Showing posts with label Locavore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Locavore. Show all posts

Monday, September 16, 2013

reboot family dinner {+ a giveaway of two great books}

{Note: Congratulations to Emily and Jessica, the winners of the giveaway books. I hope you enjoy them, ladies!}

I enjoy our summer lazy routine where we let the girls watch more TV and eat more ice cream, but there's also a quiet bliss to our back-to-school fall routine. We begin spending more hours indoors, whether in school or in our living room, and our busier schedule makes those rarer family trips outdoors to pick apples or play t-ball all the sweeter.

With school fully ramped back up, I am getting back into the swing of family dinner. I admit to struggling a bit at times, continuing to serve the girls summer staples of deviled eggs or tuna salad before Nate and I have our own dinner hours later. And pretty please don't ask me whether they've been eating lots of snacks.


We've had our successes too. On Sunday, for example, we went out to pick apples and filled our bellies to the brim with fruit, so we weren't as interested in a full dinner that night. Instead, the girls played happily in the next room while we chopped and simmered apples close by in the kitchen. They loved to sample a bit of still-cooking, piping hot applesauce, and Daddy whipped them up a quick grilled cheese sandwich and mug of tomato soup while we were still mixing and canning apple creations.

Charlie's favorite part was the bluegrass band playing at the farmstand. Girl after her mama's heart.

We've all heard in recent months about the importance of sitting down to dinner as a family. Lately I've been pondering the definition of "family dinner" and wondering if there's more room to bend the rules a bit. I'm happy to be working with The Family Dinner Project (FDP) to experiment with my neighborhood pals and see if we can make family dinners better together. They have some fantastic ways to fit in food, fun, and conversation with your children into your day.

I'm betting you can guess Vivi's favorite part of the day...

On apple-picking day, we didn't all sit together at one time to share a big spread of food; however, we did connect as a family in picking and putting away a bounty of fall's delicious harvest together. Later on in the evening at bedtime, we played a game FDP calls Rose & Thorn, asking them what their favorite and least favorite parts of the day were and sharing our own.

If you are interested in making family dinner better in your household, I encourage you to check out the FDP website. They have so many wonderful (and free!) resources. I'm also happy to be offering a giveaway today of two books that have helped us keep the kids interested in trying and eating new and different foods, which is one of the important pieces in the family dinner puzzle. Thanks to their generous publishers for making it possible to share these books!

Here are the books you can sign up for a chance to get for free (sign-up is below, and it will be open until Sunday September 22nd, 11:59pm ET):



1. French Kids Eat Everything. I wrote about this book in April, and the post was syndicated on BlogHer. A publicity manager of the publisher, HarperCollins, found what I wrote and offered to share the book with two readers of this blog. I absolutely loved this book; it changed the way we eat dinner forever, and it has made the experience so much more pleasant. See more of what I wrote here.


2. End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad. Here's what I wrote about it in July. The publisher offered to give y'all one of these books as well, so sign up below if you're interested! My kids love this one and still to this day call it the pickle book because of the illustrated pickle who helps make the salad.

WIN THE BOOKS!

Use Rafflecopter below for your chance to win! It's that easy. Just submit a comment or drop me a line by email or Facebook if you're having trouble figuring it out. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

going back to the well: a whiskey sour love story


Call it having a more refined palate and lower inhibitions in our thirties, or being driven to it by our rug monkeys. Whatever the reason, we have slowly and somewhat accidentally inserted happy hour to our lives. It has sneaked its way into our routine to the point where when asked how often, I sheepishly tell my doctor that I'm a daily drinker.

Sheepish isn't exactly the right word. To have guilt in this instance would mean I'd have to buy into the moral standard I am violating. Come to that, I couldn't say "guilty" is a word I would use to describe myself in any way. I tend to think whatever I'm doing is the way to be, for better or worse. I am however academically interested in our culture's guilt about alcohol. In that regard, Ken Burns did a great expose on Prohibition last year.

What do you think, friends? Except in the case of addiction, health, or other personal choice, is society-wide abstinence from alcohol a good thing or just another misguided attempt to control our pursuit of pleasure? Could the angst that accompanies the beverage be a feeling handed down from previous generations, like some sort of leftover teetotalist grandfather clock?

