Farm Fresh Eggs | Why Local is Better

If you know anything about me, you know that I love to cook. It wasn’t always that way though. My priorities have shifted over the years. I am newly engaged and soon I will have a family of mouths to feed. In all my recipe developing and food photography that I do so meticulously, I realized I had left out a critical component – one that was part and parcel to earning my degree. I became consciously aware that I was using ingredients in my cooking that were not local or seasonal. If there’s any environmental issue I am most passionate about, it’s the local food movement and sustainable agriculture. Somehow we’ve become so disconnected with our food, and we don’t know how to get back. The reality is wholesome and sustainable food is out there, you just need to know where to look. I want to show the average american how they can live off the land – whether they do it themselves through gardening or raising chickens, or whether they are supporting local farmers by subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) or going to a farmers market.

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The first and easiest change I made was buying local eggs. It took me a while to find a steady provider, but once I did, I have never gone back to store bought eggs. The owners of the flower shop I work at raise chickens and they sell them at 2.50 a dozen. The eggs are brown and they vary in size. In contrast, the eggs you buy from the store are white and they are uniform in size. We are given this notion that these are farm fresh eggs, that white and uniform is a sign of purity, and with packaging that reminds us of the agrarian days. The reality is chickens that are so confined during their short lives that their bones and muscles deteriorate, effectively disabling them.

In contrast, I can visit these free roaming chickens who are providing me with eggs. I can walk out and feed them, give them water, etc. And then I can have my omelet or scrambled eggs and feel good about it. The yolk is much more yellow and rich in color – and it tastes better too! In the documentary Farmageddon, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms talks about how this connection to our food should be romantic. And there is a certain romance to it when we can go to the farm, talk to the farmer, and see the animals that are to be consumed. It’s beautiful.

The choice is yours whether you want to go farm fresh or not. For me, even though 2.50 a dozen is more than what I would pay at the grocery store, I like that my dollars are going towards a local farmer or someone who simply raises chickens. And, I like that my dollars aren’t going towards factory farms and multinational companies. Local Harvest is a great website where you can find farms near you or subscribe to a CSA. I would also try asking around in your community to see who sells eggs in your area.

What are your experiences buying local? Do you have a local favorite? Comment below!

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A Life Update | 2015

Christmas is over and the lights are being taken down, the tree disassembled, and all my hanging wreaths get the greens pulled out and the frames put in storage, waiting patiently for next year. As I wait for the Christmas sugar rush to subside and emerge out of my food coma, I am amazed at how quickly time passes. You have to buy presents, decorate, bake cookies, and in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s all over. Even so, I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love and that you gathered with the ones closest to you.

I struggled as I thought about how I was going to begin the new year with blogging. I had all this inspiration from fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that there seemed nothing comparable. I don’t even do new years resolutions (why do we set goals only once a year? We should be doing that all the time). And then something much more pressing came up. I got ENGAGED!!! My fiancé, who said he would never propose on Christmas day, did it on the impulse of the moment. It was perfect and unexpected (notice my nail polish chipping, but I don’t care)!

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So now I have this large and looming WEDDING in front of me that I need to plan. I’m so excited and nervous! For those of you who know my style, I’m going for outdoors and simple. I want it to be perfectly “us,” but like most other things in life, perfect is hard to come by. So it is what it is. We’ll be married and that’s all that matters! I would like to share the journey of planning with you, as much as I can.

As I look ahead to 2015, I’ve decided to take my blog in a little bit different direction. I have a desire to use my degree in Environmental Studies. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want this blog to help people. You will still see an overall theme of slow living and simplicity but with a new twist.

I am particularly passionate about food sustainability and knowing where our food is coming from. Healthy eating emerges from this, but it’s more about our rights to clean and safe food. If you would like to read more of my thoughts on this matter, you can go to one of my previous posts.

Slow living still plays a part in this because we want to slow down enough that we can say with assurance where this food came from. We need to make an effort to be more connected to our environment and the delicate balance of the food chain. Whether I am in the kitchen, tending to the garden, or at the supermarket, I want to show you how you can make sustainable choices in your everyday life. It’s easy and hard all at the same time; but it can be done. I also want to arm you with knowledge, being that knowledge is power. Then, you can come to your own conclusion based on the facts.

I am so excited for what 2015 has in store! I’m not a fan of resolutions but change is enough to liven things up! What about you? What things are you looking forward to in this new year?

Christmas Cookies & Christmas in Arkansas

It’s that time of year again. Can I just be honest and say I’m really glad Christmas is almost over? Come on, tell me you’re not with me on this. We do all this preparation for one day and it’s over like that. I love spending time with family and friends and I even love giving gifts to show that I care. I like going to Church and being reminded all over again that a relationship with Christ happens everyday – not just on Christmas. What I don’t like is the commercialism, and the drive to impress with dinners and decorations. If you know me at all, you know that I would love nothing more than to be snowed in in a cabin for the duration of the holiday madness.

