Thursday, December 30, 2010

Potluck - True Grits

Greetings from Asheville, North Carolina where this foodie and her husband have been enjoying a few days in the epicenter of the local food movement - at least as it exists east of the Mississippi.  Today we head for Durham, which is giving Asheville a run for its money.,%20north%20carolina&st=cse

When we checked into our hotel, the friendly young desk clerk (who had no idea that I was a famous food blogger from Minnesota) proudly told me that I was now in "Foodtopia", and that "all the restaurants here are farm to table."

And as far as I have been able to tell so far, she was right.  This is a serious restaurant town, where most of the establishments make a big deal about using local ingredients, in season.  I have been looking at a lot of menus - online and in windows and in person and I have seen more evidence of beets, rutabagas, brussels sprouts, carrots, daikon radish and parsnips than I have ever seen in the Midwest.  We need to work harder.  I mean really - are we going to concede primacy in rutabagas to the Tarheels?  For shame.

Night before last we had dinner at the Early Girl Eatery.  Their tag line is "a scratch kitchen- simplicity, quality and local flavor."  Chard was the vegetable of the day and kale and collards were on the menu too.  Winter greens are cool in Asheville.

Lunch on Tuesday was at the Laughing Seed Cafe.  Their menu announced that "The dishes prepared here celebrate fresh vegetables, most of which come from our own Laughing Seed Farm in Barnardsville."  Vertical integration for restaurants is also cool in Asheville.

I enjoyed an open face sandwich at the Laughing Seed - Grilled focaccia bread, spread with sunflower spinach pesto and piled with roasted root vegetables - beets, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots - topped with a cashew bearnaise sauce.  And a side salad.  Pretty darn tasty.  I wouldn't want my roasted root vegetables this dolled up most of the time.  But I'm on vacation - so cashew bearnaise it was. 
Roasted root vegetables make me happy.
This being the South,  corn bread and biscuits are ubiquitous here.  (Ubiquitous Biscuits.  Hmmm.  Maybe a good name for a rock band.)  Grits are everywhere too.  Last night we ate at a seafood restaurant and Frank had shrimp and grits - a Carolina comfort food that comes in many versions.

To make shrimp and grits, you cook white or yellow corn grits in some combination of milk, cream, broth, tomato juice or water, adding grated cheddar or perhaps some parmesan for extra richness.  Maybe a chunk of butter too.  Often shrimp grits include a bit of bacon,  cured ham or andouille sausage.  The shrimp is sauteed (often in a little bacon fat) with a little onion and garlic.  Sometimes bell pepper or scallions or chopped tomatoes are used as flavor accents.  The result is quite wonderful - definitely a comfort food.

Here is one recipe that looked pretty good to me.  Some recipes I checked out were way too heavy in fat. I encourage you to make a broth from the shrimp shells and use that to cook the grits.  More shrimp flavor.   Our waiter told us they use Clamato juice in the shrimp grits Frank ate last night.

Gotta go - today we are going to check out the year round farmers market in Asheville and then head east to visit the Meadows Mills in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.  We want to figure out how to grind our own grits from northern flint corn.  Then it's Durham for New Year's.  Will probably eat some Hoppin John.  More on that later.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Convenience food has been around for a long time.  Centuries ago, miners' wives invented handy pastries filled with meat and vegetables and even sometimes apples for their husbands' lunchpails.  These pasties (pass-tees) are still traditional in places like Cornwall (England) and northern Michigan and Minnesota.  If you go to Mineral Point, Wisconsin,  formerly a lead mining area, you can always get pasties at a few local eateries. 

It is traditional to make pasty crusts with butter or lard or some other fat and flour - like a pie crust.  Amounts and types of fat and types of flour (e.g. some pasties call for some rye flour in the crust) vary greatly.  There is no one kind of pasty pastry.  (say that fast three times - pasty pastry, pasty pastry, pasty pastry.)  There are various types of meat and vegetable pies that call for a bread-type crust made with yeast - but those dishes are NOT pasties.  We can talk about those another day.

If you are going to the trouble of making homemade pasties, make a big batch.  More efficient and I guarantee you and your family will be glad to have extra.  Have some for dinner and save some for lunches or for "fast food" if you simply must be in the car during meal time.  And while you are eating your pasties, say a little thank you prayer to all the miners in the world who still risk their lives every day so others can have more comfortable lives.  (And yes I know coal is a serious contributor to global warming but I have looked at some of the numbers and it is going to be a little while before we figure out how to do without coal.  It is powering this computer right now.)

