Spring Fever: Time to Get My Hands Dirty at Greenbrier Farms!

Happy Saturday!

Spring is in the air– I can feel it all around me. I am sitting on my front porch, and the birds are going wild. The sky is a crisp pale blue, and the air is brisk and energetic. In fact, Spring for me is all about energy. It isn’t just the hibernating animals that come back to life, but everything around us seems to take on a new radiance, a reclaimed vigor. All of the struggles we had through the winter seem small now as we are arising triumphantly into April!

I feel that vigor, a renewed sense of purpose and of passion, as the month begins. And with it, I return to my blog. It has been a few weeks, and I apologize for that. Busy family visits turned into increasing guilt about my lack of maintenance, and honestly, not a lot has been going on until the past week or so. March was a difficult local eating month. I will admit that I didn’t stick with it the entire time. My mom and my brother came to visit from Ohio, which was a blast, but ultimately I thought it was appropriate to take them out for meals as their vacation– not force my fairly limited diet upon them. It was a welcome break from local, as the number of winter vegetables available diminishes and the spring ones haven’t yet grown. I am craving variety, and can’t wait for the first wave of spring season crops to mature. Summer is going to be wonderful; I can feel it.

The Hub City Farmer’s Market in Spartanburg started last Saturday morning, and is open weekly on both Saturday mornings and Wednesday early afternoon. I am glad to have them back! I bought a basil plant and a sage plant from Harp & Shamrock Croft– they are sunning themselves on my window sill as I type. It will be great to have a wider variety of fresh herbs in the house!

People continue to be so supportive of this project. My botany professor (an avid fisherman) brings me a rainbow trout just about every week. It is humbling to know so many people want to see me succeed.

Today’s blog entry is one that I am so very excited to bring to you. I visited Greenbrier Farms in Easley, South Carolina yesterday, and it was one of the most satisfying days I’ve had in a long time. What a fantastic place, kept going by an even more fantastic group of hard workers. After my volunteer day, all I can wonder is: “When can I come back?”.

Image

My friend George, who has been mentioned in past posts, is an intern at Greenbrier this summer. He invited me to come help out for the day– I looked forward to it all week. Friday morning at 4:45 George sent me a text telling me to bring a change of clothes just in case. 4:45?! That isn’t even a real time in my book! The day for farmers starts EARLY. I myself, after an hour plus drive, arrived at the farm around 9:15. Unfortunately, I missed all of the morning chores. I kicked myself for not getting there earlier; next time, I will avoid the temptation to sleep in so I can get the full experience.

The weather was a bit overcast and windy, but I would prefer that to hot and humid anytime! I started the day out with George, one of the other interns Maria, and another man who works at the farm, Frank.  First, I got to see some of the biggest pigs I have ever seen in my life:

Image

Each one of these pigs weighs around 400 pounds! They are each pregnant with their first piglets, due to give birth any day now. Pigs that are having their first farrow are called gilts, whereas sows are on their second or later pregnancy. Greenbrier’s “Big Momma” is on her third pregnancy! The farm hopes to have 9 or 10 viable piglets out of these births. The 100+ pigs they have are of all different ages.

I also got to see the big daddy pig, Randall. This boar fathers all of the piglets at Greenbrier. I was pretty shocked at how massive and intimidating these animals are– Randall was no Babe. Some of the noises he made sounded like they came straight from a Norwegian black metal album.

Next, we had to refill the pig feeder. Normally this would be no real issue. The auger at Greenbrier is full of sorghum feed, and when functioning appropriately could fill the feeder in no time. Unfortunately, it is currently out of commission. This meant that by hand, we took buckets of feed and poured it into a bag capable of holding 4,000 pounds! Needless to say, it was a pretty good work out, but we got done fairly quickly with George shoveling feed into the buckets and passing them to Maria and me.

Image

Using Frank for scale, this bag was HUGE! He and George strapped the bag to the trailer, and we took it via pick up truck to the pig grazing area at the edge of the forest. Here, pigs can enjoy more of their natural rooting behaviors. They, like the cows, are moved from pasture to pasture regularly to avoid certain places becoming too depleted.

The pigs were apprehensive of me at first, as I approached them trying to get a good photo. They stared me down, instinctively moving closer to each other. Maria, on the other hand, had a couple of her “boyfriends” demanding belly rubs:

Image

Pigs are intelligent, social creatures– it’s no joke. And these guys seemed pretty happy.

