Valentines Day means roses and chocolate.
History of Chocolate in a nutshell from History of Chocolate -
Chocolate is made from the fruit of cacao trees, which are native to Central and South America. The fruits are called pods, and each pod contains around 40 cacao beans. The beans are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.
Mayan Chocolate: The Olmecs undoubtedly passed their cacao knowledge on to the Central American Mayans who not only consumed chocolate, they revered it. The Mayan written history mentions chocolate drinks being used in celebrations and to finalize important transactions.
Cacao Beans as Currency: The Aztecs took chocolate admiration to another level. They believed cacao was given to them by their gods. Like the Mayans, they enjoyed the caffeinated kick of hot or cold, spiced chocolate beverages in ornate containers, but they also used cacao beans as currency to buy food and other goods. In Aztec culture, cacao beans were considered more valuable than gold.
Spanish Hot Chocolate: There are conflicting reports about when chocolate arrived in Europe, although it’s agreed it first arrived in Spain. One story says Christopher Columbus discovered cacao beans after intercepting a trade ship on a journey to America and brought the beans back to Spain with him in 1502.
Chocolate in the American Colonies: Chocolate arrived in Florida on a Spanish ship in 1641. It’s thought the first American chocolate house opened in Boston in 1682. By 1773, cocoa beans were a major American colony import and people of all classes enjoyed chocolate.
Cacao Powder: When chocolate first came on the scene in Europe, it was a luxury only the rich could enjoy. But in 1828, Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten discovered a way to treat cacao beans with alkaline salts to make powdered chocolate that was easier to mix with water.
The process became known as “Dutch processing,” and the chocolate produced called cacao powder or “Dutch cocoa.”
Nestle Chocolate Bars: For much of the 19th century, chocolate was enjoyed as a beverage; milk was often added instead of water. In 1847, British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar molded from a paste made of sugar, chocolate liquor, and cocoa butter.
Chocolate Today: Most modern chocolate is highly-refined and mass-produced, although some chocolatiers still make their chocolate creations by hand and keep the ingredients as pure as possible. Chocolate is available to drink but is more often enjoyed as an edible confection or in desserts and baked goods.
While your average chocolate bar isn’t considered healthy, dark chocolate has earned its place as a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich treat.
It's never too early to begin planning your garden. Instead of bemoaning the cold and snow, start thinking spring. Here is a short video of hints and tips for transplants and seeds using some common household items.
I have already placed and received two orders of seeds. I might have enough but without a doubt there's more to be found with all the seed catalogs that continue to come in the mail.
Have a question about your garden. Ask away. I would be happy to help.
Sounds ominous... but it's not.
It's coming on time to be planting our little seedlings. You will find many voices of advice out there on social media. Yes, voices of reason, but also all those "hacks" you see to make your gardening more simple. Well, here's what I think.
My spouse spends more time on Facebook than I do and so he sends me things like recipes and hints and tips to make my life easier.
We all do it in February or March whether full bore hundreds of seeds or just a windowsill garden. Some of the hacks for seedlings include egg cartons, egg shells, paper pots, etc. etc. His latest post was about planting seeds in ice cream cones. Oh, yes... they are inexpensive, but with all the rest of those crazy ideas, they are never quite thought through. Imagine this. An ice cream cone poses several problems.
It won't stand up on its own
What happens when a cone gets wet? Even only melted ice cream will create a huge mess, and you will never be able to get those cones out of the tray and into your garden in one piece.
So take this little tidbit of advice and watch the video on "pot rolling" on the home page of this website. And, stay tuned for more planting advice and photos as winter slips into spring - "Yippee the season of gardens."
Got questions, please don't hesitate to comment on this post, I will respond as soon as possible.
.The next two weeks find us talking about food trends on Main Street Eats with Ashley Thronberg and Doug Hamilton. It's kinda crazy and usually humans end up eating what they want anyway. However, you will find some stranger and stranger things on the shelves inyour supermarket so let's take a look at what's in and what's not for 2019.
This list came from the Whole Foods market list. It's based on what they are seeing people ask for and purchase as well as experiment. Where I come from, food was not too experimental, more basic ... but it's fun to try new things, so here's a few ideas to get your new year off to a flavorful start.
What’s in for foodies in 2019 (Whole Foods list)
Pacific Rim flavors
Jackfruit as an alternative to meat. I read that this can be used instead of barbecue pulled pork.
And, extract of Monk Fruit can be used in place of added sugar.
