Day Seventeen

No pictures today, and just a quick post to tell you about my food. It was a busy day.

Breakfast was toast with butter and honey, a pear, and a glass of buttermilk.

Lunch was leftover potato lasagna. I don't own a microwave, and I usually hesitate to use one, but it really comes in handy for things like this. Just a few minutes and the office was filled with delicious aromas of fresh basil and tomatoes.....

We went to the Willy Street Co-op Eat Local Challenge potluck at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center for for dinner. It was a nice time, and a pretty good spread: pot roast, several delicious local salads, corn cakes made with goat cheese, poached pears with mint, apple raspberry sauce... and it was all 100% local!

We brought my second loaf of local bread, and maple hickory ice cream. The ice cream was out of this world good. Half and half, buttermilk, toasted hickory nuts, maple syrup, and a little salt. Perfection.

share on: Facebook


Day Sixteen ~ Bread, Raspberries, and Potato Lasagna

What's even more exciting than 100% local ice cream? 100% local bread! For about a week I'd been fermenting a sourdough starter from yeast that I caught from the air outside my house. Last night I finally baked two loaves using the starter and local flour from Spring Green. The dough didn't rise much at all, so I was nervous that it would be way too dense, but it turned out great! It has a wonderful sour flavor. If you are interested in the recipe for doing this yourself, comment on this post and I'll be glad to share the recipe.

I was finally able to break from my yogurt and fruit routine this morning, and instead I enjoyed toast with butter and honey, a pear, and a small glass of buttermilk (got to get my probiotics!)

Monday is my day off, so after breakfast I headed back to Blue Skies Farm to pick raspberries to freeze. About 2 1/2 hours of picking yielded 14 pints of luscious berries - two for fresh eating and 12 to freeze. I just love Blue Skies. It is exceptionally peacefully there, and they do a great job of running their U-pick. They call it "berry therapy", and I have to say that after I was done I felt relaxed in the same way I do after a massage. Plus I had a bunch of berries to show for myself!

Lunch was Organic Valley cottage cheese with a big tomato and green beans.

The dish in the loaf pan was dinner - potatoes layered with fresh tomato/meat sauce (tomatoes, garlic, onion, a hot pepper, oregano, thyme, and ground beef), Farmer's cheese, Ricotta, a red bell pepper, and Parmesan.

The second pie shaped one is a similar dish, but with eggplant and summer squash instead of potato. I plan to bring it for lunch this week. Planning ahead is good!

share on: Facebook


Day Fifteen ~ Ice Cream, a New Farmer's Market, and a Summer Classic

Yes, you read right - 100% local ice cream! Since you can't buy this kind of thing, (all the local ice cream brands contain sugar), we had to do it ourselves.

Toward the beginning of the challenge, Stanley ordered this ice cream maker on Ebay. It's an older model, but made with real wood, which is a plus. We decided to give it a whirl last night.

We found a no-cook recipe since it was already late and neither of us wanted to go to the trouble of cooking egg yolks into a custard. Instant gratification was the name of the game. So we mixed 2 cups of half and half with a bunch of diced peaches, about a half cup of honey, and a teaspoon of salt, poured it in the ice cream maker, layered rock salt and ice around the outside, and turned the sucker on.

My goodness was it loud! The machine whined away in the kitchen for about a half hour and then stopped, signifying that it was done.

Perfect peach honey ice cream! My only criticism is that the honey flavor was a little overpowering - I could have used a little less. Other than that it was just like ice cream should be - creamy, sweet, delicious.

The next morning I checked out the North Side Farmer's Market, which I'm embarrassed to say I had never been to. It's really friendly, a little larger than the East Side Market, but so much more laid back than the downtown market. It will probably become a weekly routine.

I have so much in the garden, I didn't really need any veggies, but I couldn't help buying the stuff in the picture above: a pretty stripey eggplant, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of jicama (I had no idea what jicima greens look like, now I do!), two red bell peppers, and a bunch of fresh mint to make sun tea.

After coming home from market I had my regular breakfast: yogurt, peaches, hickory nuts, flax, and maple syrup. It was pretty hot today, and I've managed to catch a weird summer cold, so I wasn't feeling much like eating at lunch time - lunch was a yellow doll watermelon, that's it.

