Monday, December 31, 2012

Little Red Hen, am I

I am so excited because today I got the dry blade canister for my Vitamix! The vitamix, in case you're not familiar with it, is a professional scale blender. It has a 2HP motor so it is a beast and I love it. I have already put it to great use making a number of purees, baby food, soups, etc. It's seriously awesome.
But I digress...

I found the canister on Craiglist and picked it up today for half the retail price and it had never been opened. I was also proud of myself b/c this was my first Craigslist transaction and I didn't get ripped off or anything. It was great!

So today I bought the new canister (for 1/2 price!!!) then went to Whole Foods for some whole grains. I bought a quart of hard red winter wheat. I was hoping for white, but red was all they had so I took it. I also got some rye b/c I'd like to try some rye bread as well. I wanted to get some spelt but I decided to wait and try out the other grains first. Anyway, I got the whole grains and they cost me literally 3 dollars. I know I can get them cheaper once I buy in bulk or from a coop, but for a small batch to test out the blender, I was pleased with the minimal investment.

When we got home, I put the grains in the freezer. One of the critiques of the dry blender is that the heat from its blending can damage some of the nutrients in the grains. You want them to be pretty cold when they go in b/c they come out fairly warm. I thought this was probably people being a bit particular, but turns out it really does put off some heat. My grains were good and chilled and they came out pretty warm, so I'll definitely keep them there before grinding.

Another key theme in reading about the grains blender was to do no more than 2 cups at a time. I did just 1 cup at a time and it had no problem. The manual said to blend for a minute but it seemed finished at like 40 seconds. I sifted my flour to be sure it was well done and it really got all but maybe a teaspoon or so of the hard wheat ground into flour. I was super impressed.

In case you didn't know this, the dry blender can be used to make dough as well, so I just had to give it a go, especially since I had fresh flour just begging to be bread. Now I'm not going to lie. I followed the recipe with my cookbook and in the beginning I was super confident that this was going to be some amazing bread. The yeast looked so happy and the flour was so fresh, how could it go wrong? I followed all the directions but the dough seemed a bit doughy to me and I really didn't know if it was going to rise or, if it did, how it would taste. I was fairly discouraged for a bit, though it was probably my own fault for being so excited. (I am truly a dork.) Regardless of my apprehension, the dough did rise in the time suggested that it should take. I popped it in the oven and told B, "Well, at least the wheat only cost a dollar." thinking we hadn't lost much in this loaf and we could try again another day with another recipe. I am pleased to report, however, that the bread turned out great. Not too soft/crumbly and not too hard/dense. It would be a perfect sandwich bread. It's not as sweet as B's regular bread and I wouldn't want it all the time. It is a great quick bread though, and could easily be made after work for no more time and effort that it took to go from literally wheat to bread. I also think if I jazzed it up with some honey, jam, or butter, it could be a nice toast or semi-treat bread.

So, though I had plenty of help, I can't help but feel a bit like the Little Red Hen with her trips to the mill and the churning of butter, etc. Lucky for me, I also had my favorite people to share the bread with when it was finished.

While I didn't intend for this to by my Happy New Year post, it does sort of fit the bill. As we close the door on 2012 with it's false apocalypse, tragedies, victories, and more, my wish is for all to have Happy New Year, surrounded by family or loved ones that have become family, eating nourishing food, but most of all to be safe, loved, and happy. What more can we ever really ask for? I think everything else is just gravy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Vitamix in the house!!

We did it. After months on wondering, pondering, and hem-hawing, we bought a vitamix blender! We got a 5000 (not the newest or next-to-newest model) and it's used (thank you ebay!) but we got it for a fair price within our budget. It came on Friday and I have already used it a half dozen times or more.
This thing is awesome.
I was prepared to be completely underwhelmed. How on Earth could it live up to the hype? Well, yesterday I crammed that 64 oz. container chock full of roasted squash and within a minute I had 64 oz. of gorgeous squash puree. I did use the tamper to help the top parts get blended well, but seriously it was crazy easy. I was beyond impressed. Thanks to my fabulous blender I was able to roast, puree, and freeze 10 pints of butternut squash from the 11 or so squash I bought in the Green Door closeout.
I cannot express how excited I am to find more and more ways to use this thing b/c it's a workhorse. Today I blended some blackberries to make some syrup for ice cream and felt like it was laughing at me, wondering if that was all I was going to ask this beast of a machine to do.
I know I've only had it a few days and I know it's expensive, but I vote for anyone who's on the fence to take the leap (if it's in your budget - don't go crazy just b/c it's Christmas... wait for a decent deal to come around or buy it in parts to get what you need in smaller increments...) and get one. Also, I do think it should come with complimentary ear plugs - it is loud. Since it only runs a moment, it's okay, but it is as loud as you think something with the same motor as a weedeater running in your kitchen would be.
Just putting it out there, in the interest of honesty - it's loud. Loud and awesome and I love it!

Note: we were on the fence between vita-mix and a blendtec. I imagine that to be like the difference in a Porsche and a Ferrari... Just get what you get the best deal on. I do like that the vitamix blades come out so you can replace the canister without having to buy whole new blades. Other than that, I think they're probably both more than worth the money if you cook with whole foods often.
Just my 2 cents.

End of the World??

Today is 12-21-12 - the day that the Mayan calendar ends and people are speculating the world could end today.

I don't believe in the world ending today, but my family thinks I have enough food in my freezer/pantry to qualify as a SHTF person. However those people would just laugh at that notion if they saw my meager supply. Has anyone else noticed that there's a fine line in preserving, planning ahead, being prepared, stocking up, and hoarding? gave these synonyms for hoarding:
"acquire, amass, buy up, cache, collect, deposit, garner, gather, hide, keep, lay away, lay up, pile up, put aside for rainy day, put by, save, scrimp, sock away, squirrel, stash, stockpile, store, stow away, treasure"

Isn't it interesting how they technically mean the same thing, but you can read such a warm, positive connotation with some while others sound a bit extreme and cause concern for the person being described.

I also think it's interesting in looking up the meanings of this word how quickly they cross with words of greed. Some of the synonyms give a visual image a scrooge or a grinch to me - just hiding everything away so no one else can have any. In fact, linked the verb hoarding to the adjective avaricious - the root word being avarice. Avarice means extreme greed. Not the image I associate with the housewives of America that do their canning and preserving.

Not sure the point of my ramblings. Perhaps just needed a moment to reflect on the day. I would hope if there were some kind of catastrophe today and I was a SHTF person with all those supplies, that I would have the heart to give to others and share what I had saved. What would be the point of having all of that if you have no one to enjoy it with anyway? And somehow in all of my rambling I arrived back at the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to all!

ps. does anyone else have that song about the end of the world as we know it stuck in their heads today like I do?

Let there be Squash!

Yesterday I roasted 11 or so butternut squash and made 11 pints of puree to freeze.

Some of it will be given as baby food. I made a little batch to give my sister who is due soon and some is for a friend who just had a baby. They may not want it but it seemed only appropriate when surrounded by all that puree to think of baby food and share with those who might appreciate some pre-pureed goodness. Who knows...

The remaining squash will be baked into muffins, breads, and treats. Of course a lot of it will get cooked into delicious soup with cornbread crumbled in it. I could also eat it with a spoon because, as mentioned multiple times, I am slightly addicted to it. I love that you can add onions and garlic to make it savory or add sugar and such to make sweet treats, or leave plain and enjoy.

So as sad as I was to finish up the last of the winter squash, I know I have a healthy stash. It's not enough to last a year, but that's okay. I'm learning that's the whole point of this local eating thing. It will be nice to greet the new squash of next year - like welcoming an old familiar friend home again (except then you quickly gobble him up... so maybe not like that at all?) Still working on my metaphors I suppose.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

T minus 2 weeks...

For the duration of our attempt to eat only local food, we have been doing 80-100% of our food shopping at Green Door Gourmet.
I found out today they are closing up for the winter in 2 weeks. I can't shop next week b/c I'm going to Arkansas for the weekend, which leaves me only 1 more trip out there fo the season. Green Door will reopen in the spring, officially April for the public.
That's right - 3 solid months - market closed.

Don't get me wrong; I'm lucky they've stayed open as long as they have. Many other CSAs closed up about a month ago or more. I've been fortunate to still be able to run out there each weekend and snag up the fall treasures.

So, needless to say, today was "stock up while you can" day for our family. I promptly cleaned out the 1/2 pound or so of pecans left. I bought 2 pumpkins the size of basketballs which I have already roasted, pureed, and put in jars to freeze. Yum! (dishwashing pending...)
I got 4 pie pumpkins and 7 butternut squash to roast, puree, and freeze as well. I am completely obsessed with the flavor of butternut squash so I wonder how long 7 will last. I have probably roasted 10 in the past month or so and we are flying through it, so I wanted to try again to stock up on it.

I got a bunch of turnips and their greens for B and some baby greens for me. B is as addicted to turnips/greens as I am to the butternut squash. I wish we could freeze them so he would have them longer, but it's not recommended due to their moisture content.

I stocked up on a few meat things b/c I fear when I go on the 15th that the meat selection will be very picked over. I wanted to snag up what I could, while I could. New chicken and sausage and brats... 2 dozen eggs (bummed about new eggs - the ones at PP are all white. I'll miss our weekly hodgepodge of brown, bluish-gray, and white ones I have grown to expect. Plus they're more expensive elsewhere...) and a ton of other treasures.

I also got a bit of Christmas shopping done! I lucked out by buying several gift sets of local treasures such as soap, tea/honey, lip gloss, GDG jelly, etc. for E's teachers and a few other friends that would appreciate them. I hope I don't regret not getting more, but I am already wondering if I shouldn't have picked up a few more of the sweet little goodies all wrapped up. My priorities for Christmas shopping are: small business and local (Nashville) treasures. I'm also a total sucker for complimentary gift wrapping or pre-wrapped treasures, so that little table of pre-wrapped (so cutely!) Nashville treasures sold at Green Door was 100% speaking my language and it was very hard to walk away. You feel my pain, yeah?

