Archive for December, 2011

December 20, 2011

Lovely Lamb Soup – Dark Days Challenge Week 3

Soup is a wonderful thing. Especially when it is cold outside, and you just happened to pick up some lamb soup bones from the farmer’s market. And when the veggies are still abundant at the market…

So, our Dark Days Meal for Week 3 is a lovely lamb soup accompanied with bread from Atwater’s.

We began by making a stock from the lamb bones, filling up the pot with carrot tops, onions studded with cloves (okay those aren’t local), some limp celery from Thanksgiving, salt and peppercorns.

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December 17, 2011

Stocking Up at the Farmer’s Market

We didn’t make it to the farmer’s market last week, so today, we really really needed to go! And we had last week’s budget to spend as well as this week’s!

Needless to say, we had fun at the market.

First, we ordered crepes from Crepe Creations for The Picky Eater and the adults. Ham and swiss and lemon and sugar. Yumm! It is never good to shop on an empty stomach. Sadly this is their last week until May.  Boy, May seems really really far away.

While waiting for the crepes, I shopped at our favorite produce stand (Penn Farms) and stocked up for the week:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • 2 onions
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • spring onions
  • potatoes
  • a bunch of carrots
  • and an amazingly large head of red leafed lettuce!
This veggie stock up was followed by a detour to the Virginia Chocolate Factory to get some strawberry jam…
This is why it is impossible to shop at the grocery store anymore.
December 15, 2011

More Farmer’s Markets Are Good

NPR is thinking about local commerce … and the lead example is the growth of farmer’s markets.  According to the article, there are now more than 6,000 farmer’s markets … a 250 percent increase since 1994.  I must admit that while I realized that there has been a growth, the amount of growth hasn’t really struck home.

But our own family trajectory reflects this growth. When we lived in Chicago (1983-1993), we never shopped at a farmer’s market. When we lived in Bolivia (1993-1995), local markets are the way that all but the very wealthy shopped – and there were mercados for bread, and another for vegetables, and another for meat. Our return to Chicago for another year and a half didn’t bring any farmer’s market visits that I can recall. Our cross-country move to Southern California dropped us back into the farmer’s market world — and boy did I ever enjoy the access to local citrus. Then another move took us to a small town between Boston and Provide.  Farmer’s markets weren’t a big part of our daily life there either.

Upon our return to Northern Virginia in 2002, we eagerly embraced the farmer’s markets. Having grown up here, we knew that there were multiple farmer’s markets — and we have joyfully explored several of them. Our favorites have changed over the year, but we now live with the luxury of year round markets and several storefronts that feature locally produced food. What a wonderful set of choices we now have!

December 14, 2011

A Taste of Summer in Winter

While our neighborhood is flush with Christmas lights,

our freezer is filled with pesto.

This past summer, we were blessed with gargantuan basil plants, and found ourselves spending several Sundays making pesto to freeze just for a night like tonight. We were going to make Tom Ka Kai with some frozen chicken. But the chicken didn’t quite make it out of the freezer this morning, and so that plan was foiled.

But I had purchased lots of pasta (not SOLE, but quite cost effective: from an awesome Buy 2, Get 3 Free sale at our local Harris Teeter). And there was a hunk of parmesan in the fridge. And 8-9 cups of pesto in the freezer.

So a quick minute defrost, 10 minutes to boil the pasta, and 2 minutes to put the salad made from the last of the farmer’s market salad in the bowl, and dinner was served.

And the pesto tasted as wonderful as it did the day we made it.

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December 13, 2011

Making a SOLE Burger Choice: Elevation Burger

When the Family Foodie wants to go out for burgers, we have many options.  Five Guys, BGR, and the ever-present McDonald’s are all in our immediate vicinity. But the burger shop of choice in our house is Elevation Burger.

For those of you who don’t have an Elevation Burger in your neighborhood, Elevation Burger serves only organic, grass-fed beef, sources other items on the menu locally when practical, and exemplifies in their business practices the reduce, reuse, recycle principles that we try to implement in our daily lives.

And best of all, the burgers are darn good.

We have had the privilege of watching the store grow from the neighborhood burger store on the way to my sister-in-law’s house to an 8-state and growing franchise. This growth suggests that many of us around the country are seeking ways to eat sustainable, organic, local, and ethically produced food – aka SOLE food — both at home and when we go out.  I, for one, plan to continue to support all the SOLE businesses that I can throughout this holiday season.  I hope that you will do the same.

December 12, 2011

A Quick SOLE Dinner: Dark Days Challenge Week 2

A quick and easy meal for the dark days is necessary on Monday night. Monday night is music night in our house, and between piano lessons, and guitar lessons, and play practice, I needed something simple for dinner tonight. Oh, and I needed to do my SOLE meal for Week 2 of my Dark Days 2011 challenge.

In the cupboard, I had one large sweet potato — I mean really really large — from our gleaning activity that we did the end of October.

In the vegetable drawer, I had a head of broccoli from our visit to the farmer’s market last week.