Here's dinner - a classic Caprese, Wisconsin style. Garden basil, two big hunks of fresh Mozzarella, and two tomatoes, all drizzled with sunflower oil and sprinkled with salt. I also added the one leftover potato from last night's dinner to add a few carbs to the day. The tomatoes aren't mine - the neighbor brought them over. It was nice to eat someone else's tomatoes for once. The candystripes that I've been eating are really sweet, and I enjoyed the acidic tang of the red tomato.

share on: Facebook


Day Fourteen

I guess I'm like a hotel - I missed the 13th day. It was pretty uninspiring food-wise. The same old breakfast, a quick (albeit delicious) lunch of apples, pears, and cheese at the Co-op, and leftover meatloaf, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower for dinner. I dressed up the leftovers with some of the awesome 100% local pesto that my brother Dave made.

I was a little dubious that pesto could be tasty without lemon juice, but he proved it could be done. Basil, Parmesan, hickory nuts, and sunflower oil. It tasted a little "greener" than regular pesto, but it was great when slathered on the leftover tomato basil meatloaf! Leftovers are awesome, and it's even better if you can add a little something to make them seem like a whole new meal.

Today's food was a little more exciting.

Breakfast was (as usual) peaches, yogurt, honey, hickory nuts, and flax. I worked early (5:30am), so it was around 11:00 when I ate lunch. It was very similar to the day before - 4 Harrow Delight pears from Future Fruit (they are on sale now at the Co-op and amazingly good!), paired with a nice big hunk of bandaged goat cheddar from Capri Creamery (the website is a little outdated). I enjoyed it with my new favorite hot drink from the juice bar - whole milk steamed with maple syrup. It's local, and it allows me to savor the steamed milk that I would normally have gotten in a latte. A very pleasant mid-morning lunch indeed!

When I got home I snacked on the last piece of leftover meatloaf.

Dinner got even better.

Kebabs on the grill! I like to skewer one vegetable on each kebab so that they can cook for the correct amount of time. We used pork loin from Willow Creek Farm marinated in the rest of Dave's local pesto, green pepper, jalapeno, summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and tomatillos from the garden, and torpedo onions from Blue Skies farm. Kebabs are really good and so easy to make (and clean up after). Just chop the stuff up, skewer it, grill, and you're done. No fuss no muss.

We also cooked potatoes in foil in the coals.

You run the risk of burning them this way, but these babies turned out just perfect - creamy, buttery, yum.

share on: Facebook


Day Twelve ~ Better Together

Stanley and I just enjoyed this beautiful HOMEGROWN watermelon! Our crop has ended up a little sad - three watermelons total, plus a few Wisconsin Pride Melons cantaloupe that are unfortunately not very sweet. This is a Mountain Sweet, and it made it all worth it. Sweet, refreshing, light, juicy, full of flavor..... a perfect watermelon! There is one more of these left in the garden.... it will be savored.

The title of this post refers to the ongoing peach saga. I've been weeding out the bad peaches day by day, peeling them and cutting them up. I was getting a little disgruntled by all the work - it was at least an hour or two each night this week. By the end my hand was cramped from gripping a paring knife and my back hurt from hunching over the peaches....

Tonight Mom and Erica came over to help freeze the rest of them. It is so much better to do these things together! Mom peeled, Erica sliced, I put them in bags with a little sugar and citric acid, and before I knew it they were all gone! Erica took some home with her, and I have a bunch in my chest freezer. It feels good to get it done! We used a good recipe that was easy and worked well - 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon citric acid in a gallon freezer bag, shake it around to mix, add the peaches, and shake it to coat the fruit. Then I used a straw to suck all the extra air out and that was it. I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures.

My food was simple today. Yogurt, raspberries, sliced peaches, hickory nuts, flax seeds, and honey for breakfast; Wisconsin Caprese and Red Potato and Sorrel Salad from the deli for lunch, cheese and summer squash omelet with hash browns for dinner. Easy.

share on: Facebook


Day Eleven- Meatloaf and Wild Yeast

I feel like many of our eat local challenge dinners look alike - meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. They may look the same, but the flavors are always unique, and I can honestly say that I haven't had a meal that I did not enjoy since the challenge began. Tonight we had meatloaf made with basil and cherry tomatoes, perfect mashed potatoes, and steamed garden broccoli and cauliflower. The meatloaf was awesome! I'll add the recipe at the end of this post.

Breakfast was the same old thing - Wisconsin Pride melon with raspberries, yogurt, and maple syrup. For lunch I enjoyed one of the Co-op's 100% local salads - Wisconsin Caprese - a wonderful blend of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and sunflower oil.

