"Don't wait for a day or a situation to be better, more special, more worthy of celebration,  
than this day, this moment. Don't wait. Celebrate!"  
Dana Velden, author of Rodale's Finding Yourself in the Kitchen   

Happy New Year to our wonderful customers! 
Welcome 2018 with healthy food choices.
Artisan baker Shawn Saunders, left, supplies Ranch Foods Direct with creations like artisan sourdough and chile cheese bread.     
Eat local all winter long with interesting grains, real sourdough   
Local baker and Ranch Foods Direct bread supplier, Shawn Saunders, shown left, returns to the faculty of this month's annual "Grain School" put on by UCCS and several partnering organizations. The public grain forum on Saturday, Jan. 13, is open to anyone who wants to hear presentations by the guest instructors and sample rustic grain-based foods and beverages. So get inspired, then come by Ranch Foods Direct and peruse the offerings at the bulk station, where you can find sourcing information on each item and handy written directions for preparing the wide range of grains, beans and legumes.
Some of the options include wheat kernels, oats, barley, triticale or rye. One of the more unique selections is the seven-grain mix ($2.49 per pound) and shoppers can also buy the same organic whole wheat flour, ($1.99 a pound) Shawn uses in his own breads at the Sourdough Boulangerie

CLICK HERE for details on the UCCS Grain School. 
Beef Mushroom Barley Soup

1 cup barley, or similar grain
Olive oil
2 lbs cubed stew meat
2 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 bay leaves
10 cups beef broth

Prepare barley using directions provided. In a large Dutch oven, brown seasoned beef in olive oil. Remove and cook veggies in more oil in the same pot, and saute them for about 20 minutes. Add the stock, bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Add prepared barley and continue to simmer for 20 minutes more. Add the beef chunks back into the pot and warm soup thoroughly. Remove bay leaves and serve hot with crusty sourdough.  

Sous vide prep method makes steaks foolproof    
By now, you've probably heard about "sous vide" (pronounced sue veed) the French name for a trendy meat cooking technique that involves vacuum-sealing a cut of meat in an airless bag with flavorings and seasonings and then placing it into a circulating water bath for slow and precise cooking.  
What makes this method so attractive is its precision and the ease with which a cut of meat can be fully cooked without drying it out or losing any its beefy flavor. An increasing number of gadgets have come on the market to simplify the process at home, but you can also eliminate that step with Callicrate Beef prepped in-house using the sous vide method.  
"We're the only place I know of where you can buy a sou vide steak," says Ranch Foods Direct's Chef and Director of Product Development Aaron Miller (shown below right.)

To finish off a sou vide steak, all that is required is a good searing on a hotgrill (or in a cast-iron pan) to get a nice caramelized char. Before searing, simply coat steak in oil with a high smoke point: popular options are avocado oil, canola oil or mayonnaise. Cuts like sirloin are ready in minutes without the painstaking, time-consuming cooking process. Pick up Chef Aaron's detailed written
instructions at the store and try it for yourself! 

In store now: New prepared dishes arriving weekly from Chef Aaron Miller, director of new product development. Follow the Ranch Foods Direct FACEBOOK page for the latest menu and product updates! CLICK HERE     

How a former Sicilian's journey to America eventually landed him at Ranch Foods Direct   
Lucky customers had the chance to meet John Nicocia last month while he filled in for Roger at the retail meat counter. They also had a chance to taste his influence in the hearty Italian-style meatballs prepared to his specifications by Chef Aaron. "If I see a darker steak in the meat case, I take it home," he explains. "That's the best meat you can buy. It's been aging for awhile and that makes it very tender."    
John Nicocia's decades of experience and his fascinating background have made him a real asset at Ranch Foods Direct, where he has been part of the meat-cutting team for the past two years ago. Here's more on John. 
ON WORKING FOR RANCH FOODS DIRECT: "This is the best beef I've ever worked with. And I'm working with some very, very good people. Luis (who runs the meat-cutting department) is such an awesome person. He's just one of the boys. He's not my boss, he's my co-worker." 
ON HIS BACKGROUND: "I'm from Sicily. When I first came to this country, I was 16 years old. My first job was at a poultry plant killing chickens for 50 cents an hour. That was good money back then! I did that for two years. At 18, I went to work for a company that made chainsaws, running their shipping department. In 1960, when I was 28, I went to work as a meat-cutter and eventually managed a meat shop in Beverly Hills. I enjoy meat cutting. It's just in my blood. My wife, Cheryl, is Polish. I met her in California when I was in my early twenties. Actually her father was Swedish and her mother was Polish. She makes a lot of Polish dishes she learned from her mom, also German rouladen, and things like that. We moved here to Colorado Springs to be closer to our daughter." 
ON WHAT HE GREW UP EATING: "Lots of spaghetti and meatballs; we would make them with ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese, all of it mixed together with a little bit of wine. You could also put pork or veal in it. I like a combination of ground beef with Italian sausage to give it more flavor. Also lots of fresh fish and pasta everyday. And couscous, since Morocco is so close to Italy. We would make our own from scratch with semolina and water. One popular dish was to steam fish and put it over the couscous with a fish broth to give it flavor, and add some fresh vegetables like mushrooms, cauliflower or asparagus. 
As far as desserts go, cannoli was number one. The cannoli is made with fresh ricotta filling, with just a little bit of sugar and cinnamon. You can also add chocolate chips or fruit. But the ricotta there is altogether different than the American version. In Sicily, everything's made fresh, and there are never any leftovers. I still go back to visit once a year or so." 
FAVORITE RFD ITEMS: "A good steak or roast. I also like the chicken breasts or thighs marinaded overnight in a good Italian dressing made with olive oil." 

Get fresh local greens, even during the coldest days of winter     
How is it possible for Ranch Foods Direct to sell locally grown beautiful butterhead bibb lettuce (right) during the coldest days of winter?     
Emerge Aquaponics, located near Black Forest, grows the lettuce using one of the most advanced sustainable production methods in the agricultural world today. You've heard of hydroponics, where plants are grown in water rather than in soil? Aquaponics takes that a step further by integrating fish into the system.  
Here's how it works: The water to grow the plants is pumped from a large fish tank that contains tilapia. The fish naturally fertilize the water so that no additional additives are needed to feed the plants, which in turn draw the nutrients they need from the water and filter it, so that when it returns to the fish tank it is clean enough to make an ideal environment for raising more fish. This symbiotic system between plants and fish uses less water than conventional hydroponics because the water is continuously being recycled. In addition, the greenhouse can grow about seven times more lettuce than "dirt farming" would yield on the same space. As a leader in developing the aquaponics model, Emerge is helping to set up similar systems worldwide.