Category Archives: Eat Local Challenge

Sauerkraut


What a crock

So I bought three heads of cabbage at the farmstand on Sunday.

“I bought cabbage for sauerkraut,” I told Tom when I got home.

“But we don’t eat sauerkraut,” he said, wrinkling his nose.

“Yeah, but then, have we ever really HAD sauerkraut before?” I asked. “I’m doing this on the Chinese Food Principle,” I told him.

You see, I despised Chinese food, that is until I got away from my small-town Indiana take-out establishment and actually ate real Chinese food in the city. That cornstarch and MSG-laden fare I’d grown up with just did not resemble the stuff I got in Chinatown, thankfully!

So I have a crock of the shaved stuff sitting (stinking) away in the basement right now. It takes a while to ferment and “cook down.” I will let you know if we end up becoming converts to the home-made kraut. (Remember, microbes are my friends, so this is yet another experiment in friendship maintenance.)

Food preservation is funny this way. You end up making (or trying to make) that which is outside your normal victuals, mainly because you CAN. The garden is like that, too, though thankfully I have planted enough different veggies that I have stumbled on more winners than losers. The quest for variety is fairly high here in this household with our city-shaped palates; I do tend to go out of my way often to make something novel. We can always get down a can of tomatoes to throw on spaghetti if my “creations” end up being really awful…and the chickens and the compost heap are none too picky, frankly; to them, it’s all good!

And if this cabbage is a kraut failure? Well, I’m out $2.19 and a bit of time.

Eat Local: Preserving tomatoes


This made 3 quarts of juice, 3 pints of sauce and 5 half-pints of ketchup

Tomatoes: Love them! Other than fruit jam, it’s tomatoes that get the most processing around here. They are very versatile, as you all well know. There are loads of sites that will tell you how to process them, starting with the USDA. I’m just going to describe the ways I “put them by,” as processing tomatoes is a task I take on every other day between mid-July to the middle of October.

Tomatoes are one of the few things most anyone can can. Boiling-water baths are great! However, for a few reasons, I have mostly abandoned my big black enamel pots when I get the glass jars out during Tomato Season. Instead, I use my pressure canner.

Clockwise from top right: cook pot, food mill, can funnel, can lifter and big pressure canner

Pressure canners, though huge, spendy, and somewhat spooky, are actually a lot more forgiving of the harried home-canner than boiling-water baths. One, they get a lot hotter (240*+ versus maybe 212*), and the actual pressure process allows you to add things to your tomato sauces that would be too risky to do with a boiling-water bath (it has to do with the acid level in the tomatoes themselves: any added onions, peppers, basil, etc. may tip the pH scale to Microbe City, which is not a city you would like to visit, trust me.). You can actually put nearly ANYTHING in jars and can it in a pressure canner. I have rows of cooked beans downstairs, as well as jars upon jars of stock. If I were a carnivore, there’d be jars of meat, too, as premade as soup or stock or chili or whatever.

Likewise, with a boiling-water bath process, you need to be monomaniacal about cleanliness, boiling both the jars and the sealing lids before you fill them (and fill them with HOT contents, while the jars are still HOT). Pressure canning? Not so much. YES the jars and lids should be absolutely clean, but they don’t need to come out of a boiling pot before they’re filled.

But back to the tomatoes. My larger heirloom tomatoes tend to have thick skins, so I try to get the peels off before I do my preserving. There are two ways to do this: one is by hand and the other is the Lazy Person’s Way, with a food mill. By hand: Wash and score (make an “X”) on the bottom of the tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute or more; scoop them out and immediately plunge into a pot of iced water. You can use your knife and peel the skins off, core them, and then cook them. By the LPW: Wash and cut off rough spots of the tomatoes. Core them and cut into smaller pieces. Place in pot and cook until mushy. Run through food mill: I use the medium screen, as I like the pulp and can tolerate the few seeds that get passed through it. They’re now ready to can.

In the beginning of the Tomato Season, I am much more fussy about separating the tomatoes by type (cherries for sweet things like ketchup, paste tomatoes strictly for paste, big fat watery ones for juice, etc; I also separate by color because I’m obsessive), but toward the middle of the season I am tired of all that and process maybe two-three quarts at a time with Whatever Is Ready To Go TODAY. This mix just ends up being simple sauce. In the winter, I will figure out what to do with that sauce when I take the jar off the shelf. Soup? Pasta sauce? Chili? It might need to be cooked down some (i.e., boiled off), but that can happen when I’m readying everything else for the meal.

But back to the pressure canner. This device allows me to make things like salsa, or the Glut Sauce I made the other day, or ratatouille, etc. with the ‘maters. It usually isn’t too much work to prep the tomatoes a la Lazy Person’s Way whilst I do dinner prep, and while they’re cooking down, or processing, I do my other cooking.

One thing about the pressure canner: it does take longer. Getting one load up to pressure, the processing time itself, and getting down from pressure sure takes lots longer than doing one boiling-water bath. Because I do my pressure canning in dribs and drabs while I do other things, this is no big deal. But when I have a bushel of things to put up? Yeah, either I set aside the whole evening to do it, or I get out those old black pots!

So: am I advocating that you all should run out and buy pressure canners? Absolutely not. I would say put it on your wish-list if you plan to do both as much, and as many, varied different kinds of food preservation as we do around here. But if you buy your produce in big quantities from the farmer’s market, as I used to do as a city girl, those big boiling-water pots work just fine! For jams, pickles, and simple tomatoes, this may be all you need. For other stuff, though, yeah, pressure canning is the way to go.

Paper or plastic?



I’ve started packing things away for the end of this growing season.

One way to preserve the harvest, of course, is to preserve the next one! These are sprouted lettuces. I cut the stalks, place them blossoms-down in paper bags, and then hang them up (closing the bags first) on the walls and rafters of the potting shed. I don’t deal with them, then, until early next spring, when I crush the dried blossoms to release the tiny seeds.

After I bag and hang the seed heads, I chop down the rest of the stalks to about 2-3″ above ground. I cover the bed with a good 2″ of compost, then another 5-6″ or more of grass clippings. The worms appreciate the cover of the clippings and the food in the compost, and the lettuce stalks and roots slowly decompose and aerate the soil at the same time.

