Just another Minnesota Mom blog.

Pigs, More Pigs, and Bacon on a Stick

Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Food, Reviews and Giveaways | Tags: Food Blogging | No Comments »

About a month ago I was invited to spend the day with some Minnesota pork producers in a reverse Farm to Fork tour. Of course, being the pork lover that I am, I said yes. Actually, I think when I got the initial email from Oink Outings I yelled something like “HELL YES!” at my computer screen. Because really. Foodies and bacon. What’s not to love?

A little background about me- I moved to rural suburb of Minneapolis when I was 12. We moved into a new development in the middle of dairy farm country and I never could shake the fact that I didn’t belong there- I was the “city” girl. I have never set foot on a working farm in my life. But, I like to eat. I like to eat good food. I like to eat good food that is produced locally.

So, our little group of 4 bloggers (One Tomato, Two Tomato, The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, This Heart of Mine and myself) along with a couple of women from a local running club set out to meet the great folks representing Minnesota Pork Producers for the day.

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Posted: June 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Stream of Consciousness | Tags: Cleaning, Food, Food Blogging, Simplify | 7 Comments »

I have been overcome with the urge to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff in our life.

From what we put in our mouths to what clutters our rooms and our time.

I have an unhealthy relationship with things.  I cannot part with anything without an argument in my head.  If it was a gift, forget about it.  I’ll probably keep it around forever- even if it’s not useful, not my taste, or long since been relegated to a box in the basement.

I have to let go of the things.

The thing is not what is important- it’s the memory or the person or the occasion and those things will not go away because I donate the item.

I’m working on this.

I have purged our kitchen and am moving on to other rooms of the house.  I should really set a date for a yard sale so I have some accountability to get this done.

In the theme of doing things simply, I just canned for the first time in my life.  We have this black raspberry bush growing along the fence half on our side, half on the neighbors.  Last year we were told to pick until we couldn’t eat anymore, so we have been doing just that.  There have been a lot of berries this year.  At least twice as many as we had last year and I think I’ll get one more day of picking out of it.

But, what to do with all of these berries?  After about 2 days in the fridge everyone has had their fill and they are starting to look a little lifeless.  I figured now would be as good a time as any to try to make jelly.  I found a recipe for Raspberry Jalapeno jelly that looked awesome (even if it didn’t sound very fail proof from the comments).  I’m a fan of jalapeno poppers and they are always great with pepper jelly.  If it doesn’t work I will only be out the price of the jalapenos, the lids and the pectin.  I can live with that.

Right now I’m staring at 9 jars and wondering if they will set up- I’m betting on “No” at this point.  Of course the jars are still flaming hot, so who knows.  Maybe there is a chance.  What was left in the bottom of the pan and the measuring cup seemed to solidify nicely.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Tomorrow I am stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something I never in a million years thought I would be doing.  I’m going on an Oink Outing (with Oink Outings).  I’m meeting up with some local bloggers at the Hilton tomorrow morning and we’ll be cooking with the executive chef there and learning about locally grown pork before we travel to the farm and learn how the pigs are raised.

I am kind of freaking out.

I am far from a food blogger.  Being surrounded by food bloggers intimidates the hell out of me.  Even if I can hold my own in the kitchen, I always bend to the pressure when around others who I perceive to be an authority.  I hope I don’t start something on fire or chop off a finger.

I’m not the poster girl for local and organic eating.  There.  I said it.  The secret is out.  Actually, that wasn’t a secret.  I just find it super cost prohibitive and feeding a family of 5 on a budget of $200 every 2 weeks (including pet food and all miscellaneous items) I have my hands full just avoiding the aisles full of processed foods.  So, I avoid all the documentaries about how food is made and why organic is better because it’s just not attainable right now.

We do however shop the farmers market and choose local restaurants over chains as often as possible.  Most of the restaurants in our area seem to really go with the locally raised foods thing, so when we eat out we are covered.  At the farmer’s market we usually just stick with fruits and veggies although I did buy a dozen eggs the other day and I have to say I am severely underwhelmed.  Where are these huge orange yolks and extra richness I have been hearing about?  They didn’t look any different than the Market Pantry eggs I usually buy and at $5 a dozen…well, let’s just say they might not be on the list next time (see $200 budget).

But!  I am open to learning.  So bring on the piggies.

Did you say chocolate?

Posted: May 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Out and About | Tags: Bona Vita, Chocolate, Environmentally Friendly, Ethical Eats, Food Blogging, Free Trade, Group Fun, Group Outings, Minneapolis, Out and About, Twin Cities | No Comments »

Image from www.chocolatebonavita.com

Last Saturday night a group of Bloggers and Tweeters got together to taste some chocolate.  This wasn’t your mother’s chocolate though.  This was award winning artisan chocolate from around the world.

