Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eating Local and eating well

Well, I've been attempting to eat more locally lately and had the opportunity yesterday to go to the Farmer's Market. Having a small unheated greenhouse I really had no idea what you could actually grow here in winter/early spring if you gave it your all. These farms represented at the market must have huge heated greenhouses to grow the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, herbs and other veggies I saw there yesterday. Some of the tomato plants were HUGE and one vendor had red ripe tomatoes while we still have 40 degree temps outside some days.

I was especially enamored by the meat and cheese vendors. One stall had gigantic igloo coolers filled with various parts of pigs and cows. You could get literally every part of that animal if you wanted it. They also sold little tubs of lard, which I was tempted to buy, but didn't. The same vendor had a very large variety of cheeses he had made from milk from his cows. So yummy!

We also visited the alpaca farm booth where the vendor had a hand crank sock loom making a very long sock from wool his wife had spun into yarn. Daughter loved this booth and wanted to feel every sample of wool they had. The man let her take a few curls of wool from one sample that looked a lot like it came from a guy named Al Paca rather than an animal (hubby's joke). I think we're going to have to visit this farm and pet an alpaca. Although from the way the man talked, if you come to pet and feed the animals they may make you shovel some manure as well...I guess I'll put the kids on that job. :)

So I walked away from the market with asparagus, early walla walla onions, honey sticks, and a strawberry rhubarb pie. I looked for more rhubarb plants, but didn't find any.

On the way home we stopped by Bill the Butcher to buy some meat. I've heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what they had. We chose local Tri Tip preseasoned with their own herb mixture, a pound of house made bacon, a couple of bratwurst and a couple of beef franks. We had the tri tip last night cooked on the grill and the bacon this morning for breakfast. I got the end piece of bacon that's about a 1/2 inch thick and tastes like a piece of heaven. Yum! We'll have the "hot dogs" tonight for dinner and hopefully the kids will like them as well as Oscar Meyer.

So last night's dinner consisted of local asparagus, local tri tip steaks, local onions and mushrooms. Can't beat that!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something about the garden for a change

Well, I've been talking mostly about cooking lately and thought I'd post something about the garden instead. Hubby and I have gotten about 98% of the garden weeded and about 80% of the planting beds are topped with our homemade compost. I've gotten some of the seedlings planted and a few seeds put into the ground for direct planting. But even with all of that done I feel behind for some reason. I looked at my blog from last year about this time and we were just getting the first greens of the season from the greenhouse. This year I'm at least a month ahead of schedule on that front, but I still feel like I'm behind.

So far I've gotten the peas, pom pom lettuce, miner's lettuce (still not sure about this one as it appears to be bolting already but still tastes ok), scallions, leeks, potatoes, spinach and 1/2 of the red beet seedlings into the garden. I direct sowed corn this past weekend, and as soon as those sprouts come up I'll put soybean seeds next to them. Soybeans, green beans and peas are nitrogen fixers that put nitrogen back into the soil while most other plants take it out. The corn needs lots of nitrogen, which makes soybeans a perfect planting partner for it. I'll also add some blood meal to the corn patch once the seedlings get about 3 inches tall to add even more nitrogen.

I still have carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, golden beets, pumpkins, pole beans, soy beans, romaine lettuce, cukes, butternut squash, zucchini and the last half of the red beets to put into the garden. This year I decided to try a few new veggies I've never grown before. I've started some Okra and Artichoke in the greenhouse. The okra is starting to sprout, but so far there's nothing to see in the Artichoke pots. I grew up in the south, so I'm really looking forward to the okra. I haven't had it in quite a while and would love to have some made just the way Mama used to make it. Yum!

This year the rhubarb is looking really pathetic. I don't know much about rhubarb; so I'm not sure if the plant is just old and needs to be replaced, if it needs more nutrients of some sort, if it needs to be moved to get more sun, if there's a pest eating it or if it's something else entirely that's causing the stalks to be tiny and the leaves to be yellow-ish and full of holes. Maybe it's a little bit of all of those problems. I'm thinking of buying a few more plants or trying to start one from seed and then planting it somewhere else in the yard.
I'm also planning to move our blueberry bushes and raspberry plants from another part of the yard into the garden next to our gorgeous strawberry plants. Both the blueberry and raspberry are not thriving where they are for any number of reasons, so by putting them in the garden I hope to give them regular water, sun and nutrients they don't get now in their neglected corners of the yard.

