Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Book Review for a MOFGA Audience

Michael Pollan’s, Omnivore’s Dilemma, a Natural History of Four Meals gives an investigative look into the problems of the American food system that have decreased the quality of our food in the past seventy years. From conventional farming methods to organic methods Pollan tells the story of his experiences with farmers big and small across the country. The first section titled ‘Industrial Corn’ exposes the mind-blowing truth of mass-produced food from the farmer to the supermarket shelf. The second section of Pollan’s book takes a look at the up and coming organic industry by spending time with large-scale organic operations. In this part of the book Pollan points out how disconnected our ‘industrial’ society is to their food. Also, he questions if large-scale organic operations- like a chicken farm that claims ‘Free Range’, but still most of the chicken’s life is spent in a facility- are any better than conventional farms. The third section of the book called ‘The Forest’ takes an interesting yet unrealistic turn when Pollan decides to cook an entire meal from catching and foraging food himself from the forest. This is very possible, but even Michael admits it is very unpractical in this day and age. The ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’ was written quite well, the style of writing and boldness of the author’s tongue makes this book effective and noteworthy in all aspects. The introduction and first chapter really intrigue the reader and makes you want more:

“Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find. For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn. Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins.”

No part of the book seems biased; as an investigative journalist, Pollan is welcomed into each farm he visits and he enters with a levelheaded. The book was both effective and persuasive. The effectiveness of the personal stories from farmers and facts provided by Pollan is persuasive enough to change the reader’s way he or she views our food system here in America. This book has enhanced my knowledge not of conventional farming, but of commercial organic farming. As an agricultural major I always thought no matter what scale organic is on it will always be better than conventional. After reading this book I am not so sure. In our society the word ‘organic’ has many definitions, but none of them are true at least by our society’s definition. For example, the whole point of being ‘organic’ is to be small-scale. An industrial organic farm is like an oxymoron to me, in order to be truly organic you cannot operate at a large-scale, because then you might as well switch over to conventional. This book opened my eyes wider to our food system and allowed me to see the bigger picture rather than just blaming the conventional side of things. For the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) book store this book is essential to the shelves of this store. The ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’ would be much appreciated by any or all who the MOFGA bookstore.

Eggs in a Nest? No! Eggs is a Hamburg Nest!

This recipe I stumbled upon last summer when searching for something to make for dinner that wasn’t the ‘same old, same old’. I’m glad I stumbled upon this recipe for many reasons, but the main one being its easy to make and incredibly delicious. I encourage all to try out eggs in a hamburg nest. 

Ingredients 

Eggs – $1.95

Hamburger Rolls – $2.00

Cabot White Cheddar Slices – $2.59

Ground Beef – $6.55

1 Large Tomato – $1.04

Total – $14.13

Directions

1. Heat skillet to medium heat. 

2.While stove is heating make hamburg patties and cut a yolk sized hole out of the patty. 

3. Place hamburg patty in pan and crack egg in center hole.

4. Wait until has whitened on the bottom and then flip very carefully. 

5. Once flipped place cheese over and when  melted serve. 

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Comments 

These hamburgers were really hard to cook without a spatula. I don’t recommend trying either, although each burger was successful  it still was a challenge. I flipped each burger with a fork and a very odd utensil that had been lying around the house unused. While I was shopping for the ingredients I discovered Cabot White Cheddar Slices, not your typical sliced and packaged cheese. Instead it was delicious, each slice was thick and actually tasted like cheese. I recommend purchasing this cheese, especially when making hamburgers, of any kind. It makes each bite a small piece of heaven. Oh! and don’t forget the tomato!

Homemade Alfredo Sauce over Egg Noodles and Chicken

I’m not sure what made me want to recreate Alfredo sauce, homemade even, but I did.  Overall, this dish came out well, it was very tasty, but not what I was expecting. This time I did not follow any recipe, I simply went to the grocery store, brainstormed the idea, read the back of a can of Alfredo, and bought the ingredients. Having no idea how to cook something from scratch was an interesting feeling of slight panic.

Ingredients

(Purchased from Edward’s Shop N’ Save)

Flour- (Already had at the house)

Butter- $2.49 (1 lb.)

Half and Half cream- $1.59

Sherry Cooking Wine- $3.69

8 ounces Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese- $2.89

8 ounces of Italian blend Cheese- $2.89

Egg noodles $3.89

Boneless Chicken Thighs- $ 5.00

Total- $22.17

Directions

1. Start Roux in skillet; melt butter at medium/low heat then add flour and whisk until thick.

2. Add half and half and sherry wine. Let cook for about 10-15 minutes on low heat, uncovered.

3. Bring water to a boil for egg noodles. After sauce has cooked add cheese. Let the cheese melt, but not burn over low heat!

