Monday, January 23, 2017

Got to be NC Beef Hearty Chili - Summerfield Farms Farm Tour

This is a sponsored post on behalf of the North Carolina Department
of Agriculture and Consumer Services. I was compensated and received
delicious beef in exchange for sharing my experience at Summerfield Farms
But really, I woulda done it for free! Before we chit-chat about the awesomeness of
grass-fed Beef and the ah-mazing team at Summerfield Farms, I want to thank
my blog-buddy, Jenni Field for inviting me to participate in this campaign and for
all she did to keep me and my fellow bloggers mooooooving in the right direction!
Let me tell you... Summerfield Farms is a treasure that is located practically
in my own backyard. Not only does Summerfield Farms produce top-quality
grass-fed beef, they have successfully monetized this working farm so that it has
become the go-to spot for surrounding communities hungry for locally grown
and produced food as well as agra-social events. It is the opinion of this blogger
and recent guest of Summerfield Farms that owner David Couch and his team
have nailed the concept of farm-to-fork in a very unique and comprehensive way!
Meet Sky... She and Daniel Johnson, Farm Facilities and Operations
Manager at Summerfield Farms were my hosts for this farm tour!
Although he's been at Summerfield Farms less than a year, Daniel spoke
about the animals, this land and their facilities as if he had been born there...
In fact, Daniel is a native of coastal North Carolina; born and raised in
Elizabeth City, he received his bachelor's degree from Western Carolina and
earned his Master's in Sustainable Tourism at Eastern Carolina University. He
told me Summerfield Farms is 660 acres with 120 acres currently reserved
for grazing. Daniel explained the science behind and, the seriousness with which Summerfield Farms approaches the health of not only their herd but also the
pastureland and organic gardens, which produce nutrient-dense food sold to area
restaurants and a community following that is loyal to SF's on-site Market!
I know grass-fed beef is often said to be less tender and more gamey
tasting; however, that's not the case with the grass-fed beef produced at
Summerfield Farms. While other producers supplement the diet of their
cattle with grain or other non-grass product during the finishing stage,
the steers at Summerfield Farms are 100% grass-fed. Also, Summerfield
Farms doesn't rush its beef. While other producers rush their animals to
slaughter, Summerfield Farms is content keeping their herd grazing to
1,200 pounds and not an ounce less. Daniel said it and I whole-heartedly
agree; the way animals are treated, the level of stress endured during their
lives and how they are handled all directly affects the way the meat tastes...
And, judging by the docile nature of these happy, laid-back
cows, there's no doubt at all that Summerfield Farms is producing
only the most delicious and most tender 100% grass-fed beef!
Speaking of docile and sweet... Meet Preacher! Preacher is a darling and he
is the lead steer at Summerfield Farms. Part of the first lot purchased by
Summerfield Farms, Preacher's earned his position due to his reliability
in guiding new livestock to fresh pastures, which is a requirement of the
farm's intensive grazing plan. With a deeply gentle nature, Preacher is so
named for the counsel and comfort he provides his peers during and on the
last night of their stay at Summerfield Farms. Preacher will live out his natural
life on these gentle rolling hills, so do feel free to pop by to see him! He even
has his own blend of coffee that is sold at the Summerfield Farms Market...
While I don't drink coffee, I couldn't help but buy some to send to our son!
These Photos in Collage Courtesy of Summerfield Farms
Part of the monetization of this farm I referred to earlier comes from the
tremendous effort Summerfield Farms makes to providing spectacular
venues for corporate and community events, family reunions and high-end
farm weddings. Summerfield Farms prides itself on being a working farm
that is also a destination. And, again, from what I saw... They have it nailed!
These Photos in Collage Courtesy of Summerfield Farms
See what I mean? Summerfield Farms is committed to healthy living, even
offering Yoga classes at the barn! Summerfield Farms passionately believes that
healthy eating is medicine and therefore the key to wellness... This goes for the
animals they raise, the soil they manage and food they produce for you and me!
Summerfield Farms recently listed one of their cottages at Airbnb for anyone
seeking to get away from it all and experience life on a picturesque cattle farm...
These Photos in Collage Courtesy of Summerfield Farms
A picturesque cattle farm with its own full-service Market, featuring locally produced
and sourced meats, cheeses, produce, beverages and Summerfield Farms gift items too!
To learn more about Summerfield Farms and the many community events
they host throughout the year, visit the events page at their website here
These Collage Photos Courtesy of Summerfield Farms
As you can see, I truly enjoyed my tour and cannot thank Daniel
enough for his time and the effort he and the whole Summerfield
Farms team put into making my tour the best farm tour, ever!
So, I bet you're wondering... Where's the beef?
Here it is! In addition to the stew meat Summerfield Farms provided to help
make this the best pot of chili I have ever made, I also picked up a Ribeye to
prepare on the grill later this week while my kitchen is under construction...
Oh, yes... There was a flood at Casa Captain's Daughter over the
holidays; so as of this morning, the hardwood flooring is being replaced!
But more on that in a another blog post later! Right now...
It is time to put all of this beautiful Summerfield Farms 100%
grass-fed beef to work in an easy-to-throw together, hearty chili!
Over medium-high heat, cook three crushed cloves of garlic, five stalks celery, sliced
and one whole, chopped white onion in four tablespoons olive oil until tender...
Transfer cooked garlic/veg to a plate and add two tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil to the same pan. When oil is hot, add stew meat and season liberally
with coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Brown beef on all sides...
After beef is browned, add garlic/veg mixture and cook an additional five minutes...
Add two cans diced tomatoes with juice...
Cook over medium heat for ten minutes, then add your favorite beans. I always
use a mix of pinto, black and kidney beans for added depth of flavor and texture
Add spices to your liking... I prefer a blend of cumin, paprika and oregano. Stir
to combine spices and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow chili to cook for two
hours (or until stew meat is fork-tender); stirring every thirty minutes or so...
My guy loves my chili dressed up with a dollop of
cool sour cream, diced tomatoes and sliced avocado!
And, fresh-baked sweet cornbread slathered
in unsalted butter and drizzled with local honey!
To learn more about Agriculture in North Carolina, click here
To learn how to support local growers all throughout North Carolina
and where to buy their products, visit the Got to be NC website here
Hungry for more delicious Beef Recipes? Then I invite you to check out
these posts by my fellow bloggers who also participated in this campaign!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Alaska Cruise Vacation - Day at Sea with a View of The Hubbard Glacier!

