Archive for May, 2010

May 30, 2010

An Addition to Our Tradition: The Falls Church Farmer’s Market

We love the farmer’s market. It is a Saturday morning ritual in our house.  And we usually go to the Arlington Courthouse market.  We have our regular vendors that we visit there, and part of the joys of local food is that you know your vendors.  But our friends and family members have been encouraging us to visit the Falls Church market.  Finally, after years of prodding, the promise of crepes lured us there yesterday morning.  In fact, the crepes incentivized the whole clan, and all five of us plus one friend descended upon the market.

 Not five minutes from our house, the market was full of people and produce and music.  We’ve had a warm and wet spring here in the DC area and the stalls are overflowing with greens, and squash, and asparagus (I was fortunately wrong – the season isn’t over quite yet), and fennel, and cabbage, and tomatoes, I could go on, but I won’t.  We were pleased to find that many of our regular vendors were there, and easily got everything on our list and more.

What we really enjoyed, though, was wandering through the stalls and realizing that there is a world of locally prepared foods begging to be tasted.  Because the crepes were what drew us there, they were the prepared foods to try and they were everything we wanted – lovely fluffy crepes, fresh fillings – both sweet and savory – treats for us all.  The kids were happy, and so were the grownups.  Next time, we go, we’ll try the empanadas and the crabcakes, and the time after that the pasta, and then the wine, and the chocolate truffles….

But we did miss Westmoreland, and EcoFriendly Foods…alternating weeks to satisfy our tastebuds may be the only solution, because two farmer’s markets on Saturday morning might be a little out of control…

May 29, 2010

Mom, What’s For Dinner? Is Meal Planning Really Gonna Be the Answer?

Dinner on a Deadline – Homework 1 – One of the joys of blogging is that you discover all the other people who are as obsessed with food as you are.  I recently found my way to Married with Dinner, and am really enjoying her Dinner on a Deadline series.  And given that what she is proposing makes complete and total sense, and given that I’m a sucker for challenges, I’ve decided to jump in and join the 12-step plan that she’s laying out for her readers.  The first step one must take, she proposes, to increase the likelihood of cooking from scratch during the week when everyone is busy is to … plan your meals for the week.

Meal planning.  Ah, it sounds so luxurious to me – to plan BEFORE I shop. It has so many benefits, and is something I have attempted to do halfheartedly for years.  So here is what meal planning currently looks like in our household.  The way this typically works is that I go to the store, purchase what is on sale, go to the farmer’s market to get what looks great, and then, and only then, create a meal plan from what’s on hand.  My pantry is pretty well-stocked (but that’s for discussion under homework 2…), so this has been partially effective, but I think it’s pretty clear to me that it’s not as effective as it should be.  I am convinced that to move the Family Foodie from surviving to thriving, this step must be executed, but being convinced is not the same as making it actually happen….

Here’s what I hope to accomplish by planning prior to shopping:

  • Improved buy-in from all household residents for all meals
  • Fewer last minute runs to the store (although I don’t have enough storage space in my fridge for the amount of milk our family consumes in a week!!)
  • Reduced reliance on convenience foods for snacking
  • Less waste and better use of all the CSA produce that we’ll be receiving soon!!!
  • Less stress for me

Here’s what I worry about:

  • Our spontaneity will be compromised
  • Planning is hard
  • Getting everyone to agree on what to eat may not be possible

But, I’m going to give it a try.  It’s a long weekend, and so I should have additional time for planning. Last night, the Friday before the farmer’s market, I assessed what we had in the house.  We still have quite a few greens from last week’s market trip (lettuce, some spinach, cilantro, arugula), baby potatoes, red onions, garlic, and peas.  We are also well-stocked in the cheese realm, and have ribs, pork butt, chicken thighs and legs, sausage, and stock in the freezer.  The pantry has many beans and canned tomatoes available.  So working with that knowledge, here’s my plan for the week.  I actually have nearly everything I need already – and I used that to target our farmer’s market purchases this morning, and when I go to the grocery store tomorrow or Monday, I’ll know exactly what I need!


