April 23, 2008

Shrimp Tonight

Do you ever wonder where the time goes? I never seem to have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to.

Yesterday, I was off work. I thought the day was going to be rainy and nasty out, but instead the sun came out and it was the perfect day for me to get some more yard work done.

I have a very large vegetable garden, plus a fair-sized herb garden. I start a lot of my herbs early in a starter tray for transplants. Then I buy my tomato and pepper plants from the Cole County Masters Gardeners Plant Sale. Why don’t I grow my own tomato and pepper plants….simple: I am a Master Gardner and I spend about 35 hours between Feb-April in our greenhouse in Jeff City starting seeds, transplanting and caring for plants in our greenhouse, so I really do grow tomato and pepper plants.

Today, I separated out my purple basil, lemon basil and then changed out the dirt in all my containers. Plus, I had my husband pick-up mulch on his way home to mulch all the landscape around the house, which we did when he got home.

I also had to lay plastic all over my herb garden and mulch it as well. (Yes, I’m getting lazy…the plastic will now make it so I don’t have to worry about weeding it.)

Somewhere in the middle of all of this I whipped up an old stand-by recipe for dinner tonight:

Shrimp Scampi & Lemon Spaghetti

by Lane
1 pound spaghetti
4 T. butter
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or just use garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 lemons, juiced and zested or 4 T. lemon juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigianino Reggiano
Parsley and basil flakes, ½ tsp of each

Bring your pasta to a boil and be sure to salt it. Cook according to directions.

In another pot melt butter, garlic and red pepper flakes. After the pasta has boil for about 8 minutes add a cup of the water from the pasta water to the butter mixture. Add cream and lemon juice and season with all seasonings (to suit your own taste). Remove from heat and add cheese and toss mixture with the drained pasta. Let the pasta and sauce sit, tossing occasionally.

While sauce is setting….cook your shrimp.

Shrimp Scampi
1 pound raw shrimp, shells and tails removed
1 T. parsley
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 T. butter
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

Heat large skillet and belt the butter. Add shrimp, peppers and season with seasonings. Cook and toss shrimp around to coat with butter. Cook until shrimp are pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK SHRIMP.

Remove and drain excess butter from shrimp.Give pasta one more last toss and plate some and top it with some shrimp.Serve with crusty French bread and salad. Makes great leftovers! and salad. Makes great leftovers!

April 22, 2008

Portobello Chicken and Chives

Visiting the farmers’ markets is one of my favorite ways to get the very best local produce around, plus that opportunity to visit with the producer about their operation and family farm is a great learning experience.

I shopped at the Columbia Farmers’ Market last weekend and picked-up a few items to make a great meal the other night. This Portobello Chicken and Chives recipe is perfect for a Saturday night in with my husband. Fresh garlic, mushrooms and chives from my herb garden made this bursting with flavor.

This recipe comes from the Kansas City Farmers’ Market cookbook, “In-Season, Cooking Fresh from the Kansas City Farmers’ Market.” This is a great cookbook and makes a great addition to your cookbook collection.

Portobello Chicken and Chives
From the In-Season, Cooking Fresh From the Kansas City Farmers’ Market

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. cracked pepper
6 oz. baby Portobello mushrooms
1 small bunch of chives
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup cream

Pound chicken breast to about ½ inch thick and marinate in the wine for at least 4 hours ( do it overnight).

In a large skillet heat olive oil. Mince garlic and add to the oil along with the salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from marinade. Saute chicken in the oil for about 5 minutes on each side.

Slice mushrooms thinly and add to the skillet. Cut chives thinly and add chives and stock to the skillet. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Add cream and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Serves 4. Suggested wine: Pinot Noir

April 16, 2008

Seven Reasons to Eat Local Food

It’s mid-April and markets around Missouri are opening up shop for the beginning of farmers’ market season. Although some markets have been open since about the third week of March, many of the more than 135 Missouri markets are opening within the next two weeks.

Consumers can expect to find bedding plants, spinach, lettuce, eggs, cheeses and meat at the market, as it’s too early to find many of the traditional vegetables at the market. For a listing of when fruits and vegetables will be in-season in Missouri view this Harvest Calendar from MU Extension.

The Local Foods Movement is sweeping across the Midwest, with consumers searching out local foods within their home communities. And what’s the best place to find fresh, nutritious, seasonal food….your local farmers’ market that's where.