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.  (For another take on pasties - see the blog Heavy Table.  They apparently had the same idea I did and decided to write about this great winter food.)

Winter Pasties
This recipe calls for mashed potatoes.  It results in a softer and flavorful crust that is quite easy to handle - important for a beginning pasty maker.  This makes enough for twelve medium sized (single serving) pasties.  If you have a stand type mixer, this is very quick and easy with the paddle attachment.
3 cups white or whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 cup (two sticks) butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups homemade mashed potatoes (leftover are just fine)
Enough ice water to make the dough hold together
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter in chunks and mix swiftly and lightly with your fingers or a paddle mixer to blend.  Add mashed potatoes and incorporate.  Add ice water a few spoons at a time - you don't want the dough to get too wet.  Form into a ball and refrigerate, covered, about 30 minutes.  When it is time to use the dough, you will need to divide it into 12 piece and roll each into a circle- about 7-8 inches in diameter.  Use flour to keep dough from sticking.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling.  (You could say that three times fast, too.  Isn't this fun?)
I figure about a heaping half cup (that means rounded up over the edges of a half cup measure) per pasty - so you will need about 8 cups of filling.  If you have a little extra, just bake in a covered baking dish like a casserole.
My suggestion is to use about 2 cups of diced raw meat (I used venison) and 6 cups of raw vegetables.  Pasties NEED root vegetables.  They will cook inside the pasty when it bakes.  This time I used carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes.  If you want to use beets, cook them first and dice and add just before you are ready to fill the crusts.  It is important that the pieces of meat and vegetables be no more than 1/2 inch dice - maybe a bit smaller.  It takes a little longer to do the chopping, but it is easier to fill the pasties that way.  If you were making a great big pasty or even baking it in a 9 x 13 pan- then the pieces could be larger.  Salt and pepper and add some herbs if desired.  I used a little dried sage.

Roll out dough circles.  Place a heaping half cup on half of each circle.  Brush a little water on the edges before you fold in half and crimp.  Prick a few holes with a fork to let steam escape. Bake at 375 degrees about 25 minutes - until crust is nicely browned.  Serve at once or cool and refrigerate and reheat later.  These can be microwaved (briefly - or the crust will get tough).

Here are some step by step pictures to help you.
Diced venison, onion, potatoes, carrots and parsnips.  Rutabaga would be good, too.

Leave room on the edges - don't be afraid to push the filling gently around after you fold over the crust - to get it distributed like you want it.  This will get easier the more you do it.

Six individual pasties fit nicely on a big cookie sheet.  I love this sheet - it was made in the USA!

Don't forget to make little holes for the steam

Some juices leaked out of two - no worry.  Just slide a good strong spatula underneath the pasty will lift right up.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inspiration - Winter Week #4

In this week's box:  Spinach, Carrots, Potatoes, Garlic, Green Kale, Butternut Squash, Heart of Gold Squash, Parsnips, Green Cabbage, Red and White Daikon Radishes, Beets

This week's box is heavy.   But since you have about three weeks before the next box, you should be able to manage all this beautiful food just fine.   December is a busy time filled with shopping, parties, visiting, baking or coping with winter weather.  Try to make some time for your vegetable friends.  I have included a few party food recipes as well as simple stand-bys.  Recipe headings are in italics to make them a little easier to find.

I have been talking to some CSA members lately.  No surprise,  some of you tell me you had trouble using up all your vegetables last summer and fall. Even those of you with Chica shares!  One reason is that some of you eat out a lot.  (Note - Americans spent 48.6 cents of every food dollar away from home in 2009. So if you eat out a lot you are not alone.)  You are on the run - juggling work, children, elderly parents, activities, shopping or lessons.  What to do?

One thing you can do is think about using vegetables for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner.  Or make your own carry out "fast food".   I will try to help you with this "vegetables are not just for dinner" campaign in the coming weeks and months.

This weekend I will share recipes for pasties (pass-tees) as well as calzones.  We call things like this "road pies" in our house.   Yes, they are a little work but if you can manage to lay in a supply on the weekend they are great "grab and go" food and light years better than a Big Mac for all kinds of reasons I don't need to explain.  Have the kids help roll out the crusts.  Great life skill.

