Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie (revision)

My favorite food is my girlfriend’s chicken pot pie. The vegetables we get from the farm are so good. The pie comes from the oven steaming out of its golden brown crust and when we break through it with the knife chunks of carrot and potato mix with the broken crust and condensed soup and peas, celery and chicken. I always burn my mouth because it's too good to wait.
I like digging in the dirt. At farm volunteer days we plant or weed, sitting or kneeling on the ground and moving slowly up the row, careful not to disturb the plants behind us as we move. It’s the kind of Saturday that feels worthy for a long time. There's a summer solstice celebration too.

These pictures are from the Cresset Community farm website. After working on planting in the field all day we come together for a pot luck lunch. It’s really a great social occasion, with everyone having worked together and then contributing to a communal meal. I think that the appreciation of and understanding that this work is one of the finer things in life is a shared value. On page 259 of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” Pollan discusses the slow foods movement in which “eating contributes to the landscapes and species and traditional foods that would otherwise succumb to the fast-food ideal of one world, one taste.” This type of relationship between eater and farmer is the first step in a truly great chicken pot pie.

The site distribution process is another social aspect of the community supported agriculture farm. These are not mere commodities, manufactured with economies of scale and distributed worldwide from the cheapest producer. Rather, a group has formed and agreed to rotate responsibility amongst each other to travel to the farm on Saturday morning, collect the shares of food and divide them accordingly at the pick up site, which is our patio in Golden. Everyone takes this seriously, as we depend on each other in a small group. In this way each share member gets to communicate with the farmers and visit the farm a few times a season. While visiting, the basics of ethical agriculture can be witnessed in practice. There is no pesticide application machinery. The chickens roam freely, as do the cows in the pasture. This farm produce is totally free of preservatives, other than the non-chemical based pickling in jars. The picture is of our distribution site where the shares are divided among the 16 share members in the Golden area.
The produce varies with the season and goes 36 weeks total, every weekend during the summer distribution and every other during winter. There are all kinds of fruits from the Western Slope in the fall. Hotchkiss, Colorado is where the apples and peaches come from. Apple cider, pumpkins, bread baked on the farm and unpasteurized milk are all available in season. There’s a barter share too. If you work three hours a week you get a share in trade, enough to feed two people through the harvest season.
This website called Local Harvest lists farms that direct market to customers in the Denver area.

Food as an Evil

A vice by definition is: “an immoral or evil act”. We all have our vices, and my vice is food. It’s a necessity, it’s a pleasure, it’s the center of a social gathering, it’s a hobby… it’s evil. Being an over-eater is not a popular confession. I suppose doing so would just state the obvious. The beauty of confession is the ability to be heard and understood. Grace is extended to the humble… sometimes.
But what happens when confession doesn’t cure the problem? “The truth shall set you free” but really there is no freedom in the truths of a binge eater. There is the shame and guilt that ensues after the pleasure of stuffing yourself so much you feel you literally might explode. There’s the social humility, especially being a woman. I may feel better after a McYuckies value meal, but my heart aches when I realize I’ve eaten it in secret. I want people to believe that I only eat when I’m around them, but my secret trips to the dumpsters to discard the evidence only makes me feel more pathetic and hopeless.

The government has labeled obesity as an “epidemic”. Even Michelle Obama is at work full force with changing the foods provided in schools and educating children on the importance of healthy food choices. In my opinion, we’re tackling the wrong issue. Society is corrupt. More children are being raised in broken homes, are exposed inappropriately to sex, deal with drugs at home AND in school more than ever before… and we’re tackling obesity? The common joke of “eating away emotions” is a joke because it’s a truth. I can’t help but be enraged when its passed off as a lack of control of physical defect. It’s a coping mechanism. We don’t ignore scars on wrists, or bad behavior, why do ignore the signs of obesity?

I have all the education I need to eat healthy. I’ve been exposed to incredible delicacies and have experienced the greatest of tastes. I’ve had incredible conversations, and have been a part of wonderful life long memories. In proper context, it’s a beautiful thing and a great gift. But for now, food to me, is an evil.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mmmmmm Sopaipillas

Mmmmmm those yummy sopaipillas, what memories they bring to me about being at mom's house. The smell of the deep-fried, crispy, puffy bread makes my mind wonder off and remember the day we would all join together for our Christmas dinner. When I say all of us, I mean all 17 of us; mom and dad, my 10 sisters and 4 brothers and of course all their spouses and children of the older kids. Our house was so full of not just people, but the wonderful smell of home cooked food, a grand feast.