Booze for thought.

I have myself at times chosen sobriety for various reasons. When I graduated high school, a number of my friends gathered together for field parties, the sole purpose of which were to pursue drunkenness without being detected, in this case in the middle of a corn field. Is that a Georgia thing? Anyway, it didn't take a genius to see that as teenagers, we made enough bad decisions when stone-cold sober, let alone illegally three sheets to the wind.

I maintained my abstinence off and on throughout college, figuring I had as much fun sober as I did drunk. I never really did much like sipping on gin and juice anyhow. Plus, when sober I could laugh at all my drunk friends and help everyone have a more safe experience. Like the time I prevented an apartment fire when my usually bright friends, now full to the brim with aqua vitae, made the not-so-brilliant decision to prepare bespoke flaming doctor peppers in a plastic solo cup. I chuckle to remember them fleeing the scene like a group of oversized toddlers running from a spilt cup of milk, only in this case the milk was a flaming river of Bacardi 151. Hee.

Through the jello shot and hunch punch years, I must say the idea of drinking alcohol just for enjoyment was a foreign one to me. Any beverage so disgusting as to need to be mixed with Hawaiian Punch to make it palatable must not be that good, or so I thought at the time. Possibly it was a product placement issue; did I mention I was drinking said beverage out of a bath tub?

When we moved to Wisconsin (and thus away from "hunch punch" and into "wop"...though we've also lived places where it's called jungle juice and gin bucket), we discovered a culture unheard of in the South. College students could order beer from the STUDENT UNION, y'all. Similarly, one could purchase alcohol in giant quantities from the supermarket! Is that the craziest thing? Much like my stepmom setting out a candy bowl for her toddlers, I think they might have been onto something. Why vilify alcohol? It seems to me that calling the fruit forbidden just increases the odds people will abuse it.

Then there were the pregnant and breastfeeding years, and I must say abstaining from alcohol was only a small sacrifice to make when you consider the wealth of nonalcoholic cocktails out there (yay, mint limeade!). Of course, while living in England I did occasionally imbibe small amounts of low-alcohol drinks while pregnant with Vivi. I still swoon at the sight of a large can of Strongbow. Happily, Vivi seems to have made it through her stint in my belly with a hefty number of brain cells.

Over the past few years, Nate has become interested in craft beer, and I have enjoyed participating in his quest for the perfect beer. That quest has migrated in recent months into making cocktails. When we moved to Boston, I became hooked on dark 'n stormies and felt content to sip on them for several years straight. I'm not known for my trendiness. But then we started watching Mad Men finally last month, and we are as into to that show as to our newfound fondness for the dark whiskey in Don Draper's old fashioned.

[n.b.: Thanks to the Portlandia PSA, I won't say I'm a nerd, but I do think it was pretty nerdy that I found myself, after typing the word "whiskey," researching whether and when to spell it "whisky."]

One thing's for certain; making cocktails is not a frugal venture. As with our decision to eat local food, we also prefer to support local booze-makers, who for the most part charge upwards of $35/bottle. I have no doubt their price is realistic and fair, but it takes a chunk out of an already pared-down entertainment budget. Speaking of money, we could really use a set of drinking glasses. Crate & Barrel to the rescue!

Right around the time we were considering the purchase of our first bottle of locally distilled American straight whiskey, I stumbled upon this article from The Kitchn about how to get started drinking whiskey. I took their advice and started with a whiskey sour, and I haven't moved on down the list yet because I find it to be so tasty.

As for how to make your whiskey sour, I use the standard proportions of 2 oz. whiskey, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 3/4 oz. simple syrup, and I sometimes also add a dash of grenadine to make it pretty. In the cocktails pictured, I used blueberry syrup in place of standard simple syrup (other times I use mint syrup). You can use basically any sweet liquid to sweeten your whiskey sour. I serve mine in a martini glass. I'm sure this fact classes me out of the big leagues in cocktail making, but I am blissfully unperturbed on this matter.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

hand pies: the world's most perfect travel food

I LOVE PIE. The lack of discussion about pie on my blog--one lonely post--does not adequately reflect my adoration of the dish. Pie is just about my favorite comfort food. Apple pie reminds me of being a kid and baking with my grandmother. Chocolate cream pie reminds me of 2 a.m. post-concert ventures to Waffle House. Blackberry pie reminds me of the best pie I've ever tasted at a restaurant back home.

