Plus, an introduction to Meg Wittenmyer at Bifrost Farms
When you delve into the world of herbs, wonderful transformations are set in motion that can alter your entire kitchen experience. Like anything worthwhile, there is a learning curve with herbs. The home cousine experience is exponentially enhanced as we gain knowledge of how to harvest, prepare, use and store the many flavor-enhancing plants of the world. Having come from a family that seldom used more than “seasoning salt” and occasionally some black pepper, my flavor world was opened up when I started gardening and gradually incorporating herbs into my weekly cooking. Salt and pepper are still staples in my kitchen and have their place in the front row of my spice rack, but they have since been joined by dozens of herbs and spices. Not only do I have separate storage for my herbs (mostly grown by me) and spices (mostly purchased since many do not grow in our climate), but they are alphabetized to make them easy to locate in the throes of wild cooking adventures. It doesn’t stop there, however… I also have an entire cabinet for overflow. Half pints and even pints of last year’s harvested sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, lovage, mint, dill, etc., to re-fill spice jars all year long. Those little bottles on the counter don’t last very long when you cook with herbs generously, and daily!
If you are just starting your journey with herbs, or are feeling the need expand your repertoire, my suggestion is to focus on just one or two herbs at a time. It’s key to really know the flavors and uses of your herbs before moving on to creating complex pallets of culinary seasoning. Also, toss out any pre-conceived notions you have about herbs. Let experimentation guide you to your own conclusions about what tastes good.
Oregano is a great place to start. Oregano is versatile and easy to work with. You almost can’t go wrong with it. Like most herbs, it can be dried by creating a bunch and hanging with twine. Also, like nearly all herbs, the leaves are the most flavorful and palatable part, so once they are dry you can rub them between your palms to break them from the stems. After separating, I discard the stems, as they can be unpleasantly tough, and rub the leaves again, making a circular motion with my palms to reduce them to a finer texture. I then store them in glass jars and label them, making sure to include the date. Try sprinkling oregano on eggs, fried potatoes, on pizza or pasta, and in chili. The more you cook with it, the more comfortable you will become with it’s flavor and – if you’re anything like me – start to use greater and greater quantities for stronger flavor.
With the exception of cilantro, which loses much of it’s flavor when dried, most standard kitchen herbs can be dried and stored as described above. Cilantro butter is a better way to store un-used cilantro, and can be easily made by finely chopping your cilantro, mixing with room-temp butter and refrigerating, (or freezing in ice cube trays), for later use. A little lime juice adds a nice touch.
Don’t let those herbs go to waste! Just hang anything you can’t get to with thread or twine out of direct sunlight for 1-3 weeks. You can even hang it with a paper bag around it to accelerate drying time and prevent mess when untying – or – if you have a gas oven, spread herbs on the oven rack or cookie sheet and crack the oven door. The pilot light is usually enough to dry herbs in 1-3 days.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments. I’m always happy to advise.
Meet Meg Wittenmyer, goat-lover and cheesemaker, extraordinaire!
I met Meg Wittenmyer nearly three years ago when she was seeking some help on her Boyceville farmstead, and have since had many opportunities to visit her and her sweet goats. I am not overexaggerating when I say that Meg produces the best goat cheese I have ever had, and that sentiment has been echoing throughout Western Wisconsin as more and more restaurants and establishments pick up her product. Aside from her commitment to crafting quality cheese, Meg is fully committed to the highest quality care for her herd and their wellbeing. Her Animal Welfare Approved label is just one more step she’s taken to offer peace of mind to those who enjoy her delicious cheese! This is what she had to say about her farm.
“Did you know that Bifrost Farms is the ONLY Farmstead goat creamery in western WI? Not only that, but we have the distinction of being labeled a micro-creamery. Not as fancy as it sounds, but we still manage to produce some of the best fresh goat cheeses you’ve ever had.
