December 24, 2009 at 11:04 pm (Christmas, Potatoes, Soup)
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year for many reasons, one of them being my family’s (and possibly yours too) traditional meal of oyster soup. Yes, I’m aware oysters aren’t local on the Northern Plains; at least the mollusk variety — there are others… But I digress, back to soup. As much as I love those briny little creatures, not everyone does, and like many folks, I end up making two soups. So I figured today was a good day to publish my recipe for potato leek soup.
I call it “my” recipe because it’s the one I use; however, it came to me from Nancy Hartenhoff several years ago. The amounts aren’t hard and fast; this is a very forgiving soup, and I honestly never measure anything when I make it. It always turns out tasty!
Potato Leek Soup
2 or 3 Leeks (onions also work well if you don’t have leeks)
Olive oil or butter
4 Cups (approximately) Chicken broth (or vegetable)
4 or 5 medium potatoes
Milk, half-and-half, or cream
Sauté the leeks in oil or butter (I use olive oil) until they’re soft and translucent. Add the broth and potato chunks, cook until potatoes are soft. Add the milk, half-and-half, or cream and heat through but do not boil. I usually use 2 percent milk, but have been known to use a combination of 1 percent milk and half-and-half. I usually add 2 to 3 cups of milk, depending on how much liquid is in the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste; enjoy!
December 20, 2009 at 11:29 pm (Christmas, Coffee, Fair Trade, Food system)
If your house is like mine, your oven has been in regular use the past few days baking pans of Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies, gingerbread, snickerdoodles, oh my! So what are you going to drink to wash down all those cookies? My guess would be coffee or hot cocoa.
Those are two items we just can’t grow here, but by purchasing fair-trade certified coffee and cocoa, we can ensure that small, family farmers can make a living. Rather than lining the pockets of Folgers and Maxwell House (owned by Proctor & Gamble and Kraft Foods, respectively), who often pay farmers less than the cost of production or else buy up large tracts of land in developing countries in order to grow the beans themselves, we can help create sustainable communities with our buying power.
The most common fairly traded coffee comes from Equal Exchange, an organization that certifies and markets sustainably grown, fair trade products. Custer County Market also sells several varieties, which is where I usually buy mine. Look for the bright yellow bag and Equal Exchange logo where you shop. If you can’t buy it at the store, you can also order wholesale online or check with your local churches. Equal Exchange has partnered with various church organizations all over the country, such as Lutheran World Relief, the Presbyterian Coffee Project, Catholic Relief Services, and the Methodist Coffee Project. Call your local church to see if they participate; if they do, they probably have products for sale. For more information, visit http://www.equalexchange.coop/ for more information. There are other fair-trade certified brands as well, and some companies, such as Dry Creek Coffee in Hill City, offer one or two fairly traded varieties.
This Christmas season, please do your part in creating a healthier, more just food system.
December 12, 2009 at 11:22 pm (Christmas, Herbs)
Yesterday I was paging through a women’s magazine while waiting at the orthodontist’s office. As usual, I skipped all the decorating stuff and went straight to the recipes; then I double-checked the magazine’s date. Yes, it really was the December issue, so why on Earth was there a recipe for pesto-guacamole stuffed tomatoes?
Granted, the cute little appetizers were red and green, but pesto and fresh tomatoes in December? It makes no sense to advocate using such seasonal ingredients months after their peak has passed. Yes, I can buy fresh hothouse tomatoes at the grocery store, but we all know what they’ll taste like: packing peanuts. Fresh basil is a bit tougher; it occasionally makes an appearance at the store, but only a sprig or two at a time in a tiny plastic box. Of course, that half-ounce will set you back $2.75. I figure that for my pesto recipe, I’d need 20 packets, making that charming pesto a whopping $55 plus tax.
However, I do have several packets of frozen pesto in my freezer, made when the basil was plentiful (and a frost was looming) late last August. That’s when you need to think about pesto, not after a week of sub-zero temperatures. Even though I have the pesto, I’ll forego the disappointing tomatoes and skip that appetizer all together.
The other summery recipe sported by the magazine touted peppermint as a cure for holiday stomach ailments. True enough. The snippet of an article stated that you should drink peppermint tea for indigestion, which I have done, and it works well. Peppermint tea is made from dried peppermint, so it’s available in any season. However, the other suggestion was to make a mint julep, for which you need two sprigs of fresh mint. Hmm, my mint is long dormant. Of course it’s available in those little packets for slightly less than the basil, and in a quantity just right for the drink, if you don’t mind venturing out in frigid temperatures for the sake of an herb sprig.
While amusing on the surface, these ideas touted by a major publication illustrate the utter disconnect our society has with seasonal foods. So we’ll just keep eating seasonally, and hopefully those magazines will catch on eventually. It may take awhile though; their writers are out scouring the shops for fresh basil and mint sprigs.