So today was stock up day. 2 weeks from now we'll be independent and trying to get through the winter. I am excited to thaw out or open up the flavors or summer and fall that we have worked so hard to lock up in jars and baggies. As anxious as I am about the lack of new sweet potatoes (somehow missed the last of them... oops!), I take comfort in the notion of 2 gallon bags of blackberries in the deep freeze that might need to become muffins and jam one day very soon. I feel like that in general. For every food I am sad to lose, I think of one we have preserved or "put up" to get us through this time. With a little luck, some inventorying and careful planning, we may actually eat best of all in the winter. I haven't cracked into anything yet b/c we've been still reveling in the fresh flavors of fall. Come Dec. 15th, I think we may have a special "Welcome Winter" feast to kick off the beginning or our unofficial season.

I'll still be posting on this experience b/c the next 3 months are what a lot of the other work has been about for us. Could we provide/put up/set back enough in the summer and fall to get through the winter on only local food? Well, the 15th is more or less the last chance to stock up and after that it's time to enjoy all the fruits of our labors.

Let there be cookies!

The women in B's family do an annual cookie day. They split the cost of the basics and then everyone brings 2 recipes and any special ingredients for their recipes. They gather the night before and get things set up and make a few things, but then Saturday is the real deal.
This was my first year so I was mostly observing and taking it all in, b/c it was interesting to see how everyone has settled into roles and has their tasks before them. By noon almost all the baking was done and it was just a matter of waiting for their turn in the oven.
I have pictures of what we made and what I left with and every time I see them I am amazed. It's interesting too b/c none of it really fits our eating lifestyle. I love sweets but have been trying to do better, but B and E eat little to no treats (aside from the muffins at Produce Place). So it's funny to me to come home with a truckload of cookies, cookie bars, and all manner of chocolate dipped snacks. Nonetheless, they were all baked with love and the experience of the day was fantastic.
I managed to catch my oven mitt on fire when I pulled my cookies out of the oven - no idea how that happened. Smelled a weird smell and knew something was burning - checked the oven, no those are all fine. Didn't see anything unusual and just kept taking the cookies off the cookie sheet. I filled up 1 cooling rack and turned to do the other when the smell got a little stronger. I looked down and sure enough the mitt on my hand had a 3 inch flame on it! I am so proud of myself - I didn't drop or ruin a single cookie! I flopped them on the counter and fanned out the flame on the oven mitt. We then dipped it in cold water to further extinguish any remaining embers. It was sooo funny and I'm sure I was a sight flapping out the fire of the mitt on my hand. Someone yelled - "Take it off your hand.", but my fingers weren't in any danger and launching a flaming mitt across the kitchen seemed like a bad idea. It was all very comical and luckily nothing was harmed in the incident and no cookies were lost in the process.

On the cookie side, I was pretty bummed with what I made. I will try something different next year. I wanted a yummy pumpkin, pecan, chocolate chip cookie and they turned out okay but kinda watery or bland. It definitely needed more spice. The other recipe was an oatmeal raisin, half with pecan and half without. They turned out super thin and pitiful. They were definitely done, but they didn't rise or turn very golden on the top (They kinda looked like the oven wasn't at quite right temp. except that it was.) but they were super crumbly and wouldn't stay together. I ended up putting them in a gallon baggie and breaking them up into crumbles. They taste fantastic so for now it's my granola substitute. I can't wait to put some in ice cream!
I can't lie, I wanted to take a recipe and have everyone say, "ooh. I must get that recipe." or something along those lines. Well, trust me, no one is asking for either of my recipes. They both fell short of my expectations.

My favorite part of the day was hearing all the conversations and the fussing/loving among family. I wasn't quite prepared for the business of it - they came to make, bake, and conquer - and they did!

E was a great help by unwrapping lots of the candies that go on cookies and she essentially made our oatmeal cookies. I measured everything out but, other than a little stirring after the mixer, she did the rest. I was surprised how little she tried to eat. Granted, she didn't know what a lot of the things were so she didn't ask for them, but she still didn't try to finagle too many treats. I was pleased. The best of the day was helping her decorate sugar cookies. The sprinkles were coming out of the jar in clumps b/c the hole was small or something, so she started putting the sprinkles in the palm of her hand and then sprinkling them on the cookie that way. I have a lot of cute pictures of her determined face so focused on making the perfect cookie.

So, now we have a year's supply of treats in the house. No one here will starve and we are definitely not wasting away. I think I'm the only one eating them which is a concern at the rate some things are disappearing. I am excited to divide them up into little care packages for friends, coworkers, and neighbors. I am excited to give them out and let the joy of homemade treats spread.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Local Food Summit!

Try to contain your envy, but I get to attend a local food summit this weekend out at green door. I am super excited to go and hear the speakers and meet new people and hang out at the green door all day. I am so excited for Saturday! I can't wait to go and meet fellow locavores and hang out with like-minded people for a day.

Sylvia said that about half of the day is intended for consumers (people like me) where they'll talk about eating locally and cooking seasonally and the other half is for producers (people like her) where they'll talk about biodynamic farming or planting tens of acres of crops at a time. I'm hoping to learn tricks and tips for doing what we're doing only better.

I'm especially curious to see what people suggest for the winter months (jan-mar). That's only 5 or 6 weeks away, you know. Winter is coming like a freight train and I am excited to see how well we, squirrels that we have been, have prepared our freezer and pantry to get us through those 3 months while compromising as little as possible. I would like to limit Trader Joe's/Kroger to the items we currently get from there but only time will tell if that's actually possible.

I'll report back all the goings on at the summit sometime soon b/c surely I'll have all kinds of wonderful things to tell, but for now I wanted to post about my *excitement for it.

*And, for the record, had you told me a year ago, I would be writing this, I would have laughed in your face. and they say people can't change. What do they know?

and the light bulb comes on. Finally.

Just a quick post to say that I am completely and hopelessly addicted to butternut squash! I know people are all excited about pumpkin right now, but it's only because they haven't tried roasted butternut squash yet.

I was so mourning the loss of tomatoes (by the way, how is it that some places still have "local" tomatoes by the truckload?) and all things that come from fresh tomatoes when the butternut squash stepped into my kitchen! Fear not! I will survive the winter after all.

I'm hoping this is what local eating is all about.

I think, maybe, you're supposed to be so very sad to see 1 thing go, so that you treasure it more when it reappears in its own season and you know not to take it for granted.There is an importance and value found in missing something. It's nice too, that just as you are bidding farewell to something, a new, and fresh, something arrives to take its place.

I also think it's the core of what locavores have known that the rest of are overlooking, unaware of, or willfully disregarding: you aren't supposed to eat the same thing every day of the year. Food, like life, comes in seasons, and there needs to be rhythm and a balance to them, and, like the moon should come in phases. There needs to be a waxing and a waning of all things found in nature.

Perfect example: I actually find myself daydreaming about taking E to pick strawberries. We had just begun to wonder about local food at the very end of strawberry season and unfortunately the season this year was extremely short and supply was markedly low due to weather at the time. We were able to pick enough for some treats that lasted about a week and I luckily made some strawberry ice that we froze. Sadly, there wasn't enough for jam/jelly (thought I wouldn't have known how to make it yet.) or freezing in bulk (but we weren't really into that at the time) so we had only the tiniest taste of anything strawberry. I can't wait for strawberry season and I intend to make up for this year for sure (while hoping not to turn us into crazy, strawberry hoarders). The point is I am looking forward to them b/c we don't have them.

I'm learning that local eating is about the not-having as much as the having. It's about discovering new tastes that your tongue has been allowed to miss. It's about relishing something b/c you know it won't be around forever and it won't be available when you want it. It's about eating on nature's time table rather than your own. So far, it's about celebrating ebbs and flows of all things rather than a constant stream.

With all that said, I encourage you to put away the tomato for just a meal and try roasting some winter squash. You might be more ready to welcome a new season and new flavors than you realize.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A new take on an old friend?

I've eaten a lot of pecans in my life and never have they tasted so good.
No one is treating their pecan trees differently and I think pecan farming is a good example for this. Pecan trees grow and produce pecans, some years more and some less. If you spray the trees for pest or growth hormone I am totally unaware.
That being said, I believe the pecans I'm eating now to be just like the ones I ate as a kid. What is different? These very well could be more fresh but I think a lot has to do with the fact that I haven't had soda or anything super sweet in a long time. Is it possible that those things cloud our ability to taste mother nature's treasures for what they are? Who knows and for the time being pecans are my favorite between meal treat.

Because now you want some pecans too... Admit it.
We got our pecans still in their shell at Green Door Gourmet. She had a medium-sized basket of them from a friend. We got 2 pounds thinking it was a ton at the time. Sadly, now that they're almost gone, we're wishing we had picked up many, many more.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving... In with the New!

I just have a second and want to record my pre-Thanksgiving thoughts. We ordered 2 turkeys from the CSA. They're coming from a farm about 45 minutes from us and we are excited about them. 1 of the turkeys is for a gathering on the big day and it's going to feed about 10-12 people. When telling our friends we wanted to bring the turkey and describing the farm, he said, "Oh. A turkey with dreadlocks. Awesome." I think that sums it up nicely. The other turkey is just for us to have and nibble on for some time.

It'll be nice to have a change from chicken or beef for a little while. I am also excited to have our first big "food" holiday since we switched to local food. I can't wait to make my first from-scratch green bean casserole. I may be a little lost not needing my can opener. (Speaking of which, we could probably toss him. Haven't eaten anything from a can since April, maybe??) I have only ever made the 5 minute version my whole life. 2 cans of green beans, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, and the grated cheese with bread crumbs on top. This will be a whole new adventure and I'm excited. I am also pondering the idea of making a corn casserole using some of our frozen stash of corn, but we'll just have to see.