Just as there is no one season for pie, there's no one filling either. You can fill a pie with anything--from "chocolate to blackbirds," so says Urban Dictionary. I especially love pie with a surprise filling inside like rhubarb--sweet, tangy, and unexpectedly pleasant. Pies can be great conversation starters that way.

I love the history involved when baking pies. It's not a fad or fashion to make pie; simply making a pie is in itself an homage to generations past, even if the recipe didn't come over on a boat to the New World. The pie tradition has been around since the need for easy-to-carry, easy-to-store foods arose. I reckon that in the modern-day fast-paced world we live in has more of a need for pie than ever before.

In my opinion, there aren't enough savory pies in my world (p.s. I really, really want to go to this restaurant when I visit Seattle. Okay, Al?). Whenever I ponder this dilemma, I am confronted with the fact that there are savory pies--think empanadas, samosaspanzarotti, down under meat pies, and Cornish pasties--there just aren't many American savory pies (one exception I know of being the Nack-a-tish pie in Louisiana and the other obvious one being chicken pot pie). I don't count quiche, both because it's French and because I've never had one I truly enjoyed. This dearth is a tragedy because there is nothing more American than pie.

As we learned while living in Britain, the Brits love their meat pies--steak and kidney pie, Guinness pie, fish pie, pork pie, Scotch pie, shepherd's pie, and I could go on from there. Sweet pies are popular there too: banoffee pie, mince pie, lemon pie, treacle tart, and so the list continues (don't get me started on the horrid Bedfordshire clanger). I grew to expect a pie on a menu at every British pub and restaurant, to the point where I daresay pie could be deemed more British than American. A tragedy indeed!

The best part about savory pies is that they are typically pocket pies, the perfect shape for eating out of hand wherever you you happen to be. Well, except maybe if you happen to be at Bloomingdale's.

Maybe.

Call it what you want: hand pie, pocket pie, empanada, pasty. Whatever you call them, they are quite simply the most versatile hot food around. You can put whatever flavors you want into the pocket (including pie flavor?). You can make however many you want, freeze them for later, then heat them and wrap them, and they'll stay warm for hours. Thus, I believe we need to step up to the plate and start cranking out more savory pie. I intend to start you on your that journey today, so prepare to pack your foodie hobo sacks bags.

First we need to start by building your trust in me. I am not out to frustrate you with a complicated recipe, I swear. While the crust might seem intimidating, is both the most delicious and easiest part of the pocket-pie-making process. Plus, the recipe lets you be creative in using up what you have on hand; you can put 2 Tbs. of literally any filling you'd like. Although I use lard to make my crust, you can of course substitute butter if you're vegetarian. If you're vegan, use sunflower oil.

Speaking of using lard, I told you all about my experience yesterday. Well, almost all about it. I forgot to mention that our lard-rendering was actually a highly comical event that involved us not realizing that it was going to take all day and stink up the house. Oh, and did I mention our in-laws were in town? Luckily they are used to us pulling shenanigans like this one--we are the Lucy and Ricky of real food calamities--so they laugh off such adventurous food errors.



hand pies (adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. lard (or butter or oil)
1/2 c. cold water
2 1/2 c. filling of your choice*
1/2 c. milk, or 1 egg & 1 Tbs. water, for brushing

Mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add lard in small pieces and pulse after each addition. Drizzle in water slowly, while the machine is running, until the dough comes together (Note: you might not need all of the water. You want the dough to be dry). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for a minute unti it is smooth.


Divide the dough in half, then divide each in half again; those four sections should then each be divided into thirds so there are a total of 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside under a tea towel for 20 minutes to rest. (Note: You can also refrigerate the dough for a day at this point, but let it sit out until it comes up to room temperature before using it).

