The New Header
"Irrigating is the brush stroke for what becomes the winter painting of two young men loading hay... words well-stacked, tied down and later scattered over the earth
are a poem...
-- Southern Colorado poet Aaron A. Abeyta

Bundle up for the Super Bowl Feb. 7!
For the second time in two years, the Denver Broncos are in the Super Bowl, and Ranch Foods Direct is celebrating with a special Super Bowl 50 Burgers and Brats Bundle.
Each bundle is only $104.99 and contains the following:
1 - 15 lb. case of quarter-pound hamburger patties
5 - 1 lb. packages of local favorite Bristol Beer Brats

Try this Super Bowl worthy recipe from the Colorado Proud promotional program....

CLICK HERE for a Colorado Proud recipe for Skillet Buffalo Queso Fundido...
made with thick cut applewood bacon, cheeses, beer and ground buffalo. It's perfectly fine to substitute ground hamburger meat or hot Italian sausage for the buffalo,
if that's more to your liking. 
Coming to Ranch Foods Direct in February
Sweetheart steaks (heart-shaped rib-eyes); assorted seasonal in-house breads and pastries; Mountain Pie Co. hand pies; Valentine chocolates from Radiantly Raw; and more.

Plus, get ready for the new and improved RFD store, set to open later this month at 1228 E. Fillmore!

Where do you go for fresh ideas?    
Local urban homesteader shares favorite recipes and cooking resources and says keeping chickens makes her feel grounded

Bonnie Simon is an intrepid urban homesteader, teaches food preservation classes, promotes local businesses on her Hungry Chicken Homestead blog, and served as marketing manager for the Colorado Farm and Art Market. She is famously enamored of her backyard chickens, which give her endless amusing anecdotes to write about on her blog. Here, she reveals how a life-long love of vegetables eventually inspired her to ditch the corporate world in favor of promoting local food and agri-tourism businesses. Read her articles on-line at HungryChickenHomestead.com.

Q. What are some of the earliest and best food memories from your childhood?
Peas! My favorite food memory from childhood is peas. Frozen green peas right out of the bag. My mother tells a story about when I was three years old and she told me I could have anything I wanted to eat for my birthday and I said I wanted a bowl of green peas. And that's what I got. To this day, on a hot day, I will eat peas right out of the bag.
Q. Do you have other early impressions of special regional or cultural foods?
For me it's Jewish foods. I remember potato pancakes on Hanukkah, which I still make. My mother and I have a debate about this: she likes them all blended up with no chunks of potato in it. I like them shredded and very potato-y.
Actually there are lots of Jewish holidays, and there's always some special food to go along with them: homemade donuts, potato pancakes or challah, always something.
Q. What drew you to urban homesteading and food preservation? Do you have farming or gardening in your background?
I grew up in the suburbs. But there's something about the chickens and knowing how to do things for myself that somehow makes me feel more grounded. I feel more comfortable knowing how to produce my own food. There was a thing in the paper one time: could you survive in your house for three days if the grocery stores were all closed? I could survive for three days in my garage if I got locked in there, because there's enough food to eat and there's water (for the chickens) too.
I've always felt this way. I just never had the chance to act on it until recently. I always did crafty things, but never had a chance to raise food before.
I got my chickens in 2010. I got four chickens and I have never paid for another chicken since then because everybody just gives me chickens now.
Q. Imagine you can have your choice of any gift or special dinner for Valentine's Day, what would it be?
A half a beef and another freezer! What else could anybody want? (CLICK HERE to learn about how you can team up and buy part of a cow or pig using the cow-pool or pig-pool option.)
Q. What would you most like to see come out of the new downtown Public Market project?
I'm not sure what the plans are, but if I were making a market, my goal would be to bring a lot of awareness about how much local food we have here in Colorado Springs, which people don't necessarily know. Colorado has a lot of farms. There's a lot of food available - seasonally, of course. A lot of times people want to do the right thing, they want to buy local food, but they don't want to do a lot of research to find out where it is. I would love to see the public market become the place that people go to when they want to buy local food. That would be fantastic.
"There are so many interesting foods. There are like 18,000 vegetables and we eat only a small fraction of them."
- Bonnie Simon of Hungry Chicken Homestead 
Q. Where do you go to find new recipes (chefs, cookbooks, blogs, etc.)?
The sites I like are Epicurus.com and Food.com, the ones that are run by chefs, because the recipes work. My absolute favorite is Cook's Country. It's a magazine. What they do is they say, "we ate a wonderful hamburger with an avocado at so-and-such-a-place and we wanted to recreate the recipe," so over and over they make the recipe until they get it right. You get food science explanations and you can see how they treat the ingredients to make it turn out differently. I've learned a lot from that magazine. That's how I learned to cook meat, and how to cook fish in banana leaves, and how to make a pie crust by putting vodka in it. The vodka evaporates; you basically get the same crust but you don't have to stir it so much so it doesn't get tough.
Q. Any great new recipes you've come across lately?
In the winter, we like to turn on the oven at my house but something like baked potatoes take a long time to get done. So I had six baked potatoes in my refrigerator that were kind of shriveled up; they were still fine, but just didn't look very appetizing. So I used them to make the crust for a shepherd's pie.
I happened to be on the King Arthur Flour website recently and I saw a recipe for chocolate cake. It was a vegan recipe from World War II. No eggs, no dairy, because those things were rationed at the time. They had another section on the site about how to adjust for high altitudes: chocolate cakes are hard to make at this altitude because the air pressure's so low that they over-rise and then they collapse. I modified the recipe, using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and then used less sugar so it's less sweet and more chocolate-y. Apparently, if you reduce the sugar in a high altitude recipe, that step improves the texture. So I just reduced it more than I needed to. And it has espresso powder in it, which also makes it much chocolatier. It came out perfect! You can also add a frosting made from chocolate chips and coffee. It's not for kids; it's a grown-up dessert. (CLICK HERE for Bonnie's WWII Era Chocolate Cake recipe at the Hungry Chicken Homestead blog.)
Another tip from Bonnie: Go for the dried beans
In one of her blog posts, Bonnie Simon notes that dried beans are getting harder to find as many shoppers forego the real deal in favor of the precooked and canned kind. The New York Times food section ran its own story on the topic recently, entitled: "Cooking Beans at Home, Leaving the Can Behind." In that article, Melissa Clark observes that "canned beans are never going to be as good as home-cooked dried beans, no matter how many seasonings you add to your pot." She adds, "They are fine in a pinch but never transcendent."
Lucky for us, Colorado produces several types of beans, and they are available at the RFD store.
For Bonnie's Crockpot Minestrone recipe (on the Hungry Chicken Homestead blog) CLICK HERE
Kicking it up a notch 
There's a new sauce in town...
Justin Chinchen, shown at right in photo above sampling sauce with his brother Josh, creates complex barbecue sauces that partner well with Callicrate meats, including brisket, pork ribs or even baked Alaskan salmon.