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My great grandmother, Norene Garms, painted this of their farmhouse in Arkansas

This Christmas I tried to revive a wonderful holiday memory. About every other year, my family would spend Christmas with my great grandmother and great grandfather (or grand daddy as we called him) at their farmhouse in Arkansas. The drive was enough to make a small child go insane with anticipation, but once we got to that winding dirt road, I knew we were on the home stretch. All at once the hills opened up and we started our way down the lane to their house. All around were hills and pastures where cattle roamed. The house seemed to sit on the cusp of wilderness. It was a self-sustaining gem and an idyllic setting in the winter months.

When I was young, Christmas in Arkansas was just another time to receive presents and play with my cousins in the snow. Of course my great grandparents have since passed on and the house is no longer in the family. Looking back, I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate the relaxation and the beauty that was all around.

But I do have some fond and cozy memories of the place even at a young age. Specifically I remember my great grandmother’s peanut brittle. She always had it sitting out in a tin for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t like nuts at the time (I still don’t really) so I would eat around the peanuts. But I loved the taste, the sweetness, and how the candy just seemed to melt in your mouth.

So this year, I tried to relive those days and make peanut brittle. Unfortunately, it did not work out. But actually it tasted great. I just didn’t have a candy thermometer so it never hardened up. It just stayed kinda gooey. So I will provide you with the recipe in case any of you have any last minute baking to do and want to try your hand at peanut brittle.

The cookie that did work out this year was one I’ve done in the past, but with a little different twist. It’s a Nutella cookie with almond meal. I usually use flour but I had some almond meal left and I decided to use it. Almond meal is healthier than flour and it gives the cookies a more nutty taste. There is no need to add any sugar to this since the Nutella is already sweetened (unless you want to). Better yet, there are only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make, and takes no time at all.

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My peanut brittle debacle is just one example of the fact that I’m human. I don’t have my life all put together and I don’t want anyone to think that because it’s not real. I make mistakes. I’m sure even my spunky great grandmother, who I once saw clean a fish, made mistakes. I’m just a girl trying to get back to simpler times – like Christmas in Arkansas. My advice would be to forget about perfection and focus on your family and friends; or if you are in an idyllic setting like I was, appreciate the beauty around you.

I will be taking a short break from my blog until after the new year so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued reading and support! See you next year!

Adele

Recipe | Almond Nutella Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups almond meal (or 1 cup flour)

about 1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Combine the Nutella, egg, and baking powder until creamy and mixed through. Next add your almond meal until it forms a dough. Mix in the white chocolate chips. Scoop out onto a spoon and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe | Peanut Brittle by Norene Garms

You will need a heavy pan large enough to let the syrup boil freely and a heavy cookie sheet. My grandmother used a clean pair of gardening gloves to stretch the candy out on the cookie sheet while it is still hot so if you don’t use them be careful.  If you use a spatula to spread the syrup out, butter it first or else the candy will stick to it.  The candy needs to be spread out rather thin – if you leave it too thick, it won’t break very easily and will be hard to eat.

 Combine in the heavy pan

·         2 c. sugar,

·         1 c. white corn syrup

·         Pinch of salt

 Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup comes to the soft crack stage or 285 – 291⁰ on candy thermometer.

 ·         Add 1 to 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

 Bring back to a boil and cook until the syrup is amber color.  The peanuts will pop a little.

 Remove from heat and add

·         1 TBS. butter

·         1 tsp. baking soda

·         1 tsp. vanilla. 

(The mixture will foam so be ready to stir)  Stir quickly. In my grandmothers words, “Stir fast and good”.

 Pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Pull and spread out the candy as it cools.  When completely cooled break into pieces.

Simple Gift Wrapping & Afternoon Tea

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It’s that time of year again; time for family, shopping, busyness, and lots and lots of sweets! It’s a time of year that is indicative of happiness and merriment, but often times leaves people feeling conflicted. Some of us have lost loved ones, have family that is far away, or maybe there’s something that just makes Christmas too painful. Busyness, it seems, has become our answer for the loneliness. Maybe these are just words from a writer who likes to think (or who would prefer not to think), but Christmas makes me more contemplative than usual. Whatever it is this season, in the midst of all the busyness, don’t be afraid to take some time to be introspective and get with God.

Wrapping presents allows me to slow down and appreciate the last remaining days until Christmas. This time I paired it with a hot cup of black tea for a moment that was cozy and rustic. Although there’s nothing wrong with buying loud and shiny wrapping paper and bows from the store, it’s just not my style. I use brown craft paper with some twine or ribbon, then I stick in a piece of foraged greens and a tag to finish it off. It’s a simple look but it goes a long way – people who receive your gifts will appreciate the personalized touch. There’s no hard and fast rule to this; so feel free to play around with it and see what you like!

