Archive for ‘Food For Thought’

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.

April 15, 2013

My Ten Favorite Things About Eating Local

In no particular order, here’s my top 10.

1. You Never Know Who You’ll See At The Market.
Going to the farmer’s market is a social event … we frequent three different markets in our area (yes, we are blessed), and I cannot remember the last time that we went and did not see someone who we know. Sometimes it is a family member, sometimes a friend from high school, sometimes one of our good friends, sometimes the friend of a sibling, sometimes one of our kids’ friends, sometimes the owner of our local Thai establishment …. the list goes on and on…

2. It Just Tastes Better. I have blogged about this before, but really there is nothing, nothing like eating a snap pea, or a sweet cherry tomato, or a peach, or a lamb merguez sausage, or draining a glass of cold milk or fresh apple cider….

3. What Comes Around Goes Around. My eldest works at a local deli that sources much of what it prepares from local purveyors. Not only has he learned critical kitchen skills, but he is very knowledgeable about butchering meat and the best local cheeses. And our favorite orchard owner has repeatedly asked my daughter when she turns 16 so that she can hire her… as she knows a tremendous amount about different kinds of apples and is quite an engaging young lady.

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April 7, 2013

Renewal: The Promise of Spring

It was a long winter in our household. After nearly three long years of struggle, my mother finally succumbed to her battle with cancer. Blessed to be with her when she died, it has taken me a couple of months to catch my breath, and reset. My blog, started as we waited to learn of her diagnosis, has suffered mightily from the darkness of winter and the sorrow of a lost parent. But over the past several weeks, I have found that stories have been bubbling up to the surface, and the desire to write, and share my photos of the world around me have re-emerged. And it is spring, and the promise of new life surrounds us. Here are some of the stories that I expect to show up on the “pages” of the Family Foodie Survival Guide. Which one do you want to read first?

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June 18, 2012

SSFC Week 3: Garden Greens Vichyssiose

or, what to do with all that lettuce in your fridge.

It is week 3 of the Southern SOLE Food Challenge. To see what everyone is up to, just click on the picture.

In our house, we have had a bit of an unstructured week – with a mom not running on a 100%, a family getting the Eldest ready for Spain, all three kids trying to get  through the end-of-school exams and shenanigans, and the Man of the House engaged in two conferences over the last 5 days, there’s not been a lot of time for cooking.

So when I opened the fridge tonight after piano, and realized that our CSA pick up is tomorrow, I know that whatever I made tonight needed to feature lots and lots of produce.

Fortunately, my go-to recipe guru, Mark Bittman, had written an article in the NY Times magazine on June 3rd, that was stuck up on my cork board, just waiting for me. As those of you who read our blog know, we like vichyssiose – even the Picky Eater. So, the “garden greens vichyssiose” recipe caught my eye. Especially when I saw that it featured substituting “other greens” and “peeled and cubed zucchini” for the leeks.  These I had in my fridge…ready to be put into the soup….!

To make it, here’s what you do:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot.

Add 3 peeled and cubed potatoes, 2 cups “other greens”, and 1 or 2 peeled and cubed zucchini (we actually double the recipe given what we had in the fridge/pantry).

Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until softened.

Add 4 cups stock (we used the stock we made from the veggie ends that was just hangin’ out in our freezer waiting for its’ turn). And we probably used about 6-7 cups, given that we were just about doubling the recipe.

Boil, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree, he says. An excuse for using the immersion blender!

Then he recommends cooling. We were hungry, so we just stirred in some milk (as opposed to cream), and put out a variety of garnishes — lemons, parmesan, and hot sauce.  Accompanied by Atwater’s bread, a lovely end to a busy day.

And that, my friends, is one of the local meals that we have enjoyed this week! Bon appetit!


June 16, 2012

Sunshine Blogger’s Award and Eating By The Seat Of Our Pants

A week ago yesterday, The Year of Healthier Eating nominated our blog for a Sunshine Bloggers Award. Given that we just sent our eldest off to Spain for three weeks, this added needed smiles to my week!

As noted by my nominator, the Sunshine Blog Award is a price awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” As an award winner, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Link the award to the person(s) who gave it to you.
  • Answer the questions that come with it.
  • Pass it along to 10 people and let them know they have received it.

The Questions and answers:

  • Favorite Number: 4
  • Favorite nonalcoholic drink: Cinnamon Apple Spice Iced Tea
  • Facebook or Twitter: Facebook – I am still learning how best to “tweet”
  • My passion: eating well…and especially eating local food
  • Favorite pattern: Indian patterns of all shapes and colors
  • Favorite Day of the Week: Friday
  • Favorite Flower: Lucifer Crocosmia

Now, the Year of Healthier Living commented that our tag line is “Eating by the seat of our pants.”  What you might wonder does that mean?  Here’s my best guess as to what we were thinking about it when we wrote it.

