We're an ordinary family, complete with picky eaters, budget concerns, and time management issues. But to prove that "eating local" works - even for busy families in cooler climates - we're trading Chick-Fil-A and goldfish crackers for grassfed meat and local produce. Join our adventure in learning to eat (sort of) sustainably for the summer!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Recipe - Chili Beef Noodles

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
16 ounces canned tomatoes
15 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 ounces egg noodles

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic.  Drain.  Stir in the chili powder; add tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper.  Add hot pepper sauce to taste, if you like your food spicy.  Simmer 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, cook a whole bag of wide egg noodles according to package directions.  Serve meat mixture over egg noodles.

Serves 6, unless you like it as much as I do, in which case you might serve 4 :)

PS - look how pretty my (home preserved) canned sauce and tomatoes looked before they went in the pot:

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today we were touring the Hagley Museum, and I spotted an old friend in the gift shop - the Eating Local cookbook!  Way to go, gift shop!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I spent like an hour today making little fabric hats for the jam and salsa I'll be giving to my in-laws at Thanksgiving.  Way too much fun for something that's going to be thrown away before they even manage to get the jar open :)

Anyone have a good link for printable jar labels?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

So long, farmers' market

Today was the last day of the farmers' market I usually attend.  Well, they may be open next weekend, too, but we're not going to be in town to visit it, so it was the last one I could possibly attend.

I decided, for the first time since the market opened, to sleep in and skip it.

It was bliss.  But I missed The Pie Guy, and the Meat Man, and The Dude Who Thinks I Mainline Cider.  Guess I'm going to have to drag myself over to Shaker Heights once in a while for my farmer fix this winter, huh?

Oh, crap - I just noticed that it doesn't start until January!  Ack!  Withdrawal imminent!  Must comfort myself with raw-milk cheddar and a piece of Chickenzilla.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adventures with new cuts of meat

Anyone ever heard of an English roast?  Me neither, until I needed a cut of meat for a pot roast and this was what the meat guy at the farmers' market recommended.  It had a huge bone in it, and rather more fat than I prefer to pay for, but it was really tender by the time I was done with it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy birthday to me

I just came home from a preschool information night where I spent three hours on my feet explaining to everyone who came by my table why their scary-smart little kid should join our school next year.  First thing I did when I got in the door - put some water on to boil up a handful of those adorable little sprouts.  Yum, comfort food!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Of candles and cauliflower

Today is not my birthday, or that of anyone in my family.  It is not a holiday, and there was no power outage.

Thank you, Moxie, for giving us an excuse to dim the lights and celebrate every night.  It makes even a relatively mediocre fennel-and-cauliflower soup seem special!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Who's a cute little sprout?

They are!

Side note: do you have any idea how long it takes to clean and prep 3 quarts of marble-sized Brussels sprouts?  Forever.  Trust me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting better about this

Delayed gratification:  when you forget to buy bacon at the farmers' market and instead of breaking down and buying grocery store bacon (from non-happy pigs) you just decide to wait until you can get the good stuff next week.  And you don't complain about it (much).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Feeling distinctly guilty

You know, I try.  I recycle whatever I can, I compost much of my kitchen waste, I buy things with the minimum of packaging.  I don't even bag my grass clippings, even though that means I spend all summer sweeping them up off the floor in my house.  And yet every fall, my yard looks like this on garbage day:
That's 44 bags of leaves - this week.  Last week it was 26, the week before was 13.  And the trees are maybe 1/2 or 2/3rds of the way empty.

I don't know how to do any better.  The bags are made from recycled plastic, and I use the paper ones for everything except what we use when we bag the mower output.  I've even composted three or four bags of leaves, and tried running them over with the mower and just leaving them on the lawn.  But when your upwind neighbor has 19 mature oak trees in her backyard, the volume is just too much to deal with and still expect to have a usable yard.  I wish there were some more elegant way to handle it, but we'd literally have a compost pile the size of a barn if we tried to handle all of it ourselves - and straight oak leaves take forever to decompose, so we'd end up with a new barn-sized pile every year.

Anyone have a workable solution that doesn't involve turning my entire backyard into a compost factory (or taking a chainsaw to my neighbor's trees)?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One of the benefits of the CSA:

We have tried more new fruits, vegetables, and cuts of meats this year than we have in, oh, a decade or so.  A partial list:
- baby back ribs (never cooked at home before)
- Hubbard squash
- butternut squash
- chard
- beets
- radishes
- rutabaga
- ground cherries (which we actually got from the farmers' market, but they're weird enough I'll include them anyway)
- fresh grape juice
- red cabbage

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recipe - Sausage and Fennel Soup with Pasta

I got this recipe from one of the stalls at the farmers' market last weekend.  It was a great excuse to use up the fennel that I didn't snarf down raw over the weekend :)

Sausage and Fennel Soup with Pasta

1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage (bulk)
1 fennel bulb
3/4 cup diced onion
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3 T olive oil
14.5 oz. canned diced tomatoes
14.5 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup orzo
2 cups fresh spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saute sausage, breaking it up into small pieces, until well browned.  Drain sausage and set aside.  Cut the top off the fennel, wash and dice the white part of the bulb.  Saute the fennel, onion, and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft and transparent. Add tomatoes and chicken broth.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.  Add sausage and orzo and cook until orzo is just done.  Add spinach, tearing it into small pieces, and cook 3 minutes.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Garnish with Asiago cheese.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Recipe - Braised Red Cabbage

This recipe is a mash-up of about four different recipes from several different cookbooks.  Guess that makes it mine, huh?  This is particularly good when served with bratwurst and Stadium Mustard.  Mmmmm, artery-clogging autumnal goodness ....

