A Reboot

It’s been quite a while since we updated this blog, but it seems all the more appropriate to post here, now that we live in Vermont, where there is a thriving local food scene. Between the small locally owned food shops, our local Food Co-Op, the weekly farmer’s market (Summer & Winter), and our own gardening efforts, eating fresh, local and healthy food is a regular part of our lives here. Just yesterday we enjoyed an amazing home-made risotto, cooked in Sara’s fresh stock and using the rich and flavorful brown rice that is grown at nearby Breezy Meadows Farms If you’ve never had fresh rice, and only know it as a grocery store staple, you’ve never really enjoyed a bowl of rice. Frozen sugar snap peas from Boardman Hill Farm made the perfect green addition to brighten up a winter’s day.

We make our goal to live by the +75% rule, where we eat a diet that is at least 75% local, organic, vegetarian, and home-cooked. Some things aren’t possible on a 100% localvore diet, Vermont grows no coffee or tea (though the farmer’s market has vendors that have wonderful locally processed hot beverage items). Vegetables, eggs and dairy are plentiful, but fruit selections are limited. Though we have managed to make use of Maple Syrup as a glaze, sweetener, baking ingredient, etc, there are a few times when another sugar works better in a recipe. What is exciting is that we do nearly all of our shopping at the farmer’s market and have built wonderful friendships with the vendors and growers. In the coming weeks, we will resume documenting our Dining-In Adventures and provide some recipes, food pictures and some articles on getting the Gardens started. I can’t wait till the sugar plum tree and the apple trees start to blossom in the yard!

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The End of the Harvest

As the garden winds down, we find ourselves winnowing out the plants that have finished for the season and cleaning out the beds. The root vegetables are among the last items out of the ground, and there are still some carrots and beets awaiting harvest.

Today, we planted two heads of garlic in an effort to get them to sprout. They’ll winter over in the shed and hopefully produce multiple heads next summer. It’s such a versatile ingredient that having a sizable supply is important. We also dug up the last potato container, which yielded up the big basket in the picture. Given our success with bag and bucket potatoesn we’re doubling the effort next year with hopes of a big harvest.

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Its been a while

Its been a while since we’ve both posted. Life has been busy. We are still trying to cook as much of our own food as possible. Baking bread and making granola our two of my new weekly habits. Just as driving to Gibson Dairy Store for local milk, eggs and cheese is now part of John’s  Friday errands. In addition we have started working in the yard.

Our square foot beds have been cleaned, hand tilled and fertilized. John built a great trellis for one of the beds to grow snap peas and cucumbers. And we’ve seeded several pots with carrots, bok choy, chard, meslun and shallots that will be placed in sunny spots of our yard where digging a plot is not possible. I’ve also for the first year started planting veggies from seeds. Its been a fun excercise with some success. My first batch of plants had suffered a little from the excess sun and heat from inside my little green house shelf outside, but otherwise the plants are doing great. I now have  a flat of cooler weathered plants hardening outside: more chard, broccoli, lettuce, and chard. And flat of warmer weathered plants: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, cucumbers and okra growing under my handy dandy grow light (a gift from my dad, who is an avid gardener and a huge help as I try to start gardening veggies for my own family).  I even have some sunflowers and marigolds growing inside too!

What I haven’t started from seed, I hope to pickup today at Plantapalooza. We are on our way there soon, so there is not much more for me to post. But I’ll leave you with some pictures of whats growing!

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Lamb Carbonade:Home Brew and Lamb Stew

I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the big pack of lamb shoulder chops that we got from the farm last month. I hate to waste any food on a bad recipe, but since lamb is not always in our shares, i especially wanted to turn this meat into something special and tasty.

Inspiration hit  when we were visiting family. On the way out my brother-in-law gave us a 1/2 growler of beer that was sampled that evening to take home along with the 2 other growlers of homebrew. “If you dont think you’ll drink it, you can always make beef carbonade with it”,  he said.  He quickly ran to my parents computer and printed out a recipe that he and my brother describe as “awesome”.

Because we had no stew beef, we almost passed on making this recipe with the home brew until I thought about the lamb we had in the freezer.  It was the perfect subsitute for the fatty stew or chuck beef that was originally suggested.  The lamb shoulders were well marbled pieces of meat, perfect for the recipe.  So I cut out the bone and cubed up the meat and followed the rest of the recipe, from the website Simply Recipes. The result? Probably the best stew we made to date.  I think it  even topped the slow cooker Julia Child Style Beef Burgundy, which has been our go to recipe when we received stew beef in our winter shares.

