Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Tomato Tragedy! May 19, 2011

Our tomato plants did not fair well with the transplant from pot to garden plot the other day, and now it looks like we are expecting weather in the low thirties this evening which, I am afraid to say, may be the final blow to the already stressed plants.

I will be really disappointed if they don’t survive. We had four different heirloom varieties and I have been fantasizing about all the things I will be able to do with them come late summer. At this point it really only looks like about three of the plants will pull through, but I haven’t entirely given up hope yet. Of course, we will have to see how things are tomorrow morning after our cold snap. I fear the worse.

The most distressing part about this, of course, is the fact that I like to think that our gardens can feed us. This is probably unreasonable regardless of circumstance, but when something like this happens it really highlights how fragile the balance is. If we WERE totally dependent on the garden, we would now be down a whole crop. And while that isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it does mean that one of the best foods for canning and preserving would be completely missing from our winter cupboard. It makes me really appreciate and understand how hard it is, and how much luck goes into, being able to survive without the convenience of readily available supermarket variety food.

It is easy to forget that even our farmer’s at the local farmer’s market here struggle with that and are also subject to the whims of nature, regardless of their experience or skill at keeping their crops happy and alive. Just this year one of the local tomato growers lost almost all their plants due to a natural gas shortage which killed the heaters in their greenhouses. So please, think good thoughts tonight while the temperatures dip. I am hopeful that the plants will pull through, but if not I will have to replace them with some other varieties. I hope that your gardens are doing well in spite of the weather here!

Happy Gardening!


Holiday season – Heritage Turkey! November 21, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Farmer's Market,Politics — realfoodmama @ 6:16 pm
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Holiday Birds

Gobble Gobble!

This year I finally bit the bullet and decided to buy a locally grown heritage turkey. We ended up purchasing a 15 pound bird from the farmer’s market (for an obscene amount of money I might add) and it is now sitting in my freezer, waiting to be defrosted for the big holiday coming up this Thursday. I was very discouraged by the fact that the vendor I purchased the bird from responded quite poorly to me utilizing my food stamps to pay for said bird. My feeling is, for the cost of the thing they should have been lucky I bought one at all! Regardless, this is the only time a farmer’s market vendor has treated me like I am making their life more difficult when I use my wooden SNAP tokens to make a purchase. Hopefully the bird will be awesome and make up for it! (Although it should be noted, no further purchases will be made from this vendor in the future. I don’t need to be treated like a leper for using food stamps.)

The biggest concern with this years bird, aside from politics, is of course the best way to cook a Heritage Turkey. I have never attempted it myself and I have heard such widely contradictory theories as to the best way to go about it. Some folks swear by brining it and then roasting at high heat until it reaches temperature. I have no desire to brine a turkey for a variety of reasons. First, I don’t have a place to keep a turkey in brine for two days, unless you count the garage and frankly, that doesn’t sound very hygienic. Second, I want to try roasting it without the fool-proof guarantee of a brine.

The other option of course is to smother it in butter, which frankly sounds better than soaking it in salt anyway. In fact one of the most interesting recipes I’ve seen involves using maple butter under the skin. A version is found here at the Heritage Foods USA web site. I like this idea as I think the maple flavor would really enhance the (supposedly) richer flavor of the heritage bird. I then plan on stuffing it with apples, carrots and a few sprigs of rosemary. I am hopeful that it will turn out well, and fully intend on taking photos and posting about the results.

In addition to the turkey I also will be rendering some lard for the pie crusts and roasting and pureeing the pumpkins from our garden. For the pecan pie I am going to try a recipe using brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup and the stash of locally grown pecans I have been saving. Also on the menu is some fresh baked bread, a sausage and bread stuffing, the potatoes from our garden, and a host of veggies. Unfortunately I will not be making the green bean casserole this year due to the fact that all of the green beans we processed and froze were ruined when my three year old turned off the chest freezer….alas, we had to say goodbye to 20 lbs of green beans, several whole chickens and some frozen apples. It was quite sad.