I have a lot of produce saved up and frozen, but I haven't used any of it yet. It feels too soon to me. I worry that come January we'll be out of it and won't have more until it comes back around. We're really trying to make our pantry last and the problem is that I have no concept of how much we need or how to portion out what we have in order to make it last. The best advice I got on this was to take good notes. Sylvia told me to write down how much I had on hand and when I used it/how much so I would know what to save more or less of next year. It's going to be an interesting winter and I am curious to see how we make out in general, but for now I am super excited to dip into the reserves and whip up some new holiday traditions.


For starters this is way overdue for me. Erin has been on me to contribute for awhile. Since we talk about this adventure a lot at home, she felt I should write down my view of what has been going down in the cooking/eating aspect of our lives. So here you have it. I've covered a lot of ground in my head about what to write, but the first thing that I think of when I think about food is quality. To most people it is not important. Speed and convenience are king. I used to be in that category and felt like I wasn't overweight, as well as I ate pretty healthy. I felt like I made a little effort by not eating much fast food and making decent choices when we did. The problem was I was eating the bottom of the pile as far as quality food goes. Subway and Sonic, although convenient and cheap on the front end were not the best options for helping my rig go. Getting past fast food, the items we would buy at the grocery store were mostly convenience items or frozen versions of meals that were already cooked and had lost a lot of nutritional value. We had no idea how much better it could taste if we made a similar version from fresh ingredients or from scratch. We keep talking about the many facets of the local/seasonal diet and it hurts me that it took so long for us to figure it out or learn what we have in the past 5 months. The most important facet is our health. With Eliza growing so fast, she needs quality nutrition for those quickly dividing cells and to have a solid foundation for all things ahead. We hope she continues responsible eating once she has to decide for herself. I'm very proud of how she eats at 4 years old and her mother is mostly to praise for that. Erin made all of Eliza's baby food and quite honestly that was the catalyst for all of us to start eating better. Our food journey really began 4 years ago with the revelation that we wouldn't feed this food to our child, so why were it eating it ourselves? After many meals out, it has become obvious to me that quality of food is not always very important. I just assumed that other people would make changes if they knew what we knew, but this it not the case. It's interesting to see the assumption that this is a natural order of growing up, but it seems that choosing what to eat is more about habits and lifestyles than anything else. Further, the definition of quality when talking about food is very subjective. We really don't eat out much anymore but when we do, we try to make it local. For us that means 2 things: the mom and pop local, or small businesses, but also trying to limit what we eat to food made within 100 miles of us as much as we can. We have tried to find restaurants that share our values of local/seasonal produce and meat and we have found several. Mitchell's Deli in East Nashville is a favorite of ours. It is a dollar or so more per person than say Panera Bread but the quality of the food served is top notch. Given the choice I can't imagine anyone would rather go to Panera Bread when Mitchell's is available. The food didn't ride on a truck across the country and the majority of the produce and meat came from local farms. (We are big fans of their potato salad with Benton's bacon, for example.) The same is true for Burger Up. It's a few dollars more than other burger joints, but the beef is so fresh they claim you could eat it raw and not get sick. Pretty sure others would not make that claim. It's interesting to me that buying local food is so closely linked to supporting small businesses. I have learned that spending a little more money on our food to get local items has been very fulfilling. I've been able to meet some of the people that grow the food I buy as well as experience their passion for what they do. These farmers put lots of sweat and hard work into growing non-modified produce and raise chickens and pigs that run free and eat what God meant for them to eat. I have great respect for that. If everyone supported local farms instead of cafo beef from grocery stores and fast food the economy would likely be a different picture. Unfortunately quality isn't important anymore. As far as our health/energy, Erin and I haven't felt better. Our energy level is as high as it's been since we've known each other. We aren't crashing at 6:30 with fatigue, rather at 10-11 at night we still have gas in the tank to tackle the dishes or laundry even after starting the day at 5-6 am. I feel better than I have my whole life and I'm in better shape than I was after 3 years of running cross country in high school. I can't speak enough about how great it is to eat local and seasonal. Try it! Know where your food comes from and enjoy the journey of finding local farms that allow visits and help spread wealth and wisdom within your community.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fishy Thoughts & a Book Recommendation

If you haven't read Eating for Beginners by Melanie Rehak, I highly recommend it. I checked it out from the library this summer and read it in a couple of days. In it the author has a child, which begins a journey for her to find out about her food and make sure that she's feeding her child the most nutritious food she can. She discovers sometimes that's organic and other times it's not.

In the book, she works at a restaurant that uses local ingredients and has a menu that changes with the seasons. While working there, she visits most of their vendors and learns about the food she's eating. There's also a lot about her child, the beginning eater, who is extraordinarily picky and refuses to eat most of what she's trying so hard to get him to eat. I really related to that part of the book because I am such a picky eater, though I am getting better.

In the book one of the chapters is dedicated to fish. In it she actually goes out on a fishing trip with the commercial (though small and local) fishermen and gets loads of great and helpful information about choosing and eating fish. It taught me tons of information and I became aware of loads of issues that I wasn't aware of in the fish industry. Unfortunately, I didn't really get a good sense of what to eat - especially in Tennessee, so we haven't had fish since our last frozen fillet from the grocery store. I guess you could say it raised lots of questions and warned me of what to avoid, but it didn't fill in any answers. I feel like I only know what to stay away from, with plenty of good reasons, but that doesn't tell me what I could try.

I follow a great blog called and they are big fish advocates with great information about fish. If you're interested in this kind of thing, here's a great link to some of their writing about fish. Again, the information is wonderful but only goes so far bc they're in Canada and I live in Tennessee. The concerns, challenges, and values related to eating fish may be universal, but the fish themselves are not. Their info. would be very helpful though if you lived anywhere near them.

What a difference time off makes.

Update: This is a post I wrote a few weeks ago about some of the struggles I was having. It's funny to me to read it after I've spent the week cooking and stocking up. Hopefully my work in the kitchen this week will help me fight these battles more effectively when I go back to work next week and when my family comes home the week after that.

Well, this week was a train wreck in more ways than I can honestly count. I worked way too much and saw my family far too little. I cooked 2 (count them: 2!) meals for my family. I am giving myself some slack on the night the power went out and we had sandwiches, but the rest of the week there was no excuse to not do any better than I did. Breakfast? Where are you my long lost friend?

By Tuesday I could already tell that something was off and our little family just wasn't in the groove. After giving it more thought than should have been necessary, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is really about balance. I let my balance shift from center and should not be surprised that the results were less than stellar.

Let's be honest - if you leave your house at 6 am and get home at 6 pm, you're probably not whipping up a stellar from-scratch food experience. You, like me, might instead plug in the little grill, slap some cheese, greens, and tomatoes on bread and call it supper. The problem is that the next day's lunch isn't much better and by supper the next day, you're going out to eat because you forgot to thaw the chicken again.

I misjudged how much we would eat on a few occasions and didn't make and caught myself putting part of meals in lunch boxes before I was full so I would have leftovers for lunch the next day and not have to do more cooking at 10 o'clock?m Has anyone else done that? Fear not - that lasted all of 2 meals, maybe. Turns out my love of eating is stronger than my dislike of fixing lunches at 10pm. Leftovers be hanged, I'm filling myself up from now on!) So now, here I arrive at the end of the week on empty with little energy and the stirrings of a sore throat.

I have got to do some baking. I need some delicious muffins and cookies and treats. Some will be breakfasts that keep my car on the right path. Some will be desserts that I can enjoy guilt-free. I'm planning to put one of Michael Pollan's food rules to the test this week - eat all the sweets and treats you want as long as you make them yourself. (paraphrasing a bit there) His theory is that if you make it yourself, you'll eat less b/c of the effort involved. We'll see - I know my recipe for PB cookies is calling my name. I know some muffins and breads will be welcome respite from pancakes.

This week was a setback in so many ways. I let my priorities get out of alignment with my values. (Do chiropractors have a fix for that? Well, come to think of it, that may be a large percentage of what they do in a sense.) I am optimistic for the week ahead. I have 2 really good books that I'm reading and both have some wonderful recipes for quick meals with simple ingredients that I can make on my own. I'm hoping not to need any chicken noodle soup, but also hoping to restore my energy and my health this week. I'm hoping to limit time spent on some things which should immediately open up time for better things. Here's to a better week ahead.

Catching Up (if there is such a thing)

I have worked so hard this week to get ahead on some food things. I am really proud of myself in some areas and disappointed in others. To be fair, I knew my goals were probably less than realistic.

Here's what's finished:
15 pints of tomatoes!! (Whoop! Whoop! I am so proud of myself for not letting a single tomato rot! It's so sad though b/c we used to have 2 shelves in the door and the entire windowsill covered in tomatoes and now there are literally 2 tiny green tomatoes left in sight. I am proud they didn't go to waste, but their visual absence is screaming at me that summer is ending and fall is coming ahead like a freight train. Sylvia suspects 2, maybe 3, more weeks and then no more tomatoes. I had some guilt this week with the quantity I purchased (13 dollars in heirloom and a 1/3 of our CSA box) but I know I won't regret the money spent in a few months' time. They did smell lovely and I am actually getting faster at canning them. It's pretty crazy to me that 4 months ago I didn't even eat or like tomatoes and now I know how to can them in bulk batches. Wild!

