Thursday, April 8, 2010

Whole Foods

Reprinted with permission from the fabulous blog...
Riches to Rags to Prosperity.

I love Whole Foods. I'm talking about the store. I also love whole foods. I am so happy in a Whole Foods store. The produce is so fresh, I almost feel as if I'm picking it from a garden. The seafood and meat all look so inviting, and are all sustainably farmed or caught. The cheeses from around the world are magnificent, from crumbly and aged, to soft and stinky. The baked goods smell divine, the coffee is fair-trade. The salad bar should be insulted that it's in the same category as regular grocery store salad bars. And there's a sushi bar inside the store! It's a foodie-yogi-environmentalist's dream!

I am instantly in a happy zen-like state whenever I go into a Whole Foods. I think about the fabulous food that my family and I will be eating, and the fact that I'm shopping sustainably and my heart sings! For about ten minutes. Then another feeling sets in...Panic. I am going to spend way too much money!! It really isn't the price of the store; everyone has heard it referred to as Whole Paycheck. But, I live in a ski resort. My neighborhood grocery store is exorbitantly priced. So, the prices at the Whole Foods in Denver really aren't any higher than what I'm used to paying. It's just that there's so much more that I want!

So, how does one shop at Whole Foods, on a budget? The first step, is advice that most people who are trying to eat healthily have heard - shop the periphery. That's where you find produce, meat, and dairy. Generally, the less processed the food, the less expensive, and the better for you. I also choose very carefully which products to buy organic. At Whole Foods, even the conventionally produced foods, are generally sustainable, free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. I also look at the price per ounce; I just started doing this and it's a pretty significant thing to do in any grocery store. And, unless there's something I specifically plan on buying, I stay completely our of the soaps/cosmetics/vitamins aisle. I love an aromatherapy oil as much as anyone, but those little things can really add up!

I managed to get out of there without spending my "whole paycheck." Sure, I wanted more, but when I got home and unloaded my (reusable, of course) grocery bags, I had a week's worth of fabulous produce, fish and chicken to freeze, a tiny bit of yummy cheese, a french bread that lasted days, some great olives, and healthy school snacks.
Feeding my family well has always been important to me. No matter how little money I have, I refuse to buy processed crap. Let me tell you from experience, it is possible to eat healthy and delicious food on a limited budget. It definitely takes more work than boxed macaroni and cheese or frozen dinners, but it is worth it. Love your family! Love yourself! Eat Well!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kudos to Cuisinart

I think I have the first Cuisinart food processor ever made. I'm serious. It belonged to my grandparents. I remember going to Macy's with them when I was maybe 12 years old (1977) and watching the Cuisinart demonstration. They threw in a bunch of peanuts, turned it on, and, Voila! Peanut Butter! I was impressed. So were Nan & Gramp. They bought one.

Fast forward to 1985. I'm getting my first apartment in college. Nan & Gramp are getting a new Cuisinart, and I get the old one. I'm not sure how much I used it in college, probably more than most people that age would have, but still, not all that much. After college though, I started using it regularly; the more serious a relationship I was in, the more I cooked, the more I used it.

So, here it is, 2010. I still have it, I still use it. I just pulled it out a few minutes ago and got inspired for this post. It is old. It probably weighs 30 pounds. I have to bend my knees to haul it out of the cabinet, for fear of hurting my back! But, it works. It works great...33 or so years after it was made, it still does what it was made to do. How many TVs, ovens, refrigerators, DVD players, cars....can say that??

In case you're interested, I did a little research into the history of the Cuisinart. Carl Sontheimer, a French-born, American-raised inventor/food-lover, created the Cuisinart Food Processor in 1973. OK, so maybe mine isn't the first, but it's close!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Birthday Dinner

Yesterday, my fabulous husband and daughter sent me out for a few hours of cross-country skiing, so they could bake me a birthday cake and prepare a gourmet meal. As you can see, the cake turned out beautifully! I'm not sure if I'm excited or bummed that my husband can make a better cake than I can. I consider myself a baker, but cakes have always been my nemesis. I can bake a killer loaf of bread, even at 10,500 feet, but a moist and beautiful cake eludes me. Well, I had no complaints (except extreme fullness), while eating Brian's chocolate cake with lemon curd filling and chocolate butter cream frosting!