  •                 Breakfast:  crepes at the market, coffee
  •                 Lunch: PBJ or tuna salad sandwiches
  •                 Dinner: BBQ after soccer game; bring dessert


  •                 Breakfast: Eggs, sausage, farmer’s market bread, smoothies
  •                 Lunch: Cucumber, tomato, & feta salad; bread and cheese
  •                 Dinner: Pork BBQ sandwiches, NC style slaw

Meatless Monday

  •                 Breakfast: Cinnamon rolls, banana bread, smoothies
  •                 Lunch:  Black bean soup, quesadillas
  •                 Dinner:  Wild mushroom pilaf, green salad with fennel


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner: Tom Ka Kai, rice, Asian cucumber salad


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner: Spaghetti & meatballs, green salad


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Leftovers or PB & honey
  •                 Dinner:  Salad of Lentilles du Puy, good bread (buy on way home from work)


  •                 Breakfast: Cereal, waffles, yogurt
  •                 Lunch: Kids buy lunch at school; leftovers for grown ups
  •                 Dinner: Eat out or make something from The Butcher at the Westover Market
May 24, 2010

Local Meat at the Wall of Beer

Now this will need a longer post at some point – but I just need to share my excitement and enthusiasm to learn that our favorite farmer’s market meat purveyor, EcoFriendly Foods, is now selling locally-produced meat at The Westover Market, more well-known in our house as the home of The Wall of Beer.  All within walking distance of my home, and already part of our regular routine!!! It’s a wonderful thing when living locally comes to you.

May 23, 2010

Cherries, and peas, and cucumber plants…

…were new at the farmer’s market this week!  But we’re out of asparagus season already :(.  As everyone who eats locally will tell you, you become very attuned to the growing season, and very emotional when produce that you love is out of season.  So, the end of asparagus season came much too quickly for us.  We do, however, take comfort in the fact that more and more produce is appearing every day. 

Last weekend we visited the Columbia Pike Market – a smaller market that we got to too late, so we missed most of the vendors that we regularly visit at the Courthouse market. But this week, we were back to our regular routine, and on Saturday, we shopped at our regular market, and found some new fruits and veggies and plants….wonderfully sweet cherries and fresh garlic from Westmoreland, some sugar snap peas (a little tough, not as sweet as we expected), and middle eastern cucumber plants!  I think the cucumber plants are what we are most excited about.  We adore the small sweet cucumbers and they are usually all gone by Monday.  We hadn’t seen the plants at the market before for this variety, so we are excited to see if they grow well in our designated cucumber area.  Basil in the foreground, little cucumber plants in the background.  They will need to be thinned after we see which plants acclimate best to the barrel.

The rest of our farmer’s market shop included a loaf of country white from Atwaters, spinach and salad greens, a head of red leaf lettuce and baby bok choi from Potomac Vegetable Farms, several pounds of middle eastern cucumbers and argula from Twin Springs, two packages of small mozzerella balls and butter from Blue Ridge Dairy, some cilantro, and our standard three-pack of strawberries.    What is amazing to me is how quickly the food is consumed.  It’s Sunday evening and after a weekend at home, the strawberries and cherries are gone, as is the bread, and most of the mozzerella and all but two of the cucumbers…

May 20, 2010

Food for Thought

If you’re looking for some interesting and/or inspiring reads, here are a couple of recent articles…

Urban farming here, urban farming everywhere…even in New York City

What happens when foodie kids grow up

May 19, 2010

Our Story of Tomatoes

Our garden always includes tomatoes.  Most years the garden will include more produce, but there are always tomatoes.  To explain why requires just a bit of my husband’s family history. The narrative is below.