Now, I like to think of myself as a chocolate connoisseur.  I’ve always liked dark over milk and never, ever under any circumstances *white*.  I have tried both of the local brands (BT McElrath and Rogue) and I will skip a 2lb bag of M&M’s in favor of a fancy 6oz bar dusted with Sea Salt…and make it last for weeks.

That said, I eat my fair share of candy.  I like candy.  I’m not above grabbing a Peanut Butter Twix while waiting for my turn to pay at Target.  Maybe a 3 Musketeers Truffle Bar….or two.

But Saturday night…Saturday night was all about good chocolate. 

Really good chocolate.

The kind where you can let a one inch square melt on your tongue and not have a need for another piece.

Bona Vita is a small company in the Twin Cities who’s passion is to promote ethically produced, delicious chocolate.  Something that is often very difficult to find here.  They strive to educate likeminded chocolate lovers and provide them a place to purchase and enjoy these tantilizing treats.

Bona Vita is bringing their knowledge and passion for chocolate to the Twin Cities through small and large group tastings and seminars where they do a presentation and walk you through different high end chocolates.

Our presentation was quite thorough.

Did you know that the majority of cacao beans are produced on farms that are 5 acres or less?  Even the chocolate that is mass produced (think Hershey’s) starts out on a small farm.  Did you know that most cacao bean farmers have never tasted the finished product?  How do you produce the best product if you don’t know what you are aiming for in the end?  did you know that the majority of cacao beans are produced for quantity and heartiness as opposed to taste? 

There are some small artisan chocolate companies based around the world who are trying to bring back the best the cacao bean has to offer.  They are cultivating the Criollo plant (the best most aromatic and most rare cacao plant) and working with the farmers from step one so they can be part of the process from the ground up.  They are changing the way the world (at least some of the world) looks at chocolate.

We started with a roasted Criollo cacao bean.  Never in my life have I had a whole cacao bean.  Maybe some cacao nibs in a Nibby Bar, but never a whole roasted bean.  I expected the taste to rival that of a coffee bean.

It was delicious, and quite unlike a coffee bean.  Nutty and rich and smooth at the same time.  No bitterness and just a hint of sweetness to finish.

From their we moved on to a  Slitti– Grancacao 90% from Central America.  At 90% it has very little processing and starts out a bit on the bitter end, as you might suspect, and then mellows right at the end. 

After that shock of chocolate we were given a piece of  mass produced chocolate of unspecified cacao content…it didn’t even taste like chocolate.  It felt grainy on the tongue and left me feeling like I was missing out.  For this dark chocolate loving girl, the let down was pretty extreme.

We moved on to a chocolate produced in Seattle, the Theo– Jane Goodall 45% from Central America.  Theo is the first Fair Trade, organic chocolate company in the United States.  If Theo could overtake Hershey’s, we would all be much better off.

After Theo, we moved back to a brand we had just been introduced to moments before: Slitti.  The Slitti- Lattenero 51% from South America.  Lattenero means Black Milk and this piece aims to please both the dark and milk chocolate lovers of the world and is quite good.

Next up was L’Artigiano- Extra fondente alSale Solce di Cervia, min. 54% from Ecuador.  If I could eat this one chocolate for the rest of my life, i would be one happy woman.  The salt hits your tongue and the sweet and the….My eyes about rolled back in my skull this was so good.  My favorite of the night

The Amano– Madagascar, min. 70% from Africa was next.  It’s amazing how different chocolate can taste with just a change in location of where the beans are grown.  No need to add nuts or fruit or caramel here.  The fruitiness of this really shines through on it’s own.

Last, but certainly not least (I think Yogi Dad starred this as his favorite of the night) was the Domori- Teyuna, min. 70% from Columbia.  Silky, slow melting, pure pleasure.

After we had finished out plate of chocolate I expected to feel like I needed to be rolled out of there, but I wanted to keep going.  Sadly, the evening was coming to a close.

We toasted with some champagne and left with a head full of excitement.  Who knew a night spent learning could be so much fun?

Bona Vita has a Friday night Happy Hour from 4-6pm at the Italian Cultural Center located in the Hennepin Center for the Arts, Suite 502. 

I can’t think of a better way to end a work week.

If you are interested, please check out Bona Vita on Facebook and their website where you can learn more about upcoming events and classes!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this tasting class by Life with Levi and I am so glad I went.  I think my tweets Saturday night are proof that I was blown away by this experience.  Obviously, as always, all opinions here are mine.