Saturday, November 15, 2008

Urban Dark Days - Local Eating Challenge - 11/15

Today was rainy and dreary - but I did get out a bit and walk the dog. Lexi and I also made Quesadillas with the leftover taco stuff from the other night and found some fresh cilantro still coming up in the garden. The cheese was local raw milk cheese and the meat was from our meat share at the CSA.

For dinner tonight we went British. I had purchased some local venison sausage and decided to try Toad in the Hole. This is a weird looking Jamie Oliver Recipe - but it came out pretty good. I did not make the gravy - but I think it may have been better with the gravy. We also made butternut squash from the CSA farm and homemade applesauce from the larder. It was quite yummy!

Toad in The Hole
• sunflower oil
• 8 large good-quality sausages
• 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
• 2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 2 knobs of butter
• 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 level tablespoon
good-quality vegetable stock powder or 1 vegetable stock cube

for the batter
• 1 1/2 cup milk
• 1 cup plain flour
• a pinch of salt
• 3 eggs

Mix the batter ingredients together, and put to one side. I like the batter to go huge so the key thing is to have an appropriately-sized baking tin – the thinner the better – as we need to get the oil smoking hot.

Put 1cm/just under ½ inch of sunflower oil into a baking tin, then place this on the middle shelf of your oven at its highest setting (240–250ºC/475ºF/gas 9). Place a larger tray underneath it to catch any oil that overflows from the tin while cooking. When the oil is very hot, add your sausages. Keep your eye on them and allow them to colour until lightly golden.

At this point, take the tin out of the oven, being very careful, and pour your batter over the sausages. Throw a couple of sprigs of rosemary into the batter. It will bubble and possibly even spit a little, so carefully put the tin back in the oven, and close the door. Don't open it for at least 20 minutes, as Yorkshire puddings can be a bit temperamental when rising. Remove from the oven when golden and crisp.

For the onion gravy, simply fry off your onions and garlic in the butter on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they go sweet and translucent. You could add a little thyme or rosemary if you like. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half. At this point, I do cheat a little and add a stock cube or powder. You can get some good ones in the supermarkets now that aren't full of rubbish. Sprinkle this in and add a little water. Allow to simmer and you'll have a really tasty onion gravy. Serve at the table with your Toad in the Hole, mashed potatoes, greens and baked beans or maybe a green salad if you're feeling a little guilty.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Urban Dark Days - Local Eating Challenge - 11/13

Well - I am officially thinking more often about where my food is coming from and trying to eat more local. Today Lexi and I went to Sonnewald Natural Foods - where the sell only natural and organic food and products - and have a bulk section where you can purchase bulk items such as grains, nuts, pastas, dried fruits etc. and I stocked up on some staples. I am not sure that these purchases really qualify as "local" in the sense that many items were not local (ex. pasta) however, they stock dairy and meat from local farms as well as produce - some of which they grow themselves. It is a small family business that has been ongoing for years. They also do nutrition and natural supplement counseling. I just love shopping here. It is a bit out of the way, but I combined my trip with a Freecycle pickup.

Lexi really wanted a whole coconut - not at ALL local - but it was organic. We took it home and she and Chase cracked it and drank some of the mil. I then found a recipe for Fresh Coconut Cake on the Internet and although it was involved - the kids grated all the coconut and we made this cake from scratch. We used organic flour, sugar, vanilla(also Fair Trade) shortening, butter and eggs and we had a whole cup of coconut milk which we used in place of the dairy milk. It was excellent.

On the Menu for Dinner:

A modified version of Jamie Oliver's Real Mushroom Soup.
I used Portobello and Cremini mushrooms grown locally, purchased at Sonnewald. The red onion was part of last weeks CSA share from Spoutwood farm. I used garlic and dried lemon thyme from my garden. I did not use truffle oil, lemon ( but the thyme gave it a nice flavour) or marscapone cheese - but gave it instead a bit of whole, raw milk bought at Sonnewald.

I also made a French bread dough in the bread machine - and rolled it out to be more of a foccocia. I added olive oil and some of the feta cheese that I made and sage from the garden(yes, some of my herbs are still hanging in there!) Served with the mushroom soup - it made for a great fall dinner.

For dessert we had our Coconut Cake - with the raw, whole milk.

