Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


Farmshed: Three Steps to Build a Local Food Community

Farm Fresh Collaborators at Central Rivers Farmshed

How do you build and foster a local food community vibrant with area farmers and food artisans that also serves shoppers and eaters? Look to Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and the budding Central Rivers Farmshed as they serve as an inspiring model for local food community building and family farmer support. Their three key elements for success are collaboration, creativity and a cooperative mindset.

Our recent trip to Stevens Point quickly brought the “farmshed” concept to life. I was familiar with the concept of “watershed” that defines an area of land containing a common set of streams and rivers that drain into a single larger body of water. This same concept inspires Central Rivers Farmshed, crafting a common space that brings together in this case the various components of raising healthy food and community, creating something stronger together.

“Central Rivers Farmshed grew directly out of our community, tapping into our strengths and needs with an ultimate goal of supporting our area farmers and crafting a healthy local food scene,” explains Layne Cozzolino, Executive Director of this non-profit with a mission to grow a resilient local food community. “We didn’t have a clear vision of where we are today when area folks first started thinking and talking about sustainable food systems back around 2006. Our journey and learnings root in bringing people together to share needs, strengths and interests and what new things are needed that will benefit us all.”

Central Rivers Farmshed today involves creative re-use of a former garden center, now evolving into 35,000 square foot community food hub which currently houses a 7,000 square foot production greenhouse, community kitchen, gathering space where local groups like the Wisconsin Farmers Union meet, and learning center.

“Farmshed also exemplifies how supporting area farmers goes beyond simply what’s on our plate as the local food scene in our Stevens Point area is increasingly a draw for travelers,” shares Sara Brish, Executive Director of the Stevens Point Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s the leadership of community members like Layne with a long-term commitment to this place and the health of our community, that make this area so appealing for folks to also move to and launch their new entrepreneurial start-ups.”

Processing Butternut Squash at Central Rivers Farmshed 

While the fruits of Central Rivers Farmshed’s collective vision are coming to life, it’s a process that happened slowly and thoughtfully. Here are three Central Rivers Farmshed perspectives for other communities looking to build a more vibrant local food scene:

Collaboration

“Over the years, we have found that good ideas for social change come a dime a dozen,” shares Cozzolino. The challenge? Finding the time to make them a reality.  Farmshed’s approach is to aim to motivate idea-makers, helping them think through the process before taking their idea to the next level. “This is how our programming comes to fruition: community members with good ideas and the willingness to put in the time and energy to make them reality.”

Farmshed coined this as the “puppy” principle. Cozzolino explains, "Many of us have wanted a puppy at some point in our lives, but the realities of having one often leads us to think long and hard about whether we are ready for the commitment. We believe deciding to run new programming needs the same consideration.”

Creativity

The organization’s core business, Frozen Assets, grew out of listening to and creatively merging both farmers’ and shoppers’ needs. A twist on the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) concept where folks pre-purchase “shares” and typically receive a fresh vegetable delivery in-season, Frozen Assets instead purchases fresh produce from farms at the peak of ripeness and freezes it for deliveries during the winter.  

“We attract a lot of CSA dropouts who formerly joined the fresh weekly summer delivery version but felt guilty about the food waste of not using it up. This doesn’t happen with frozen veggies,” adds Cozzolino.  

Still, they have found selling frozen vegetables comes with its own set of challenges that require creative solutions.  Many home cooks still need ideas on how to use pre-cut vegetables.  “Our potatoes come in French fry cuts and people immediately only think they can be used for making French fries, but they are simply pre-cut potatoes that can be used in all sorts of ways,” explains Cozzolino  This prompted creating a 45-page cookbook specifically using Frozen Assets’ vegetables in accessible and easy recipes like casserole dishes.

