Archive for May, 2013

May 27, 2013

It’s All About The Choices You Make

I am a proud customer of Smith Meadows Farm and have been so since we moved back to Arlington in 2002.  Having just finished Forrest Pritchard’s narrative of how he saved his family farm, Smith Meadows, I can’t tell you how glad I am that he made the choices that he did. As a mom of a young man who will be launching into adulthood at James Madison University this fall (and who professes a desire to major in English and Philosophy), I totally understand the less than whole-hearted embracing of his decision to choose the farm over a teaching career by his parents. But he persevered and chose not to embrace his parents’ concerns about the choices he was making. Even when his take home from the market was less than an Andrew Jackson. As his customer, I am thrilled that he had the vision and stubbornness to continue to fulfill his dream. My belly, and the bellies of my family, embrace his choices.

Enough about me though. What about the book? And the farm? And let’s not forget about the meat and the pasta?

The book is wonderful. It draws the reader into a coming-of-age tale, or maybe a conquering hero tale, or a straight up historical narrative about family farming in the USA. I am not the English major in the household. I read, I cook, I spend a lot of time bring local food into my home, and preparing it simply for the family. Gaining Ground reinforced the decisions that I make every week. But while I was reading it, I really just wanted to keep reading it, and hoped that dinner would prepare itself :)! The narrative sings, the writing is lyrical, and brings you into the story as it is lived by “Farmer Forrest” and his family.  There is hardship and sadness but the story is victorious in the end, as I am sure that you all might have imagined simply by the cover!

In addition, the narrative hinges on a decision to move to farmers’ markets close to DC, specifically the Arlington Courthouse Market. As this is the market that we shopped at when we first returned to DC, listening to the description of the behind-the-scenes market culture is priceless. And if readers have been shopping at Courthouse for the past decade or more, I am sure that you will want to read the book simply to see if you can identify who the vendors are that he describes!

Highly recommended – for those of you like me who eat as much grown locally as possible, and especially for those of you who still buy your meat at the grocery store. Stop, read, and reconsider.

May 5, 2013

A Real Food Kind of a Day

I like challenges. My family, not so much. Let’s just say that they indulge me.

This year we decided to have a bag of veggies delivered to our doorstep each Friday from Hometown Harvest instead of buying into a CSA. And Hometown Harvest apparently knows that I like challenges (or maybe it’s just that we ALL like challenges) and have decided to ask their customers to join in with them on a 30-day real food challenge. I have been following 100 Days of Real Food for quite a while now, but have never decided to do her challenge. Until now. I am working on getting my blog-writer-self back into a regular routine, and this seemed like a great way to do it.

So, the family has their Real Food Bracelets, and we embraced the challenge with gusto today.

(We have been slowly working up to this – the challenge officially started May 1st, but I was in San Francisco, and then 3/5ths of the family was away from Friday-Saturday, so today was the first day that we were eating all together all day).

Here are the rules (that draw lots on Michael Pollan’s most excellent advice):

“YES” Foods:

  • Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, eggs, and cheese
  • 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains (check the Understanding Grains post for more info: our Spring Mill sandwich breads fit the bill!)
  • Seafood (Wild caught is preferred…stay tuned for Alaskan Salmon from HH!)
  • Only locally raised meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)
  • Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, naturally sweetened coffee & tea, and, to help the adults keep their sanity, wine and beer!
  • Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
  • All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation

“NO” Foods:

  • No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
  • No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
  • Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 whole-food ingredients listed on the label
  • No deep fried foods
  • No “fast foods”

So, we are pretty good already on the Yes foods – but we do like sugar in our coffee and tea, and My Picky Eater is a white bread kind of a girl – our clear stumbling blocks will be in those two categories.

I’m sure you are just dying to know what we ate today, right? Well, if I say so, I think we ate pretty well….but it was Sunday and I was home all day to make sure we ate well J!

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

  • Belgian Beef Stew with beef from Valentine’s Country Meats and onions from Hometown Harvest
  • Red Quinoa from our local grocery store
  • A cucumber, tomato, feta salad featuring local produce and cheese from Toigo Orchards, Hometown Harvest, and Fields of Grace
  • Wine for the adults, milk for the boys, cider for the girl

And to cap the day off, a rhubarb-apple-maple syrup-walnut-balsamic vinegar bake (apples because the strawberries were all gone!)

My belly is full. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, but today was a success!

May 4, 2013

Time to Skip with Joy: First Spring Markets Open Today in NoVa!

I expressed my sadness about lack of strawberries and asparagus on “the right coast” too soon! When I walked into our local farmer’s market this morning, I realized that Spring Market season began today…and with that comes a sharp uptick in the number of produce vendors….and, wait for it, those strawberries and asparagus that I was so excited about seeing in San Francisco. Now, the volume is not so great as what I saw out West, but the berries are sweet, and the asparagus will be delicious.

Our favorite crepe stand is back too…

What did I come home with?

Supplies to make keeping good on our Real Food pledge from Hometown Harvest.

  • 2 ½ gallons apple cider … made from apples only!
  • 2 loaves of bread (one country white and one honey wheat), both made from whole wheat grain
  • 1 package of Honey Greek Yogurt
  • 2 packages of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 wheel of Camembert (not pictured…it got buried in one of my bags!)
  • Mixed mushrooms
  • Persian cucumbers
  • 1 quart Strawberries
  • Cilantro
  • Asparagus
  • 1 lb. rosemary garlic sausage
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 3 lb. rump round roast

This supplements what we received from our Hometown Harvest order yesterday …

  • Asparagus
  • Spring Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Bartlett Pears
  • Avocado

Next task….to see what I have in the fridge and menu plan for the week. We get our milk and eggs on Tuesday morning, so now is the time to determine what other items I’m going to need to round out our plan for the week.

P.S. The hardest part of this challenge is going to be making sure the kids have lunches that are real food. While the twins typically pack, the eldest likes to go to The Italian Store and get pizza…

May 3, 2013

The City on the Bay: Fit for Foodies

Work took me to “the left coast” last week, and I was able to find time to explore the many food-related joys of San Francisco. I got to eat at many wonderful restaurants the feature local, sustainable cuisine, including the world famous Greens, but my most favorite food-related event was when I got to spend Saturday morning at the Ferry Pier Farmer’s Market. Anyone who’s been following my blog for any period of time knows that we almost always go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning when we are at home …. so being able to integrate it into my travel plans made it even sweeter.

Now my friends in Chicago often express jealousy over our year-round farmer’s markets. I do love my January markets, but in the fresh produce realm those markets feature root vegetables, mushrooms, and apples. Nothing like the variety that greeted me in Northern California.

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