If you’re looking for ideas for gift tags, you could buy some from the store, but there are so many free printables available online! I used these black and gold tags and though I found them too late, I also like these handwritten tags. Simply click on the link to download, print out on card stock paper, and cut out using the outline.

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I encourage you to slow down when you wrap this year, if you can. Have a hot cup of tea or listen to Christmas music while you work. Lock the door to your bedroom if you need to shut the kids out. You’re going to have to take the time to wrap anyway, why not enjoy it? At the end of the day nothing else matters than the time we spend with friends and loved ones, and the birth of our savior. So I like to keep things simple – especially when it comes to gift wrapping. Whatever your style is, go for it and most importantly anticipate each day until Christmas!

Cheers!

Adele

Lifestyle Photography | How To Make Your Photos Come Alive

I am a visual artist. Not with a brush or chisel, but with a camera. I mostly capture food scenes, still lifes, and areas of my home. Basically anything that catches my eye and is inspiring to me. I am drawn to the small, quiet scenes at home because they happen in our everyday lives. There is something inspiring about that; a quiet cup of tea, a cozy moment at home, or baking a loaf of bread. Some of them are staged, and some of them I photograph just as they are.

I recently took a class on Skill Share by Marte Marie Forsberg entitled Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Food, Flavors, Conversation. For those of you who don’t know what Skill Share is, it is an online platform where people can teach classes, sometimes for a nominal fee, sometimes for free, and students can watch their videos and get practice with various projects. Besides the class being free, Marte was able to share her experience as a self-taught photographer. If you are at all interested in this topic, you can sign up for free on Skill Share!

Marte suggests coming up with a story behind your picture. Not that you tell that story to your viewers, but it is merely implied. This will make your photos come alive. I find it easier for me to think about what mood or feeling I want to convey. A simple way to achieve this is to use natural light (you should always use natural light). In general, I’m drawn to shadows and the contrast between light and dark; particularly in the winter months when the days are shorter and the light is softer. It just creates a moody scene that is more indicative of the winter months.

You can also use props; something that makes sense in the picture, enhances it, but doesn’t detract from the story. Adding a human element is always a bonus. Reach your hand in the frame and grab a fork or a cup. Your photo now looks lived in, someone is there. What about the food? Does your scene take place before the eating, midway, or after? My favorite is either midway or after; crumbs lying carelessly on the table or a napkin haphazardly thrown on the table, not neatly folded because  someone excused themselves too hurriedly. Someone has been there.

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Marte’s project to the class was Afternoon Tea. Capture what afternoon tea looks like to you in three pictures. Well, I’ve never been a big fan of tea. Not that I don’t like it, I just never got into it much. So I submitted what coffee time looks like to me. These series of pictures you can also find on my coffee and cranberry orange scones post, including a recipe. My coffee time is just like their tea time over in England – a moment to be savored, enjoyed, and slowed down. A soft light poured through the window as we enjoyed our wintery treat. It was just two friends enjoying one another’s company, gathering around scones and coffee – that’s what I wanted to capture, the essence of it all.

Sometimes an inspiring photo is right there in front of your lens already, other times you have to convince your audience a little bit more. Maybe the lighting needs adjusted or maybe you need some props and styling in there. Maybe you need to shoot at a different angle. If you don’t get that feeling you’re envisioning after you take the picture don’t worry, continue to troubleshoot until you’ve achieved the proper mood. It’s not easy and it takes practice, but it sure is fun to experiment with!

If you would like to get practice at this, I encourage you to sign up for Marte’s class! Of course you can do it on your own but you will get feedback from Marte and other classmates if you enroll in the class. So go out there and capture afternoon tea or coffee until January 11th and you have a chance to be featured on Marte’s Instagram feed, among other things! Above all, have fun with it and enjoy the scene you’re creating.

An Afternoon Gathering | Coffee and Cranberry Orange Scones

Yesterday I had the pleasure of gathering with a close friend over coffee and scones – an occurrence that is all too rare these days. Nevertheless, it is always a joy seeing this one. Neither time nor distance has managed to sully this friendship. We talked, we laughed, we took time to catch up, and we watched Anchorman 2 (yes, this was a very classy gathering). When all this is over, this thing called life, I know my savior will ask me what I did with my precious time here. If all I can show for it is styled tables and well cooked meals, I am in trouble at best. Relationships are what matter most at the end of the day; because He first loved us. Open up your home, give your time, and do whatever you do best. Whether that’s cooking a meal, brewing some coffee, or otherwise.