Starting to fill some with chorizo; cheese will follow

Preheat the oven to 375 degF. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a 5-inch circle. Top with 2 Tbs. filling, then dip your finger in water and lightly wet the edges. Fold the pocket in half and seal the seam by pressing it together with the tines of a fork. Place each pocket on an ungreased baking sheet (if you plan to freeze them, do so now; freeze a few hours until solid, remove from tray to an air-tight bag, and leave in freezer for up to 6 months). Brush pockets with either an egg wash or milk. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

*Traditionally, empanadas are filled with shredded chicken or pork, chorizo & cheese, or corn; if you want to stick to the authentic method, you can also add a pinch of smoked Spanish paprika and substitute 1/2 c. of the flour with masa harina, but I don't and it tastes fine). I personally adore Martha Stewart's chicken pocket pie filling. The Kitchn compiled a bunch of other filling ideas too (spinach and cheese! sweet potatoes and black beans!). I love the idea of vegetarian pies so am planning to make this one with chard and French lentil filling next week.

Author's Note: This post is part of Real Food WednesdayTasty Traditions and Fight Back Friday.

Update (8-26-13): Last night we made our first sweet hand pies using fresh local nectarines and following Martha's guidance (except substituting lime juice for orange). They were so delicious!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Monday, December 17, 2012

salmon burgers

I'm getting excited about the holidays, mostly because I get to cook both lots of comfort food I love and new dishes I've been hanging onto until a special occasion. I'm getting back into the swing of the blogging thing, so in the spirit of the coming resolutions I'm planning to blog (and exercise!) every day of the end of the year, starting today--well, to tell the truth, exercise will commence when I shake this virus (UGH). I'll share a few recipes too, also starting today.

As indicated in my last recipe post, we are a seafood-loving family. As a kid, I would only touch canned tuna sandwiches and fish sticks, but my horizons are much broader now. I'll even dig out the cheeks and eyeballs if served a whole fresh fish. YUM. I've probably told you about Vivi's obsession with fish. The kid can be found circling her dad like a hungry cat if he breaks out a can of smoked herring. HERRING!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

market tip: get to know your farmers

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer's Markets
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about something new they've learned about their local farmers.
***
gleaners after the market
Image Credit: from a local article about "gleaning"
Have you ever looked into where your food comes from? Have you spoken to a farmer who cultivated one part of your meal today? These are questions I couldn't have answered well just a few short years ago. We began our intentional food journey by joining a vegetable CSA when we lived in Virginia. It was gratifying to know we were helping to support a farm, and we would run home with giddy excitement on CSA day to find a crate of veggies on our porch.

When we moved to Massachusetts, we weren't satisfied by simply having the food dropped off on our step. We wanted to know our farmers, by name if possible, and know the ins and outs of the farm itself. We choose to buy the bulk of our fresh meat and produce straight from two local farms so that we know the farmers and their process and support them both.

In summer time, we pick up the remainder of our fresh food at our farmer's market. Prior to this month, I couldn't tell you anything about those farms apart from the name and spot in the parking lot where they were each located. I could tell you which one had my favorite bread but not what ingredients the farmer used to bake it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

did you read? {3}: sustainability edition

Hey, remember that series I said I'd start writing back in February, then posted twice and kinda forgot about after that? Woops! Best laid plans and all that jazz. It's all good because I'm coming back at ya' with another post today, and I hope to make the series at least a monthly thing, since I've actually been reading quite a bit of worthwhile material.

If I haven't already smacked you in the face with this little bit of 411 about my life, 'tis the year of the urban/suburban sustainable homestead. Here are some of my favorite reads in that genre...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I found my thrill...

Come climb the hill with me, baby
We'll see what we shall see
I'll bring my horn with me
I'll be wit' you where berries are blue
~From "Blueberry Hill" by Louie Armstrong

Thanks to Kerry for sharing a great location to pick blueberries. This was our best morning I can remember in a while. I made a video to share the memories!




I'm off to make some cobbler. Hope you're enjoying the July bounty!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

hello rhubarb!



