I love to cook. But during the week I rely on weekend leftovers, sandwiches, quick salads, and cans of this and that to creatively make quick healthy meals. The weekend is my time to embrace my love of made from scratch cooking – and typically, it’s not something elaborate I dream about cooking. It’s something purely simple – something that allows me to channel my obsessiveness into a specific craft: making a perfectly clear homemade chicken stock from leftover roast chicken bones or fresh naturally leavened sourdough.
This weekend, in between rounds of tilling my soil with leaves and compost, I was shuttling into my house to check on my fresh chicken broth and roasted pumpkin seeds – making sure the seeds didn’t burn and that the stock didn’t boil – all the while, making sure my three year old was safely climbing the pine tree in our backyard. After a few hours of this, I was exhausted and realized I hadn’t eaten much that day.
I ran out to my trusty chest freezer and grabbed an EVOL BIG 11 oz Spicy Steak Burrito. I realized I had some leftover Frontera Enchilada Sauce in my fridge (which we love), so I decided to microwave the burrito, then give it a quick pan-fry in a saute pan to crisp it up, and then top it with the leftover sauce. My wife Deborah realized we had some aging avocados so we whipped up some fresh guac too. The resulting pan-fried smothered burrito was just what the doctor ordered. Deborah and I shared it and I was re-fueled to finish my long day of yard work and cooking. And the roasted pumpkin seeds, homemade stock, and fresh bread were all delicious.
What’s the moral of the story? Go try a BIG EVOL Burrito! They are my favorites by far! Huge chunks of meat, lots of spice, and a size that will keep you from bonking on those long hectic weekends.
This past weekend I visited a friend in the middle of Missouri. I wanted to visit for two reasons: to connect with my friend and to learn more about Dancing Rabbit – an eco-village.
So what is an eco-village? Dancing Rabbit’s mission is to, “to encourage their sustainable society to grow to have the size and recognition necessary to have an influence on the global community by example, education, and research.” This video is a good introduction – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iobyEjlV9AM.
The first thing I noticed on my drive north from Saint Louis was that almost every farm I saw was either growing soybeans or corn. I have been learning (I am on a team that purchases the raw ingredients we use at EVOL) about how most of the processed food we eat comes mainly from corn and soy, but it really sank in during my drive. In my opinion, it is not sustainable to rely on only 2 crops – it is a hugely petroleum intensive system that requires lots of pesticides and makes processed, un-healthy food cheap. Nature tends to like diversity.
The endless sea of boring, never-ending corn and soybeans was a stark contrast to Dancing Rabbit. A few of the diverse things I experienced at Dancing Rabbit were:
Moving the “chicken tractor,” so that the chickens could naturally provide fertilizer in-between the rows of apple trees
Going to the neighbor’s organic dairy to drink the best milk I have ever tasted (and getting to pet a cow – one of my life goals!)
Watching a couple build their extremely thick roof that will have a garden to feed themselves on top of it
Listening to the calming whir of the windmill that powers most of the villages homes
Eating a freshly prepared meal of home-made hummus, hot sauce, and vegetables from the garden around the table with new friends
Having easily deep conversations with some of residents as everyone pitched in to clean up their community
While the community isn’t fully sustainable (their economy and food supply aren’t self sustaining yet, and they still rely on the outside world) they are doing many things that just felt better to me. I left my experience at Dancing Rabbit, feeling more connected to myself, others, and nature, and while I am not planning on moving tomorrow, I do look forward to incorporating more of the lifestyle into my everyday life.
I’ve just returned from a week in San Gimignano, Italy, and already, the food withdrawal is driving me mad! I need a heavy dose of basil right now!
Tuscany turned out to be an amazing and inspiring first trip to Europe for me. The Old World artistry exuded from every aspect of this renown region. Things are made to last (and leave a lasting impression).
Without a doubt, the food on this trip was a definite highlight. Every restaurant seemed to out-do the previous… this wasn’t competition, it was everyday life. Stand-out dishes included simple salads with reduced balsamic, lasagna made with crepes, gnocchi & fresh pesto, pizza rustica, rabbit and aged steak.
And the charm of the quaint villages with rolling fields of grapes, olives and wheat was so inviting. While the locals were extremely kind, gracious & helpful.
Sightseeing provided some exercise, and day trips to Rome, Florence and Pisa were unforgettable. Craftsmanship really stood out in the magnificent culture, and really instilled a passion & dedication for mastery.
From the detail in the duomos and basilicas, to the exquisite local vino e olio; and from meticulously-planted vigneti & oliveti to the aromatic odori in the Mercato Centrale, the knowledge and tradition from centuries of skill is distinct.
Those sensations and memories may be starting to fade, but that week has left a lasting impression. (My taste buds and) I will truly remember how much I really EVOL’d Tuscany. Tutte bene!
June 27th began like any other day in the life of burrito sales. The weather was hot, the burritos were delicious, and it just so happened to be bike to work day. I had no idea that by the end of this date in history I would win an entire case of Justin’s Nut Butter peanut butter cups by creating something fit for a Texan, perhaps even a king.
I have to go back a few weeks in time to make sense of all of this; I have to start from the beginning. Our sourcing department is constantly searching out new, premium ingredients for our existing and new products. This is what allows us to bring you such a high quality product for an affordable price. The process leaves the office with a LOT of ingredients that end up in the freezer. In order to use up these ingredients and make some room in the freezers the idea of a “creative plate-off” was conceived. The concept was simple, “How can you add to or change an existing EVOL product and cook it in a new and exciting way?” This was, at first, very hard for some of us to get our heads around. How could one possibly improve on perfection? For this reason the first attempt at a creative plate-off was a flop. No one around the office could figure out what to do, but the sourcing team was diligent. Salem and Allen knew that this idea was sound and that there was creativity around the office. They believed in us when no one else did.
