Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

{Meatless Monday} Spaghetti Caprese

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Eating meatless seems simpler in the summer, when steamy hot August days often leave me in the mood for little more than a salad for supper. The traditional caprese salad, comprised of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, is perfectly sufficient for dinner along with a few slices of a nice, crusty baguette. I was in the mood for something with slightly more substance, though, so I added pasta. You’ll want to use very ripe cherry tomatoes and real, fresh mozzarella — the liquid from the tomatoes and cheese combine to make a silky sauce for the spaghetti. I used Blue Ridge Dairy’s boccini mozzarella (small ball-shaped) from the Falls Church Farmers Market.

The sungold yellow cherry tomatoes and the basil for this meal came from our own kitchen garden — the two stars of our garden, I might add. While the sungold tomatoes have not made a tomato lover out of my son, he did voluntarily taste one … and offer to try them again another time. Small steps… he does enjoy picking them and bringing them in for us to eat, though!

Recipe: Spaghetti Caprese

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • about 4 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably small balls (halved) or else cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

Instructions: Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions; drain and set aside. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook until garlic softens and begins to appear translucent, being careful not to brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook several minutes, letting tomatoes give off their juices. Add basil, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Toss with the spaghetti noodles and let cool a couple minutes before adding the mozzarella. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Pear Ricotta Sausage Pizza (and Curious Chef product review)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’ve written a lot about apples this fall, but I’d be remiss not to mention that other star of late autumn fruit stands: the pear. From crisp Asian pears, perfect for salads, to sweet Bartlett pears, poached for dessert, and the boy’s favorite, toddler-hand-sized Seckels, we’d be hard pressed to take sides in a pear-apple face-off. We always enjoy the samples offered by Papa’s Orchard at the West End Alexandria farmers market, and the boy has been known to devour a Seckel (or two) before finishing our stroll through the market.

These sweet and savory pizzas also feature two other of my local farmers market favorites, grassfed lamb sausage from Valentine’s Country Meats and fresh ricotta from Keswick Creamery. The pizza crust was made from frozen dough I picked up from the Italian Store for pizza-making emergencies. Of course you could make your own, if you prefer. There are few better ways to get kids into the kitchen than with make-your-own-pizza night. Thanks to the kid-sized tools from Curious Chef (see below), the boy was able to help with rolling out the dough, slicing the pears, and of course, decorating the pies.

Recipe: Pear Ricotta Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • pizza crust for 2 pizzas
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lamb sausage
  • 8 ounces fresh ricotta
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet pears, thinly sliced
  • several fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • sea salt and black pepper

Instructions: In a skillet, crumble the sausage and cook over medium heat until browned. Drain excess drippings and set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out pizza crusts and place on baking sheet or pizza peel, if you have one. Spread several tablespoons of ricotta over the crusts, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, each. (If your ricotta is particularly moist, use less oil.) Spread pears and onions around, sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, and scatter sausage over the top. Drop a few more spoonfuls of ricotta over the pears. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is lightly browned. Makes 2 pizzas. Enjoy!

curious chef pizza kitCurious Chef Product Review: We received the Curious Chef pizza kit to try out, as seen in the photos above. The boy was beyond trilled to have “my very own!” knife and rolling pin. The knife is made of sturdy plastic that actually can cut through an apple or pear, without fear of slicing off finger tips. Ever since our pizza making fun, when he sees me slicing something he gets out his own knife from his kitchen drawer and demands to help. The easy-grip handles make the tools perfect for small hands, and it’s nice to be able to set him up with his own cutting board and knife to keep him busy while I’m prepping the rest of the meal. Needless to say, Curious Chef gets a big thumbs up from the Foodie Tot. (My only complaint is that the white plastic isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’s more kid-appropriate than stocking up on fancier, and more breakable, items from somewhere like Williams-Sonoma.) View the full product line (and safety information) at CuriousChef.com.

*Disclaimer: all reviews are the opinion solely of myself and my son, and are not financially compensated in any way.*

Preserving Summer: Peach Gelato

Friday, August 21st, 2009

redhaven peaches at market

It’s peach season and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they hold out long enough for me to can some for winter. In the meantime, here’s the peach gelato that made me swoon, if I do say so myself.