Image

Then, using the buckets as before, we had to scoop the feed out of the monstrous bag, and pass it to Frank standing inside the feeder. You can tell he has been doing this awhile; the ease with which he lifted heavy buckets over and over again was incredible. He also maintained a sense of humor throughout it all.

Image

Now, for the best part of the blog post today: we made homemade brick oven pizzas for lunch. We had goat cheese, spinach, chorizo, italian sausage, and pickled jalapenos at our disposal for toppings, and I was absolutely in heaven.

Each of us got to try our hands at making our own, including rolling the dough, sauce, toppings, and shimmy-ing it onto a pizza peel and into the brick oven. I watched Maria and George go first, along with other people around the farm who came for lunch.

Image

Image

I tried my hand at it as well, and it didn’t end with raw dough and tomato sauce smeared all over the ground! Hooray!

Image

Feast your eyes!

Image

Awwwwwwww yeah.

Post lunch, I switched teams over to the veggies. I worked with Chad and two interns, Lindsey and Harry. Lindsey hails from Wisconsin, so we shared a common Midwestern past. Our job was to make rows and plant leeks:

Image

Chad put these red rubber ends on some of the rake prongs to make evenly space rows. The soil was very clay rich and rocky, so it was a challenge to make holes along the rows that didn’t collapse in on themselves. After some work, we had some pretty swell looking leeks:

Image

I also got to see the greenhouse, which hosted an enormous variety of kale, peppers, okra, herbs, turnips, and more! We worked to put potting soil in trays and plant hot pepper seeds, to hopefully germinate inside and then be transferred to the outdoors once they were ready.

To end today’s post, I have a couple pictures of the Greenbrier pets! They have a dog who I enjoyed playing fetch with (he definitely never tired of it), and a barn kitty who has been given different names by everyone working there:

Image

I don’t know if I have ever seen a happier dog!

Image

Image

Greenbrier Farms is truly a magical place. The people who work hard to bring you fresh food are kind, passionate, and generous. I felt immediately welcomed, and enjoyed every minute of my time there. If you live in the upstate South Carolina area, I strongly suggest you support this farm and think of them when you have to go buy groceries. They sell meat and produce at a Whole Foods, and a few Greenville area restaurants also purchase from them:

American Grocery

Bacon Bros. Public House

Roost Restaurant

Nose Dive

The Bohemian Cafe

Treat yourself sometime– these are some fantastic restaurants, and by having a nice dinner you are also helping out a genuinely good business.

Thank you for reading!! I always enjoy feedback from my readers. Until next week, think locally!

 

 

Blue Skies, Brown Hands, and Green Growing Things

I have never been so excited for spring.

The winter vegetables are just about used up, and the spring ones haven’t popped out of the ground just yet. It is a fairly boring food landscape here at my house, truth be told. However, every time I go down to the garden and check out my plants (as of now not even emerged from the soil), I get a little twinge of excitement at their potential.

Yesterday I planted some potatoes. I have been told they are fairly straight forward to grow, so I am hopeful. I actually discovered the sprouted potatoes in a garden bed unexpectedly! I was turning up the soil for sugar snap peas (yum), and found a big round thing. It gave me a strange sense of satisfaction and wholesome joy to find a potato underground for the first time in my life.

I went to check on my lettuce, and I found tiny tiny green plants!

Image

I barely noticed them at first, but once I saw one I saw four or five more! They appeared to be in a row, so I really hope that these little guys are actually my lettuce and not some kind of weed. Only time will tell. Look at me go, nurturing living things! My mom would be amazed, after years of trying to force an interest in gardening during my childhood.

It has been a few posts since I put a recipe up on this blog. Everyone loves a good recipe, and some nice food photography, so I made a really quick and easy broiled trout yesterday to tell you about. Thankfully, I have access to this:

Image

Yes, that is a giant rosemary bush a matter of yards from where I live. Fresh herbs are AMAZING. I can’t stress enough how huge the difference is.

Image

I love the feeling of cool, moist soil between my fingers. There is a lot of fuss about constantly being clean and put together, but I think humans are just as intended to get dirty.