3 batches of from-scratch buttermilk biscuits
2 batches of from-scratch buttermilk cornbread
3 batches of from-scratch cream scones (if you are familiar with, then you know the o is short for some reason, so it's really scon. Never heard that before visiting her site, so I'm just passing that along.
1 batch of chocolate chocolate chip cookies (I made these with Olive & Sinclair 67% dark chocolate broken into pieces for the chocolate chips, they turned out to be pretty perfect!)
2 big batches of peanut butter cookies (Thank you Produce Place!) When I grabbed our tub of PB this week, it was warm from just being churned. 2 days later is was frozen in the form of cookie goodness! How exciting is that?
*Side note about PB - lots of people know that we used to patron Trader Joe's a lot, and so lots of people told us about the recall on their PB. It was such fun to me when it would come up because A: we didn't eat it or need to be worried about it, B: I got to tell lots of different people in different circles about the Produce Place. There's a chance a few might even check it out b/c of our fun conversation about how lovely it is! C: It was a kind of validation that we're moving in the right direction with our food and it feels really good.
I also made a batch walnut brittle-but-not-quit-brittle-enough-brittle :-) First try at brittle and it's a great flavor and a nice special treat. I didn't cook it long enough, so it's a little chewy rather than the brittle, but I'll get better. I'll know for next time to go much longer on the cooking time (i.e., I'll probably burn the next batch, but it's all a learning process on the path to getting it right sometimes. I'm not giving up when the fails taste so yummy.)
I made a batch of yogurt (3 pints) but the starter I used didn't take too well, so it's pretty runny; like a drinkable yogurt version. Disappointed but not wasting it. I'll keep trying to find the right starter; it's out there.

Now in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that we ran our of local flour middle of the week and I used a bag of King Arthur flour for the rest of the baking. I also used a pack of horizon organic butter for something (can't remember what now...) I bought a bag of White Lily for the biscuits, but everything else was local.

Point to ponder - we buy our butter at Produce Place and it just comes in a slab wrapped in plastic and priced by weight. I had forgotten how convenient the sticks can be when you're cooking and need 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup.

Still on the queue:
I need to make a big batch of alfredo sauce to freeze but out of milk and butter. The Produce Place gets fresh milk delivered on Friday's so we'll go in the morning.

I didn't make any "meals" or casseroles like I thought I would. I made mostly sides. Lots of treats and snacks. I think it's because that's what we've (maybe just I've?) been missing most. I'm hoping to get some of these things made next week while the family's away. Time will tell on this.

Muffins: I have 3 cans of TJ's pumpkin to use up so I see some pumpkin muffins in our future. I'll make some other kinds as well - maybe blackberry with some of my reserve berries. Need to get as many breakfast options going as possible b/c that's been one of my biggest struggles.

Okra: must bake okra ASAP! I refuse to let it rot!

Soups: I found "simple" recipes for a couple of different soups that would use up some of the squash in our pantry.

Sweet potato... I have a lot that I want to puree and freeze b/c most things require the puree. I wonder about putting it in muffins, soups, etc. Seems like it would be easiest to cook & puree it and freeze to use as needed. This would be mostly an attempt to prevent spoilage. Also wonder about freezing some of skillet sweet potatoes with garlic and onions that B makes. They are insanely delicious, but I wonder how well they would freeze... I guess that's another point to ponder.

Food loss: this we lost some corn this week. I know we let a couple of potatoes spoil and the herbs are officially toast. We lost our bag of basil last week and that was hard to take. I was so excited to make pesto but it just turned on us so quickly. Hate that, but we do the best we can. We try really hard not to waste anything and to get to things before they turn, but sometimes things just get away from us before we realize it.

I'm hoping to stock up on a few things this week. I am having a hard time accepting the end of okra, green beans, and tomatoes, but will do my best to snag all of their summer goodness that I can.
So anyway. Lots to be proud of. Lots to show for my efforts. Made some small concessions with ingredients, but stuck to the core of what we're about with all of this. Learned a LOT about cooking, cleaning, and myself this week and I'm excited to see what the next few weeks bring. Happy catching up to you all! Again, if there is such a thing! I think it's more accurate to say I'm less-behind than to say I'm catching up.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

October Unprocessed??

October Unprocessed? Really? A month of food that hasn't been processed... intriguing, scary, challenging, fun? Not sure how best to describe the thought of giving it a go.

I think this could be possible given their definition of processed. Plus I'm on fall break the whole first week of October, which means I might actually have time to cook & freeze all the things I would need to have pre-made in order to actually get through the month.
I'm tweaking their rules and allowing 1 day or meal a week to be processed because I know how crazy and hectic October can be with all the fall festivals, pumpkin patches, etc. that are around the corner. Add to that, hosting a baby shower, halloween festivities, and a full time job (with report cards & conferences just around the corner) - I think if I can do this with 1 exception a week, it'll be a huge win for me.

I think I'm going to treat myself to Burger Up the first week of November if I meet my goal. Maybe having an extra incentive will help me keep my determination to succeed.

As you already know, if you've read any of my posts, the hardest parts for me are going to be breakfast and desserts. I'm working on some ideas to help make those battle much easier to fight and hopefully win.
As I make progress with these 2 areas I'll be sure to share what I'm discovering and what's working or not working well for us.

I'm including the links to the post in case others are interested in giving this a go. The site has lots of support and encouragement to anyone who might be on the fence about diving in to scratch or near-scratch eating. Set up your own rules and do what works for you and know it's all a process and you have to begin somewhere. I'm diving in and I hope you will too!

Greater love hath no husband than the 1 that buys Chocolate! (Chocoholic update)

Just have to add that my sweet husband read what I wrote the other day about craving chocolate /sweets in general and bought me a tiny tub of B&J chocolate ice cream with brownies in it! I have a fix for next time a craving strikes! Chocoholics rejoice!
After he read it, we had a great talk about my craving for sugar in general and afterwards I felt much better. He very gently reminded me how much junk (HFCS et al.) I have consumed on a regular basis in my life until recently, and he seemed to think the craving was natural and perfectly normal for me. He also thought it would take awhile for my mind/body to re-translate what "sweet" is now compared to what it used to be for me.
This made so much sense to me and explains why I sometimes felt like a crazy person. I would want something sweet and, trying to be good, eat an apple. It was like my stomach was saying, "Thanks for the apples, now give us something sweet." So I would repeat with raisins or cherries or grapes until finally I would give in and eat something chocolate or super sweet or a really rich dessert.
I've been working on the sweets in general and doing better, but had not anticipated the challenge it would bring. I've more than tripled the amount of fresh fruit I eat so there's definite progress. It's just going to take time to re-train my brain to know what "sweet" is now. And until then, I have some yummy ice cream in the freezer!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pecan Brittle

I talked to my great-aunt Helen tonight and she shared with me her recipe for pecan brittle. (Her chiropractor makes it with almonds.) It was the best time and we had the nicest chat. It was bittersweet in a way b/c talking to her brought memories of my beloved Papaw flooding back to me. I was struck by how much she sounded like him on the phone, strange b/c she's lived in Ohio for many years and he lived in Arkansas. I did have a tear or two, but they were happy ones.
Anyway, it was so good for my soul to talk to her and listen to her way of cooking. I loved hearing the little details of the steps in ways you'll never find in any cookbook. It made me long in a very real way for my grandmothers and their recipes but, more than that, for that connection that comes when you start talking about food and recipes.
I love this sweet lady and it was such a delight to share our similar viewpoints on local vs. organic or margarine vs. butter. I was slightly anxious to message her (on FB no less!), but I thought, why not? I'm infinitely glad I called her and that we talked food for just a little while. I hope wherever you are, you have someone you can call to inherit a recipe like I did. There's something electrifying about someone saying, "Alright, you got a pencil and paper? This is how I make..." It may feel awkward or strange, but something I have repeatedly learned through all of this is that people feel flattered when you ask how they cook something and love to tell you. People love to share their recipes and their methods for cooking. It definitely connects us all and it's amazing where a conversation that begins with food can roam.
So I wish for you tonight to have a roaming talk that begins with food. My heart is much fuller tonight and my grocery list is a little longer for having talked to my great-aunt and I hope she's feeling more loved knowing her little niece called her up one Friday night to find out how to make brittle (and pot roast... and fry eggplant... and ...) I feel so spoiled now with new ideas to try.

ps. Here's the sweet story of where she originally got her recipe.

My great uncle taught at a local college and one year the secretary in his department made all the teachers this brittle for Christmas. It was wrapped in plastic wrap with a bow on top. My great-aunt said that her husband loved it so much, she called the lady up and asked for the recipe so she could make it for him. She's been making it every year since and makes so much at Christmas that she begins a month early. 
Isn't it comforting when the themes of good food and love intertwine themselves and the recipe becomes a living thing?  What began as a simple Christmas gift, establishes roots as a wife shows love to a husband. It branches as a mother makes her annual brittle for Christmas. It blossoms as family members connect over much time and distance. Someday they will intertwine again and hopefully sprout new seeds as I tell this story and share this recipe with my own sweet girl. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Confessions of a Chocoholic

Yesterday we had an in-service that was interesting but not sooo interesting. The coaches, in an attempt to keep us awake, put little bowls of chocolate candy at our tables. That's right a bowl of bite-sized candy bars in every variety you can think of... at my table where I was required to sit for 3 hour and listen to trainer.I ate 5 mini Kit-Kats and 2 Snickers. (at least...)

I know better. I know all about HFCS. I know all about the evil Hershey company giving money to block prop. 37. I know... I know... I know...

But the chocolate...

I confess - I ate it and it was yummy. I felt guilty (especially since it was not quite 8:00!), but I did it.
I am doing better in general at giving up a lot of things in general, in fact I have resisted these little bowls on numerous occasions already. But today, I gobbled.

My plan now is to hurry up and make some chocolate chip cookies using the Olive & Sinclair chocolate, some peanut butter cookies with the fresh peanut butter from Produce Place. (By the way, when I got my PB yesterday, it was still warm from literally just converting from peanut to peanut butter. How can you go wrong with that, right?) I bought cream to make some delicious cream scones to go with my fruit sorbets from the summer months.

My plan is to go with the Food Rule that says you can eat all the junk you want as long as you make it yourself. Pollan says when you make it from scratch you won't eat as much. There's also something about using better ingredients means you need/eat less overall. I am putting that theory to the test soon.