Chopping Butternut Squash for Freezing at Central Rivers Farmshed 

Cooperative Mindset

“Stevens Point is turning into a real draw for young people to move to, in big part, because of the supportive community here,” shares Jan Walter, Farmshed Kitchen Manager, as she aptly peels butternut squash for a Frozen Asset delivery. “New food businesses are popping up all the time. Each venture really tries to prop up each other, and we together grow stronger.” Farmshed’s commercial kitchen currently serves as home for two area businesses: Tapped Maple Syrup, infused maple syrups, and Sky View Pasta, a unique fermented pasta.

Throughout Wisconsin, farmers and food entrepreneurs are championing each other.  My last post featured café owner Amy Scheide of Great Expectations and her prioritizing locally raised items such as cranberries on her menu.  Another example of the cross-pollinated Wisconsin food scene:  the cocktail at Great Expectations made with Door County Tart Cherry Shrub by Siren Shrub Company.  Siren Shrub is a new business venture co-led by Cozzolino producing these drinking vinegars showcasing Wisconsin grown flavors.  

Outside of the kitchen, Farmshed leads the Farm Fresh Atlas of Central Wisconsin, a printed and online directory listing farms that sell direct. Their annual Local Food Fair in February brings together over 1,500 attendees including chefs, farmers and the people who appreciate the time, effort and love that goes into crafting an authentic farmshed.  


“You never know what sparks when you bring people together in one place,” shares Cozzolino with a smile. “Chefs and farmers start talking and all of a sudden a new business partnership starts.”

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Cranberry-Blueberry Scones

 

I am always on the lookout for a great quick bread, something with fairly common ingredients, not hard to put together, but tastes great. With the cranberries, it also gives not only a sweet tang, but a festive look for the holidays.

I tinkered with this recipe, it having come originally from a paperback cookbook, for example using sour cream instead of heavily sweetened commercial yogurt. It really improved the texture, as sour cream always seems to do, and the sweetened cranberries give you plenty of sweetness.  The standard 14% fat sour cream works well in baking, and is recommended. Ok, yes, it is slightly decadent too. I also used the blueberry flavoured dried cranberries, being all what was on hand at the time, but it turned out delicious.You can use them interchangeably most of the time. These are actually sweeter than the plain cranberries. One other noteworthy addition to this recipe is the use of homemade Plum Butter or Plum Puree, which adds further richness and moistness.Yum!

Cranberry-Blueberry Scones

Ingredients:

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 tbsp. baking powder
• 1 tso. baking soda
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/4 cup plum puree or store bought equivalent, see recipe below
• 2 tbsp butter, cold
• 1 cup or 8 oz sour cream
• 1 tbsp. granulated sugar for dusting

Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

2. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable cooking oil.

3. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

4. Cut in plum puree and butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

5. Mix in sour cream and cranberries just until blended, do not over mix, or they will be tough.

6. On floured surface, pat dough out to about one inch thickness.

7. Cut with a 2 1/2 inch round cutter. Re-roll scraps, gently as possible. Arrange on baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

8. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and spring back when touched. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 10. 

Plum Butter or Plum Puree

Combine 1 1/2 cups dried plums and 1/4 to 1/3 cup hot water in the container of a food processor or blender. Pulse on and off until all is finely chopped and smooth, like a paste. Store leftovers in covered container in fridge for up to 2 months or freeze. There was enough leftover to make at least 2 more batches of scones. Makes one cup.

Note: Even though the dried plums I used were soft, the food processor didn’t like them and made a mess. (Food processors tend to not like rubbery items like dried plums and fruits, or cheese.) So what I did was put them in a glass bowl, added a little more water, and microwaved them in 30 second bursts until hot. Then I just let them sit for a while, stirring occasionally, until they became very soft, almost mushy. Then you can carry on as usual.

References: Editors of Favourite Brand Name Recipes. Best Recipes: Old-Fahsioned Holidays. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd., 2002.