Braised Red Cabbage

4 bacon slices, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
3-4 lbs red cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Cook bacon in a large heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring until crisp.  Remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve it for use later.  Add butter to bacon fat, then increase heat to moderate and cook onions until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Stir in cabbage, apples, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 1 1/4 hours).  Add bacon and serve warm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hurray for the winter CSA!

The CSA I used this summer has started a winter version that will focus on storage crops, value-added products (like local cheese and pasta), and meat/eggs/milk.  My first basket comes today, and is supposed to include:

-          1 head Jumbo White Stem Bok Choy
-          1 head cheddar cauliflower
-          2 Hubba Hubba squash (miniature, orange hubbard squash)
-          1 buttercup squash
-          Quarter-peck Empire apples
-          1 dozen pasture raised chicken eggs
-          1 head red cabbage
-          1 half gallon grass-grazed milk from Snowville
-          1 mini sweet potato cheesecake (1/6th of a large cake)
-          Approx 3.5 lbs of “pork combo,” your choice of one of the following
o   Boston Butt (pork shoulder), approximately 3.5 to 4 lbs each
o   3 packs center-cut bone-out porkchops (6 chops) and 1 lb Italian Sausage
o   2 racks baby-back ribs (approx 3 lbs) and 1 lb Italian Sausage
o   1 rack spare ribs (approx 3 lbs) and 1 lb Italian Sausage
o   2 tenderloins (approx 3 lbs)
o   4 pork hocks, 1 lb Italian Sausage, 1 lb bacon

If anyone in the Cleveland area is interested, you can find out more about the CSA here.  There's still time to sign up, even if you will miss out on the first delivery.

In the meantime, I've got to go roast a bunch of sweet potatoes (and a giant butternut squash, not to mention the Turnip that Ate Toledo) before they go bad.  Oh, and figure out how to store 3 pounds of brussels sprouts to use later this winter.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly menu

Friday - Tacos, corn and chickpea salad, double chocolate zucchini cake
Saturday - leftover pizza from last week
Sunday - leftover pizza from last week
Monday - grilled chicken breasts, pasta salad
Tuesday - leftover pasta salad, leftover tacos
Wednesday - homemade barbecue chicken pizza
Thursday - pork stirfry

Random shopping lists

Okay, I'm getting really slack about saving my shopping lists.  I have an excuse, though - it's September, so my sustainable "summer" is over :)  Anyway, here's what I found on my desk and in the kitchen:

CSA Contents (approximate value $25):
1 lb organic grassfed ground beef
6 ears sweet corn
2 slicing cucumbers
1 pint mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
3 lb Yukon or red norland potatoes (a good third of which was one ginormous potato)
1 candy onion
1 red slicing tomato
1 bunch cilantro
1 medium seedless watermelon
Havarti cheese

Giant Eagle (total - $50.29):
Toilet paper - 8.59
Kleenex - 5.79
Dixie cup refills - 2.00
White vinegar - 3.29
peanut oil - 5.39
organic round crackers - 2.79
organic dark chocolate - 3.49
grassfed local baby swiss cheese - 5.03
local shredded mozzarella cheese - 3.99
organic milk - 3.79x2

Giant Eagle (total - $32.92):
Local beer - 8.99
Lemon juice - 1.29x3
Lime juice - 1.29
Organic dried beans - 1.00
Organic mushrooms - 2.49
Taco shells - 2.00
Annie's fruit snacks - 4.99
Local shredded cheese - 5.00
Organic tortilla chips - 2.50

Plus a whole bunch of stuff at the farmers' market and Fitch's, including about a half-peck of hot peppers and a bushel of tomatoes that I canned and froze and made into salsa.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Last week's dinner menus

Friday - went to the carnival, ate "food" that tasted really good and had no nutritional value whatsoever.

