Beignets!

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Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, LA

Beignets are delicious French doughnuts heavily covered with powdered sugar. At Cafe Du Monde, they are often served with cafe au lait, which can be ordered hot, iced, or frozen.

Thankfully, a few Tallahassee restaurants serve Cafe Du Monde beignets – so we don’t have to go all the way to New Orleans every time we get a craving!

Angelette’s Cajun Kitchen 

Po’Boys Creole Cafe

Another Broken Egg Cafe

Coosh’s Bayou Rouge

THIS is why we don’t eat out…

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I made dinner for Henry last week. We have severely limited our eating out. We are all too often disappointed when eat somewhere, or we feel guilty when we spend $60 at a restaurant when we can make the same meal at home for under $30 and have more fun.

Publix Greenwise Sirloin was on sale for $6.99/lb so I bought about 1lb, brushed it with kosher salt, McCormick’s garlic pepper grind and olive oil and attacked it with the meat tenderizer. It’s a pretty thick steak and I had a lot of side dishes planned, so I cut the steak into smaller, filet mignon-sized pieces.  We grilled two and I sealed the other two in a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. The meat cost about $9 and change, so I estimate that the each of our pieces for dinner cost $2.50 each, $5.o0 together.

We had bought small red potatoes on the way home from Atlanta at the state farmer’s market in Macon, Ga. I think we paid about $5 for 3-4lbs of potatoes. I cooked them all, adding to it 4 parsnips that were grown locally and bought at Tomato Land on Thomasville Rd. across the street from JoAnn Fabrics and Red Elephant.  I seasoned them with fresh dill (Tomato Land), garlic, kosher salt, and garlic pepper.

When I was at Publix I saw that mushrooms were on sale. I don’t really like mushrooms, but when they are pureed I don’t have to deal with their chewy texture and I can just enjoy their earthy, deep flavor. I pureed the mushrooms with garlic, kosher salt, olive oil, and red wine in the food processor and cooked the sauce in a small skillet. After the steaks came in off the grill, I served the sauce over the steak. Not great in the presentation department, I know – but it was yummy!

I steamed the garlic scapes I bought from the Lake Ella grower’s market on Wednesday with the green beans I bought that day at Tomato Land. Then, I lightly sauteed them in butter.

The salad was the simple: sliced Kirby cucumbers and chopped tomatoes from Tomato Land with a basil vinaigrette I made from basil we had in our backyard garden. Henry calls our African Blue Basil “zombie basil” because it died in the winter and came back from the dead this spring, sprouting all over the garden where we had never planted it. I prefer the taste of Genovese and sweet basil, but the thrill of eating “zombie basil” makes up for its camphor-like smell and furry texture.

Blue Ridge Hydroponics: Best Lettuce in Tallahassee Vicinity

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Blue Ridge Hydroponics is owned and operated by Wayne Hawthorne. I first tried his lettuce a couple of years ago at the Tallahassee Farmer’s Market at Market Square (Saturdays), and its crisp, clean taste immediately won me over. No other lettuce that I’ve had comes close to matching the healthy taste and texture. For the past two years I have only referred to Wayne as “the lettuce man” to my family. In recent months, I decided it was time to learn his name and ask what I had been wanting for over a year – to visit the farm. Wayne was more than willing to have me come by, and the farm is only 30 minutes from my home. Since Henry was at work, I set out to Blue Ridge Hydroponics on my own.

According to Wikipedia, hydroponics is ” a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, or coconut husk.” As it turns out, plants only need soil because it is an effective container for water and nutrients. Removing soil from the growing equation reduces the variables the farmer must keep in balance. It also allows farmers to grow high-quality produce on land that may have very poor quality soil. Now personally, I don’t consider hydroponics to be a panacea for the world’s food and nutrition problems. It does not restore topsoil, it cannot reverse desertification, and as far as I know it cannot support very large plants like fruit trees. But it is well-suited for growing dense yields of high-quality produce it what may normally be an inhospitable setting.

Although conventional growing methods can match the yields and quality of hydroponic systems, the hydroponic farmer can exert more control over the plants’ environment. Wayne has told me that  his lettuces are “better than organic.” He injects nutrients distilled from seawater into his growing system to enhance the nutritional profile of his lettuces. I don’t know if this method alone makes the plants healthier, but I have always found that salads made with Wayne’s lettuces are crisper and more flavorful than any other salads I’ve had. Henry I follow Wayne’s advice of keeping his lettuce in green bags, which will help them last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

I was blown away by Wayne’s hydroponics setup in his greenhouse. Black hoses connected each tray to the other, and I could hear the steady sound of the fans and pump cycling life into the greenhouse. The fans cool it down and the water pump cycles the nutrients into trays. And everywhere, beautiful, perfect, soil-less and clean green and purple lettuces call to me.

Lettuce season is ending in Tallahassee, but Wayne’s gorgeous girls will be back in the fall when the days are shorter and cooler. He recommends visiting at the 2011 New Leaf Market Farm Tour in October to see the greenhouse in full bloom.