Round 1 went to me. Round 2 goes to the chocolate. Round 3, and let's be real here, there will always be another bowl of treats and another temptation of junk, will be mine for the taking.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


That's my best imitation of a frustrated sound. I am frustrated with myself.

I'm having a challenge right now with breakfast. I leave for work between 6 and 6:30. The last 2 days I have slept in a bit b/c the 3 day weekend wore me out. Not because I did so much, but because for the first time since school started back I actually sat still and rested for a moment. Turns out I was really, really tired. Anyway, it's been hard to get my game face back on and get back in the groove of moving and well... grooving if you know what I mean.

So, that means I had a hot chocolate and lemon pound cake for breakfast. They were yummy but they weren't particularly nutritious or energizing. They were neither economical or cost-efficient. I also ate them in my car which isn't something I want to make a habit of doing (again I reference Food Rules by Michael Pollan. Love that book!!)

And so, you see the reason for the erg...  I didn't want to do it, but I forgot to make a breakfast last night and then I didn't get up the extra ten minutes early to do it this morning. Sadly it's the 2nd time in 2 weeks that my little car has steered that way, and I'm worried it's going to be a trend. I really don't want it to be, but it's a little too easy and I'm a little too weak in the hours before the traffic lights have switched over from their blinking of the night to the 3 color system we all know and love.

Worst of all is that breakfast should be the easiest! How hard is it to microwave pancakes or muffins? How long can it really take to scramble an egg or fry up some bacon? Honestly - no excuse for not at least setting up a bowl of oatmeal to boil while fixing supper... I have no excuse, no valid reason, no sweet sentiment for resorting to the breakfast I ate today.

I'm not posting this to have a pity party or to show how good/bad I'm doing with local eating. I'm posting this here because this is a place for my thoughts and right now my thoughts are: erg... It's going to be time for supper in a few and I need to get something started. I also need a plan for breakfast in the morning so I don't repeat today's plan. It's also good sometimes to acknowledge our setbacks and/or limitations. There's a value in understanding and accepting we fall short of goals even though we keep chipping away at them. Plus, I don't want to only record successes; I want to be truthful and honest so that when I read this later I remember I did have some slacker days where I had to just get it on the way and go. I want to remember that every day wasn't easy and there were days that it just didn't happen for me for whatever reason.

Luckily for me, I have some Benton's bacon in the fridge and it's calling my name.  I know it won't right the wrong of the morning, but it sure is tasty and it'll get me back on track at least. Who says you can't have breakfast for supper?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Disappointment Defined

I left my house tonight headed for dinner at Burger Up, but when we got there they were closed for a special event. We tried to eat at a couple different local restaurants we know but they too were either closed or too busy. Do they have a category in the Scene polls for loudest restaurant or most impossible to carry on a conversation inside? I have a nominee, if so.

So instead of the yummiest burgers (and desserts!) in town, I had a "hunk of pizza" at Greer Stadium while watching the Sounds play tonight. If you're not sure why I say this is disappointment defined, read my other post about Burger Up. I assume you know what ball park pizza offers as far as taste and nutrition. It really was okay as far as pizza goes but it was nowhere comparable to the Burger Up dinner I had in mind.

Interestingly, they give away all kinds of coupons to fast food restaurants at these games. I had no idea that fast food had such a vested interest in the minor league baseball crowd. Who knew?

The ball game itself was fun though our team was pretty pitiful.  We left an inning early and we were down by 10 runs. There is no mercy rule in minor league ball apparently. All in all, a good time was had by all but I'm not going to make the stadium a regular dinner spot any time soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Update to Curiousity

Well the double box was a success as far as I can tell. The only thing we wouldn't have bought for ourselves were the beets b/c I'm not any good at cooking them yet. Hopefully they won't be food waste but I guess time will tell.
We got loads of great treasures and already have tons of green beans bagged and frozen! I didn't see much okra, but B may have already loaded it in the freezer. We got some good fruit options and I might be able to make apple sauce. Again, time will tell.
So the end of summer/beginning of fall has come and gone. I will have to be on top of a few cooking project so we don't lose our eggplant, zucchini, or squash but the rest will be put to great use right away. 
Glad B had a great trip but I am excited to go next week and shop, shop, shop!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Curious Cat

Today I don't get to go to the farm... E and I have a birthday party to attend, so B is going instead. I'm disappointed, but mostly very, very curious.
This week we ordered a family box instead of our usual pack-your-own box. Green Door is an awesome farm/CSA where you can go week-to-week without a commitment (though we've never missed a week) and they offer 3 options for boxes which fit pretty much everyone. We always get the middle option (pack-your-own) but it's the smaller "couple" size box. Today we ordered the larger family box and we are curious to see what we get. B's gone before and always gets great stuff, but with the new season beginning today I'm especially curious to see what we get.  I wish I could go today and see all the new items and snag up the last of a few specific things that I could freeze or (possibly) can for the winter, but I'm sure the party will be fun as well.
This month will sadly bring the end of a lot of the summer produce we've gotten really accustomed to eating. B has learned some mad cooking skills when it comes to green beans, peas, okra, and squash. I have learned a few new ways to make potatoes, but this isn't really as noteworthy since I could eat potatoes every day at multiple meals and not get tired of them. 
We have also worked very hard to put up, preserve, set back (whatever you want to call it) a lot of these great foods so we can get through the winter and still eat only local food. We ordered the family box in hopes we would get enough food for today and still have some leftovers to put up. This also means we don't pack it ourselves so we may have more interesting things in there that we wouldn't normally get - I'm curious to see what comes and in what amounts. We're not hoarders (yet?) and we're not SHTF people (yet?) but we know that to have local food all winter long, we would have to be somewhat prepared to supplement what grows here in the winter with some reserves from the summer. I'm hoping for no food waste - that we can eat or preserve what we get today before it passes its prime, but we'll just have to see. It's going to be interesting and I'll report back on what we get. I have no doubt we'll get much more than our money's worth in delicious, nutritious, safe local food. We are hoping to have a little pantry and freezer full of treasures to keep us on our local diet through the winter, but we've never done this before. We don't really have any idea how many of anything we need to get through the winter/spring so this is just a new part of our grand experiment.
I'm wishing I felt more prepared to say farewell to summer and all it's treasures. I have my fingers crossed that we have done enough putting back because, ready or not, fall is here. All of this finds me one very curious cat hoping for a great supper.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good Fish, Bad Fish, are there Tennessee Fish?

I've been reading about the importance of getting DHA in your diet and that the best source is fish. I've also read multiple places that people who do not eat much fish should/could take fish oil supplements to get the improved benefits of fish without eating the actual fish.
So, I've been on the hunt for decent local fish since we started this b/c B actually likes to eat it. I have never liked it, but I have been convinced of its nutritional value and feel it's something we should be getting into our diets.
I find it very perplexing, distressing, and frustrating that there is a large river and multiple lakes that run through my area, and yet local fish is so hard to find. How can this be so? I shake my fist at that dirty water even though I know all too well that it's not the water's fault.
I went to a "local" grocery store with a fish counter to inquire about some local fish.  I was referred to them b/c someone told me they carried a particular farmed rainbow trout. They didn't have any local fish - the nearest was Wisconsin. The fishmonger responded to my exasperation about the lack of fish when we have all these natural waterways by saying, "I'm not eating anything out of that river." Awesome.
This is a larger kind of grocery so it was also interesting to hear him discuss the idea of getting fish from a local place or a small scale farm.  I couldn't tell if he was trying to tell me his honest opinions, was quoting the party line/rhetoric on why industrial organic is better than independent/local, of if he was genuinely trying to spook me into buying their "safer" fish.
Having just finished Joel Salatin's most recent book and starting a 2nd one now, I was surprised how much his comments bothered me. I hadn't expected to care how he talked about/described little farmers (that I don't even know from Adam!), but it really did irk me a bit to hear him describe "them" as something to be feared. I got the impression all of his food comes with an acronym stamped on it.
So, after 3 months I'm still on the hunt for some local fish. I am amazed by the challenges that come with this wild ride we've begun. I enjoy learning all the new facts and meeting new people. I had the best conversation with the fishmonger about fish and really liked him (aside from the little snarky comments about small fisheries) and what he had to say. I was encouraged that he took my name and number and wrote "local" underneath it. He said someone might call me with more information. Until then, I'll have to be content in the knowledge that my name is attached to the word "local" in someone's world. That's better than some can say and, who knows, maybe one of these days my fish will come in and I'll have something new to report.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We've got Ripples!

We went home to see our family this weekend and there were multiple examples of little ways that our push for local/sustainable/fair/healthy (organic?) food is wearing off on them as well!
Both of our parents mentioned that they found a place to get meat that was from a farmer and local. Apparently they've found a place to get pork products locally and they seemed genuinely interested and excited about it!
My dad made a point to cook organic "hot dogs" for lunch. I say "hot dog" because they were really more like sausages or mini-brats. They were pork meat only and very tasty/meaty - nothing like a hot dog. This could lead to even more ripples b/c my brother really liked them. He eats hot dogs several times a week. Just that one switch in his diet from generic brand industrial hot dogs with all the preservatives and chemicals to the all-pork locally grown version could be huge for him and his health, right? 
Both of our parents are using more whole wheat flour in their cooking. In fact, I was lucky enough to receive a made-from-scratch birthday cake with made-from-scratch frosting that was over the top delicious. (Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, no less!) It was many times better than anything you could get from a grocery or a box. It also tasted better because it had a lot of love in it. I know the time invested in making it from scratch versus picking it up from the store, and I appreciated not only the flavors of the cake, but also the time and effort that went into making it especially for me. It was like a 2nd gift in a way. (The first gift was a box of walnuts! What a treat!)