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FrenchToast Post

Breakfast is the most significant meal of the day. From a health perspective, this meal provides the energy boost and calories to carry you through the day. From a spiritual perspective, the first meal of the day reconnects us with our source of energy and life. While some of our ‘dining in’ breakfasts are non-traditional (see On a Roll with Breakfast Burritos), we both enjoy breakfast classics.

French toast is certainly one of these dishes and it’s hard to compete with a natural, slow food take on this recipe. The breakfast begins with a fresh loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread that Sara baked, using a recipe she found here. I cut the bread into thick Texas style slices, then cut each one in half.

My eggwash consisted of eggs from a local farm, BGH and antibiotic free milk from Byrne dairy, real vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. I then pan-fried the pieces golden brown. Real Vemont maple syrup, a gift from my sister, topped off the experience.

With the thick pieces, it didn’t take too many to fill us up. Consequently, I used up the egg wash by making extra slices to cool at room temperature and then freeze. The extra slices froze nicely and were just as excellent after a short stay in the toaster oven on a subsequent morning. All in all, the meal was a hit and has provided additional meals with just a little extra prep time, a cook-ahead method that is becoming a regular part of our new routine.

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On a roll with breakfast burritos

One of the final holdouts in our otherwise local, slow and natural kitchen were the frozen burritos from a major convenience food brand. This was perhaps one of the hardest changes to make. While leftovers for lunches and stew pot dinners have happily replaced any number of over processed foods, breakfast needs to be both quick, filling and delicious.

The solution of course, was no more radical than any of our other meals, but took some forethought to accomplish. The truth is, that canned or dry beans, rice, and cheese are all fairly easy to come by, and while not all local, can be easily stocked up. Add a little onion and some lime and a whole pot of rice and beans can be quickly and affordably prepared on a slow morning like today.

Today we had our first home made breakfast burritos and concluded that our per unit cost was below the convenience food burritos. I also concluded that the food enjoyment factor was approximately 7000 times greater.

What’s more, this meal easily maintains the benefit the convinced us to use burritos as breakfast food in the first place. They are compact, easy to eat, and have a high protein content which serves to energize our bodies for a greater length of time. Processed cereals and baked goods leave us feeling hungry well before our lunch break arrives.

Update! this is where it really shakes out, this morning the first pot of rice and beans ran out as we enjoyed our final burritos from the first run of this recipe. When all of the votes were counted it was unanimous that a second pot should be prepared. I think we’ve found our replacement.

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Local Eggs & No Knead Bread = Egg Salad Sandwich

John and I have been trying to find a convenient place to source local eggs since the big egg scare. We have purchased them on occasion from our CSA, but they aren’t always available and they are a bit pricey (though delicious). My mother buys her eggs from a 4-H student who raises chickens and she would get us a dozen every time we visited, but that is too infrequent. We’ve been making do with cage-free natural eggs from the grocery store, but still don’t feel comfortable buying big agriculture products. Plus they are expensive. Certified organic eggs are completely out of our price range at the grocery store at $3.50 for 1/2 dozen.

Then we remembered our favorite ice cream shop also has a dairy store. Gibson Farms is located on Sunderland Ave in Worcester. John checked them out last week and was able to snag a 1/2 gallon glass bottle of local all natural milk for $3.50 (including a dollar deposit on the bottle)  and dozen all natural cage-free, AGH and antibiotic free local eggs for $3.  I can happily say we will be supporting this local business (and therefore even more local farms) every week or so for our milk and eggs from now on.  I especially look forward to shopping there in the summer, when their ice cream stand is open too!

So with all these fresh eggs in the fridge, I decided an egg salad sandwich would be just the thing for a quick meal on Monday. John was at work so I just had to cook for myself. The egg salad was nothing fancy,  just a chopped hard boiled egg and some wasabi mayo, but the bread made the meal.

Off and on, John and I have made our own bread for sandwiches and general consumption. John is a great bread maker, but has very little free time to make bread these days. I’ve got more time, but my success has varied. Sometimes I have some great breads and sometimes, well, not so much. I finally wanted to find a fool proof recipe and discovered the no-knead bread recipe. This was originally featured in the New York Times in 2006 and has been an  internet sensation, showing up on hundreds of food blogs and websites. So I’m a few years behind the curve on this one.

The bread is fantastic and everyone should try this at least once. The recipe creates very wet dough that requires minimal handling but needs to rest for 12-18 hours before baking it in a “fake bread oven”. The use of a covered dutch oven or casserole dish captures the steam from the mixture while it is baking, creating an awesome crust. I made a normal loaf (used for the egg salad sandwich) and a fantastic table loaf  with the addition of a tablespoon each of greek seasoning and olive oil. Below are some links for the original no knead bread recipe:

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