4. Add egg noodles to boiling water. Let boil for only about 5 minutes. Drain and add Alfredo sauce. Mix, cover, and set aside.

5. Fry boneless chicken thighs over medium heat until done.

6. Once chicken is fully cooked, cut chunks into bite-size pieces and add to pasta and sauce.

7. Serve and enjoy!

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Comments

I love cooking with wine! I discovered that I actually preformed a reduction when cooking this Alfredo sauce. A reduction with alcohol is when you add alcohol like beer or wine, in this case sherry wine, to a sauce and let the sauce boil. Then, the alcohol cooks off the dish leaving just the flavor. Everything came out delicious, the chicken, sauce, noodles, and I even added a fresh salad, but I got a little over zealous and added way too much cheese. So much cheese in fact my Alfredo sauce turned into Alfredo mac and cheese! So, next time I attempt to make homemade Alfredo sauce I’ll remember to not add so much cheese despite my intense love for it.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Bacon!

Panera Bread, the restaurant, has inspired this recipe for tonight’s dinner and if you have not gone to Panera Bread and tried their broccoli cheddar soup I highly suggest it! Instead of keeping this dish true to the recipe, I have decided to add bacon! This will be my first time making a soup from scratch. To start the base of the creamy broth I will attempt to make a roux. A roux is used for many different things like making gravy and sauces. Basically, it is a mixture of flour and fat, like butter or oil. So, here it goes!

Ingredients  

(Purchased from Edwards Shop N’ Save)

Butter- $(Didn’t purchase butter, used grease from the bacon instead)

Flour- $ ( Already had Flour)

2 Cups of Half and Half cream $1.59

2 Cups Chicken Stock $2.89

1 Onion- $2.49/lb.

1/2 lb. Broccoli- $2.99

1 cup of Carrot Shredded- $1.29

1 lb. Bacon- $3.49

1/4 Teaspoon of Nutmeg- $ (Didn’t not or purchase, just let out. Spices are too expensive)

8 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese- $2.89

Salt and Pepper- $(Already have at the house)

Total- $17.63

Directions 

1. Saute onions and bacon in skillet until cooked.

2. Remove from heat and let cool. Place pot on stove make roux by heating bacon fat, add flour and whisk for 3-5 minutes over medium heat.  Then, add half and half  and continually stir.

3. Add chicken stock and turn heat to low and let sit for 20 minutes.

3. Add Bacon, Broccoli, Onion, carrot, and cook at low to medium heat for another 20 minutes.

4. Lastly, stir in cheese, pepper, and wella!

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Comments

When making the broth, I can’t lie, I was scared. I did what the directions said, but it started to get chunky! I thought I had already failed at making my first soup. My roommate reassured me that I was doing just fine, “Keep following the directions, keep steering, and turn the heat up a little,” he said. So, I trusted him and listed. Finally, the moment came to add the chicken broth- the recipe called for two cups- instead I added four. After the twenty minutes of impatiently waiting for the broth to cook; I opened the lid, steered it around, and it wasn’t chunky anymore! Phew! Next, I added in chopped broccoli, shredded carrots, sautéed onions, and cooked bacon chunks. Lastly, added the cheese and pepper then served it …let me tell you! Wow! Was it good, I don’t know if it was the bacon fat or the Cabot Sharp Cheddar Cheese, but it was delicious!

Spinach & Artichoke Grilled Cheese

I found this delicious recipe from a fellow food blogger named Joy the Baker. Although I did not follow her every direction these sandwiches turned out just as good if not even better that before! Joy’s recipe said to boil the baby spinach, chop the artichoke hearts into small pieces, shred Parmesan cheese, then mix the three ingredients together with a dollop of sour cream. Since I prefer my spinach fresh, not boiled so I took to my own way of doing things.

Ingredients 

Organic Baby Spinach – $3.49

Sesame Semolina Bread ( On sale) – $1.99

8 oz Whipped Cream Cheese -$2.29

16 oz Sour Cream – $1.59

7.5 oz Artichoke Hearts – $1.99

8 oz Shredded Parmesan Cheese – $2.39

8 oz Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese – $2.39

Total – $16.13

Directions 

1. Add 8 oz container of whipped cream cheese and half container of sour cream in a bowl and mix until smooth. Add lots and lots of chopped garlic and spice to taste.