You can follow the further adventures of Sue or sign up for a class at her website: www.svanslooten.com or email: mailto:susan.vanslooten@icloud.com.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Eating Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichoke blossoms 

Jerusalem artichokes, a member of the sunflower family, typically grow to be ten feet tall or taller. Photo by Carole Coates

Sure, I’ve eaten Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes. But I’d never grown them—until we bought some last fall at the local farmers’ market. “Can we plant these?” my husband asked. Assured that we could, we bought a few to eat and a few more to store in the fridge until spring. Well, spring has come and gone and fall is in full swing. Time to figure out what to do with all those sunchokes.

Nuisance Weed or Gourmet Veggie?

What a funny name for a plant that’s related neither to Jerusalem nor artichokes. Instead, this perennial is in the sunflower family and can often be found growing along roadsides. It has a reputation for being invasive, which may be how it came to be known as a weed. But it has a long history as a healthy food source. And to a gardener or forager, there's nothing like good food that's also free.

We reserved a small, enclosed raised bed to plant our tubers. (Be careful of any plant that’s touted as ‘easy to grow,’ especially in less than ideal conditions.) We had no idea whether they’d produce, especially since they’d grown pretty soft during our winter’s storage. And they did take a long time to emerge from the soil.

An Easy Grow, Prolific Harvest

We planted nine tubers. A couple didn’t make it, after all. But the rest finally sprouted. We waited impatiently for the long growing season to end and the stalks to die back so we could dig up the roots. 

We were harvesting our last round of garden goodness prior to our first predicted freeze when we decided it was time to check out the sunchoke bed. After digging up up the tubers from only two plants, I yelled, “Stop!” Our refrigerator was already overflowing with carrots, beets, rutabagas, and kohlrabi. How could we find room for the more than three gallons of chokes we’d just dug? From only two-sevenths of our plants! We’re leaving the rest in the ground, to dig as needed. After all, they’re said to be tastier after first frost when they develop a nuttier flavor.

bowl of sunchokes

See this serving bowl overflowing with Jerusalem artichokes? That's not quite half of our harvest from just one plant! Did I mention they're prolific? Photo by Carole Coates

Ever since our initial dig, I’ve been researching ways to eat and preserve this bountiful plant. I’ve barely scratched the surface trying out new recipes, and I’m eager to share what I’ve found.

Good for You

The experts agree: Sunchokes are good for you. According to Foodprint.org,“sunchokes are an excellent source of iron, potassium and thiamin. They are also low in calories and high in fiber. Inulin, the primary carbohydrate in sunchokes, minimally affects blood sugar and is touted as a diabetic-friendly carb.”

Storing and Eating Sunchokes

Store Jerusalem artichokes in the vegetable crisper section of the fridge from two weeks to a couple of months wrapped in a paper or cloth towel and sealed in a plastic bag. But be careful—the tubers look suspiciously like ginger. You don't want to confuse them.

Of course, you can eat sunchokes raw. You’ll never bite into anything more crisp and juicy. No need to peel. Just wash and scrub thoroughly with a vegetable brush. Sliced, they’re an excellent addition to a garden salad. Similar to water chestnuts in texture and flavor, they make a fine substitute in a stir fry.

But there are other ways to eat Jerusalem artichokes, as well. Sauté them in a little butter. Boil, mash, and prepare the same way you’d prepare potatoes. They won’t taste the same—they have their own unique flavor, but they’re super creamy and tasty in their own right. Toss them into a stew. Roast them with other root veggies or alone or make a gratin, either by themselves or in combination with parsnips, rutabaga, or other roots of your choice. Soup is a good way to prepare chokes on a cold winter day. You can grate them for a hashbrown substitute, too. You can even freeze your chokes for future use by blanching for a couple of minutes and chilling for an equal amount of time. Or you can pickle them. Here’s a recipe to try. Ellen Zachos, the Backyard Forager, shares recipes from chips to cake using these versatile veggies.

So, it’s just fine that Jerusalem artichokes are so prolific. There are plenty of ways to eat them, from appetizer to dessert. Bon appétit!

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.