I don't know how many people we have talked to about our food. I don't know how many people we have encouraged to visit Green Door or Produce Place or try making their own bread/cheese/yogurt, etc. As I am learning to can/preserve food, I'm sharing successes/failures with others and encouraging them to give it a go as well. It's been interesting to see how often the topic of food comes up and we have the chance to spread the word about where to get great local food. We had some friends over the other night who think very similarly to us about food and the need for local, sustainable foods. We had the best time chatting about where to get various ingredients/foods and how to cook them up and enjoy them.  It was great sharing our experiences with local food and hearing theirs as well. 

Honestly and truthfully, we started this adventure purely for ourselves and mostly out of curiosity. This wasn't begun as a crusade to persuade anyone else. Even this blog is more about us having a way to document our experiences, keep track of recipes & putting up plans, and note where/when to get various things so it will hopefully get easier to eat locally each year. We also wanted to share the blog with others that might be trying the same thing as a word of encouragement that it's possible and a positive thing to do. We are hoping people might find our little corner of the web and send us tips on where to get great local food in Nashville. 
In the beginning we wondered where our food was coming from. We realized we weren't asking enough questions about our food. We didn't know what things we could get locally and we were curious to find out how we would feel if we switched a more local diet. As a result we have lost weight*, gained energy and confidence, learned tons of new things about food and how to cook it (thanks to the fabulous folks at Green Door Gourmet and the internet), and we've been genuinely a bit happier all around. *I could go into a lot more detail about the changes in our health in the last 2 months, but I don't want to sound like an infomercial!

All that to say, when we decided to switch to local food, we didn't think about our little adventure effecting anyone else. It is great to see these unexpected ripples and wonder what other ripples or (dare I say it?) even waves may still lie ahead of us?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who Knew?

Today was an interesting day for me. I made a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich for lunch. I made lasagna, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter cookies for supper.

Before we switched to local food, I didn't eat tomatoes. I didn't like tomato sauce. Period. I would tolerate it in some things b/c I love noodles, but I have always preferred alfredo sauce much more. Turns out that the tomatoes we're getting from the farm are absolute perfection and I genuinely like them! I voluntarily and excitedly put them in my salads and my sandwiches! I eat them whole! Who knew 2 months ago when we made this tiny change, that it would change so many things?

Most shockingly of all, who knew I would like to cook as much as I do?? I have never been much of a cook. I love to bake desserts but that's just because everyone is always eager to get them. All of a sudden I'm finding joy in cooking my meals from scratch. This is usually B's claim to fame, so it's fun that we have this in common now. I actually spent about 3 hours making dinner today and I was happy as a clam. Crazy!

For dinner tonight I made lasagna from scratch for the first time. I made both the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, I made the sauce and assembled the lasagna. I obviously didn't make the eggplant or the tomatoes, but you get the point. I used some boxed noodles b/c I had them. (When they're all gone, I'd like to try to make them. I don't have a pasta roller thing, and wonder it it's worth it. I wonder if I would get my money's worth out of it?)Regardless, I am proud of myself for finding new recipes to conquer and being brave enough to give it a go. Last week pizza sauce, this week lasagna. Who knows what tomorrow brings. I don't, but I hope it's delicious!

Lastly, I know I've said it before but it bears repeating. When you cook with quality ingredients, it's really hard to make bad food. I can't even count how many times this summer we have cooked up something and thought or said out loud, "This could be a disaster." and not once have we had anything we wouldn't make again. I notice it most in the tomatoes for the sole fact that I'm eating them now, but it's true in all things. Notions like fresh and local get tossed around a lot, but they really do make a huge, huge difference in the quality of your meal. I know they cost more, but they're worth every single penny.

Bookworm Days of Summer - Updated!

I have recently read and enjoyed:
Folks, this Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin - very interesting and one of his only books our library system had, but I found it very interesting.
Eating for Beginners  by Melanie Rehak - loved this book! This was such a good book, and a very quick read.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson - just got from the library today, but I'm excited to read this epic work that spawned so much of the environmentalist movement in America today.
Rachel Carson and her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor - (children's picture book)
I read this to E and she liked the illustrations. We talked about the title a little bit, but the rest of the story was a bit over her head. I would recommend for 2nd-5th grade or for a quick summary of the life and work of Rachel Carson.  I found a lot of parallels in her fight and the fight that is still going in America today.

Previous Post: (I'm working on adding great links for more information/where to purchase some of these great works.)
Over the past month or two we have been reading a lot about the industrial food chain in America. Sadly, we have been very repulsed by much of what we've learned about how our food is made/grown, treated/processed, monitored/inspected, and shipped/stored. The result of industrial processing is a food chain stretching over 1500 miles and we've decided that we owe it to ourselves to do better.
So, having said too much already, here are some of the books that we have read and loved that have changed our way of life and point of view regarding food in America. These are just a few of the books we are working through and we will add to the list as we come across more great reads.
The result of all this reading is that we now know too much to go back to the way we used to eat. We hope you'll check some out and perhaps be inspired (or disgusted as the case may be) and informed enough to perhaps make some changes of your own.

Recommended Book List:
Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet  - Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (This is the book that started it all for us b/c as we read it we both realized how little we knew about TN agriculture and what actually could and could not be farmed in TN.)
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
Food Rules - Michael Pollan (This book can be read in less than an hour most likely and it's a great place to begin. It will probably cause you to begin wondering where your food really comes from and you may even find yourself putting a bit more thought into the proverbial question of what's for dinner.)
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Real Food by Nina Planck - (Loved the chapter on real milk! She also has a newer book, Real Food for Mother and Baby, that I haven't read, but it certainly looks interesting.)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver (A combination of narrative about a year of eating locally, informative essays about political issues related to food, and simple recipes, this book is a must read for anyone considering a locavore diet to any great extent.)
Robbing the Bees - Holley Bishop
Home Cheese Making - Ricki Carroll (Fantastic book for anyone interested in making cheese.)
Super Baby Food - Ruth Yaron (My favorite book about homemade baby food. It's doesn't discuss local food per se, but it is very anti-industrial and pro-natural and homemade baby food and thus a real treasure.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Burger Up

Not sure how many people are reading this, but... if you haven't eaten at Burger Up yet, you have got to make plans to get there! They have 2 locations, though we've only eaten at the 12th South restaurant.

Burger Up is simply amazing! They are doing so many things that align with our views of what being a locavore is all about. In addition to the food beliefs we support, they also support many environmentalist causes in regards to consumption, product choice, and sustainable practices. I love that the only thing we "consumed" at our meal was the food! I probably shouldn't have eaten the brownie a la mode, but when you have the opportunity to devour (and I did devour mine) a brownie made with Olive + Sinclair chocolate and a scoop of Jeni's Ice Cream on top, how on Earth do you pass it up?? I may not eat for 3 days, I left there so full.  As an added bonus, they are literally a stone's throw from Las Paletas, so E got to go next door & get a honeydew popsicle for dessert!

If you're in Nashville and need a place to eat, definitely give them a try. You won't be disappointed. We went at 6:30 on a Friday and waited about 20-30 minutes for a table for 5. We were out by a quarter to 8, even though it was packed, so the service was great.

One thing to note; they don't do reservations. It's first come, first served. I suspect this is because they, like most restaurants that use local ingredients, can run out of a given entree as they run out of specific ingredients (which would be upsetting to those with later reservations). I didn't read that anywhere, it's just my theory.

Eating local has a lot of different meanings to different people. Burger Up is a restaurant you can support for many different "local" reasons. Most importantly, it's really, really great food.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Motivation (in case you need some...)

I ran across this link that someone posted online today.  It is the FDA's list of food recalls. The FDA has posted an appalling 11 recalls in the past week. Some of them are for bacteria that has infected the food and others are for undeclared ingredients. Regardless - 11 in one week seems like a system out of control.
As if 11 food recalls in one week weren't discomforting and unsettling enough, there was another alarming statement on the FDA website as well, and for the record, the emphasis added is mine, not theirs.
And I quote: "
  • FDA works with industry and our state partners to publish press releases and other public notices about recalls that may potentially present a significant or serious risk to the consumer or user of the product.  Not all recalls have press releases or are posted on this page.
That last sentence means there's a definite possibility that 11 is only the reported recalls while others may not have been deemed important or dangerous enough to merit letting the consumer know about them.

I read about a woman who took a year to focus on local food and by the end of the year nothing in her kitchen had a bar code. I would imagine that reading things like this along the way, would keep up the motivation to continue the challenge to eat a local diet.

Wherever you find your motivation, be it from fear of a recall or  from eating fresh, local ingredients so tasty you can't fathom going back to industrial food, I hope you are persuaded to give local a chance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Well, today was a very busy day. We went to the farm and loaded up on treats and treasures which we promptly brought home and converted into all types of goodies.

Today we made:
*corn chowder (pioneer woman recipe) - It made 2 meals set aside plus a whole muffin tray frozen for later! All I needed to make a double batch, was more peppers. I'll be on the lookout for them, so I can fix up more of it soon. This soup is so good and very filling.
*1 watermelon  became 1 quart water melon ice, 1 quart watermelon ice cream, a quart bag frozen in chunks (E thinks they're popsicles and we're not telling her otherwise!), and a quart in the fridge for snacking all week. Delicious!
*blueberry jam - I made a pint and 2oz. of blueberry jam from local berries. I used the recipe from the Ball Blue book. I am super proud of myself for this. The berries were marked down b/c they were "prime" and very ripe. I was afraid I would buy them with the best intentions to make jelly and then not do it before they went bad, but I didn't! I made a delicious jam today and the smell of it was so divine that I will definitely do it again soon. I'm debating picking up more berries tomorrow while they're still around. 
*1 really large cantaloupe became a half gallon of cantaloupe sorbet, 1 pint pureed for a bread I'm hoping to make this week, 1 quart bag frozen in chunks for "popsicles"
3 pizzas with eggplants, peppers & onions, and mozzarella (that we successfully made yesterday) - 1 eaten and 2 frozen for later

B cut the corn off 5 ears of corn and popped in the freezer and I moved all of our fruit granitas (3) from pyrex to jars so the freezer is infinitely better. Yesterday I went through all the produce and threw out the little bit that was past prime and cleaned the drawers really well. After our hard work yesterday and today, our fridge is sparkling and our freezer is wondering how much more it can take. We have a deep freeze as well that we're hoping to fill to bursting as well.

