August 26, 2011

goat's milk and cajeta ice cream

The idea for this ice cream started with a homemade cajeta made from raw goat's milk as its inspiration. Cajeta is a caramel sauce popular among Latin cultures with different versions among those cultures. Cubans have their own version in which they heat sweetened condensed cow's milk until it caramelizes, called dulce de leche, while the traditional Mexican cajeta recipe uses goat's milk and adds cinnamon and sugar when caramelizing. Since I hadn't yet made an ice cream using the raw goat's milk I buy from a local farm, the combination of an ice cream and cajeta made purely from the raw goat's milk sounded like a good idea. What I didn't know was just how great it would taste. The flavor of this ice cream is a serious contender for surpassing my lifetime favorite flavor of dark chocolate. There's not much that can approach the immutable status of dark chocolate in my opinion, but oh, this goat's milk ice cream with cajeta definitely does.

August 19, 2011

the challenge

I've been thinking a lot about how difficult it can be to eat real food these days. By "real," I mean food that you can prepare yourself from its natural state into a meal without the addition of preservatives, additives, or other synthetic chemicals. Probably one of the best ways to do this is to plant your own garden, but not everyone has the time or desire to grow their own food. Not everyone has access to a nearby farmer's market, food co-op, or CSA (community-supported agriculture). It's easy to defer to the convenience of packaged or prepared food from the store or fast food restaurant when this processed food is often much cheaper than its natural counterpart. Eating real food, knowing where it comes from, and having it at prices affordable to everyone is something we've moved farther and farther away from in our society. And in this economy, what keeps many people from choosing real food can be the expense.

But there's also a groundswell that continues to gain momentum. It's a reaction to the industrialized food choices, represented by CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) and government-subsidized crops, and polluted by antibiotics, pesticides, processing and genetic manipulation. It's a response to the declining health of a nation, with climbing obesity rates and related diseases, and children who for the first time may have decreased life expectancies as a result. It's driven by people who want to do better for themselves and those they love and the world around them. It's an effort by many to move back to our agrarian roots. It's a move to a slower, simpler pace of life, though it might not be necessarily any easier to accomplish. One of these groundswells is Slow Food USA. It's a "global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment." Slow Food USA has several programs to encourage, educate, promote, safeguard and connect people to their food and those who grow food. To address the issues of economy and cost of food, and take back the "value meal," Slow Food USA has initiated the $5 challenge, and it will be happening on Saturday, September 17, 2011.

August 12, 2011

a simple solution

I'm continuing with the garden theme this week, and still working on a recipe that needs a little more fine-tuning before sharing with the world. I'll be posting it the last week of August, and I think it's worth the wait to get it just right. In the meantime, I've been harvesting herbs from our garden to dry and store because I can't use all of them fresh, and they're way overdue for a pruning. The Cuban oregano is towering above them all, and although it smells great and looks beautiful, I'm not quite sure how to use it in what I cook. I'm thinking maybe fríjoles negros (black beans) would be a possibility, but we'll see.

To dry the herbs I was looking for a simple and cheap solution, since the Excalibur dehydrator I'd like to get is a little more than what I want to spend right now. I mentioned to my husband as we were talking about ideas that maybe some kind of homemade screen with a frame would work. While he was pricing materials in the hardware store, he found an even easier solution, and I think it's pretty ingenious.

August 5, 2011

lessons from a garden

edible squash blossom flowers

Seed, sprout, flower, fruit. It's a pattern that repeats itself again and again in the garden. The seed responds to the water and the sun, and the sprout grows, spreading its roots into the soil. Soon a sturdy plant begins to put out flowers, and the bees and ants carry the pollen to fertilize the fruit. Finally the fruit begins to set and grow, and if all goes well, you eat from its yield. From the fruit the seed is harvested for the next season, and the pattern begins again. For me, the transformation of the backyard from grass to garden in a few short months has been a source of many lessons. Here's a few things I've learned so far, with a few resources that have been helpful to me.