Saturday - Tortilla pizzas made with leftover homemade pizza sauce from last week, heirloom tomato and pepper salad, sweet corn

Sunday - Chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup

Monday - Ohio City Pasta ravioli with homemade tomato sauce, German potato salad

Tuesday - Leftover roasted tomato soup, sweet corn, homemade bread with homemade jam

Wednesday - pizza from a local (non-chain) restaurant

Thursday - BLT's with homegrown tomato, CSA lettuce, organic mayo, homemade bread, local grass-fed organic bacon, local grass-fed organic cheese

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pizza sauce recipe

Here's my take on the pizza sauce recipe that came with last week's CSA basket, which turned out really, really well.  This made enough for two pizzas, plus leftovers that are probably enough for at least one more pizza (or some really tasty dipping sauce)

5 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 T dried basil
large pinch of red pepper flakes
2+ pounds roma tomates, peeled and seeded

In a heavy bottom pan heat the olive oil over medium low.  Add the onions, carrot, basil, garlic, and red pepper.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often.  Lower the heat if vegetables are starting to color.

While the vegetables are softening, peel and seed the tomatoes.  Stir them to into the vegetables in the sauce pan and raise the heat to medium. Cook the sauce at just under a boil - it is important to evaporate much of the moisture.

When all of the ingredients have cooked and become very soft run the mixture through a food mill with the smallest screen in place, discarding any solids that remain in the mill.  Return the sauce to the pan and place over low heat.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce.  Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.

Last week's dinner menus

Friday - CSA homemade pizza - used the pizza dough from the CSA, made my own tomato sauce from scratch with the CSA tomatoes, topped it with onion and peppers and sausage from the CSA.

Saturday - Ohio City Pasta ravioli with frozen pasta sauce from earlier this summer

Sunday - Basil burgers made with local grass-fed beef, homemade pesto, local mozzarella, and tomatoes from our front yard, served on buns from Blackbird Baking Company.

Monday - Quiche from Gray House Pies

Tuesday - went out to Aladdin's, where we shared a soup and an entree

Wednesday - leftover crab soup from before the summer, homemade bread with homemade raspberry jam

Thursday - Cabbage and noodles with ham, made with all local ingredients (except the salt and pepper)

Last week's shopping

Total for the week - $191, including school lunch stuff and some extra stuff we canned and froze

Two things I'm proud of this week that help offset the ghastly amount we spent on prepared food like quiche - the grapes and the tomatoes.  The grapes I found at a roadside stand a few doors down from Fitch's Farm Market, and the guy was selling two-pound bags for a dollar a piece.  Whoa - you can't even beat that at the grocery store for stuff that was shipped halfway across the world!  And the tomatoes came from Miss Dorothy, the retired lady who has a farm stand along a busy road near our neighborhood.  Her prices on produce are a little high, but it's really convenient, and she reminds me of my grandmother, so we try to throw some business her way.  She's got VERY reasonable prices on what she considers "seconds," fruit and veggies that aren't up to her very high standards.  We bought two of those two-quart produce boxes heaped full of somewhat cracked and spotted tomatoes for $5, and I spent all day Sunday canning them for this winter.  I need to get some extra jars so I can do that again before she runs out of squishy-but-cheap fruit!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Raspberries - the trilogy

In 2008, we taught our 3-year-old how to pick raspberries:

In 2009, our 4-year-old taught us how to pick raspberries:

In 2010, our 5-year-old decided taking pictures was more exciting that picking raspberries:

For three years in a row now we've gone to Rosby's to pick raspberries.  Each year we've been lulled by the bucolic sounds of earthmoving equipment and freight trains - the farm is practically downtown:
View Larger Map

One of the reasons I like going there to pick (other than the excuse it gives me to make tons of raspberry jam) is that it's fun, even if you don't particularly want to pick.  This year Liza gave up on picking after 10 minutes or so, and she was happy running around in the row, chasing bees and photographing wildflowers.  There's a place for the kids to run off some energy in the shade:

And three of the sweetest Frisbee-fetchers in the county waiting for you to make your way past their yard on the way to pay for the berries:

And, oh yeah - fresh raspberries are one of nature's most perfect foods.  Especially when you combine them with outrageous amounts of sugar and spread it onto homemade bread .... mmmmmmm.  So get your butt in gear and find someplace near you to go pick some!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Urgh, my aching feet

Today's cooler weather had me in a fall mood, which meant I finally felt like giving the kitchen a REAL workout.  The fruits of 7+ hours of labor:

For anyone playing along at home, that's five quarts of canned chopped tomatoes, four cups of canned tomato juice, two full recipes of pesto ready for the freezer, one batch of basil+olive oil ready for the freezer, three containers of chicken broth ready to freeze (in recycled jars - no, we didn't can in those), and a recipe of strawberry-rhubarb sauce that's ready to freeze.  And a loaf of bread - how could I forget that?

And I made dinner, too - what Jason dubbed "Frankenburgers," thanks to all the good bits that kept falling off while he grilled them.  Onions, mozzarella cheese chunks, and a heaping dollop of basil make for some pretty fine burgers - although not quite as fine as the Baba Burgers from a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, I made something else while I was in the kitchen all day ...

... a metric ton of dishes.  Oh, well - you can't make an omelet without breaking any eggs, right?

