Category Archives: On My Mind

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Make a New Year Happy!

Happy 2011, friends!  OK, first I would like to apologize for being M.I.A. for a while now.  The end of 2010 proved to be a bit stressful, and unfortunately blogging had to be put on hold for a bit there.  It’s amazing how a mysterious flea infestation and moody pre-teens can really bring you down!  And seriously…since when is pre-teen a thing?!?!  Either you are a teenager or you are not…you can’t mess with the system, tell everyone you are a pre-teen at the age of 11 and start acting all emo because you watched the Twilight movie and now think all boys should be that brooding…seriously!  Ok…hang on…Mike just told me they are called tweens now…what the hell is a tween!?!  Oh I’m so screwed when we have kids!

But it’s a new year!  I’m starting winter term at Portland State tomorrow with some great classes and have tons of goodies planned for this year.  I also recently joined the board of directors for Friends of Portland Community Gardens and will be working with Portland Parks & Rec to help get funding for and coordinate the expansion of community garden plots throughout the city.  I’m working with a great bunch of folks who really believe that growing food goes hand in hand with growing communities.  I can’t wait to work with them all and hopefully learn some gardening skills along the way too.  There are a lot of great things in store for 2011!

On that note, I have to say I started this year off right!  Mike and I had dinner with some friends on New Years Eve, and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with super tasty new recipes that I’ve been meaning to try for a while now, including lamb stuffed cabbage rolls!

I had dinner at Broder in SE Portland about a month ago and had these for the first time.  They were amazing and I decided that I had to try and recreate them.  Unfortunately none of my pictures came out well, but the one shown looks just about right.  Ideally you would eat them in a bowl of beef broth with a spoon.  they are the perfect bite of happy on a cold winter night!

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - Photo Courtesy of Balkan Express Restaurant

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients:

12 large leaves of cabbage

1 lb lamb (pasture raised of course)

1/2 cup brown rice, cooked

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp thyme

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cinnamon

4 cups beef broth

Directions:

1.)Combine ground lamb, rice and all seasonings in a bowl and set aside

2.) Separate cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage by cutting out the core and placing the whole head of cabbage in boiling water for a couple minutes.  Remove the cabbage from the water and carefully peel off the leaves.  You will get to a point where the leaves are uncooked and you should place the head back in the water to loosen some more leaves.  It is a process but was the best way I found to remove the leaves intact.  If they are tearing, try boiling them a bit more.  And be careful not to burn yourself…use a big spoon to remove the cabbage from the water.

3.) Place 2 tablespoons  of meat mixture in a cabbage leaf and roll firmly, tucking in the sides after the first roll.

4.) Poke each roll a couple times with a fork or sharp knife to create tiny holes and place them in your slow cooker as you roll them.

5.) Cover rolls with the beef broth

6.) Cook on low setting for 8 hours or high for 5 hours

7.) Serve in bowls with some of the broth.

5 Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving

This is a guest post that I wrote for The MBA Hub blog for Portland State University.  Check them out if you are a student or are interested in what the Portland State University School of Business is up to.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful to live in the land of plenty!  Portland has so much to offer with its sustainably focused farmers and long growing season.  Here are 5 tips toward a more sustainable Thanksgiving:

1.)    Local Organically Grown Produce – Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes & Pumpkin Pie are all opportunities to buy local and pesticide free.  Support your farmers as we run to the end of the market season.  The Portland Farmers Market on campus is still open through December 18th, and many others are open year round.  Check out Local Harvest or USDA  farmer’s market database for your local farmers’ market availability.

2.)    Gobble Gobble –  If you aren’t having a vegetarian holiday, a Free Range Pasture Raised bird is the only way to go.  They have eaten all of the things that birds naturally eat instead of being confined and force-fed a diet of grain and antibiotics.  This varied diet makes a much tastier juicier bird, which has fertilized the land throughout its life.  You are definitely going to pay more, but once you try one of these birds you won’t go back.  You can really taste the value!  Oh, and don’t forget to use the drippings for gravy, and the carcass for turkey soup after the holiday.  Nothing should go to waste on this tasty bird!

3.)    Local Brews and Vino – Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to sample some of the seasonal microbrews available from your local brewmasters and to treat your guests to a bottle of local Willamette Valley wine.

4.)    Forget the Packaging and Preservatives – Try cooking from scratch this holiday.  Prepackaged foods come with a lot of extra packaging and are full of preservatives.  Bring your own containers to the store and buy your ingredients from the bulk bins.

5.)    Serve – Sustainability is all about making strong healthy communities.  Find some time this holiday season to help out in your community and give back.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Would you fly to Chile to buy an apple?

Photo courtesy of Neocolours

One Wednesday afternoon last month I was craving an apple, so I ran down to the cafe in my office building.  When I got there I selected one and saw that it had the “grown in Chile” sticker on it.  “Hmm”…I thought.  “Why do they need to ship apples in from Chile when we have a farmers market right across the street on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and apples are in season right now!”  But I was pretty hungry and junk food was really the only other option, so I brought the apple to the register, paid $1 for it, and went back upstairs to my desk.  When I got there, I took a bite.  Now when I say that this was a bad apple, it was a REALLY bad apple!!!  Although the outside looked perfect (no bruising, cuts or discoloration), the inside was entirely rotten, grainy and brown.  Both the taste and the texture were off-putting.  I decided to give it one more chance though and thought that maybe it is just a bruise that I didn’t notice before, so I took a bite from the other side.  Same thing this time around.  It lacked everything that makes an apple an apple.  There was no crispness, it wasn’t sweet, and it definitely wasn’t juicy, all the while looking perfect on the outside.  I thought false advertising was illegal!