I hope that all of you are gearing up for the holiday with as much enthusiasm as I am! I just need to figure out a way to include some goat milk and some eggs in our feast in order to make it pretty much totally home grown! Happy Eating!


Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble April 25, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Farmer's Market,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 9:42 pm
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Rhubarb and StrawberriesI love spring. Not only are the birds singing, the flowers blooming and the sun shining, but foods much missed over the winter are making a comeback. And the very best thing, in my mind, is the reappearance of strawberries and rhubarb – one of my favorite combos.

So this evening I decided to make an easy dessert. A simple crumble that has just enough good things in it to make it seem nearly like health food.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

1 pint organic strawberries – sliced
3 large stalks of fresh rhubarb – sliced
1/4 c sugar, approximately

for topping:

1/3 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c rolled oats
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c what germ
1/2 tsp salt
4 TBSP butter

I like to cook my rhubarb and strawberries before making something like this. The primary reason is to avoid over sweetening, or worse under sweetening, your filling. If you cook them together with the sugar on the stove top first, just until they soften, you can gauge whether or not you need to add more sugar before the final baking.

Once this has been done, go ahead and mix up your crumble topping. Place the flour, sugar, salt, oats and wheat germ in a bowl and whisk until well mixed. Using a pastry blender, add the butter and mix until you get a coarse crumb.

Pour the strawberry and rhubarb mixture into an 8×4 bread pan and cover with the crumble topping. Bake at 350 degrees until the filling bubbles and the topping mixture just begins to brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!



Spinach and Sausage Fritatta March 17, 2010

The Farmer’s Market here has finally started producing some green stuff! After a winter of root vegetables, I am terribly excited about this prospect. The primary crop includes greenhouse spinach and salad greens. Two things which I have been craving like mad. I have made spinach ravioli, spinach alfredo sauce, spinach quiche’s and most recently, a lovely spinach fritatta. Sadly the photos I thought I had seem to be MIA at the moment so you’ll have to use your imagination!

Fritatta’s are similar to quiche, but require less work. Instead of baking a crust, making a custard and then waiting nearly an hour for the results, you simple put a frying pan over medium heat, beat the eggs and cook them on the stove top with a quick finish under the broiler.

Spinach and Sausage Fritatta

1/4 lb chopped spinach (about 1 cup)
6 large eggs
1 c diced cooked sausage (I used breakfast link, but anything would work, including Italian!)
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Fritatta’s are very easy to make and are a quick way of using leftover meat and cooked vegetables on those nights when you need an break from long cooking times. You want to make sure that the pan you are using can go in the oven – a well seasoned and well greased cast iron skillet works the best.

Begin by whisking the eggs until they are uniform in color. Add them to the well greased pan over a medium heat and scrape and mix a bit to create some texture and height. Add the already cooked sausage and chopped spinach. Turn the heat to low and let cook on the stove top until the top of the eggs sets. Sprinkle on your Parmesan cheese then place the pan in the oven underneath the broiler for about 3-5 minutes or until the top starts to brown. Serve hot!

This post has been my contribution to Real Food Wednesday, hosted this week by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Happy Eating!


A liverwurst conundrum. February 2, 2010

Filed under: Cravings,Farmer's Market — realfoodmama @ 10:29 am
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Recently I have been having a craving. It is insidious, a bit naughty, and creating a moral dilemma. I want liverwurst and I want it bad.

So why not just go buy it? Surely it can’t be that hard to find, right?

Theoretically, no. It can’t. However, the problem I am facing is simply that I can’t find an organic pork liverwurst to save my life, and I have no idea how to make it. The argument could be made that I should simply go buy some conventional liverwurst, eat a few sandwiches, feed some to the kiddo and then move on with my life but I just…can’t.