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I’ve never been a huge fan of scones, honestly. And I still only like them in moderation (any pastry in moderation, really). My only exposure to scones was at Starbucks where I’m pretty sure they are so hard you can crack a rock with it. No, homemade scones are much different! They come out all warm and fluffy on the inside but still crunchy on the outside. The combination of cranberry and orange is truly a winter treat with some turbinado sugar generously sprinkled on top (or brown sugar if you don’t have turbinado sugar). I wanted something as cozy as coffee and scones to go with cozy conversations and laughter. I think this one fit the bill.

scones prep

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Recipe | Cranberry Orange Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp cold butter, cubed

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp orange zest

3/4 cup dried or fresh cranberries

1 tbsp coarse sugar like turbinado sugar or brown sugar for sprinkling.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For fresh cranberries, soften them up by placing them in a saucepan of water until it is near the boiling point. Quite a few of them will pop open but that is okay. They should mostly stay intact though.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into cubes and work into flour mixture with a pastry blender or use your fingers. The butter should be broken down to where only small pieces are visible. It should resemble a coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, orange zest, and honey; making sure the honey is completely incorporated into the cream. Pour your heavy cream mixture and cranberries into the flour mixture, folding a few times until it forms a dough (if you are using fresh cranberries, be careful you don’t break many of them).

Knead your dough on a floured surface 2 or 3 times (the key to light and fluffy scones is to not knead them too much). Roll out the dough until it is about an inch thick. I used a pizza cutter to cut my dough into triangles (don’t worry if they aren’t the perfect shape. When they puff up in the oven, that will take care of the imperfections).

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve fresh with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe taken from Inspired Taste

A Recipe | Black Bean Burger with Cilantro and Cumin on a Toasted Brioche Bun

Growing up, my family didn’t do much cooking. My mom mostly made recipes handed down from my grandmother; tried and true classics like homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and apple crunch (don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about the hand-me-down foolproof recipes – but more on that later!). All of these dishes air on the less healthy side of the food spectrum. When my dad started cleaning up his act, running marathons and doing Iron Mans (which are just really long triathlons), well needless to say, he cleaned up his diet too. Though I don’t like to admit it, my affinity for healthy eating is due in large part to him.

For this reason, I’m very fortunate to be drawn to healthy grains and proteins, fruits, and seasonal vegetables. There’s so much I love about the Christmas season, but why did we make it a time to pig out on cookies and cakes?! I love me some sweets as much as the next person, but this girl needs a break. So if you need me, you’ll find me south of the border (The U.S. border for those of you reading from afar).

I don’t really know why, but I have been craving a black bean burger lately. Maybe it’s because of all the sugary, seasonal eats. Or maybe I’m wanting to escape to a warmer climate where I can sip cocktails on the beach. Either way, I’ll follow my taste buds. There’s a local restaurant that serves up a killer black bean burger! I get it almost every time we go in. It is drizzled with some kind of sauce and topped with melted cheese. Add to that a simple side salad and a nice IPA to finish it off! This is my own recreation of that dish, a nostalgia of warm, summer days, and all things south of the border!

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Black bean burgers are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. When I thought about how I wanted my burger to taste, I knew I wanted a classic black bean burger with a little bit of kick. I didn’t want it to overpower the burger, but to complement it in a pleasing way. Cumin is essential to a black bean burger. Just trust me on this one. Whatever else you throw in there, make sure cumin is in there too. Cumin has kind of an earthy taste that lends itself very well to the black beans. I think anything else would have been too spicy.

And then there’s the cilantro. Oh I love me some cilantro. Perfect in any Mexican dish like guacamole or a Mexican quinoa dish I make which I will share later! Too much cilantro and it’s overpowering but just right and it’s a wonderful kick to add to any dish. That’s the role cilantro plays in this black bean burger.

To complete this south of the border inspired burger, place on a toasted brioche bun (any type of bun will do but the brioche seemed like a heartier option) and melt some swiss cheese or cheese of your choice. I added a simple side salad with kale and thinly sliced radishes. Not pictured: Rockmill’s Witbier Ale brewed with spices. I don’t think it technically goes but it was a gift from a friend and anything from Rockmill is good any time of the year. Besides, we aren’t as picky as those winos ; ).

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Recipe |  Black Bean Burger with Cumin and Cilantro

Makes 2 burgers

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash up the black beans with a fork or potato masher. You want most of the beans to be mashed with a few whole beans throughout. Add in the bread crumbs, egg, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Form into a patty (note: these patties do not expand like a hamburger, so make it the size you want it) and place on a skillet – I used my cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Cook on medium heat until both sides are browned. Place your cheese on top and cover to melt; 1-2 minutes. If you want to toast your bread, rub some butter on both the top and bottom of your bread and place in the warm cast iron skillet (making sure it doesn’t burn) to get a toasty brown color.

Serve with a simple salad and a cold beer! Enjoy!