All this nonsense takes me about 15 minutes to do. I find I have an endless supply of lettuce seed, though, for a little bit of effort.

Geek notice: Lettuces do cross-pollinate, though the extent to which they do is debatable. This is the second year of these three particular types, and I have grown and harvested them side-by-side the whole time. They still appear to be that which they were originally (namely, Green Oak Leaf, Amish Deer Tongue, and Green Bibb lettuce), so I continue to grow them in the same bed.

Fruit leather



Yet another example of our tightwaddery: Fruit Leather
(And yes, I either need better eyes or a better camera)

Okay, I admit it! Last night I cried “Uncle!” and went to bed at 9:30 after *only* decanting four gallons of grape juice into the freezer. I just did not have the energy to go on. Tom said he’d finish up, and he also said he’d use the residual grape pulp to make fruit leather.

If you are the parent of a small-ish child, you know the ubiquity of “fruit snacks,” plastic packaged bits of carrageenan and maybe (maybe) 5% REAL fruit juice. I pack my kid’s lunch every day, all organic, all home-grown, all whole foods, and yet I can’t stop her from snacking on her friend Olivia’s “Froot Snacks”. But Hah! Revenge is sweet. And so is this grape leather.

Basically, any kind of fruit pulp (ground in a blender) that’s dried in the oven overnight will result in leather. Some of the naturally drier/stringier/less sweet fruits like apples or peaches may need a bit of presweetening first to appeal to the young palate; we do add some spices to the apple leather we make. Tom looked at all our food preservation books, but he used the how-to’s from this site to make the leather.

…and Sunday was Grape Day



Yes, everything else gets shoved aside when it’s Harvest Season.

Saturday was Apple Day…


Child labor


Time for a turn with the cider mill


Time for another turn with the peeler/corer

I swear most of my posts for the Eat Local Challenge seem to be all about the wonders of Products, not Produce. Here I am, shilling for cider mill and peeler/corer producers everywhere, but I swear my natural instinct is What Would the Amish Do. As it was, the mill doesn’t work too well with our mostly juice-less McIntosh apples, but that peeler/corer worked great. We ended up making 12 quarts and 7 pints of applesauce, one small thing of apple leather, and only half a gallon of juice.

Freezing herbs

Don’t look too closely. It is very blurry.

This lack of water here at the house has put a serious dent in my plans for Greater Grape Domination. I’ve been canning and freezing still, somewhat miraculously, but somehow I don’t have the heart to do anything grape-related over the next few days. (Maybe it’s the fact that I have to boil water to wash, then rinse, the dishes. Maybe.)

BUT! Enough about me. I did manage to put away about a garbage bag full of basil into the freezer last night. This method works with most fleshy herbs, like parsley or cilantro, though basil is a great candidate as its flavor is so fickle and easily lost with cooking. (The other herb that freezes well this way is sorrel, but I know that is something not everyone has growing in their Back 40.) I lightly rinse then remove the leaves from basil that has not flowered, tearing them into small pieces. I put them into my grandmother’s Cuisinart food processor (circa 1975 and still whirring away) with a tiny bit of water. I pulse to a mince (no further) then I scoop them into ice cube trays. Once they’re frozen, I put them in a resealable freezer bag and keep them in the upstairs freezer for easy use. I will reheat one of those many jars of tomato sauce, and, at the end of the heating, I will pop in a cube, then toss the lot over some spaghetti for a quick winter meal.

Pretty easy-peasy.

My mom goes about 4 steps further by making actual pesto that she freezes in trays, then wraps the cubes individually in foil. This obviously works, too, but my husband isn’t too hep on cheese and nuts, so I just stick to the simple stuff.

This is yet another entry into the Eat Local Challenge for preserving the harvest.

Behold, the magnificent grape


Ding! The Niagara grapes (Vitis labrusca) are ready. Time to harvest and process them.

Step one: Send child off for a day with her Nana. (This step is not really necessary; the circus, fortuitously, was in town. Believe me, the child will have other grape opportunities yet this year.)

Step two: Grab pruners and the wheelbarrow. Yes, the poop hauler/coop cleaner/dirt slinging wheelbarrow: I am of the school that, with a little effort, anything can be clean again. It’s the only form of redemption I truly believe in. Now go out and hit the vineyard!

Step three: Shocking, but true: the first two vines made a wheelbarrowload! Egads. This here is about 60 pounds. Sixty pounds will yield about 5 gallons of juice. Considering I am working solo today, it’s time to process the first barrow. (Notice Penny, ever wanting you to please, please throw her frisbee for her.)

So, over the next three hours, I hose off, then de-branch, this load of grapes in ten- to fifteen-pound increments. I take them inside, run them through the food mill, then squeeze the resulting juice through two cheesecloth-lined flour sack towels (one at a time). The juice goes in the fridge until I get a big batch. Then, I put the juice into freezer bags and pin the bags closed with clothespins to do a first freeze in the basement freezer. I will haul them out tomorrow and seal them for the final time.


A bit of background on the vines here: our farm is called Old Vines. It’s an old fruit farm, one of thousands in this area; ours hasn’t been a working farm for probably 30 years. The grapes, though, still produce; they’re 80-90 years old. We have been organic since we started with them. Our method the first year was nothing, just to see what cooties came and ate them. Well, Japanese beetles were our pest of note. So that fall Tom started applying milky spore to the ground by the grapes. Last year was a no-harvest summer, as a very late frost wiped out the imminent fruits. This year? Bonanza. It was a near-drought year then tons of rain in August, so, um, we’re overwhelmed. Tom sprayed kaolin clay on the leaves and fruit twice during the Japanese beetle push (late June through July). Kaolin colloidal clay is just that: clay, the kind you’d use in facial masks, interestingly. Well, it sure made for some pretty and mostly critter-free grapes, I will say. The leaf canopy was undamaged by the bugs, so the fruit production was enhanced.

You’re just making juice, you ask? Yes, partially. Niagara grapes are the #1 grape used in this country for white grape juice. We’ll thaw the bags in the winter and dilute the contents slightly for a morning beverage. Anyway, this is the simplest way that I process these growing things. I mentioned that for the September Eat Local Challenge, which emphasizes food preservation, I would start simple and move my way up to more “complicated” preservation methods. Dang, though, I am beat, as I did another wheelbarrow load after this one! Another 60 pounds, another five or so gallons. And this, quite frankly, is JUST THE WHITE GRAPES! Only 4 vines out of 44!!!!