The reason? It’s liver…liver, the organ that filters all the toxins from the body, the organ that pulls all those hormones and antibiotics given to conventional pork from the blood stream. In short, the most contaminated of all the organ meats. It gives me the heebie jeebies, to be honest. Not because it’s liver, obviously, but because it’s contaminated. Ick.

So I did what any food purist would do, I asked my local pork guy at the farmer’s market if he ever made liverwurst. Unfortunately he looked at me like I had grown a second head and he’s used to weird requests from me – things like lard and beef suet are frequently discussed. However, he said he would look into it. And while he may not make it for me, he is willing to sell me pork livers so I can make it myself. I love the idea of making my own liverwurst, and I have a few recipe sources I could try (isn’t the internet great?!) but I have to admit to being a little intimidated by having a pork liver in my freezer.

In either case, I want nothing more than a nice liverwurst sandwich on thick home made sourdough bread, slathered with home made mayonnaise. Maybe one day!

Until then, Happy Eating!


Another Fabulous Farmer’s Market Morning January 30, 2010

Filed under: Farmer's Market — realfoodmama @ 1:29 pm

I know I have said this before, so at the risk of repeating myself and boring all of you to death – I LOVE my Farmer’s Market!

This morning was particularly wonderful because I was privileged enough to meet one of the vendors. And this wasn’t just any vendor – Rose Trujillo, owner of Trujillo farms in Nambe – has been selling at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market for forty years. Yes, that’s right. FORTY years. In fact, she was awarded a plaque recently by the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Institute in recognition of her long standing participation.

She has been growing her own corn, making her own masa (an impressive feat indeed) and selling her tamales this whole time. She walked me through the process of making masa – she harvests her corn, roasts it, drys it, cooks the kernels in lyme in order to remove the skins, skims it, refrigerates it, rinses it, drys it a second time, grinds it, then makes her tamales. Keep in mind this woman is 75 years old and works a 2 acre farm!

Additionally she was full of experiential information about gardening. She suggested growing cosmos around your plots in order to provide shade, since they grow so high. She also explained to me how to distinguish the male flowers from the female flowers on squash so that if I want to pick squash blossoms I don’t work against myself by picking all my fruit. Rose also shared tricks and tips on how to conserve water, companion planting, and most importantly, how to get rid of ants! The trick, she explained, was to sprinkle hot chile powder on the ground. I will definitely be trying this one!

All in all, it was a very wonderful conversation and it really brought home to me, once again, the sense of community that is created by food and by local markets. I hope that I continue to create these kinds of relationships when I go to my local market – the sheer amount of information that can be shared and traded is, in my opinion, worth as much as the goods themselves.


Farmer’s Market score! January 11, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Farmer's Market — realfoodmama @ 7:52 pm
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Farmer's Market harvest!The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market re-opened this weekend after a two week hiatus in observance of the holidays. I was very excited about going for several reasons and as usual, I was not disappointed.

The Farmer’s Market here in Santa Fe is like a large coffee shop – it has a permanent, dedicated indoor space and is catered by a local bakery which provides coffee and pastries, as well as local favorites like tamales and high class breakfast burritos with strange ingredients like gouda which cost a ridiculous six dollars. (Okay so clearly I am not a fan of the burritos). However there is definitely a sense of community at our farmer’s market and it is simply one of the many reasons I enjoy my weekly visits.

This last weekend I was particularly excited as I wanted to get some pecans (grown in the southern part of the state) and one of the enormous winter squash I had admired throughout December but failed to actually purchase. Luckily for me, both items were there on Saturday!

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, reviewed here, I have a plan for the squash that involves scooping out it’s innards and baking it with milk resulting in a soup cooked in it’s own turine (see this site for the recipe from the book).

As for the pecans, I am attempting to figure out how to make a pecan pie without using the standard corn syrup. I imagine a combination of molasses and honey would probably suffice, but I will have to think about it more. As soon as the recipe is attempted, I will post it!

Until then, Happy Eating!