Monday, August 31, 2009


I think this must be just of taste of what it must feel like to grow your own food for real. I'm totally overwhelmed right now with food that needs to be preserved.

This past weekend I've put up about 5 quarts of hot garlic dill pickles, a dozen half-pints of cherry jam, 15 half-pints of grape jelly, and froze about 10 pounds of pitted cherries. And made a couple of chile ristras. But I still have about 5 pounds of cucumbers, 3 gallons of concord grapes, 30 lbs. of cherries, a quart of tomatillos and a counter full of tomatoes to deal with. Eeeekk!

But, really, I have nothing to complain about. Clearly I enjoy the self-imposed duty that is home food preservation in 21st century America. But I can't even imagine what it must be like to truly depend on employing my own methods of food preservation for survival. You see, I picked up a copy of Hungry Planet: What the world eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio at the library this past week. I've heard awesome things about this book, but am just now sitting down to really read it. It is utterly fascinating to look at what people across the world eat in a week. And what their kitchens look like, how much money they spend on food, what methods of food preparation and preservation they use, etc. It's a bit amusing to see that my family's diet looks more like that of a "less developed nation" than a typical American's. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing...

Ha! Between starting this blog post and finishing it I found someone to take and use my remaining fruit! Hooray! I feel much better now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Canning Madness!

This past weekend was like the final exam in my canning education. A coworker and I taught 4 canning classes on Saturday and then led a Community Canning Kitchen on Sunday where 8 people each completed a canning project with the group's help. Then Monday night I did a Canning Basics class for the Ecopaulitans group. I don't have pictures yet from the class sessions, but here are some choice photos from the canning kitchen:

Working on a peach, tomato, apple salsa- Really tasty!

Prepping green beans- goes quickly with 4 helpers!

Filling jars to pressure can green beans

At one point we had 5 canners going at the same time!

Salsa Prep
This was a fun bunch of people!

A portion of the bounty: Honeyed Jalapeno Rings, Peach-Apple-Tomato Salsa, Classic Tomato Salsa, Tomato Sauce, Stewed Roma Tomatoes, Watermelon Pickles, Dilly Beans, Green Beans, & Indian-Style Pickled Cauliflower

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Worth Waiting For

Some things are just worth waiting for. Like pizza.

I haven't been giving the local challenge 100% of my efforts lately. Heck, I've only been to work about 3 days in the last week and a half. First, I went to my grandma's funeral and then I promptly came down with a nasty cold! Sadly, I couldn't taste or smell anything so I pretty much just ate spicy rasam soups and drank ginger brews until yesterday. Not very local.

So tonight as I was leaving work I happened to pass some coworkers enjoying some pizzas from Pizza Luce and was overtaken with a massive pizza craving. I nearly pressed the speed dial button for Luce on my cell until the guilt set in...I should really make a local-ingredient pizza.

I mean, can a gal really justify ordering pizza when she has 14 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes on the kitchen counter and an unlimited quantity of basil from the garden? And to top it all off, Vegan Gourmet cheeze is on sale this month at the co-op. There was just no excuse tonight.

So now, after whipping up some cornmeal crusts from locally grown flour and cornmeal, making a batch of pesto from garden basil, roasting some locally grown eggplant and garlic and slicing some super fat Aunt Ginny's Purple heirloom tomatoes... I'm eating dinner at 8:45 pm.

Seriously, though. It's worth it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rustic Pesto

I don't know yet if this tastes good because I'm not done making it. But it's coarse ground pesto with tempeh, local corn, rice and tomatoes.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Travel tip

I'm on an unexpected trip right now because my grandmother passed away this past Saturday. She was 91 and had a wonderful, full life and I'm sure I'll be sharing more memories about her soon. For now, though, I have to share my hunger.

Usually when I travel I plan out some "just in case meals". You know, the things you can eat from your suitcase when all you can find is McDonald's or KFC. But this time I just grabbed some trail mix, pretzels, and organic ramen. Well, thank goodness for the ramen because Applebee's seems to think that every salad needs a dead animal on top of it. And cheese, too. I was able to substitute a portobello mushroom for the chicken in my salad, but a girl can't live on salad alone!

So here's my recipe for ramen in a hotel room:

Add 2 cups of water to the coffee maker. Crunch up the ramen a bit and empty the noodles and seasoning pack into the coffee pot. You'll be tempted to leave off the filter basket or carafe lid to avoid coffee flavor in your soup, but don't. Trust me- it'll make a big mess. Turn on the coffee maker and "brew" until all the water has dripped through.
If it's a fancy hotel, serve your soup in a glass water cup. Otherwise, eat it straight out of the coffee pot. I carry a bamboo spork with me at all times and it really came in handy of this trip!
Eat your ramen in bed while watching cable and enjoying the air conditioner.
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Camping Local Challenge

Eatting locally while camping for 3 days is a challenge unto itself-
I did my best- and here's what we packed:

The first night we had beer brats with tons of sauerkraut and coleslaw. I made the brats with locally grown wheat gluten and Vine Park brewery beer (Mai Bock). The coleslaw is made with locally grown cabbage. I was bummed to not have any plain homemade sauerkraut ready for the trip, but I do like the Eden Organic variety.

My favorite way to eat vegetables while camping is to pack the prepped vegetables in a big bag and the dressing in a little jar and throw it all in the cooler. The coleslaw was super easy to mix up at the campsite and I marinated the zucchini, sweet onion, and tomato salad for a full day in its dressing before enjoying it- yum! It was really nice to have fresh vegetables while camping- I usually use just frozen or dried veggies while camping.

