Archive for ‘Local Foods’

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.

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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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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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February 19, 2013

Who Needs Peapod When Your Farm Delivers?

One of my great joys over the past 9 months has been to sit down on Sunday afternoons, and think about what I wanted to cook over the next week. As our regular routine was anything but regular, this simple step was one that helped ensure that there was something in the freezer to cook … and brought a big smile to my face in the process. But I did not order food from our local Harris Teeter or our local Giant. I had no need to do so. Instead, I went onto the South Mountain Creamery site to figure out what to order. We have a recurring milk and egg order, and now routinely order cheese, sandwich meat (awesome salami), and some meat from them.  Sometimes we’ll add something pickled, or if it is cider season, some apple cider. And we have not been disappointed. The milk still makes my kids sing with joy (especially if I splurge and get a chocolate milk half gallon…), and the meat and cheese are much more flavorful than what we used to get at the grocery store.

As I was thinking about renewing our CSA, a friend of mine posted on FB asking for advice about local CSAs. After I shared my thoughts about our CSA, I read the comments that a friend of hers posted, and learned that there is a farm delivery service called South Mountain Veggies that is modeled on a CSA but that allows you to make substitutions in your order. I know that many CSAs also have that option, but ours does not. So, I jumped on the website, and started to look around to see what was available. As I looked, I realized that I could still support local and organic producers, but have a little bit more control over what produce came in our bag. So, we decided to give it a try, and got our first bag Friday. We are working our way through it — but were thrilled at the freshness and flavor that has characterized everything so far.

The husband is pretty happy with this new approach to the CSA. His biggest complaint has been that we end up composting too much of what we get from the CSA (especially the Swiss chard) … and he is hopeful that this approach will fit better into the reality of our lives.

And best of all for me … I can get locally sourced flour for baking!!

So, no need for Peapod. I can order just about everything I need from these two sources, supporting my local farmers, and enhancing my sanity by reducing trips to the grocery store!

Readers — do any of you depend upon local farm delivery services in addition to your local farmers’ markets and/or CSAs?

 

 

 

December 26, 2012

Holiday Highlights From The Family Foodie!

It has been a festive time for the foodies in our house.  We started with a Christmas Eve goose!  Cooked simply, that is, just like a turkey, it roasted quickly in the oven, and served as our centerpiece for Christmas Eve dinner. 

Christmas Eve Goose

Accompanied with roasted curry cauliflower (from the farmer’s market) and sweet potatoes (from our CSA), everyone devoured it all up. Rich, we didn’t need huge amounts to sate our hunger.

Goose Meat

After a breakfast of pumpkin muffins, we laid out our traditional Christmas brunch featuring products from two of our favorite local stores, Arrowine and The German Gourmet.

Christmas Brunch Spread

And then this morning, we made Ho Ho Hole-y Popovers….

An extraordinarily simple recipe, but one that I have resisted making — for no good reason at all — because they are super dooper easy. On my husband’s recommendation (and he is the popover expert in this house), I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe. 

You start out with a few simple ingredients (we doubled the recipe) and a preheated 450 degree oven:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

All You Need For Popovers

While you let the ingredients get to room temperature, butter the muffin (or if you have them popover) tins.

Then beat (or stir in my case) those ingredients until smooth.  Then you add in 2 beaten eggs.

Adding The Eggs One At A Time

Fill the buttered baking cups three-fourths full, and bake at once.

After 15 minutes, lower the heat WITHOUT PEEPING to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes longer.

Then you can take them out and they will look like this:

Fresh from the oven

Gently release them from the baking tin and serve.

If you are a young child, you might want to turn yours upside down and put the butter in from the bottom.

Holy Popover!

 

If you are more interested to see what they look like inside, before you add the butter and jam, you can slice them open.

Popover AirCool huh?!

We served our popovers with some sausages from one of our favorite vendors at the market, and apple cider.

Day After Christmas Breakfast

Here’s hoping that you have been having a wonderful holiday season … and that warm popovers are in your future!

 

December 3, 2012

The SOLE Routine in the Dark Days

It’s relatively easy to eat locally in the summer season. The market is overflowing with more abundance than one can possibly cook, and the CSA delivers overflowing bags of produce, and the garden outside of the kitchen door ALWAYS has something that needs to be cooked.  But as the month of December dawns, the farmers’ markets are dwindling in size, the CSA has stopped, and although our arugula is trying hard to keep on growing (and 65 degrees today surely helped), our garden is no longer a reliable source of food.

So, what is a family to do when we are trying to eat at least one  entirely SOLE-sourced meal (for those of you new to this acronym…that is Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical)?

