute in the butter with a little salt. Press it against the side of the pan and drain out as much moisture as you can.
  3. Mix the spinach and feta. Spoon this mixture into the squash boats.
  4. Put a piece of foil on a tray and put the squash on the foil.  If you are not going to bake these right away, cover them and put them in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
  5. When you are ready to cook, put the uncovered squash on the foil on the grill.  I usually fold the foil over double to make it stronger.

These take about 15-20 minutes, depending on the the size of the squash and the temperature of the grill.  Because these cook on the indirect heat, you can use the direct heat to cook up some burgers, or some fresh caught fish! Go summer food!!

**You can use any kind of greens and cheese you like: Swiss chard and gruyere, tat soi and cheddar, etc.

 

Why You Should and Can Cook at Home

Sometimes, an afternoon spent playing in the dirt with your son seems like a much better idea than cooking dinner.  In my eyes, practically any afternoon spent playing with my children was not time well spent, but time best spent.  When I speak to people about food, I get many defensive responses.  At the top of the list are: 1) I can’t cook, mostly because I never liked cooking and have grown to hate it, actually, which is very uncool these days because I can’t post a picture of what I just cooked on Instagram; 2) I can’t afford organic food.  It’s ridiculously expensive, and 3) I don’t have the time.  But there are many counterarguments for why you should and can cook at home.

Yes, You Can Cook

I am about to begin publishing a series of posts with recipes that are simple and straightforward, that even the most culinarily-impaired person can prepare.  I promise to include ingredients that most people use and eat on a regular basis.  No special kitchen tools, no ingredients that you have to buy at a specialty store or purchase online.  The goal is to encourage you to get into your kitchen.  Bring your children; bring your wife; bring your husband; bring your dog (ours are very good with clean-up when stuff “hits the deck”).  If you know how to turn on your stove, you are qualified to prepared these recipes.

Yes, You Can Afford Some Organic Food

Organic food is more expensive than conventional food.  I discuss this in another post.  But if you eat at a fast food place, and are feeding a family of four, you will probably spend about $25.  A pound of grass-fed organic beef runs about $6.50.  Add on $2.00 for rolls, $1.29 for organic leaf lettuce, less than a dollar for an organic tomato (less if you grow a tomato plant in a pot on your patio).  And maybe you get frozen fries for $2.50 (Not hard to make your own, but intimidating, so we’ll go with the frozen food section) and a bottle of soda for $1.99 (but you should drink water – it’s a lot better for you and much less expensive if it comes out of your tap and you filter it), you have spent less than $16, had some good bonding time with your family, and eaten organic food, and saved $9.00.

And you’re thinking, ‘Nine dollars?  All that for a nine-dollar savings?”  But let that add up.  Let’s say that you get fast food once a week.  Now it is $9 x 52 weeks a year, which is over $400.  Still not enough to get your attention? What if it also meant that your cholesterol levels returned to the normal zone and you could stop spending money on a prescription or two?  We tend to look at these kinds of things in a small context, but the truth is that what we eat and how we eat affects our physical and mental health.  So factor in time spent at the doctor – what is your time worth an hour?

Time is Relative

And speaking of an hour, the biggest complaint/defense I hear is “I don’t have the time.”  This is also a matter of perspective.  Some days are ridiculous.  We have them, too.  But many days are not; they are more I’d-rather-crash-on-the-couch-than-cook.  Let’s see if we can start to change that.

We can start with

Simple Burgers

  • 1 lb. of ground meat (you choose what you want to use, beef, lamb, turkey, etc.)
  • 1 t salt
  • ¼ t ground pepper
  • ¼ t onion powder

Mix all of this together and form four patties.  Fry them in a pan over a medium heat, about 6 minutes a side.  Put them on a platter in a warm spot.

If there isn’t any fat in the pan, add 1 T olive oil or butter and heat it.  Add 1 T flour and stir it around in the fat.  Add ½ C of milk, and stir until it thickens.  If you have some Worcestershire sauce, you could add a dash of that, but it isn’t necessary. Pour the sauce over the patties and take it to the table.

You can serve this with a salad that you have one of your family members make, or just slice up a head of lettuce and put some dressing on.

Start to finish, this takes about 25 minutes.