Last week's dinner menus

This week's cooking was a testament to improvisation, since I didn't really have all the ingredients for any of the recipes I wanted to use.  So I left out the mushrooms in the chicken divan and subbed in a different type of cheese, I left out the meat in the stir fry and used a whole mess of vegetables instead, and made the eggplant dish salsa-y instead of spaghetti-y.  And they all worked out really well, possibly even better than the originals.

I also canned some regular tomato salsa and peach salsa this week, and we've been snacking on the leftovers that didn't fit in the canning jars I had.  Mmmm, spicy peachy goodness ....

Friday - forgot to write it down
Saturday - homemade arrabiata sauce on Ohio City Pasta ravioli
Sunday - on vacation, ate at Cracker Barrel
Monday - on vacation, ate at Wendy's
Tuesday - chicken divan from my grandmother's recipe
Wednesday - stir-fried vegetables (pattypan squash, green beans, onions) with peanut curry sauce, organic brown rice
Thursday - eggplant skillet recipe made with homemade salsa and "mexican blend" cheese (instead of tomato sauce and mozzarella)

Last week's shopping

Total for the week - approximately $174
(including things like soap and light bulbs, and the beginning of stocking up for school lunches)

CSA contents (approx. value, $25):
4 Ginger gold apples
4 Paula Red apples
4 Vestar apples
2 pounds red haven peaches
1 pound organic granola
1/2 gallon milk
1 pound green beans
1 bunch radishes
1 large black opal eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1.5 pounds roma tomatoes

Farmers' Market purchases (total - about $64):
lots of tomatoes - 16.75
three dinners of ravioli - 22.50
honey puffed corn - 6
macaroni and cheese pub pie - 3
habanero pickles - 3.50
heirloom carrots - 3
broccoli - 2.50
bacon - 5

Giant Eagle purchases (total - $83.32):
conventional chocolate chips - 2.99
conventional chocolate chips - 2.00
conventional cocoa - 3.99
conventional peanut butter - 2.59
conventional pepperoni - 2.39
conventional pepperoni - 2.39
conventional wheat bread - 3.89
conventional ginger - 1.70
conventional tahini - 6.99
light bulb - 5.99
light bulb - 1.59
crayons - 2.79
crayons - 2.79
soap - 2.50
organic chickpeas - 1.00
organic rotini - 1.75
organic apple juice boxes - 2.75
organic chocolate pudding mix - 1.69
organic apple sauce - 3.39
organic fruit snacks - 5.59
organic fruit snacks - 5.59
organic raisins - 4.99
organic onions - 3.99
organic celery - 3.99
organic cilantro - 2.79

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh, noes! Salmonella outbreak!

Oh, dear!  I wonder if my eggs are included in the recall?

Wait, my eggs come from a lady who raises her chickens sustainably on a farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, not from some giant poultry production line in Iowa.  I guess that's why I didn't think twice about the safety of making Lord Baltimore frosting for my cake the other day.

Omelets at my house, everyone!

PS - more info on chicken conditions in Ohio, the nation's second-largest egg producing state, here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Where does that come from?

I'll just come right out and admit it - I love our county fair.  I love the cheesy 4-H exhibits, livestock judging, rides, and junk food.  I love seeing what people in my area have made and cooked, grown and raised, done and tried to do.  For an overwhelmingly urban/suburban county (less than 3,000 acres of farmland in a county that has about 300,000 acres of land), we have a lot of farm stuff to see.

I grew up in the country, you see, in a small group of houses surrounded by farms (and swamps, but that's another story, unless you want to hear about my neighbors catching snapping turtles to supply to the local fancy restaurant for soup).  I wasn't a farm kid, but I was the neighbor of a farm, so I got the best of both worlds.  I got to visit the cows and horses without having to actually care for them.  I could go buy stuff at the farm stand in the summer without being stuck hoeing any rows.  We could let our dog run in the soybean field in the fall without having to do any harvesting of our own.  And if occasionally the house smelled like manure, well, we could always put the fans in different windows and get the swamp smell instead.

View Larger Map

We moved to suburbia when I was going into 7th grade, trading the freedom to do some really, really cool things (and some really, really stupid things) in a place where everyone knew me for the chance to live in "civilization" when I was old enough to actually want a social life.  There weren't many farm stands or pick-your-own places in the 'burbs, and my lessons on foraging for food took place in the aisles of the Superfresh. I could order at a deli counter with the best of them, not to mention pick out a cantaloupe that actually tasted vaguely of melon instead of cardboard.

My daughter, however, is probably going to spend her whole life in suburbia, only seeing farms when we buy our food in the summer or visit my in-laws, who raise chickens and various commodity crops in Maryland and Virginia.  Any farming she does is going to be for fun when we're paying for the privilege of harvesting our own berries or whatever.  I'm going to have to work to get her to the point where she can recognize corn and soybeans and tomatoes in the field before they fruit.  And the only place she's going to be milking a (pretend) cow is at the fair.


And that's why I love the fair.  We hardly ever went when I was a kid - who needed to, when we were already surrounded by all the tractors and cows you could want?  But it's a great place for kids like Liza to get a concentrated dose of "what has to happen before the food gets to our table," along with some fun.  