ON WHAT MAKES HIS PRODUCT UNIQUE: Most commercial sauces are what Justin calls "dump-and-runs:" everything is poured into a vat, brought up to temp and bottled. At his Redlaw Barbecue, the sauces are small batch made and chef-driven. "The way we do it is more like preparing sauces on the stove, so you end up with a lot more layers of flavor. And we use dry fruits for our sweeteners, which lowers our sugar content, as well as agave, pomegranate juice and other alternative sweeteners."
High fructose corn syrup is on their outlaw list. "We don't allow it in our processing facility. A lot of times it's used to cut costs, but look at the adverse effects it has on our economy and our kids! More companies are realizing they don't have to use it. There's an amazing movement that's happening right now in this area, and we just want to keep it growing. The more people support this trend, the more affordable it will get."
THE BACKSTORY: Before moving to Golden, Colo., Justin worked on a horse ranch in California, and once a week, for extra rent money, he'd cook dinner for the ranch owners. On the day he made whiskey tart cherry ribs, he heard the words that have launched many an artisan food business: "You should bottle this stuff." The resulting whiskey sweet cherry sauce became the original sauce in his line-up. When Stan Walder, the owner of the ranch, later died unexpectedly of a massive aneurysm, Justin sought permission from his wife to name his own company Redlaw in honor of the Redlaw Ranch where the story of the sauce first began.
THE SAUCES: Ranch Foods Direct carries Justin's whiskey sweet cherry and blueberry pomegranate Redlaw barbecue sauces.
Of the whiskey sweet cherry, Justin says, "There's a very special technique to it. There's a shot of bourbon in every bottle." The mixture includes ingredients like caramelized onions and garlic and mustard seeds that are carefully cooked down over a long period of time to create dense, rich flavors.
"The blackberry pomegranate is actually something we developed for the holidays," he adds. "It has a subtle cinnamon finish. We wanted to have a holiday barbecue option that would go well with turkey, ham and duck. It also works great as a regular sauce for brisket and short ribs."
While the popular option is to glaze meats on the barbecue grill, Justin prefers to serve the sauces on the side for dipping: "I'll make a nice steak, with salt and pepper, and then dip the steak in it." Justin also uses them on salmon: "After searing the salmon filet in a pan, I'll put a little layer of barbecue sauce on it and finish it in the oven," he says. Ranch Foods Direct has sampled it on St. Louis-style pork short ribs, with outstanding results.
WHAT'S NEXT: Justin has started providing co-packing services to other artisan food businesses, much the way Ranch Foods Direct provides packaging and labeling for small ranchers who want to get their own products out into the marketplace.
"We joke that we have a one-gallon minimum," Justin says. "We're kind of a bridge, that's how we look at ourselves. It's hard for a ma-and-pa-business working out of a local commissary to take that leap to the next level. Here, they can do a 50-gallon run and scale up slowly. We're really opening this thing up for a lot of people who want to start new food companies. There are just no resources out there to help them, so we simplify the process and provide all the services they need at an affordable price."
Justin also provides commercial canning services for small organic farms in Colorado.
"Our motto is go little or go home. For businesses that are small and locally focused, there's no one out there doing what we're doing. We help them scale up while sticking to their core values and staying true to where they started from."
Pick up some Redlaw barbecue sauce when you shop the store and check out the savings on a wide assortment of Callicrate beef and pork bundles! Buy in bulk and save.
It's intense. It's comprehensive. It's one time only...
CLICK THE PIC for details.