I teach lots of public and private cooking classes and I love them. I happened to teach one yesterday at one of my favorite venues, The International Pantry. The folks you see in the photos learned to make various shapes of pasta from scratch, plus three sauces.
We discuss a lot in our classes and yesterday was no exception. In fact, we discussed so much that when the students asked me about where I get my favorite food products, I didn’t have time to go into detail about it (plus their hands were covered in flour so writing them down wasn’t an option). I promised I’d put all that info on the website so here it is
Beef & Dairy
Wagon Creek Creamery
My favorite beef & dairy farm in Oklahoma is Wagon Creek Creamery. All their cattle is 100% grass fed and that’s really important to me. They participate in the Oklahoma Food CoOp and they sell their products at most of the big Farmers Markets in Oklahoma (Norman, Edmond, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa). Check out their website for a list of their products; they make and sell just about everything you want dairy-wise. (And if you’ve never had grass-fed butter, it will change your life.)
They can only sell their raw milk and cream from the farm so you can’t get that from the markets. (You can’t transport raw milk/cream for sell in Oklahoma but somehow, there are people selling raw milk at the OSU-OKC market. I’m gonna do a little digging.) I occasionally drive up to the farm to get raw milk and cream and it’s worth the drive. Plus, their products are cheaper when you make the drive yourself so I take a cooler and stock up on everything when I’m there. (If you go up there for products, call in advance and take jars for milk & cream. They will put them in gallon jugs for you but you’ll pay a little extra.)
Chickens & Eggs
Wagon Creek Creamery
Wagon Creek also sells eggs and whole chickens and because I drove up to the farm, I know they’re pastured/free-range, which is also really important to me. And they’re actual “free-range,” not low-bar, USDA definition “free-range.” I mentioned in this post why I only buy whole chickens and showed you how to break them down yourself in this one if you need a refresher.
Stay away from the “organic” and “free-range” chickens you see in the grocery store (even at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers). In my opinion, they’re really not much better for you than conventional chickens but are waaaaay more expensive. For me, it’s local, pastured chickens or nothing. I’m not sure how they handle it at other markets but Wagon Creek doesn’t just bring a bunch of frozen chickens down to the Norman market; you have to place an order for it. You can do it at the market one weekend and they’ll bring them down the following weekend… or maybe call or email them (contact information is on their site).
I used to buy only Grandma Nellie’s chickens but since Native Roots moved from Norman to OKC, they’re not as easy for me to get. Native Roots still sells them in OKC so you can buy them there or check out their website for other locations.
If you’re buying eggs at a farmers market and you want to make sure they’re good quality, there are a couple questions you can ask:
Are they pastured?
Since chickens are now allowed in town, people are raising them in their backyards and selling their eggs at farmers markets. Personally, I want eggs from chickens who are eating what chickens are supposed to eat, and that means they need lots of room. Chickens are birds and their bodies work better when they eat the right food (just like ours do). Birds eat bugs and worms and whatever they can find moving on the ground and they need lots of room to find them. Backyards do not provide enough bugs to keep chickens fed.
One more thing, “free range” used to mean something very different than it does now. The USDA decided to regulate the term (and put disgustingly low standards on the use of the term) so we now use the term “pastured” to identify real, farm-raised chickens from commercially raised chickens in modified chicken houses. Nothing you buy at a conventional grocery store is actually “free range.”
What do your chickens eat?
This is usually an indicator of whether chickens are really pastured or not. A bad answer would be, “chicken feed.” I don’t eat eggs from chickens who eat commercial feed (chicken food bought from any kind of retail establishment). Again, this is not what chickens are meant to eat and it changes the nutritional makeup of the eggs.
I buy good quality flour (like the Italian 00 flour we used for pasta yesterday), the best imported parmigiano-reggiano cheese I’ve ever tasted, good olive oil, etc., mostly at the International Pantry. I really love all the ladies who work there, they’re all perfectly nice and helpful, and the store is well-stocked with good quality specialty foods and Made in Oklahoma products. I’m a huge believer in supporting local businesses and if we have local businesses like the International Pantry in Oklahoma, I’m sure there are similar stores all over the country. I encourage you to support your neighbors. :)
I only eat organic and I eat as local as possible. My first choice is vegetables from my garden (or my grandfather’s garden that I’ve mostly taken over for him). Second choice is organic vegetables from the farmers market (be sure what you’re buying from the farmers market is local… some people buy from places like California or Mexico then sell them at local farmers markets, which is no different than what you buy at grocery stores). Last choice is organic produce from the store (Natural Grocers for me, it’s my favorite).
Local, organic produce is expensive; that’s what I always hear from people when I talk about what I eat. Yes, it is expensive. But it’s important to me so I make necessary adjustments in my budget to allow for it. For example:
- I grow a lot of my own food – I haven’t bought tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, peppers, garlic, lettuce, spinach, radishes, okra, herbs,… all spring/summer
- I don’t buy daily $5 coffees at Starbucks – I do, however, buy organic coffee and blend it with grass-fed butter and MCT oil… it’s delicious and you can read more about it here
- I rarely eat out – most of what’s out there doesn’t even taste that good to me, anyway
- I don’t have cable – I can’t justify paying $100/month to watch the 3 cable channels I like
- I don’t have a car payment – my car is 15 years old and perfectly reliable, thanks to regular maintenance
- I don’t have debt – except for student loans… if I can’t pay cash (or swipe my debit card), I don’t buy it
Again, these are personal choices I make to allow room for the things that are most important to me. They’re examples of how I’m able to spend money on good quality food. They may not be options for you but since I often get asked how I afford to eat the way I do, I needed to share this.
More About Cooking Classes
The International Pantry hosts classes in their store all throughout the year and they’re taught by various chefs from around Norman and OKC. Most of them are demo classes that take place on a weeknight. A chef demonstrates how to make three different dishes while you sit back, sip some wine, and enjoy a full three-course meal. As you can imagine, these classes are a lot of fun and sell out quickly. Yesterday’s class was hands-on so the students made their own lunch, which is a whole different kind of fun. I love both types because I get to hang out with my favorite kind of people – people who love food and want to learn more about it.
If you weren’t in our class yesterday but you want the recipes, you can get them here. I have several public classes coming up that I haven’t yet posted on the Cooking Classes page so I’ll post those once all the details are finalized. If you’re interested in classes at the International Pantry, you MUST get on their mailing list. A lot of their classes fill up the day the schedule is released so they can be hard to get into. I believe their fall schedule will be out next week (maybe the week after) so join their list soon. I’ll post on Facebook when I see their schedule released so you can like the Kitchen No. 4 page if you want to go that route.
I know I haven’t talked much in the past about my switch to local, organic food but I plan on writing more about it in the near future. Ask questions now if you have them and I’ll try to get more info on this site soon.by