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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Weekend of Affirmation

This weekend, Andy and I took a much-needed break from the steam of the pressure cooker and ventured to the Food for Thought Festival in Madison on Saturday and then to the Harvest Party at Harmony Valley in Viroqua on Sunday. Both days were reaffirming, exciting, and inspirational to both of us as we continue forth in our quest to eat more locally and sustainably.

On Saturday, the highlight of the Food for Thought Festival was hearing Michael Pollan speak. Andy and I have both read The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and in turn, hold Mr. Pollan in high regard. His work and appearances in Food, Inc. solidified our admiration. At the festival he gave a very inspiring speech, describing ways in which consumers can work to make real change happen in food politics.

Among all the facts and inspiration, there were a few tidbits which we found especially striking:
1. Three companies in the United States are producing 85% of the country's beef. Wow.
2. It used to be that it took 1 calorie to produce 2 calories of food; today, it takes 10 calories to produce 1 calorie of food. In Michael Pollan's words, "We are eating oil and spewing green house gas."
3. School lunches need to change. Michael Pollan pointed out that the current lunch program is teaching kids how to eat when it offers them chicken nuggets, tator tots, and juice for lunch with only ten to twenty minutes allowed to consume that lunch. He somewhat comically suggested that kids should earn credit for learning how to eat properly, just like they earn credit for Physical Education.
4. Pollan also joked that the cows in California are happy because they're high on drugs. As a Wisconsin couple who hates the "Happy cows come from California" commercials and all of their hypocrisy, we really appreciated that one.
5. Pollan also pointed out that the food industry has created two problems by taking cows off of the farm and putting them onto feedlots: (1)manure has become toxic with no place to go, and (2) chemical fertilizers are now needed on fields. It used to be that the manure could be used as the fertilizer.
6. It takes 28 ounces of petroleum to produce one Big Mac meal ~ talk about guzzling fuel!
7. Research shows that for every 60 dollars put into a garden, 200 dollars worth of produce is harvested.

The speech was amazing, we felt moved to act, and we even got our books signed!

On Sunday, we drove over to Viroqua, WI to attend Harmony Valley Farm's Harvest Party of 2009. Once there, we hopped on the wagon for a hayride around the fields. Andy and I picked pounds of UW-Roaster peppers to roast and freeze for the winter and an equal amount of jalapenos to be made into hot pepper jelly (very yummy served over cream cheese on a cracker!). Of course, no Harvest Party would be complete without the hunt for the perfect carving pumpkins.

Once back, members enjoyed a pig roast with a potluck of delicious salads, desserts, and cheeses. Harmony Valley also provided Maple Iced Lattes. Wow~ that hit the spot on a crisp fall day!

Hot Peppers!
UW-Roaster Peppers and Sweet Peppers
Can you believe these are Sunchock (Jerusalem Artichoke) plants?
They're over 10 feet tall!
Grazier's Angus Beef (or cute cows for vegetarians!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fettuccine Alfredo with a Summer Twist

A few summers ago, when we had an abundance of fresh veggies and were particularly into grilling them, Andy concocted this Roasted Red Pepper Fettuccine Alfredo recipe. It has become a late summer favorite, which we look forward to all year long! We serve it with another of Andy's creations, Butter-Parsley Bread.

Roasted Red Pepper Fettuccine Alfredo
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. butter
1-2 Tbs. flour
4 cups of 2% or whole milk
4-6 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. shredded Romano cheese
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 red bell peppers

Other Ingredients:
-various in-season veggies, such as cherry tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, etc.
-fresh fettuccine noodles, if possible (We enjoy Madison's RP's Pasta's.)

  • To roast the red peppers, grill over an open fire until pepper skins are black. Put the peppers in a paper bag for 10 minutes. Remove peppers from bag and remove skins. Running them under cold water can aid in this process. Puree roasted red peppers and set aside.

  • Melt butter in saute pan. Add garlic, and saute for about one minute. Add flour. Cook until golden. This is called a roux.
  • Slowly mix in the milk. Heat on medium-high heat until milk begins to boil. Reduce heat. Add cream cheese in cubes. Continue stirring until cream cheese is combined thoroughly. Gradually reduce the heat as you add in the Parmesan and Romano cheese. Once the sauce is of desired thickness, add pureed red pepper.
  • Cover and keep warm while you prepare noodles and roasted veggies.
  • To roast veggies, use a grill pan over an open fire. Shake and drizzle with olive oil. Alternately, saute on stove in a saute pan.
  • To serve, put noodles on plates, followed by sauce, and then top with roasted veggies. Sprinkle parsley and/or Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Butter-Parsley Bread
a loaf of sourdough bread
1 c. parsley (approximate)
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan or Romano
4 Tbs. butter (or more, depending on size of loaf)
3 cloves of garlic (minimum)

  • Cut the bread down the middle, but do not cut all the way through. Then, cut cross ways, making cuts every 1-2 inches.
  • Fill the crevices with butter, garlic, shredded cheese, and parsley.
  • Wrap in foil and bake at 350 until cheese is melted and bread is golden-brown (approximately 30 minutes).