Dinner was wonderful, as well. Although my husband is a classically-trained French chef, he doesn't often have the time or opportunity to go all-out with a meal these days. Last night, he outdid himself. We started with steamed artichokes, a family favorite. The main course was lamb T-bones, coated with Dijon mustard and an herbs-de-Provence infused breading. He seared the lamb first before breading, and then again after. The result was a crispy breading over rare lamb. He served it over a shallot cream sauce. Roasted red potatoes and cauliflower on the side. Fantastic.

For wine, we had a California Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 vintage, which will remain nameless. When starting this blog, I emphasized the fact that I am not a wine critic, and I would not make any negative comments about specific wines. And to be fair, there was nothing wrong with this wine. I think my palate is just changing. This wine would sell for over $100 on a restaurant wine list. It was exactly what it should be, fruit-forward, with firm, but softening tannins, but that was pretty much it. Kind of one-dimensional, I thought. Am I just off California Cabs? I have had the great fortune to be tasting some phenomenal old-world wines recently, and I'm digging them. I recently had the Vina Sastre Crianza, Ribera del Duero 2006. It's a big, juicy Tempranillo, with structure and depth, and a fabulous pairing for grilled meat. Then there's the Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbieres, 2006, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault from southern France, with all of it's old-world, funky, wet-horse aromas. And the COS Cerasula di Vittoria, 2007, a deep and complex blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato, from Sicily. I am enamored with all of these wines. Am I just developing an old-world palate? I think I am. There are some that believe that you cannot have both an old-world and a new-world palate. I am not one of them. I may be in the honeymoon phase with old-world wines, but I am certainly not giving up my love of California. So, to all my friends who grow, make and sell California wines - I'm still with you! Just loving my wine journey through Europe right now...Join me?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon & Orange Wine (not together..)

How many of you foodies made Boeuf Bourguignon after watching Julie & Julia? I did. I didn't even really have to think about it; just got up the next morning, pulled out Julia's book and went to work. It's actually one of her easier recipes, and delicious! We had it on top of shredded potato gratin and a bottle, not Burgundy. I had a lovely bottle of Italian red open, the COS Cerasulo di Vittoria Classico 2007. It's a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato from the island of Sicily. With it's dark, plummy, earthy notes and medium-high acidity, it was fabulous with the Boeuf.

But, what I really want to write about today is orange wine. This week I tasted the Movia Lunar, 2006, from the Brda region of Slovenia. It is the most fascinating wine I have ever tasted. Made from the Ribolla grape, it is a completely naturally, biodynamically made wine. After being harvested, the grapes are put into custom-made, oak barriques and put to rest for seven months. No yeast is added, and the barriques are undisturbed until the wine is bottled, unfined and unfiltered. There is oxygen contact throughout the fermentation process. The result is a wine that is distinctly orange in color, and a bit cloudy (due to the lees that is not filtered out before bottling). The nose is of orange, apricots and mineral; it is almost sherry-like, due to the oxidation that has occurred. But on the palate, it is beautifully crisp and refreshing. It developed dramatically over the course of an hour, with the nose becoming less fruity and more almondy.
If you would like to read more about orange wines, the February issue of Food & Wine Magazine
has a story featuring the Movia and a few others.
Apologies to my readers for the lapse in writing. Please keep reading, eating and drinking!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday Night Dumplings