Another night I fried up a spice blend of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander and garlic power with frozen locally grown potatoes and peas in my trusty cast iron skillet- the only pan I ever have to bring on camping trips. They were thawed nicely by the second night and mixed well with Jyoti lentils and vegetables. Too bad I didn't double the amount of food, though. We all wanted more of this!

One of the quickest meals was "chili over chips", pretty much my favorite camping food, next to tofu jerky (I use the basic recipe from Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard's book, How it All Vegan).

Quickest Camping Chili
Just pour this chili over locally made tortilla chips or cornbread for a quick and hearty meal!

1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 can unseasoned chili beans (or kidney beans)
1 c TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt

Pack the TVP and premeasured spices in a little container (Try packing these ingredients in a 16 oz. glass bowl with resealable lid and then use it as your chili bowl- less waste and less to pack).

Heat a cast iron skillet over a camp stove or open fire. Pour the can of tomatoes and drained can of beans into the skillet. Add the TVP mixture and then enough water to form a thick soup consistency. Stir frequently for couple of minutes, adding water as needed as the TVP absorbs the liquid. Serve all alone or over cornbread or chips. I served it over Whole Grain Milling chips and put some homemade garden pickles on the side. And locally made root beer afterward!

Desserts and snacks are pretty important for camping. I made 3 pounds of tofu into jerky and we nearly finished it off on Day 2. There were 24 gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (locally milled rice flour) and the makings for plenty of 'smores (not at all local, but very necessary). I also packed a double batch of homemade granola (locally grown oats and maple syrup and home-dried Michigan blueberries), Wisconsin nectarines, and my favorite trail mix.

I was sad when my trail mix filled with raw almonds, raw walnuts, dried cranberries, mini chocolate chips and hibiscus salt melted together in a big hunk in the hot sun. But I was happy when it cooled and I ate trailmix smothered in chocolate. I just might do that on purpose from now on.

We all had a great time, but it's nice to be back home and in my own home. Here's the wigwam the kids built... Don't worry- we didn't let them sleep there during the crazy thunderstorms.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Days 2-5

I meant to blog about this challenge more often, really. Here's a couple of things I've made in the past 4 days, in no particular order:

Marinated zucchini salad. Hell yeah. This is ridiculously good. I like zucchini, but I don't usually LOVE it. This salad has thinly sliced zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red spring onion, and fresh basil. The dressing is really simple: white wine vinegar, olive oil, a smidge of agave nectar to cut some of the sourness, salt and pepper. The co-op's demo coordinator made this when the farmers from Featherstone came to hand our samples from a recipe from their cookbook and I fell in love with it. I've made it twice in the past 3 days!

Pickles! I had a ton of cucumbers from the garden and up them up in some brine in the crock to ferment for a couple of weeks. I followed a recipe from the Joy of Pickling (big surprise, huh?) for "Lower East Side Full-Sour Dills". It's only been 3 days and they smell amazing already!

These are some beans I picked up at Seedsaver's Exchange a few weeks ago. They're an heirloom bean called Hutterite Soup bean. I pressure cooked them with a ton of last year's sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of maple syrup. Wow. These were rich!

This is what I've eaten for lunch every day this week: Beans with biscuits (Herbed Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits from Vegan Brunch) and some kind of salad.

This is just another picture of cucumbers that I like. I didn't take any pictures (darn!) of the tasty samosas I had this week filled with potatoes and locally grown peas. I made a soy yogurt raita for the side and filled it with hot chiles, cilantro and mint from the garden. Yum!

The challenge is going pretty smoothly so far. We'll see how I'm doing after trying to pack as much local food as possible for a 4-day camping trip!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eat Local Challenge: Day 1

I'm taking a slightly less obsessive approach to the Eat Local Challenge this year. Or at least I'm trying. Last year a few Co-op staff members gave it 110% and ate predominately local from June 1-Sept. 15.

Staring at the avocado, mango, and almond milk in my pantry right now, I'm astonished that I was able to do the challenge for so long. I think there are some normal stages a person goes through in the process of doing the Eat Local Challenge- And I'm starting right back at the beginning. There's the the excited, motivated stage. Then there's the grieving stage (Otherwise known as the "WTF! I though my favorite ___was local" stage). Then complacency. Then self-righteousness. Then a little boredom and the realization that it's not so hard to eat local. Or maybe it's just me that gets emotions all tangled up with my food choices...

Anyways, even though I knew that today was the first day of the challenge, I didn't really prepare. I ate leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast- the potatoes weren't local. And I finished off the last of my PB Chocolate Zigzag ice cream so I would have to make my own local ice cream later.

Luckily, my eating habits improved later in the day!

A Green Bean Meal
The toasted sunflower seeds give this dish extra protein and a nutty flavor that complements the bright vinegar. The seeds, beans, garlic, and herbs are all local. I used a lemongrass infused olive oil that I made last year, but regular olive oil would work well.

4 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans (I used a wax, purple, and green mixture)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh dill, chopped
1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
Splash of white wine vinegar
salt and fresh black pepper to taste

In a dry cast iron skillet, toast the raw sunflower seeds until golden and fragrant. Set seeds aside. Heat oil in the same skillet over med/high heat. Add the green beans and stir frequently while cooking. It's nice if some of the beans get seared, but you just want to keep most of them crunchy. Add the garlic and cook just 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat and add fresh herbs, sunflower seeds, and a splash of vinegar (maybe 1-2 Tbsp.). Finish with a generous dose of fresh cracked black pepper and a fine sea salt.

Blueberry time!

There's a high of 73 today and blueberries are on sale at the Co-op for $20 per case ($16 for staff!). It's time for some jam-making!
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