Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

Ending the Dark Days with Sunny Side Up Eggs

I had planned to write a blog last week about this awesome chicken that we got from South Mountain Creamery, and all the many meals we made out if it… but I haven’t written that post yet. And our last Dark Days Challenge was to be a breakfast post. Others of my fellow Challenge Bloggers decided to make a breakfast with some challenge. I fear that for me, our lives have been hectic enough that all we could manage is our most favorite of all farmer’s market breakfast.

Bacon from Smith Meadows

Eggs, sunny side up, from South Mountain Creamery (delivered to our doorstep on Thursdays…)

Sauteed mushrooms from Mother Earth Mushrooms

Bread from Atwater’s — we did try Irish Brown Bread for the first time ever (yummy!!)

Jam from McCutcheons — new flavor for us — Damson Plum.

Simple, easy, and accompanied with joyful exposulations from the twins…

Delicious!

Now, we are ready to start the day.

March 14, 2012

How Focusing on the Local Changes How You Eat

We have been participating in the Dark Day Challenge this year. This has meant that once a week we are supposed to prepare an entire meal that follows the SOLE requirements of this challenge – Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical. We have been focused on the “Local” component of this equation, but have certainly added “Organic” where possible. But, as I was thinking about what we prepared and ate this week, I realized that the the choices that we have made throughout this challenge have filtered deeply into our daily meals.

I did not take any pictures this week, because what we ate was what we ate. And what we ate often fit the SOLE mantra. So on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I strolled over to The Local Market and purchased British Bangers from Stachowski’s, local bacon, goat cheese from Cherry Glen, green beans and spinach, as well as bread and coffee roasted locally at Caffe Amouri. Oh, and my DH also picked up some pickled asparagus from McCutcheon’s. All this meant that dinner was local without even trying hard — bangers, sweet potato fries (from the farmer’s market week before last), and green beans.  Then on Sunday morning, we enjoyed our local bacon and waffles made with King Arthur flour and eggs from South Mountain Creamery (delivered to our house every Thursday) accompanied by locally roasted coffee and local milk, and we devoured the delicious cheese from Cherry Glen (Monacy Silver) and leftover sausages as a snack in the afternoon.  No thinking required. We just ate what was in the house.

And this, I think, is where we all aspire to get. To the place where the choices we make when we shop ensure that the choices we (and the choices our children) make when we eat every day support those SOLE principles.

What choices are you making to move you in the direction of eating SOLE?

March 7, 2012

Vegetarian Dark Days Challenge Meal

“Nice presentation,” said The Eldest, “but it would have been even better with a few swirls!” Not something your typical 16-year-old says at dinner, but this is what can happen when your kids start working in a professional kitchen! But, what, I am sure you are asking, did you make for dinner that elicited such commentary?

We had visited our regular farmer’s market on Saturday morning, and found to our delight that the color green was seen at multiple vendors’ stalls.  After touring the stands, we decided to purchase the bulk of our vegetables from Sunnyside Farm.  Knowing that the theme for this week for the Dark Days Challenge was to prepare a vegetarian meal, we had decided to make the potato-leek soup that my daughter (a.k.a., The Picky Eater) had wanted to make for her Depression Dinner. I knew that we could get sweet potatoes, and thought that making Sweet Potato Biscuits might make a nice accompaniment — and was something new for me to try to make.  Finally, I was thrilled to see that early leggy greens were available at the market. So, the menu was set and all that was left to make make it…

I pulled out my favorite cookbook, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman, and quickly found recipes for both the soup and the biscuits.

Potato-leek soup is so easy to make, I really think we could enjoy it once a week.

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March 1, 2012

Can You Make Dinner on $5.50 for 5 People? The Family Foodie Gave It A Try.