2. Slice thin pieces of bread and butter on one side of each slice. Turn stove top on to medium heat.

3. Prepare sandwiches. First, spread a thick layers of cream cheese mix on one slice of bread. Add lots of Parmesan and cheddar jack on top then, place artichoke hearts on cheese. On the other slice of bread layers leaves of spinach. Place slice of bread with cream cheese and artichoke on pan first open-faced, then close sandwich with spinach cover slice of bread. Flatten with spatula and grill each side till gold brown and cheese has melted.

4. Repeat till the bread is gone and everyone is happy! Enjoy!

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Comments

By far this is the best meal I have made this semester! it’s easy, cheap, and incredibly delicious. The cream cheese mixture with shredded cheese makes a delicious mess, the spinach cooks ever so slightly while remaining fresh, the artichoke add savory notes, and the bread wraps it up with a buttery crunch. The only problem I ran into during the entire process was counter space. There was not enough counter space for me to prepare the sandwiches. Well, let’s be honest, not enough clean counter space. So, I sliced the bread on the bag it came in, chopped garlic on cardboard, left the cheese and spinach on the couch grabbing handfuls for each sandwich, and placed finished sandwiches on another piece of cardboard.  All these things at once was rather work intensive. In fact some people might think this process was too much for the amount of grilled cheeses made, but I disagree. The scrumptious taste from each grilled cheese far surpasses and makes up for any annoying repetitive work ethic. If you have a modern house unlike mine with plenty of clean counter space, I sincerely urge you to cook spinach and artichoke grilled cheeses, they are worth your while!

Kitchen Science & Beer

Your typical ‘beer can chicken’ recipe says a grill is needed and a can of beer must be opened, half-drank, and placed inside. After the half drank beer has been placed inside a whole chicken the can acts a third leg to place up right on the grill. Then, cook the chicken slowly on the grill so the beer evaporates into the body cavity, making the chicken extremely moist. I chose this recipe to see if could get the same results without have to balance a whole chicken on a beer can and two legs. Never mind that I did not have access to a grill only an oven. The overall purpose was to see if I could take an entire recipe completely change it to my accommodations and still get the same results without having a huge disaster.

It began with a four pound whole chicken that was destined to be cooked for dinner, but the question was how. Since, I had already consumed a few glasses of wine I assume that is where idea for an alcoholic chicken came to be.  So, the research began, but all the recipes called for a grill to cook the chicken upright with a beer placed up the body cavity. An upright chicken in the oven was not going to happen in my uncle’s small oven and no proper pan to place it on that would allow the chicken to stay upright. To compensate I placed the four pound whole chicken in a deep dish pan on its back. This pan would fit in the oven just fine after some rearrangement.  I warmed the oven to 420 degrees F and brought a pan of water to a boil to start the stuffing. While waiting for the stuffing to cook I began seasoning the bird by rubbing salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning inside, and out. Then, sliced one inch wide slits in the chicken’s breast, about four or five on each side and stuffed each slit with a chunk of butter. A few minutes after seasoning the stuffing was finished. One big mistake I learned – let the stuffing cool down first before your stuff it into the chicken. I almost scorched my hands trying to stuff the chicken while it was still hot. Anyway, when stuffing the chicken I first poured beer in the cavity then placed a small amount of stuffing inside and repeated. This way it became like a layering process. Once the body cavity was full I gathered the skin to close the cavity and weaved a shish kabob stick through to seal up the body cavity. Finally, poured the remaining beer in the pan for the chicken to cook in. Right now you may be thinking, how many beers did she use? Well, it’s hard to believe but there was only one beer used to one four pound chicken. More beer is always welcome to the process as they say the more beer the merrier and the moister your chicken will be. Place, the chicken in the oven at 420 degrees F for about thirty minutes. After thirty minutes lower the heat to 375 degrees F and leave in the oven four about fifty to sixty minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and let cool for about five to ten minutes and well la! The delicious beer can chicken with a twist is ready to eat.

Beer was the key ingredient in this recipe. You can cook a chicken a million different ways, but beer is what really makes the difference this time around. Beer is most known for its tenderizing properties. When cooking with beer, be careful of the type of beer that is used. IPA’s are typically a light bitter beer. So, if an IPA is cooked with a dish a bitter taste will be left in the dish. Also, never cook with a beer that you wouldn’t drink; it will end up tasting like that beer. Beer is used in many recipes everything from fried foods to soups and sauces. Beer seems to be more versatile than wine when it comes to cooking because of its many different textures and flavor varieties. So, when cooking with beer it is important to choose the beer that is right for the recipe. The exact history of how beer was invented is unknown, but cooking with beer has been done for centuries. Beer is typically given a bad name when it comes to health, but in moderation just like most things beer is healthy for you. A glass of beer is known to have fewer calories than a glass of milk or apple juice.  It also raises levels of HDL, which is good cholesterol, in your blood. Beer also contains vitamins and minerals benefiting the nervous system as well as increasing blood circulation and stimulating metabolism. When cooking with alcohol there is a myth that the alcohol evaporates when added to a dish. This is not necessarily true; in order to fully cook the alcohol out of a dish it needs to be cooked for about three hours for all traces of the alcohol to evaporate. This also depends on the potency of alcohol and the temperature that the dish is cooked at. So, be aware more times than none alcohol that is added to a dish will still remain in the dish unless cooked properly.