My favorite, of course, were mom's famous sopiapillas. I can still see mom with her rolling pin in her hands and her dish towel thrown over her shoulder as she dipped each piece of dough she rolled into the hot oil. She amazed me how each and every roll of dough would be such a perfect round circle, unlike mine which resemble each state in the U.S. As she pulled out each sopaipilla my mouth would just water waiting to sink my teeth into the hot bread with the sweet taste of honey.

The tradition, however, was no food was eaten until dad said grace and believe me he would take his time knowing we were all salivating over the tasty food. The story of The Waltons where they all sat at the table to eat their meal well that's how it was at our house, especially when I was a child. Once the word "Amen" was said there were hands flying everywhere, but I knew where mine were going straight to the sopaipillas and honey. Wow, what a treat!

Thinking back and remembering the joy and satisfaction on everyone's face after the grand feast, I have to wonder what was mom thinking. Was she wore out because of all the hard work? Or was seeing her many blessings of all her family being there her joy and satisfaction? Well now that I have a family, and I have my rolling pin in my hands with a dish towel thrown over my shoulder I have experienced the same thing. I watch my children sink their teeth into their sopaipillas after their dad says grace and I sense their joy and satisfaction of a grand feast, I know it was my mom's joy and satisfaction to see all her many blessing sitting before her, just as it is mine.

I hope to pass on this tradition to my lovely children so they can pass it on to their children and so forth. I want them to say "Wow, what a treat!" as they serve this magnificent delicious Spanish pastry, sopaipillas. Here is a link to a receipe and may be this will become your tradition also.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mmmmm... Anna's Ecuadorian Dish

Food is definitely a generation of memories in my family. Being that my family is from Ecuador, I grew up eating home cooked soups, rice with fish and a variety of fruits. Ecuadorian meals provide a healthy lifestyle and longevity. The meals are pretty traditional. What I enjoyed and loved eating the most was rice and fish. Ceviche was also a great dish for snacking. http://south-american-food.suite101.com/article.cfm/ecuadorian_shrimp_ceviche_recipe Try this link for the Ecuadorian Ceviche recipe. What is a meal prepared without traditional Ecuadorian music and drinks.
I didn't grow up with much fast food or frozen boxed food. My mother refused to make these and considered it a waste of money. My mother and father love cooking. They wanted to teach all the kids that cooking can be more fun than having to eat out all the time. Rice was included in every meal. You would think that I would be sick of eating it but I still love it. Fish, I've had all kinds of fish. I would say that trout and salmon are my favorite. Ceviche is a wonderful and delightful dish. There are different recipes for Ceviche but I attached the common Ecuadorian dish. For breakfast, we always had some sort of fruit. For snacks, that too was some sort of fruit. Not so bad, I guess. It definitely filled up our little tummies. Although, every once in awhile a nice greasy burger sounded tasteful. The soups were so hearty and wonderful. My mom would include so many different vegetables.
These were happy and pleasant moments in the Leon kitchen, with my family. I loved it. My parents would turn on some Ecuadorian cumbias and pour each other a glass of wine. Then that's when the cooking began. My father always had to pull my mother aside for at least one dance and then continue cooking. It's beautiful, they still do this.
Now grown up and raising a little boy, I hold the traditions and pass them to him. He loves all the Ecuadorian meals we cook. Of course, my mother still prepares the best homemade soups compared to mine. It's still delightful and fabulous.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sherry Dike's Famous Oatmeal Cake

My family has always been very diverse when it came to making meals. One side of my family is hispanic and mainly eats hispanic foods, and the other side is white and makes everything and anything homemade from scratch. I'm not trying to say that my hispanic family doesn't make anything from scratch, just that the other side makes homemade country style cooking. I remember going to visit my grandparents on the ranch once or twice a month and my grandma would always make the best meals in the world, the kind that your mouth just waters at the smell of. This is where my love of sweets came in to play, she made all her desserts by hand without a recipe.

My favorite dish has come to be her famous Oatmeal cake, and oh my goodness was this cake amazing. It is so rich, moist, and delectable that I have never understood how it can be so good. I mean its not like any cake you can buy from the store, or the box you make at home, it is completely and totally homemade. The cake literally melts in your mouth and is surrounded by a delicious caramel type frosting. It has three layers, with the frosting covering every layer; mmm.... just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

As I grew up, I would ask her to make this cake every year for my birthday, and that became the day I looked forward to. I recently just asked her for the recipe since I haven't seen her since I was about sixteen, which would be about four years now and I was suprised when I saw the recipe. Generally cakes have flour, but she doesn't use any flour, baking soda, or powder at all. This really suprised me because I didn't understand how the cake would rise without one of these ingredients. I guess its just a magically delicious cake that she sprang upon one day in the kitchen when she was trying to come up with a new dessert recipe. I find it very interesting that the majority of her recipes are Dike traditions that her and my grandpa came up with. I guess you don't have to have a recipe for everything, accidents can turn into delicious treats.