Everything pickled again makes the shelf. Of course, if you know me, you know that my probiotics come from the farm milk we drink, homemade kombucha and sauerkraut straight from the crock. With new strains of probiotics such as Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 and Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856 being created? Discovered? Manufacture? there are more shelf-stable products possible. Youwill find manufacturers are adding probiotics to other foods like granola, soup and nut butters.
Not only that there will be probiotics sunscreen, lotion and cleaning supplies. We had a lot to say about that including the fact that we agreed sauerkraut is shelf stable. So, is this just a ploy?
Nope, there was a minuet moment in my life when I used margarine for cookies. I blame it on being a stay-at-home mom with a limited income and two children. However, I just couldn't eat the stuff on bread. And, my pie crust always had lard in it. But a lot of people gave up butter (God Forbid) and lard and things they felt were not good for them. Hoever, fats are making a comeback, and the trendiest diets are on board. People are poo-poo-ing margarine and getting out the butter and lard.
Some popular ways to injest healthy fats (think grass-fed beef) are
Melt over medium-low heat.
When the whey floats to the top, skim it off. ...
When the milk fat sinks to the bottom and the butter turns clear, you've
made clarified butter.
When the milk fats brown and become fragrant, you've made ghee.
Variations on traditional meaty snacks like chicken chips and thin, crisped beef jerky.
Sorry, I like the traditional flavors and really have issues with chicken chips... ugh.
Next level hemp
(2019 Farm Bill legalizes industrial hemp production)
Here's a crop after my own heart. But we will save that for another story. It's in and coming on strong in all different directions. But this hemp is not to be confused with the kind that makes you high. Here's a web page that will inform you on the virtue of hemp to our farm industry. https://ministryofhemp.com/hemp/history/.
Hemp will be broght to you way of hemp hearts, seeds and oils, body care products, foods, microgreens and fabrics. I have used hemp fabric, dyed hemp fabric and it is amazing.
Andalou Naturals has introduced hemp plant stem cells in their CannaCell body care collection. Non-cannabis-derived sources from the endocannabinoid system (which are named after the cannabis plant that inspired their discovery), like phytocannabinoids that exist in nature, are also becoming more visible and prevalent due to the growing trend. It’s clear that hemp-derived products are going mainstream, if not by wide distribution, then by word of mouth!
Faux meat snacks
We will just skip over this cause as my friend Annie says, “If you are going to abstain from eating meat, quit trying to fake it…or just eat the real thing.”
Thats correct, any good food trend addresses the issue of packaging. I can't believe how much packaging it takes to bring food and such to the general public. And, we don't even buy processed food at the store. YIKES.
Here's what you need to purchase/do.
• Banning straws,
• Recyclable straws
• Straw-less sipper cups
• FINALLY – bring your own mesh produce bags to market.
• Waxed canvas or silicone covers for bowls and wrapping sandwiches.
Trailblazing frozen treats
Okay, Ashley's dream topic - weird flavor ice cream. Yep you gotta listen to the second episode of food trends cause you are not going to believe what she has tried.
But you can surely get on board with these new ice cream flavors - avocado, hummus, tahini and coconut water or ...
CocoWhip Soft Serve and ice creams with savory swirls of artisanal cheese. Who doesn't appreciate adding dairy to dairy.
Globally-inspired frozen desserts are taking the stage — possibly sparked by 2018’s mochi craze and that Thai rolled ice cream craze. Popsicles and gelatos won’t be left out of the fun — they’ll get some buzz with boozier infusions coming to market. Yep, you will be carded.
Marine munchies, beyond seaweed
What can I say? We are fairly land-locked here in the Northern Plains.
More takes on snacking nod to the comforting treats of your second grade lunchbox, with better ingredients. Portable snack packages will feature bites like prosciutto and aged mozzarella, and artisanal versions of classic snacks like cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Ingredient-conscious snack and treat makers are creating new packaged snacks that take us back to our treat-loving childhoods but with higher quality ingredients, some of which are updated to accommodate special diets.
NOTE: This year’s predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s culinary experts and industry leaders who source items and lead trend-spotting initiatives across the retailer’s more than 490 stores. The in-house specialists combine their expertise from all departments including cheese, specialty, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and body care when preparing the forward-looking trends report. READ it yourself right here.
Whether you bought one your self or were gifted a poinsettia, they can be kept as a houseplant. Now, getting them to bloom is a totally different story.
First off, poinsettias are a tropical plant. That means they don't appreciate the weather in the great white north. So keep them away from windows where temperature changes can affect their sensitivities.
