Tom Kha Gai

What I had for dinner tonight…this soup is one of my favorite things to order whenever I go to Thai restaurants, but I always thought it would be impossible to make at home because it has a delicious layered flavor of sour, sweet, and salty. Turns out it is actually really easy and only took me about 30 minutes. What was not quite as easy to do was to find all the necessary ingredients. You will probably need to check out your local Asian market. If you live in the Columbia area I recommend the Oriental International Market on Decker Blvd. Also, watch out on the chilies I actually used 3 in mine and think I actually finally met my heat quota. One last note, this is actually Thai chicken coconut soup, however, in an attempt to be a little bit healthier I made it vegetarian and used vegetable broth and mushrooms.

1 cup vegetable broth
1.5 cups coconut milk, I recommend light.
1 stalk of lemongrass (only the white part)
6 slices of peeled ginger
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 serrano chilies
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
10 baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons cilantro

1. Cut the lemongrass into 2 inch pieces then beat with a mallet to release the flavor.
2. Pour the veggie broth into a sauce pan, bring to a boil and add the ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk, chilies, fish sauce and sugar.
5. Simmer 5 more minutes.
6. Add the mushrooms and simmer 5 more minutes.
7. Take off heat and garnish with lime juice and cilantro.

Summer Pasta

This summer in Vermont we have delightfully dubbed South Royalton “Nerd Camp”. What exactly does Nerd Camp entail? In a nut shell, a lot of fun and river culture. I’ve spent my time, when I’m not in class or working at Rural Vermont, laying in a hammock out behind my house reading, sunning on the rocks by the river, wandering around various farms, spending afternoons on the porch at Shari’s discussing agriculture policy and bluegrass, and either tubing or kayaking down the river until the sunsets. Let me tell you, Nerd Camp is like your traditional camp, but only much, much more fun. One thing this means is that I haven’t had a ton of time to cook, because I would rather be outside soaking up the sun and on the water. What it also means is that when I finally do make it home I’m pretty tired from all the activities. In that respect I’ve turned to making fairly simple, quick meals like this one. Continue Reading »

This past week I went to DC to visit my friend Caroline from the College of Charleston. Caroline is from DC and returned home after graduation to work there. I love visiting DC and try to see her at least two times a year up there. Since I’ve stayed with Caroline several times I’ve already covered the standard DC activities. This past weekend another friend, Stephanie, from undergrad also came up to DC to hang out with us for the weekend. Friday night we started out at an amazing restaurant called OYA for dinner. Me and Caroline started with seaweed salad and Stephanie started with the Ramen. We all got 2 sushi rolls for our main course and everything was fabulous. Fresh fish and great service. The inside is so hip and all white; I was in love. Afterwards we went down to a chocolate bar and got desserts and drinks. I got a chocolate banana martini, which I cannot remember the name of, but it came with a slice of chocolate covered banana that I will not forget! Following that we went to the W for drinks on the rooftop. At this point I had moved on to water, but it still offered amazing views of the Capital. Continue Reading »

Before I left to come to Vermont for the summer my *AWESOME* roommate Jennie had me along with our friends Ashley and Brad and Brad’s friends Zach and Ben to her parent’s beach house for the weekend. Brad took the lead on the food for the weekend, which was really nice. A lot of times people expect me to know exactly what to cook and to do it when there is a group together and this was a nice break. Don’t get me wrong, cooking is one of my favorite things to do, but when you have a group sometimes there is a lot of pressure to make sure you bring your A-game and everyone loves what you make. Of course this weekend I still made a couple of things for the group, bacon, egg and cheese sammies with Ash and pimento cheese for the Wisconsin boys who had never had it before. I also made quite a few Mojitos and Margaritas for everyone, always a hit! Brad, however, did a fantastic job and had planned most of the meals in advance. He made pulled pork, with 2 styles of BBQ sauce, always the debate, vinegar, mustard or ketchup? Personally, I’m a vinegar girl. Continue Reading »

Taco Thursday!

