Sunday, June 27, 2010

Here A Cluck, There A Cluck, Everywhere A Cluck-Cluck

I'd like to think that Old MacDonald had, not just any farm, but an organic farm. At least I know Old Farmer Richard at Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, Wisconsin does. And he not only keeps chickens and cows like the farmer we grew up singing about, but he also has goats, pigs, zucchini, peas, and strawberries too! What's the big hype with organic farming anyway? Well, I'll tell you. There are many benefits to eating organic. Let me count the ways...

1. Organically grown food has a higher nutritional value because it uses and fosters the life of the soil.
2. And because it's grown in this balanced soil, organic food is able to resist most diseases and pests.
3. Because of the natural growing process, the cellular structure has been preserved which results in food that keeps longer.
4. Organically grown plants are more drought resistent.
5. Higher quality produce equals higher sugar content which means tastier fruits and vegetables.
6. Organic farming produces less greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Pesticide/fungicide/herbicide-free food makes for healthier people. After all, you are what you eat.
8. Organic farmers do not use soluable fertilizers on their crops (which are those nasty chemicals that get washed into the groundwater which then becomes unfit for drinking). Soluable fertilizers are pollutants that are harmful in many other ways too, affecting everything from our oceans to reproductive problems in humans.

Now I'm sure I've freaked you out enough to never want to eat a big box grocery store tomato ever again. Let's be realistic though. Eating all organic is expensive and almost impossible for the average family to afford what is considered a "luxury" item these days. Have no fear though, organic farming is becoming more and more popular and having access to these foods is increasing every day. If you're serious about eating better but can't justify the added expense here's some other ways to go about getting your hands on organic food in a more affordable way:

1. Start your own garden at home. Even if you live in an apartment, anyone can grow a variety of crops in a patio garden.
2. Consider renting space in a community garden. Plot too big? Split your area with a friend, relative or co-worker.
3. Barter at your local farmers market.
4. Use coupons when buying brands that make natural foods. Companies such as Amys Kitchen, Annie's Naturals, Stonyfield Farm, Kashi, Muir Glen, and Cascadian Farm.
5. Join a CSA. Still too expensive? Split the CSA with another family.

The key is to start out small. Buy organic when you can and, even more importantly, buy local!

(Photos all taken at Harmony Valley Farm during their Strawberry Days)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Easy-Schmeazy Cherry Potstickers

I'm not kidding when I say these are easy. And the best part is, they're ridiculously delicious!

Take round potsticker wrappers and place a dollop of pie filling in the center. Wet edges of wrapper with water, fold in half and pinch edges together to seal. Place in greased hot pan (set at medium heat) for about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and let cool. Pipe frosting onto each potsticker. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

I dare you to eat no more than two!

(Note: If you have left-over pie filling and frosting from your Death By Chocolate cupcakes, like I did, this is a perfect recipe to help use it up.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Death By Chocolate

As far as I'm concerned June is vampire month. Last weekend was the season 3 premiere of True Blood (love, love, love) and, come June 30th, Twilight Saga: Eclipse (guilty pleasure) opens in theaters across the U.S. Am I vampired out yet? Yes, absolutely. Let's face it, we're being bombarded with blood suckers every day. With TV shows such as Vampire Diaries and The Gates, in addition to a few vampire movies, werewolf spin-offs, and a plethora of new vampire novels (House of Night series, Vampire Academy series, etc.) hitting bookshelves everyday it's hard to avoid it. So...I've decided to embrace it. Love it. Devour it - literally! Here's my take on, what I call, Love At First Bite cupcakes.

(click on image to enlarge)

Warning: This next image is graphic. I apologize, but things just got out of hand. Unfortunately, one of the cupcakes didn't make it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

True Love

True Blood season premiere is tonight and I'm bloody excited! The old gang is back: Sookie, Bill, Eric, LaFayette, Sam, Tara, and my favorite Jason Stackhouse! In honor of this very vampy occasion I cooked up a batch of blood red soup. (see recipe below - fangs not included)

True Blood soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 can coconut milk
3 beets (cubed)
1 large carrot (cubed)
1 celery stick (chopped)
5 red potatoes (cubed)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan saute green onions and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, beets, carrot, celery, potatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper and continue to boil for 20-30 minutes or until beets are softened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add to blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with slices green onions and a dash of salt.

Note: This soup has a strong beet flavor so if you are not a fan of beets you can substitute 1-2 beets for 1-2 red potatoes.

Enjoy the show and your bowl of blood!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weddings, Sunsets, and Aruba

These three things go hand-in-hand when you're in the Caribbean. For the last week I've been living it up in paradise, but what brought me to the specific island of Aruba? My cousins beautiful sunset wedding. The happy couple requested no gifts (our presence was our present), but I insisted on making them one of my books. Taking inspiration from their wedding colors (bright pink, light pink, gold, silver), her wedding dress, and the sandy beaches and tropical flowers, I came up with this:
The flower-patterned paper is a delicate Japanese paper I found at Paper Source in Chicago (my favorite store in the Windy City). It even has a soft feel to it, not to mention the color palette is perfect. Gorgeous!

The wedding took place at Tierra del Sol Country Club on the northern side of the island. This last photo was taken on the terrace overlooking the groomed landscape with a perfect view of what turned out to be the most beautiful sunset during our stay.

Congratulations Maria and Fred! Your wedding was the highlight of the year (not to mention a feature in Aruba's very own newspaper!).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Collage 7: Vintage Vacation

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Collage 6: Soul of a Synagog

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Collage 5: Blooms and Buds in the Midwest

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