I don’t have a lot of experience cooking fish, and definitely not trout. I have cooked salmon a handful of times using a variety of techniques, but trout was basically off my radar as far as seafood is concerned. I always thought of trout as a fishy, less refined alternative to popular fishes like tuna or tilapia. Fish require very short cooking times, and it is really easy to accidentally overcook it. Have you ever had dry, bright orange salmon? I know I have, and it is a real travesty.

Trout. I decided to just cook this fish as simply as possible, with minimal seasonings. I love the texture of fish, the flakiness, and it can stand alone without excessive sauces and spices.

The trout came from Sunburst Trout Farms up north in Canton, NC. I’d love to go and check their facility out one of these days — I have never seen a fish farm, and it would make for an interesting blog post. The skin was left on the fillet, leaving no question that this meat came from a real, live animal at one point:

Image

Just look at that fin! The skin even maintained that slimy texture that fish have. Mucus is actually a pretty big deal in the animal kingdom, folks. It keeps fish from getting bacterial infections, creating a barrier between the animal and the nasty outside world.

I set my oven to broil on high, and lined a baking sheet with foil. I put some olive oil down on the foil, then the trout skin side down. More olive oil, the rosemary, salt, pepper, and some garlic were distributed across the fillet, and that was it! The garlic is not local, but around July the garlic growing in our garden will be ready! I can’t wait. Just about every meal can benefit from garlic, in my opinion.

Image

Here comes the important part. I will not overcook this fish! I definitely have a tendency to get distracted while I am cooking, but not this time. The trout was broiling for only ten minutes before it was perfectly cooked.

Image

I wish I could transmit smells through the internet, readers. That fantastic rosemary scent permeated through my whole house. I think this recipe would have been even more delicious with lemon, for those of you at home. I was really impressed with the quality of the trout; it was light and flavorful, without being “fishy” at all.

Any business professionals out there? Why don’t we start making sushi with local fish, freshwater fish instead of the highly overfished and endangered tuna? I think trout (although I’ve not eaten it raw), could easily make a tasty roll. We can still enjoy sushi without firmly placing our selfish desires over the health of the environment, can’t we?

Just some food for thought.

My Evolving Food Philosophy: Body and Mind

Welcome to the weekend, everyone!

Here in South Carolina, it has been unbelievably gorgeous. It even smells like Spring when I open my front door; the warm sun on my face and the flood of freshness into my nostrils is rejuvenating. I even had the chance to crack out the hammock yesterday as I read Janisse Ray’s book The Seed Underground. For anyone who is interested in gardening, botany, or the modern food culture and revitalization of farming, I highly recommend this read. Ray is a writer who wrings beauty out of every word, combining information with an undeniable passion and love.

I also began my garden this week.

Image

I planted lettuce, spinach, sugar snap peas, and will plant potatoes in a couple days! Steve, the master gardener at the nature center where I work, has been helpful to no end in this entire process. He said the lettuce and spinach seeds were a little old, but they should still turn out just fine. I was honestly just grateful for access to all these seeds! I planted one fourth of a raised bed with the greens, so that I can plant more in the next couple weeks and have fresh produce continuously for a longer period of time.

Image

The lettuce seeds were so tiny. I almost couldn’t tell that whether or not I dropped one into the earth! It completely blows my mind and humbles me that from this speck of a thing can come life. Life not only for itself, but sustaining mine at the same time. As I learned in my Botany class this semester, seeds have a huge amount of concentrated nitrogen, essential to growth. Therefore, is very energy intensive for plants to produce them. It is a spiritual experience for me to think about, a strange gratitude for their hard work.

The way I view food has changed dramatically since this project began last month. I am constantly humbled, and see each meal as not only pleasure, but as life giving. All of our food is the culmination of labor, be it from the plant, a local farmer, or an immigrant in California. Food is to be cherished, not mindlessly shoved down our throats. The beauty of watching things grow, cultivating them and turning the soil around them with your bare hands, and then eventually tasting the flavors they create, brings me so much joy.

While Steve and I were working yesterday, and the sky was the unbelievable blue the Carolinas are known for, I turned to him with dirty black palms turned out. I grinned: “This is how you know I had a good day”.

A friend recently sent me an article about how to become a mindful eater. I really encourage any one of you to try at least a few of these tips at your next meal– send me a message about how it felt! Take some time to acquaint yourself with your food.