Since I now poses local flour, I'm re-trying an experiment that I did years ago during my first eat local challenge - catching wild yeast out of the air. There is no locally grown yeast that I know of (Fleischman's has the market cornered), so if I'm going to eat bread before September 15, I'll need to grow my own. Here's how it's done:
Day 1: In a quart plastic container, combine 1/2 cup water (filtered or spring) with 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour. Stir it up well and let it sit open outside for about an hour. Cover, bring inside, and let it sit in a warm-is place for 24 hours.

Day 2: Add another 1/2 cup water and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour. Mix well to add air. The mixture should start to smell a little like vinegar.

Day 3: The mixture should be doubled in size.Add another 1/2 cup water and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour. Mix well. Let sit for 24 hours.

After that, you can use the "chef' as a starter for bread. The thing about wild yeast is that it's unpredictable. So far, the yeast in Madison seems more active than the yeast I caught in California. It's bubbling and rising really well, and it has a strong vinegar smell. The picture above is day three after I added the flour and water. I should be all set to make bread tomorrow or Friday! Even if it turns out to be a heavy dense loaf, it's still bread!

Here's that meatloaf recipe. As with all of my recipes, the proportions are inexact. Feel free to mix it up as your taste and availability dictates.

Cherry Tomato and Basil Meatloaf

1 lb Ground Beef
12 large cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil, chopped
1 cup Cracked wheat (I used wheat from Washington Island)
1 onion, chopped
1 hot (or sweet) pepper, chopped
2 eggs

Combine everything except cherry tomatoes. Oil a loaf pan (with local sunflower oil of course!). Press meat mixture into pan. With your finger, press 6 of the tomatoes into the center of the loaf, and cover them up so they're embedded in the meatloaf. Slice the remaining cherry tomatoes in half and press them face up into the top of the loaf. Bake at 375 for about 1 hour, or until the internal temp is at least 155.

share on: Facebook


Day Ten ~ Effin Peaches

Not much time to post tonight - it's been a long day. Breakfast was a half of a Wisconsin Pride melon (homegrown!), with yogurt and honey. The melon is decent, not very sweet, but not bad. Lunch was leftover potatoes from Saturday's dinner, dinner was what you see above: grilled pork chops with basil and chili pepper, green beans cooked in foil on the grill, and dry beans from the East Side Farmer's Market. It's funny to eat beans and beans.....

The peach saga continues. I came home from work prepared to can jam, process the Oxheart tomatoes that I've been stockpiling, and roast some black cherry tomatoes that needed to be dealt with. As if that wasn't enough, I went to the basement to check on the peaches I had stashed down there and found a bunch more with little rot spots. I just can't let them go to waste, so I sorted them and brought the bad ones upstairs.

I made the jam with the peaches I had peeled and food-processed last night. The recipe I used was found online: just peaches, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. I don't think it was the best recipe - I have my doubts that it will set without added pectin, but anything's possible. I water bath canned 15 pints total.

The cherry tomatoes were easy - just cut in half, put on a cookie sheet, dusted with salt, and roasted in a warm oven. I had intended to blanch and peel the Oxhearts, but given all of the peaches I had to deal with I decided to just chop them, put them in a big casserole in the oven, and roast them. A few tomato peels never killed anyone.

Finally, I peeled the rest of the peaches, took the pits out, and stashed the pulp in the fridge to freeze tomorrow.

These peaches are demanding! I really thought I was going to wait until Sunday to process all of them - but they had other ideas. I really can't complain though - we are so lucky to have them!

share on: Facebook


Day Nine ~ Breakfast for Lunch and Peach Jam

I woke up this morning too full from last nights dinner to eat breakfast, so I made myself a cup of peppermint tea with my dried peppermint from the garden, and went about my day.

Monday is a day off for me, and I generally use at least a chunk of it to clean the house and do laundry. By 1pm, the house was clean and I was hungry enough to eat the lunch pictured above. I found a pancake recipe that didn't have leavening: 1/2 cup of the fresh flour we picked up in Mazomanie yesterday, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 Tablespoons melted butter. They weren't fluffy-almost more like a thick crepe, but they sure were good with some maple syrup on top. I also made a fruit salad of yogurt, honey, raspberries, peaches, and apple. The bacon is from The Rustic Table - it's uncured and really good, not too salty but full of flavor. The egg, of course, is from my own dear chickens. It was a beautiful, satisfying meal.

I had all kinds of plans for tonight - I was going to have some extra time to relax, maybe make some tomato paste, and finish my taxes which I had to extend from the spring.... no such luck.