I didn't grow up eating rhubarb. It doesn't grow in the south because the weather is too warm (even MA is a little warm, it prefers the colder weather in Canada). I have a tendency to view vegetables I never ate as a child in a skeptical light. Fruity celery? No thank you.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

why we don't take our kids to eat fast food

One of my all-time favorites from Hyperbole and a Half. Okay, they're all favorites.

Yesterday Genevieve caught a glimpse of the golden arches when we were out shopping--a rare sighting in our area, a.k.a. the land of no fast food joints (this Mickey D's is in a shopping center as part of a much-larger building, rather than a stand-alone operation. I'm explaining this 411 so you understand why she doesn't usually notice it. Thank goodness).

Friday, March 30, 2012

the crock pot: play more, cook less

I have been looking for new crock pot recipes lately for many reasons. My minimalist approach to parenting makes me gravitate toward healthy meals that require less of my time in the kitchen--no small feat. Plus I know I'll be running out on last-minute calls to my doula clients and don't want to leave my family in the lurch. Finally, I have a crock pot, a wedding gift I was very excited to receive over seven years ago (thanks Corinne!), and I almost never use it due to lack of inspiration and knowledge.

Mommy, play? How could I say no to this face?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

buying and raising chickens

What are YOU looking at?

Doesn't it seem like everyone is suddenly raising chickens? Perhaps it's just because I am interested in doing it myself that chicken-raising seems to be hitting a tipping point. Yesterday I read a good post from Off the Grid about the cost of raising chickens versus buying eggs, and then a few hours later I opened my new Food & Wine magazine to discover evidence of chicken-raising left and right. Even the Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin is doing it...and blogging about it! Here's yet another fellow blogger's post with some great practical information about deciding whether to take the plunge.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a time to braise

As promised, I'm sharing recipes from our Sunday supper this week. Braising is one of my favorite winter cooking methods, especially where onions and big chunks of meat are concerned. I'm even more slow moving than usual at this time of year, so it's only right that my cooking is also low and slow too. Our dinner consisted of two dishes, brined and braised pork chops with apples and onion, inspired by Alton Brown and Cooking Light magazine, and braised sweet and sour red cabbage, inspired--as so many of my dishes are--by Jacques Pepin. I love Aunt Nellie's jarred cabbage, and after some tweaking this recipe of M. Pepin's managed to beat Aunt Nellie's.

Friday, November 04, 2011

farmer mom

Howdy, y'all!

It's farm week around my house. It started with Halloween, then we had our farmer's lunch yesterday. I've also been spending time this week wrangling my few left-over brain cells so I can learn more about the farming legislation coming up for Congressional Super Committee vote soon.

Before I get going, I'll admit that this post is a bit of a doozy. But just like with my love of pretzel M&Ms, you can stop at any time. I tried to put in as much information as I could for those who wanted to know a lot, and I hope the most salient details are at the top for those who are in a hurry or frankly have other issues on their mind and would rather learn from Gwyneth Paltrow how to do your own makeup.

As we all know, Congress has been tasked with finding a way to cut $1.5 trillion from government programs, for realsies. I'm a frugal chick, so this challenge appeals to me. Right up until the lobbyists with deep pockets enter the room. Then my ass starts to twitch because I know that without concerned citizens like you and me stepping forward, money will change hands, and farm subsidies will continue on as usual.

I wish more people were focused on the farm bill. Although it's admittedly not a glamorous topic, food production affects everyone, and the real tragedy is that it doesn't affect you in such a simple, direct way as a tax increase, so no one seems to care. [For the kids reading this post years down the road: There is more in the news this week about Kim Kardashian's divorce than about the farm bill. I sincerely hope you have no idea who that person is.]

It's not that I don't entirely understand why no one cares. Let's be honest, folks. This is a boring bill. And at 684 pages, it's a long bill. But--BUT!--I highly recommend taking ten minutes out of your day to watch a TED video in which the Environmental Working Group chairman finds a way to make the topic more intriguing. [Incidentally, do you know about TED? Pretty sweet. Worth a lookie loo.]

Don't have time? Can't watch that video because you're at work? I'll do a summary for you, quick-like. The breakdown goes like this: the majority of the funds ($300+ billion) go to food stamps, another $60+ billion goes to subsidies for the big five (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton), $30ish billion goes to conservation, and $15 billion goes to everything else.