I recently got the cookbook Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More, by Andrea Nguyen. Before going into my experiences with the book, a little bit about me and my relationship with cookbooks. I am a reformed cookbook-junkie. I used to buy cookbooks constantly. And, to my credit, I do use most of them. I must admit, however, that I could probably cook a different recipe every day for the next 50 years and not repeat one. And there are a couple that I have never used. The least-used ones tend to be Asian cuisines. This is not because of lack of interest or desire, or even difficulty; I love a culinary challenge. It's the ingredients. I can tell you with certainty that there isn't a banana leaf or a tube of shrimp paste within 100 miles of Alma, CO. So, now I do my homework before buying a cookbook. If any reviewer warns of hard-to-find ingredients, I steer clear. I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on The Splendid Table. She talked about how making dumplings was easy and fun...even the dough! I was skeptical, but up for the challenge, so I printed out the recipe from The Splendid Table, recruited husband and daughter, and got to work. We made the Fish and Chinese Chive Dumplings. They were delicious! The dough was actually easy make, and so much tastier than store-bought. And, we had a (somewhat) fun family night of cooking together. So, I was convinced; I bought the book. Our next attempt was the Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers. Same dough, the Basic Dumpling Dough. I prepared the filling as I watched my chef husband and tenacious six-year old argue over the thickness of the wrappers. Once again, success. And we had fun; so much so, that my husband suggested that we make Saturday night dumplings a weekly event! (It also works out well for Sundays, as we always have enough left over to have with football!) We paired the pot stickers with an inexpensive, but pleasant Sake, Moonstone Asian Pear. I was a little nervous about the pear infusion; fruit infused liquors can be so obnoxious. But, the pear was very subtle, and the Sake was very nice with the meal. I think next we'll try Samosas or maybe something with a rice flour dough.
I urge you to try it yourself. It really is not that hard. And who couldn't use a little extra family-bonding time? Ms. Nguyen also has a very nice blog, Asian Dumpling Tips. It has quite a lot of recipes, if you're curious, but don't want to invest in the book just yet.
If it sounds good, but you know that you'll just never do it, stop by our house on a Saturday night. We may put you to work, but we'll feed you well!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Down on the Farm

I joined a farm co-op. I'm very excited about it, too. I've been trying to eat more seasonally and locally for a while. It's good for our local community, the environment and our health. I feel like I'm now one more step in that direction. Honestly, I didn't think it was possible to eat locally at 10,000 feet. Then I found Colorado Grown in Buena Vista, CO. It's a cooperative of several farms, and for a mere $25 lifetime membership, you can shop at their store and have access to locally grown and produced vegetables, meats, eggs, honey, raw-milk products, jams & preserves and other fabulous goodies. The store is tiny; essentially, it's a garage. It is only open on Saturdays. I love going down there with my daughter and browsing through the store, while she runs around and plays with the goats, rabbits and pigs.
I discovered the farm in late October, well after the bounty of the harvest. I am really looking forward to next summer and all of the vegetables. They have a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture. You purchase a share in the farm, in exchange for a weekly box of produce throughout the season.) They even have a work-exchange program.
If you are interested in joining a CSA, or finding a farm co-op such as this one, please check out . Local Harvest is a national directory of farms, CSAs, farmers markets and other sources of local, natural foods. You would be surprised at the number of sources in every single state.
I know that I will not be eating 100% locally. Give up coffee? Olive oil? Not a chance. But feeding my family as much local and seasonal food as I can, makes me feel good on a variety of levels. Try it; I think you will like it too.
If you are interested in reading about a family that ate only locally produced food for a year, read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's one of my favorite books of the past year.
As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Get to the Real Holidays

If you're friends with me on Facebook, or if you're just friends with me, you know that I'm not a big fan of Halloween. A holiday based on giving children an enormous bag of candy has no redeeming value in my mind. Easter has a that reputation as well, but at least it has a religious story to it, and often a family meal involved. That being said, I am OK with the kid aspect of Halloween. I smile at little cuties trick-or-treating. Jack-o-lanterns are cool, and I love It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. I limit candy, and grin and bear it; I don't want to be the mean Mom who forbids fun. I do have some other issues with Halloween though. When did it become an adult holiday? My parents never dressed up (if they did, the neighbors would have talked!) Why am I, at 44 years old, expected to? And when did it become a drunk-fest? It must rival New Years Eve for drunk-driving arrests these days. And my last question is, when, and why did costumes go from scary-cute things like ghosts, witches and black cats, to total gore - hatchets in heads, severed limbs etc? (I did find all the Sarah Palin costumes last year quite terrifying!)
But Halloween is the harbinger of good things to come. It's late fall here; skiing and the holidays are just around the corner. As a matter of fact, I went for my first cross-country ski this morning. I followed it up with a cool weather brunch for my family: cheddar and apple soup with sausage cornbread and bloody marys. Soon I'll be working on holiday menus. I plan on getting my Thanksgiving turkey this year from my local farmer. With the rebounding economy, we'll be seeing the return of the tourists this winter, and they'll be drinking more wine. Good for my personal economy! So, if you haven't heard it yet, let me be the first to wish you....Happy Holidays!!