At about 4pm I went out to check on the peaches that we picked two days ago. I had stored them in the garage, hoping that they would ripen. To my dismay I found that about 1/4 to 1/3 of them had rot spots of varying sizes. I went through them all peach by peach and ended up with a grocery bag completely full of very ripe almost rotting peaches. I put the rest in the basement hoping that the cool air would stop the ripening at least a little bit. Either way, I don't think they will last till next Sunday when we had planned to process them......

There was no way I was going to waste all those lovely peaches that I had sorted out, so I decided to make jam. This involves blanching the peaches, peeling them, pitting them (they are not free stone), chopping them in the food processor, cooking them with honey and spices, and then canning them. A daunting task to be sure.

Here they are with the bad spots cut out. As you can see, there were a lot. It took me till about 9pm to get them all chopped in the food processor, at which point I gave up for the night. They're in the fridge now - tomorrow I'll make them into jam and can them, and hopefully start some tomato paste as well. Erica and I made tentative plans Thursday night to freeze the rest of the peaches before they all go bad......

No rest for the weary in late August!

share on: Facebook


Day Eight ~ Raspberries, Flour, and The Big Cheat

Today I cheated. I don't feel too bad about it - I take this challenge more seriously than most people, and it's supposed to be fun anyway. More on that later- first, let me tell you about the beginning of my day.

Sunday is a day off work for me, so I had to make the best of it. In the morning, the ladies of the family (Meg, Erica, Mom, and I) headed to Blue Skies Raspberry Farm south of town to do some U-picking. As was predictable on a beautiful Sunday, there were a lot of other pickers, and not a ton of ripe berries left when we got there. We stayed for about two hours and picked a flat and a half between us.

I wasn't intending to get a ton of berries anyhow, so I was happy to go home with three pints. I will be back next weekend on a Monday to do a bigger pick for freezing. I just love the atmosphere of a U-pick like this - it's far enough in the country that a quiet peaceful tranquility pervades, punctuated by the sounds of pickers' conversations and giggling children. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning!

I also purchased this honeycomb from Blue Skies - there's something so fun about eating honey with a spoon and then chewing on the wax..... it's like chewy honey fudge.

I got a lead from another blogger who's taking the challenge that it's possible to purchased fresh ground flour at The Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie. I have wheat berries that I purchased at the Washington Island Coffee House, but no good way to grind them, and I'm not excited about purchasing an expensive grain mill,. so in Stanley and I took a beautiful Sunday afternoon drive through the Wisconsin countryside to Mazomanie.

Here's what we got! 10lb of beautiful freshly ground flour. They have a large grain mill where they grind the wheat on-demand right in front of you. Apparently they've been doing this for a long time, but they recently started sourcing their wheat locally from someone who grows on the grounds of Taliesin near Spring Green. This flour looks beautiful! I put most of it in the freezer, only keeping enough out for immediate use.

OK, now to the cheating. Let me start by saying that Stanley usually works on Sunday nights, but he had tonight off. We didn't have Elwood, and we wanted to do something special and romantic. Also, Stanley had been wanting to take me out for my birthday, something which we hadn't found the opportunity to do since my birthday back in June..... so..... given that we may not have this opportunity again anytime soon, I decided to cheat. The only rule I made was that we had to go somewhere that featured local food in their menu.

After much deliberation, we decided on Lombardinos, an Italian restaurant in town that has a ton of local ingredients. Since I was cheating anyhow, I had to go all out.

I started off with a martini of Death's Door vodka (made with Washington Island wheat) and house made blood orangecello. Our appetizer was bruschetta with wood grilled Fraboni's sweet fennel sausage, local peppers and onions in a wonderful thick tomato sauce, then a small Caesar salad, followed by an amazing dish of grilled Jordenal Farms chicken with grilled lemon and Spanish olive oil over a bed of escarole. We were so full at this point, that we took dessert to-go, but not until after I enjoyed a beautifully frothy cappuccino. I'm over the caffeine withdrawal, so I figured one small cup wouldn't do any harm.

At home we enjoyed a sampler of mini-portions of panna cotta with blueberry sauce and polenta crumbles, chocolate chestnut torte with salted caramel ice cream, and tiramisu. It lacked a bit of the presentation since they had packed it up to go, but it was still delicious.

An amazing meal full of local ingredients. I don't feel one bit guilty!

share on: Facebook


Day Seven ~ Operation Peach

We have peaches! There are two trees in the garden plot that my family shares on East Main Street. They never bore fruit until last spring, when my brother Ben pruned them in a last ditch effort to get something out of them - they shade the garden plot, and it seemed better to cut them down if they weren't going to bear fruit. Lo and behold, the pruning was just what they needed and they produced beautifully both last year and this year.