And of course there is always soup or stew.  Hard to eat in the car but ready and waiting when you get home if you have a crock pot or a timed bake feature on your oven.  I started some borscht yesterday morning and when I got back home about 6 p.m. dinner was ready.  All we had to do was toast some rye bread and throw a little creme fraiche on top of the soup.   And slice up some radishes for our salad.  (If you decide to get really motivated you could put hot soup in a few lunch box size thermos containers and let the kids work on that in the back seat.  If the soup is fairly chunky - stew, really -  and the kids aren't too little it should work just fine.)

Enough chatting.  You have places to go, people to see, things to do.  Let's take a look at what is inside your box. 

Your bag is modest in size but large in taste.  Wash and dry the leaves and they should store a week at least.  To make the spinach go farther, use as a bed for other salad items like grated carrot salad or roasted beets or pickled radishes.

You could also make a squash risotto and add some spinach leaves near the end of the process so they are just barely cooked.  Adds nice extra color and nutrition.

I love carrot season.   We can be profligate with carrots.  I add them to all kinds of soups and stews.  Grated raw, they make a fine salad when mixed with a simple oil and vinegar vinaigrette or some mayonnaise or yogurt.  I like to add a few raisins, nuts and chopped apple for extra fiber and nutrition.  Grated carrots, chopped nuts and some dressing make a great sandwich filling, too.  Add a little curry powder if you are feeling daring.

Maybe it was the blizzard, but yesterday we had potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   Subconscious carbo loading I guess.   For breakfast I made hash browns with some fried eggs and toast.   Lunch was potato soup (I just sauteed some chopped leeks and carrots and a few slices of chopped bacon, added a whole pile of chopped potatoes and simmered in water until everything was soft.  Mash a little and add some milk, salt and pepper and chopped parsley if you have some and you are done.)  Dinner was herring salad, which included chunks of boiled potatoes.

Herring Salad  (I think this would be good party food if you want a Nordic menu.  Having a lefse making party?  Serve this salad.)
If you like pickled herring you will love this salad.  If you are lukewarm about herring, try this salad.  It is an acquired taste.  Great with rye crackers and some beer or even aquavit.  A deviled egg as a first course would be a nice touch. Serve the herring salad on top of a few fresh spinach leaves if you have them. 

Mix together -  in proportions appealing to you - the following items cut in a size appealing to you:
pickled herring (not the kind in cream sauce)
boiled potato
cooked beet
sweet gherkin pickle  (or dill pickle if you prefer)
onion (red is nice) or shallot
flavorful apple
a few capers if you like them
some diced red or white daikon radish for extra crunch and texture

Bind together with sour cream or creme fraiche.  Add some chopped fresh parsley and fresh dill if you have it.  Good quality dried dill would work too.  Omit parsley if you don't have fresh.  Taste.  Add a little salt and pepper if desired.  A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a dash of wine vinegar would be a nice touch. 

Potato-onion-squash bake
You will need about 1 cup sliced potatoes, 1 cup sliced winter squash, 1/2 cup chopped or sliced onions, 1/2 cup milk and a teaspoon or so of minced garlic per serving.  Multiply quantities as needed.  The potatoes and squash should be cut in similarly sized slices. 
Alternate two layers of potatoes, squash and onions.  Mix garlic with milk and pour over all.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees until vegetables are soft.  If you want, uncover the last 10 minutes or so,  add some buttered bread crumbs and parmesan and broil a few minutes for a crispy browned topping.

A simple supper dish.  Bake an apple right alongside for dessert.  Cole slaw would be a good salad for this meal.  A feast.

It is so wonderful to have good quality fresh garlic around.  I have been storing mine in the refrigerator.  Make sure you also keep some fresh ginger around.  Fresh ginger and garlic is a marriage made in heaven.  Almost any vegetable is wonderful sauteed with these two seasonings - and some soy sauce or sesame oil or both.

Green Kale
Pasta with kale

Wash the kale, trim away the tough ribs, and blanch for a minute or two in boiling water.  (Save the water for cooking pasta.)  Cut the kale roughly into strips and saute in olive oil with a generous amount of minced garlic.  Stir into your favorite cooked pasta.  Served with some crumbled feta or blue cheese or grated parmesan this is a great standby quick dinner.  It can be eaten at room temperature for lunch, too.  I think I would sprinkle on a little balsamic vinegar if I was eating it for lunch that way.