Being tropical, they appreciate light, humidity and even watering. You can keep them out of direct sunlight, but they like bright light -- at least six hours a day. (That in it self may be hard to find in December in North Dakota.)
Temperatures should be 65-70-degrees, and the soil kept moist, but not sopping wet. That means if repotting, put them in a pot with drainage.
If you are determined to force your plant to bloom again in time for Christmas, follow these tips from LOWES.COM.
Good luck with your newest houseplant - but if want my advice ... buy a new plant next December and call it good. Listen to the Main Street Eats episode on poinsettias by clicking the logo on the home page or HERE.
WHAT to gift THE COOK/BAKER/FOODIE in the family this Christmas
My mother never had a set of measuring spoons or cups in her cupboard. She cut pastry with two knives her whole life. When she measured she used her hand or a tea cup. Teaspoons were weighed with the cover on the bottle or scooped out of a Schilling spice can with a table spoon.
There were not special pans, blenders, food processors, nothing but your ordinary table settings and a few nice bowls.
So do your foodies a favor this Christmas and get them some of these reasonable stocking stuffers.
Some small items that every kitchenista needs from under $25 can be found at local stores. BE SURE AND BUY A GOOD QUALITY tool – not utensils from the grocery store.
Reasonably good places to shop are:
Kohl’s (has the Food Network line of tools.)
Bed Bath and Beyond
And, don't forget to support your local cooking stores.
For the baker in your life.
There are also many “pretty” measuring spoons and cups shaped like animals, etc. I have a nesting doll measuring set, I just don't want to use them for everyday cause I don't want to break them. YES, I admit I am a wild worker in the kitchen. My little girls are allowed to play with them and have had many hours of fun without ever breaking them.
If you wanna go big for your kitchen god or goddess buy them a heavy duty mixer.
Kitchen-aid mixer with attachments.
Mixer – 5 qt around $250 (Watch for sales)
Or Pro model for around $600.
There are all these wonderful attachments that save you from purchasing a multitude of kitchen gadgets that eat up space.
Good Food Processor – Cuisinart is a good brand for about $100-200. Get one large enough to handle pie crust, making sauerkraut, etc.
Clay Bread Bakers -- $35-$100.
TOP PICK for the baker or cook that has everything. Be sure and consider a CSA subscription so your foodie would receive a box or bag of veggies every week from 12-17 weeks for about $400-$750. That’s a gift for anyone who loves fresh veggies and doesn’t have a garden.
Merry Christmas and don't forget to shop local first...
This is a cookbook published in 1975 by my church in Gackle. You can find a reproduction (think Christmas gift) at https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbooks/cookbooklist.html.. You can find another recipe at the bottom of this post. Please ask any questions in the comment area of this blog. And, listen to the Main Street Eats episode airing today at 3 p.m. on Prairie Public Broadcasting. You can download the podcast at a later date by clicking the link on the home page of this website, or visiting theirs.
A Prairie Legacy memory
(brought to you in part by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance)
It was not a rabbit. It was
Pfeffernusse: – a German Russian Tradition.
Pfeffernuesse are traditionally a firm cookie that nearly always showed up on the Christmas goodie table at my house. They are classified a "dunker" by most people. A cookie made just for that cup of coffee after a big meal. The spices in Pfeffernuesse are quite complimentary to an after-dinner aperitif maybe only if you are a dedicated German from Russia.
These are a cookie like a fine wine -- they get better with age. Sometimes our batch lasts until Easter time when they are at their peak flavor. The flavors include ginger, cloves, cinnamon, maybe mace; blended, of course, with dark, cold coffee and honey.
The two standout flavors are pepper and anise. Hence the name "PepperNut" or Pfeffernusse.
Round and small, Pfeffernuesse look like tiny snowballs with a fresh coat of powdered sugar. They are of Dutch or German origin. Recipes can be found all over the internet, but the vintage cookbooks and recipe cards from my childhood require a strong German-Russian hand as they incorporate up to 10 pounds of flour in a single batch.
"What," you may ask could I do with that many cookies? Oh, like fine wine, Pfefernuesse age with time. If they become too hard for your palate, place the heel of your bread in the container, it will soften them. You may need to re-sugar them before serving, but they will soften up quite nicely even if you don't have them stored in the freezer.
Baking flavorful Pfeffernuesse cookies requires fresh spice and a specific type of anise. Anise the spice is not star anise that you may find in Chinese Five Spice Powder.
Our anise is a seed.