1. We are challenged meal planners. We have tried, but we are piss poor at it. Whatever we seem to have planned, we don’t want to eat. Instead, we make a list of what’s in the fridge and the pantry, and improvise meals from there.  This means that…

2. We have become skilled at ingredient substitution.  For example, the other night we decided to make some spaghetti with meat sauce (using awesome ground beef from the Smith Family Farm), and realized that we only had one can of diced tomatoes. But we had a can of tomato and basil soup, and fresh tomatoes from the market. No red wine either, but some balsamic vinegar was in the pantry. So, with a little ingredient substitution, we had ourselves a most delicious sauce with 30 minutes.

3. How did I get there? (Nota bene: The Man of the House has been skilled at this for years — I’m just learning).  I think I should thank Mark Bittman. Not only has he provided lots and lots of inspiration — every single one of his recipes includes “variations” — and because I rely on his cookbooks nearly every day, I have become comfortable with starting from what’s in the house to make  meal.

4. And all this means that I’m never quite sure what’s for dinner. But I know that it will be delicious.  How can it not be when we are surrounded by bounty from the farmer’s market, the butcher, or the CSA haul.

And, who, you may wonder are the bloggers on my list to share the Sunshine Blogger’s Award with?

Green(ish) Monkeys. First, I must recognize you, Anne- Marie, because you introduced me to my first challenge, and welcomed me into the joy of community across the blogosphere.

AnnieRie Unplugged. And, then you, Annie, because you and I share a vision of what living local in the greater DC metro area can be!

Sincerely, Emily. Emily, you corralled all of us Southern gals for the Dark Day Challenge, and did such a great job, that we are keeping it going as the Southern SOLE Food Challenge.  Thank you, Emily, for being an inspiration to us all!

In Her Chucks. One of my new favorite foodie bloggers — I found her by following CSA blogs, and immediately fell in love with her weekly linky magic…a great source of inspiration!

Terrified Tastebud. Deb, you are an inspiration to me. The passion with which you learn and cook is so very fun to participate in.  Thanks for sharing it with us all!

Rantings of An Amateur Chef. A gentleman among us all. How can you not like man who hides his wife’s purse in the slow cooker so that she remembers to turn it on before she leaves for work?

Red, Round, Or Green.  Because this mom knows how to menu plan, and I love to witness the plans of others. Following along as she cooks to meet her sons’ different needs shows us all how a little creativity in the kitchen can take us a long way.

domestic diva, M.D.  Stories and recipes work wonderfully well for me!

Tea and Cookies. I read her book The Butcher and the Vegetarian and fell in love with Tea’s voice. And then I found her blog, and fell in love with her pictures. Her blog inspires me to write and reflect.

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet.  All you really need to do is click on the link, and join in the superhero journey that each of us can be part of.

These are my 10 Sunshine Blogger Award winners. Please stop by their blogs and bask in their sunshine!

May 23, 2012

Why Do I Love Wednesdays?

Not because it is “hump day,” although I do appreciate the momentum toward the weekend.

But rather because I can open the paper in the morning, and start my day with reflections on food, and cooking, and eating….

This morning, I woke up to:

Grilled cabbage? With Udon noodles and cilantro. All of which are in my fridge. Check for a good start to grillin’ season.

Homemade mayonnaise? I have never really thought about making it from scratch. Two of my three big eaters are anti-mayonnaise, but… the description of dipping asparagus in this mayo until the bowl is clean has made me reconsider… and it’s a long weekend comin’ up.

Pressure cooker? Not necessarily convinced by the article, but this is one of those kitchen tools that keeps popping up in my “really need to think about trying list.”

See – this is why I like Wednesdays!

Anyone else out there like Wednesdays too?

April 3, 2012

If I Ever Need To Cook A Wolf….

…I want Tamar Adler to be with me. Not only would she be able to provide me with excellent advice about the best techniques to use, I know she would write a wonderful book about it.

But if you can’t wait for me to find a wolf to cook…and it might take a very long time for that to happen in the DC ‘burbs (although we just got visual confirmation that coyotes are wandering around in Arlington…), I recommed that you pick up a copy of Adler’s new book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.

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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?

February 4, 2012

Following Pollan’s Food Rules. Rule 1: Eat Food.

How hard can it be to “Eat Food”, Michael Pollan’s first rule of eating well?

As those of you familiar with his canon, after writing The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Mr. Pollan synthesized what he had learned into a manifesto to eating well, In Defense of Food, which was then followed by a set of rules or heuristics about how to put what he had learned into practice in his volume, Food Rules. As someone who is an active participant in the eating local, sustainable, organic (fill in the blank with your favorite adjective) movement, I see his writing as a source of wisdom and inspiration.

And, I thought it might be a good time to step back and think about how well we are doing in following the Pollanesque guidelines.  In Defense of Food summarizes his guidance in a wonderful memorable set of phrases:

“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

How, then, is the Family Foodie doing at eating food?

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January 1, 2012

Be It Resolved Version 2012

The Family Foodie is looking forward to an awesome 2012 with lots of delicious growing, cooking, baking, and eating in our year.

This year, we resolve to:

1. Eat one all local meal once per week all year long;

2. Give local and/or organic milk a try;

3. Learn more about local resources in the No Va area;

4. Stockpile summer produce for winter — beyond the pesto which we are still adoring.;

5. And blog about it all!


Here’s looking forward to the best year ever…hope you’ll come along with us on our adventures.

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