I hated history in school. Lists of dates were just drop dead boring. Fortunately for my kids, their school district uses a curricular approach called “History Alive.”  This year, they have reenacted The Civil War, immigrated through Ellis Island, carried out trench warfare from World War I, and had a 20s Dance Party. But this week, the kids got to do my favorite assignment…the Depression Dinner.  Each kid has to plan, shop, and prepare dinner for a fixed amount of money determined by the number of family members you are making dinner for. As a family of five, the twins each got to spend $5.50 including tax. And we got to enjoy two “Depression Dinners.”

Of course, both kids are well aware of the time that I spend grocery shopping, and turned to me for advice. First, they both checked with their teacher to make sure that they could use coupons. Then, they checked what was on sale that week. Then, they spent some time dreaming.

The Picky Eater asked her teacher if we could use the pesto in the freezer that we made from the garden last year. No go, said the teacher, you need to use something prepped recently from the garden (uh, it’s February) or else get it from the store. Of course, she doesn’t eat pesto, so I guess she was just planning on plain pasta.  I think she just thought she could count it as free.

Then she checked the sale circular. Chicken thighs/legs were on sale for 69 cents/lb. So she started thinking about chicken. She quickly abandoned that as too expensive when she realized this was for the value pack size. Next up, she decided to make the potato-leek soup that we had made a couple of weeks ago, with some homemade biscuits. Cool, I thought.

But then, we went to the grocery store (we had to get a receipt – so the farmer’s market was not an option….). She got 5 potatoes, weighed them, and was dismayed to realize that it would cost her $2.50 to get enough potatoes.  Then, she looked at the leeks, and just about died when she saw that they were $3.99/lb. Thinking on her feet, she asked if she could use green onions as a substitute. Sure I said. At $1 a bunch, they were closer to her budget. But then she was at $4.50, and still needed to get chicken broth or boullion.  That was the deal breaker. She was over $6.

While she was regrouping and thinking about plan two, the Fruit Hater and I (aka her twin brother) turned to his menu. He had decided to make one of our favorite go-to dishes: pasta with lemon, ham, black olives, and thyme. Fortunately, spices and olive oil didn’t count against his total, so he just had to get lemons, ham, and black olives in addition to the thyme.

Ham was easy. We stopped at the deli. Boiled ham was on sale, and he got 1/4 lb for $1.15. Then, he looked for lemons. All he could find were organic, and he asked the produce man if they had any of the “regular” lemons in the back. Lucky day for him — they said no — but they gave him an entire bag of lemons for 99 cents — score!! Then he found a can of black olives for 88 cents (big decision was sliced or not…). Next stop was the pasta. Straightforward – pasta was available for $1.29. So, he was pretty confident that he was good at $4.45. But then he remembered parmesan cheese. Shoot – how could he afford that? After, much decision, he returned the olives, and got a small can of fake parmesan. He came in under budget. No vegetables at all, but certainly an edible meal. And enough lemons to add to our required water (no milk for the kids or wine for the grown-ups).

Meanwhile, the Picky Eater was thinking. As we were pricing pasta, she found store brand macaroni and cheese for 22 cents a box. So, 2 boxes of mac and cheese became the cornerstone of her meal. As we wandered past the processed meats, she saw some smoked sausage on sale for $2.50. As a lover of all things hot dog related, that fit both her budget and her preferences. But then, she wanted to use the coupon we had for frozen boxed vegetables. If we bought 3 and used the coupon, the price per box would be 67 cents. So, we bought 2 boxes of brussel sprouts (her choice, can you believe it?!) and a single box of sugar snap peas for the freezer and another meal.  So, she was feeling victorious – and well under budget. She had a brief moment of panic however, when her mac and cheese rang up at 79 cents a box. Turns out that the 22 cents was what was saved because they were on sale…. but since she was only planning to serve two boxes of brussel sprouts, she was okay.

And then they both prepared their dinners. While we missed our regular salads, we were certainly fed. And among other things, the kids learned about how much food costs — and why we have a garden, and use coupons, join a CSA, and frequent the farmer’s market.

What would you make for a family of 5 on $5.50 for a meal?

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