March 31, 2016

KoMo Flour Mill Giveaway!

Many of you who follow this blog and my Instagram feed have inquired about the beautiful wooden flour mill that I use to freshly mill my grains into flour. 

In fact, there has been so much interest in the mill that the wonderful folks at Pleasant Hill Grain - the American distributor of the KoMo grain mills and flakers - have offered to give a gorgeous KoMo Classic mill to a very lucky Kitchen Vignettes reader. I'm beyond excited that one of you will get to have your very own flour mill and experience the pure joy of fresh-milled flour because there really is nothing like it!!

When we were looking around for a portable flour mill to mill our homegrown grains, we shopped for quite a while and the KoMo mill stood out for many reasons. Aside from being impeccably crafted, it has a powerful and solid motor that quickly turns whole grains into flour of any texture. By simply rotating the hopper, you can adjust for the texture of flour you want, achieving everything from roughly cracked grains, to very coarse flour, to ultra-fine flour. So not only do you have a great degree of control over the milling process, but the mill is also incredibly simple to operate: you just pour the grains into the hopper and out comes the most fragrant, sweet-smelling, fresh flour.

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, much of the whole grain flour we buy has been shipped long distances and left on store shelves for far too long. Many packaged flours have gone rancid even before we purchase them! I'm always surprised how often friends and family don't notice when their flour has gone rancid. I think it's because we've actually become accustomed to the taste of rancid flour and we don't consider flour as a living product with a shelf life. While whole, unmilled grains have a shelf life of many years, as soon as they are milled into flour, the flour becomes perishable and can go rancid within just a few months' time. In fact, some of the vitamin content begins to diminish within just days of the flour being milled. The most important reason I use freshly-milled flour though, is because it makes the best-tasting bread and baked goods. So I'm a huge advocate for home-milling (or sourcing) fresh flour whenever possible. The milling only takes a few minutes and it's incredibly satisfying.

If you’re new to the KoMo Classic mill, here’s the low-down: the mill is built in Austria and beautifully handcrafted out of native beechwood or new American Walnut with finger-jointed corners. All dry grains can be ground in it, including soft or hard wheat, oat groats (dehulled oats), rice, triticale, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and dent (field) corn. It will also grind lentils, dry beans (pinto, red, garbanzo, kidney & more), and dried, non-oily spices. (It isn't suitable for herbs, oilseeds like flax or sesame, popcorn, or fibrous materials). 

For people who wish to mill gluten-free flours, Pleasant Hill Grain sells an interchangeable insert that allows the mill to grind different materials without cross-contamination. Using this accessory, your KoMo mill can be used with gluten-containing grains (such as wheat) as well as gluten-free grains (such as teff), without the risk of getting any gluten into your gluten-free flour. The insert is not included in this giveaway, but it can purchased separately here.

Having access to a grain mill really makes you fall in love with the magnificent world of whole grains and the incredible diversity of nutritious and tasty flours that can take your cooking and baking to a whole other level.

You can see the KoMo mill at work in several of my Kitchen Vignettes videos, including the one for Roasted Squash Cornbread where I mill fresh cornmeal from whole field corn kernels and this one for Whole Wheat Groaning Cake. And here's my latest, featuring Rye Crepes:

The KoMo giveaway will run all through the month of April and Rafflecopter will randomly choose a winner on May 1st - just in time for Mother’s Day (hint hint! this would make a wonderful present for any bakers in your life!) The model that Pleasant Hill Grain is giving away is the KoMo Classic grain mill and the winner may choose between the American Walnut or native beechwood housing. 

*Please note that this giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. You may also enter the giveaway on my Facebook page. Once you log-in to enter the giveaway, you will see 5 different choices of actions you can take. For each one you do, you will get 5 points, for a potential total of 25 points, increasing your odds of winning. Some of the options can even be repeated each day throughout the giveaway, such as tweeting or visiting the Pleasant Hill Grain website, to increase your odds even more. Good luck everyone!

March 28, 2016

My mom's pea soup and the magic of seed saving...

When my family first moved to Nova Scotia from Québec 28 years ago, my mom had a hard time finding yellow dry peas to make her traditional soupe aux pois (Québec pea soup). It was at Salt Spring Seeds, all the way on the other side of the country, where she ended up finding the perfect yellow pea to grow in her garden for the beloved soupe aux pois.

She ordered a small packet from them and the humble handful grew enough peas for a nice pot of soup and for replanting an even larger amount the following spring. From then on, we always had a good supply of peas and she declared the Darlaine yellow pea to be the ideal soup pea. 

She delighted in growing the dry pea every bit as much as the tender green snap peas that she would eat like candy off the plant while listening to the birds in her garden. Because as any Québecois knows, soupe aux pois is a sacred thing: simple, filling, hearty. 

After my mom passed away, my stepdad continued growing out many of the peas and beans she had carefully grown and saved year after year. And I did the same with some of those varieties that I remember her praising: Ethiopian lentils, Salt Lake Beans, and especially the cherished Darlaine pea. Last year, I finally had a harvest large enough to make a hearty pot of soup, and it was an occasion worthy of capturing on video. A moment of celebration, a nod to my mom and the knowledge and treasures she has passed on. (I can always hear her giggling with delight and mischief when she was harvesting something that she was about to turn into a delicious dish). 

A couple weeks ago, I wrote to Dan Jason at Salt Spring Seeds and asked him for more information about the Darlaine pea. I was surprised when he said that after all these years, he remembered my mom's name very well from her seed orders, because he said that she had the most beautiful-sounding name. I found it moving that he remembered her even though he had never met her. If she had ordered her seeds from a larger seed company, that would have been unlikely to happen. 

I thanked Dan for bringing the Darlaine pea and so many other beautiful heirloom seeds into my mom's garden and into our lives, even years after she died. It has created a special sense of continuity and connection that repeats itself year after year, in each plant and pea pod and bowl of soup. 

You'll find my mom's recipe on my post over at PBS Food