Tuesday, January 24

Introducing: Big Muddy Urban Farm!

It seems I have been a busy bee lately; hardly a moment to sit down. And, what might you ask, is keeping me on my toes these days? Well, I have quite the news! I have been busy working with several of my new and dear friends here in Omaha, to start a CSA (community supported agriculture) called Big Muddy Urban Farm. It seems, moreover, that I have landed in the exact right spot, surrounded by the best people possible, to nurture my soul and focus my energy. Right now, we are working to secure land and supplies and we are planning our crops so as to grow and sell 20 shares of our farm in the 2012 growing season; enough to feed 80 people for 20 weeks!
The people I am working with come from a diverse background; some having farmed before, some having only been interested in growing food on a personal level, some filmmakers about food and others just food lovers. Myself, I have grown only on a very small scale, in my parents' backyard and at the community garden plot I tended over the past two growing seasons with Jill and friends. I have been fortunate to be exposed to growing throughout my childhood, as my grandpa lives on a farm and my mom worked summers at Uriel Pharmacy as a grower. Though I am quite inexperienced in growing food, I have spent time writing and working on business plans and studying economics for the past four years; all the while interesting myself with food and growing on a text-book and experimental basis. I feel positive that while I have not grown food for a crowd before, my other skills will continue to contribute to the overall success of our group, on the foundation that exists with the others' skills and knowledge.
Surely we will encounter many struggles, and the support of our friends and families will be essential to our well-being; and is the basis for community supported agriculture. Know too, that I have been inspired by so many of you. Such inspiration has led me to this place-- and thank goodness.

Watch us grow, as the seasons change and the air gets warmer and the earth greener!

Friday, January 6

Chicken Soup for the Children's Soul

Two of my dearest little friends, Nadia and Vera, recently found out that I had a blog. Upon finding this, they asked, "Are we on it?" Unfortunately, to date, they have not made an appearance on my blog; and why not, I am not sure! They are some of the loveliest girls I know. So I said, "Share your favorite recipe, and I will be sure to post the recipe and include you in the post!" No more than 24 hours later, I had a recipe in hand and knew what I had to do.
Vera and Nadia, sweet as could be!
Here is what I was told:
"Nadia's and Vera's favorite recipes come straight off of the back of the Ramon noodles package and frozen breaded chicken package, respectively. They aren't much into gourmet dining. I usually have to force them to eat my homemade cooking."
--Nadia and Vera's mom, Olga

Not to worry, she said. "Oh, wait, there is one thing they really like; Russian Chicken Noodle Soup!"

So here goes nothing, I am trying my hand at their favorite soup. Unfortunately we don't live in the same state anymore, so they will have to trust me and my photos and perhaps some reviews by my trustworthy family members/taste testers extraordinaire, as to whether or not the soup was a success. This recipe is exactly how I was given it, though I used a whole chicken rather than smaller cuts. Follow and you will find Nadia and Vera's favorite recipe!
For fun and color, I used purple potatoes!
Russian chicken noodle soup (from scratch of course)
1 whole chicken, uncooked
1 1/2 medium sized onions, whole
1 1/2 medium sized carrot, whole
2 medium sized potatoes
1/2 inch diameter bunch of dill, uncut
2 med size bay leaves
4 cups of egg noodles, any kind

1. Wash the chicken and place it in a medium size pot. Peel the onions. Put the whole one in the pot, and set the remaining 1/2 aside. Do the same with the carrots. Take 2/3 of the dill, tie with string, and put UNCUT in the pot; set the remaining dill aside. Put both bay leaves in the pot. Add water to the pot so the contents are fully submerged under about 1 1/2 inches of water. Add salt and black pepper. Boil over high heat; after it boils, turn down to low. Trim and discard of the froth. Simmer for about two hours until meat is tender. Take the meat out, put it in a bowl, set aside. 
2. Chop the remaining onion and carrot and sauté in 2 tbsp of vegetable oil until onions are golden brown. Add to the broth and bring it back to a boil. Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, add to the broth. Add the noodles. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft (about 10 minutes). Finely chop the remaining dill. Once the potatoes and noodles are done, turn off the heat, add the chopped dill, and cover. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt or pepper if desired. You may want to try adding 2 tea spoons of sugar- you'll be surprised at the subtle but very pleasant difference it will make. Skin the chicken and cut into small chunks. Discard the skin and bones. Add the meat directly to the bowl immediately prior to serving. Do NOT let the meat sit in the soup. Enjoy with soft white bread!!!

I would say, it is quite the wonderful recipe. I don't cook with dill a lot, but it surely added a nice flavor and the stock made by cooking the chicken with the vegetables lends itself to a flavor-filled dinner treat. 

Let the soup warm your soul.
Me and the girls, a year ago or so
Happy eating!

Monday, January 2

New year

What a wonderful year 2011 was. And I look forward to so many new prospects; where I will be surrounded by new friendships and supported by old ones. I was lucky as a duck to chime in the new year, with Jill in town; my first visitor since my move to Omaha!
 frosty windows in the wintertime
and dear friends in Omaha
Before the new year, I was lucky to spend much time at home. I relished in the season of winter; spending most days sleeping in and staying in my pajamas through the evening hours. As winter will hold a special place in my heart forever, I especially appreciated the connection I have with the kitchen through these cold, dark months. The warmth that radiates from the stove heats my body and my soul. It is a connection that I nurture as much as I can, as the warmth from cooking sustains me through winter.

This year, I have spent much time exploring the world of candy making. For the past several years I have been making caramels with my Poppa's recipe. It is a treat that I have spoken of before, but cannot be under-praised. My Poppa's caramels are of a quality unmatched by many other sweet treats, and they are especially delightful during this time of year. Earlier in the year, I explored the spices of gingerbread and came up with a new caramel; the gingerbread chew. It was a hit, and it spurred my further exploration of other tasty treats! This winter, I made three new caramel chews: chai, maple and hot cocoa. Of the three, I am most pleased with the chai chews. Though this is not to say that there won't be more of the others in the future. Rather, it seems that some perfecting needs to take place before sharing the latter recipes. However, I am happy to share my new recipe for chai caramel chews!

Also, it should be noted that if you are hesitant to make candies or caramel chews because you don't have a candy thermometer, please don't let this stop you! You can pick a thermometer up for close to 5 dollars at most every supermarket or grocery store. And it will be 5 dollars well spent.
From left to right: hot cocoa, gingerbread, chai, maple, plain 'ol caramel
Chai Caramel Chews
4 cups of white sugar
1 quart of white corn syrup
1 pound of butter
1 quart of half and half cream
1 tablespoon of green label tea
1 tablespoon of red label tea
6 green cardamom pods, crushed
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
Sea salt

1. In a small sauce pan, brew teas and cardamom pods in the half and half cream. Don't boil, but heat until the cream is a dark hue with the brewed tea. Strain the tea leaves from the cream and discard. 

2. Place the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream and remaining cardamom in a large, heavy bottom saucepan. The pan should be at least 8 quarts or larger. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. 

3. Continue boiling while stirring until the mixture comes 247 degrees (medium-hard ball stage), approximately 1 hour.

4. Remove from heat and pour into a well buttered 9x13 inch cake pan. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of corse sea salt. When thoroughly cooled (a few hours; be patient!) invert the pan and remove the caramel onto a cutting surface. Cut the caramels into long 1 inch strips with a buttered pizza roller. Then cut the strips into 1 inch squares. Wrap them in waxed paper and share with your friends.

Happy new year and happy sweet treat eatin!