Ever wonder what the difference is between ice cream and gelato? Sherbet and sorbet? As far as I can tell, from my extensive google research, the difference between ice cream, gelato, sherbet and sorbet is something like this:

  • ice cream, French = milk, cream, eggs
  • ice cream, Philadelphia/American = milk, cream, no eggs
  • gelato = milk, maybe eggs, no cream
  • sorbet = just fruit, no dairy or eggs
  • sherbet = milk, no cream and no eggs

Still confused? Short version: if you taste the cream first, it’s ice cream. If you taste the fruit first, it’s gelato. That’s the official FoodieTots definition at any rate. Now I set out to make Philadelphia-style peach ice cream, but the bottle I had labeled cream was in fact buttermilk; instead I used my cream-top whole milk, so while it has a little cream it is mostly milk. It has the texture and strongly fruit-forward taste of gelato, so that’s what I’m calling it.

peach gelato

Recipe: Peach Gelato

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 peaches (1 1/2 pounds), peeled
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • 1 cup cream-top whole milk
  • juice of 1 lemon wedge

Instructions: I use the boil/ice bath method to peel peaches. It seems like a hassle but trust me, it’s a lot easier and time saving in the long run then trying to scrape peels off with a paring knife.  Score the bottom of each peach with a small “x” cut, then drop them into boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them into a colander set in ice water for several seconds, then set on cutting board and leave several minutes to cool. The skins will pretty much slip right off at that point.

Dice the peaches and place in a medium stock pot over medium high heat, add honey and seeds of the vanilla bean. Cook until peaches begin to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes. Add milk and blend in small batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender in the pot. I recommend the regular blender to make sure there are no chunks — in a home freezer, the chunks of fruit get too icy and aren’t as flavorful as in commercial ice creams. Stir in the lemon juice and pour into a glass bowl or pitcher. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (I leave it overnight) and then process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. (I use the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment and mix it for 10-12 minutes, until it thickens and reaches a very soft icy consistency, then freeze for 3-4 hours.) Enjoy!

Shared with Fight Back Fridays at the Food Renegade, because once you’ve had homemade ice cream — or gelato — you’ll never go back to that commercial chemical goop from the supermarket.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Between our home-delivered farm-fresh milk and the cheese addiction my toddler shares, we consume a lot of (hormone-free) dairy products in our house. A favorite way to use up the assorted bits and ends of cheeses in our cheese drawer is my baked macaroni and cheese, with roasted red peppers. I don’t believe in hiding vegetables in food, but I do exploit the “better together” theory of adding vegetables to something the toddler is guaranteed to eat. He loves to look at different colored peppers, but rarely eats them. I find that roasting the peppers first gives them a velvety smooth texture that goes better in creamy pasta than crisp fresh vegetables, making them a little less objectionable to sensitive eaters.

Recipe: Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut in thin 1-2 inch slices
  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (favorite blend: cave-aged cheddar, smoked gouda, Wallaby)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano (or similar, used Dry Jack recently)

Instructions:

Cook macaroni according to package instructions, but subtract 3 minutes from cooking time. While macaroni cooks, melt butter in saucepan over low heat. When melted, stir in flour, salt and mustard and cook until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and whisk in milk, stirring until lumps are dissolved. Return to high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling. Boil and stir 1 minute, until sauce begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese until melted and smooth.

Drain macaroni. Combine with red peppers and cheese sauce and pour into 2-quart casserole pan. Mix together breadcrumbs and parmigiano cheese and sprinkle over top. Bake 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!

Shared with Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder, Ruth of Once Upon a Kitchen. Check out this week’s round-up for more yummy pasta inspiration!

Dope-Free Dairy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Part IV in the Sustainable Family Supper series

dairy cow

What’s the matter with rBST? I’ve written before about how my path to natural and organic food began with a look at milk. When I became pregnant with my son, milk took on a renewed significance as I eliminated sodas and caffeinated beverages from my diet. I finally got around to reading up on bovine growth hormones, a.k.a. rBST or rBGH. You probably already know that they are artificial hormones designed to increase estrogen in female cows, thus increasing their milk production. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1993, and like with so many other issues, refused to reexamine its safety despite growing consumer pressure and health concerns. The problem, or problems, are that the unnatural increase in production leads cows to develop infections at much greater rates, requiring them to be more heavily treated with antibiotics, which are passed on to milk consumers and flow out into soil and water with the cows’ waste. Then, there are studies linking rBST with increased breast, prostate and colon cancers in humans. The most galling part of the whole situation, in my opinion, is the ridiculous requirement by the FDA that requires dairy producers who label their milk rBST-free to include a disclaimer stating that “there is no difference between milk from cows treated with rBST and those who are not.” Actually, there are scientific studies showing that rBST is harmful and yet the burden is on the good actors to refrain from impugning the “good” name of the producers who continue to use rBST in the face of such studies.

