Posts Tagged ‘milk’

{Savoring September} Nectarine Gelato

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I wasn’t kidding about squeezing every last bit of summer out of the month. Today may be the first day of fall, but don’t pack up the ice cream maker just yet. It’s supposed to reach 90 degrees in DC again today, and you can still find sweet white nectarines at the farmers market. So I implore you, take some home and make a batch of this sweet summer gelato before it’s too late. (Or, save it for some of those peaches you froze for winter. Ice cream is a year-round food, in my opinion.)

Recipe: Nectarine Gelato

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium-sized nectarines
  • 5 egg yolks (preferably from your local egg farmer)
  • 2 cups cream-top whole milk (or just whole milk)
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions: Coarsely chop nectarines (no need to peel) and place them in a non-reactive saucepan. Combine with 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and you can mash it with the back of the spoon. Let cool, then puree in a blender or food processor.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, warm milk and the other 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat just until bubbles begin to appear and sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks well for about a minute. Ladle the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking continuously, one spoonful at a time until you’ve incorporated about half the milk into the eggs. Then pour the eggs/milk back into the remaining milk in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium low heat until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of your spoon. Remove from heat, stir in the nectarine purée and let cool. Transfer to a bowl or pitcher, cover, and chill overnight or for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Process the chilled mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. I have the KitchenAid ice cream maker and mix it on medium low for about 12 minutes. Transfer to a tupperware container and freeze until firm, about 4 more hours. Makes 1 quart. Enjoy!

Note: You can adjust the sugar in the nectarines according to the sweetness of your fruit.

Real Milk as a Luxury Food? (and Homemade Butterscotch Pudding)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Jane Black is the first byline I look for when reading the Washington Post weekly food section, and one of my favorite food writers anywhere. So I was excited to see her write up some fantastic local dairies this week. I was a little disturbed, though, to see some references on Twitter to her article calling milk the “next luxury food.” Huh? Yes, the glass-bottled, all-natural milk we buy from Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery is more expensive than conventional milk at the supermarket. But in my opinion, artificial-hormone-free milk from cows who aren’t fed GMO grain is one of the most important purchasing decisions I make for my family. I’ve written before about how milk was the gateway food into more natural/organic eating when I was pregnant with my son. During pregnancy and when children are first weaned onto cows’ milk, it is so important to make sure the milk you’re drinking is as pure as possible. Unfortunately, even commercial organic milk isn’t perfect as until just this year (June 17, to be exact), organic producers didn’t even have to allow cows to actually graze. Cows were made to eat grass, and grass-fed cows produce tastier and healthier milk. There are other ways to save money on food — cooking at home more, cutting out processed foods, etc. — that don’t require compromising on quality milk.

Now of course it happens from time to time that we wind up with too much milk in the fridge, and what better way to put it to use than with homemade pudding? It’s really not that much more difficult than stirring together a boxed mix, and tastes infinitely better. Of course, if the temperatures stay so high here we’ll be firing up the ice cream maker soon enough, but pudding requires less waiting.

I had had butterscotch pudding on the mind since reading about it on The Kitchn back at the start of the year. Of course, not one to leave easy enough alone I decided to follow David Lebovitz‘s simpler recipe (minus the whiskey) but cook the butterscotch more as per Shuna Fish Lydon‘s recommendation. If you read Shuna’s passionate plea to preserve real butterscotch, you’ll see why I felt compelled to follow her instructions. (Well, partially.) My brown sugar and butter took much longer than 10 minutes to melt and darken, probably because I used light brown sugar rather than dark (uh, duh), so my resulting butterscotch had an almost burnt taste. Next time I’ll stick with either one recipe or the other — or at least use dark brown sugar — but if you’re curious, here’s how I made it.

Butterscotch Pudding
adapted from David Lebovitz with inspiration from Shuna Fish Lydon

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed (dark) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Melt the butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stirring infrequently, until it reaches a syrupy consistency (10-15 minutes). Add salt and remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Whisk in the eggs to combine.

Add the remaining milk to the melted brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Then add the cornstarch/egg mixture and again whisk until smooth.

Return to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly, until pudding thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour pudding into a bowl and chill for at least an hour, depending on your patience level. I probably dug into mine after about 30 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings, and is best served with fresh whipped cream on top.

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade.