- I will appreciate the people with whom I am eating and try hard to be present and truly listen to what they are saying rather than just planning my response. If I am eating alone, I’ll notice my thoughts and let them flow without judgment or necessarily action.

-I will pay attention to the food I have eaten and notice how it affected my mood and my energy. If I don’t like the way I feel, I will not berate myself with negative self-talk, but will rather note the feeling and remind myself before eating that food again in the future. If I feel good, I will note that, too, and be grateful for that experience.

-I will chew my food slowly, concentrating on taste and texture. I will pay attention to the crunchiness, creaminess, and flavor of what I am eating.

-I will put my fork down between bites and take 1 to 3 deep breaths before picking it up again.

-I will eat my food sitting down at a table. Not in the car. Not in front of the TV. Not standing by the fridge.

-I will pause periodically to check in with my belly. Am I full? Am I thirsty? Is this food satisfying me?

Remember, it isn’t about being perfect. Eating can be an experience not just physically fulfilling, but mentally as well. If you don’t have time or patience to take all those breaths between your bites, try at least to chew more slowly and focus more on the flavors. Do what works for you, and focus on the positives over the negatives. I feel that it is well worth the effort.

I don’t know how this project will end up, but I am approaching it with an open mind and willingness to adapt. I have so much to learn not only about food, but about myself.

Image

 

Drink More Whiskey

Hello, readers!

Today’s blog post is a little different than normal, because today we are talking about booze! Oh joy!

Recently, my friend Abby told me I absolutely must visit a Greenville area distillery called Six & Twenty. I hesitated, bound by the law of local consumption, but she insisted I look at the website: “It’s right up your alley, I promise”. Immediately, I knew what she meant.

“Local ingredients combined with local talent make our distillery make our distillery and our spirits something you will love.”

IMG_20140215_155852923_HDR

Six & Twenty is a unique place. In addition to hosting some very tasty liquor, they use locally grown wheat to distill their whiskey, and are proud to support local business even down to the designers that make their T-shirts. I, along with two friends, drove out to Powdersville this past Saturday and went on a tour led by distiller David Raad. I immediately knew I would like these guys:

Image

Don’t need to tell me twice, 6&20.

The tour was free to the public, and had about 30 people in attendance. The popularity was a good sign. From the beginning, David made it clear to us that for him and for 6&20, distilling is about love. Love for the craft, love of good taste and quality– it is palpable.

David told us that one of the most common questions they get is “Why the name?”. The name, Six & Twenty, comes from a story– unsurprisingly, a love story. Legend has it that a Chocktaw woman named Issaqueena was held hostage by the Cherokee. While captive, she overheard plans that the Cherokee were to attack a British trading post, where her English lover was stationed. Driven by love, Issaqueena escaped the Cherokee and rode a horse twenty six miles (six and twenty, if you will) to the trading post to warn them of the coming invasion. Through her efforts, the post was saved, and she and her lover married shortly after. Yes, the distillery is located 26 miles from her place of imprisonment, giving it an interesting sense of historical relevance. Again, it’s all about love.

During our hour tour, David led us through the entire distilling process, from grain to glass. Whiskey starts out harmless enough:

Image

Ground red winter wheat ends up giving the whiskey some of its distinct flavor. According to David, wheat is more difficult and expensive to distill with than corn (especially locally grown wheat), but he insisted that the resulting flavor was well worth the trouble. This ground wheat, pictured above, results in a mash. They make this in what appears to be an enormous stand mixer:

Image

Image

The mash is heated by a collar around the GSM (giant stand mixer), attached to a heating machine lovingly referred to as “Daisy”. Apparently, it refused to work properly until after given a name, funnily enough. After the mash is heated (and is thick enough to stand a spoon in), it must be cooled before yeast is added. Cool water (around 55 degrees) floods the collar to allow more rapid cooling. If cooling isn’t rapid, it can allow bacteria to grow that isn’t welcome in the distilling process.

Yeast, as you may imagine, is a pretty key component to whiskey. When added to the mash, it isn’t a pretty sight:

Image

No, it isn’t vomit. It’s a fermenting bubbling bin of soon to be whiskey! The mash, at around 95 degrees, is left to slowly cool down at a gradual rate while the yeast works its magic. The bin is left open to allow yeasts and cultures from the area to also contribute. Therefore, David told us, the whiskey would taste different when produced in Powdersville than it would if produced anywhere else– take that, homogenous big company whiskey! We were also invited to taste the mash– it tasted like a slightly sour, citrusy wheat beer.

