Archive for July, 2010

July 26, 2010

Money and Eating Nutritiously

War food poster

So I just finished reading this article on NPR, Eating Nutritiously: A Struggle When Money is Scarce, and I must admit to finding myself unimpressed and somewhat distressed.  The article showcases a family of 5, with 2 or 3  additional family members who periodically rely on this family for food.  The article describes how they struggle to feed this family on $600 a month on food stamps, and highlights some questionable food choices made by the adults in the household (soda over milk, allowing ice pops to be breakfast).  While the overall point of this two part article is that many many families are struggling to put food on the table for their family, what I came away with was a WHAT?!? We are a family of 5, with three kids (nearly 15, and twin 11 1/2 year olds), and we typically feed one or two additional kids dinner every other night or so. My food budget is certainly higher than $600/month, but largely that is because we  (a) choose to spend additional money on high quality produce, locally raised meat, and Belgian beer (a luxury that could clearly be set aside if need be), and (b) live in the metro DC area where food costs are high.  We are members of a CSA ($26/week), shop at the farmer’s market weekly (budget varies, but could clearly be tweaked downward if necessary), garden (tomatoes, basil, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, and many many herbs – long term investments), and shop at the grocery store once/week (goal is to keep it at $100/month – thank you, Grocery Game).  We eat very well – but that doesn’t mean we eat meat at every meal, instead we make finding new vegetarian meals an adventure for the entire family (red lentils and rice; pasta with homemade pesto, fritatta), soda is considered a luxury item (milk and water go a long way), and we rely on coupons to reduce our out of pocket grocery store expenses. 

I guess what really got me about this article (and I am not alone – the comments on this story are worth reading even if you haven’t read the story!) is that the family has a garden, and yet doesn’t seem to feature the fresh produce in the meals they produce (0f course, I’m not really sure why brussel sprouts were planted…).  Processed and pre-prepared food is the centerpiece of what they consume.  Granted my kids often grip about the soda-less, snack-less focus of our household (except the two loaves of zucchini bread were gone in two days, and the beet and carrot pickles were consumed equally rapidly…and cucumber/tomato salad is the favorite snack of the endlessly growing teenager) – yet, they are healthy, appreciate fresh produce (where did all those blackberries go that I bought on Saturday?), and have an appreciation for well-prepared food.  I don’t know.  I don’t like to sit in judgment on anyone, and I certainly recognize that I am fortunate and blessed to be in a position where I don’t have to seek out where my food is coming from, but this article really did leave me scratching my head.  How can we raise a generation of kids to know what good food is and to recognize how to prepare bountiful meals from what is available if we don’t teach them how?

Oh … and this very cool poster which anchors the blog comes from the USDA exhibit on American Food Posters from World War I and II — but that would require another entry to discuss…

July 20, 2010

Moving into the MidAtlantic Midsummer….CSA Week 7

So, it’s week 7 for our CSA….and the eating will be good this week. We are moving to mid-summer produce.  Corn and tomatos, as well as chard, squash, lettuce, basil, carrots, and cucumbers.  The picture below only captures some of what was in our overflowing bag this afternoon. Some of the corn and the lettuce have been consumed already…and I need to plan the use of the remaining ears of corn  – not enough for each of us to have an ear, but plenty to use as a key ingredient to something else…perhaps a black bean salad?!  I imagine that there will be more pesto prepared, as well as our “standard”  cucumber, tomato, and feta salad (maybe with some corn tossed in), sauteed Swiss chard, zucchini bread…and I think that I’d really like to try the summer squash fritters that were on our CSA’s newsletter a couple of weeks ago.  I also saw a recipie for a zucchini and tomato tart that I want to try…. And we’ll have to serve some thick sliced tomatos with basil and balsamic vinegar for salad one night.  And for the carrots, we should make the honey carrot medallions that are such a hit with the picky eater.  Ahh… I think I’m getting into the menu planning space that my fellow blogger at Married….with Dinner recommended.

Too bad I can’t spend all day tomorrow cooking….but let’s raise our collective glasses to the bounty of a MidAtlantic midsummer.

July 20, 2010

Field to Fork VA

A new link for those of you in NoVA looking for local food.  As you know, I’ve become a bit manic about this, and would encourage all of you who read, write, and like to eat local food to check this site out, and think how you can contribute to this site.

July 8, 2010

Local Produce Overflow

We are overflowing with produce.  This, says the husband, is the problem with the CSA.  This, says the wife, is why I love the CSA.  Opportunity abounds for making things we love, and for adventuring into new recipes with the mountain of verdant veggies that threatens to take over my fridge.  The long weekend meant time… and that IS what is hard about having so much produce.  So little time, so much cooking to do. So what did we do, and what have we been eating?

First, quick pickled vegetables. I used a recipe from a recent Eating Well that has has been on my to-do list for ages, but kept falling to the bottom of the list.  But after working with the kids to get their rooms in order, I pulled out the beets, and the baby carrots, and the salad turnips that we hadn’t eaten, and did it.  Peeling and blanching the beets was a colorful event, the carrots and turnips less so.  Boiling water and vinegar and sugar was a cinch, and adding seasoning and herbs required only a little bit of decision making (and we chose to use dill and garlic from the farm too!).  And tonight, we tried the pickled beets, and they were good.  Tender and flavorful.  We have to wait until next week to try the turnips, but I’m thinking that this is just the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the quick pickle.

With so much produce in the house, we decided it was time for frittata accompanied by a green salad – one of our go-to summer meals.  Although we did not have local eggs in the house, we had farmer’s market and CSA potatoes, onions, and lots of basil.  We added a red pepper from the grocery store, and cheese, and the entire frittata was gone before bedtime.  We may have to make another this week.

And then, there is the basil.  Although we have encountered some tomato thieves this season, our basil has been thriving.  And then we got even more basil from our CSA.  So, we had already slivered and frozen some basil in ice cube trays for future use, and have been adding it religiously to our salads, but we decided the time was right to make ourselves some pesto.  So we made two quick batches – one with Genovese basil, the other with lemon basil – and served it over some fettucine.  Unbelievably fresh, and enough left over to freeze!! Whoopee!

Following in the footsteps of our fellow blogger at FoodieTots, who is a member of our CSA, we used her inspired recipe to prepare the rainbow-colored Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes.  Delicious.

And, tonight, we made our first gazpacho of the season.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and mint from our garden and the CSA with some V-8 juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It was a perfect capper for yet another over 100 degree DC day.


Now, we just need to make the summer squash fritters and zucchini bread, and do something with the kale and kohlrabi and cabbage …..but we’re pretty sure that we know what we’re going to do with the new batch of beets that we got on Tuesday!  Hope all our readers are enjoying their own local bounties.

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