You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Roundup Is Making Us Sick, Part 2

Roundup

Part 2: How Roundup directly affects our bodies

Part one of this series explained how Roundup reduces our food’s nutritional value. Unfortunately, it also has many direct effects on our bodies. When reading through published research, I felt a bit overwhelmed by these many mechanisms, and so gathered them together in the following categories:

Roundup is found throughout the body: Roundup’s harmful effects in the soil also occur in the human body when we eat plants and animal products that contain Roundup. Roundup has a free pass to go throughout the body because the additive, surfactant, allows glyphosate to bypass the liver—the major organ that clears poisons out of the body. That is why Roundup has been found throughout the human body and has such wide-spread detrimental effects.

Roundup binds minerals in our body: Not only are there fewer minerals in the food we eat, but when Roundup binds the minerals in our bodies, these minerals can’t perform their myriad of functions. For example, the body becomes unable to clear toxins, repair damaged DNA or even generate energy.

Roundup kills the bacteria in our large intestines: The last five feet of our intestines is known as the large intestines, or colon. It is here that the vast majority of bacteria are found in the intestines—tens-of-trillions, in fact. Back in the 1980’s our knowledge of these bacteria was confined to their essential role in digesting food. We also learned that using too many antibiotics, which only happened in the hospital setting, caused the large intestines to be overrun with the bad bacteria, C. difficile.

Today, people who haven’t been hospitalized or put on any prescription antibiotics are getting this same dangerous and uncomfortable bacterial infection. Now that Roundup is incorporated in most processed foods, the majority of Americans are eating this antibiotic daily.

Another consequence of ingesting daily antibiotics is the surge in gluten intolerance and its more severe form, Celiac disease. The latter has gone from being extremely rare to now being found in five percent of our population. The medical world tells those that suffer from these uncomfortable diseases that they should avoid wheat—but wheat hasn’t undergone any basic changes. Wheat that contains Roundup, from when it was dried before harvest, is the difference.

The known consequences of killing these bacteria got even worse when scientists realized intestinal bacteria play many essential roles outside the large intestines. For example, ninety percent of serotonin, a chemical that is responsible for our feeling of well-being, is manufactured by bacteria in the intestines. Killing these bacteria can result in a depressed mood for us as well as big profits for pharmaceutical companies that sell serotonin as an antidepressant.

Glyphosate inserts itself in our body’s proteins: One of the more frightening aspects of having Roundup in our bodies was only recently discovered. In 2016, it was shown that the main ingredient of Roundup, glyphosate, is mistaken by the body for the small amino acid, glycine. Proteins are able to perform their unique roles because they are made up of amino acids linked together in specific order and size. Glyphosate is larger than glycine and therefore prevents proteins from folding into their normal shapes. When they lose this ability, these proteins can’t perform their required functions.

The wide-spread implication of damaged proteins is almost too much to imagine. Some proteins are part of the enzymes in our bodies that speed up all chemical reactions. Other proteins form hormones like insulin that regulate blood sugar. Proteins also serve to transport other substances such as hemoglobin that carries oxygen. It’s no wonder that scientists conclude that many diseases that have soared during the last three decades can be linked to Roundup’s ability to damage proteins

It seems evident that having Roundup throughout our bodies would result in disease as it binds minerals, kills good bacteria and distorts proteins. The increase in the following diseases since the 1970’s correlates with the amount of Roundup in the environment and in our bodies:

Autism and Alzheimer’s have reached epidemic proportions: It’s frightening that autism and Alzheimer’s, that weren’t even in the medical textbooks in the 1980’s, have become household terms. Autism’s incidence has increased from two in 10,000 in the 1970’s to currently being 59 in 10,000 according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). Alzheimer’s disease was defined as “a rare, pre-senile dementia.” It is now more common than vascular disease as the cause of dementia. Different types of studies—laboratory models, correlation studies and biochemical models—strongly link both diseases to Roundup.