And, in the fridge, we had two Stachowski Brand kielbasa that my working teen brought home from BBQ night at the Westover Market. Excellent side benefit.

So, we cubed and roasted the sweet potatoes tossed with (non-local) olive oil in a 450 degree oven with a sprinkling of dried orange mint from our garden and a little bit of salt.

And we sauteed the broccoli in local butter and with garlic from the farmer’s market, served with a splash of (non-local) lemon.

And, we sliced and pan fried the Polish kielbasa.

I put out some leftover organic basmati for the kids, and poured a glass of Barboursville Virginia Chardonnay (97.9 miles) for the grownups. The tale of Barboursville will need to wait for another night…

Dinner is served.

December 11, 2011

Moving to Local Milk?

I am pondering milk. Specifically local milk. With three teenagers, we go through a lot of milk in our house, and I have not yet made the transition to local and/or organic milk. It is not a question of access. I can get local milk at the farmer’s market, and at The Local Market that is just 10 minutes from my house. The kids buy chocolate milk at the farmer’s market as a treat everyone once in a while, but we have never bought regular old milk to bring home to supply us for the week.  It seems like an easy change to make and yet, I hesitate. I am not entirely sure why. Cost is a factor — but my unwillingness to pay more for milk is illogical. I pay more for meat and eggs because they taste so good — although not all the meat we eat and eggs we use are from local sources. Fruits and veggies come primarily from the farmer’s market and our garden in season. And we buy some of our cheese from the market (especially feta). Is it because milk is so fundamental to our day? Or because I want to be able to run to the store to pick it up whenever I want (of course organic milk is easily accessible – so there is really no excuse…)? I really don’t know why it has been so hard for me to move on this aspect of our diet.

Given this obvious omission from our move to eating local, I am considering home delivery from South Mountain Creamery – I don’t know yet if they deliver in our area, but if they do I think this might be my Christmas present to myself. Not only does the Creamery deliver milk, but I could get yogurt, milk, cheese that I don’t always see at the market, and maple syrup for my pancakes.  

If so, anything I should know/consider before making a decision?

December 10, 2011

Fruit in the Winter

My favorite article featured on Freshly Pressed today is … Wreck This Journal — Fruit Stickers … It really struck home with me because of my own shopping adventure this morning.  We missed the farmer’s market, but did go to our new Trader Joe’s…and one of the the first things that we noticed were the clamshells full of raspberries and blueberries and blackberries. Where, we wondered, had they come from? Certainly not from anyplace around here. Although I wasn’t collecting fruit stickers today, I was thinking about where these berries hailed from. Someplace just a bit more southerly than where we are.

I do agree that fruit in winter is the biggest challenge that the Family Foodie faces. We all love fruit, and in winter fresh fruit is an amazing treat.  Clementines, oranges, bananas, lemons, and limes are easy to rationalize as fruits that are not produced and never will be produced in our local area. So local isn’t an option, so we don’t deny ourselves.

But berries are a harder choice for this family.  We love berries, and when berries are in season here – we gorge on them – and we are very sad when the local season is over. So when you walk into your local Trader Joe’s and you see berries that look delicious, it is hard to turn and walk away from them.  It’s not hard when the berries look small or dry or green, but when they are round and luscious and it is 40 degrees outside, it takes strength of will not to buy.

I do not know that I can make an entire winter without, but I will say that today we left the store without berries but with clementines, and returned to our local apples in the kitchen.  May will be here soon, right?

December 9, 2011

Concert Night: A Musical Gift

Full Disclaimer: There will be no discussion of food tonight. We began the kid concert season in our house tonight. Five concerts in eight days. Enough to fill us all with music. And enough to make me grateful again that my children are blessed to live in a community where their souls are fed with music.

So, I hope that all of you have the opportunity to hear an amazing band or orchestra or chorus or recital, and feel compelled to raise your voice in song during this joyous holiday season. Happy Friday to All!

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December 8, 2011

Planning for Dark Days Challenge Meal 2

I am thinking about my Dark Days Challenge recipe for the weekend, and I am wondering what I will make. And, while wondering, I was moved to revisit my cookbook shelf. And as I was browsing the shelf, I found a great cookbook that my mother got for me several years ago, Cooking Fresh From Mid-Atlantic:

Not only are there lots of lovely stories from farms and chefs that I know (Nora from Restaurant Nora, Polyface Farms), there are doable and accessible recipes that I am ready to try.

As I think NOW about my shopping at the farmers’ market on Saturday (which counts as advanced planning in my life), I am planning on buying potatoes and smoked ricotta cheese to make Smoked Ricotta Gnocchi, and a basket of mushrooms to sautee, maybe I’ll braise the cabbage in the fridge, or roast the butternut squash, or mash the sweet potatoes that need to be cooked…that’s our plan. Check back Monday to see how it went!

I’m ready to see if I can make the gnocchi… a new one for me!

What are you planning to make this weekend that is SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical)?

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