Henry Miller contributed to this article.

Blueberry Season is upon us!

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It’s blueberry season here in Tallahassee, and I can’t wait to get picking and make me some blueberry lemon iced tea! Green Meadows Farm in Monticello, FL will be open for picking starting Friday, June 3, 2011.

Henry and I discovered Green Meadows Organic Blueberry Farm by accident last summer. We were on US90 heading East towards Monticello when we saw signs for Blueberries.  Following the signs, we found a very nice house, greenhouse, and – of course – the blueberry farm.

Dolores Green is a retired school teacher. She and her family run Green Meadows, a USDA certified organic farm. The farm is open to the community in June; July if there are still blueberries left on the bushes. You can pick them yourself for $3.25/lb or buy 5lb bags of frozen berries for $20.00 (picked by Dolores Green herself).

While blueberries are surely the “main event”, Green Meadows Farm will be selling surplus vegetables from their organic garden: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, and okra.  Water and soft drinks are available for sale, as well as the occasional homemade treat. If you’re lucky, Dolores Green will have made her blueberry ice cream!

Green Meadows Farm is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in June until the harvest is depletedPicking Hours are 7:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon; 5:00 p.m. until sunset (usually 9:00pm in the summer). Dolores recommends wearing shoes & socks to protect you from the ants, wasps, and bees that call the farm “home.” Remember to bring a camera; you may be fortunate enough to meet the fox family that lives on the farm!  Plan to pay in cash for the produce; to my knowledge, checks and credit cards are not accepted. 

The farm is located at 177 Bluebird East / Monticello, FL 32344. For additional information call the Green family at 850-997-4886 (farm) or 850-570-0623 (cell). To sign up for Dolores’ e-mail updates, send a short message (SIGN ME UP! I LOVE BLUEBERRIES) to annadgreen@gmail.com.

Green Meadows Farm blueberry crop 2011. Photo Credit: Green Meadows Farm


In Search of the Perfect Root Beer Float

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By Cat and Henry Miller
 

We have discovered that the best root beer float our money can buy consists of two specific ingredients, available at an organic foods store near you.

Alden’s Organic Vanilla Ice Cream uses organic ingredients grown without pesticides. Their “milk comes from healthy cows raised without hormones or antibiotics” and they “never use genetically modified ingredients.” Have you heard Papa John’s motto, “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza?” Alden’s motto adds to this philosophy: “All of this takes time, but it is the right thing to do.”  Alden’s Ice Cream averages $5 on sale and $6 regular price for 1.5 quarts, or a half gallon.  Breyers also boasts all-natural ingredients, but there is no assurance that it adheres to the same principles as Alden’s unless you buy from their organic line.  Publix ice cream is a common choice for Tallahassee consumers, as it goes on sale for $2.50-$3/half gallon every few weeks.  As consumers who have bought each of these brands over the past several years, we attest that Alden’s has the superior vanilla ice cream.  It costs more, but every bite is worth it.

We became acquainted with Virgil’s Root Beer only a few months ago, but we quickly fell head over heels for its delightfully natural flavor. Compared to Barq’s and IBC, this microbrewed root beer achieves a higher standard of quality. It lacks the syrupy aftertaste of Barq’s, and imparts an uncommon spiciness not represented in the ordinary IBC brew. Virgil’s Root Beer is available locally at New Leaf Market and Earth Fare (both on Appalachee Parkway). This week, Virgil’s Root Beer is on sale at Earth Fare for $4 for a pack of 4. Regularly, it runs $5-6 for a pack of 4.

We’re sold on the taste of organic food, but the perennial question is, “Is it cost effective?” What do you get for your money? Let’s look at some numbers.

We usually split one bottle of Virgil’s with two scoops each of Alden’s vanilla. This normally gives us four desserts, perhaps with some ice cream left over (depending on how decadent we are feeling). So for $9-$12, we get eight tasty servings of gourmet root beer and ice cream. $9 divided by eight is $1.13. $12 divided by eight is $1.50.

To us, $1.50 is a very fair price for a satisfying dessert. Sure, you’ll pay less if you get soft serve ice cream from McDonald’s, but we find that knowing what’s in our food and where it came from is worth the extra quarters.

Florida Cologne

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Today I took Henry to Native Nurseries to look around. It’s like taking him to a candy store. We test out the local lotions, dream about the luscious garden we hope to have someday, and stand salivating in front of the potted herbs and vegetables.

Amongst the lotions and soaps at Native Nurseries, Henry spied a bottle of Florida Spyce Cologne and sprayed it on the inside of his wrists. I didn’t think much of the scent while we were at the store, but 45min later at home the smell of Henry’s wrist made me melt!  We will be going back for a bottle of Florida Spyce this week, if not later today.

Before you run out and buy your own bottle, I do recommend going as a couple. Cologne is chemistry, and your spouse’s reaction to your scent will vary. I loved it on Henry, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for you! Nonetheless, I recommend checking it out. (Plus, it’s around $20 for a bottle – $40 cheaper than the French cologne I wanted to buy him!)