Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cheese is SO EASY

I've made mozzarella cheese and goat cheese before, but none have been as easy as Ricotta. 

I saw it on the Food Network a few weeks ago and kept the ingredients in mind.  When I went to find buttermilk, however, I was informed that it's illegal for local creameries to sell it!  Huh?? 

Anyway, I finally found out that Kalona Super Natural makes a buttermilk.  I love their yogurt, so I figured, you can't really screw up buttermilk, right?

All the ingredients you need...
8 cups milk (I suggest whole... I used skim...  I suggest whole.)
1 cup cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons of lemon juice (free ingredient for the purpose of this recipe)

Put all the milks together and slowly bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching.  This takes some time, but then again, they say watched water (or milk) never boils.

Once it does boil, and I mean really boil, not just froth, add the lemon juice.  It immediately starts to curdle.  Stir carefully for about 2 minutes. It's more of a "moving around" than a stir. 

Spoon the curdles into a cheesecloth-lined strainer.  Let it sit for an hour. 

There you have it! Delicious, fresh, homemade Ricotta cheese.  No special equipment, no tricks or hints... just straight forward use of the curdle. 

Delicious with some berries from the Strawberry Patch in Nevada! More on that tomorrow. 
(How's that for a tease?... I guess I'm learning something from working for the news.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fishing Trip

What's more local than a fish you catch yourself? Nothing! So I loaded up my grandpa and my cousin and we headed to a private pond my grandpa knew about.

Now, when I was a little one, I wanted to be a professional fisherwoman.  I wanted to have my own bass fishing show... 

Well, I didn't really prove my chops on this trip.

We all caught a little something... Grandpa got the biggest fish.  This one was a little bigger than it looks in this picture, but not big enough to keep. 

My cousin Olivia caught 5 or 6 little tiny things.  She was the champion of the trip. 

Even I snagged a little guy... But all in all, we didn't catch anything big enough to keep.  We did, however, have a  great time chatting and casting  out. 

Don't judge the outfit... I didn't bring a sweatshirt and so I borrowed one from my grandpa. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Long Local Weekend

Welcome back after a long weekend!  Got my CSA on Saturday.

My cousin Anna came to the market with me! She's been saying all summer she would come, and I even made her a farmers market bag just like mine as a little incentive to come visit me.

It was fun to look at everything and go down every little street of the market.  I usually just get my stuff and get out.  But I definitely found some gems like this homemade granola.  Not as good as Paul's Grains... but it makes a fantastic addition to my yogurt in the morning.

I actually had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but my usual day off falls on Monday, so I took advantage of the fantastic weather and talked my friend Elizabeth into inviting me over.  :)
It wasn't hard... I asked what she was doing and she said, "Got a freezer full of Iowa beef, so I thought I'd thaw and eat it all."

I took that as my cue to come over.
We grilled her awesome Iowa beef patties and put them on some Gateway garlic focaccia rolls.  Elizabeth and her husband are now big fans.  My absolute favorite way to eat those rolls is to just dip them in some green goddess dressing.  They have it right on the salad bar and you can just pack up a little dressing sized container to go.
While I was at Gateway I picked up some popcorn I had been eyeing all week.  I passed it up 2 or 3 times, and I talked myself into getting it this time.  Let me just say, I literally ate half the bag before I got to Elizabeth's house!  SO worth getting.  It's in a display over by the bakery counter.
Made in Story City.

I also brought over some potatoes I got at the farmers market that I had tossed with a little oil and salt and pepper and some chopped spring garlic and green onions.  Put all that in an aluminum foil pocket and grill it for 20 minutes.  Perfect potato side.
Elizabeth also whipped up a side that had chocolate pasta that she got at the farmers market! The smell of it boiling was SO WEIRD.  But yummy.

We spent the rest of the day chilling in the front yard  enjoying the shade and beautiful weather.

Couldn't have asked for a more relaxing day.  Thanks Elizabeth!

I'm wearing shorts... don't worry.  
I've been so blessed by all my friends and family that have gone out of their way to participate in my 100 days of eating local.  I thought it might be a lonely 100 days, but my friends and family have been more than happy to eat at local restaurants, and my mom has taken me on two different trips to Wheatsfield to get food for me while I was staying in Ames.
My grandma even dug up some green onions and found some frozen strawberries she picked at the Strawberry Patch last summer.  She also noticed her eggs were from Iowa!  Great find, Grandma!