Throughout the years, I have come to enjoy home cooking and home style foods rather than eating out. If theres a restaurant that serves this, I'm more likely to go there rather than a place I know serves the majority of their food from frozen. If I could share this recipe with everyone I would, simply because I believe everyone should get the chance to try my Grandma Sherry's oatmeal cake, but its a family secret that I have been told I can't share.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Food for Thought

My early childhood was impactful.  I was born in Russia where I lived for the first five years of my life.   I lived in poverty and food was scarce. Much of what food I ate came from the earth.  I remember pulling turnips, gathering eggs and drinking warm cow milk. When there was food, it was greatly valued and appreciated. Nothing was wasted. There were no scraps left unused. My early experiences with food laid a foundation for my current values.

Just before I left my birth country with my new adoptive family, in the home of our hosts in Moscow, we celebrated

my American grandmother's birthday. It was then that I began to learn that food is something that can be not only appreciated for its nutritional value, but also something that is a part of tradition and celebration. I felt proud to present my babushka with a traditional Russian cake that was hand-crafted by our Russian host family.  In addition to the special cake at our host's home, we later celebrated my gramma's birthday at a dacha, a country farm where family and friends meet, make small-talk and enjoy each others' company. On this day in particular, I had a chance to try something new.  It was something delectable, something that I would learn to love from that moment on. I experienced chocolate for the first time. I was so excited at the delicious taste of this rich sweet candy.  These foods exposed me to desserts and special treats that I'd never experienced before.  I left with memories of special food related to special celebrations.

In Russia it was customary to present departing guests with a gift of remembrance. I received a large, hand-crafted Khokhloma spoon from the people at the dacha. It is special to me still today. Every time I look at it, it makes me smile, and remember my very early childhood. That means a lot to me. 

Once I arrived at my new home in America, I quickly realized my opportunity to experience so many more wholesome new foods. Not only did my American mom prepare recipes  (such as borscht and shchi) to help me remember my Russian heritage and the Russian culture, but we had seemingly endless amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which I had never tasted before.  I appreciated everything and enjoyed eating them all. There was something about that produce that was just unexplainably delicious. It may have partly been a result of having had such a limited amount of wholesome food when I was a young child, but I believe that I simply had grown to love good fresh food.  Furthermore, since food had been such a high commodity in Russia, I felt the desire to eat all that was put in from of me. Most importantly I thoroughly enjoyed every bite I ate.

My value for healthy foods has stayed consistent as I have grown older. For instance, as a child, when I  had the opportunity to lick cookie batter from the beater, I would have declined.  I would much rather have preferred something more healthy and sustainable, for example, picking chicken off of a stewed chicken bone. This is a preference I still hold true today.

Good wholesome food has stayed important to me. I understand it. I've learned about it.  I value it. But there is something that I have never been able to grasp, something that has bothered me for a long time. One day shortly after I had arrived in America, I was at a store and I picked up piece of fruit. I touched it. I looked at it, turning it in my hands. I smelled it. I tried to eat it. It was odd. I asked my mom, "What is it?  I don't understand?" She told me, "It's plastic fruit." This concept of plastic food simply perplexed my mind. I could not understand why someone would make such a thing. As a child fresh fruit was a  rare thing to come by, and to buy plastic fruit was just inconceivable to me. There is still question in my mind today, "Why?" It makes little sense.  The answer still eludes me. I can only explain by suggesting, if the desire is to have decoration, why not buy fresh fruit and put it in a basket and use that instead?"
I truly realize how important food is to me today, and how it has shaped what I value. Coming from poverty, I have learned that appreciating what I have is important. I don't take what I eat for granted, rather I give it serious consideration. Honestly, I doubt that I will ever place a bowl of plastic fruit upon my table. Rather I would always choose to have a bowl of fresh and delicious apples, oranges, bananas and pears.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fun at Grandma's House