(Yes, I will be getting help with the next batches…)

So, you say you can’t can…


Three weeks to go

…and I say you can can.

September is the Eat Local Challenge with an emphasis on preserving the harvest.

BY FAR, the easiest method of food preservation is cold storage (a la a root cellar), but I will get to that at a later post.

Right now, though, I would like to discuss refrigerator pickles. You need a refrigerator, pickling produce (cucumbers, green beans, even summer squash or corn), vinegar, a way to boil water, and some clean jars and lids. Oh, and some salt, and maybe some dill or other herbs. Here is a good site for refrigerated cucumber pickles. The one advantage that I have found to this method is that the lack of cooking makes for some crisp little salty treats.

Now, before you all rush out there to try this, realize that the USDA does not recommend doing any preservation without boiling-water bath canning or pressure canning. BUT, well, for years now I have made “Dilly Beans” with my first green beans and my first fresh dill. Basically, these are pretty little treats is all; I put up about four pints, wait 12 weeks, and then we eat them. Likewise, I make small batches of things like jam or pasta sauce that can be frozen or refrigerated if the harvest was too small to invest the time in getting out the glass jars. In other words, that precious space in the refrigerator? I’d rather it IS NOT taken up with canning jars!

But if you have extra refrigerator space, are afraid of canning, and you are a sucker for pickles, you should give this a try.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Ten

Sweet potato flower (who knew?)

With this, the last week of August, our One Local Summer experiment has ended!

I hope you all had FUN with this challenge. I certainly learned a lot from all of you. This exercise may have been frustrating at times, and if anything it has proved to us that, like it or not, we have really become separated from the food-growing process. (I mean, my grandparents did not need to go 80 miles from their homes to find dairy and flour, as I have done!) With any hope, you’ve all done some thinking, and more than likely, you have inspired other people to consider their food miles. And let’s not forget the food itself! YUM!

I recycled the meal
I made for the last meal for One Local Summer last year. Very univentive, I know, but it was so good, I had looked forward to making it again this year…just needed some beans to ripen.

Matt in Iowa made two local dinners this week. He made his first pesto! And his mom promises to teach him how to make noodles for the next time he makes it. How great is that.

Lucette in Cleveland made a meal with simplicity and ease, she said. Listen to this: “vegetables chopped and sauteed to a sputter….” (I will certainly miss these tomato/cucumber daily salads in three months, won’t all of you?)

Farm mom Ang in Michigan posts a lot of firsts in this week’s meal. This challenge was really hard for her at first (she is surrounded by farms but nothing to eat), but with some effort, they’ve done it. And she says if she can, anyone can! Go see her Eggplant Parmigiana.

Emergency surgery and prolonged recovery has taken its toll on Frugalmom in Illinois. She hasn’t posted to the challenge as much as she would have liked. That said, she reminds us that eating local need not be a complicated affair: a BLT or some home fries is a simple start.

Evie in South Dakota grabbed her last meal on the run: literally! She did not one but two marathons this week. (Whew.) Speaking of influencing people, she thinks this challenge has helped her daughters the most, and will be something they remember through their lives.

Kelly in Ohio will be continuing the challenge on her blog. She feels that she hasn’t made nearly all the recipes she wanted to try, so she needs a few more weeks! Now, that is inspiring. This final meal looked delicious and not too difficult, which is also inspiring.

I will say that Linda in Missouri has had some of the more interesting meals of the challenge: she really goes all-out! She put an Asian spin on this last one, using her own lemongrass and tag-sale dishes. Those cabbage rolls sure looked great!

Ohioans E4 and Lori made a huge haul at the farmer’s market this week, but life’s complications got in the way of a 100% local meal. (I think 90%, or even 50%, qualifies if your heart is in it!) But both their barbecue and its charcoal were local…

I realize that today is a holiday and that many of us are caught up in the frenetic pace that is Back To School season. If you’re still planning on posting a meal, please do so: I will try to catch you all up on the One Local Summer site. I’m missing many of my usual Midwesterners this week, so I hope you can still participate!

Thank you, Liz, for dreaming up this challenge!

The Last Supper


The Last Supper (of One Local Summer 2007)
and Meal #1 of the month-long Eat Local Challenge for September, 2007

Am I saving the best until last? Well, maybe. How about the most time-consuming. Though this is a great meal to put together if someone’s hovering about your kitchen, chatting with you while you work.

Paula Wolfert, whom I generally consider a windbag, I readily concede knows her way around a kitchen. Her take on the Provencal soup Soupe au Pistou was amazingly delicious last year when I first made it. (Yes, how ridiculous is that: I am recycling my last supper from last year’s One Local Summer!) You see, I’ve been judiciously watching the ripening of my Flageolet shell beans in preparation for this soup this year. All other stuff came from the garden, and the butter (yay!) came with a wink and a nod from a vendor at a local farmer’s market (it’s illegal to sell raw milk products in Michigan). The noodles are quasi-local too; coming from another farmer’s market in Indiana.

I also made a roulade (basically, a rolled-up souffle) with a roasted tomato filling, topped with some Amish farmer’s cheese.

A salad of fresh tomatoes rounded things out. My mom and brother were our guests. (I called Mom this morning, knowing she was coming by to take the kid to the beach, and asked if she planned on staying for supper. “Of course; I am no fool,” she said.) It was great!

Okay. The Eat Local Challenge thing: I certainly won’t be posting daily meals, though I might do weekly. This local-eating thing is kind of old hat with us. But I will be posting about ways to save the harvest, as that is the challenge of this month’s Challenge. I’m looking at all the fruit still coming down the line (pears, apples, and all those hundreds of pounds of grapes on our vines) so just getting ahead of all that WILL be a challenge! Stay tuned…

NOTE: ROULADE RECIPE FOLLOWS IN THE COMMENTS!!

One Local Summer 2007: Week Nine

Shameless stealing of Becke’s meal posting

Welcome to the Midwest roundup of One Local Summer. One week left to go!