Butternut Squash
Getting tired of plain baked or mashed squash?   Make some risotto.
Squash risotto (made with rice or barley)
Peel, seed and cut squash into 1/2 inch pieces.  Steam or boil until just barely tender.  Save the boiling water for the risotto.  Saute some rice or barley or other whole grain with a little butter and oil and chopped onion or leek.  Add about 1/2 cup white wine and then one cup of broth at a time, simmering and stirring, until the grain is al dente.  Stir in a few cups of chopped squash and maybe some spinach leaves and you are done.  Serve with grated parmesan and a few toasted walnuts or pine nuts.  A few golden raisins or sun dried tomatoes stirred in would be nice too.  Thyme would be a good herb to use with this dish.

Prosciutto wrapped squash - party food
Cut about 2 pounds of butternut squash into wedges (peeled).  Blanch in boiling, lightly salted water about 5 minutes until just tender.  Drain and cool.  Wrap a wafer thin slice of prosciutto around each squash wedge and place on a rimmed baking sheet. 
Mix together 1/3 cup walnut or olive oil, 1/3 cup fresh orange juice 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper and 1 t. dried thyme.

Pour dressing over squash and bake about 8 minutes at 425 degrees.  Serve warm.

Heart of Gold Squash
This is a very tasty squash.  Lately I have just been cutting this type of squash into one inch slices, removing the seeds but leaving on the skin.  Coat with just a little bit of oil (maybe add a little real maple syrup to the oil) and roast until tender.  Salt and pepper and that is all you need.  You could serve this as a warm "salad" course, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.  I have been eating the skins - they are not tough at all.  Up to you.

Warm roasted squash presented nicely on a special tray or plate could be great party food.  If you leave the skins on, the slices are easy to pick up and nibble.

The long awaited precious parsnips have arrived!   Because parsnips are so sweet, they once were commonly used in desserts.  The sometimes still are.

You can roast your parsnips with some carrots and potatoes for a wonderful meal.  Or you can try a parsnip pie.

Parsnip pie - adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham
Makes one ten inch pie.
Use your favorite pastry recipe to make a pie crust and partly bake about 5 minutes at 425 degrees. (prick shell all over to avoid puffing)
Pour filling into the partially baked shell, drizzle with 2 T. honey, lower temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 50-60 minutes - until the filling is firm in the center.  Serve at room temperature with lightly whipped cream.
Pie filling:
3 cups pureed plain parsnips (peel, boil, drain and mash well)
2 T. softened butter
1/2 cup honey
1 T. orange rind, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon EACH cinnamon and mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon EACH allspice and cloves (or all cloves)
1 t. fresh lemon juice

Green cabbage
Use some of your cabbage for cole slaw.  Make sure to save at least a third of the head for borscht (see recipe below, under Beets)  And you could also use part of your cabbage in a stir fry.  Pork, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, a little Chinese wine or sherry, cut up cabbage and finish with a dash of sesame oil.  Serve with rice or noodles.  Add a little sliced or julienned carrot when you are cooking the cabbage for some extra color if you wish.

Red and white daikon radishes
These radishes are great simply peeled, thinly sliced and served with your favorite dip.
Last night we ate them with dill dip before we ate our venison borscht.
I LOVE the magenta color.

Creme fraiche is better than sour cream for soup - doesn't curdle

They also are great in a sandwich to add crunch and a little zing.  Who needs iceberg lettuce or onions if you have daikon radishes?
Try them on a burger.
You can also peel and dice or shred the radishes to use in lettuce salads or as a garnish to Asian style soup or noodle dishes. 

I highly recommend that you make a big pot of borscht some time soon.  You have practically everything you need in your box - potatoes, cabbage, carrots, garlic and - of course BEETS.  You will need to get a large onion, too.  And some kind of meat.  I used venison top round steak this week.  Any cut of beef that benefits from long slow cooking would be fine, as would beef soup bones.  And a can or jar of tomatoes or tomato juice.  Parsley is optional but nice.