It was a long day in the kitchen but I am so excited about all the tasty and nutritious meals and whole foods we have stored away. I need to work on more canning, but at least I got the jam made. It's a good start and I'll keep working away at it. We're tired, but it's the best kind of tired.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Home Sweet Home!

Well, we're back from Asheville, NC. We snuck away for a few days to celebrate our anniversary. We were most excited to go to Asheville because the local culture there is huge. We knew we could shop and eat, and trust that for the most part it would be local.

They have these great pro-local images that they print on all kinds of things (magnets, bumper stickers, and t-shirts for example.) They are all about buying local and supporting their town. I wanted one of the shirts so I could pop a little N on the front (I know it would still be misspelled) and wear it proudly around town. I like the message very much and I liked the way the shirt was designed. I would buy a Nashville version in a second.

They also have a local card that you can buy to get discounts in various local stores throughout the year. The money from the sale of the card goes to various organizations such as the public schools and the local business community. I think the rest covers the cost of making and printing the cards. 

It was refreshing to spend time in a place that has such a strong and united consensus to support local and small businesses. I like that they are upset about the Trader Joe's coming and were so angry about Whole Foods buying out their local Green Market, that they left the name the same, even though Whole Foods owns it. Lots to admire and appreciate about the Asheville green scene.

As fun as it was (and it was fun!), there's no place like home. I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and ate some amazingly delicious food. I also missed Mitchell's Deli and our GreenDoorGourmet and our Produce Place. I am realizing that these places are more than simply places to buy food. Local businesses are more than the sum of their parts or the products they sell. If you have local treasures of your own, you know exactly the feeling that I'm ineloquently describing, and if you don't, then you won't until you do.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tomatoes (3 of 3!)

Last night I canned the rest of the tomatoes. My sister and I made blackberry jam and since the canner was already hot, it just made good sense to go ahead and finish them up. It was infinitely easier than the 1st time and I was amazed at how much less anxious I felt the 2nd time through. I could easily remember the steps and had a better sense of timing. It only took me about 20 minutes to get 4 jars of tomatoes in the canner. Hooray!
I'm not going to lie - I started out super easy with just canning them whole in their own juices. After 2 rounds of that (and 13 pints jars of tomatoes in the pantry!), I think I'll be ready to make a real sauce next. I would like to start with a half recipe and see how it goes and then do more. I'm a little anxious to commit to a recipe if I don't know what the sauce tastes like. I wish there was a way to sample a recipe and then buy what you need to jar it yourself.

The jam-making session went great. I forgot how long it takes to seed blackberries, but other than that it was pretty simple. Our jam was setting beautifully and we can't wait to sample some tonight. We made 1 pint jar, and 10 4oz jars of jam. We don't eat a lot of jam, so I wanted it in really small jars that would be less likely to go bad before we could finish them. As luck would have it, we used my sister's berries instead of mine, which means that I still have 2 gallon bags of berries in the freezer.

Next up?? I have 2 little goals for the summer.
I'd like to make a tomato sauce that can be stored up for the winter, but not sure what recipe to try or how to do that exactly.
I'm also looking forward to the peaches blossoming so that I can make some delicious treats such as jam, cobbler, and various other goodies. We sadly missed the boat on strawberries, so I'm hoping to make up for it with extra focus on peaches. Fingers crossed for a great haul. With any luck, the same will apply to apples and we'll get to make some pie, applesauce, and baked apple wedges to munch on all winter long. Hopefully these goodies will help get us through a dark and dreary winter with much happiness.

Where did the Money Go?

E and I popped into the grocery store the other night for some canning jars and vinegar. We also got some prune juice (a non-local staple around here). When we got to the check out the couple in front of us was paying for their purchases and it was 77 dollars. The man said, "77 dollars? Are you sure that's right? It doesn't look like 77 dollars." The cashier checked over the receipt and apparently nothing was charged incorrectly so they went on their way.

I had to agree with them, for 77 dollars all they had received was 4 sacks of goods, all about 3/4 or less full (the habit of all stores these days - a big pet peeve of mine). I couldn't help but compare their shopping to what I bought for 74 dollars at the market. I left with my regular CSA box, a box of canning tomatoes, a watermelon, vegetable soup, salsa, a pork roast, 2 batches of basil, and eggs. It weighed a ton and took 2 trips to the car. Granted, I have no idea what was in their bags, so I'm not commenting on the items themselves, rather the contrasting feelings we had from our 2 different shopping experiences.

The point is that buying whole foods makes you feel really good about what you get. Again, I have no idea what that couple bought, but I do remember shopping at that store in the past and wondering where on Earth my money went and how it got away from me so quickly. At the market the opposite is true. Every time I check out and see how much I'm getting, I wonder why it doesn't cost more. I don't know if it's just b/c of the actual weight of the food, but I suspect it's from the knowledge that comes with shopping at a farmer's market. Knowing all the things I know about my food, how it was grown, where it came from, etc. add value to the food. We had worried that it would cost too much money to eat the way we wanted to eat. We didn't know if we would be able to sustain ourselves on our budget if we switched, but so far we have spent less every week and we feel like we're getting a whole lot more for the money.

As we walked to our car, the couple ahead of us at the checkout was standing just outside the store still scanning their receipt. They were really trying hard to make sense of where their money went. For all I know, there could have been an error on their receipt. I just know that picture will stay with me for awhile as I think of the contrasts in eating local versus industrial.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lessons - Generosity

The best part of our day was giving some of our freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies away as a thank you to a friend. Not surprisingly, E had a really hard time with it. First she didn't want too many cookies going in the bag. Then she wasn't really sure the bag shouldn't be in the freezer with the bag of cookies we were keeping. She was so funny guarding and keeping track of them. I explained (more than once) why we were giving away the cookies and how we should act when we did. When we finally arrived at our destination and it was time to deliver the cookies, she handed them over with the level of intensity we've come to expect from her. 
I learned (unexpectedly) that I was teaching her about generosity. In my opinion, generosity is giving away something that matters to you. It doesn't strike me as particularly generous to give something meaningless to you, though the other person might still appreciate it. Giving is a wonderful thing and more people ought to get in the habit of giving, but I think generosity goes beyond just giving.
When I think of generosity in the future, I hope I can still picture my sweet girl holding the little bag of cookies to close to her heart and then handing them over so sweetly and seriously. That's what it means to be generous b/c those cookies mattered to her.

yes, of course, she did get to eat some of them. So did her mommy.

Oh So Delicious! (Please, Please, Let Them be Delicious...)

I'm going out on a limb today and making some chocolate chip cookies. How is that a limb, you ask? Everyone makes these; chocolate chip cookies are a trunk if ever there was one.
Well, I'm going to use Olive and Sinclair chocolate pieces for the chips and I have whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. If you know anything about Olive and Sinclair you know these cookies will be special and rich and decadent. I couldn't find a recipe specifically made for their brand of dark/white chocolate, so I'm using a standard dark chocolate chip recipe. I'm hoping the use of my super dark chocolate (75%), buttermilk white, and whole wheat flour will result in a delicious treat anyone would love to eat.
I don't want to waste one speck of that delicious chocolate so I've got to be on my A game, not just in the recipe, but also in the baking stage. Oh, please, please, let them be delicious!

They were delicious. Definitely not a fragile cookie, but a hearty, denser version of an old favorite. I only had about 1/2 the chips recommended for the recipe, but I think that worked in my favor. Had I put 10 ounces of Olive and Sinclair chocolate in my small batch of cookies, the chocolate would have completely overpowered the rest of the cookie. These cookies have a nice balance to them and if when I make them again I'll cut the chips portion in half on purpose.
I think there's also something to be said for the less is more approach and having less chips makes you really appreciate each morsel or chip.  If you're using industrial chocolate, by all means, add in all the chips you can to achieve a rich chocolate flavor. If it's artisan chocolate, know that you'll need less. It reminds me of something Michael Pollan said in one of his books - "pay more, eat less". Makes perfect sense to me. Now there are 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies in my freezer just begging to be eaten. I'm hoping they last the month, but time will tell. They sure are tasty.

Tomatoes (2 of hopefully 3!)

The canning went great! I have 9 pints of tomatoes in my pantry all properly sealed and suspended in time. That's the goal at least, we'll find out in a few months how they taste. I was so anxious about it, but once I got into a rhythm, it was actually fun. I did think of it as a bit of a dance. Core the tomatoes and score the bottoms, drop them in the water, while they're boiling peel a few to drop in a jar. Add the acid and scoop the others out of the water. Put the finished jar in the canner and repeat. I was definitely overwhelmed by all the recipes, variations, warnings. and suggestions. There is no lack of information when you enter the realm of preserving.
My intention was to make sauce, but I decided I should try something a bit simpler my first time out, so I just canned them whole (or mostly whole) in their own juices. Hopefully this gives us the freedom to make anything out of them later this winter.
I hope to add some pictures this week, but we'll just have to see if I can get the phone and computer in the same room at the same time to make that happen.
Fingers crossed for me as I have a 1/4 bushel left to process. Planning to slow roast and freeze today. Then I'm going to try and freeze 2 pints of heirlooms. Yum!
If all goes well, winter will be a blip on our radar.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tomatoes (1 of hopefully 2!)