I not sure if this one would qualify for the 90% local rule - but I did find those mushrooms to be excellent and have found that I have been able to really use a lot of the things that I have grown by drying and preserving them. I have lemon thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic - and should pull in some sage and parsley for drying.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On the Menu tonight - Thai...

Brianna is cooking tonight - which means the nice clean kitchen will once again be a mess ;-) But that's ok. She wanted Thai - and so this is a mostly shipped into the grocery store kind of menu.
Her recipe is from Jamie Oliver - and it is a Thai chicken served over Thai rice noodles. There are some local ingredients such as:
Chicken breast from the farmers market
Chinese Cabbage from Spoutwood Farm
Garlic that we grew
Cilantro from the garden. It's still hanging on!

The non-local ingredients were olive oil, tamari, chicken broth (of which I ran out of home ade), limes, ginger and the rice noodles.

I have been shocked at the price of food lately. I don't know if it is because I am watching expenditures so closely - or if it has really gone up. I brought home 3 bags of groceries for $97! And upon examining the receipt can only gather that it is because I stocked up on broths, oils, sauces for the pantry and got deli meats that the kids have been asking for. Other than that I can't seem to see what the big expenditures were. One of my goals is to become more self-sufficient in this area. The more food I can grow the better off we can be economically.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Making Goat's Milk Feta and Garlic Planting

Alexa and I finished up our goat's milk feta that we started yesterday. We purchased a gallon of fresh goat milk from the local farmers market and used the recipe from Riki Carroll's book Cheese Making at Home. It was relatively simple and we came out with a great first cheese. We did use a yogurt culture which I made from some whole milk yogurt that I also purchased at the same market. Overall, I was impressed with the end result and ease to which I was able to make cheese. Cheese is one of those things that I always buy - so I have been keen to give it a go. Tomorrow we are going to try and make ricotta using the leftover whey.
Check out this video on cheesemaking:

We also cleaned out the garden of all the dead plants - and planted the garlic that I got from a great lady from Hacienda Shiloh in Gettysburg. She always attends the Mother Earth Harvest Fair at Spoutwood Farm - and last year I bought some German Red and planted it. It was great - even though I didn't know to cut the scapes back in the spring. However, we have almost eaten all that I harvested in August - so this year I am converting my existing garden to become an herb garden - which now is halfway filled with strawberries and now garlic. We planted 168 total cloves- which should yield as many bulbs come next August. I kind of like garlic because you plant it in the fall and pretty much, mulch and leave it alone until next August - with the exception of cutting the scapes come spring. But those can be used in stir-fries and soups. The varieties I planted this year are: German Red, Music, Polish Soft, Italian, Kettle River, and Ozark. They are a mixture of hard and soft neck varieties. I labeled them all really well as unlike previous years, I am trying to keep better track of what I am planting.

On the Menu for tonight:

Roast Pork Loin - purchased from the farmers market - with home grown oregano, garlic and parsley.

Mashed yellow potatoes

Beets from Spoutwood Farm

Welcome to the Bacwoodz Garden

I have always loved gardening and grew up in a gardening family. My parents composted and grew a big vegetable garden every year. As I grew up and got my own place - which happened to have blueberries and peach trees, I began planting and growing my own food. I have since moved several times - but with each move created a vegetable garden and have progressed with learning how to can and preserve my own food. I have always gardened organically and am not always good at weeding and keeping a neat looking patch - but we have yet to have a year where we get a good amount of homegrown food.

Now that I am living in south central PA, where there are many small farms and local farmers markets - I have taken to eating as local as possible. I have met some really neat people who have introduced me to raw milk, organic, free-range meats and eggs and "veggies so fresh they almost dance!" - from Spoutwood Farm CSA. With each endeavor, I have learned more than I knew last year.

I wanted to write this blog to specifically follow our local eating and home grown efforts. With only a 1/4 acre lot I am constantly wishing for more growing space - and would love to have chickens and maybe a milking goat. However, in working with what I have I am finding that each year I learn new skills and become a little more self-sufficient.

I am also participating in Urban Dark Days Challenge 08-09. With the exception of coffee, bananas, pineapple and avocados - which I don't think I can live without - I plan to make most of our meals with local ingredients. Should be a fun challenge!