My next few blogs are already shaping up to be pretty exciting! I made some fresh ricotta today after a major struggle to find buttermilk.  I also went fishing with my gpa and my cousin, but I can't get the pictures off my phone for some reason.  So you will have to wait in anticipation to see if I caught anything!  Finally, tomorrow I'm going to the Strawberry Patch, so stick around.  Many fun, local adventures to follow.

One last little tidbit, if you've ever wondered why I'm so kooky, you might understand now... I was talking to my mom today while I was making the cheese and she said, "I made wine Popsicles." I couldn't help but giggle.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 9! Local Restaurants, and a tip for Hypochondriacs.

So I mentioned that I ate out way more than I was intending last week... So I went ahead and ate out twice today... 

Breakfast was a rush.  I just peeled an egg and took it to go. 

I went shopping today at Gateway and Campbells Nutrition.  I think I got a little spoiled at Wheatsfield, because they mark the local food really clearly, so I could identify some yogurt and BBQ sauce that I might not have known were from Iowa. 

I picked up a tomato, ice cream, Kalona peach yogurt and ground beef...  Hopefully I can score some good finds at the market tomorrow, or I'll be a hungry lady. 

I also got some cheese and prosciutto at the Cheese Shop.  Love the people there. They are so friendly and helpful!

After my failed attempt at a quick grocery run, my mom picked me up and we went shopping!  I got some great finds, including this $25 dress that was originally $70!

For lunch I talked her into trying Zombie Burger. I've been there many, many times, but she hadn't tried it yet.  I got the Raygun, a burger with pepper jack, caramelized onions, guac, and breaded jalapeno strips.  Mmmmmmmm. 

I added a chocolate Nutella shake (non-alcoholic)... because, why wouldn't you? The server was confused when I didn't want to add a side of fries.  Oy!

Not an everyday thing, but an awesome, new, hip, local restaurant. 

Zombie wasn't our first choice... We got drenched running to Sakari Sushi Lounge, only to find out it was CLOSED! Who closes at lunch time?? ahem... 2 pm...

So I ordered takeout from Sakari later for dinner... I had a working dinner planned with my coworker Brandon, so we picked it up and brought it back to the station to discuss a project we have in mind.

White tuna nigiri and spicy white tuna roll.  Their white tuna is the consistency of mashed potatoes... it just melts in your mouth!

I've been a little out of it the last few days.  I felt dizzy when I woke up on Wednesday, and then last night I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I got so dizzy that I nearly blacked out.  I actually called First Nurse once I got some blood flowing back to my brain.

First Nurse is an awesome central Iowa resource.  If you've never heard of it, I encourage you to write the number down somewhere handy.  They will answer 24-7 and can talk you through most illnesses and give you advice like whether or not you should call 911 or make a doctor's appointment in the near future.  It's like having a best friend nurse that will answer at all hours of the night!  It's a great resource for people with kids who get sick in the middle of the night, or people who live alone and are hypochondriacs...

She basically told me I just sat up too fast, and maybe had some low blood sugar.  I can't help but wonder if I have "a bit of a bug" as my mom would call it. 

Either way, tomorrow is the Farmer's Market! My cousin Anna is coming with me! I love having a CSA waiting for me.  I don't have to worry that all the good produce will be gone, it's all waiting for me in a bag!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Unexpected Perk to Eating Local

I'm learning a lot and getting excited for the new seasonal produce.  I hope you guys are having fun reading about my journey!

I don't have much to say today.  It's the day before I start my second shopping adventure (aka payday).  On the grocery list for the next few weeks is whole milk, heavy cream, buttermilk and cheese cloth.  I'm going to make some fresh and delicious Ricotta cheese!

Next week I have tentative plans to go fishing with my grandpa.  I'll definitely blog that experience.  Hopefully lots of big ol' fish pictures. 

I'm also going to the Strawberry Patch to pick my own berries.  It's really the cheapest way to get fresh berries because you don't have to pay for the hands that pick the berries and the truck that hauls them to you.  No middle MEN. 

As a kind of afterthought... but obviously worth mentioning... I've lost 3 1/2 pounds this week! I'm not on a diet by any means. I eat whenever I'm hungry.  But I've made a huge cut in white flour and sugar just by the nature of "what's grown in Iowa".  I haven't eaten anything with mystery ingredients...