Now, Chile is an amazing location to grow many things, and if the Chileans want to grow and eat their apples, that’s awesome, but I would like to suggest that we let them keep them.  These apples have been grown to withstand the Chilean climate as well as the transit that it takes to get them to market in the United States.  I live in the Pacific Northwest where orchards are plentiful.  The climate here is perfect for the most delicious apples I have ever tasted, but all too often, retailers will just buy what is cheap and available through their normal distribution methods.  It seems like they don’t  even bother to think about the quality of the product they are selling… I mean, hey, it sells right?

I am incredibly lucky to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables from my local farmers markets year round, but I recognize how rare this is, and most people are making their buying decisions based on those nasty apples from over 6,000 miles away.  No wonder people don’t want to eat their fruits and vegetables!

Here is the thing.  Until retailers start to challenge the system and demand local, sustainable produce from their distributors, nothing is going to change.  And further, until WE, the consumers start to demand better, the retailers have no reason to change suppliers.  Next time I am at the market across the street from work, I think I will pick up a few extra apples and bring one to the owner of the cafe.  I will ask that he check out the farmers market, or order some local produce from his distributor.  My guess is that he would increase sales if he offered quality product.  Until then, it’s just not worth being a customer.

Misfits at the market!

Pumpkin farmers profit from odd ugly varieties

I was so happy to see this article!  People are starting to realize that vegetables are not all the same size and perfectly round.  All too often, farmers aren’t able to sell a lot of their produce because grocery stores won’t buy anything that doesn’t look perfectly “perfect”, and a lot of our food ends up just rotting away in the fields.  Nature has a way of making each living thing unique, and vegetables are no exception.  I have always loved the unique shapes and sizes of the vegetables that I find at the market.  Just this past week a farmer had a whole basket full of these misfit carrots!

Next time you are at the market, grab something a little unique looking…it is guaranteed to be a conversation piece when you bring it home, you will be supporting your farmer, and it really will taste just as good as those “perfect” looking ones.

It’s October 1st. Happy World Vegetarian Day!!

Farmers Market

Photo by: Brie Hilliard

In honor of World Vegetarian Day, I thought I would put together a top 10 statistics and reasons to go veggie…even if only for one day a week.  Personally I am not a strict vegetarian, but as I have adopted a more veggie centered diet, I have been much healthier and have way more energy!
10. Save water – It takes 600 gallons of water to produce one hamburger…that’s a lotta water!!!
9. If efficiency is your thing – It takes 2 lbs of grain to produce a quarter pound of burger.
8. Save money!!! – You can buy way more quality organic food with the money you would have spent on expensive meat…no more excuses for not buying organic.
7. “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!” – farmed animals produce 130 times more waste than humans and our current factory farming system just pollutes the land, water and air.
6. Seasonal variety – eating veggies with the seasons is delicious and there is always something new and exciting at the market.
5. Make fewer trips to the doctor – a vegetarian diet is healthier than a meat based diet (given that you don’t fry all of your veggies) and reduces the occurrences of heart disease.
4. The cute factor – I dare you to go to a farm and not fall in love with the animals.
3. Regularity – there is no fiber in meat…eat your veggies and get your fiber.
2. Workers Rights – slaughterhouse workers have the most dangerous factory jobs in America because of the speed of slaughter lines and lack of safety equipment.
1. Solve world hunger – If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10%, it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain.  That’s enough to feed 60,000,000 people.

Organic Farming or Football?

This kid is great!  Birke Baehr is an 11-year-old boy who really knows what he’s talking about.  He gives me faith that other kids are interested in food and farming too.  Check out what he has to say in the video above…oh, and then see what he’s talking about when he mentions kale chips.  My recipe for them is listed in a previous post.

If you have never watched a Ted talk before, check them out.  They tend to be incredibly inspiring and you can download them automatically as a podcast when new ones come out.

Frankenfish!

There has been a lot of focus recently on genetically modified salmon as the FDA is just days away from approving the first GM animal for our consumption.  These salmon would grow about twice as fast as regular salmon, making them much more profitable to farm and would provide more for the market at a time when we are seeing wild salmon shortages.  GMOs could some day provide a safe and viable food source, but for now I am opposed to any GMO until the FDA develops a testing process for each new product set to go out to market.  At the moment, they are rushing the approval of the GM salmon and classifying it in the same way as they do veterinary drugs.  We will not know whether these products are truly safe until they have been rigorously tested in double-blind studies which are available to the public and the privacy is taken out of our food.  We just don’t know enough to know if it is safe.  For now if you would like to make sure you aren’t eating any GMOs, Certified Organic is your best bet next to knowing your farmer or growing your own.

If you would like to read more, here are a few articles I found to be helpful in understanding the issues:

Organic Consumers Association

Sorting Out the Myth And Reality Of Transgenic Fish

Are Genetically Engineered Foods (Including Salmon) More Allergenic?