“Eating in season” also means “eating what’s available now.” I mixed up a lot of what I had a lot of for this week’s meal. (It tasted better than it looked, I swear.)

Matt did a Comfort Food meal for his family this week. And what is more comforting than Cottage (Shepherd’s) Pie? (Even the name gives you a warm, toasty feeling, right?)

Lucette found the last of the last, she thinks, of her venison. Her photo of the burgers she made of them scared her, though, so she substituted instead pics of the corn and salad she made.

Ang has been busy using her stove for things other than meals. How can this be, you ask? Well, her kitchen is like a lot of ours lately: we’re all putting away that harvest, one boiling pot of water at a time. She wanted to keep things simple, yet tasty, this week: sure looks like she succeeded!

Evie has had lots to contend with this summer. Hail, then a flood, has done away with much in her garden. She’s a stalwart Scandinavian, though, so she’s carrying on with a Swedish meal her grandmother made quite often.

Ever-diligent Kelly has discovered the secret of perfectly-grilled chicken breasts: it’s diligence! She praises the flood of wonderful veggies that now show up on their plates, knowing well this late-summer eating is but a small slice in time.

Joanna missed this week. She knows why, and how. But here’s the best thing: she knows that next year, they’ll have a house, and a garden of their own, so this eating-local thing will be REALLY local.

Linda made a spookily autumnal meal this week. It looked GREAT! She confesses, though, that it tasted awful. (I blame it on rushing the seasons: fall will be here soon enough, girl!)

Lori and E4 posted last week’s meal this week. Hey: at least they posted it! They both brought up how kooky this Midwestern world is, though, in terms of getting local goodies. You’d think in a breadbasket like Ohio you could get local wheat. I think the same of dairy in Michigan. Farmers out there, listen up! Sell local! We’re HERE, and we want to buy!

Becke was chilling with some local soup this week, too. Dang, that looks good. And she, like me, can’t believe One Local Summer is almost over!

Manerva missed the floods that hit her state. She got some much-needed rain, though. She happily shared some great grub with visiting relatives this week, though. That’s the best kind of meal, I think.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Nine

One of the marching orders about local eating is you eat what’s ready.

Perhaps this removes a lot of choice. Choice, though, is suspect. Frankly, I don’t like the idea of eating asparagus in September or raw tomatoes in January. It does not feel right to me: those poor vegetables have been carted in to us from many thousands of miles. How many calories are expended, by diesel and jet fuel, for the few measly calories these things yield us on our plates?

Choice-wise, though, the late August garden is chock-full. This week for One Local Summer, I scanned the supplies and the recesses of my brain and I said: Eggs. Eggplant. Tomatoes. How about moussaka?

The menu was as follows:

Eggplant moussaka (eggplants, parsley, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and veg stock from the garden; eggs from the chickens; and local smoked gouda cheese; nonlocal EVOO and salt and pepper.)
Cucumber-yogurt soup with scallions (cukes, onions, garlic and veg stock from the garden; nonlocal milk that I made into yogurt)
Steamed Haricot vert (green beans) from the garden
Whole-wheat/oat bread (local flour and oats, our sourdough starter)
Peaches, nectarines from town
Classic Demi-Sec white wine from Tabor Hill

I will say this for this meal. When things are super fresh, I know that my cooking talents can’t really compete with nature. It seems somewhat heretical to, say, really cover up a dish with tons of spices when a fresh green bean really just needs a quick steam to be its best. This meal went a bit more toward the alchemy that is winter cooking for me. Not that I minded the change that this extra work took: the moussaka was really good!

One Local Summer 2007: Week Eight

Just hand me the salt: Hillbilly potato leaf or Flame heirloom tomato, 2.5 pounds of goodness

TWO MORE WEEKS OF ONE LOCAL SUMMER!

I made a lot of meals. It’s easy with so much available, but I also wished to show that even busy people can make good food.

Matt agrees that it is easy cooking at this time of year; he’s a cyclist so he calls it a “no chain day” to demonstrate how untaxing things can be. He didn’t even need to cajole his kids to eat, they readily did!

Lucette thought ahead and froze the dough for this week’s pizza. What she really delighted in, besides the good food? The way the house smelled! “Like someone Italian who was a brilliant cook.” Brava!

Ang is also thinking Italian with her meal. She made an eggplant bolognese. I keep forgetting that Eden Organics is a Michigan company, so thanks, Farm Mom! I can now slurp pasta local-style too!

Stacie ate a meal that tasted just like chicken…because it was! The veggies were hers, the meat was local…and THEN just take a look at what she had for dessert. YUM.

Kelly sometimes wishes she had some help in the kitchen, and as the solo chef in my house, I hear her on that. But there’s so much going on in the background of her meal preparation! Luckily, things are just jumping out in the garden to help her.

Linda, bless her, went foraging for her meal. Lamb’s quarters are a…weed in most people’s parlance, but in actuality they’re a vitamin-rich spinach substitute; I’ve certainly served my share, especially since it’s hot and lettuce isn’t available. But she even went out and caught herself some bluegill! LOVE those pan fish!

Debbie made a really yummy-looking stew, complete with local quinoa. It looks both delicious AND healthy.

Poor Becke’s air conditioning has been on the fritz! Considering she loves to heat up her kitchen, this is quite a predicament. She made a lovely cold dish this week, though; go wish her a happy birthday.

Manerva has had water woes (her well pump went out), but that hasn’t stopped the tomatoes. Big fans of the red stuff, her household…but this week was pizza. Delicious. (And M: I’ll clean a messy kitchen over folding laundry any day, won’t you?)

One Local Summer 2007: Week Eight

Who could resist a soybean variety called “Beer Friend”? Not me.

Feeling like I need some cosmic brownie points, I decided I would post a whole bunch of local meals this week. I am THE cook and gardener and kitchen cleaner in this house. I work 45 hours a week, typically. I also do commute to work on Mondays and Fridays, and my commute is 40 minutes long, one way. So if people say “I don’t have your kind of time to cook the way you do,” I say bully.
Monday’s dinner
Monday: This is a commute day, so I found some local-ish Indiana Amish egg pasta in the pantry and whipped up my favorite pasta dish with potatoes, beans, basil and garlic from the garden.
Tuesday’s dinner
Tuesday: Family came for dinner, so I cooked a bit more than usual. Edamame (green soybeans) are now edible, and the variety I grew this year is called “Beer Friend,” so I paired them with local Bell’s beer. Menu was broccoli souffle, roasted beets, the edamame, cucumbers, and a sourdough boule.