Well this family is truly blessed to live where we do — because although the types of local food clearly reflect the realities of the winter season, we are by no means deprived.

In fact, at our market on Saturday (East Falls Church Market, our regular Saturday market), we saw, and purchased, this incredible ruby-leaved lettuce.

Can you believe the rich color of the leaves? Oh and they are delicious too!

Can you believe the rich color of the leaves? Oh and they are delicious too!

Now this lettuce played a starring role in salads that accompanied dinner both Saturday and Sunday. But before I share that with you, let me tell you our other SOLE sources over the winter season.

Our walkable Westover Farmer’s Market just got approval for a Sunday morning market, so we can get our favorite bacon and newest favorite bread (Portuguese corn bread)!

And on Tuesday morning, we wake up to our milk and eggs from South Mountain, as well as whatever else we have decided to order (Swiss cheese and sweet bologna for tomorrow).

If I need some chicken for dinner midweek or some local beer and wine, I’ll head over to The Westover Market and Beer Haus, and for some jam and organic grains The Local Market is a great source….

And so really, runs to my local grocery store are reduced to TP, organic beans and rice, and citrus needs.  I am pretty sure that I can live like this for a  long time.

And our local meals for the weekend?

Saturday morning:

Sunday morning:

Sunday night:

Easy as can be, right?

If you’d like to see what my fellow SOLE-food bloggers are up to this winter, please follow along at our Google Reader log.  Lots of wonderful stories to read, and if you eat venison, apparently we will learn lots about different ways to prepare it from Annie and Susan this winter!

Please do join in … we are looking forward to an awesome adventure through the winter months.

November 26, 2012

Two Things I Learned This Thanksgiving

The two lessons below may seem straightforward, and perhaps well known by my readers. But here is what I learned this Thanksgiving (besides the fact that my 12-14 lb. turkey that I made for leftovers was insufficient. I made it on Saturday, and came home this afternoon to discover that all but the broth is GONE!!!).

Lesson 1. Simple Is Best

I am always looking for new vegetable sides to serve with Thanksgiving. For many years we have made a broccoli-lemon-garlic-parmesan sautee that we love. But not everyone is as crazy about it as we are. So, I was browsing my many recipe-filled magazines and came across a recipe for Roasted Vegetables from Eating Well.  Featuring both garlic and capers, we were pretty sure that we’d love it. Oh, and all it really required was chopping, seasoning, roasting, and then drizzling with a dressing made with said garlic and capers. Easy-peasy, and delicious. And an even better bonus … it was a great way to use the fall vegetables that had been featured in our CSA in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Pics below, check Eating Well for the full recipe.

Not Quite As Pretty As The Professional Photo….But They Sure Tasted Good

Lesson 2. Make Your Own Cranberry Sauce

Nuff said. Why did I ever buy a can?! All you need to do is heat up 3/4 cup of orange juice, add a bit of sugar, some cinnamon and nutmeg, and some grated fresh ginger… Heat until the sugar dissolves…Stir in the cranberries and heat for about 5 minutes or until they “pop.”  If you are so inclined, stir in some pecans or walnuts. My husband has never ever commented on the cranberry sauce. He felt compelled to try this one and exclaimed…”Why haven’t we been making it this way all along?”  Good question, dear one.

 

What did you learn over your Thanksgiving holidays? Hopefully something wonderful.

November 24, 2012

Through The CSA Seasons

Our autumn CSA is done, we are moving into the dark days for fresh produce, and it is time to step back and reflect on what we received from the farm this year.  Sometimes, it is important to just look at the wide variety of produce and be amazed. I am still learning how to make sure that I either eat or preserve all the produce we receive, and since this summer produced many unwelcome changes to my life, I have a New Year’s resolution all set. In fact, the resolution is starting now as I acquire cookbooks and read all of my favorite blogs, and gather resources that will be at my fingertips when I need them starting next June.  Oh, and I really need to make sure that I capture what we pick up ALL season. I realized that I am missing photos from almost the entire Autumn CSA. Here’s hoping that your CSA filled your fridge and your belly with abundance this year.

Week 1: An abundance of green

Week 2: Colors Begin

Week 3: And Then There Was More. The Fennel Took Over The Fridge.

Week 4: Two Baskets Worth of Comida

Week 5: Moving Into The Golden and Ruby Season

Week 7: Tomatoes and Corn. Must Be Midsummer.

Week 9: Abundance!

Week 10: Time for Gazpacho.

Week 12. The First CSA After the Beach. The Butternut Squash Brings Intimations Of Fall.

Week 14. Okra, Broad Beans, Canary Melon. Gumbo?

The Last CSA Delivery of 2012. My First Grain Ever From the CSA!

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