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Food

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: BRUNCH

July 29, 2015

brunch-square

The next Instagram Challenge theme is BRUNCH. As the August heat creeps and the season winds down, the best way to spend a lazy Sunday is undoubtedly to sit outside in the shade at your favorite brunch spot over eggs benedict, coffee, and a mimosa — or tucked away in bed with a tray of delicious food to pass that ‘not quite breakfast, not quite lunch’ time. Whether it’s more on the breakfast end of things or late enough to be lunch, we want to see what you’re brunching on this summer. While sharing your best shots of the weekend’s best meal, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the entries we’ve received so far.

Congratulations to @yichinglin for topping off our Farmers Markets Instagram Challenge with this sensational shot of a succulent sugarplum!

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s With Yankee Doodle & Macaroni?

July 27, 2015

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We’ve all heard the patriotic ditty about Yankee Doodle heading to town on his pony, sticking a feather in his hat, and calling it Macaroni. The first few things on his to do list sound pretty reasonable: Heading into town on a pony, sure. Sticking a feather in one’s hat, of course, how jaunty! It’s when Mr. Doodle opts to “call it Macaroni” that things get a little off base. Turns out this Macaroni business started as the original lyrical insult. Like a rap battle but with more waistcoats and tricorne hats.

The British soldiers came up with this verse to mock the rough, unsophisticated American colonials they had to fight alongside during the French and Indian War. The whole burn about calling a feather in your hat Macaroni (the very idea!) stemmed from a cultural trend back in England at the time. Young British men of means had begun spending time in Europe in order to become more sophisticated. They returned with outlandish, high fashion clothing and mannerisms, along with a taste for exotic Italian dishes—like macaroni. Now, back to Mr. Doodle. In their song, the soldiers were suggesting that the Yankee was such a bumbling bumpkin that he was trying to imitate the latest style, but failing miserably. That was something a doodle (a fool or simpleton) would do while trying to be a dandy—get it?!?! Being that this is a pretty lame and convoluted insult, the Americans weren’t bothered by it at all and started singing the song themselves. Now stick that in your pipe and call it macaroni.

Ravioli Rolling Pin | $34.99

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: FARMERS MARKETS

July 8, 2015

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The next Instagram Challenge theme is FARMERS MARKETS. With summer’s long awaited return comes the opening season for our favorite local outdoor markets. The trucks roll in – laden with delicious fruits and vegetables in radiant colors and intriguing shapes – the stands come up, and that sweet, farm-fresh smell fills the air. Whether it’s melon or strawberries, asparagus or eggplant, goat cheese or maple syrup, we want to see what locally sourced goodness is making its way to your table this summer. While sharing your best shots, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the entries we’ve received so far.

 

Congratulations to @2stixobutter for topping off our Summertime Instagram Challenge with this great shot of kayaks docked along the water!

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Trust Your Gut?

July 1, 2015

http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/molecular-gastronomy-kit-cuisine?utm_medium=social+networks&utm_source=twitter
Considering the fact that it’s connected to your brain by a nerve that handles all things “anxious feelings,” yeah. The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve,” has multiple branches that go from the brain’s cerebellum, lightly touches your heart, then finds it final destination at the lowest part of your abdomen—those gut feelings you get about a bad date or that questionable job offer. The vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the body’s organs to your brain, meaning gut instincts are literally emotional intuitions that are transferred up to your brain—jury’s still out on what happens when you have a bad feeling about something AND indigestion. That might call for a sick day.

Molecular Gastronomy Kit – Cuisine |$49.00 – 65.00

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Potato, Potahto, & Two More Potatoes (All Seasoned Differently!)

May 22, 2015

Louise Geller | UncommonGoods

 

Product: Potato Seasoning Set and Potato People

Research:
There is nothing more ubiquitous than the potato when it comes to filling the role of “starch” on a U.S. dinner plate. In fact, the average American eats over 140 pounds of potatoes per year! And yet, despite a centuries-old national love affair with potatoes, our most popular side dish often gets a bad rap, because so many of our 140+ pounds each come to us fried in oil, coated in preservatives, and slathered in fatty or sugary condiments. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When eaten with a more simple preparation (and with the skins left on!) potatoes are a great source of Vitamins C and B6, Potassium, Fiber, and Iron, and the complex carbohydrates are great for keeping your energy up.