I'm about to begin canning tomatoes. Super excited to have a whole box of sauce tomatoes and 3 pints of baby heirloom tomatoes to can. I'm canning them whole, not sauced, b/c that seems like a better beginner's plan. I will prob freeze a small portion as well, in light of my foray into cheese making.
Fingers crossed for great success. Some people say it's super easy and nothing to it. Others speak of canning as if it were landing the space shuttle. I'm just hoping to jump in and learn something new.
Hopefully I'll have a 2nd tomatoes post soon with pictures of beautiful jars just waiting to be turned into something grand and glorious.
Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How do you Define Local?

What's local? Something assembled in your town or made from ingredients in your town? If something is created in your town and packaged elsewhere, is it less local than something that has ingredients shipped in but is "made" in your town.
When you ask someone (shop owner, waitress, etc.) what they have that's local, you get some interesting and varying answers.
It seems everyone has their own idea of what "local" really is. I think more people would make an effort to buy local if they realized there are so many variations of local that it's that easy to buy and support local businesses on at least some level.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What's for Lunch?

Today for lunch we're having patty pan squash and 8 ball zucchini stuffed with rice and kale. B's making country-style green beans and we have some left over mashed potatoes. Dessert will either be black bean brownies or blackberry cobbler.  I honestly can't wait to eat.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Connects to B how exactly??

I typed "Wheat, TN" in the search field of an internet browser. Then I clicked on images b/c I was hoping to find a graphic I had come across the other day that I forgot to pin. 8 of the first 12 images were of athletic shoes.  How exactly does the wheat in Tennessee connect to athletic shoes? The 19th picture was the first one that was a field of wheat, like you might expect to see when searching for images of wheat. Bizarre, yeah?

ps. There were also multiple pictures of Legolas the elf. Is he from TN and I just didn't know it? I hope he's paying his proper taxes on that movie income.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learning from flopping

I had a friend come over the other day and we were supposed to make 2 batches of mozzarella cheese. Needless to say, we didn't make cheese. We did however, give it a valiant effort.
(Quick side note: We used a 1/2 gallon of low-temp pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk that was delivered to the market on Friday for both attempts. This is Sunday so it's approximately 3-5 days old. The flopping was not from the milk, I assure you.)

Flop number 1 was 100% my fault. I added cheese salt instead of citric acid at the beginning. However, it curdled beautifully and was picture-perfect cheese until the very last step - the stretching. It refused to stretch and that's when I realized my mistake.
Flop number 2 was 100% by the book and we got 0 curd. It was the prettiest milk, rennet, citric acid soup, but it had not a curd in sight. I have no idea what could have gone wrong with batch number 2. It could be that our milk needed a different temperature or maybe we should have washed all of our dishes, utensils, etc. between batches. Perhaps I was so determined not to let the setback of flop 1 get us down that I somehow inadvertently caused flop number 2. Who knows? That's not the story I really want to tell.

When the cheese didn't form after 2 attempts, I was disappointed that I had nothing to show for my time and money. I was upset with myself for wasting milk in this heat, knowing how the heat affects the animals and the farmers.  I was embarrassed that my friend had come to make cheese and went home empty handed. I had planned for her to leave with a big hunk of mozzarella and 3 or 4 jars of whey for baking or cooking.
However, I was also proud of myself for trying something new. We had a grand old time making cheese (especially when we thought it was actually was cheese). My friend and I ate some delicious pizza and chatted about all things summer and Nashville. I loved watching E stir the curds and talking with her about what we were doing. I have great pictures of us doing all the steps - some with a cheese-like substance that could fool any viewer.

Learning the ins and outs of something that's not coming easily to me forces me to think about and appreciate the professionals that dedicate their time to making complex cheeses that take months and even years to form.  My 2 flops cost me an hour of time and $7 dollars - not nothing but not a great something either. Yet today I thought for the first time about how much our farmers invest in their crops and the products that they sell at market. How in the world do they respond to a flop or a flood (or a drought) when it could mean the loss of a year's income?  Most importantly, how do they get the courage to keep going? I don't have answers to these questions; I'm just so very grateful that they do.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Just had to Laugh

No disrespect intended, we all have to do what we can to earn a living in trying times, but I recently had an interesting conversation with a meat seller.
I just happened to be out in my yard when this man comes driving down my street in a little truck with "Steaks" written all over it and a little freezer in the back. Clearly he was selling meat directly from his truck. Here's our conversation:
You eat steak? No.
Chicken? No.
Seafood? No.
What the hell do you eat?
Well, that's kind of a long story actually.
At which point he waved his hand at me in exasperation and told me not to forget the price of his cheap meat. I actually forgot the price before I got inside to tell B about it. I remember something about fifty cents, which was really all I needed to hear to know that that meat was not the meat for me. Given what I now know about meat, there's not a chance that he was peddling grass-fed or grass-finished cattle for the price I was quoted. (I'm hoping that's why I forgot the price and not because I'm getting old!)
To be fair, we used to eat all of those things without question - though the back of a stranger's truck option was definitely a first.  I tried really hard to make something positive come from the idea of a man selling meat from his truck, because the thought of it was actually a bit depressing. The best I could do was pretend that he feels so strongly that people shouldn't be eating in their cars all the time that he makes a living delivering meat to them at their houses. Probably not the case.
After he left, I began to dream of a different time/place where the man selling steaks door to door is selling the kind of meat we would be honored to eat - and everyone is lined up to get it, just like he's the ice cream man. (Wonder what his theme song would be?)  If that happens, he wouldn't be a stranger, he'd be a friend.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


The other day E wanted a banana and B told her no b/c they don't grow in TN. She quickly responded that they grow at the grocery store and it's in Nashville. We could just go there and get some. What a world of conversations we are opening up to have that we never expected! I am thankful for what we are teaching her about food and marketing and nutrition in ways we never would have had we not made the switch to a local diet.
p.s. Before you feel too sad for her or judge us too harshly, we got her a local treat and she was tickled pink.

Market Day Report 1

Well, it was an interesting day of shopping. We went to the Franklin Farmer's Market, the Fresh Market, and Green Door Gourmet. Here's a synopsis of our wins and losses, wins.
Franklin Farmer's Market
Wins - sweet potatoes, 8 ball zucchini, salt and pepper squash, and 2 kinds of ravioli. (*The ravioli is not 100% local, but the farmer uses as much local as possible. We also liked that we were buying directly from the farmer so more of the money hopefully went to the farmer. I also got a jar of sorghum. Total spent - $21.00

The Fresh Market
We had been told this would be our place for fresh, local fish. We had planned to go there b/w our markets to pick up some fish. B is really wanting some fish and I was really looking forward to finding a treasure. Unfortunately, they only had 2 fish from the US and none were from Tennessee. I don't want to say the guy laughed at us for asking about fish from Tennessee, but he wasn't as insightful or helpful as we would have hoped. Total spent - $0

Green Door Gourmet
Treasures, treasures, and more treasures today! We racked up at our favorite market today. We didn't need any meat this week b/c we are using some we already had frozen, which left us a bigger budget for vegetables and some pantry staples we were getting desperately low on this week.
Wins: (FRUIT!) - cooking apples, grapes, nectarines, peaches, and 3 kinds of melon. We passed on a watermelon and got a regular cantaloupe and a canary melon.
Treats: We were in the first 50 to place our order so we got a free loaf of bread. Yum! We also got a choice of about 6 different herbs. We chose mint (ice cream anyone??) and since they were a little low we lucked out and got a half portion of 2 different kinds. Lemon and chocolate! I cannot tell you how yummy they smell. Delicious!
Vegetables: We stocked up this week! Okra, green beans, tomatoes (fruit/veg?), 3 kinds of squash, eggplant, Japanese eggplant, 2 kinds of zucchini, 3 kinds of potatoes (hallelujah!), 2 or 3 different peppers, and corn. I also got more kale.
Pantry - We got some whole wheat flour from Knoxville. It's a little pricy so not sure that we'll always buy it, but we had to have flour for this week. We kinda delayed the big wheat decision. We also got a jar of really nice olive oil. It looks kinda funny next to the jug in the cabinet that I got from Publix as 1 of my first couponing successes. Needless to say, the new oil will be an upgrade for us and we are curious to start cooking with it. Total spent $77.00

On the hunt/didn't find today:
Only a couple things we didn't see that we were hoping to find.
Nuts - didn't see a single one at either market. I saw some desserts with nuts that I inquired about but none were made from TN nuts. Still hunting.
Raisins - didn't find a single raisin. However, Green Door had grapes, so we got an extra bunch. We have 1 big bunch to enjoy as grapes and another that I can use to dry out and make raisins. More on raisin making later hopefully!
Fish - obviously that was a bummer, but with so many successes and treasures found today, it's hard to feel sad about not finding any one thing. I think the hunt and effort will help us to savor the fish that much more if/when we find it. At the very least, we'll appreciate it and the fisherman that much more than we ever have before.
 Grapeseed or other oil for cooking - Michael at Green Door suggests cutting the olive oil that we got  with another oil for sauteing, so we're on the lookout now for one that he mentioned. We saw some at Produce Place, but neither of us remembers how much it was or if it was local. So we'll check next time we're there. May or may not be a difficult thing to find - I guess time will tell.

So that's the summary of our adventures in local shopping. Definitely more complicated than a quick jaunt to the grocery down the street, but infinitely more fun, interesting, and informative. Today, especially at the Farmer's Market, I had the deep sense that the food was too cheap. I know a lot of it was more than it would have been at a commercial grocery, but this is organic food, grown by hand, under the best of conditions. In addition, when possible we bought heirloom or heritage varieties of produce that you can't even get at a commercial grocery. Paying seventy-five cents for 2 squash seems a little short of the worth of the food. I'm glad we were able to get as much as we did for right at 100 dollars, but it does cause me to wonder if it was priced as fairly as it should have been. Another unexpected part of this change is the overwhelming sense of appreciation for everything now sitting in my kitchen. I am thankful for all the farmers that take the time and energy to not just grow the food, but to also haul it all down to the market so I can purchase it more easily. I feel blessed and grateful on a whole new and deeper level with every trip to market.