Consumers Fight Back: The good news is that after repeatedly losing attempts in state legislatures to ban the use of rBST-free labels entirely (hello consumers’ right to know what they’re eating!), in the face of growing consumer pressure against the use of artificial hormones, its creator Monsanto actually sold off the product last year. Meanwhile, consumer campaigns targeting major dairy companies and grocers have successfully forced many companies to voluntarily reject the use of milk from cows treated with rBST. You can sign up to receive alerts from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to stay apprised of the latest. Food & Water Watch offers downloadable and mobile (iPhone/Blackberry) lists of rBST-free brands by state. Last month, Dannon and Yoplait joined the roster of major yogurt producers rejecting rBST milk (Stoneyfield has never used it). In the cheese world, Tillamook‘s farmer cooperative led the industry in adopting a rBST-free policy back in 2005. Cabot Creamery is the latest to get on the drug-free dairy bandwagon, announcing that they will finally stop accepting rBST-containing milk as of August 1, 2009. Even *some* Kraft cheese products (2% milk line) are rBST-free.

Next Stop, Schools: So if consumers won’t buy it, where’s rBST-treated cows milk going? Some is still in use commercially, and of course much winds up in schools. Food & Water Watch has a campaign underway, coinciding with this year’s reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, urging Congress to give schools the ability to let schools choose to use rBST-free and/or organic milk. According to Food & Water Watch, one out of five pints of the milk served to public schoolchildren may contain rBST. (Visit their School Milk action center to learn more.)

Better Yet, Drink Organic: If you already drink rBST-free milk, you might also want to consider organic. If you have to choose what to buy organic, organic milk and meat may be more beneficial than organic produce because the pesticides on cows’ feed are concentrated in their digestive system – and nonorganic feed includes genetically-modified (GMO) grain. And make sure that you’re choosing a brand that scores well on the Cornucopia Institute organic dairy study, because while organic certification guarantees that cows are fed GMO- and pesticide-free grain, it does not guarantee that the cows were allowed to graze on grass or treated humanely. Certain big-organic producers (Aurora and Horizon, notably) are only slightly better than conventional feedlot operations. (There’s a reason some store-brand “organic” milk is priced significantly lower – avoid Safeway, Giant, Publix and Costco store brands, which are sourced from Aurora Organics, a company found by the USDA to have “willfully” violated 14 criteria of the federal organic standard. Visit the Organic Consumer Association action page to sign a petition asking these company CEOs to boycott green-washing “organic” suppliers.)

We’re lucky to have a local, though not organic-certified, dairy delivery service, but when I have to buy milk between deliveries or on the road, I try to find Organic Valley. They are a co-operative of farms organized regionally, so the milk you buy may actually be fairly locally-produced, and they provide support to their farmers to make their farms more environmentally-friendly, such as helping their member farms obtain grants to place wind turbines on their farms. I attended a presentation by an Organic Valley farmer at last fall’s Green Festival and fell in love with the adorable pictures of his happy little cows and tale of how they prefer listening to rock music over classical. A recent study found that cows who are called by name (typically signifying a higher level of care) produce more milk, naturally. I may be a little idealistic, but shouldn’t every cow live like that?

What About Raw Milk? I haven’t read enough yet to take an informed opinion on the highly controversial issue of raw milk. Its sale is banned here in Maryland and Virginia (unless in a “cow share” program in VA), so I haven’t had the option of trying it. (At least not since I was a kid with cow-owning friends! Its true nothing else tastes like truly fresh milk.) On the one hand, I’m inclined to trust farmers who are praticing time-tested method,s and raw milk proponents insist that there are a wealth of health benefits to drinking raw. On the other hand, cows are naturally dirty animals! (That’s not a scientific argument, just an observation.) All the more reason to get to know your food’s producers, of course, whatever the product. At any rate, if you want to learn more, CheeseSlave has a great post on the reasons she chooses raw milk and links to more resources.