Wednesday was the Forgot to Photograph It Day. Just as well because I make the ugliest tortillas you have ever seen! My new source for cornmeal is also a source for masa, I am most grateful. I made bean burritos with refried cranberry beans from the garden, served with lots of onions and salsa.

Thursday was our fifth anniversary, so we went out to dinner at a fabulous restaurant that features local food. All the food and the wine was harvested within 50 miles of their door. I had the Fruits and Vegetables entree: Cauliflower and garlic soup with curry oil, Yellow watermelon salad with pickled red onion, basil gelee and watercress, and their house-made fettuccini with beets and fennel in a goat cheese broth. Tom had Providence Farms wood-roasted chicken over bok choy and chanterelles in a mushroom jus with a poached egg on top. We split an apple-raspberry cobbler with local vanilla gelatto, and our wines, from Fenn Valley, were Meritage red, Desert Sunset rose, and a lovely sparkling riesling with dessert.

Friday’s dinner
Friday was another Commute Day, so I made a simple tomato sauce from the tomatoes I was stewing on the stove to can (three days of no canning = a huge amount of tomatoes to can; gotta double up my time on the stove). To more of that Amish pasta, I added the sauce, and some mozzarella I made. I also caramelized some onions and overgrown green beans.
Saturday’s dinner
Saturday we had more relatives come to dinner, so I made another broccoli souffle. (We’re going nuts with all these eggs, frankly.) I roasted some carrots in brown butter with thyme. I’ve got some lovely shell beans now, so I served them with collards, onions and garlic and the pot likker. The green beans were a hit from Friday night, so I made more. I made a yogurt-honey-wheat bread. We had a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers (not shown).

Sunday, we’re going to grandma’s to eat, otherwise there’d be another meal to post!

Everything was local or garden- or chicken-produced, excepting salt, EVOO, butter and the milk that I made into yogurt and mozzarella.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Seven


‘Tis the season

Summer is slipping away! We’re up to Week Seven of OLS.

We had a custard for dinner this week, along with some corn chowder. No, it’s not an instance of dessert before dinner, silly, it was a savory custard!

Phelan is having camera woes, but she made game hens and a mighty fine peach cobbler this week.

Matt has been consuming lots of local meals lately, but the one he documented used local pasta. The pasta takes some getting used to, as it tends to cook quickly! I’ve noticed this with homemade stuff, too: just gotta watch it.

Lucette was feeling under the weather, but some local chicken soup lovingly prepared to help see her through definitely made her believe food = medicine.

Farm Mom Ang didn’t especially feel like cooking, but she didn’t especially feel like wasting good food, either. Maybe many of us feel this way, in this time of extreme produce glut. Just remember this won’t last forever, folks.

FrugalMom has missed a couple of weeks due to a longer than anticipated recovery from surgery. She’s on the mend, though, thankfully, so go check out her grub.

Evie has had a rough summer, too. This week, though, she put her daughter to work to go out and scavenge a meal from the garden. The first little eggs from their hens helped things out, how exciting!

Stacey just had a birthday and her loving hubby got her a KitchenAid mixer, so she’s stepping up and stepping out…this week with pizza. YUM.

Kelly also went in for pizza this week. Whoa: didn’t she do this last week, too? Well why yes. But hey: don’t you all remember college? Or the once-a-week that our school cafeterias offered pizza and we all wanted it? Yeah. You’d eat it once a week, too.

Joanna made some lovely pasta and some only so-so corn fritters. She’ll be out camping next week: anyone have any help for her for her local meal in NW Pennsylvania?

Linda had a meatball quite literally roll off the top of her spaghetti and onto the floor and the next thing she noticed…it rolled under a cabinet. Okay, it wasn’t quite like that old song, but she does have some pointers about making sausage, so go check out her post!

E4 and Lori have been…busy. But! this week’s meal was fast and satisfying for all.

Becke is the farmer’s market shopper extraordinaire, so finding yummy dishes on her site is nothing new. She’s getting help from her own garden with this week’s meal.

Manerva says it’s never too hot for soup if you’re in the mood, and I quite agree with her, don’t you? This soup featured some home-grown black beans, too.

And finally Kate agrees with Manerva: soup is just plain good eating, especially when it comes from the back yard! In fact, she calls it backyard soup, so go check it out.

One Local Summer: Week Seven

We’ve been eating outside a lot this summer, out of the hot a/c-free house, mainly to take advantage of the lake breezes out on the west lawn. On Wednesday, the designated OLS meal day, we expected my carb-phobic mother and brother to dine with us, but they canceled at the last minute, sadly! Which was too bad as they missed a decent meal.

The menu:

Corn chowder (peaches and cream corn, my stock, salt/pepper/butter not local)
Chard custard (our eggs, ruby chard, onions, garlic, and herbs; local smoked gouda)
Shredded raw-beet salad (beets, tarragon vinegar, local blue cheese)
Nearly nekkid cucumbers (just a bit of salt and tarragon vinegar)
Yellow plums, red peaches
Round Barn wine (Red Demi-Sec)

Note the difference in pictures. The first was taken outside, with the “soup course,” and then it started raining. Inside we ran, food in hand, and I forgot to reset the camera’s focus. Actually, that is what I am telling myself; my husband says I just need glasses!

One Local Summer 2007: Week Six

Can’t you almost taste me?

I’m hoping the dog days of summer, and not the rigors of local eating, have affected people’s schedules out there, as I am missing a lot of fine Midwesterners this week. Sigh. I *know* cooking + hot weather are not the funnest combination. But just think of the bounty of produce out there just WAITING for you to eat it!

I found it hot this last week, too, so we made pizzas on the grill. They were so filling that I forgot both the salad in the refrigerator and the peaches ripening on the counter! The family didn’t seem to mind.

Phelan has been a busy bee, canning her little heart out. Though if you see this post, you may wonder if she’s got a touch of heatstroke, poor thing.

Matt has been busy canning, too. Here is his meal, better late than never.