I am a firm believer that food is at its most truly delicious when it is prepared simply and healthfully, so when I saw Julie Pederson’s Potato Seasoning Set I was immediately excited to take it for a test ride. Julie Pederson is wonderful at creating food and drink kits to help you explore new flavors and combinations, from herbal tea to baking salts. Since there are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes grown, and the kit has 12 different seasoning mixes, there are seemingly endless ways to play, create, and EAT! Who could resist?

Since I was already going to be playing with potatoes, I also wanted to try out our Potato People, a super fun set of potato nails that use the natural heat conducting power of metal to help potatoes cook faster on the grill or in the oven, and look hilarious while they are doing it.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Steve Reid and Judith Irving

April 30, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Steve Reid and Judith Irving, creators of our delectable Caramel Sauce Set.

Steve Reid and Judith Irving | Caramel Sauce Sets | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be makers?
Fat Toad Farm started out as an experiment in homesteading. As a family, we wanted to see how self-sufficient we could be. We began this adventure with some chickens, a garden, and hand-milking a lovely French Alpine doe named Jupiter in our garage. We slowly started to produce more milk than we could use as a family. At that point, my daughter Josey returned home from a five year stay in Mexico. She told us about a Mexican confection called “cajeta” (traditional name for goat’s milk caramel) that she said was very popular all over Mexico and that she had learned how to make. We made some small batches of it on our kitchen stove and it really was quite delicious! We gave some to our friends and family and it was a big hit. We soon realized that we had a really unique and delicious product on our hands and decided to take our “hobby” to the next level. Fast forward eight years and we are now milking 60 goats in a modern milking parlor, making our goat’s milk caramel sauce in our own commercial kitchen, and selling it to over 300 specialty food stores throughout the United States.

What was the most exciting thing about starting your own business?
We have always been excited and grateful to be able to working from our home, on our own farm, using our neighborhood land and working as a family. After years and years of “working out,” this has been a rare privilege. Being able to make decisions and seeing them being implemented from beginning until the end is also very exciting, and sometimes nerve wracking. The ability to make changes and improvements to our business rests solely on our shoulders which can be quite overwhelming and empowering at the same time.

What does your typical day at work look like?
On any given day you will catch Steve or Colene milking the goats early in the morning (6:00) and me [Judith] doing chores. Jenny and either Calley or Christine arrive at 7 to the caramel room Monday through Friday, to start the caramel production process. Jenny stays in there meticulously hand-stirring our velvety caramel sauce for about five hours in traditional copper kettles.

After morning chores are complete, you’ll find me printing off orders and labels at my computer and then preparing the days shipments from our “shipping center” at the back of our small farm store. Inside the farmhouse, Calley and Christine will be at the kitchen table, computers revved up, developing new marketing materials, products, and flavors, and generating all of our social media.

Midday, I do chores again, the caramel finishing team starts “bottling” the caramel until 3, I often do farm tours or handle basic financial work. By 4, the milking and chore team are back at it, the caramel team is done and wrapping up their administrative work. By 7 p.m., milking is done, the chickens are put to bed, the 2 baby goats that get bottles have been fed and everyone is off to whatever it is they are doing that evening to wind down. (Check out the video below to see everyone in action.)

 

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Walking around the farm you’ll see different kinds of toad figurines of all different colors, shapes, and sizes. In the beginning, when we were trying to think of a name for the farm, we had been walking through our fields and we kept finding these fat, healthy toads hopping as we walked along. Toads are a sign of a healthy ecosystem and fertile lands which we took as a good omen. That is when we became Fat Toad Farm. I think having real toads present as well as little trinkets, helps us remember how we started and how far we have come.

Caramel Corn Made with Fat Toad Farms Caramel

What are some of the things you’ve heard people say upon tasting your caramel creations for the first time?
“Oh my goodness!”
“I could just eat this straight out of the jar with a spoon.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my husband.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my wife.”
“This has no calories, right?”
“Mmmmmmmmmmm. Just one more taste…”
“Sweet, but not too sweet. Just right!”
“You can really taste the goat’s milk!”
“This is lick-the-spoon good.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can get through today.” Surprisingly, we heard the quote on NPR and we all initially just laughed. Once we really thought about it though, it stuck with us. Here on the farm, things can get pretty hard but we have realized you just have to find the light and continue to work towards it.

Caramel Sauce | UncommonGoods

Bring this Caramel Home!

Maker Stories

Kendyll Hillegas’ Food for Thought

March 31, 2015

In the grip of the snowiest winter on record for the Boston area, Kendyll Hillegas was illustrating a pink, soft serve ice cream cone in her Quincy, MA studio.

Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods

As an exercise of pure optimism, her subject makes sense: summer is just around the corner, despite the brutal, lingering winter endured by much of the country. But the singular delight of a popsicle in any season is just one of Kendyll’s creative obsessions. She lavishes equal aesthetic appreciation on herbs, fruits and vegetables, and baked goods—especially pie.

The Last Slice | Kendyll Hillegas

Much of her work celebrates the multi-sensory experience of food, from the simple comfort of golden, buttered toast to the elaborate artificiality of multicolored candy machines. Each of these portrait-like images is an exploration of subtle color and texture, but through these details also conveys a sense of taste, aroma, and even memory. For example, commenting on “Ice Pops,” one of her exclusive pieces for UncommonGoods, Kendyll invokes a time and place much warmer than snowbound Boston:

“I was inspired by childhood memories of warm afternoons spent playing in the sprinklers. After getting thoroughly wet, we’d sit in the sun in our swimsuits, drying off and eating ice pops. Growing up in Southern California, many childhood food memories have frozen treats in them…this is definitely a favorite.”

Ice Pops by Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods
Ice Pops | UncommonGoods

Like many artists, Kendyll strives for a more universal connection through her work, one that transcends her personal associations and speaks to something in others’ experience. When asked how she hopes people react when they receive her work, she invokes that universal connection:

“My hope is that the work that I make—while inspired and informed by my own narrative—would connect people with particular memories, moments and feelings of their own. Whether it’s nostalgia, wistfulness, laughter, or longing, it never ceases to amaze me how varied and powerful people’s responses can be to images of food.”

Kendyll's materials

It may not be a revelation that food brings people together, but Kendyll’s dedication to it goes beyond familiar foodie clichés. Take her love affair with pie: it began at 15, when she and a friend tested the “5 second rule” by eating the last remaining slice of pumpkin pie that had tragically fallen on the kitchen floor. The incident elevated pie to a symbol of friendship, silly spontaneity, and determination for the artist, who has been on an epic quest to make the perfect pie ever since—whether through colored pencil and gouache, or through flaky crust and sweet filling.

The Last Slice | Pie Painting by Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods

Going forward, Kendyll says she’s interested in creating images of people eating together and sharing meals, in addition to continuing her studies of food itself as a subject. Her aspiration is to stay connected with her growing portfolio of food work while simultaneously remaining open to approaching new subjects and trying new techniques.

See Kendy'll Collection!

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Adding a Tropical Twist with Gourmet Island Sugar

December 22, 2014

 

Louise Geller | UncommonGoods

Product: Gourmet Island Sugar Set

Research:

I hadn’t heard of Old Salt Merchants until I saw their product on the UncommonGoods website, but their adorable packaging and interesting flavors prompted me to take a closer look. A family-run business out of Seattle, Old Salt Merchants makes a point of sourcing fair trade sugar, keeping their products cleanly and simply made, and focusing on a small product line of the highest quality. These are all values I really appreciate, and as an avid home cook I’m always looking for new ingredients and ideas for my kitchen, so I knew I’d have fun using the Gourmet Island Sugar Set to develop a great meal.

AllSugars

Hypothesis:

Using the Lime Slice, Jamaican Ginger, Rum Soaked and Coconut Breeze sugars, I will develop a full meal where each dish includes one of the flavors. They will elevate my recipes and inspire me to try out new ideas.

Experiment:

My boyfriend Paco joined me in my quest to find interesting ways to use the four sugars. We went shopping on a Saturday afternoon and came home loaded up with ideas and ingredients.

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Lime Slice Sugar
We decided to start our evening with a cocktail. All four of these flavors could most certainly be used as cocktail ingredients and for delicious sugar rims, but we chose the Lime Slice sugar to try out with one of our favorite cocktails: the traditional Mojito. Paco muddled fresh mint and lime while I prepared a dish of the sugar and a bowl of water to line the rims of our cocktail glasses. The Lime Slice sugar is made with raw sugar, so the granules are large and have a great crunch. The lime adds a bit of acidity and a bit of bitterness – it’s not so delicious on its own, but I could tell when I taste tested it that it would add a lot as an ingredient.

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I can’t stand overly sweetened cocktails, so I liked the idea of a sugar rim that would allow me to control when I got a shot of sweetness and when my sips were more focused on booze and citrus. The raw sugar also added a textural element to the cocktail that we both found very pleasing. Our cocktails would have been delicious on their own, but the Lime Slice sugar rim definitely gave them a little something special. Although we were sitting on my couch and it was 39 degrees outside, I could have sworn we were poolside in Miami.

