July 24, 2010


We've been on a mission over the past several years to use organic, local, sustainable food as much as possible. It can be a real challenge to find this kind of food, but it's very worth the effort. Lately it's been amazing how many doors have opened for us in this area. We have about 6 reliable sources as of now and that's very exciting to us! And I have to say it's not just the knowledge that the food comes from a better source, the taste difference and quality is often markedly obvious. Here are some examples of what we've been enjoying lately:

What to do with a zucchini? I'm always surprised by this question since you can go in so many directions with it. Above are two extremes - a dark chocolate zucchini cake made from zucchini purchased at our little local farmer's market, and some grilled zucchini using a golden zucchini purchased from the same market. For grilled zucchini, we simply brush on some olive oil, sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and grill - love it, love it! You can also use zucchini cut in this way (thin, long planks) in place of lasagna noodles for a low carb version of lasagna. Just bake it until a fork easily pierces through the zucchini "noodles", which might be just a smidge longer than you'd bake lasagna with regular noodles.

These two items came from our food coop, IFC. Both of these are from local Iowa farms and both are fantastic. One is an old fashioned bologna ring - not related in any way to Oscar Mayer! The Griffieon Family Farm that produces this antibiotic-free, hormone-free beef bologna has been farming together since 1868. The other is soft, spreadable goat cheese or chevre, flavored with Herbs de Provence, from a goat farm called Northern Prairie Chevre, where the goats are treated like loved children! Their cheese is so rich and flavorful that you only need a little!

The variety of organic, or nearly organic meats that we can get through our coop is another marvelous thing that's hit our kitchen. We made Mediterranean Burgers with ground lamb from Prairie Hill Farm, and feta cheese, again from Northern Prairie Chevre. You can see a little piece of this incredible cheese in the top of the burger. I made them almost according to the recipe that I linked above. You can see the yogurt sauce under the tomatoes and it was made with a cucumber from our farmer's market. We chose fresh tomatoes instead of sun-dried and these too are locally grown on a hydroponic farm called Graddy's, that is pesticide free. Not a completely perfect sub for homegrown organic heirlooms, but a darn site better than something from Mexico!

And here are the VERY local buns that my DH baked for the lamb burgers. They were fresh and steamy in the bread bags when I took this photo, and they were great!

Our last IFC order included these juicy Iowa Chops, which are thick enough to stuff with plenty of corn bread stuffing. This cut of chop is very popular in this pork-loving state, and the flavor of these was amazing. Maybe it's because the people that raised this hog on Crooked Gap Farm believe that pigs should be allowed to graze, root, and wallow rather than being kept in a stinking hog confinement! It doesn't take much imagination to realize that this would have a big impact on the taste.

Those wonderful chops were served with this wonderful corn! Again this year we're blessed with produce that my aunt and uncle share from their big garden here in our town. This was corn that they warned was nearly overripe and might not be quite as good as it should be - are you kidding me????!!!! It was out of this world.

They also shared these lovely red onions from their garden, and these two ended up on a homemade pizza. The flavor of an onion that you pull from the ground and use in short order, is hard to compare to anything else!

Sunrise producers is part of IFC, and they grow this elephant garlic. The nice packaging is a clue about how good it's going to be! I was volunteering at the pick-up site the day this was brought in and I loved how proud this grower was of his garlic. He truly loves what he does and it shows in the way he operates. Elephant garlic is not a true garlic, but part of the onion family. It has a distinct, mild garlic flavor that is so appealing. The clove pictured here was the size of a walnut before I sliced it in half. It becomes almost sweet when it's roasted or sauteed.

These lemon, rosemary potatoes included some of that elephant garlic as well as some of the onions from my aunt and uncle. I got this dish ready for the grill by placing the sliced garlic and onions on a large piece of parchment paper, then layered on the sliced potatoes. They were seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon zest, fresh rosemary (the bit that survived our storm!), and then a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice was poured over the top. The parchment packet was surrounded with a foil pouch and onto the grill - absolutely delicious!

This last bit of abundance we can do without! No wonder we're losing the deer vs. landscape and garden battle - the critters are being born in threes now!!

We've seen mamas with twins several times, but triplets?! Have MERCY - we don't stand a chance!

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