Next, the young whiskey is put into a still and vaporized through the equipment, separating out three different types of liquid at varying amounts of alcohol: the heads, hearts, and tails. A still used by Six & Twenty can cost about $130,000!

IMG_20140215_161216615

After the vaporized liquor makes its way through the still, it comes to a last apparatus that sends it through cool water, forcing the whiskey back into liquid form to be collected at the bottom:

IMG_20140215_165556623

The spout at the bottom of this coiled cooling unit is called a “parrot”. David suggested that perhaps the person who named it that had enjoyed a bit too much of the product, because the spout doesn’t really resemble a tropical bird in the slightest. Regardless, out of that spout comes the “heads” first, then “hearts”, and lastly, “tails”. The heads have the highest alcohol content, which is very apparent when you smell them. David also mentioned that they are a great stainless steel cleaner. Apparently, most distilleries keep the heads in their whiskey because it allows them to produce a whole lot more. However, Six & Twenty removes the heads, because they don’t have a great flavor– they are essentially “filler” to create more, but lower quality whiskey. The hearts are the meat of the whiskey, lower in alcohol but with a lot more flavor. As you might guess then, the tails have the least amount of alcohol content, but the most flavor; they are earthy, and using some of the tails with the hearts helps to give the whiskey a nice flavor.

Once this is done, you have your virgin whiskey. Six & Twenty does sell this so you can take it home and age it yourself. However, they also age the whiskey on site in oak barrels. The bigger the barrel, the longer it takes to age the whiskey inside to a proper level. In a smaller barrel, more whiskey is coming into contact with the wood, and the smaller batch ages nicely. About 5% of the whiskey is lost via evaporation through the barrel, often referred to as the “angel’s share”. Unfortunately for distillers, the whiskey is taxed before that amount disappears. Six & Twenty is currently running some basic experiments to see if they can improve efficiency.

After the appropriate amount of aging, the whiskey is bottled (by hand!) and sold to individuals as well as liquor stores. If a restaurant or bar wants to carry Six & Twenty,  they have to request that their distributing liquor store start stocking it. Of course, this whiskey is more expensive than Jim Beam might be. However, David believes (and my taste buds agree) that the quality offered by local ingredients and small batch distilling is well worth the money. Almost all of our spirits in the USA are produced by 7 major companies– a monopoly that sounded all too familiar after my research on food. Why should we allow our booze to become standardized, without the diversity of flavors and backgrounds that support not only exciting new products but also the local economy?

IMG_20140215_174204973

We can do better. And by “do better”, I mean Drink More Whiskey.

 

 

Bread: A Tale of Moderate Success

Happy Friday!

It is a whole new Haley coming to you today– not just a locavore, but a gardener and bread maker to boot! It has been a busy week. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You heard that right. Bread!

Late last week, I ordered bread flour, “pizza maker’s” flour, and rice from Anson Mills in Columbia, SC. It was a glorious day when my box arrived; hands trembling with anticipation, I ripped it open and my mind raced with the new world of food possibilities opened up to me. If this project has done nothing else, it has helped me to appreciate my foodstuffs on a whole new level. A loaf of bread from the grocery store is just about the most standard thing you can buy. However, when you have to order the flour and spend hours making a loaf, that bread tastes pretty darn good. It has an added benefit of keeping my diet almost entirely meat and vegetables– a healthy combination.

I decided I was going to splurge with this flour, get a little adventurous. Too long have I been eating eggs and kale. I can do better! I decided to make lamb burger sliders with goat cheese and sliced tomato. The only obstacle in my way was the task of making bread.

I have never made bread before, and I am nearly positive my mother before me never did either. I think she would have considered that an endeavor too labor intensive for the amount of yield. Honestly, if I were not doing this local diet, I probably wouldn’t make homemade bread often. It is a real bear. But it is done, and tastes pretty good! Here are the ingredients I used:

Image

Sure, the sugar and yeast are not local. I thought I would let it slide, seeing as I already had those items in my pantry. Plus, I only needed 2 teaspoons each of those ingredients, and yeast is pretty crucial if you want to make fluffy bread.