Cancer is now wide-spread: The incidence of cancer has also taken an astronomical leap from 1/100 in the 1970’s to one-of-two people today. Although I worked with an oncologist for three years in the 1980’s, I never saw a case of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pancreatic cancer or lung cancer in a non-smoker. These cancers are now so common that most of us know of someone who’s had them. Since sugar cane workers in Central America have been exposed to Roundup, they have been dying in their 40’s of renal tubular carcinoma—a disease that was not previously present.

Based on both Roundup’s link to cancer and many international studies, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen” in March of 2016. Shortly after, four farmers filed a lawsuit against Monsanto saying that their exposure to Roundup gave them Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In August of 2018, the Superior Court of California awarded a large settlement to a former school district groundskeeper who stated his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by prolonged exposure to Roundup. Although Monsanto is contesting this, many other lawsuits have been filed.

The list of diseases continues: Besides autism, Alzheimer’s and cancers, Roundup’s ability to kill bacteria, bind minerals and distort proteins is linked to diseases as varied diabetes, obesity, asthma, amylotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, lupus, neural tube defects and infertility.

In the third part of this series, I’ll discuss how we can keep ourselves safe.

Mary Lou retired as a physician and now homesteads with her husband, Tom, south of Columbus, Ohio. Her book, Growing Local Food can be bought through Carlisle Press at 800-852-4482.


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Duck Egg Braid Bread

duck egg braid bread

So, I have this duck. Long story short, last August I sent my husband down to the neighbors’ house to deliver some homemade bagels, fresh from the oven. The next thing I knew, they rode up here to return the favor by giving Fletcher and Emery two Pekin ducklings to raise. Now, this usually gets a chuckle when I tell this story, but doesn’t everyone trade bagels for ducklings?

As they grew, we discovered that we had one duck and one drake, and they were inseparable. They waddled their way all over the property, but their favorite spot was always on the front porch. There, they patiently waited for us to feed the cats, so they could chase the cats away and devour all the food in the bowls (they’re kinda bossy like that).  

Sadly, one morning we discovered a spot by the pine tree covered in white feathers, and the drake was missing. The duck was huddled by the barn door, waiting for us. And I swear to you, she went through a mourning period, searching for her brother for a few days until she seemed to acknowledge that he was gone for good.

Since then, the duck, or Pretty Girl as we affectionately call her, has become accustomed to being the only duck on the farm. (Actually, I think she’s got a bit of a princess syndrome.) She still quacks from the front porch to wake us up to feed the cats every morning. She follows me every time I do chores, gently grabbing my pant legs with her bill so that I will pay her some attention. She likes to be talked to and held, but I had to give that up because she’d squirt down my leg every … single …  time.

We were thrilled when Pretty Girl started laying eggs. I had no idea that Pekin ducks were such good layers, as she has consistently produced one egg a day since she matured. Now, she may hide the eggs (like that one time I found five eggs under the slide on the kids’ playset … they had, uh, been there for a while), but for the most part, Pretty Girl lays in the loose hay in the corner of the barn. Since this breed of duck is usually raised for meat and, and I’ve raised Pekins for that purpose before, I have always had them processed before the girls begin to lay. So, it has been a pleasant surprise and a challenge to find recipes to utilize duck eggs.

Many bakers swear by duck eggs to make rich desserts and baked goods, and I don’t disagree. That’s why I love to use Pretty Girl’s eggs for fresh bread. This no-knead bread is my everyday bread recipe because it’s easy and foolproof. True, like most bread recipes, it does take time to proof, but the actual … oh, I don’t know … interaction with the dough is minimal. This recipe is also the base for my pizza dough, focaccia, and various flavored breads (black pepper and onion being my fave). I’ve made it for years, using chicken eggs, but when I had an ah-ha moment to use duck eggs, there was no going back.

No-knead Duck Egg Braid Bread

Ingredients

• 2 ½ tablespoons (OR one packet) yeast
• 1 tablespoon sugar (OR honey)
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 duck egg, beaten (chicken can be substituted)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 3 cups all-purpose flour (2 ½ cups if you use a chicken egg)

Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water, and allow to bloom for 10 - 15 minutes.