Last September, the peach crop turned into a bit of a tragedy. We waited and waited for them to be perfectly ripe before we picked them..... then, when Erica and Ben finally went out to pick, they realized that all of the peaches were gone. The trees had been picked bare by someone, we know not who. All of our visions of canned peaches and peach jam and frozen peaches were dashed.

You can see how it happened - the trees are on the edge of the garden plot closest to the road. The luscious bright fruits are very noticeable to the many bikers who go by, and I can see how someone could think that perhaps we didn't care, or we didn't have full rights to them..... we did.

So, this year we got wise. I dropped by Mom's after work to pick up some extra green beans from the garden that she had picked. We discussed the peaches. They are earlier this year than last - no surprise with the hot weather we've had. They aren't quite perfectly ripe, but they are damn close. We feared that if we waited until next weekend, they would all disappear like last year.

So, we called Erica, and Dave and Meg and we had an impromptu peach picking event. We left the smallest, hardest fruits, but we took the majority of them - and there were a lot, as you can see in the picture at the beginning of this post.

We gave a bag to one of the neighbors, and we reserved some for a nice person who left a note by the trees asking if she could pick some. Dave took a 25lb box, and Erica took about 15lb in a bag. The rest went home with me.

Since these peaches aren't quite ripe yet, we (thankfully), don't have to deal with them this weekend. I'm storing them in my garage, and Mom and I plan to get together next weekend to process them. It will be interesting since because of the eat local challenge I can't do refined sugar. We're thinking of canning them with a honey syrup.... yum!

Oh, and in case you're wondering what I ate today.... I ate breakfast before going into work early at 5am: yogurt with peaches (the unripe ones from the branch that broke off the tree last weekend), hickory nuts, and maple syrup. Lunch was at work and was more of a snack: Two apples, a hunk of Bandaged Cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy, and Sassy Cow Milk. I snacked on peaches all afternoon, had some watermelon when I got home..... and.....

Here's the delicious dinner we just ate. Hamburgers wrapped with bacon and grilled; cheesy potato wedges cooked on the grill; and coleslaw made with diced Candystripe tomato and homemade basil mayo. The mayo was made with homegrown eggs, Driftless sunflower oil, and a little tomato juice to stand in for the lemon. It turned out good, but with a weird almost bitter aftertaste that I couldn't figure out..... once I got used to it it was fine - the creamy texture was perfect! I'll have to experiment more with homemade mayo. I don't feel like I have it totally figured out yet.

share on: Facebook


Day Six

This is the delicious snack that I just finished wolfing down - popcorn with butter and sorghum syrup. Sorghum syrup is made from (you guessed it!) sorghum. It's similar to molasses, but with a little different flavor - Slow Food describes it as "slightly bitter yet sweet with an earth molasses quality." I seem to remember somewhere in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series (Little House in the Big Woods maybe?), where they make popcorn by the fire and mix it with molasses. This is similar, except local. It was the perfect snack to round out the day.

Breakfast was the same old yogurt with fruit and honey - today it was peaches and a pear and a few hickory nuts.

For lunch I was hoping to have a nice big bowl of Wisconsin Caprese Salad from the Willy Street Co-op Deli. It was ordered to come in from the off site kitchen, but alas, it didn't show up! Apparently they ran out of sunflower oil, a necessary ingredient. So I had to make do. My lunch consisted of a largish bowl of sauerkraut (yes, I know), a few chunks of nice cheese from Carr Valley, an apple, and some Sassy Cow milk. Not very inspiring or satisfying. All good ingredients, but not the proper combination for a good lunch. It filled me up sufficiently, but I was definitely looking forward to dinner when I got home.

I have the house to myself on Friday nights (Stanley works and Elwood is with him Mom), so I indulged myself in this pretty meal. Broiled steak from The Rustic Table, garden potatoes cooked in a hot oven with a nice big sweet onion and sunflower oil, and a sprig of parsley from the garden. The steak was a little overdone for my taste, and I have to say that I'm not quite as impressed with the beef from The Rustic Table as I am with the pork, but it was delicious none the less, and made up for my less than perfect lunch.

share on: Facebook


Day Five

No pictures today, and not a lot to report......

Breakfast was homemade yogurt with berries, hickory nuts, and honey. I had to eat as many raspberries as possible since the two pints I bought at the market on Tuesday were starting to mold.

