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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

On the hunt for local food (1)

Super excited today! We made a quick jaunt to the Produce Place for milk and butter.  2 1/2 gallon jars of whole milk (JD Country milk) will become mozzarella cheese and whey for baking. I have a friend coming over on Sunday to make cheese. We're going to eat some whey pizza as well. Yum!
I also got a pint of milk to make into yogurt. I did forget to grab a starter, so I'm hoping to find some local yogurt to use so that my yogurt will also be local. We'll see, might have to compromise on that.

I did buy some raisins that were not local, but I have good news on that front. In searching local table I have come across a farm that advertises raisins and emailed them to find out when/if they might be available. Just the idea of a possible source is exciting.
I also found 2 farms that mention growing walnuts. I'm excited to have found a local nut at all! I've been searching for TN nuts since the beginning of June. I have also contacted them to find out when they might be available. As luck would have it, they also grow lots of heritage apples that are available in various varieties all summer long and into the fall. I'm excited at the prospect of some local apples and applesauce. I use applesauce as an oil substitute in baking, so having some really yummy, fresh, and local applesauce in my treats is a very exciting prospect.

Still on the hunt...
Wheat - we're considering getting a mill to grind our own wheat berries. We've heard the flavor and nutrition of fresh ground flour will far surpass store bought. However, we need to buy hard wheat and that doesn't appear to grow in TN. We've found a great source for soft wheat and will probably get a bag (50#) to use for pancakes, cakes, etc. We're not giving up yet on the hard wheat. We're also contemplating which aspect of the 100 mile diet we choose if we buy non-local wheat. There are places out of state that we can get it from directly and they would ship to our house. We can buy wheat that has been trucked and traveled from Montana in person at a number of feed stores where at least the store owner is in TN and would profit a little from our purchase. In the absence of a local option, what becomes the second best option? We don't have an answer to this yet, and as a result, we don't have wheat yet either. We're going to have to come to a consensus soon though as we have less than a loaf of bread's worth of flour left for cooking.

Oats - same dilemma as the wheat. I don't have a preference of rolled or steel cut anymore. I would be happy to find some local oats for oatmeal and granola. We have a big bag of rolled oats from Trader Joe's still to go though, so at least we've got a little more time to get a source for the oats.

I'm not naive. I knew the switch to local would mean we would have to put more thought into our food.  That was part of it's grand appeal actually. However, I definitely underestimated the amount of decision making necessary to really understand where your food comes from and how it's made. I also hadn't thought I would ever feel the need to justify a purchase of raisins.