Lucette shares an omelet and a salad this week for her meal. But it wasn’t just a salad; it was a metasalad, an ubersalad: a so-not-to-be-compared to iceberg and carrot shavings salad: check it out.

Ang the Farm Mom sang a little bit of Italian this week for her meal. And don’t you agree that eggplant goes with everything??

Evie is putting her tortilla press to good use again, this time for the pita for gyros! Doesn’t that look delicious?

Stacey has been busy, too, but you will simply love the photo she took of her late-night scramble of a meal.

Gina and her family are contemplating a move, AND she’s doing a lot of food processing now. But she did get a chance to prepare a meal this week on the 100 Foot Diet.

Jennifer made a quick fridge-to-skillet-to-plate meal this week that looks like it tasted quite yummy.

I know Kelly had some company coming, and decided grilled pizza sounded like a perfect crowd-pleaser…but I am not sure if she posted the meal in time. Go see her site anyway!

Joanna had a couple of locally-produced meals this week. She posts her lovely pasta/cherry tomato dish, but she really loved corn in the husk on the grill, the good Hoosier that she is!

Linda made a meal her grandmother served almost every Sunday. How wonderful that she is able to keep these traditions going! The one thing Linda admits, though, is she didn’t wring the chicken’s neck that morning, as her Grams would’ve done; she did it earlier this year.

E4 and Lori produced a meal that included one of their extra goats…or chevon, as they say. (Tomayto tomahto?) It certainly looked quite good!

Debbie made a meal that really looked great. She made a slaw and a risotto, and is still eating local cantaloupe, though she’s not particularly relishing the latter.

Norma Jean made burgers this week, and she was really excited for the leftovers she’d eat the next day. They also polished it off with some homemade beer. You should check her tip about what she plans on doing with her leftover burger, though!!

Becke made a lovely soup-and-a-sammie that probably made us all wish we lived closer to her! That corn chowder…mmm…

Manerva also made a sandwich for this week’s meal, even grinding the buns’ grain herself. I personally think arugula belongs with any sandwich in which mayo is used, don’t you?

Looking for something to do with all that corn? Kate (no pic this week, her little boy is sick) has given us a link to her CSA’s newsletter, where she got the recipe for corn risotto.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Six


Pizza on the grate

I had planned a more elaborate meal here at Old Vines, but somehow it is Canning Season so my culinary energies have been diverted.

We grilled pizzas last night for this week’s meal. Each of us has our own particular loves/hates as pizza toppings, so it is just as well that we made these individually. (Four things help the grilling process: 1. pizza dough is usually a sticky dough: either add more flour, OR coat the rounds with flour on both sides; 2. get a pizza grate; 3. liberally coat the grate with nonstick cooking spray, and 4. precook one side of the dough, then take it back inside and put the toppings on it.)

Dough made with local flour, nonlocal EVOO and salt

These were the potential toppings:

Tomato sauce from brand-spanking new tomatoes (Orange Banana, Black Russian, Riesentraube, Amish Paste)
Red or Sweet Onions
Minced garlic
Green or White peppers (sweet) or roasted Poblano pepper (zesty)
Roasted eggplant
Herbs (any combination of onion greens, basil, rosemary, marjoram, summer savory, oregano, arugula)
Homemade mozzarella (from organic Iowa milk, sigh, so not local but the sweat effort was local)
Sea salt and/or olive oil (obviously imports)

Other than the doughmaking and the chopping, this is a fairly unlaborious meal for the head chef; everything else is DIY…

Finished pizza. Note flour on crust.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Five


Welcome again to the Midwestern roundup of One Local Summer! We’ve just made it through Week Five, so we are halfway there. (Please don’t tell me summer is half finished though!)

At our house, it has been a busy week of canning things for the winter, so I made some chili and cornbread from local sources. Oh, and blueberries are almost finished for the season because of our drought, so I panicked and (eeks!) purchased 20 pounds.

Phelan just finished doing a 24 hour blogathon for Farm Aid. Whew! She posted something every half hour for the day, and she made some great stuff during that time. Check it out!

Matt treated his family to blue potatoes, which the kids loved, along with burgers this week.

Lucette is with me on the summer being NOT half over. She had a FEAST! Those mushrooms looked quite yummy.

Farm Mom Ang got to harvest her first and lonely eggplant this week! (Don’t worry, it won’t be her last.) She made her meal quickly, but it was delicious, so she proves that local doesn’t always mean slow.

AnnMarie is pulling in quite the harvest lately (even I haven’t tried to grow Yugoslavian finger fruit), thanks to a lot of rain.

Stacie also pulled off an eat-it-when-you’re-ready chili this week. Her boys helped shell the beans, too. Yum.

Guess what color the soup is when you make it out of white tomatoes? Jennifer will tell you!

Kelly’s meal this week was…interesting. Well, we can’t all be Top Chefs all the time! And frankly I think it’s great to tell of our successes and our, er, less than successes in this challenge.

Joanna’s tomatoes aren’t lasting long in her house! Go check out the meal she made this week, which included her first harvest.

Are you ready for this? Linda made…Watermelon gazpacho! I simply HAVE to try it; it looks so yummy.

E4 and Lori made some inspired barbecue this week, including the charcoal. Now, THAT is local eating!

Debbie’s local meal this week has been her local meal for days now. It’s inspired by an Indonesian dish!

Becke has been cooking lots lately, too. She made a stuffed pepper soup! It sounds very fall-like, actually.

Manerva has been dealing with hot weather lately, but that didn’t stop her from turning the oven on to make hamburger buns!

And Kate made some pesto! Please go take a look at her colorful meal here.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Five

Beans and Cornbread had a fight. Let’s eat!

It has been cool here lately. I’ve been on a canning spree, so the fact that the kitchen isn’t unremittingly broiling has been wonderful. All this cooking, though, has left me very little time to think about dinner. So this week’s meal is a thrown-together affair.

Some of my leftover beans (i.e., those that did not make it into some cans) were the basis of this simple meal today. I made a chili with black beans (from mid-Michigan), local corn, and our garden’s squash, peppers, garlic, onions, and canned tomatoes and dried hot peppers from last year. Hot, but not too hot. Oh, and some fresh and cold cukes to take the edge off.