Inside Columbia had a recent story that really makes you think about where your food comes from. The article, Think Global, Eat Local: Exploring A Healthy New Approach To Eating, says the average distance food travels from a farm to your table is around 2,000 miles, ¾ about the distance from Columbia to Seattle. Can you imagine?

Seven Benefits Of Eating Local Food

1. Unbeatable taste: Why do tomatoes from a farmers’ market taste so much better than most store-bought tomatoes? According to www.foodroutes.org, fruits and vegetables shipped from distant states and countries may spend a week or even two in transit before arriving at the supermarket. In contrast, most farmers’ market tomatoes have been off the vine for less than 24 hours when set out for sale. Local produce also tastes better because most shipped varieties are grown for their ability to withstand industrial harvesting equipment, extended travel and a long shelf life.“Local produce is grown for taste and nutrition,” says Michael McGowan, a board member of Sustainable Farms & Communities, a not-for-profit closely tied to the Columbia Farmers Market.

2. Better health and nutrition: Buying locally allows consumers to make selections based on the farmer’s use of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other additives. Currently, producers do not have to include this information on food labels. In addition, local foods — especially fruits and vegetables — have more nutritional value because they are allowed to ripen on the vine.

3. Greater variety: Local growers offer a tremendous selection. McGowan plans to grow 75 varieties of tomatoes for the Columbia Farmers Market this year, and he’s just one vendor.

4. Easier on the environment: Aside from the environmental concerns associated with industrial agriculture and confinement animal feeding operations, an industrial food supply requires transporting food items thousands of miles, which uses up fuel and creates pollution.“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ship food 2,000 miles when you can ship it 20 miles,” McGowan says.

5. Support for family farms: The 2002 Census of Agriculture showed a steep drop in the percentage of principal farm operators 35 years old or younger, from 15.9 percent in 1982 to 5.8 percent 20 years later. Eating local helps create the demand necessary to motivate a new generation to enter this risky business, Reuter says. He adds that the desire to keep family farms alive is about more than nostalgia; small farms create jobs that help diversify and thereby strengthen the local economy.

6. Improved security: According to a 2007 report by Hendrickson and University of Missouri rural sociology professor emeritus William Heffernan, 11 large firms control 83.5 percent of all U.S. beef slaughter, 66 percent of pork packing, 58.5 percent of broiler chicken production and 55 percent of turkey production. The same report shows four large firms control 55 percent of all U.S. flour milling and soybean crushing. If something bad happened at one of this big companies — anything from a safety recall to terrorism — the effect would be severe.

7. Stronger relationships: For many “localvores,” this benefit is the reason they feel passionate about local food systems. They love knowing the stories behind their food, they love connecting to a particular place, and they love interacting with other people who are passionate about food and culture.“Many people today have no meaningful understanding of where their food comes from, and thus no understanding of the ecological and social consequences of its production,” explains MU agricultural economics professor emeritus John Ikerd in his paper, Eating Local: A Matter of Integrity. “By eating local, people are able to reconnect with local farmers, and through local farmers, reconnect with the earth.…We cannot build a sustainable food system until people develop a deep understanding of their dependency upon each other and upon the earth. Thus, in my opinion, reconnecting is one of the most important reasons for eating local.”

Need to locate a Missouri farmers’ market near you? Check out the Missouri Farmers' Market Blog.

April 15, 2008

Parking Lot Cookies

Parking Lot cookiesMy gal pal Danni passed along this recipe to me about a week and half ago. When I first read the ingredients I didn’t know how these cookies would turn out (with oatmeal and rice crispies). Plus, when I started to mix the cookies up how thick they became the more ingredients I added.

But, these are very tasty and easy to prepare….would be perfect for a football tailgate!

Thanks Danni for sharing.

1 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla (it's okay to spill a little bit)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups rice crispies
1 cup pecans ( I toast the pecans before putting them in the cookie dough, brings out the taste)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix both sugars well, removing all lumps. Add shortening, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and beaten eggs. Mix well. Mix in flour (it’s starting to get thick). Mix in pecans and chocolate chips (getting thicker). Mix in oatmeal (very thick). Mix in rice crispies (use your hands, it's too thick for a spoon). Roll up into teaspoon sized balls and smash with fork. Bake for 13 minutes or until light brown (don't overcook the cookies).

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.