We didn’t have a vegetable garden until we moved back to Arlington after 20 or so years living in various apartments and cities and foreign lands….basil, sure, cilantro, sometimes, but for reasons that require more explaining that we have room for in our blog, we didn’t find/make time for gardening in any serious way until we moved back home.  Perhaps one reason is that growing food has early roots in my husband’s family, and moving back to where he grew up made the vegetable garden something that had to happen. His mother grew up on the top story of a deli, and since he was a little boy, she gardened. She gardened with a dear family friend in a garden apartment complex, and they appropriated ground that really belonged to the apartment owners as a vegetable garden. From the very beginning, it was a vegetable garden. Why? As a kid, he had no idea.  But thinking back to the late 60s/early 70s when this was happening, it’s quite likely that the family budget needed to be stretched.  Many things were planted, including tomatoes, but they weren’t the central theme, but the first tomato always merited a photograph!  But she grew all kinds of vegetables – including carrots, kohlrabi, things quite impractical from a kid’s point of view.  When the family bought their first small house in Arlington, his mother gardened in that small house – and the new garden included both flowers and veggies. As a kid, he took no particular note of this. It was to be expected. When his mother died at a very early age, this garden was a fundamental part of the household, and needed to be maintained. His dad took it over once she was no longer able to garden, and has taken over the role with great enthusiasm. The garden has grown, and will need to be discussed in another entry.  But today, we are thinking about tomatoes.  Tomatoes, notwithstanding the first tomato picture, were only a small part of the garden in the “old days.”

As a kid, my husband hated tomatoes, because the ones featured on the “daily menu” were the pink peaky tomatoes that came from Safeway. An early memory is asserting, “I will never ever like tomatoes.”  Even though he held the first tomato high for his mother, he managed to get into young adulthood not liking tomatoes.  But there was a moment when the early dislike was transformed. While in Greece, in a summer during college, the first true Greek salad marked the beginning of new relationship with tomatoes.  After a day hiking with little money to his name, he ordered a Greek salad and a beer, and the rest of the story is legend. Meanwhile, his dad moved to a house with more property, and now has a garden where tomatoes are a central focus.  He grows at least twenty different varieties of tomatoes plants each year, and has a fancy irrigation system of his own creation to ensure that they grow as they should.  It is in this context, and with this historical framing, that tomato gardening has become a focus of our vegetable garden.  A little patch of land next to our kitchen has enough room for 8 tomato plants, and every spring, a trip to DeBaggio’s Herb Farm & Nursery is mandatory.

The tomatoes available at DeBaggio’s are the foundations of legends, and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from.  Plants both heritage and not, hybrids or not, of all shapes and sizes, and plants of many colors (maroon, red, pink, yellow, green, green striped, brown) greet the customer. You could get a gigantic beefeater tomato plant for your burger, or you could purchase a red brandywine, or you could simply read the fantastical names, and histories, and geneaologies of the plants, and pick the ones that strike your fancy.

Over the eight years that we’ve been regular customers at DeBaggio’s, we’ve become increasingly in favor of cherry tomatoes as opposed to the larger varieties.  We get better yield from those plants, less loss to squirrels and other varmints, ALL family members love them, and they are the best for salads…

So this year, we are growing  two large varieties: the Mortgage Lifter, a plant developed during the Great Depression with good yield, that seemed particularly apropos this year, and the German Giant, similar to the Brandywine, but more prolific.  And then, we eagerly anticipate the fruit of our six cherry tomato plants: two Black Plums, one Sweet Baby Girl, one Sun Gold, one Tommy Toe, and one Red Sun Gold.  Our plants went into the garden about two weeks ago, and are thrilled with the cool wet week we’re having.  We’re looking forward to the first harvest in early June!!!

May 6, 2010

Cookies: Key to Family Foodie

So all of us have nights when cooking doesn’t seem like so much fun, when work has been a drag, and the kids have mountains of homework, and all we really want is a beer and chips….so a great solution for our family is to order out (PieTanza – our favorite pizza purveyor) and then bake cookies – after we’ve all eaten and showered and finished homework.  Now sometimes we’ll bake from scratch, but tonight we had some Betty Crocker cookie mixes that we bought on sale with coupons, and the kids were up for making them.  Of course, they’ll all be gone within 24 hours, but they were yummy while they lasted.  A cooking sequence below:

First, crack the egg and add some butter (or oil depending upon the cookie):

Then, the mixing begins:


Next we need to put them by rounded teaspoonfuls on the cookie sheet:


And then they cook, and the kids eat:


May 4, 2010

Farm City in Arlington

Novella Carpenter was great — check out her video!  Cured meat comments from the Family Foodie are coming soon.