The yogurt has a funny story - the culture was given to me by my brother's girlfriend, Meg. Apparently it was smuggled into the country from India in a toothpaste tube. How's that for cultural diversity? People don't think a lot about it, but we have lost a tremendous amount of genetic diversity in domesticated microbes like yogurt and butter cultures, sourdough starters, and yeasts. These were typically passed down from generation to generation and every family or small group had their own distinct genetic line. Now that these things are mass produced, many of the old strains are gone. Anyhow, it's cool to be making yogurt from an Indian culture that someone thought was worth smuggling. It's especially tangy and not as thick as the yogurt I'm used to.

Lunch was the sorrel and potato salad from the Co-op deli, along with a hard boiled egg from my chickens, a pear, and milk.

I had Elwood the almost-three-year-old to myself for dinner, and it was hot, so I opted for an easy preparation: more hard boiled eggs, a bunch of steamed green beans from the garden drizzled with sunflower oil, and a large Candystripe tomato with plenty of salt.

I'm starting to get used to this all-local thing. The caffeine headaches are gone. I'm still having occasional sugar cravings (it doesn't help that I had to work the bakery shift at the Co-op today - cupcakes, cookies, brownies, peanut butter pie.....), but other than that things are going well - I feel great!

share on: Facebook


Day Four

As you can see, dinner tonight was amazing, and the best part was that I didn't even have to cook! My sweetheart Stanley gets full credit for this meal.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again - the pork that we get from The Rustic Table, our meat CSA, is out of this world. Seriously. It is from heritage Mulefoot hogs raised on pasture - and oh my god, is it good. He grilled it with just a little parsley. The flavor of the meat is so outstanding it really doesn't need any fancy seasonings.

He also grilled some sweet corn that our neighbors dropped off - they grew it! The potatoes are cooked with sunflower oil and sage, in a pan on the grill. (can you tell Stanley likes to grill? He's really good at it, so I can't complain.) No one else in the house likes straight tomato, so I had to eat all of one of the giant Candystripes all by myself. No trouble at all... the flavor of these tomatoes is outstanding - sweet, relatively low acid, yum.

Breakfast was the same as previous days: yogurt, blueberries, raspberries, flax seeds, and honey. Boring I know, but I thrive on routine in the morning.

I forgot to bring anything to work for lunch, but lucky for me the Willy Street Deli has a few 100% local salads on the menu this month (did I mention that I manage that deli?). I had a salad of potatoes, sorrel, and sunflower oil; and also a "Wisconsin Caprese" salad, with tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, and sunflower oil. I love to cook, but it's nice to have other people prepare food for me once in a while!

share on: Facebook


Day Three

Lesson of the day: a great way to relieve stress after a long day at work is to stick your head into the middle a tomato plant. The aroma is intoxicating! I did this after work today, and I was delighted to find all of these ripe tomatoes. I've got the cherry tomatoes drying in the oven right now, and I plan to make paste with the red Ox Hearts. The yellow Candy Stripes are for eating - man they're good!

I also hit up the East Side Farmer's Market, which is smaller and much more friendly than the big downtown market. I got two pints of raspberries from Blue Skies Farm (one golden and one red), a few nice green peppers, some dried beans, and a few delicious Zestar apples. These are the first apples I've tasted this year that actually satisfied me. The apples I got at market on Saturday were decent, but soft and mushy like early apples usually are. The Zestars are firm, juicy, and sweet, with a really nice fresh apple tang.

Breakfast was yogurt, blueberries, peaches, hickory nuts, and maple syrup. Lunch was leftover mashed potatoes with cheese and leftover sweet corn cut off the cob.

Here's dinner. Sorry for the bad picture.... it tasted much better than in looks. Cheesy home fries cooked in sunflower oil and green peppers stuffed with ground beef, cracked Washington Island wheat berries, onion, and tomato. Not bad.

share on: Facebook


Day Two

Only one picture to share today......

Dinner. Willow Creek Pork Chops marinated in sunflower oil, parsley, basil, and a tiny bit of maple syrup, then grilled; mashed garden potatoes, and steamed garden broccoli. In my quest to make creamy fluffy mashed potatoes as good as Stanley's Mom's (he has still to find any as tasty as what she makes), I pureed them in the food processor. They turned out good, creamy for sure, but I think they needed a little more air whipped into them. I don't have a hand mixer, but that would be the perfect tool..... they had plenty of butter, milk, and garlic, so they definitely tasted good.

Backing up, breakfast was Sugar River yogurt, Washington Island flax seeds, blueberries, a pear, peaches, and honey. I had a quick lunch of boiled potatoes, sour cream, little orange heirloom tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, and a glass of milk. I found myself hungry mid-afternoon, and snacked on an apple with sharp cheddar.