Time out for a minute. If you don't know much about how subsidies have gone awry, I encourage you to educate yourself. There is a wealth of information in books like "Fast Food Nation" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma." But for the Cliff's Notes version, EWG and Heritage Foundation are good places to start.

Ok, back to the EWG video breakdown. Let's talk for a sec about food stamps. Over half of the people covered by the stamps are children, and the coverage is only $4.50 per day, so it's not like we're talking about people rolling in hundred dollar bills and eating steaks. More like rolling in pennies and eating bread and milk, if they are lucky. If you know about subsidies and about the food stamp program, and you're not getting paid by either one, it's a no-brainer. Subsidies have got to go.

Still with me? Want to know more? Check out Harvest Public Media's farm bill series. I also liked Oxfam's reasons why both the Tea Party and #OWS won't like it that the farm bill might be passed without floor debate; here's an even better Oxfam post, this time by a farmer. The glimmer of hope in the current farm bill news is the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, which has been introduced as a part of the bill to assist the sustainable production of food by local farmers.

Coming from a public health background, much of my interest in food production comes from a nutrition perspective. Now that I have my own kids, I've also got a stake in the game as a parent. Since we're coming 'round the bed to having a kindergartner (less than 2 years to go!), lately I'm zeroing in on the sad state of the American school lunch.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution has kicked my butt in gear to become knowledgeable on public school lunches, and I hope to become part of the grassroots effort to improve lunches at my community level. I'll see you back here with more on school lunches soon.

Toodles,
J

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Yee Ha-lloween!


We had a fun-filled Halloween week. I say week because I got Vivi dressed in her cowgirl get-up four times. It began on Thursday with her pre-school party. Then Friday we went to Nate's office for their party, which was lots of fun. I got to see his office and meet many of colleagues, and they hired a balloon animal guy who made Vivi a pony to go with her costume. Saturday morning was Lexington's Halloween parade, during which Vivi got to meet Elmo. When Elmo started walking toward town, Vivi postulated that he must be going to get himself a cup of coffee.


The girls and I spent Halloween afternoon at Wilson farm near our house, which seemed a fitting way to celebrate the holiday given their cow and cowgirl costumes.


We adore this farm because it sells fantastic food at great prices and makes an attempt to stay connected to the community through constant family-oriented events. Yesterday was no exception; they pulled out the stops with a spooky hayride, trick-or-treating with a choice of local apples or candy corn, and hot fresh apple cider donuts.





They are also known for their pre-made meals and recipe ideas. We each tasted samples of homemade turkey and mashed heirloom butternut squash (I'll add this simple, to-die-for recipe later in the week). Charlotte squealed for more after every bite, causing other shoppers to wander over and see what the fuss was about. Someone joked they should keep her around the tasting area as a salesgirl! We ended our trip by stopping by the portrait tent for a shot to win the costume contest.


As soon as we got home, Vivi and I scrambled to get our Halloween decorations up. We hung up homemade t-shirt ghosts and put up a scarecrow we picked up at Wilson farm. Within minutes, we had our first trick-or-treater, a boy dressed as a skeleton. Vivi hid around the corner because she was so afraid of his costume! I was glad we had chosen not to take her out in our neighborhood, since his was one of the least scary costumes I saw that night.

As I suspected, we had lots of trick-or-treaters. Most had great costumes, my favorite being the brother and sister dressed as Jack Sparrow and Keira Knightly (or whatever her character's name is), complete with Victorian corset dress. Toward the end, we had our obligatory share of teenagers dressed in sheets or holding hockey sticks. It was a great night, and the only thing I would change next time would be not to decide to make labor-intensive potato-leek soup while having to answer the door every two minutes.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

eating the locavore way


Recently I posted some thoughts on organic food and gardening. Food is such a centerpiece of our lives that I wanted to write more about the evolution of our eating choices. Ever since reading a few books about how processed our food has become in America, Nate and I have been gradually changing the way we eat. First we cut out fast food almost completely and began eating more organic food back in 2003 after reading Fast Food Nation. Fast forward a few years to after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma; Michael Pollan's book encouraged us to change our thinking again to look toward more local food rather than solely focusing on organic.