My greatest find, though? LOCAL CORNMEAL. I am in heaven. The cornbread is local flour, cornmeal, and honey; our eggs; and nonlocal butter and milk (sniff!)

We finished it off with blueberry muffins, all local ingredients except the vanilla.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Four


Here is this week’s One Local (Midwestern) Summer roundup!

My daughter and I made some egg pasta with broccoli. I’m still getting lots of salad fixings out of the garden, but now other veggies are becoming available, too. And local wine, like any wine, certainly clouds my vision!

Phelan in Kansas missed last week, but this week proves that she is able to fix a mighty fine meal on what is simply available.

Matt in Iowa made quite a lot of things from local goodies this week. Frittatas are easy yet so tasty, so he shows us how.

Lucette in Ohio demonstrates the Exhausted People’s Dinner! For many of us, summer is the time of projects, and of course afterward nobody wants to cook.

Farm mom Ang in Michigan relied on Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors for her meal this week. (I can’t state enough how great Ms. Madison’s cookbooks are, but this one is WONDERFUL for farmer’s-market fixings.) I wished we lived closer, Ang, because I would’ve dropped by and asked for a bowl!

Frugalmom in Illinois and her family usually have pork on special occasions only. Well, Week 4 qualifies! It was worth the wait.

This is Mary’s first OLS meal. Her CSA has had harvest problems, and she has classes on Saturdays so she misses out on most farmer’s markets, poor thing! She has found another CSA to try, but luckily, she’s got one beautiful meal posted here. She lives in Ohio.

Evie in South Dakota made (and it was only a matter of time before SOMEONE in the midwest made it)…ratatouille! Her experience with local pasta was not so exciting, though.

Stacie in Illinois keeps finding more local farms! For this week, she’s found a source for organic chicken just 12 miles from her door.

Kelly is in Ohio, too. She craved borscht, and she and her daughter had a somewhat frazzled farmer’s market trip to get many of its ingredients. What she pulled together sounded really yummy.

Also in Ohio, Jennifer made a wonderful stew, all from her garden!

Pat is in Oklahoma. It’s been hot there, and she has had a busy summer. She had a salad, a huge one, out of her garden!

Linda is in Missouri. This week, almost everything came right from her farm, including her own chicken and eggs. She laments she can’t grow olive trees there, though! (Oh Linda, I swear olive oil is a food group in this house, I use it that much.)

Miranda in Minnesota made a crowd-pleasing meal with some of the bounteous corn available now.

Norma Jean is in St. Louis. Veggie sandwiches were on the menu this week, paired with some homebrew! (Hmmm. Beeeer….) SO: does anybody out there have any good ranch dressing recipes? Send them her way.

Manerva in Minnesota gets bonus points this week for posting not one meal but two. Two husband-approving meals, natch! She feels really happy about this, but she knows these days are fleeting, harvest-wise.

And finally, Kate in Wisconsin posted a picture on Flick*r of her meal. Calzones, people! And fava beans (my personal favorite). Yum.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Four


Food stylist? No. Glutton? Check.

One Local Summer: Week Four meal

On Tuesday, I made pasta for our OLS meal. Making it from scratch is a fairly easy thing to do, provided you have a pasta-maker and a willing 3.5-year-old to give it a turn. (Making it from scratch without the maker is fairly easy, too, frankly; it’s just a bit more laborious.)

Herbed egg pasta with Broccoli in a garlic/white wine reduction
Guess-The-Squash caramelized with garlic, shallots, and sweet onions
Green beans! Late edition! First batch of the year.
Salad of chard, kale, arugula, cress, and oakleaf lettuce with vinaigrette
Blackberries for dessert
Tabor Hill White Heritage wine

Notes: The flour is some of the last of my local stash. I need to order more, but am hesitating, as it’s summer and whole-wheat flour doesn’t keep for long, and I am not making nearly the amount of bread I made this winter. The Guess-The-Squash were the products of one planted crookneck squash and three volunteers: one looks like an eight-ball zucchini, one looks like a white pattypan, and one looks like a zephyr. Did I ever plant, or even compost, anything that looks like any of the above? NO. (One’s growing in the compost pile, though, so I must have some culpability.) I tossed them with some very non-local EVOO and broiled them on a cookie sheet. With the exception of the flour (90 miles), the wine (19 miles) and the olive oil, everything else was a product of the garden or the chickens.

After two glasses of wine, I thought about the meal and said to myself, geez, this meal is vegan. Then I remembered the three eggs in the pasta (thanks, Bea and Pauline) and scratched that notion. The meal was dairy-free, however. (Oh how I wish I had local butter. My meals would be so guilt-free, local-purchase-wise. But I thought about it, and believe me, olive oil and coffee are something I would definitely trade a few hides for…maybe there’s a dairy who needs some architectural work done out there??? Will Work For Butter, her tagline)

Pasta recipe follows in the comments…

One Local Summer 2007: Week Three

HOT, hot and dry: who wants to cook in such weather? My prescription for eating this week was tapas, mostly made ahead of time, for this week’s OLS.

Matt mined the depths of Epicurious for inspiration. His kids took seconds, and even thirds, on some greenery! Success!

Lucette hit the farmer’s market, but she’s also getting lots of goodies out of her garden. Go see her meal here. And she is very close to having tomatoes!

Ang was a little disappointed by her hamburger buns, but her kids didn’t seem to agree with her. Practice makes perfect! And her squash is just beautiful.

Frugalmom was delighted by her grass-fed beef. Its leanness required a bit of a different cooking spin, but it was worth it.

Evie had an All-American meal of meat and potatoes this week. You HAVE to see what her husband cooked the meat on, though: he made it! Amazing. (If you’re ever in Michigan…)

Burgers seem to be all the rage this week: check out Stacie’s beautiful pic. She’s been having a hard time sourcing local flour. Isn’t that nuts, considering she lives in the Grain Belt?

Jennifer found it too hot to cook, too, so she relied on her microwave and her rice cooker for her meal. Her gardens are beginning to go into high gear, too.

Kelly hosted a potluck dinner this week. Though not 100% local, the spirit was definitely right, and, she notes, the part of the meal that DID fit the “rules” was certainly a meal in itself. She also found a source for local flour.