So what did you think of our tour of Skagway, the Alaskan Sled-Dog
camp and trip aboard the White Pass Railway I shared in my last post?
Pretty cool, huh? Well, if you think that was cool, you're going to love
this day at sea, with viewing of The Hubbard Glacier, because...
This ice is all about the cool! In fact, it was all about the COLD when I arrived
to my favorite spot on the boat at 6:30AM. I was up and out early, to ensure I
had a front row seat to take in this tidewater glacier, located roughly 200 miles
northwest of Juneau. But before I show you Hubbard Glacier - I have to tell you
about a guy I met - Seemed that every time I popped up to this deck, he was there!

No matter what time of day or night, we always seemed to get here at the same
time! After a little small-talk and a few offers exchanged to take photos of each
other against the scenic Alaskan backdrop, we finally struck up a conversation
where I learned that he and his husband were cruising Alaska with his in-laws,
who had already made this trip - Which is why he always seemed to be taking in
the sights alone. Of course, I could totally relate because my better-half was not
as willing as I was to run up to this deck every five minutes to check out how the
scenery may have changed since the last time we were there. Or, to scope the sea
for whales, which is something I did constantly! So, without further ado, I would
like to introduce you to my new friend, Chris who happens to be from Houston!
Chris is a great guy and we really hit it off... Mostly because
he appreciates cruise-people watching as much as I do!