Cooking Julia with Kids: Blueberry Clafouti (and a film review)

Friday, August 7th, 2009

julie and julia movie posterThe new film Julie & Julia opens tonight, and if you have even a passing interest in food and cooking I highly suggest you catch it. If you haven’t seen the trailer (or book or blog), it’s a Nora Ephron film about a girl, Julie Powell, who decides to cook and blog her way through Julia Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s an ideal girls-night-out film with splendid acting by Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. It’ll also give you a glimpse into the high-stress juggling act of working by day and food blogging by night, like yours truly, though Julie had only a cat watching, not a hungry child calling for attention every other minute. There’s a catch-22 for food bloggers in discussing this film, as any negative criticism is quickly dismissed as jealousy over the fact that Julie successfully blogged her way to a book and film deal; something that is surely the dream of many food bloggers around the world. I had never read Julie’s blog or book but was familiar with the tale; my main complaint with the movie is not directed at Julie’s character but just that I would have loved to see much more of Julia.

At any rate, my sure-fire pitch for a book deal is also a blatant rip-off of based on Julie’s challenge: my soon-to-be-3-year-old will cook his way through Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking before his 4th birthday. Okay, maybe we’re not quite ready for that, but in honor of his impending 3rd birthday I decided it was time to teach him to crack eggs. We set out to make the ubiquitous Julia Child clafouti(s) — for some reason Julia omits the “s” — but since cherry season here has come and gone I opted to use the last of July’s blueberries, which the husband and the boy picked up at the Del Ray Farmers Market on Saturday.

Julia-inspired Blueberry Clafouti

Recipe: Blueberry Clafouti, adapted from Julia Child

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 – 2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
powdered sugar

A few words of advice for baking with younger kids: measure and prep all ingredients before hand, then arrange them in the order needed next to the mixing bowl. Have them crack the eggs first and into their own bowl to make fishing out pieces of shell a little easier. Clafoutis is simple to prepare and kids can take charge of mixing all the ingredients but the fruit together in a large bowl. We whisked the eggs together first, then vanilla and almond extracts (almond is my addition), sugar, flour, salt and milk.

foodie tot baking with julia

I wouldn’t dare criticize Julia, but I find it amusing that she speaks so condescendingly of using a blender to make mayonnaise and yet uses one to whip up her clafouti(s) batter. If your child over eagerly dumps in ingredients before the prior ingredients are fully combined, here’s an easy trick to smooth the batter: pour it through a fine mesh sieve, pressing with your spoon to dissolve the lumps.

To bake the clafoutis, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour a thin layer of batter into the bottom of the buttered, wide and shallow baking dish and cook it until it just begins to set, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter, and the 1/3 cup reserved sugar over the berries, then top with the remaining batter. Return to oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until custard is puffed and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

julia's kitchen at smithsonianThe boy scored a bite before bed and declared it “mmm, good.” If you want to introduce your kids to Julia without messing up the kitchen, head over to the American History Museum to see her complete kitchen, including her very own French copper pots and pans which were recently returned by Ephron after being used in the movie. (At the donation event, Julia’s niece Phila Cousins relayed Julia’s incredulous reaction to the Smithsonian’s request for her kitchen. One can only imagine what she would think of the film!)

In the film, Julia writes to her sister, “I think I’m the only American woman in Paris who has as much fun shopping for food as shopping for a dress.” I’m with her, but for a less foodcentric review check out my friend the DC Fashion Gal’s take on the film. Seen in? Love it? Let us know!

I’m sharing this post with the Mastering the Art of French Cooking round-up hosted by La Cuisine d’ Heléne (and #MTAFC on twitter); and sending it over to Fight Back Fridays at the Food Renegade, because Julia wrote MTAFC to empower “American women without cooks” to get into the kitchen, something my fellow real food advocates believe in as well.

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.

Support Healthy Milk for Schools

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I’ve written before about our quest for artificial growth hormone-free milk that led us to sign up for milk delivery from our local creamery. Why hormone free? Artificial growth hormones (rBGH) have been linked to type II diabetes and cancer. While many of the major retailers have since banned rBGH milk from their shelves (kudos to Wal-Mart, Kroger/Fred Meyer, Chipotle), it is still being produced and distributed to our public schools. I am fortunate to be able to afford organic milk, but the majority of kids who rely on school meal programs don’t have that option. The USDA is about to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act (CNA) so write today to urge them to give the schools the option of offering  artificial hormone-free milk to our schoolkids. Visit the Food & Water Watch action site RIGHT NOW to send an email. The comment period ends October 15, so comment and forward the link to your friends today!

(Note: the Food & Water Watch message does not ask USDA to mandate the choice, it merely asks them to allow schools to make their own choice.)