One day after the flop, inspiration struck like lightning (the fire in Boulder was not started by this lightning). I had my idea and my idea was epic. I knew I had to get to work right away; the planning, logistics and implementation of this epic meal was going to take the full two weeks I had.
Let’s fast forward to June 27th. The day of the competition was upon us and four of us had come to play. No one knew (except for Scott) that we had procured a secret weapon the night before–a deep fryer. The rest of the office filed into the kitchen and the competition kicked off like a very boring episode of Chopped. Allen, our purchasing manager, was first up to the plate and what he brought to the table was delicious. Digging through the freezer, Allen came across some sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese. After googling how to make a 4 cheese pizza better, Allen discovered he could add a fifth cheese for mind blowing flavor. A little goat cheese here and sun dried tomatoes there and the Pizzeria Allen (please pronounce in a thick Italian accent) was born. Allen had a simple yet logical idea and often times simple is the way to go. Unfortunately simple couldn’t hold its own in a creative plate-off though the flavor was outstanding.
Next up was our Supply Chain Coordinator, Salem. Salem was the true mastermind behind this event and his concept exemplified his creativity in plating food. When I think of a baked potato my mind usually does not go to burrito, but if you source potatoes for burritos I could see how this idea made sense. Thus, the breakfast burritato was born. Salem painstakingly split a cooked breakfast burrito down the middle, making sure to uphold the integrity of our delicious tortillas. After the burrito had a cavity for goodness the goodness came. Salem loaded the already breathtaking burrito with sour cream, chives and bacon. The sight of this made me tremble. “Was my idea good enough…?” I questioned to myself.
There was one more contestant before it was my time; one more creation to get through before I could unleash the kraken. My secret weapon warmed silently in the corner and the smell of hot oil wafted through the air. I began to sweat, I think mostly due to the hot smelly oil, but also because of what Scott did next. From out of nowhere Scott, our associate brand manager, approached the hot oil and plopped in his bacon wrapped turbo breakfast bomb, “The Heart Attack”. How could he do this to me? How could Scott utilize the resource I brought in in order to usurp me? My emotions ran wild as the burrito boiled in the hot oil, crisping the hickory smoked bacon and toasting the burrito like a chimichanga. Once the burrito was done Scott had the audacity to cut a fresh avocado and gingerly lay it across the top. Needless to say, the burrito was delicious. Who doesn’t like bacon, sausage and fried? I was scared but there was nothing I could do but wipe the sweat from my brow and step up. It was time to see if weeks of planning had paid off.
The Kraken: A mythical beast so fierce it took a demigod to put down. The Kraken was the inspiration for the EVOL creation I had masterminded. Nothing could beat this, not bacon, not burritatos, not pizza. It would take a demigod and fortunately for me, there were none in the office this day. I approached the hot oil and stood before my ingredients. The Earth trembled a bit as I began to cut a pizza to size; trimming off the edges to shape it more to a square. Meanwhile a beef burrito spent some time in the microwave, just enough to get it warm. I took the burrito and carefully wrapped the 4 cheese pizza around it, securing it with skewers. The Earth trembled yet again as I pulled a flour mixture and a beer from my bag. The crowd gasped as I cracked the beer (rest assured it was not to calm the nerves). It was a necessary component for the beer batter the monster was about to bathe in. I fully submerged the beast in the batter; making sure to fill every possible crack with the glorious liquid then dunked it into the fiery pool of bubbling oil. After about 6 minutes the room began to shake violently and the lid exploded from the fryer (not really…). The Kraken arose.
I had not done a test run, the planning phase left no time. Thankfully my precise calculations were correct. The Kraken was born and the taste was outstanding. There were layers of crispy, layers of cheese, and a core of delicious Niman beef core in our shredded beef burrito. The office slayed the beast and voting ensued. After careful deliberation by at least 10 voters it was time to tally the count; the Kraken had taken the cake, or should I say, cups. Who would have thought that such an insane creation could be so delicious? Me, that’s who.
Where do I start – the beautiful landscape of a family owned farm, the passionate discussion about sustainability, the amazing chef created meals, or the rocking 80’s band? This past weekend I got the privilege of attending the Niman Ranch retreat in Boise, ID along with several other members of our EVOL team. It was a great chance to get to know one of our key suppliers, and we liked what we found.
Niman Ranch is a co-op of over 700 family farms and they have high standards for their animals. The animals are never given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal by-products, but we also found that the cows spend most of their lives grazing on open pasture and they are truly treated in a humane way. My favorite part of the whole weekend was getting a chance to talk directly to the farmer. The family is made up of 4th, 5th, and 6th generation (some pretty cute kids) farmers who truly care for the land and their animals. An interesting moment came when they were asked how their farm was sustainable, and the crowd of city slickers were confused when the family only responded by talking about their economic ability to last 6 generations. The fact is that they have to care for the land and their animals to be able to survive 6 generations, however, they are more proud that they have been able to thrive during the ups and downs of the commodity beef market. They had always had a quality product, but partnering with Niman Ranch has allowed them to reap the rewards for the extra care and effort they put into raising their cows. Visiting the farm was a great insight into how choosing quality ingredient partners is better for everybody – the farmers, the land, and the taste of our products.
We also got to attend an insightful conference on Saturday where we passionately tried to define sustainability (not an easy task, but the definition I liked the most was, “sustainable means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. We were also treated to a lunch that was created by local chefs using Niman products, and ended the night rocking out to a memorable 80’s cover band.
The weekend made me proud to say we use Niman Ranch products, and gave me a deeper gratitude for the care and hard work that goes into our ingredients.