This challenge puts me in an interesting state of mind - I find that I've started wanting to horde food. Blueberries for example. I got two pints at market on Saturday, yet when Stanley's 3 year old wanted a few, I said no. Looking back, that seems really silly - denying a toddler a few blueberries? What was I thinking? It's true we don't have local berries at the Co-op, but the East Side market is tomorrow, and there will surely be berries there.....

It's also interesting to drive around town and realize that 99.9% of the food available in all the restaurants and stores is off limits. I've always taken on-demand food for granted. It's frustrating to not have it, but it also feels good in a way. Somehow this eat local thing gives me the will power that no diet ever could. 85% of that 99.9% of that on-demand food is bad for me anyway.

Oh, and the caffeine headache is back, it's not bad at all, but my body is still getting used to the idea that I'm not giving it it's daily fix.

share on: Facebook


So it Begins

Eat Local Challenge 2010. It's been three years since I've done a real challenge - it feels good to be getting back in the groove! After my first personal challenge in 2007, I was instrumental in starting the first ever eat local challenge at North Coast Co-op in Northern California. Now I've been helping my coworkers at Willy Street develop their first ever challenge. We've got over 500 participants this year, and I couldn't be prouder!

After much deliberation, I decided what the hell, I might as well jump right in myself and go for the hardcore level. It's the hardest of all of the six levels of challenge, and dictates that everything I eat will be locally grown, with the exception of salt. It will probably be a little easier than the last time, three years ago. I have oil available to me now (sunflower oil from Driftless Organics), which I didn't have. Plus lots more meat and cheese options (I've given myself an extra exception of cheese enzymes and agents used to cure meat), wheatberries and flax from Washington Island in Door County, and I can also add maple syrup and sorghum syrup as acceptable sweeteners.

Funny thing about salt, I did some research about the possibility of finding local salt, and found that there is none. The nearest source is the Detroit Salt Mine, far under that streets of Detroit. I'm trying to convince them to send me a big hunk of freshly mined salt, but so far I've had no luck. It's used as road salt in Michigan, but their website says that it used to be sold to the food processing industry, which means it must be at least marginally edible....

Here's my breakfast Saturday, the day before the challenge began.... I usually work Saturday mornings, but I just had to get to the downtown farmer's market to ready myself for the challenge, so I took the day off. I was also trying to eat as many of the delicious foods that I won't be able to eat for a month, so of course I had to stop at The Batch for a vanilla swirl and a Limonade (imported from Italy!). Mmmm.....sugar........

I would have had coffee instead of the Limondae, but I had decided (smartly) that it would be better to taper my caffeine consumption than to go cold turkey. I only drink one cup a day regularly, but I tended to get a headache when I didn't get it, so I knew some withdrawal was in the cards. Despite my attempts to drink less day by day, I still managed to get a killer three day headache. Yesterday was my fourth day without any caffeine and my first day without a headache. It's amazing how physically addicting caffeine is, and how common..... despite knowing this, it's hard for me to imagine that I'll give up coffee for good, it just tastes so good! I guess that's even further proof of its addictive nature. I'll see how I feel at the end of the month.

After The Batch, I headed to the Dane County Farmer's Market downtown. We are blessed with one of the biggest markets in the country, which is a good thing in terms of variety, but not so good when it comes to walking down the sidewalk trying to shop. Between all the people looking at farmers' wares, people not watching where they are going, slow moving strollers, and general pokiness, I can get quite frustrated. It would be better if people actually bought things, but the fact is that most people are only there to look and to buy maybe a pastry or a beef stick....

Enough complaining. Regardless of the fact that it's impossible to walk at your own pace, this is an amazing market. The picture here only shows about 1/5 of it - it goes all around the capital square and features any kind of vegetable you might want, meats, cheeses, fruits (the apples are starting to come in!), bakery, hickory nuts, pestos, plants, etc. etc. I don't usually go because of the crowd, but when you want local variety, this is the place.

Here's what I ended up with. Local fruit is hard to come by at the Co-op, so I stocked up: apples, pears, and blueberries, plus the very first of the local apple cider! A quarter pound of hickory nuts (at $21 they aren't cheap, but you have to remember that a super nice little old man shelled them all by hand), garlic, and corn for grinding. The corn was sold as bird food, but the man who sold it to me said that he grinds it for cornbread and it turns out great.