We saw cows feeding their calves the way nature intended.  We had a chance to talk a little about how every bit of milk she drinks comes from one of these adorable little minivan-sized beasts.  We even happened to walk past at the right time to see a goat hooked up to a miniature milking rig so we could see how they get the milk out for people to drink, and we talked about how the guy who makes the feta cheese I buy at the farmers' market probably uses goats like these.  We saw chicken eggs hatching, and hours-old chicks tottering around on toothpick legs, and adorable older chickens raised as 4-H projects.  We saw rabbits of all sizes, and we discussed how the giant ones are sometimes raised for food and exactly how would you cook a rabbit, anyway (stew, she decided, definitely stew)?  She petted a calf, a couple of extraordinarily dirty sheep, and a piglet not much bigger than a guinea pig.  She caught "fish" and identified animal tracks, which won her a participation ribbon in the Junior Fair building, and I caught her taking it out to admire it over and over again for the rest of the day. We ate chicken strips and chicken paprikash and an apple dumpling with ice cream.  And, oh yeah - we went on a few rides, too.


Is this sort of indoctrination necessary, or even desirable?  I think so.  I will never be a successful vegetarian until someone declares bacon to be a vegetable.  But I do think we should all know where our food comes from, exactly what it is and how much time and effort went into getting it on our plate.  Reading about it and talking about it help, but seeing these things up close and personal make much more of an impression.  If Liza sees a cute piglet and decides she doesn't want to eat bacon for a while, that's fine with me.  At least she'll be making a somewhat informed decision, rather than believing that chicken nuggets grow on trees and are harvested by happy elves or something.  So until I can convince Jason to help me build that chicken coop in our backyard, the fair is the best place for that sort of education.

Also, Paprikash!  And dumplings! 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wagon? What wagon?

Oh, hai!  You're still here?

Well, that takes a load off my mind.  Here I thought that with my three weeks of partially non-local debauchery, you'd have wandered off by now.

So, yeah.  That happened.  I had stuff going on, and my husband was out of town, and the kid had summer camp and swim lessons and gym class and art class, and writing on the blog got pushed waaaaaay down on the list of stuff to do.  I didn't even keep track of my menus or my shopping, that's how far down it was.

We still got the CSA basket, and I still hit the farmers' market (when I wasn't walking 60 miles to raise money for breast cancer research).  We ate out a lot, but mostly at places that are sort of defensible, at least when you're in a hurry and desperate.  For example:

- Chipotle, where the kid gets a cheese quesadilla and I order pork so that I get the stuff that's "naturally raised," whatever that means.  At least they make their own guacamole there every day, out of innovative ingredients like avocados and lime juice.
- Wendy's, where the kid gets chicken nuggets and oranges, and I get either a salad or something chicken-based.  No miserable CAFO cow meat for us!  Plus, although it's a nationwide chain, Wendy's is headquartered in Ohio, so it could be worse.
- Bruegger's Bagels, where the kid gets a buttered bagel and I get a bagel with scrambled eggs and bacon.  At least they make the bagels locally, even if they are importing the ingredients from who-knows-where.
- Chick-Fil-A, where they don't serve cows, they use them as advertising.  Least defensible of my choices, probably, but very, very tasty.
- Bay Diner, a new local restaurant that probably serves Sysco's finest, but at least it's a locally owned business where the waitresses are getting to know us by name.  Also - chocolate chip pancakes!

We also went to Cedar Point, where we ate healthy, all-natural local food like cotton candy and doughnuts and frozen lemonade.  And today we're going to the county fair, where I will attempt to eat an elephant ear the size of a garbage can lid.

What can I say?  Nobody's perfect, least of all me.  BUT ...

I haven't bought non-local crap at the grocery store.
I haven't eaten any beef that wasn't pasture-raised (although I really, really wanted a Reuben the other day)
I have only eaten one meal in the car, and that was because we had a total of 20 minutes between activities to drive 15 miles and eat lunch.
I took a dish to a potluck that was entirely local (except for the olive oil and vinegar), and nobody even noticed.
I haven't wasted that much of my CSA food, since I've managed to squeeze in extra vegetables in some old recipes (Grandma's spaghetti sauce tastes just as good if you add a pattypan squash, half a green pepper, and a chopped mildly spicy pepper to it; egg burritos benefit from extra green peppers and yellow squash, not to mention lots of cilantro).

So, since I have to wrap this up because I have to pick up my daughter and take her to Chuck-E-Cheese for lunch, I'll just end with this:
Eating locally is a journey, not a punishment.  I'm trying my best, but even the best of us jump off the wagon with both feet sometimes.  But I'm getting back on the wagon again ... tomorrow.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wha? Now I'm confused ...

Our avid gardener goes looking for weeds ...

... and finds a strawberry instead.  In late July.  On "June bearing" plants that had already fruited once this summer.

At this rate, the pumpkin plant will still be fruiting in December ...


