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Posts tagged ‘Food’

And the winner for the Food with the Highest antioxidant Content is…. (drum roll please)

~Join us for our two-part series on the food with the highest antioxidant tour

Part 1

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Pure and simple, dark chocolate and cacao nibs top the charts in antioxidant levels ~ beating out acai berries, kale and broccoli on the Oxygen Radial Absorbance Capacity scale (more on this scale below). Shocked? I sure was when I recently learned this bit of information. Un-shockingly, my children were already rehearsing their “eat your broccoli” retorts.

Can it really be true? How did I stumble upon this fantastic news?

It all started when my daughter exclaimed, “chocolate grows on trees!”

Tour brochures lined up on our vacation condo’s counter top: chocolate, coffee, rice, taro etc. Eenie, Meeny, Miney, Moe…
Well, Miney and Moe are actually kids named Hannah and Eva and I guess that makes my husband Eenie and by default I’m the Meeny.

The meany who wants to add an educational aspect to our Hawaiian vacation. I’m sure you can see where this is going…

Steelgrass

Taro is island specific but no votes there; of the ag tours, rice (unfortunately), had no tours on our free days so the choice was between coffee and chocolate. I love both but would rather have the kids hyped up on vitamin B-12 goodness than buzzing on caffeine. Thankfully, they agreed.

After a little research, and a recommendation from some friends, we decided to check out the STEELGRASS family chocolate tour, which had an added bonus that included a voice over studio on site with the likes of Ben Stiller and Jack Black…read: now husband is on board too.

I spoke with Tony Lydgate, Steelgrass family owner, to confirm our Chocolate from Branch to Bar reservation and he said tours start at 9 am. I’m thinking; who doesn’t like chocolate for breakfast? The kids sure thought this was an excellent idea and that maybe the sun had gotten to my senses, but no one mentioned anything about that.

The evening prior to our tour, the children slept soundly with visions of Hawaiian chocolate dancing in their heads. Up bright and early like I’ve only seen on christmas morning they were ready to go devour their breakfast! It’s healthy right? Local, sustainable, organic, without additives; all the checks were there for our foodie family list, so why can’t we eat chocolate all the time? All you parents out there get ready because those answers we tell our kids that it is a treat are now debunked and I hear doctors are recommending a daily dose of dark chocolate.

Studies have found that eating dark chocolate daily can reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.  What? I guess the trick is on me for wanting an educational tour, now our tour guides Michelle and Annabelle have my kids full attention and I’m taking notes on this brilliant way to educate all ages.

So the tour begins, by sharing that chocolate is made from cacao and yes, cacao grows on trees. But before we learn more about cacao our guides direct us through their grove of meticulously labeled tropical fruit trees, educating our tour group through our senses about each fruit.

No crazy Wonka tour here, all children and adults munched freely on sustainably grown, Tahitian Lime and sugar cane (known as KO) a sweet and tangy lime aid in yo’ mouth combination. Longan or Dragon Eye fruits that would be perfect in a bowl on Halloween, crimson red Mountain Apple and Lilikoi (passion fruit) and more, all without incident.

Soursop (Custard Apple)

Dragon Eye

Dragon Eye

Lilikoi (Passionfruit)

Blissfully meandering through the tropical trees, learning about Egyptian paper making from papyrus trees and smelling the bark of a cinnamon tree ~ the mission of our tours guides emerges.

This fantastic way of bringing in unassuming students, thinking only of chocolate bars to impart knowledge about sustainable agriculture, is like tossing zucchini into chocolate cake without the kids knowing.

A Truffula tree right? Nope it’s Papyrus

Cacao is a tree, and in order for us chocolate lovers to fully enjoy the purest foodie dark chocolate scrumptious delights, we need to understand that our delectable bar only needs four ingredients: cacao, sugar, vanilla and an emulsifier like soy lecithin or cacao butter. But from Branch to Bar so much more goes on behind the scenes.

Cacao Trees

Cacao trees with colorful pods

It’s a meeting of the minds at the Lydgate Farm with PhD’s, Oxford alumnae, musicians, artists and others that form a team who have come together to develop a sustainable agriculture program to teach others the same.

By sharing the behind the scenes chocolate creation process, Steelgrass shows the many stages of the production, and in so doing, they also show the excellence that comes from being a steward for sustainable agriculture on the Hawaiian Islands.  We learned that it takes healthy pollinators not limited to bees for the fruit trees but it’s tiny gnats that are able to pollinate the petite cacao flowers.  They use companion planting as a natural pest control and rely on collaboration and cooperation between neighboring cacao farmers.  This is their  hypothetical insurance policy, if disaster hits in the form of bugs, weather or other, then the diversification of plants, their various locations and different cacao farms, help ensure sustainability.  This all falls under the umbrella of the Kauai Cacao Cooperative for creating a homegrown chocolate industry on the island.