One chemical reaction that occurs when cooking is color change. This occurs with most dishes cooked especially meat. Before I put my beer chicken in the oven the color of the meat was pink. After ninety minutes of cooking in the oven the meat had turned white. There are many chemical reactions when cooking a chicken or just about anything for that matter. When cooking the gases in an oven react with the hemoglobin in the meat tissue leaving a pink tint. Through this chemical reaction you can determine if the chicken was young or old when slaughtered. When the meat of a chicken around the bone and the bone itself is still pink after the chicken has fully cooked until a temperature of 165 degrees F this is evidence of a young chicken. This is because the skin of a younger bird is thinner and can be penetrated by oven gases more easily. Older birds usually have a layer of fat underneath their skin giving protection from oven gases. The intense coloring or ‘browning’ of meat is also linked to its flavor; this chemical reaction is a known as the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction happens when amino acids and sugar are heated to high temperatures such as three-hundred and five-hundred degrees F to combine and form new flavors and smell. In my beer chicken the Maillard reaction was caused by the sugars and amino acids in the beer, butter, and chicken. All the ingredients chemically reacted to give the chicken a moist delicious aroma and taste.

My beer can chicken with a twist ended up being very successful. The chicken was unbelievably moist and the stuffing was out of the world. So next time you run into a cooking dilemma never be afraid to switch it up to meet your own accommodations. If Julia Child broke some of the rules you should too. Who knows you could whip up something fantastic for your family or significant other. Through my research with beer and chemical reactions of cooking I learned you don’t need to be an expert you just need a little courage to tackle the kitchen and what may lay within.

French Toast with a warm Fruit Chutney

French toast isn’t so french. This meal can be traced back as early as ancient Roman times when cooks had to use every last scrap of food. Traditionally, french toast was made with stale bread, dipped in a milk and egg mixture fried in oil. So, french toast has had all different names and still does for example, American toast, German toast, etc. French toast has been a staple in my breakfast foods since I was a kid, especially on the weekends. The weekends were when my family got together and every Sunday morning there would be french toast of some kind waiting for my two brothers and I when we awoke. This meal is also significant for me because it was the one meal my mother cooked to perfection every time.

Ingredients ( Hannaford’s

100% Whole Wheat Bread – $2.50

2 Cans of Peaches – $1.25

2 Half Pints of Raspberries – $3.99 each

1/2 Gallon of MOO Milk – $3.69

1/2 Dozen of Eggs – $1.95

Total – $13.38

Directions

1. Bring sauce pan to medium to low heat. Cut peaches into small chunks and put in sauce pan. Let the peaches cook for about 5-10 minutes. While peaches are cooking put all the raspberries in a bowl and mash until they have a puree consistency or just use a blender. After the peaches have cooked add raspberries together and turn heat to low. Let simmer.

2. Place a frying pan on the stove to medium heat and add butter.

3.Then, beat all six eggs in a bowl and add a small amount milk. Add spices to taste cinnamon, and vanilla extract go very well with french toast.

4. Dip bread in egg and milk mixture and place in frying pan. Flip each piece when bottoms are golden brown.

5. When done frying place on a plate and pour the warmed peach and raspberry chutney over. Enjoy!

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Comments

At first, frying the bread was difficult; I added way too much milk in with the eggs. So, the bread would not fry right because it was too saturated in milk so it burnt and stuck to the pan. What a mess! Be careful not to make that mistake or you’ll just end up wasting bread unless you enjoy the strange combination of mushy and burnt. Another small problem I ran into was peaches. Hannaford’s did not have fresh peaches, only the canned crap. Excuse my french, but really take a second to think about this. Hannaford’s sells kiwis and dragon fruits in the middle of the winter, but I can’t get a fresh peach? That’s a little strange. Anyway, the chutney was still delicious, warmed peaches and raspberries compliment each other really well. Although, I would have preferred fresh peaches I guess you just can’t ask more of your local supermarket than to carry dragon fruit in the middle of winter. Bon appetit!