First, I had to combine 1 3/4 cup milk, 8 tablespoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt in a saucepan and heat until it reached 135 degrees. I bought a thermometer for the temperature– after a few past mishaps with baking, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Image

Aaaaaalmost there!

After it reached temperature, I let it cool to about 95 degrees. Meanwhile, I whisked an egg and added it to the saucepan. Then for the yeast. I sprinkled the yeast on top (2 teaspoons worth), let it soften a bit, and then mixed it into the rest of the wet ingredients.

In a big bowl, I combined 5 cups of flour with the wet ingredients, and began kneading away! I started with my hand mixer, but it seemed like it was a bit too fast and violent to be appropriate for the task. The dough got thick and clumpy quickly, not shiny and stretchable like the recipe said it would. I began to worry that I had messed something up, no matter how careful I had tried to be! After about 20 minutes of vigorous kneading, the result was this:

Image

Hmm. The recipe said I should be able to pull the dough so it became almost transparent. That is absolutely not what I had. However, I didn’t want to waste all that flour, so I kept going according to the recipe and hoped that the result would be edible!

After an hour, the dough was supposed to have risen and become spongy and pocked. It looked exactly the same as it had beforehand. Ah well. I pulled the dough into even sized balls to make my hamburger buns. I made them small; I have found that when I make smaller portions, I eat less and therefore can avoid eating all this bread in one night!

Image

I placed these dough balls on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. To make the buns flat on top, the recipe suggested I put another sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and another baking sheet, to keep them from coming out circular. I popped them into the oven at 400 degrees and started on the burger patties.

Because I only bought one package of ground lamb, I decided to mix the lamb in with some cheaper ground beef to make my patties.

Image

Kingstree, where the lamb meat came from, is a little outside of my range (closer to the coast) but still in South Carolina. Westminster is within my range southwest of Greenville. I mixed the lamb and beef together with some oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Lamb has a nice spice to it to begin with, so it didn’t need much to bring out some flavor.

Image

SO HUNGRY.

After 20 minutes, I took the bread out and removed the top baking sheet and parchment paper. I put a little butter across the top of the buns, and put them back in for another 20 or so. And the result?

Image

It looks like bread! Hooray!

Unfortunately, when I went into my refrigerator to grab my goat cheese, I discovered that it was frozen. Goat cheese can’t just be microwaved to warm up, because it quickly turns into a liquidy mess. I opted to save it for another day, and instead used swiss cheese. Once the burgers were cooked and the cheese and tomatoes sliced, they were good to eat!

Image

True, the bread was a bit dense, more like a thick biscuit than hamburger buns. Either way, I was happy with the result and felt justified in totally pigging out. Plus, I made a ton extra so I have quick, tasty food for the next few days!

I hope to try making bread again in the next couple months, and maybe with better results. If any of you, readers, have experience making bread, I would love to hear your tips! Thank you all, and happy eating.

On Kale and Other Tasty Things

Happy Weekend! I hope all of you have survived the work week and will get a chance to relax a bit today. It is early, but looks like it will turn out to be a beautiful day here in the Upstate.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Brendan Buttimer and Zoe Kloth, the director of the Hub City Farmer’s Market and a Wofford freshman interested in the locavore movement, respectively. We went to the Farmer’s Table, a fantastic locally minded restaurant in Spartanburg. The Farmer’s Table opened by Joel and Lenora Sansbury in March of 2012, with the inspiration of providing quality, local ingredients to Spartanburg area diners.

In my opinion, they have done a fantastic job.

Image

What a list! To keep things easy (and avoid accidentally cheating on the local diet), I got an omelet packed full of local tomatoes, sausages, and greens.

Image

And let’s not forget the cheese!!

I also loved the t shirts the entire staff was wearing– I gotta get me one of these! (Our model here is Logan, who kindly allowed me to snap a shot of her)

Image

Awesome.

The Farmer’s Table is open Sunday through Friday from 8 am to 3 pm– they offer a great variety of sandwiches, burgers, breakfast foods, salads, and more for right around $10-$15 a person. Check it out sometime!