It is incredible to think that all these aspects and hard work go into making that dark flavorful chocolate available and so good for us to enjoy.  Once you understand you can’t forget and now that price of the chocolate bar makes sense. But it is perfect because, unlike milk chocolate where I could keep on eating more and more, I find that a small amount of dark chocolate hits the spot and I am satisfied…better for the environment, better for me..it’s a win~win.


Honey on bamboo

Honey on bamboo sticks

Join us next week for part 2 of our chocolate tour adventure!

Aloha kakou,

Rachelle @ Caramelize Life

FIND YOUR MARKET

Spring has sprung literally in the last week, here in the Methow Valley.

We’ve enjoyed the first couple of Farmers Markets held each Saturday 9am to noon. Our early spring heat wave has been kind to all the vendors and welcomed shoppers with a warm embrace.

For years I’ve been a patron to any farmers markets I can find either at home or abroad.  The market can be a unique window into local communities health and its products.  Market atmospheres are lively and festive. They celebrate our earth and what it can produce. Markets highlight and strengthen our ties to how and where our foods are processed and originate. Not everyone can live on a farm and learn from family traditions handed down each generation but most everyone can find a farmers market and take the opportunity to meet and learn from the farmers themselves.

Markets move with the seasons from the beginning seedlings in the early spring to the mounds of apples, spices, jams and jellies in the late summer harvest times.  This seasonal reminder of what our local land provides is something that becomes forgotten in the long outer isles of the mega supermarkets. I know, I love bananas in my smoothies and pineapple too.  I am not ready for a strict change but I do appreciate the fresh reminder to clean out the cob webs in my brain and love the fact that I can challenge myself to finding Saturday night’s dinner at the market.

So tempting…but no she didn’t…really.

If you would like a little help in the area of spring cleaning of the cerebral spider webs there’s an app for that! Ok, not really but if you are tech savvy and have an iPhone, sorry Blackberry and Android, you can download an App to find out what’s in season it’s called NRDC Eat Local.
Wendy Gorden of the Huffington post described the app perfectly in her blog   New App Answers: What’s in Season Near You?  it is worth the read.

I also adore the life lessons the market imparts to our children. They learn from example and experiencing the arts and local agricultural producers at a personal level is such a gift. Taken a little further and the market is inclusive allowing children to try their hand at their own entrepreneurial endeavors. Read my post life lessons a budding entrepreneur at the farmer’s market  to learn more on this topic.

Each Market has it’s own structure and set of guidelines to help it run smoothly so check in with yours before you jump in feet first.

Market Dinner or Breakfast Challenge:

Simple Scramble with Chevre and Spring Greens

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1 Tbsp oil (your choice; coconut oil gives a nice change in flavor, olive or grape seed oil or butter)
1 Tbsp chevre we used organic chevre from sunny pine farms
1 cup spring greens (washed, torn or chopped and stems removed) For a fun you could forage and use Dandelion greens! (remember to properly identify the plant, make sure it hasn’t been sprayed and pick young fresh leaves. Their bitterness will mellow and blend nicely with the eggs).
1 Tbsp chopped fresh seasonal herbs (your choice; chives, rosemary, thyme, parsley, cilantro etc)
salt and pepper to taste

A slice from a fresh baguette or rosemary bread to toast.

Each market is unique to its region and what it can offer, when in France, I love to add olives to this scramble or capers.

Directions:

~Wash, tear or chop spring greens and herbs and set aside
~Pre-warm two serving bowels
~Slice bread and put in the toaster
~Crack eggs in a medium-sized bowel and beat with a fork until mixed. Then add half of your seasonal herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
~In a preheated nonstick or cast iron saute’ pan add oil, and then the egg and herb mix. Scramble the eggs turning from the outside in.  Right before eggs are fully cooked add the chevre  and remove from heat. Then, divide into equal portions (or as much as you are hungry for)and place in your warmed bowel.
~Next, add a tablespoon or so of water and wilt greens in your saute’ pan turning constantly until wilted and then pour over chevre and egg scramble.
~Sprinkle with the second half of the fresh herbs.
~Add salt and pepper to taste

~ enjoy!

Find your Farmers Market!

Here in the Methow we are lucky to have a few:

Methow Valley Farmers Market Saturdays 9am to noon, April through October
Winthrop Market Sundays 10am to 2pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day
Mazama Market Wednesday afternoons, during the growing season

The folks at Local Harvest. Org make it easy to do just that. Click on the link and enter your zip code or state and they will point you in the right direction. It is a great tool to use especially if you are traveling.