2. Stir egg, oil and salt into the yeast mixture.

3. Add flour, one cup at a time, until all combined. (No need to drag out the mixer and spend an hour searching for the right dough paddle. This can be done by hand. This is a no-knead recipe, so it takes just a few minutes of stirring. You’ll survive.)

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to proof for at least two hours by a sunny window. (I barely time this. I usually get busy doing something else, then … oh, crap! … I remember that I have dough on the table, and a couple hours have passed.)

5. When the dough has doubled in size, dump it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. With a knife, cut dough into thirds and shape into 12-inch tubes for braiding. Dust your hands and the dough with a little flour. Pinch one of the ends together and then braid the tubes. Pinch the second ends to secure, and slightly turn under the pinched ends.

6. Gently pick up and place the braided dough onto a greased sheet pan and allow to proof in a sunny window or a slightly warm oven for about 15 - 20 minutes.

7. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-ish minutes, or until the bread is a nice light, golden brown. I usually start checking at 15 minutes, but it may take another minute or two. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. Enjoy!

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.


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Cheap Food vs. Real Food

Photo by Nicole Wilkey

Do you feel a connection to your food? For some years now, even before we began this homestead and farming life, I have tried to become much more conscious about what it took for that food to reach my plate. Be it an animal product or produce - there was a person, often many, behind the success of that product. Shelter, food, water, nutrients & nurturing were all required and were provided from "birth" to harvest time.

Photo by Nicole Wilkey

I have had these thoughts each time we have harvested a pig, a chicken, a thanksgiving turkey, eaten an egg laid by our hens or when harvesting produce from the garden. Take for example, harvesting chamomile from the garden every other day when it is in its peak season. It's somewhat tedious and takes some time as the blooms are small and the plant is large, clipping hundreds of flowers a few times a week to dry for future cups of tea. As I work, I keep thinking to myself - it's not just the big things like a pork chop, a rotisserie chicken or a dozen eggs, we should pause and think about how it arrived to be in our kitchen. It's the small things too, ones that don't even cross our minds that also matter, like a nightly cup of chamomile tea, a glass of wine, even the salt and peppercorns used to season nearly every single meal. How were those things grown and harvested? Are they good quality? Were they hand or machine harvested? Did they live as nature intended or were they confined and pumped full of chemicals?

Photo by Nicole Wilkey

When you experience the process in its entirety, raising an animal for meat or planting a vegetable seed to harvest produce months later for dinner, you realize all that really goes into it. As we approach Thanksgiving here in the USA and most everyone is headed out to buy a Thanksgiving bird soon, it weighs heavy on my mind. Next time you see meat on sale for $0.29/pound or produce on sale for $0.10/pound, pause and wonder what kind of life did it have. Was it a good life? Something of high quality that you are proud to feed your family? Or did it have a sad life? I can appreciate that not all families are able to afford to buy 100% organic and pasture raised products or can shop at Whole Foods {or similar}, but that's not the point though. The point is, being conscious and aware of how your meal arrived onto your plate and appreciating all of the work and life that went into it to sustain you. Opening our eyes more to the world of food- the weeks and months of production it takes for a 15 minute meal, the foods that may harm us in their way of production and the foods that may heal us in their consumption. By becoming more aware the moral question changes from "why is this so expensive?" to "why is this so cheap?" Food for thought.

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

An Epic Autumn Grilled Cheese Recipe: Add Cranberries, Winter Squash and Apples

Grilled Cheese from Great Expectations, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Being from Wisconsin, my husband-photographer John Ivanko and I love our cheese served all kinds of ways. There is nothing better on these increasingly colder days than a warm and gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Comfort food perfectly timed for the arrival of cooler temperatures.