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After pre-dinner cocktails, it was time to get cooking! For the side dish to our meal, we decided to also use the Lime Slice sugar. It was autumn when we conducted the experiment, and that means brussel sprouts are everywhere. One of our favorite preparations for brussel sprouts is to sauté them in toasted sesame oil, then splash a bit of sriracha on top. This time, when they were almost done, we sprinkled on some Lime Slice sugar to temper the spice. The results were delectable – all the flavors married together with no one element overwhelming any of the others. We agreed that the Lime Slice sugar made a great addition to this dish, and I’m looking forward to making it many more times during brussel sprout season!

Lime2_Done

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Rum Soaked Sugar

There are many meats that work well with the use of sugar in glazes or marinades, but I definitely tend to think of pork products as standing up best to sweetness (eg pulled pork, maple bacon, glazed ham, spare ribs). The richness of the meat can hold its own next to a sugar-based topping. I generally don’t want to put too much sugar on my meat, but I thought a small amount of the Rum Soaked sugar would go a long way. A small taste test made it clear that “rum soaked” is an apt way to describe this sugar – it is obvious that there are no artificial flavors happening here. I mixed some garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper in with the sugar and rubbed it on both sides of the pork, then seared it on the stove before transferring to the oven (the best way to get a tender and juicy pork chop). As soon as the sugar started to caramelize, it was clear we were going to have some succulent pork chops on our hands. They were delicious – the rum blended fabulously with the other flavors, and the sweetness was present but not overwhelming. The chops were rich and juicy, and we made short work of them.

While I’m personally not a vegetarian, UncommonGoods is an animal-friendly company, so keep in mind that this recipe is my own. This sugar would also work well for vegetarian or vegan recipes, for those who don’t eat meat. Portobellos would make a good alternative to pork. Or, you  could also try this recipe with traditional meat substitutes like tofu.  The Rum Soaked sugar would also make nice glazed carrots.  Just remember that you’d need to add some oil or melted butter to the sugar and seasoning mixture for any of those, because they don’t have their own fat.

Rum_Done

Jamaican Ginger Sugar
The moment I saw the Jamaican Ginger sugar, I knew I had to pull out one of my favorite childhood recipes for chewy ginger and molasses cookies. The recipe calls for the cookie dough to be rolled into balls and then coated with granulated sugar before being baked. I figured this could only be improved by rolling them in sugar infused with the flavors of fresh ginger. The Jamaican Ginger sugar is also raw, so I knew there would be extra crunch on the cookies, which is a definite bonus in my book – I’m all about textural pairings, and crunchy + chewy is a winner. The ginger adds so much spice to the sugar that you can feel it in your sinuses when you taste it on its own. We were a little worried the flavors would be too strong, but we needn’t have been concerned – the cookie has enough sweetness of its own that the extra kick of ginger is nothing but a joy. This was a huge success, and I will soon be making these cookies again for the holidays!

Ginger_Done

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Coconut Breeze Sugar
It’s getting chilly in New York, so hot chocolate has been on my mind. I never buy hot chocolate mixes; I prefer to make my own using unsweetened cocoa powder and adding sugar (again, I’m a bit of a control freak about sweetness). I’ve always loved the combination of coconut and chocolate, so I thought it would be fun to replace the regular granulated sugar I would typically use with the Coconut Breeze sugar. I am calling it CocoCocoa (feel free to use that).

Coconut_Done

I usually use about a tablespoon and a half of cocoa and a tablespoon of sugar to make my hot chocolate, but this time I used a one to one ratio because I was worried about the chocolate overwhelming the coconut flavor. My dutch process cocoa powder packs a big punch, and I still only got a hint of coconut in the finished product. It was delicious, but I was hoping for a more balanced flavor. Next time, I will probably use the coconut breeze sugar to sweeten my fresh whipped cream – I think that will help the flavor stand out more.

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And of course, I can’t possibly enjoy cookies and hot chocolate without breaking out my UncommonGoods Face Mug!

FaceMug

Conclusion:

As I’d hoped, the Gourmet Island Sugar Set led us to a delicious meal that was outside the norm of what we’d usually make. We also came up with additional ideas for how to use the different flavors as we were working (lime sugar/sea salt margarita rim, ginger sugar with soy sauce and garlic as a beef marinade, and coconut sugar topping for banana nut muffins, to name a few). I felt good about using this product, knowing each flavor only had two ingredients, all the sugar was fairly traded, and that I was supporting a family-owned small business. I’m excited to use them again!

 

 

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