May 3, 2010

To Read, To Eat: Favorite Cookbooks

If you were to come into my kitchen, you would notice, if you looked under the countertops, that I have lots and lots of cookbooks.  Blame it on spending several years working in a used book store, and the fact that I spent a good portion of my young adulthood trying to figure out how to prepare interesting and flavorful meals.  As I was looking through Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for a Meatless Monday meal, it occurred to me that my cookbook preferences and references have changed over time.  I wonder how many of you out there have thought about using your cookbooks as ways to journal your cooking and eating trajectory.  So, to chronicle my cooking history (from recent to distant past), see below:

Cookbooks I refer to regularly today

  • How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman
  • Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food [Book]  How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food [Book]  Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book [Book]

As a new mother

  • Woman’s Day: The Only 25 Recipes You’ll Ever Need
  • Monday-to-Friday cookbooks, Michele Urvater

Woman's day: the only 25 recipes you'll ever need [Book] Monday to Friday cookbook [Book] Monday-to-Friday chicken [Book]

In Bolivia

  • The Joy of Cooking
  • Cocinando in Cochabamba

"Rare ""1975"" Cookbook ""Joy Of Cooking"" by Irma S. Rombauer - ...

As a graduate student

  • What to Cook When You Think There’s Nothing to Eat in the House
  • Twenty-Minute Chicken Dishes, Karen A. Levin
  • The Moosewood Kitchen Cookbooks
  • The Silver Palate Cookbooks
  • Family Circle Great Meals on a Tight Budget

What to Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat: More Than 175 Easy Recipes and Meal Ideas  Twenty-Minute Chicken Dishes: Delicious, Easy-To-Prepare Meals Everyone Will Love

The Silver Palate Cookbook Cover Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (Cookery) by Moosewood Collective

As a child

  • Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook, Arnold Dobrin

  Peter Rabbit's Natural Foods Cookbook


Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg.  I have many more “targeted” cookbooks, and many others that have been resold or borrowed from the library.  Spending just a few minutes looking at my favorite cookbooks over time has reminded me of many favorite meals, and of the resources that I have at my fingertips…

May 1, 2010

Succulent Strawberries

and more at the Courthouse market this morning.  The twins came with us to the market today, and our picky eater was swooning over the strawberries (or maybe that was just the morning heat – it’s summer here in NoVA!).  She was given photography tasks this morning, so her pictures are featured in today’s blog.  Westmoreland Berry Farm is one of our favorite vendors at the market, and our shopping always begins at their stall.  Today we were greeted by spring onions, asparagus, and rows and rows of strawberries.  As everyone who shops at the farmer’s market knows, freshly picked asparagus tastes nothing like out-of-season asparagus that comes from Chile.  We have not even been tempted to prepare the asparagus in any fancy ways – steamed or roasted makes it perfect. 

EcoFriendly Foods wasn’t there this week, and weren’t there last week, so we decided to try some buffalo halfsmokes from Cibola Farms.  They were lunch today…and so have already been consumed.  One small criticism from the sausage expert–they tasted more like Italian sausage than a halfsmoke – but I’m going to encourage a weekly sausage purchase from them so that we can try all the different types.  

We also got our first tomatoes – some sungolds from Twin Springs we’ll use them with the middle eastern cucumbers and feta to make one of our favorite salads this week (just add a little Annie’s Goddess dressing to the veggies and cheese, and serve with a loaf of Atwater’s Country White, and really who needs anything else for lunch?).

It’s always fun to shop with the kids because then we have an excuse to stop at The Holy Grael of Sorbet.  The lime sorbet is wonderful, but I know that the kids can’t wait until we’re further into berry season when the range of flavors will expand.

Another week, another fridge full of the freshest local produce we can find.  Beyond what is described above, we’ll thrive on salad greens, basil, spinach, sweet potatoes, smoked gouda, apple cider, and mitake mushrooms. Dinner at the Family Foodie promises much this week…and I, for one, am ready for the strawberry-rhubarb pie that has been promised to me.  Check back for photos.

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