But it took a trip up north and a visit to Great Expectations in Wisconsin Rapids to open our minds to what an epic grilled cheese experience can be. Thanks to owner Amy Scheide sharing her recipe below, you can discover this magic in your homestead kitchen with a seasonal ingredient mash-up unlike any other, with cranberries, butternut squash, apples and a dash of jalapeno pepper heat.

With our farm, Inn Serendipity, located in the heart of Green County, Wisconsin, the highest cheese-producing county in our nation, we thought we knew grilled cheese: butter bread, add cheese, grill. Maybe get a little crazy and add a tomato or fresh spinach. But after biting into the Grilled Cheese at Great Expectations located in the middle of Wisconsin’s cranberry country, we realized a grilled cheese is really a palette for blending seasonal autumn flavors. 

“Our Great Expectations philosophy is to take what’s locally grown and produced and combine it in a unique and tasty way on your plate,” explains Scheide, whose love and respect for her farm community runs so deep she prints custom coasters listing her sourcing. Supporting cranberry farmers is high on her local priority list. You’ll see cranberries throughout the menu, including the Crustless Cranberry Pie recipe Scheide also shared with us.

 Thawing Frozen Cranberries at Ocean Spray Plant

“I’m on a mission to get folks to think beyond the traditional Thanksgiving sauce when it comes to cranberries,” Scheide enthusiastically adds. “The tartness of cranberries alone adds a distinct flavor along with all of their health properties. Plus, they can be readily frozen and used throughout the year.”

This recipe involves a couple of steps, including making a batch of Cran-Pepper Jam and her House Apple Salsa, both of which can readily be used in other ways. This recipe is totally worth the effort. Great Expectations uses Dairy State cheddar cheese made locally in Rudolph, Wisconsin and, of course, Wisconsin beer in the batter!

Great Expectation’s Grilled Cheese Recipe

Courtesy of Amy Scheide, Great Expectations, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

Yield:  One sandwich

Ingredients:

• 2 slices of cheddar cheese, approximately ¼ inch thick
Flour and beer batter. (Try Mother Earth’s News’ batter from their Beer-Fried Trout Recipe.)
2 slices butternut squash, sliced ¼ inch thick
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 slices hearty white bread
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp cream cheese, softened
Cran-Pepper jam (see recipe below)
House apple salsa (see recipe below)

Directions:

1. Flour the cheese slices and dip in beer batter. Fry until brown and crispy. Set aside. 

2. Grill butternut squash on flattop and drizzle both sides with balsamic vinegar. Cook until softened and set side. 

3. Butter each slice with ½ T. butter. Add a parmesan crust to the bread by pressing the extra grated parmesan cheese to each side. Place cheese side down on the griddle.

4. To create the sandwich, spread cream cheese on the non-cheese crusted side of the bread. Top in this order: 1 tablespoon Cran-Pepper jam, fried cheese slice, approximately 2 tablespoons House Apple Salsa and grilled squash. 

5. Top with remaining crusted bread and grill over medium-low heat until mixture melts nicely and bread is toasted.  Serve immediately.

Cran-Pepper Jam Recipe and Directions

1. Combine 1 and 1/2 c. chopped fresh cranberry with 2 large minced jalapeno peppers, 2 minced serrano peppers, 1 minced habanero pepper, 1 diced red pepper and 2 c. white vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Create thickener by combining 1 T pectin and 4 t water. Add thickener to 1 c. sugar.

3. Stir thickener into cranberry pepper mixture and return to a boil. 

4. Once boiling add another 5 c. sugar and boil for one more minute.

5. Store in jar in refrigerator.

House Apple Salsa Recipe and Directions:

1. Grill 2 sliced sour apples (Great Expectations uses Granny Smith) until soft and readily seared.

2. Combine apples with 4 c. chopped Roma tomatoes and add the zest of one lime, chopped clove of garlic, 1 chopped fresh garden banana peppers and 1 chopped habanero pepper and a pinch of sugar. 

Store in jar in refrigerator.

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam and millions of ladybugs.


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