Last night I fed my daughter and her friend Easy Mac for dinner because I knew they wouldn't eat the focaccia we were having and I didn't have the energy (or ingredients) to make a separate pizza for them.

Of course, I also gave them organic raisins and homemade applesauce, so it wasn't a complete breakdown in the system, but I still felt pretty bad about it.

On the bright side of things, it's been so long since we've made Easy Mac that Jason had to actually read the instructions before he started, which I take as a positive sign.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conversation I have every time we shop for anything

"Mom, can I have (insert name of junk food here, most often Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Cheetos)?"
"Why not?"
"What do you think I'm going to say?"
"'Because it's not local and it's not organical and I've told you this a million times before, so stop asking.'"
"(insert a sigh worthy of someone with the weight of the world on their shoulders) Whatever.  Can I have a peach instead?"

Week Seven Shopping Details

Total for the week: approximately $116

Click on the post title to see the details of the expenses behind the jump cut.

Week Six Menus

leftover crab soup from before the experiment

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo, blueberry sauce on biscuits

Ordered a pizza

Baba Burgers, steamed green beans

Cornmeal waffles, fried potatoes and zucchini

Pork chops in yakiniku marinade, sweet corn, ravioli with tomato sauce and sauteed vegetables

Linguine with tomato sauce and sauteed vegetables, sweet corn

Recipe - Baba Burgers

I made this up as I went along, and I didn't write down any amounts because I was sure I'd remember it.  Right. So take the amounts listed below as a guide of where to start, and adjust according to your taste and/or what you've got in your pantry.

Baba Burgers

Take 1 pound of ground beef and break it up into little pieces with your fingers.  Add about 2 ounces of crumbled feta cheese, a couple good shakes of zatar, a couple tablespoons of minced fresh oregano, a couple tablespoons of minced green onion, some garlic powder, and some Penzey's Turkish seasoning.  Mix it all together with your hands, making sure you distribute the good stuff evenly.  Form into four patties.

Grill as you would normal burgers, and toast the burger buns at the same time.  When the burgers are done, slather a thick layer of baba ghanouj on the top half of each burger bun before putting them on the patties.  If you have any pickled turnips you can throw some slices on there, too, but the burgers are also great without them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Week Six Shopping Details

Total for the week: approximately $128
Click on the post title to see the details of the expenses behind the jump cut.

Week Five menus

In the interest of not repeating myself every darn week, I'm only going to list dinners here.  You can assume that for breakfast the kid is probably having a peanut butter and nutella sandwich, I'm having either oatmeal or leftovers, and at lunch we're both having some sort of leftovers or salad.

Gretchen's indulgence: lunch at the bagel store
Liza's indulgence: lunch at Chick-Fil-A

Ridiculously good cabbage rolls, German potato salad, first sweet corn of the year

Zucchini and tomato stew served over Ohio City Pasta ravioli, sweet corn, leftover potato salad

Chili**, cornbread, coleslaw, green salad


Chicken salad on "Like County Line" bread, misc. leftover side dishes

Wednesday and Thursday:
I forgot to write it down, so it can't have been anything that special, and it probably involved leftovers out of the freezer

** It was going to be great chili, with organic everything and local ground beef and local sausage, and then I burned it really, really badly when I was reheating it and we had to throw out an entire double recipe of it.  Very frustrating, and totally a good excuse to call Domino's and get something that was actually edible to serve to our guests on the 4th of July.  Pizza is patriotic, right?  Right?  And more than a week later, I'm still trying to soak the scorch off of the bottom of my expensive enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.  Buggrit.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Week Five shopping details

Weekly total (including pre-paid CSA produce): about $175
(This includes additional produce and meat items needed to feed my parents, who are visiting for the week, and some friends who came over on the 4th)

(click on the post title to see the details after the cut)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Recipe - Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Bacon and Greens

I adapted this from a recipe in In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters, using chard in place of the kale, and following the modification that used bacon in place of some of the oil.  I also monkeyed around with the amounts a little bit so that we wouldn't end up with 18 gallons of pasta.  Super easy, super tasty, and the little bit that wasn't inhaled immediately reheated well.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Bacon and Greens

1 bunch of chard, tough stems removed, and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 pound whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked al dente
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound diced bacon
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large pinch of dried chile flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Parmesan or Romano cheese

Heat a large, heavy saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and bacon, frying the bacon until it is slightly crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the remaining oil and bacon grease.  Add the onion, chile flakes, and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and lightly colored, about five to seven minutes.  Add the chard and cook, stirring and tossing, until the chard is wilted and tender, about 3 minutes.  Add water to the pan of the greens are dry, and if the greens are on the sturdy side, cover the pan briefly to steam them.  Add the garlic, seaon with salt, and cook for 2 minutes more.  Take care that the garlic does not brown.

Add the cooked pasta and bacon to the pan and toss to combine.  Loosen with a splash of water, if needed, and taste for salt.  Transfer the pasta to a warm platter or serving bowls, and drizzle a thin stream of olive oil on top.  Garnish with shavings of Parmesan or Romano cheese, and serve immediately.