I think of myself as a fairly healthy eater in general, but I think those little "treats" build up without us even noticing.  A handful of peanut M&Ms, whatever someone brought into the newsroom with the hopes we'll mention their company on-air, a granola bar when I'm bored, protein powder because I think I worked out like a badass...  It all has crazy weird ingredients to keep it shelf-stable and I'm very pleased to be purging it from my body. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week 1 Done! Quick Local Caramel Popcorn Recipe.

I've officially been doing this for one week.  7 days down, 93 to go... Well, it doesn't look as accomplished when you look at it that way... 

I got back to my spin class today for the first time in a while, and I got to tell my fellow cyclists all about my adventure.  One of the girls in the class said she would eat more local food if someone would just tell her the benefit to spending so much more money on local food. 

Here are a few of my own personal reasons:
-Carbon footprint.  I hate the idea of someone picking some lettuce and wrapping it in packaging I'm just going to toss.  Those packages go in one big box and it's put on a truck with some other big boxes and sent across the country.  That's a lot of packaging and gas!
-It's fresher.  Can you imagine how long it takes to haul that lettuce to me?  All the while I could be eating it! I've bought a lot bags of lettuce in my life, and they almost all last about 2 days MAX.  I got some spring mix in my CSA on the 12th, and I used the last of it on the 20th in a salad.  It wasn't quite as crisp as the new stuff I got this week, but it wasn't brown and slimy. 
-It tastes better. In order to get fresh produce to us, they pick the fruit when it's green and let it ripen during the transportation phase.  Green tomatoes, green strawberries, green bananas... (you know that's true, you always see green bananas) When left to ripen on the stem, they just taste better. They're juicer, brighter and all around yummy in my tummy-er.

Those are just a few reasons I love local.  Why do you eat local? I'd especially love to hear why you eat local meat, dairy and grains (if you do).

Today's breakfast was the rest of that spinach/strawberry/yogurt smoothie.  Still fresh, still delicious. 

Lunch was a more brat-appropriate bun paired with another local brat.  I feel like it's summertime when I eat those guys. 

Dinner is a kitchen sink salad/garbage salad/desperation salad... Whatever you choose to call a salad with EVERYTHING from the fridge. 

I made some caramel popcorn as a snack for work.  I've been craving something sweet lately and something to just munch on.  This recipe definitely fits that craving. 

6 cups of popped popcorn. (I popped my corn on the stove, but you could use plain microwave popcorn, or put some popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag with a spray of Pam and roll the opening just enough to keep the kernels from flying all over the place, and then just put it in the microwave till they stop popping! Voila! Microwave popcorn! And you're 100% aware of what's in it.
Pop that corn up.  While it's popping, put 1 tablespoon of butter with 1/4 cup Sourghum and let it simmer and melt together in a pan (or the microwave... I don't have a microwave, so it had to be on the stove).
When the popcorn is all done, drizzle the good stuff over top and toss.  mmmmmmmm.

I love caramel popcorn.  This stuff is the kind that's sticky and gooey all over your hands and face.  Perfection. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Easy Peasy Bread. I'm Still Eating local!

Today I took a stroll through Target when I was MAD hungry and BROKE.  Not a good idea.  I checked out the clothes for a while... Tried on a dress...  Do you ever notice, and you know who you are, that Target clothes don't fit a certain shape of woman? Like the... womanly shape???  I can't quite get anything to fit over my chest or my rump and look normal everywhere else.

Anyway... I couldn't drown my sorrows in discount chocolate... So I just got my body wash and got the heck out of there.

For breakfast I smashed some strawberries in my yogurt.  It gave the early strawberries a little more sweetness and hid the weird aftertaste of the yogurt. I'm excited to check out the berry patch next week near Nevada!  They opened on Monday. I'll be in Nevada for an appointment, so I thought I'd slip over.  If anyone has ever heard me talk about the berry patch, they know... They should really weigh me before and after and charge for all the fruit I eat.

My lunch was my usual garbage salad.  I'm really starting to look forward to it.  I'm almost out of strawberries and completely out of these delicious tiny carrots that came in my CSA... So it might not be the same the next few days.

Before I went to get my hair chopped...

I whipped up some bread dough.

1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water
3/4 T yeast (free, unless you know of some Iowa-produced yeast)
1/2 T salt (I used a little more and the bread was a bit salty for my taste)
3 1/4 cups flour.