Make or buy 2 quarts of beef stock.  (You can also use water.  I used a few cups of beet cooking water, a bottle of beer and 2 cups of tomato juice along with some water.  This recipe makes a thick soup.  Add more liquid for a thinner soup.
Add the following to the stock or water:
Meat, if desired (you can use leftover roast meat or simple diced stew meat.  You could use beef or pork.  We used some road kill venison (but that is another story).
You don't need more than 1/4 pound per serving - maybe less.

The following vegetables - in approximately these amounts:
2 cups chopped onion or leek
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes (no need to peel)
4 - 5 cups sliced or chopped cabbage
2 cloves minced garlic
about 2 cups fresh or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 T. dried dill weed (or 2 T. fresh if you have it)
1-2 t. salt
pepper to taste
2 - 3 cups cooked, peeled and diced beets (add in the last half hour or so of cooking)
Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, on the stove or in the oven until meat and vegetables are tender. Even better served the next day.

It is very important that borscht have a sweet sour taste.  Near the end of cooking, add about 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice.  Taste.  Adjust with a little more of one or both as you wish.
Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream or rich yogurt if desired.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday gift ideas part 2 - Cookbooks: Peggy's Top Ten

Introduction and disclaimer
I don't smoke or gamble.  I drink alcohol in moderation and hardly spend any time watching TV or playing around with social media.  I eat lots of vegetables but I also believe in the pleasures of butter, cream and lard.  I am not into flashy cars or clothes.  I believe that moderation in all things is a very good rule to live by.......

Except when it comes to cookbooks.  I love cookbooks.  I covet cookbooks.  I like to read them and to own them.  I can't seem to get enough.  They are my friends and comfort in times of trouble or confusion.  They inspire and challenge and entertain me.  They can frustrate and depress me, too. (so many recipes-so little time). 

A cookbook or even one recipe can change your life and lives of those you love if you let it.  It is not magic - you will have to do some work. You will have to spend some time learning what you like and how to pull it off.  Do not expect overnight success.  As I have said many times on this blog, learning how to cook is the work of a lifetime.

Peggy's Top Ten for 2010
This morning I surveyed "best cook book" lists for 2010 from reliable sources such as:  The New York Times, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, the Washington Post, Amazon, Jessica's Biscuit (a cookbook website),  Publisher's Weekly, NPR and the Food 52 website.  If you want to do this yourself, go to the Best Cookbooks article in the Huffington Post, where most of these sources are aggregated.  It will take you a long time.

I also have surveyed some of my personal lists and favorites.  And I have come up with my own Top Ten list of gift cookbooks for 2010 - either gifts for yourself or someone you love.

These are NOT necessarily all purpose workhorse cookbooks.  (For a discussion of one of my favorite classics, go to this earlier blog post -

Some of the books on this list are probably destined to become classics -- but we won't know that for a while since these are all new in 2010.    I think you will love them, or some of them.  Many of these books have been recommended by various food editors and "experts".  They are not necessarily books that have been most purchased by the general public.  If you want mass market popular books you can easily find those on Amazon or other book sites.  The word "easy" is quite common in popular cook book titles.  Also "skinny" and "fast" and "comfort".

I am not opposed to fast or easy cooking.  But I believe that the more you cook with great quality cookbooks, the faster you will get and the easier cooking will be for you. 

My List
I have calculated that the total cost of this list is around $250 if purchased on line.  Several of the books on this list can be had for only $20. 

These books are listed in no special order.  You can share this link with some foodie friends who might be looking for gift ideas.  You can add these titles to your Amazon wish list.  You could do all your holiday shopping without setting foot in a mall.  Or take this list to your favorite bookstore and spend an afternoon browsing and buying.  Pretty civilized if you ask me.

I decided not to choose a link for each book.  Just google to find links or go to your favorite bookstore or book website.

1.  One Big Table - 600 recipes from the nation's best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs by Molly O 'Neill
This book is on many best of 2010 lists.  It weighs 15 pounds and according to the reviews on Amazon - it is weighty in content as well.  An excerpt from one review:  It's easy to forget how diverse America truly is when reading traditional American cookbooks. This book, however, gives us a glimpse inside the menus of real Americans of various backgrounds and their families. We see local and regional culture reflected, as well as immigrant culture and how immigrants have evolved their menus to reflect their surroundings. I own many cookbooks (somewhere over 400 or so), but this is probably the best one that I have read recently. Every page draws me in and reminds of the America I know and love.

