Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

Cool Kitchens Created For Cooking and Conversation

When you are constructing a less than a 1000 square foot home for the Solar Decathlon, and one of the ten contests that you will compete in is a home entertainment contest, and one of the features that you will be judged on is:

“Holding two dinner parties for neighbors, who award the host team points based on the quality of the meal, ambiance, and overall experience.”

your kitchen/dining area becomes a critical design feature.

Many many of the kitchens had the potential to fulfill this goal, but a few of my favorites are featured below.

While some visitors to West Potomac Park are attentive to the energy efficiencies of the appliances, and the water conservation capacity of the kitchen sink, I found myself drawn to the open footprints that the kitchens featured, where kitchen counters opened onto dining and living areas, like the vision of the 4D Home of Team Massachusetts,

and incredible tile work makes you want to live in the kitchen, whether in New England,

or in Canada,

or on the other side of the world,

and open shelving featured jars filled with food (the shelving below and kitchen above are from First Light House of New Zealand),

and nifty tables incorporated storage or were easy to store away.

I came away with lots of ideas, (and a renewed appreciation of all that an Ikea kitchen can be).  The visions for what my 1940s original kitchen could become are dancing in my dreams.  Don’t all of these kitchens just make you want to start cooking?

So if the gardens aren’t enough to draw you downtown this weekend, maybe the kitchens will.

September 28, 2011

Sun, Sustainability, and Survival

What should you do this weekend?  If you live in the greater DC area, I’d recommend a visit to the 2011 Solar Decathlon in West Potomac Park. And, why, you are probably wondering, is this post being written on the Family Foodie Survival Guide?

Well, the way I see it, survival depends upon sunlight and energy, and I think that living sustainably is one way to contribute to our long-term survival. And showing our kids how to incorporate food production into daily living is critical (having kids think that ham comes from an animal called a ham is just not okay). The teams that created the net-zero homes are thinking the same thing. These homes set the bar high for thinking about ways that each of us can leave a small footprint on our planet.

And of course, survival depends upon food! And many, many of these homes incorporate food-producing gardens into their design.  So I thought that you all, dear readers, might enjoy seeing some of these creative ideas and consider whether you could incorporate them into your own home.  Each home has a name, and a theme…

Let’s start at the most local competitor, the University of Maryland. This team created WaterShed, where incredible trellises shade your porch in a vertical garden and produce grapes and blackberries, and you can step off your porch into a vegetable garden.

And there’s room on the porch right outside the kitchen for a compact composter.

Moving a bit north, the team from Middlebury College in Vermont, brings us Self-Reliance, with a greenhouse wall integrated into the kitchen.

and included plenty of storage for canned produce for long winters,

And a visit to Re_Home from Team Illinois, designed to be rapidly constructed after a natural disaster, walks you up to the entrance through planters filled with enticing edibles,

and says goodbye with towering cornstalks.

Even the Solar Roofpod intended for installation on top of skyscrapers in New York includes and plans for food-producing gardens on the rooftop.


So, take the quote below to heart, and if you have a few hours to spend to dream about the possible, head on down!  There are many more houses to see, and lots more to learn about besides the gardens!

September 22, 2011

If We Did The 100-Mile Challenge, What Couldn’t We Eat?

This was the topic of dinner the other night.  I have read several tales of eating within a limited radius, including the classic, The 100-Mile Diet, and the American version, Plenty, and I always wonder whether we, our family of five, could actually do it.

And so, we talked about it at dinner.  What couldn’t we get that was raised within 100 miles of our Northern Virginia homestead?

Oranges and clementines, said the Fruit Hater!

Chocolate, said the Picky Eater!

Coffee, noted the Now-16-Year-Old and Recent-Convert-To-Java-In-The-Morning.

Bananas, said the Man of the House.

And, I said, what else? Anything basic or foundational to our diet?  The kids struck out – all of their other “missing” foods were well within our local radius.

But I said, what about bread? What about rice? What about lentils?

I was greeted with puzzled stares.

This, however, is what stops me cold whenever I think about trying to do the 100-mile-diet.  What would we do for bread and rice? Wheat is not grown and milled around here, or at least not that I am aware of. This was a challenge for the authors of The 100-Mile-Diet too, as I recall.

And without locally-sourced rice, we would lose a central component to at least half of our meals.

What a conundrum!

Plenty of veggies, and stone fruits, and greens, and meat, and milk, and butter, and cheese, but a life without bread and rice would be hard. And what about olive oil? or those lentils?  We certainly wouldn’t starve, but we’d have to rethink.  Which, I guess, is the point of doing a challenge like this….

What would you find it hard to do without on the 100-mile diet?

September 16, 2011

Eating Local on the Road

Last month, it was summer, and we were on the road. Driving north with three hungry kids (a teen and two pretty darn close to teens), food was a primary topic of conversation.  Not so much when are we going to eat… but where are we going to eat…. Since the Family Foodie parental units are also invested in food, and local food to boot, eating was one of a shared focus of the journey.  Let me share with you some of the highlights of our journey.

Fish from Lake Erie.

We do not prepare seafood often at home. But while on our boat tour of Lake Erie from Presque Isle, our race car driving, engineering student, ice fishing narrator told us all that the best Erie perch and walleye was to be found at Syd’s Place.  Although we had packed hamburgers from the Farmer’s Market by our house to grill at the park, it was raining by nightfall, and we thought that maybe we should try Syd’s.  So, we drove over to Syd’s, and were greeted by a rainbow fish (picture taken the following sun-filled morning), and aromas of the sea.

And the fish was incredibly fresh and mouth-wateringly delicious.  The man of the house had his walleye blackened, I had mine lemon peppered, and Zeke had his perch fried.  Our tour guide was right and it set us off on a wonderful food journey. (Just, FYI…the Picky Eater had chicken nuggets, and the Eldest had veal….not in the local space…).

Farmland on the shores of Lake Erie.

As we drove along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail through upstate New York on our way to Niagara, we saw many vineyards and orchards…

but since the plan was to head up to Canada, we didn’t purchase any wine or fruit on the way….we just took in the vistas….

and goose eggs (we think)…

St. Lawrence Market, Toronto.

When in Toronto, you will eat well.  Another blog will need to take you through the restaurants we visited, but let me share with you images of the St. Lawrence market where you can find all kinds of local foods.  The St. Lawrence Market was our first stop, and I will say that if we lived in Toronto, I would absolutely find a way to go to this market weekly. In fact, we enjoyed our stop there on Weekend 1 so much that we returned on Weekend 2 to purchase more deliciousness to bring home.

You can buy meat,

and cheese,

and fish,

and fruits,

(Okay so the bananas can’t possibly be local….)

and veggies,

and crepes!

How can you go wrong?

And if you’re going to take a ferry to the Islands to visit Lake Ontario, you can buy some sausage rolls and latkes and Ontario peaches for lunch….

And you can be very very content….

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