Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Evelyn Farris Raines Vanilla Extract

I recently had the most wonderful opportunity to spend time with Evelyn Farris Raines through a work project that truly opened my eyes to a world beyond the boundaries of my small life.  

Evelyn has devoted her life to the earth and it's people.  Her life is split, as she says, between the sandy soil of Uganda where she has spent over 3 decades improving agriculture, educating the Iteso people of a town called Soroti how to effectively and efficiently use the soil to produce not only food, but also to create an economy around what they are able to grow.
Her work is tiresome and exhausting, though you would never know it by her unyielding sense to do more, try harder, find more needs to fill.  In her words, "I want the poor in Uganda to have access to more of the earth’s resources: land and water, and food production methods that do not degrade the land or water or people. I want village farmers to experience financial success and independence so they can provide for their children’s school fees and health care needs. I want them to have an education that encourages creative problem solving & critical thinking, and government officials who serve the people rather than squander international aid money and the many natural resources of Uganda."
The other half of her life is spent in her Hillsboro West End Neighborhood as an "urban farmer" selling her herbs and flowers to local markets, planting trees in her community and hosting garden and chicken coop tours in her back yard.  
Through her work in our local community and through her efforts in Africa, she brings her passion for bettering the lives of others with her.  She teaches all of us that small acts can lead to great rewards, people acting together for the greater good can have an enormous impact of the future.

Her work is not limited to agriculture.  She sees a need and almost simulataneously sees a sultions.  When a she took her daughters to Soroti for the first time, they went to school with the local children and she realized in a class of over 120 students, with one teacher, a single blackboard and no desk, there was a need.  The children were sitting on concrete floors.  They needed a better place to learn, to grow.  
In the workshop her father had helped found, Hands In Service, they built desks from local materials and need was filled.  Small acts of kindness can lead to the education of our future.
Her work has inspired me to see beyond my front yard, to look past my own garden to the potential of other's.  She is truly an incredible lady who embodies grace, kindness, and love and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her even if for just a little while.
Evelyn sales her homemade vanilla extract at Kore in Edgehill Village from ingredients she brings back from her trips to Uganda.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Some CHEESE!!!

It was recently given the wonderful opportunity to go to Standing Stone Farm in Gallatin, TN for a cheese making class.  I knew this was going to be dangerous because of my obsessive love of cheese but then when they told me that there were also baby goats on the farm who had been born the week prior I knew I was doomed!

This couldn't be good!  I was going to want to take a goat home with me and make cheese for the rest of my life...the path was stretched out before me and I just knew there was no getting around it!

Before we were allowed to go out and actually play with the goats we needed to get down to business.  It was time to get serious with the curds and wey and start this cheese makin' thing, so naturally we all poured our selves a drink and sat down to learn.

She said it was easy....all cheeses were just a various of how to separate the curds from the wey and how long a cheese is allowed to age.  Ok, I can deal with that....just follow directions...I seem to be able to do that just fine!

Then she threw in the game changer, the word I have feared since junior year in college....chemistry.

She said it like it was harmless, like it wasn't the reason I had nightmares about balancing formulas in my chemistry class from high the periodic table didn't speak to me any more than the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt!

At this point it was time to fish-or-cut-bait....if I wanted to learn to make cheese I was simply going to have to overcome my mental block when it came to chemistry and embrace it in the name of cheese!

Well with Paula Butler at the helm of this expedition I gained confidence that I too would one day be able to make cheese, but she took it a step further...she showed us in her very kitchen how to make mozzarella and ricotta cheese!  It was a success!!!
So naturally I bought my kit and with a sense of pride in our accomplishment, I headed out to the barn to hold a baby goat!

Standing Stone Farm is a wonderful place to try something new, explore different cheese making options and experience the joy of knowing that the cheese you are eating is free of preservatives and chemicals!

All in all it was one of my most favorite days filled with new skills and pictures of baby goats.....Mission Accomplished!

For more information about Standing Stone Farms visit their website here!
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Pecorino

I have my favorite side dishes...everyone does....mine typically include potatoes...and sour cream....and butter.  Ok, ok...I really like mashed potatoes but you know who doesn' waist line.  So again, we go in search of healthier options that don't taste like we are eating grass!

Well friends, we had great success with this one!  A great combination of flavors, easy to prepare in advance as I believe raw kale needs to sit in its dressing for a while to tenderize it a bit.  I know this is gonna sound odd, but I even think you could leave the bacon out.

Sacrilege I know but seriously, the salad is packed with so much flavor already that I don't think it really needs the additional bacon.

Try it with it first and then let me know what you think!

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Pecorino
For dressing:

the juice from 2  fresh lemons
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For salad:
4 cups shredded kale
1 lb brussels sprouts, finely shredded using a food processor
3-4 slices bacon, baked and chopped
1 cup roasted almonds
1 cup Pecorino cheese, finely grated

I shredded both the kale and the brussel sprouts in the food processor separately.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix. (Alternatively, I sometimes throw everything in a mini food processor and let it do the chopping.) Add in olive oil, whisking (or processing) until combined.
Mix sliced kale and shaved brussels sprouts in a large bowl. 

Throw in bacon, almonds, and cheese.
Pour dressing over the top and toss salad until all ingredients are distributed throughout.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quinoa with Toasted Pine Nuts

I have never been a huge fan of quinoa as I am big on texture and these tiny little grains seemed a bit tedious to me so naturally I have avoided even trying quinoa until I was face with a predicament....the proverbial fork in the road...choosing which path to was all very dramatic.

Actually not at all...I went to a friends house for a dinner party and like any good southern guest, I knew I had to eat everything the hostess served. So that is just what I did and I'll be damned, I loved it! Here is a twist on what we had that evening!

Quinoa with Toasted Pine Nuts
as adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and drain quinoa. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute or until tender. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 
Add quinoa; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 
Add chicken stock and kosher salt; bring to a boil. 
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
While quinoa cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. 
Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. 
Combine quinoa mixture, pine nuts, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, chives, and pepper; toss.

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