Changing subjects a bit here, I have to reiterate that I am really having a love affair with kale. One cup of chopped kale only has 33 calories, but far and above your required Vitamin A, C, and K for the day. Talk about super food! The Vitamin K and antioxidants found in kale are also shown to help prevent cancer. I really can’t stress enough the benefit of dark, leafy green veggies in your diet– spinach, kale, any kind of mustard greens. And the best part is, they can all be prepared in ways that taste good!

Today I made kale chips. I have always liked them prepared this way, nice and crispy and a good snacking alternative when I am watching TV and just want something to munch on. I used to buy them already made at the Fresh Market. However, for a fraction of the cost (and at no detriment to flavor), you can make them at home!

You only need three ingredients (I had to cheat a little on this one with the olive oil; I would like to find a local alternative soon, but this recipe applies for all of you on less stringent diets!):

Image

Some kale (and that is way more than you’ll need), salt, and olive oil.

Chop up the kale into about 1 1/2 inch pieces, leaving out the stems. While you do this, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Once you are done chopping, you should have something like this:

 Image

Now, carefully pour some olive oil over the top of the kale on an ungreased baking pan. You really don’t need much, and if you use too much the chips will never get crispy (which is totally the ideal scenario here). Toss the kale in the olive oil and some salt, depending on how much you like salt. Like with the oil, a little goes a long way, and you can always add more salt after they are done.

Image

Awwwwww yeah.

Throw those gorgeous green beauties in the oven for about 20 minutes, and voila! You have a healthy snack food with a pretty irresistible crunch! And how easy was that?

Image

Even my cat seems to have taken an interest!

I will be writing again next Friday. Hopefully my car will be back on the roads by then, and I will be able to go visit another cool local spot in the area to tell you all about! Have a great week, and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Back to the Real World

Hello Internet, from a lightly frosted snowy SC landscape!

I apologize for not writing a post on Tuesday as planned– the snow storm created a lot of ice on the roads here, and to make a long story short, I slid on a nasty patch of road and my car is in the shop. My pride as a native of the North is a bit damaged, I will say. But hopefully my Subaru will be repaired soon and I will again be mobile!

My scuba trip to Bonaire was incredible. The island is beautiful, although it is quickly becoming more commercialized due to its popularity as a dive location. The vibrant blues that make up the sky and water are really beyond description, and the diversity of life in the water is overwhelming. I am now scuba diving certified, a huge life goal of mine.

Although I didn’t continue the local diet during the trip (I would have been hard pressed to find local agricultural products on a tiny island), but there were a few things I learned about there that would be of interest to the blog:

Bonaire produces salt! Up until the increased tourism took hold, the island economy depended largely on this commodity. Donkeys were brought to the island to transport the salt until modern technology took over; the donkeys are still all over the island.

Image

The salt is produced on Bonaire by flooding large areas of low, flat land with only a couple inches of sea water. The water evaporates, leaving behind sea salt. The salt is collected in huge mounds, a really distinctive feature of the island landscape:

Image

The pink water is due to a specific kind of algae.

I brought back some of this sea salt, so I will have some salt to use for a while that at least was local to where I purchased it!

I also had the opportunity to eat lionfish while in Bonaire. Lionfish, for those of you who might not know, are a serious problem in the Caribbean as an invasive species. Because they are beautiful and exotic, they are a popular aquarium fish, and their release into the Caribbean can be traced to Florida pet owners. They are not only venomous, but they produce tens of thousands of eggs at a time and reproduce quickly. With no predators, they wreak havoc, eating juvenile fish of other native species.

Image

photo courtesy of coral.org

So, obviously this is a huge problem. And the solution?

Image

photo courtesy of scientistsatwork.blogs.nytimes.com

Yes, they are tasty. A nice, very mild meal! The resort we stayed at offered a class to get a license to kill these mean little guys– I certainly appreciated the combination of good eats and saving the coral reef!

As far as life goes back in Spartanburg (other than the crashed car), I am just getting back into the swing of the local eating. I was on Carolina Now yesterday! For a recording of the spot, look no further:

http://www.carolinascw.com/story/24575401/local-woman-vows-to-eat-only-locally-sourced-foods-for-an-entire-year

I thought it went pretty well. Thanks to Jamarcus Gaston for having me!

I will be doing the usually scheduled blog post tomorrow, so there is more to come soon! A couple recipes, and some nice food photography!

Thank you all, and stay warm!