The plan for this day at sea (referred to as, cruising) was to arrive
at Hubbard Glacier at 7AM and idle the ship in front of it for roughly
four hours, so as to give everyone aboard an opportunity to see it!
Of course, we were all hoping to see lots of calving! Calving... What's that?
Yes, cows have calves but glaciers have icebergs, which are chunks of ice that
break off glaciers and fall into the water. When this happens, it's called Calving!
As we found out at the Mendenhall Glacier, calving makes a lot of really
cool, loud noises; unlike any we have ever heard before. So we were hoping
to hear and see lots of it at this glacier, which is called the Sleeping Giant!
Calving occurs when chunks of ice break off at the terminus, or the end of
the glacier. Ice breaks because the forward motion of a glacier makes the
terminus unstable. The resulting chunks of ice are called Icebergs! Now...
Icebergs can be really small or they can be really big. At least one has been
seen that is as big as the state of Rhode Island! Icebergs also come in a variety
of color. White icebergs have lots of air pockets inside. Blue icebergs are very
dense. Greenish-black icebergs may have calved off the bottom of the glacier,
while darkly-striped icebergs carry moraine (rocks/soil) debris from the glacier!
Now, I'm not one of those bucket-list people that chases things she believes must
be seen or done before we die... However, I will tell you that standing in front of,
on top of and inside of a glacier, like we did, is something everyone should do!
It's so pretty... Something only God himself could create!

So what do I know about Hubbard Glacier? Well, I know Hubbard Glacier
is seventy-six miles long, by seven miles wide, 500 feet tall and sits 350
feet above the water where it meets the bay. In all, this active glacier
is 1,350 square miles of translucent ice and, quite the sight to see!
Although I never felt that we were ever in any danger, icebergs calved by
tidewater glaciers can be dangerous. An iceberg over 80 kilometers long
and 40 kilometers wide broke off from the Larsen Sea Shelf in Antarctica
and is still being monitored by satellites so as to keep ships that navigate
it waters safe. Here in Alaska, in Cordova, the Child's Glacier once calved,
resulting in a 12-foot high tidal wave that almost wiped out some tourists
that were watching from a small boat. The tallest wave caused by calving
at Child's Glacier was twenty feet. So do heed the warnings if you go see it!

As we made our way closer to Hubbard Glacier, the ice in the water
made it sound like we were cruising through a giant bowl of Rice
Krispies because of all the air bubbles that pop as the ice melts!

While Chris and I began the morning on the deck alone, it didn't take
long for the rest of the ship's passengers to pack in closely around us
to take in the sights and thundering sounds of Hubbard Glacier too!
And boy, did she thunder!
It was fascinating and a real thrill to watch!
Since it is not a port-stop, I didn't pay any attention to Hubbard Glacier
being on the itinerary when I booked this cruise. However, now that we
have seen it, I consider this just as exciting as any shore excursion. Well,
maybe not the Mendenhall Glacier Ice Cave one in Juneau... But close!
Just as we were instructed to watch for breath (steam vapor) on the surface
of the water as warning that whales might soon pop up, so were we advised to
listen for sounds of popping, cracking and thunder as a precursor to calving!
After watching for a while, someone aboard the ship announced they were
deploying the rescue boat to retrieve a piece of glacier ice to carve later!
How cool is that? That we might be able to touch a piece of Hubbard glacier!
As our crew fished for glaciers for a while... Chris and I
parted the crowd to take more photos of each other!
Once they located the perfect chunk of ice to bring on board...
The crew worked to reel it in and, made they it look easy in the process!
Pretty soon, much sooner than anyone wanted,
it was time for us to depart from Hubbard Glacier...
Who put on a great show and made it well worth the effort to be out
on deck in the cold Alaska air before seven o'clock in the morning!
After breakfast, which was actually a very late lunch for us, I set
out to find that big chunk of ice the crew had brought aboard...
I watched for a while as this guy beat away at it with his chisel;
and then, as he called in reinforcements after making no progress!
Pretty soon, we had a whole team of people trying to figure out just how
to carve this massive hunk of ice into the ice carving the crew promised
to unveil to us around dinner time. I overheard this guy on the phone
ask if someone might have ax or a chainsaw they could run up to him!
Unfortunately, this piece of Hubbard Glacier never became anything
more than it was before it was plucked from the bay. It sat in that
spot on the deck for the remainder of our cruise... While our crew
turned their attention to things they were more equipped to carve!
Not quite the same as seeing part of the Hubbard Glacier
transformed into something even more ah-mazing that it was...
But at least it helped pass the time of another day spent at sea!
It sure beat the movie being shown on board that day, which
only served to help us catch up on the sleep we missed that morning!
I sure hope you enjoyed seeing The Hubbard Glacier as much
as we did and, that you stay tuned for our next adventure...
Seward Alaska!  Where we were booked into a 10-hour excursion
to Prince William Sound to see glaciers, whales and other life on the sea!