We now know that organic can be as big business as industrial food production, and we increasingly trust and rely on our local farmers to produce healthy food for our dinner table as much as we can afford to do. The "locavore" movement, as it's called, encourages healthful and sustainable food production by focusing on less miles traveled rather than obsessing over the USDA organic certification.

We participated in a CSA last year, and although we didn't do it again this year, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and plan to do it again in the future. This winter we are participating in a local, non-organic meat CSA for the first time, and we are impatiently and enthusiastically waiting for it to begin. If you're still not sold on the notion of prioritizing local over organic, I read a great article last week about why organic is not always better. In addition to purchasing locally, we are also trying to eat seasonally as much as possible. Who knows, I may even begin preserving food soon. Baby steps.

It seems to me that eating food, watching people make food, and buying food is hitting some kind of tipping point lately. Earlier this week I listened to NPR's "On Point" with Adam Gopnik, a food writer who has written a new book on eating well. My favorite part is when he discusses how people of different cultures around the world turn to rice pudding more than any other food when experiencing family events and milestones. Rice pudding! My favorite. Another quick read this week comes from "How to Cook Everything" author Mark Bittman, who shared a letter to chefs on eating well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Farmer's Market Heaven!


Before I became a mom, I used to be into things like food and photography. Remember that? Well, I'm still into them but it can be a lot harder to find the time to talk about it. I am going to change that up this summer and start sharing some of my great food finds. This morning Vivi and I walked to the Falls Church farmer's market...at City Hall if you're a local Virginian. It's about 2 miles from the house, and I'm really thankful we live so close by. We both had such fun eating yummy snacks and listening to the amazing bluegrass/folk/Americana musicians who came. Next to a few weekends ago, this farmer's market was in another universe. It was probably the best local farmer's market I've ever attended (I'm not counting Eastern Market or Dupont Circle as local, although clearly those are great ones). We got spring onions, leeks, kale, gorgeous and colorful swiss chard, bok choy, arugula, fresh bread, pastries, milk and yogurt, a pork shoulder, bison burgers, and bison sausage sticks. And all of that was only about $60, which to me is a steal. I easily would have paid that or more at Whole Foods. I would have gotten so much more if I could have carried it home! Nate is in Philadelphia for his last regatta today, but next weekend we are able to go together, so I will be in trouble. I can't resist all of the amazing foods.

Cooking Light has their excellent "summer cookbook" in this month's issue, so I'm looking forward to using it to figure out how to cook all of the interesting veggies I got. No cranberry beans this time, but I'm on the lookout next week. Plus, I really want an herb garden so will return for basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and a few others. And if you're into food like me and haven't heard it yet, you should really give NPR's Splendid Table a listen. I've been enjoying it for the last hour while I blog. I'm really excited now to go out and find orange blossom water. One of her guests described a bunch of ways to use it in desserts and even with swiss chard! My mom used it when I was growing up, so I have such fond memories of that beautiful small french blue bottle with the cursive writing. Nate's parents are in town for Memorial Day weekend, so perhaps we'll take them to the Lebanese butcher up the street to get a goat leg, and I can look for it then. If you haven't tried curry goat, you're missing out! It's fantastic, and I really trust a Halal butcher to care about where his meat came from and how it was treated. You're not going to find a goat around here that hasn't been grazing grass, that's for sure!

My next food mission that I will blog about...make the perfect fizzy mint limeade with my own home-grown mint. I had a version of this at the fantastic DC restaurant Founding Farmers, and ever since I have dreamed of making my own similarly delicious concoction. And now that I'm pregnant and can't enjoy the bounty of summer cocktails, cold beers, and beloved vinho verde (again, if you haven't tried it, go out and get some today! It's a Portuguese white wine that is slightly carbonated, very light, and extraordinary...and they sell it at Trader Joe's for $5!). I tried out a limeade recipe at the baby shower my friend and I threw for friends last weekend, but it just wasn't what I was hoping for...slightly brown in color and much too sweet.

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