Here are a few more links to help you find a market near you:

The USDA Farmers Markets, Food and Wine articles on the Worlds Best Food Markets, Open Air’s market list, and the Huffington Post Photo’s of the worlds largest farmers markets.

See you at the Market!
Rachelle @ Caramelizelife

Fresh Fish & Zesty Salsa Warm up Winter Nights…

Perch Tacos with Salsa Verde


This taco recipe is a simple, full proof meal that can be easily modified to your liking.  Combining the sweet tang of tomatillos (even easier to grow than tomatoes) and the smokiness of jalapenos hits a perfect balance.  Paired with the light fresh texture of winter white fish, we see it pleases almost any palate.

“Son!” is the constant refrain heard from inside the Ice Shanty throughout the winter.  That’s short for “it’s on!”-a phrase we learned quickly when perch and trout fishing out on the ice with family and friends.  Once the state fish and wildlife department announces the ice is thick enough and safe, the shanty is skied out to live on Lake Paterson until the spring thaw.  (It is converted into “deer camp” in the fall.)

And through the winter, patiently braving the cold is rewarded with buckets of fresh, flaky perch, delicate trout and delectable Kokanee (lake dwelling sockeye salmon).

Since the fish and water are so cold in the dead of winter, there is never a trace of “fishy” flavor in these perch.  They may be smallish, even tiny, but are so fresh and prolific that it is completely worth the effort.  Being small fish, they are perfect for tacos, chowders or an easy fish and chips.

Ice fishing is fun and productive.  It is a wonderful first fishing experience for children because they can easily bait their own hook, catch their fish and keep going at it, all by themselves.

The first time that Phoenix  age 6, went ice fishing, he was so ecstatic that he plunged his hands into the icy water, refusing gloves, bringing up one fish after another off his line.  (That’s not to suggest you catch the perch with your hands, he was just very enthused.)

Paired with the Salsa Verde below this recipe is packed with flavor.

1 lb Perch or other white fish such as halibut or snapper
t 1.c bread crumbs
1 large organic egg or 2 small
1 c. Jalapeño Salsa Verde
1-3 T. Olive oil
8 tortillas
1 c. shredded purple cabbage
½ c. Mexican crema or creme fraiche
½  c. additional Jalapeño Salsa Verde or Tomato Salsa
1 c. chopped fresh cilantro
½ c. green onions
Lime wedges for serving

The fish works well breaded and fried, or quickly broiled.  For frying, mix your eggs, briefly soak the fish fillets, then bread.  In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Arrange the fish on the pan and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over and cook until the fish is opaque throughout, about 1-2 more minutes more. Timing depends on the thickness of your fish.  Rather than time it exactly, take your cue from the fish.
To assemble each taco, place 1/8 of the fish in the center of the tortilla and top with 2 T. cabbage, 1-2 T. crema, 1-2 T. salsa, then garnish with 1 T. cilantro and 1 T. green onions.  Wrap and bake briefly or sauté in a heavy skillet.  Serve the tacos with lime wedges, sour cream or topping of choice.

Jalapeño—Tomatillo Salsa

2 Pint Yield

This salsa recipe is one of our favorites.  It combines the exotic sweetness of tomatillos with the smoky zest of jalapeños.  Without being big and chunky in texture, it is much thicker than similar tomato salsas.  Go liberal on garlic and cilantro to taste, as the salsa benefits from each.  And feel free to change up the ratios to your liking–with this recipe it is fun to get creative.

We’ve been whittling down this salsa for years and one thing is for sure: amount does not equate to quality.  Even the smallest batch of this salsa goes a long way, both because of its flavor and thickness.  It’s definitely spiced up our winter nights:)  Enjoy!

5 1/2 c. husked and chopped Tomatillos
1 c. chopped Jalapenos, fresh or roasted
1 c. chopped onion
6 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t. salt
2-3 T. freshly ground cumin
1/2 c. cider vinegar

up to 1/2 c. other pepper variety to taste such as green chills or cayennes (optional)

1/4 c. lime juice

1/2 c. cilantro

Chop tomatillos, peppers, onion and garlic separately by hand or food processor.  Combine all ingredients except cilantro and lime juice in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 5 minutes.  Add lime juice and cilantro for last 2 minutes of cooking.  Ladle hot salsa into jars.  Can in water bath or pressure cooker, or enjoy fresh.

recipe Serves 4

Note: We usually make a double or triple batch of this salsa.  It is just as good preserved by canning or freezing. 

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