Friday, August 26, 2016

Farm to Chef 2016

Farm to Chef is back for another exciting season! Once again, thirty chefs will collaborate with thirty farms to produce amazing dishes with fresh, locally produced, ingredients. This year's competition will be held at the B&O Railroad Museum on September 26th at 6:00pm. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. Early bird tickets (until September 5th) are $95, with the price going up to $110 thereafter. No tickets will be sold at the door, so get yours now!

Proceeds benefit Days of Taste, an interactive program that encourages elementary school students to appreciate the taste and benefits of fresh food by introducing them to the basic elements of taste and teaching them about food’s journey from farm to table.

Click here to see a list of this year's chefs (including Neill Howell of the Corner Pantry, Donna Crivello of Cosima and Donna's, and Sarah Simington of Blue Moon Cafe).

Examples of chef's dishes from 2015.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Baked Oatmeal

I started a diet in March that involved giving up wheat, sugar, and dairy. It wasn't as difficult as it sounds, actually. I suppose the worst of it was giving up sugar. I have a terrible sweet tooth, and eat entirely too much chocolate, pastries, and ice cream. That's why I have been a fatass pretty much my entire life, apart from a handful of slimmer years that resulted from starvation dieting and some pretty intense cardio in the form of country line dancing (it was the 90s).

I love bread, too, but with no wheat allowed, I couldn't have my usual breakfast sandwich. So I had to resort to eating a lot of oatmeal. Muesli (or "overnight oats") was my go-to work breakfast. I could mix it up the night before and by morning it would be all ready to eat. But a month of muesli is a bit much. I decided to try baked oatmeal as an alternative. The texture would be quite different and I might even be able to fool myself into thinking I was eating a piece of cake for breakfast. Well, that didn't work, but I still enjoyed it.

My favorite version of baked oatmeal involves oatmilk or hempmilk, Earth Balance margarine in place of butter, with a nice handful of fresh blueberries (or juice-sweetened dried blueberries) and almonds mixed in for texture. An 8" square pan makes enough breakfast for an entire week, plus more, so it's pretty economical, too.

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups quick rolled oats
2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
2 tablespoons melted butter (or Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or agave or maple syrup)
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch salt
Pinch cinnamon (can also add cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, etc.)
Fruit and nuts of your choice (bananas, dried berries, almonds, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine oats, milk, butter, sweetener, eggs, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in fruit and nuts. Pour into a 8- or 9-inch square baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until set.

Serve hot, warm, or even cold. If you're feeling decadent, mash it up a bit while it's hot and pour over some half and half, add fresh sliced apples cooked in butter and brown sugar, or sliced peaches, or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Thai Lettuce Wraps

If you're a regular reader of Minxeats, you've probably noticed that I tend to cook with and promote various specialty food products in the warmer months. That's because I've recently been to the Summer Fancy Food show and either picked up some samples to play with at the show, or were sent products to try. One of my favorite products from the show this year was Runamok Maple Syrup, which comes in 10 varieties (including smoked, rum-barrel-aged, cardamom-infused, etc.) and is really quite delicious stuff. I'm not a big pancake/waffle eater, so I've been trying out recipes that use the syrups in a more creative way.

The Makrut Lime Leaf-infused syrup really speaks to my creative nature. If you're familiar with Thai food, you're probably familiar with makrut lime leaf (also called "kaffir" lime); its aromatic citrussy flavor is a staple in that cuisine. My thoughts naturally turned to using this syrup in Asian-inspired dishes, like this one for pork lettuce wraps. It's kinda Thai, inspired by the spicy meat salads known as larb. It comes together quickly, and apart from the maple syrup and Thai basil, uses ingredients found in most grocery stores.

Of course, you can still make the dish without either the syrup or the basil. Just substitute regular maple syrup for the Runamok and add the finely grated rind of 1 lime. There's no substitute for Thai basil, IMHO, so just don't worry about that part.

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 scallions, chopped (divided use)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 bell pepper, diced
Handful of green beans, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons Runamok Maple Makrut Lime Leaf Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (I like Gourmet Garden, found in produce sections of most major supermarkets)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped Thai basil
2 teaspoons sriracha, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried thoroughly
Lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add 4 of the scallions. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the ground pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula and stirring regularly. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the pork is starting to brown and is mostly broken into small pieces. Add the bell pepper and green beans and cook for about 4-5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, fish sauce, lemongrass paste, garlic, herbs, cilantro, and ginger. Pour over the pork and vegetables in the pan and mix well. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the pork absorbs most of the sauce.

Taste for seasoning. Add salt, if needed (you could also add more fish sauce).

Put the lettuce leaves in a bowl. Put the cooked pork in another bowl. To eat, put spoonfuls of pork mixture into lettuce. Squeeze over a bit of lime, and more sriracha, if desired.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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