2.  The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
A lot of good history as well as recipes.  Probably destined to become a classic.  I love my 1961 New York Times cookbook by Craig Claiborne but have to admit it is getting a bit dated.   Remember rumaki?

3.  Around My French Table: More than 300 recipes from my house to yours by Dorie Greenspan
This book is on a lot of critics' lists.  Probably not for beginners.

4.  The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman
This is a "political" cookbook - in a good way.  We vote with our forks.  Might as well think more about what we are voting for or against.  Plus great recipes which we have come to expect from Bittman.

5.   Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen
Ms. Allen hails from the famous Ballymalloe Cooking School in Ireland.  I can't wait to try some of the recipes in this book.  

6. Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi
This is probably the least practical book on this list.  It might be more an art book than a cookbook.  I hope you find it inspirational.  The author Rene Redzepi is THE hot new international chef and is a serious locavore.  His restaurant in Copenhagen has become very famous.   Any Minnesotan who claims a deep interest in food should at least be aware of this book if not own it.

7. Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington
My kind of cook -- waste not want not.

8. Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce, Quentin Bacon, Nancy Silverton, and Amy Scattergood
I just had to include one baking book on this list. 

9. The Very Best Of Recipes for Health: 250 Recipes and More from the Popular Feature on by Martha Rose Shulman
I link to Ms. Shulman's recipes on the Featherstone Farm facebook page all the time.  She has written many many books - I think this is the most recent.  Very practical and tasty recipes and excellent for CSA members who need to cope with lots of veggies.

10. What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio
I chose this because I think good cooks need to be very aware of food cultures around the world.  America is a melting pot - culinarily and otherwise.  We are the better for it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Potluck - Holiday gift ideas

Today I am rolling out a new category for my blog posts: Potluck.  Most everybody I know likes pot lucks.  Sometimes we like to sample lots of different things.  And there are so many things to talk about.

So here is what I have cooked up for Potluck this week:

Edible Twin Cities
If you have not yet checked out this magazine then do it today.  Even if you do not live in the Twin Cities.  If you are interested in real food, Minnesota food traditions, some good recipes and the topic of local food in general, then you will enjoy reading the articles in this quarterly publication.  And the photos are always wonderful.
Here is the website
You can subscribe for yourself or a friend online.  You also can sign up for the ETC free newsletter.
(Full disclosure - I have written for this magazine in the past and may do so in the future.  I think the folks behind this publication are doing important work to inform and educate the Minnesota public about the topic of food.  And to give local food businesses another way to reach their customers through advertising.)

A Featherstone CSA share
I think a CSA membership would be an excellent gift for a special person or family in your life.  Don't forget - quality vegetables are in style.  Peeling your own carrots and potatoes is definitely a high prestige activity.  And cooking with fennel or bok choy?  A sure way to impress your friends.  And don't you want the people you care about to eat healthy food?

If you sign up by Dec. 15 a 2011 Grande share costs $640 and a Chica share will be $490.  If a whole share is a little too spendy - maybe buy one for yourself and give a half share to a buddy.  Or get a group together to give this gift. Maybe you and your siblings could get together to give a CSA share to your parents.  Better than bathrobes and slippers.

People buy things like Fruit of the Month club all the time.  I checked out the Harry and David web site.  A nine month plan costs $299. I figured out that you would get about 38 pounds of fruit.  Even if it is lovely and tasty fruit, you have to admit that $7.87 a pound is a lot to spend for fruit.

I don't know what a 22 week season of Featherstone vegetables weighs, but I can pretty much guarantee that CSA vegetables cost A LOT LESS than $7.87 a pound for fabulous taste and nutrition you can feel good about.

A night at the movies
Speaking of feeling good - last night Frank and I finally were able to see the film Troubled Waters, which was screened here in our little town of Lanesboro.  (Thanks to Lanesboro Local
and the Lanesboro Arts Center

I think the film is very much worth seeing.  It made me proud to be associated with Featherstone Farm.  I don't know why it got so controversial, to tell you the truth.  As one person in the audience said last night.  "Sometimes the truth hurts."

Order a copy of the DVD here:

I am going to write a post next week about cookbooks.  What an overwhelming topic!  They make great gifts - but what to buy?
Meanwhile, you could always put together a little collection of some of your favorites as a gift - maybe along with some homemade food item.  A thoughtful and personal and affordable gift.  The best kind.