Bifrost Farms is Meg & Joel Wittenmyer, along with their four Great Danes, a slew of boarding dogs at any given time, and a small herd of Miniature Nubian and LaMancha dairy goats. Most people don’t know that when you say “Farmstead Creamery,” that means that everything is produced on one farm. From kids, to milk, to cheese, it’s all made here on our 20 acres in Boyceville, WI. The girls, which we call our partners, produce the sweetest milk we’ve ever tasted. If you’ve ever had “goaty” goat cheese, and been turned off by it, please try ours.
New this year, Bifrost Farms is adding an aging room so we can add delicious semi-hard and bloomy rind cheeses to our repertoire. Look for those coming in the fall of 2019. And don’t forget, when you support our locally owned and operated creamery, you are also supporting a farm that is certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World. That is the highest humane inspection available.”
Besides Local Choice CSA, you can find Bifrost Farms goat cheese at the Menomonie Market Co-op and Raw Deal in Downtown Menomonie, Farm Table Restaurant in Amery, Red Stag Supper Club, Linden Hills Co-op and The Wedge in Minneapolis, Just Local Food and Locavore Mobile Kitchen in Eau Claire and Riverview Market in Stillwater.
Local Choice CSA week 3 share includes:
Essence Homestead – Chives and Mint
Bifrost Farms – plain chevre
Hexagon Projects Farm – Beets, collard greens, kohlrabi, salad turnips and salad mix
Valley Pasture Farm – ½ chicken, pork sausage links and eggs
Towering Heights Farm – Beef ring bologna
Winnowburrow Farm – Cilantro and Japanese Giant mustard greens
This week’s meal plans are brought to you by Meg Wittenmyer of Bifrost Farms!
Meal 1: Crustless Spinach and Sausage Quiche w/Dill Pea Salad
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (optional)
8 ounces chopped pork breakfast sausage
7 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cheese of choice
1 cup spinach
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large oven-safe pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until soft. Remove and set aside.
Add sausage to the pan and cook until no longer pink. Drain any excess grease. Add the sausage and onions back to the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and spinach.
Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture in the pan. Mix to combine evenly.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until egg is no longer runny in the center.
Pea Salad Instructions (may be made in advance)
16-20 oz peas
1 cup sour cream
1 T. dill
1 tsp. curry powder to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
In a bowl, mix together sour cream, dill, chives, curry powder, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully combine with peas.
Chill and serve on a bed of crisp salad greens. Garnish with more dill or
chives, if desired.
Meal 2: Parmesan Chicken & Broccoli w/ Beet & Kohlrabi Slaw
Chicken & Broccoli Instructions
2 cups broccoli florets
½ chicken cut into small pieces (boned or not)
2 T. olive oil
½ cup Panko bread crumbs or gluten-free breadcrumbs
½ cup + 1 T. Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. mix of basil, oregano and parsley (or whatever herbs you have around)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste
Preheat oven to 425° F. and line a rimmed sheet pan with foil. Place the broccoli in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
In a resealable freezer bag add the panko, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and spices. Seal the bag and shake to combine. In a shallow dish whisk together the egg with a tablespoon of water or milk. Add the seasoned chicken to the dish and coat them in the egg mixture. Remove the chicken pieces from the dish and into the freezer bag. Shake to coat them in the panko mixture.
Place the chicken onto the sheet pan and place it into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes then flip the chicken and add the broccoli. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the broccoli with the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. May be served with a side of Marinera sauce.
Beet & Kohlrabi Slaw Instructions
1 large kohlrabi – peeled and finely shredded
2 medium raw beets – peeled an finely shredded
2 tbsp parsley – minced
2 green onions – chopped
1 orange – juiced
1 orange – zested
1 lime – juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper – to taste
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds (or pine nuts)
Chevre Cheese – omit for vegan/dairy-free
Place the shredded kohlrabi, shredded beets, parsley, and green onion in a large salad bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the orange zest, the orange and lime juice, olive oil and salt + pepper. Gently drizzle citrus dressing over the salad and toss to mix.
Sprinkle the salad with toasted sunflower seeds or nuts, and crumbled cheese.
