Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Arrives and Gets Me Thinking...About Milk!

Thursday morning I rushed out to the driveway, running about 10 minutes late for work, only to come face to face with the first frost (insert expletives here)!  I was totally unprepared as I had no idea where the ice scrapers were in the chaotic mess that makes up the garage.  I turned on the vehicle and tried to run the defrost and the windshield wash, but to no avail.  I headed down the hill with a tiny circle of visibility before pulling over and waiting.  How much time would I actually be saving at the risk of ignoring basic safety?

But so goes my life this Fall, a rush of activity from one thing to the next, never feeling like I have a moment to take a breath or be leisurely about anything.  Last weekend I realized I had been operating like this since the two weeks before school officially (we had so much professional work beforehand). I had developed this crazy skin infection on my back and didn't know it was so bad, and was doing all the craziness of the start of school while feeling extremely ill (my Facebook status update one day was the observation that September is for teachers what April is to accountants.) Finally got myself to the doc and got some antibiotics two weeks ago.  It's sad the level of health I'm willing to accept as "normal."

I know this is not the most appetizing way to start a food blog post, but the background may help you, kind reader, to see why coming home Friday night to unpack the CSA share was so comforting.  I just felt like I had a little down time and was feeling good.  (Last weekend I did nothing, but it was while feeling like crap!) The kids had gone to the house of a family from their school who does a great recycled art activity with the kids after school, so I had some mental space to myself.
Autumn Bounty!
The colors in the CSA room were just beautiful. I wish I had three shares! I got so much, but I didn't have enough share to get any brussel sprouts, beets, or varieties of squashes. Something to look forward to for next week, I guess! I tried to get things I knew I would cook this week, and since it was such a rainy, damp, cold evening, the new kale veggie chowder I had made last weekend (scroll down for directions) seemed ideal, so leeks, carrots, kale & potatoes were a must.  We always get fresh eggs, the spinach is to die for, my mouth waters for the fresh anise, and I also picked up a pie pumpkin (what says Fall better than pumpkin pie?).   The Maple Skyr is my new favorite item I buy while at the CSA. It's from a small dairy farm operation down the hill from MFF.  It's like the creamiest, most decadent--but  made with skim milk!--yogurt you've ever tasted. It's been in the Icelandic diet since the Vikings!  Last year I bought one of the mugs a local potter had created for them, so it seemed fitting to have my English Breakfast in it.

When I'm feeling low and ill, I get so emotional, so I'm sure that was part of it, but I had a bit of a dairy issue last weekend. Ever since Food, Inc. I've been trying really hard to be a conscious food consumer. We've been buying organic milk (despite its cost!) for awhile now, but I really wanted to think carefully about which brand after watching an episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days.  

He's the director who achieved critical acclaim with Supersize Me.  He had a few seasons of his series 30 Days on FX for awhile, and apparently it's been picked up by another network so we may see more episodes--I hope--in the future.  My teaching partner shows parts of the first season to our students--there's one about a Christian who lives with Muslims for 30 days, and another about meat eaters who live on an organic, vegan farming commune. This was a rerun from Season 3, where a hunter had to live with a vegan family who are animal rights activists. 

It was an incredible episode. After about 20 minutes in, maybe a week for the hunter, you think there's no way he's ever going to be effected by these activists. But by the end, he's standing up for animal rights. He's not giving up hunting, but he's clearly been moved by the plight of a calf he helps rescue in the middle of the night from a large dairy farm that has left it to die outside the grounds of the farm.  He names the calf "Sugar" (even though he's a male cow, you see how moved this guy is), and he bottle feeds it back to life. If just that brief summary has you hooked, wait until you see the show.
So I made a resolution to buy milk from humane dairy farms.  I just never knew how inhumane it was. We're fortunate to live in small town Vermont, where we can buy milk from small dairies.  The folks that make the Skyr only sell raw milk, and I'm not sold on the benefits of non-pasteurized.  But we do have this sweet little Mennonite store called the Market Wagon, and they sell milk from Battenkill Valley Creamery.  It's not that expensive and is sold in returnable glass bottles.  I bought the skim this week, but the whole milk and especially the chocolate milk are to die for.
McEachron Family Farmer & Calf: check out more farm photos

I decided that in the grocery store, I'll buy Organic Valley milk. They have a statement on Animal Care on their website.  I had been buying Stonyfield Farm, but that has been bought by a larger food group, and it if their policies are on its website, I couldn't find it.  Check out one of their videos on animal care:

I also found a site that you can use to find products from certified humane farms sold in your area! You put in your zip code and it lists products and where they are sold.  Unless you're like my poor friend Shana living in the heart of Wyoming, you should see some products from your local supermarkets and grocers.  (Her solution: farmer's markets!)   Now if only my husband, the on-again-off-again vegetarian (who's off again and eating meat), would join the vegetarian wagon and bring my son along with him.  I don't push my son as I'd like him to come to the decision on his own.

I also don't want to push you, dear reader, but...
And here are the steps for my Kale* Veggie Chowder to get you started! 
(*Read about the health benefits of kale!)

One or two bunches of fresh kale.  I like the flatter, broad leaf style better than the curly one you see as garnish.
Here's my fresh kale, and last week's sad looking wilted bunch. Still tastes good for soup!
I chop up one clove of garlic, three skinny leeks (or one large one), about three or four carrots, and one celery stalk.  Sautee these in a stock pot, stirring, until the leek is nice and soft and clear. While it's cooking, you can chop up your potatoes. I use about a pound. Use small, organic potatoes or it doesn't taste as good!
I used these pink ladies (not sure if that's a real name!). Aren't they beauties?
Add about two tablespoons of butter and the same amount of flour.  Stir up in the pot until everything is nicely coated, making sure it doesn't burn.  Then add in four small or one large container of Pacific Vegetable broth.

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Vegetable Broth, 8-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 24)
Add the potatoes, and cook at a low boil, stirring frequently, until potatoes are just soft.  While the potatoes are cooking, prepare your kale by taking off lower stems and chopping the leaves and upper stems into strips (or smaller depending on how you want it on your spoon.  I like it in strips! You could chop it in a blender if you want it to be less of a stew look.)

When the potatoes are ready, scoop out a cup or two of the soup, depending on how chunky you want it.  Add milk to the pot to desired creaminess--maybe a cup or so? Lowfat milk works fine.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup pot ingredients (or transfer to blender carefully).  Add back in the chunky soup, and the kale.

Put the top on the soup pot so the kale can steam.  I like it cooked just past wilted so it's not mushy.  Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve with delicious crusty bread.

Thanks for reading. I worked extra hard on this one this week. Won't you pass the link to my blog along to a friend?  Just click those little buttons below. And I'd love some comments! I reset the page so that you can comment even if you do not have a google account.

Here's one more sweet look at the cows of Organic Valley:


  1. Oh, my GOSH! So much to learn! Thanks for a great post!

  2. What an inspiring blog!! I too used kale for soup this weekend ('The Barefoot's' Portuguese Kale Soup') -- still enjoying the waist-high stalks of curly kale in my garden . . . the only thing left among the dried sunflower stalks. And I savored Kris's gorgeous photos, documenting the food process, and all the links. While my soup warmed and scented the kitchen, the light was dim, yesterday, and your photos remind me of the colors I missed - or overlooked.
    I really love the color of kale as it first brightens in the broth! What a treat it is to cook & eat good food! -- Jen W

  3. Love it as always! I sent it to Claire. She had the Organic Valley folks in town on Saturday for an all day promotion. Mom talked to them.


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