National FFA Week is the (second) most wonderful time of the year for me as an FFA Member and Niman Ranch Farmer! I serve as our FFA chapter’s Vice President, and help to plan many of the events that go on throughout this celebratory week. Our activities align with their motto: “Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve”.
Few things are more satisfying on a cold Wisconsin day than a tasty chili and some homemade bread. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a chili the same from one time to the next, but the one consistent ingredient is lamb! I tried to document this version, made for sampling at the Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee .
I’ve met many people who’ve had an amazing Niman Ranch pork chop at some fine establishment and wish they could make it at home. Purchasing thick cuts like this doesn’t happen very often, however, and they end up returning to the restaurant to enjoy their favorite pork-centric dish.
You may be one of those people who’s intimidated when it comes to cooking a pork chop up to two inches thick, but figuring out the right way to cook it is well worth the effort. Though this may not be the same way great chefs are doing it today, this is a sure-fire way to get the job done with great results.
If it’s nice outside, follow the directions using your grill. If it’s too cold outside to start the coals, stick with the instructions for the oven.
Have fun cooking something for someone you love,
As the summer heats up, we have been firing up the grill to stay out of the kitchen. Grilling everything from steaks to pizzas but this recipe is a staple in our family. We use the marinade on beef and chicken but pork chops are our favorite. Paired with steamed rice and a Corn and Edamame Salad, it is an easy dinner much of which can be prepared ahead of time.
Instead of purchasing pre-cut chops, I found a packaged Niman Ranch pork loin at my local Sprouts grocery store in Boulder, Colo. and cut my own chops at home. Pretty easy, all you need is a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board. I cut five chops from the quarter loin, each about ¾ of an inch. They were well marbled and perfect for the grill.
On March 16-17, Edible Communities hosted its Edible Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. The weekend was full of great speakers, panels and discussions, including an interview of our very own Paul Willis. The Institute touched on many aspects of our food system – from farming through consumption. Here are a few of the highlights of the two-day event:
Saturday morning started off with a bang with a presentation from the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU Professor and best-selling author. A dynamic speaker and personality, Dr. Nestle spoke about the increase in the American population’s consumption habits since 1980 and how advertising can affect our perception. She mentioned that as a country, we are consuming more calories per day and our portion sizes have increased. Additionally, she spoke about how the deregulation of health claims has allowed advertisers to target children more effectively. Dr. Nestle advocates social responsibility and is currently writing a new book about the food system for kids.
Chef Michael Schwartz, chef/owner of Michaels Genuine, Harry’s Pizza and The Genuine Kitchen, uses Niman Ranch meat on the menus of his restaurants in Miami and the Cayman Islands. In 2011 he honored our farmers by cooking at the Niman Ranch 14th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation dinner.
He recently published Michael’s Genuine Food Down-To-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat, in which he shares recipes for dishes you know and love from Caramelized Onion Dip with Thick Cut Potato Chips to Crispy Sweet & Spicy Pork Belly with Kimchi and crushed peanuts. Find a delicious recipe for leg of lamb perfect for your holiday or summer grilling celebrations.
I ran into Chef Martin Murphy of Canoe Club (Hanover, New Hampshire), one of the featured chefs at the Niman Ranch Farmer appreciation dinner, on a Saturday afternoon at the Gateway Market in Des Moines and he told me he brought butter from New Hampshire to share with everyone. He said, “We have to break bread as family.” And he was right.
That’s what food does. It brings us together as one. As heard during recent Rosh Hashana services, “There is holiness when we share our bread, our ideas, our enthusiasm.” For this, I give thanks.
The first time I was in Iowa, Paul Willis took me to see his hens. He put a warm egg into my hand and I don’t know if he knew at the time – it was the closest I’d ever felt to the origins of my food. Paul gave me some eggs and sopressetta to take home with me. I savored it for weeks. Each night I would cut a small piece of meat and eat it with a peach or some cantaloupe. When I was sad, it took me back to a place of joy.
Yesterday was a perfect spring day, except that we were out of cat food. I had been watching my granddaughter, Sophia (who is 9 years old), for the day. I asked her if she wanted to go to Mason City to go shopping and pick up some cat food to which she replied, “Can we go to Tractor Supply Co and get some baby chickens?” Here is where the real story begins. Baby chickens are quite the responsibility and I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. They need heat, a safe place to sleep out of reach from natural predators as well as food and water. We already have two flocks of chickens in our yard now with two separate houses. Where would we put these new babies if I agreed to allow Sophia to get them?
It’s officially spring! Here on our farm we’ve been seeing the signs that spring was on the way for a couple of weeks now. We’ve spotted the first Sandhill Cranes on the pasture and an early Robin flying through the backyard. The Bluebirds have been staking their claims on the birdhouses that we have provided for them and two of our Chantecler chickens have gone broody and are sitting on a clutch of eggs. In the garden, the crocuses are in bloom and the daffodils and tulips are starting to emerge. For me, the beginning of spring is bittersweet. After the long winter I’m certainly ready to welcome this change and look forward to the growing season that is ahead. At the same time, however, I realize we are about to become extremely busy with field work and planting! We’ll be putting some long hours in the next few months, so right now we try to concentrate on enjoying the weather and spending as much time together as possible.