Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brewmaster in Chief, Young Farmers, Coconuts

Forget the schedule. As soon as I committed myself to blog publication dates, I couldn't think of one thing to write, whereas before the silly self-imposed deadlines, I had more ideas than I had time to type them. So I'm back to a non-schedule of "this is my blog and I'll update it whenever I have something to say."

Today, I would like to draw the attention of my foodie readers to three recent news items.

Late last night, due to rich-dinner-induced-insomnia, I was web surfing and stumbled across the surprising news that the White House is brewing its own beer. The White House Honey Ale is homebrewed by the presidential chefs using honey from beehives on the grounds. The Obamas are even considering planting hops at the White House for future batches. How cool is that? Check out this great blog for more news on White House food initiatives. I love having a foodie president!

The story reminded me that I've been planning for more than a year to make my own mead. I have the honey in the pantry, two books of recipes, and dim memories of a workshop with local meadmaker supreme Nels Veliquette. Now I just need to lose my fear of inadvertently fermenting the wrong kinds of microorganisms and give it a try.

Today's second news item is this excellent article in today's New York Times about a new generation of small farmers, the opportunities provided them in locations with thriving foodie cultures, as well as financial challenges. The story mentions that young farmers often have difficulty finding mentors. Kudos to the Michigan Land Use Institute (not mentioned in the NYT story, which is set in Oregon) for recognizing this a couple of years ago and hiring retiring organic farmer Jim Sluyter to help address this need in our region.

And finally, for cooks, I recommend a recipe-laden feature on coconut oil from Melissa Clark, also in the New York Times. I'm eager to try the roasted sweet potatoes and the chocolate-shell ice cream topping. An excellent mail-order source for high-quality coconut oil at bulk prices is Wilderness Family Naturals. Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, published a nutrition and cookbook with Dr. Mary Enig a few years ago that includes many recipes featuring coconut oil, Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats. I should get it off my shelves and actually use it!

This reminds me that I haven't made chocolate bark in a long time, which is a shame because it's unbelievably easy. I'll close with the recipe:

Chocolate-Almond Bark

1/4 c. extra virgin coconut oil
1-2 Tbsps. cocoa powder (experiment to your taste)
a few drops liquid stevia, or about 1/4 tsp powdered stevia (again, experiment to taste)
almonds, roasted if desired

Line an 8x8 square baking pan with wax paper and chill it in the freezer. Melt the coconut oil, if it's not already liquid. (In a warm kitchen, your coconut oil may always be liquid. Here in northern Michigan, mine spends most of the year in a solid state). Add the coconut powder and stevia. Toss some nuts in the prepared pan, pour over the coconut oil mixture, and put it back in the freezer until hardened. Enjoy!

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