Mixed up the yeast and water with the salt and let it bubble up a little.

Add the flour and mix just enough to get rid of any traces of dry flour.  I let it blow up for a few hours while I ran around town.  When I got home,

I got the oven and my baking stone HOT.  I let it heat up to 400 degrees for at least 20 minutes.

I tucked the dough around to the bottom and made a nice neat bun.  Well, two of them to be exact. 

Baked them till they were done... when you knock on them they sound hollow.

For dinner, I boiled some local brats for 20 minutes and then slapped those babies on the Foreman to crisp up a little.  the buns ended up a little round... I had to cut down the brats to fit. 
Not a fancy day by any means... But some Picket Fence Creamery key lime ice cream finished it off nicely.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Local! It says it right on the door!

Nom nom nom.  Loving all this local food.  

For breakfast I had some scrambled eggs and some leftover french toast.  I needed a big breakfast for the adventure that Stephanie and I were going to go on! 

We drove down to Saylorville and went on a HIKE. 

That was not her walking stick
Yes a hike.  

It was rough terrain.  

We traversed the rough terrain with our walking sticks in hand.  

Found some gems...  Ew! There were dead fish all over the place.

On to food...  I had a quick kitchen sink salad just like the one from yesterday.  

Dinner was on-the-go.  I got a lot of flack from some friends for my dinner today... I went to Z'Mariks in West Des Moines. I know it's locally owned because my friend Tess's friend owns it! 

PLUS it says it right on the front door!  Locally owned and operated.

And it was Mac and Cheese Monday.  Yum.  Large mac and cheese for the price of a small.  

I was planning on bringing half home...  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eating Local Day 4: Amish Friendship Bread French Toast

I was tempted today twice... by the same person!  My coworker Emily got Domino's pizza and they talked her into parmesan bites... mmmmm. And then she texts me during my break to pick up two giant boxes of Dots on my way back because she was having a MAJOR CRAVING...  Ugh.

But I did make some yummy food today that I'm excited to share, and I made a MAJOR DISCOVERY.  More on that later. 

For breakfast I was in a rush, so I was happy to have the spinach/strawberry smoothie.  I gave it a shake and it was a delicious glass of local-ness.

For lunch I had a kitchen sink salad that was outstanding! Spinach, green onions, carrots, chicken, egg, quinoa, strawberries and some Gino's salad dressing.

I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have any popcorn yet, and wondering where I could pick some up... When I picked up my own bag of popcorn.... I might as well throw it away I guess...

It refuses to rotate... Just turn your head already!

Iowa popcorn! Pops like a champ because it's made in Iowa! Or something like that...

That will make a great snack whenever I scrape the burnt quinoa off my big pot... ahem....

Dinner was the show stopper for sure though.  I had a loaf of Amish bread in my freezer, and I talked myself into saying it was locally made.  I made it locally before I started this... So there.

This is my project! I don't need to explain myself to you! 

I whipped up 1 egg with 1/2 cup milk and 1 teaspoon of sorghum and dipped the bread in the mixture and threw it in a pan with some butter.

So buttery and sweet that it didn't even need syrup! Which is good because I haven't tracked down any Iowa maple syrup yet.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Eating Local Day 3: Made Locally!

This morning I trucked down to the Downtown Farmers Market to pick up my CSA and try to not spend a whole lot more money....

I was only half successful...

I did get my CSA, but I also bought some Paul's Grains Quinoa, Paul's Grains granola (KILLER) and a Breakfast THANG from Tacopocalypse. 

The lovely Miss Emily Carlson of WHO-TV fame was flipping tortillas like a pro.  (I guess they'll give anyone a job...)

When I got home I whipped up a spinach and strawberry smoothie.  I have a bunch of spinach and greens left from last week because I spent half the week in Ames and didn't open my CSA 'till Thursday.  I'm hoping it keeps in the fridge.

I just snacked on the granola and some raisin bread for lunch.   My Breakfast Thing was pretty filling.

Then I made some dinner to bring with me.  Local beef, spring garlic, spinach, green onions and a tomato simmered down with some water.  I let that thing simmer for over an hour.

Tossed it with my homemade pasta and it was an easy local dinner to bring to work.

I also got a special treat.  My AWESOME coworker Dave's wife Emily, also of TV fame... sent a slice of peach pie for me!  Made in her kitchen, just a few miles away! :)

There is no picture of that because I inhaled it.  (oops)