So, all in all I guess the garden is going pretty well. But I can't help but think I'm forgetting to plant something...and no, it's not tomatoes! Tomatoes and I don't get along in general. Although last summer was a pretty good year for tomatoes in my garden. I didn't plant them; they were volunteers. But I did get a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes that ripened on the vine, which is a first for me. I've been considering buying a few tomato plants from a guy down the road just to have something to fancy up our new deck. :) Maybe if I don't start them from seed on my own they'll consider growing for me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Homemade Pizza

So following my theme of making healthy food that I hope the family will like to replace the less healthy version they've been eating, I made my own pizza dough for pizza dinner last night. I got the dough recipe from Baraba Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ( ) then used Classico bottled pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella. (I'm hoping to make my own Mozzarella at some point from the recipe in this book, but didn't have the time or ingredients last night.)

FRIDAY NIGHT PIZZA (Makes two 12-inch pizzas)
3 tsp. yeast

1½ cups WARM water

3 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

2½ cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

To make crust, dissolve the yeast into the warm water then add oil and salt to that mixture. Mix the flours in a separate bowl then knead them into the liquid mixture. Let dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, divide it in half and roll out two round 12 inch pizza crusts on a clean, floured counter top, using your fingers to roll the perimeter into on outer crust as thick as you like. Using spatulas, slide the crusts onto well floured pans or baking stones and spread toppings.
16 oz. mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh tomatoes in season (or sauce in winter)

Other toppings
1 tbs. oregano 1 tsp. rosemary Olive oil

Layer the cheese evenly over the crust, then scatter the toppings of the week on your pizza, finishing with the spices. If you use tomato sauce (rather than fresh tomatoes), spread that over crust first, then the cheese, then other toppings. Bake pizzas at 425° for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is brown and crisp.

I used pizza stones and sprinkled corn meal on them before putting dough on top. I thought they were much better than frozen and almost better than delivery. Son didn't like that they were different than he was used to but daughter loved it. We'll try again with leftover pizza tonight and see if he likes them better the second time around. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Make crackers, PopTarts & cinnamon toast crunch

So I'm reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and loving it! The basic premise of the book is eating local is good for your health, bank account, community and the planet. I believe in that and want to do what I can to eat more locally farmed and made foods. To that end I've been shopping at stores that carry local produce and meat and give back to the farming community (like PCC). I've been avoiding fast food altogether as that industry fuels the worst farming practices. And I've been trying to reduce our consumption of pre-packaged foods.

That last one has been a bit of a problem where the kids are concerned. They LOVE their goldfish crackers, pop tarts, granola bars, cereal, etc. and although they love fruit, they don't feel like that's an acceptable substitute for their packaged treats. So today, I thought I'd try my hand at making some of these on my own. I ended up making crackers, Parmesan crackers, cinnamon toast crunch crackers/cereal, pop tarts and chocolate pockets. This is the basic cracker recipe:

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 C Flax Seed meal
1/2 C wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, wheat germ, flax seed meal and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Pour in the vegetable oil and water; mix until just blended.
3.On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible - no thicker than 1/8 inch. Place dough on an ungreased baking sheet, and mark squares out with a knife, but don't cut through. Prick each cracker with a fork a few times, and sprinkle with salt.
4.Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until crisp and light brown. Baking time may be different depending on how thin your crackers are. When cool, remove from baking sheet, and separate into individual crackers.
That makes the basic cracker. Parmesan cheese on top for the Parmesan crackers, cinnamon sugar on top for cinnamon toast crunch. For pop tarts I cut 2 3x3 squares of dough, put some jam in the middle, put second piece on top of first piece and sealed the edges. Then for chocolate pockets I put chocolate chips in the middle of a 2x2 square of dough then bunched up the edges into a little chocolate kiss shape.
I think they are a success! I've tasted them all and they are pretty darn good. Just make sure to make the crackers really really thin. The thinner the better for a crisp cracker. Maybe with this recipe I'm one step closer to being a locavore!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Deceptively Delicious

As my son continues his picky eater phase I've been looking into new recipes that will both be healthy and appealing to a 4 year old. He loves most breakfast foods so I thought making them more healthy would allow me to serve them more often and for other meals. I found a few recipes online for pancakes and french toast, and I've recently gotten out my Deceptively Delicious book by Jessica Seinfeld and have found a few recipes that will be new favorites. I think the ones I like best are the pancakes I found on that include cottage cheese, whole wheat flour and fruit or veggie puree. So far the kids have eaten them up and asked for seconds. In Deceptively Delicious I found a french toast recipe that included butternut squash and sweet potato puree. Also in that book I found chocolate chip cookies with chick peas and chocolate pudding with avocado. The kids loved those as well. I'm not sure how I feel about sneaking healthy foods into something that doesn't seem healthy, but I guess as long as I continue to present the healthy foods at meal times in their original form there's no harm in adding some other healthy goodies into other foods that I know they'll eat.


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