Bonus Snack: Collard Green Chips & Beef Ring Bologna (The perfect Keto snack!)
Wash and dry the collard leaves, and then break them apart from the stem into 3-inch pieces. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on the baking sheets, leaving a small space between each leaf.
Sprinkle with garlic (and any additional spices you choose), and then bake the leaves for 6 minutes. Then, pull the pan out of the oven and flip the leaves. I used my hands to flip them but tongs or a spatula will work.
Bake them for another 6 minutes or until crispy. They cook quickly and then start to shrivel up and turn brown, so do not overcook. The more oil on them, the faster they brown.
Store extras in a plastic or paper bag for up to 3 days.
Munch these delicious chips with slices of the no-chemicals added ring bologna from your share.
Additional recipe suggestion by Bonnie Warndahl of Winnowburrow Farm – Spicy Mustard Green pesto: https://nourishedkitchen.com/spicy-mustard-green-pesto/
Dig deeper into nutrition with Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Pork, Chicken and Eggs: The pork, chicken, and eggs in your share come from Valley Pasture Farm. Valley Pasture raises their pork and chicken on pasture without any corn or soy added to their diets
As far back as 1965, studies have shown that raising pigs on pasture not only eliminates the lameness problem of pigs raised in confinement on concrete floors, but also produces pork that is firmer, more flavorful and juicy, has more vitamin E and more omega-3 fatty acid.
Tests have shown that meat from chickens raised on pasture had 21% less overall fat, 30 % less saturated fat and 28% fewer calories. The breast meat was so lean that it qualified for the USDA designation of “fat-free”. Tests have also shown the eggs from free-ranging chickens had 34% less cholesterol (160 mg compared to the customary 214 mg).
Beets: Beets are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, boron, and beta carotene. They are sweet because of their high sugar content, but they are low in calories (about 50 calories per cup), and have a surprisingly low impact on your blood sugar. Besides being one of the healthiest of our commonly eaten vegetables, beets have a very interesting history.
People started out eating only the leaves—much like Swiss chard—and throwing out the roots. Now they eat mostly the roots, and toss the leaves.
During the time of the Roman Empire, beet roots were used medicinally and as an aphrodisiac. The red light district was identified by the rows of beet roots painted on the walls of the brothels. Actually, beets may well have aphrodisiac properties. They are rich in boron which studies have shown to markedly elevate testosterone production in humans. Could they be a “Veggie Viagra”?
In the 1990’s, it was discovered that beet roots have nine times the antioxidants than the typical red tomato and fifty times more than orange carrots. Beet leaves have even more antioxidants than the leaves. The Betalains that give beets their red color are proving to be good cancer fighters. A study in 2009 found that beet juice blocked the proliferation of human cancer cells of the pancreas, stomach, prostate, lungs, and brain by 85-100%.
Beets enhance athletic performance. British studies have found that people could exercise 15% longer when given a glass of beet juice to drink before exercising and run faster when served beets instead of other vegetables for several days. “Motivated by these findings, a number of British athletes who competed in the summer Olympics, drank beet juice rather than Gatorade before their events, including Mohamed (Mo) Farah who won the gold medal for the men’s 5- and 10-kilometer races.”
Eating beets can turn your urine and stools red if you lack the specific genes that result in the breakdown of the red pigments in beets. “Beeturia” is a harmless condition that goes away a few days after eating the beets, but, FYI, parents, a college friend of mine told me he used to swipe a jar of beets from the cellar to eat, when he wanted his mother to keep him out of school. She thought he had a urinary tract infection.
Sadly, a lot of people don’t like beets because they contain geosmin. Neither harmful nor beneficial to your health, geosmin has an earthy odor and flavor that some people are very sensitive to. One of the earliest known cookbooks (written in the first century AD) recommends serving boiled beets with a dressing of mustard, oil, and vinegar. This is pretty much the same thing recommended today to mask the geosmin flavor.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check back next week for new recipes and other great farm and food info!