Spice is part of a plant, other than leaves when dried can become a flavoring ingredient in cooking. Spices can be produced from seeds (anise, cumin, coriander, mustard, and many others), bark (cinnamon), fruit (peppercorns, vanilla), roots (horseradish), or flower buds (cloves). If you are fortunate enough to find whole cinnamon and nutmeg, you can grind or pulverize in a mortar and pestle you very own very fresh spices.
The anise that makes the best cookies is an essential oil. You can find anise ground, whole or as an extract. But, I prefer the oil for cookies, since the flavor is more intense and stays with the cookie.
Olive Nation, King Arthur, and Amazon are just a few places to source anise oil. Be sure and purchase from a baking supply company to make sure you are receiving food grade oil.
If you are unfamiliar with anise, it is akin to the flavor of black licorice; which is the only true licorice there is. Perhaps Pfeffernuesse are an acquired taste, one that stems from Christmas on the prairie in German-Russian country. But, we will save more on GR Christmases for future posts.
Accept no substitute for the homemade variety of this traditional cookie. SO, here is my recipe and a second smaller one for you to bake this weekend. Don't forget to allow the cookies to age until Christmas; unless you drop one on the floor - those are always fair game.
No, I don't recall my grandmother ever serving cranberries. My mother, of course, slid them from a can. As children, we loved those wiggly slices of semi-sweet fruit called cranberry.
'Tis the season of cranberry and harvest time ends in November. Most cranberries grow in the bogs of Cape Cod (Massachusetts), New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. After harvest cranberries are bagged, juiced, or as aforementioned cooked with sugar and stuffed into a can.
Oh yeah, those little tart berries, like our North Dakota's chokecherries, need to have sugar added to make them palatable. Of course, the native population used them in combo with dried venison and fat to ma,e pemmican. The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod called them ibimi, meaning bitter berry.
Cranberries were wild until about 1816 when the pilgrims and the rest of us began grooming them as a crop. Cranberries were used to prevent scurvy (remember scurvy from history class?) and have since been proclaimed a superfood with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant compounds.
Sure, your children might enjoy them more from a can, but you can make your version of superfood cranberry sauce by following the directions on the back of the bag.
Basic sauce merely is sugar and water and cranberries and a wee bit of time. You can add to your "relish" with other in-season fruit like oranges, lemons or apples. Here is another simple recipe.
Cranberry orange relish
1 pound cranberries
2 small unpeeled oranges, quartered and seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur (this is optional, as I do not have a stocked liquor cabinet.)
Yield: Makes about 5 cups
Southern Living's website had not one, but 19 recipes for cranberries including this one making use of dried cranberries, or as we call them craisins.
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 small lemon, sliced and seeded
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
NOTE: Dried cranberries can be sourced year-round; a great addition to any salad or cookie or scone recipe you might be cooking up in your kitchen. Be sure and grab a few bags to throw in your freezer to brighten up your entire year with those tasty red berries.
To hear the rest of the story. CLICK here, and you will find the link to the PPB Main Street podcast on the topic of cranberries.
How do I know this? Well, I have been receiving seed catalogs in the mail and that means it's time to start planning the garden. When I see the snow covered garden beds as I gaze across the lawn towards the river, I visualize the cloves of garlic under a blanket of snow. I remember planting them in October on a cold and snowy day, just before the ground permanently froze.
O lovely seed catalogs. Remember the Sears wish book of long ago. Today it has been replaced by online shopping. How we waited and waited for that catalog to come in the mail. How we poured over pages of toys we never received. But the anticipation of it all was so much more rewarding than ownership.
These days that wish book has been replaced by seed catalogs. Totally Tomatoes won out this year as being the first in my mail box. I took advantage of Prairie Road Organics Small Business Saturday offer and ordered my first batch (of many, I'm sure) seeds.
Oh, yeah, I have limited garden space, but always unlimited imagination when it comes to growing heirloom and unusual varieties of seed. I'm really trying to keep it down to what sells well at the farmers market.
It's been so gray the past few weeks, I wonder what phase the moon has entered. This is the time of year it creeps across our quilts at night and disappears into the trees to the west. Once the clouds clear, it may also bring the cold of deep winter. So just for fun:
Here's a poem I memorized when I was in the memorization stage of my life...
"I heard a bird sing in the deep of December,
A beautiful thing
And sweet to remember
We're closer to spring
than we were in September
Sang a beautiful bird
in the deep of December."
That's probably not entirely correct, but it's close.
And, hey, if you need seed advice, just leave me some questions in the comments section. I would be happy to influence your purchasing decisions.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.