Week four menus

Friday breakfast:
Scrambled local free-range organic eggs

Friday lunch:
Ate out at Botanical Garden (their cafe uses as many local sources as possible for ingredients, and we both had vegetarian meals)

Friday dinner:
Nicoise salad with local lettuce, local green beans, organic potatoes, local organic cheese, and organic salad dressing; cornbread made with all local ingredients except for the salt and baking powder

Saturday breakfast:
Cornbread from Friday, various leftovers

Saturday lunch:
Liza: Nutella sandwich on local whole wheat bread from Sarah Jane's bakery
Gretchen: various leftovers

Saturday dinner:
Whole wheat spaghetti with local chard

Sunday breakfast:
Liza: Nutella sandwich on local whole wheat bread from Sarah Jane's bakery
Gretchen/Jason: Cornbread from Friday, homemade blueberry buckle

Sunday lunch:

Sunday dinner:
Ate out at Crop Bistro, a local restaurant that focuses on seasonal and local foods

Monday breakfast:
Liza: apple
Gretchen: homemade blueberry buckle from Sunday

Monday lunch:
Ate out at Olive Garden (Liza's indulgence)

Monday dinner:
Salad; local gnocchi and pesto from Ohio City Pasta with fresh local peas

Tuesday breakfast:
Liza: Nutella sandwich on local whole wheat bread from Sarah Jane's bakery
Gretchen: homemade blueberry buckle from Sunday

Tuesday lunch:

Tuesday dinner:
Pasta salad made with local pasta with tons of whatever local veggies I had in the fridge, as well as local organic cheese and local salsa

Wednesday breakfast:

Wednesday lunch:
Ate out at Chipotle (Gretchen's indulgence)

Wednesday dinner:
Breaded local pork chops, tomato zucchini stew made with local zucchini and tomatoes and basil from our garden, leftover pasta salad from Tuesday

Thursday breakfast:
Liza: organic fruit bites
Gretchen: cheese quesadilla made with local cheese from Miceli's and local lavash bread

Thursday lunch:
Liza: Nutella sandwich on local whole wheat bread from Sarah Jane's bakery, organic raisins
Gretchen: leftovers

Thursday dinner:
Leftover cassoulet from before the experiment began, local tomato salad with Ohio City Pasta pesto and Miceli's parmesan cheese, local dinner rolls from Sarah Jane's bakery, local sweet corn from Fitch's.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Week Four shopping details

CSA Contents: (approximate value, $25)
One bunch beets with tops (I gave these to a friend)
Two green zucchini
Two summer squash (straight-neck variety)
One slicing cucumber
One sweet onion
One pound green beans
One bunch "Red Lights" Swiss chard
One head red oakleaf lettuce
Two pounds dark cherries
Two pounds organic cornmeal
One half-gallon milk

Heinen's (total: about $26)
Local white dinner rolls, $2.99
Local wheat bread, $3.19
Local lavash bread, $3.29
Local ricotta cheese, $2.79
Local milk, $3.59
Organic chocolate bar, $2.99
Conventional rapid-rise yeast, $2.98
Conventional walnuts, $4.49

Farmers' Market: (total: $77 )
One dozen local organic eggs, $3
Two pounds local organic butter, $8
Two huge local tomatoes, $7
One peck local apples, $6
One half-gallon local cider, $3
Local pasta (two meals) and pesto sauce, $15
Two local organic chicken breast halves, $7
One pint local black raspberries, $5
One piece (4 ounces?) local feta, $6
One local hot pretzel (breakfast), $1.75
One local cookie (breakfast), $1.75

Pick-your-own blueberries, $13 for about two gallons of them

Fitch's Farm Market: (total: $9)
Some vegetable I don't remember, $1.25
Cherry tomatoes, $3.50
Green pepper, $0.50
Cherries, $3.69

Restaurants: (total: $18)
Cleveland Botanical Garden cafe, $18

** We also went out to dinner at Crop for our anniversary, which cost $71, but this was a once-a-year expense, not a standard grocery purchase, so I'm leaving it out of the total for the week.

That's a total of about $155 including the amount we prepaid for the CSA.  

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Best. Cornbread. Ever

This week I made the best batch of cornbread ever, using local eggs, local milk, local cornmeal, local whole wheat flour, etc.  I didn't mine the salt out from under Lake Erie, and goodness only knows where baking soda comes from, but everything else was either local or organic or both.  I ate it with dinner, warm with pumpkin butter on top.  I had it for breakfast cold from the pan.  I even had it for dessert tonight, split and topped with sugared black raspberries and (local) vanilla ice cream.  There's one piece left, and I'll personally take down any person who stands between it and me tomorrow morning.

Have I mentioned that I like cornbread?

Anyway, the recipe is from a cooking forum post by "Holly" from years ago, which I attempted to find but couldn't. I consider that due diligence, so I don't feel at all bad about sharing the recipe now. This makes a sweet cornbread with a sticky/crunchy top, and I swear I have to be physically restrained from eating the entire pan by myself.