Every Sunday afternoon was a big event for me as a child. There was the traditional Sunday feast at my grandparent’s house. This was quite the gathering that included my family as well as my Aunt and Uncle and my three cousins. After church my parents would pile my sister and I into the family caravan and head on out to Boulder to my grandparents house where the whole family would gather for a late lunch. As soon as we got to the front door the aroma of barbecued chicken and mashed potatoes and countless veggie plates filled the air. I would be overcome with excitement as I walked into the front room as Princes, my grandmother’s prize schnauzer, would great me by jumping all over me and begging to me to play. What came next was what really drove my parents crazy and me into a frenzy. The candy jars. They were everywhere and in nearly every room. It was literally my own slice of the chocolate factory. I looked forward to this moment all week, every week. As I gave my usual nonchalant greeting to the rest of the family with my eyes fixated on the colorful bounty that consumed my every thought I wiggled my way through the many hugs and kisses from my grandparents and my Aunt to finally reach my prize. It was all worth it. I was in heaven. There where chocolates, taffies, and hard candies galore. I would go half out of my mind just trying to choose which to eat. As a young boy I thought the smart answer would be to just eat them all. So, as the little go getter my grandfather claimed I was, I tried. Not to be out done by my sister, together we would hoard as much candy as we could and hide in the basement and go bananas. This, I am quite sure, is what causes ADHD.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jamaica's Delicious Ackee and Saltfish

The holidays is the time of year that I look forward to the most. My family that now lives all spread out around the United States, meets up in our home country, Jamaica. On Christmas Eve and Christmas morning my family and I prepare some of the most amazing dishes for our Christmas dinner that night.

The foods that they make are Ackee and Saltfish, which is Jamaica's national dish. You can find the recipe at http://www.jamaicans.com/cooking/traditional/ackee.htm. They also make jerk chicken (another Jamaican food), curry goat, corn beef, white rice, bread fruit, fresh pineapple, and fresh guinep fruit.

The preparation of these foods takes a pretty long time. On Christmas Eve morning my uncles go out to our chicken coop behind our house and find a chicken that will be cooked for supper on Christmas. A week before Christmas we also find the perfect goat and fatten up the goat the whole week then on Christmas morning my uncles get the goat ready for our dinner meal as well. My aunt goes to pick up the corn beef and white rice from a small market down the street from our house. Also on Christmas Eve, all of the grandchildren go out to our field behind our house and help my grandmother pick fresh bread fruit from our bread fruit tree, we also pick fresh pineapples and fresh guinep fruit from our trees as well. We get most of our foods on Christmas Eve, but the cooking happens on Christmas day. We begin cooking early in the morning, and everything is finished by 6 pm for dinner time.

This is really the only time of year that the whole family comes together. The fact that everyone in the family helps prepare a part of our traditional dinner, it really makes it much more special. This Christmas will be a especially special one for me, because I get to do more of a job in preparing the dinner by helping with the goat and chicken. This time of year brings so much happiness to my whole family, because we get to reminisce on old times and make new memories.

Yummy Family Traditions

The holiday times are full of different family traditions. My family has had a tradition with food since I can remember. Every Christmas Eve, my Italian side of my family comes together to scoff down on an array of different traditional Italian dishes, with yours truly cooking it all. The family torch has been passed to me about three years ago. It is a creation of food that takes several days to produce everything, with the end result of it all disappearing within a couple hours. The whole process is very strenuous but is worth it, for one time per year, our whole family is together. That never happens except on this day. The food brings everyone together to share not only the exquisite entrees but also the memories, love and family times.

Our recipes for Christmas Eve, goes back generations straight to our ancestors in Sicily. My father and I value our still intact recipe book from all members of our late family so much that laminated it to prevent any more aging damage. Starting a week before Christmas Eve, we start our legendary spaghetti sauce, which is absolutely to die for!!! It cooks for that whole week, making quite a mess on the stove top, I might add. In the end, the mess is worth this savory sauce.

The selection of food provided ranges from the spaghetti sauce, calzones, pesto pasta, mussels, and a different array of fish, lasagna, manicotti and Italian pastries.

The pastries we get from Vincenza’s Italian Bakery, which is a little family owned restaurant and bakery that is traditional Italian food. The website is right here for anyone that would like to experience great Italian food in an intimate environment.

Here is a link for the best recipes I have found online that offers authentic Italian food, the closet to Italy you can get (that is without family recipes) by clicking here . The other entrees we make that are relatively new dishes. It is a different fresh zucchini salad every year and my famous chicken parmesan.

Everything is topped off with cappuccino, red wine and a bottle of Asti Spumante to toast our wonderful family. Family and food are the most important things in my life. I was brought up to charish those things the most. So when Christmas Eve hits, I put my heart and soul into the whole process. Christmas eve is pretty elaborate and beautiful at our house. You can even say, its more important than Christmas day. Needless to say, at the end of the night, everybody is too tired, stuffed and tipsy to drive anywhere, so we all end up spending the night at my fathers. That in itself is a sight to see; people placed about in the guest room, on the couch, recliners and even on the floor. I am so sorry I have no pictures of that, but I will definitely get one this year, that is, if I'm not already passed out.