Later in the day I ended up at our Main Street Garden, and found Mom looking sadly at a large branch of one of our peach trees that had split. The peaches aren't quite ripe, but they are sweet and crunchy - definitely edible, just more like an apple than a peach. We stripped the branch of peaches and sawed it off. Mom was glad that I had showed up "It's always better to deal with tragedies like this with someone else" Awe... This is my half of the unripe peach haul. I guess I won't be hurting for fruit!

The other ingredient run that I did this weekend was to The Washington Hotel Coffee House. They sell wheatberries and flax from Washington Island in Door County. This is almost exactly 250 miles away and pushing the "local" designation, but I'm counting it. I braved the enticing scent of freshly ground espresso and purchased a half gallon of wheatberries and 2lb of flax seed.

So here's the food I ate on day one. I'll try to post my meals every day, but I can't promise that I'll always get pictures.

Breakfast. Sugar River Yogurt with blueberries, peaches, hickory nuts, and honey.

Lunch. Chicken salad (the chicken is from The Rustic Table, our meat CSA), with green beans, black cherry tomatoes, and sunflower oil.

Dinner. This picture didn't turn out too well, and the meal has kind of a funny story.

Earlier in the day I attempted to use the cheap hand crank grain mill that I have to grind some flour from the Washington Island wheatberries. It didn't work so well, and I ended up with half ground, basically cracked wheat. I thought maybe I could use that to bread some zucchini and fry it. It didn't really work out. I tried dipping the zucchini in egg and then the wheat, and after the first slice the wheat got soggy and wouldn't stick to the zucchini. So, I just gave up and combined the egg and wheat to make a sort of omelet pancake.....tasted good, but I probably wouldn't make it again...

The zucchini, however, was amazing - fried in bacon grease with little bits of crunchy fried wheatberry.

share on: Facebook



The title pretty much says it all. Here's my haul from the Main Street Garden today. I could have taken zucchini too, but I have an abundance in the fridge already.

and here's my dinner from Friday night. Veggies and freshly laid hard boiled eggs, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt. I just can't get enough of the pure, simple flavors of the fresh garden veggies..... the object of this season is to eat as many vegetables as possible so nothing gets wasted, and as you can see, I'm doing my part!

But I know that this abundance will end eventually, so I've become like a squirrel busily hoarding things away for winter.

It's been a hot, wet summer, which is great for tomatoes, but also perfect for mosquitoes. They are really bad right now.... I braved them on Friday evening to pick my black cherry tomato plants, and I met Erica in the garden doing he same mosquito dance that I was. It's nearly impossible to stand it, they just swarm, and I find myself in a bit of a mosquito induced panic.... anyhow, before beating a hasty retreat inside, Erica offered me some of her sungolds to add to my cache.

This is my favorite way to preserve cherry tomatoes. Cut in half and sprinkled with salt, and then roasted in a warm (275) degree oven for a few hours.

This is the result.... shrively salty almost dried tomatoes. I freeze them in bags and mix them into pasta or other simple winter fare. They add little bursts of sunlight to an otherwise quick and boring meal.

My other adventure this weekend was freezing sweet corn. We drove to Peck's Farm Market west of town to pick it up, not because we had to go that far to get corn (really good homegrown corn is available in many roadside stands sprinkled throughout town), but because they have a petting zoo and it's a fun outing with Elwood, Stanley's son. Three "baker's dozens" for $13.50. It's not organic, but it's local.... this is one of those times when for me the latter trumps the former.

Here they are, shucked and ready to go.

This is the blanching setup. Blanching is done before freezing to stop the enzyme action in vegetables. If it's not done, the veggies don't hold their color and lose nutrition and flavor quickly in the freezer.

First, I plunked the ears into boiling water for 11 minutes..... it is so crazy that canning and even freezing vegetables involves boiling mass quantities of water in the middle of August. I waited until the sun went down to do this, but it still brought my already hot kitchen to sauna temperatures. Mmmmm......Corn sauna.....

Then another 15-18 minutes in ice-water. This stops the cooking quickly (and uses up a lot of ice!) I blanched all the corn in three batches, and used up a twenty pound bag of ice.

Perfectly cooked corn, draining over the sink.

Next I cut it off the ear and scooped it into freezer bags. It was so sweet, it was tough to not eat too much of it.

Twelve bags, labeled and ready for the freezer. To get all of the air out I closed the bags almost all the way, leaving room for a straw. I sucked the air out with the straw and quickly slipped the straw out and closed the bag. It's not a perfect system, but it works. One of these days I'll get one of those fancy freezer sealing machines.

Don't forget the cobs - the chickens loved pecking the last of the corn off them. Waste not, want not!

share on: Facebook