Holly's Cornbread

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour (either white or whole wheat - both work fine)
1 cup cornmeal

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a 9x9 pan in the oven (this greases the pan and melts the butter for the recipe). Meanwhile, combine flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda in a bowl.

Beat eggs, sugar, and buttermilk in a second bowl, then add melted butter.

Incorporate dry ingredients into the wet mix just until combined.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it.

According to my recipe software, 1/12th of this recipe has 210 calories (almost 40% of which come from fat), which could explain why they taste so very, very good.

Today's adventure - blueberry picking!

I set the alarm for an early Saturday morning, actually managed to get out of bed when it went off, and poured the kid into the car, all so that we could drive down to Martin Blueberries to take advantage of their early-bearing bushes.  I had never picked blueberries before (well, not since I was a kid and a friend and I snuck into her neighbor's yard to snitch from her giant blueberry bush), so it was a new experience for both of us.  Liza got into it right away, "tickling" the clumps of berries so they'd fall off into her bucket.


Row after row of bushes - hundreds of bushes, acres of bushes - of maybe a dozen different varieties that mature from now until the end of August.  The place is huge, but really well-organized and well-maintained, and picking there was a true pleasure.  No reaching into thorny bushes (yes, I'm talking about you, raspberry picking!), no constant bending over to the ground to search for hiding fruit (yes, I'm talking about you, strawberry picking!), no dodging wasps or stepping on squishy windfalls that seep into your sandals (yes, I'm talking about you, apple picking!) - just tickling berries that were right out in the open and eating nearly as many as we got into our buckets.


We were there for less than an hour and managed to fill up a 2-gallon bucket without hardly breaking a sweat.  That's about $15 of blueberries, which translates to quarts and quarts of them.  I'll be washing them up tomorrow and getting some ready to freeze, while some will end up in muffins (and on our cereal ... and eaten out of hand) right away.  And I'll probably have them all used up and be ready to pick more by next weekend.  After all, cherry season is almost over, and a girl's got to overdo it on some kind of fruit each week, right?

Week Three menus

Week 3 - 
Indulgences: Liza - Cheetos;  Gretchen - Quizno's meal

Friday Breakfast:
Liza - Homemade bread with butter
Gretchen - French toast made with homemade bread, local eggs, local milk

Friday Lunch:
Big salad with whatever was left in the fridge
Friday Dinner:
Liza - ate at a friend's house
Gretchen - leftover pappardelle pasta from previous week; local cherries

Saturday Breakfast:
Baked goods from the farmers' market

Saturday Lunch:
Liza - Local sliced turkey, local mozzarella cheese, local fresh peas
Gretchen - Local quiche (purchased at farmers' market from Gray House Pies)
Saturday Dinner:
Liza - Cheetos (indulgence alert!); local apple, local strawberries, local cherries
Gretchen - Soup made with homemade chicken broth from previous week, dill, and a variety of veggies

Sunday Breakfast:

Clafoutis made with local organic eggs and local cherries; leftover quiche

Sunday Lunch:
Ate out at Treehuggers Cafe
Sunday Dinner:
Leftover sweet potato from last week, big salad, burgers made with local organic ground beef, local cheese, local burger buns from Blackbird Baking Company.

Monday Breakfast:
Liza: Scrambled local eggs, Cheetos
Gretchen: Leftover clafoutis, leftover homemade muffin

Monday Lunch:
Liza - Noodles with butter and salt, local apple, peanuts
Gretchen - Local pita with local organic hummus from Judy's Oasis stand at the farmers' market, roasted local vegetables, local cheese; leftover sweet potato
Monday Dinner:
Kale and potato soup made with local kale and local chorizo; local pitas with hummus; organic carrots 

Tuesday Breakfast:
Liza - Homemade toast with butter
Gretchen - Leftover egg pitas from last week

Tuesday Lunch:
Ate out at Quizno's (indulgence alert!) at the zoo
Tuesday Dinner:
Sesame noodles with chicken and cabbage (click for link to recipe post)

Wednesday Breakfast:
Liza - Local apple
Gretchen - Homemade muffins left from last week

Wednesday Lunch:
Liza - Local lavash with Nutella; organic carrots, local peas
Gretchen - Leftover burger patty (from Sunday) and grilled local vegetables with organic local hummus on local pita

Wednesday Dinner:
Leftover sausage spaghetti sauce from a previous week, served over local whole wheat pasta from Ohio City Pasta

Thursday Breakfast:
Liza - Homemade bread with butter
Gretchen - Leftover kale and potato soup from Monday night; homemade bread with local cheese

Thursday Lunch:
Liza - Local lavash with Nutella; organic carrots, local peas
Gretchen - BLTs made with homemade bread, local bacon, local tomatoes, and lettuce from our garden; homemade pickles
 Thursday Dinner:
Miscellaneous leftovers from the fridge and freezer