Today I have two great taco recipes that I’ve been enjoying this past week in Vermont. One is a steak taco, similar to a steak fajita and the other is a fish taco. I pretty much used the same marinade for both meats, but served them a little differently, which is why I’m combining them into one post. Tacos are my favorite food and have been for pretty much my entire life. When I was growing up whenever it was our birthday or a special occasion my mom would always let us pick what we wanted her to make for dinner that night. I ALWAYS picked tacos. My mom use to make simple beef tacos with all the fixings: salsa, cheese, peppers and sour cream. She also made chicken fajitas, which were known as the best in town by not only me, but many of my friends and my little brothers friends. I don’t really eat the beef tacos anymore, but I still often ask her to make chicken fajitas in a big batch and bring them to me in Columbia, especially during exam time! Who has time to cook then? Much less think about eating healthy? Tacos in my opinion are a pretty healthy dish, grilled or sauteed meat, seasoning and vegetables. They go wrong with cheese and the cream based sauces. Right now I’m trying to get in shape to go on a two week hike in Montana at the end of July so I did not fix these tacos with any cheese and basically tried to make the sauces healthier by using 2% greek yogurt (130 calories for the whole container) and vegan mayo (35 calories per 2tbsp) as the base. Tacos are also great in the summer because they really take minimal effort so after a long day of breweries or laying in the hammock they are quick to fix! What are your favorite tacos?

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That would be a perfectly round ball of mozzarella cheese, which I made at the Green Mountain Girls Farm this past week. It was such an enjoyable afternoon. I cannot express enough times the importance of buying local, organic food. When food is bought from a local source it not only is improving the local economy, but it is also improving the environment. If the food is purchased locally you are drastically reducing your carbon footprint based on food miles and ensuring that the food is grown in a sustainable manner because the food available for purchase is what is in season and easiest to grow in the region. Also, buy supporting local farmers you are speaking out against large scale, monoculture farms which can only run based on large government subsidies and often times produce food that is inedible until it is processed in some manner, which greatly reduces the nutritional value. Finally, buy purchasing food from a farm you have visited you can develop a relationship with the grower and reintroduce a sense of community into the food chain. Most farmers love to give tours to their customers and some CSA’s even allow you to help out on the farm to earn your share, which is a great experience for realizing the amount of effort that goes into food production.

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This is the first of two blogs about my experience making cheese this week. This summer I am working for an organization called Rural Vermont. Rural Vermont as an organization has been working in Vermont to make it easier to buy and sell raw milk. If you are unaware raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. In 2009 Rural Vermont was successful at helping get a bill passed that created a tiered system for raw milk farmers and specific standards for the milk. This summer my specific job is to work on improving this piece of legislation. There are many farmers who are registered as Tier 1, but only 1 farmer is registered as Tier 2 and unlike in South Caroline, Raw Milk can only be sold from the farm or delivered to the customer’s home so this creates a huge barrier to people receiving the raw milk they are seeking out. One of the ways Rural Vermont is working to get the word out about raw milk and raise money for the organization this summer is hosting raw milk cheese making workshops. Yesterday, I attended a workshop about how to make chevre and mozzarella cheese at the Green Mountain Girls Farm. This farm is owned by two woman named Laura and Mari who were very friendly and nice enough to open their barn to our class and serve as instructors for the day. This two ladies are mid-career farmers, which means that they have left previous careers and moved into farming. They own about 20 acres and use the land, which is very diverse geographically, to raise goats, chickens, pigs, sheep and produce. The goats are milked for their milk sales. The farm overall had a very sustainable feel. By this I mean that the varying landscapes on their property all seemed to be used for their highest purpose, be that grazing land or for produce growing and the farm seemed to produce as little waste as possible with many products being repurposed. For instance, the whey produced by our cheese would be fed to the goats as a treat. As far as the raw milk debate goes I have found that taste wise raw goat’s milk is delicious. To me it tastes real and earthy and not heavy or metallic, which I often feel conventional milk does. On the issue of safety, in MY opinion, which is based on my own research and understanding of the process, I believe raw milk to be very safe. The animals producing the milk are allowed to roam free, are usually raised organically, and are tested for disease regularly. Statistically speaking there are many more health risks associated with buying deli meat or conventionally raised spinach. However, if you would like more information about this please feel free to leave a comment or email me because I would love to chat about it! These two pictures are Mari milking the goat and some of the newly born kids!

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