Joanna admits she dropped the ball this week, as it has been a crazy one. She’s packing local fare for her camping trip this weekend, though.

Pat also had burgers this week: made from buffalo! She also has some interesting observations about all this organic food.

Linda points out that there’s an unexpected upside to this local eating: no huge grocery bags to lug around! She is getting lots of stuff out of the garden now, and between her chickens and butter made from a neighbor’s cow, she’s saving lots of money, too.

Kelli tried out some of the Swiss chard she grew. She’s so far not convinced of its merits. Send recipes her way, people! Meat came from the back 40, and they made onion rings, too.

Lori and E4 had a quick and yummy meal this week from their farmer’s market goodies. Quick was key!

Miranda proves breakfast fare can be dinner fare too for this week’s meal. She made frittata and spuds.

Debbie followed Matt’s recipe (so, do you see how all this is catching? It’s his recipe from this week!) with the kid-friendly greenery. Yum.

Norma Jean hit the farmer’s market big time this week. She and her husband are completely enjoying this challenge, and are considering expanding their gardens even further next year to help in their quest for local food.

Becke went all vegetarian on us for this week’s meal. It was inspired by a side dish at a barbecue joint and was served up with a bit of POW!

Manerva has been eating local for a while now, as she doesn’t get off her farm often! This week’s meal was a simple and satisfying one, but she served it with some local wine.

One Local Summer: Week Three


I forgot to grab the focaccia

It’s HOT, people! Like, over 90* hot, which is a rarity in these parts.

I had friends coming for dinner on Wednesday night, and I certainly didn’t want to be doing much cooking. So, my answer? TAPAS.

Unlike the Spanish fare, which mostly features the salty versus the sweet versus the piquant, this meal was lots of salad-based grub, all either from the garden or from the farm stand down the road.

Local cheeses (camembert, gouda)
Rosemary focaccia (local flour, my herbs, olive oil/salt were imports)
Cucumber/dill “salad” (Telegraph cukes, dill, honey, water and homemade red wine vinegar)
Corn frittata with smoked gouda (Sauteed corn on the barbie: cut first, cooked in fajita pans on grill Tues. night; tossed with local cheese and garlic scapes and our girls’ eggs)
Two Beet caviar (chopped beets, bibb lettuce, last of the feta, red onion, my vinegar)
Sagey baked beans (last year’s cranberry beans, sage, honey, salt, parsley)
Big salad (lots of stuff is bolting!!! Eeks.)
Fruit salad (cherries, peaches, plums, blueberries from down the road)
Wine from Round Barn and St. Julian

I’m indebted to Deborah Madison for many of these recipes and ideas.

One Local Summer 2007: Week Two

Week Two of One Local (Midwestern) Summer

It was a busy holiday week for many of us, and I wasn’t able to grab everyone in this roundup, but there certainly were lots of delectable dishes shared by all.

I LOVE beets, so my meal used the roots and the leaves. I also made feta for the first time with milk from my goat guy. VERY tasty, and it certainly didn’t last long.

Phelan and her family celebrated the Fourth with local fare. Her picture quality is LOTS better, but her post proves that life with three growing boys can keep one on one’s toes. (Breathe, Phelan.)

Matt in Iowa is doing his own round-up of OLS folks. This week he stayed away from frying things and instead made lots more than one meal with local food! He is proving that this can become a way of life, with a bit of effort. His one 100% local meal can be found here.

Lucette went to the farmer’s market for her fare and found CORN! How exciting: fresh corn is always such a fun find.

Ang’s meal was also on Independence Day. She is considering it Food Independence Day! That fried kohlrabi looks great, Ang!

Frugalmom showed us that even major surgery (an appendectomy) can’t keep her from cooking local! Now that’s devotion.

Evie listed some of her biggest challenges this week with eating locally: her family! I think we all, in some form or another, have to “work around” our loved ones’ particularities, certainly, in this and any other food preparation scheme. But this week was Italian Night, so go check it out.

AnnMarie still thinks salads, which she thinks are boring, are still the best local meal going. She did some experimentation with flowers that really added a good dimension to her meal.

Gina is trying to make a bigger effort to source local “minor ingredients” for her meals, too. She cans a lot of things, like barbecue sauce and baked beans, so go check out her meal this week; a barbecue sounds great!

Joanna made up some lovely local pasta. She tells us one juicy tidbit about her Eat Local Challenge: it hasn’t been expensive! And she loves these new discoveries.

Stacie is not calling it shopping, this roundup of local food, she’s calling it procurement! Go check out her findings. (And Stacie: Michigan cherries DO rule.)

Pat made a leg of lamb for the first time ever! It was moist and yummy so she’ll be trying it again.

Linda has had a lot going on this week at her home, so her meal this week was very small but satisfying. Her post was interesting: all this new experimentation she is doing with local food has really opened her eyes and gotten her excited. Trouble is, it’s gotten her husband excited too so she has to try to get pictures before he eats everything!

Kelli was so busy she missed the first week. She and her family don’t have to go far to get their meat: try the back yard!! She lives in Iowa, and usually has interesting farm-related tales to tell, so check out her blog, and, if you’re local, buy some of her goodies.

E4 questioned some of the “local” origins of his dinner, which reminds us that even stuff in the farmer’s market can be goodies that were trucked in from very far away.

Miranda’s local meal was more kismet than an active plan with a recipe. Her day was set up that way, and her friends brought along a somewhat local and intriguing cake for the meal. Sometimes, the best-laid plans are no plans at all.

Debbie, likewise, set aside earlier plans for her meal. It was simply too hot to cook! She also mentions her new grains and beans shipment from a farmer nearby: there is lots more local eating in her future, and lots more experimentation, too. (Debbie, homemade tempeh is both fun AND relatively easy, and you’ve reminded me I need to get cracking!)

Norma Jean is on vacation this week, but before she left she was snacking on some homegrown tomatoes. She won’t have internet access this week, but she’s bringing along a lot of local goodies for her trip.

Becke made a cooling, soothing dish of chicken pot pie??? Boy. This girl has the a/c on for her comfort food!

Manerva made a quick and satisfying meal for herself when her husband was out fishing. (Girl, I so have to work around the obstacle that is my husband for good food, too!) Her farmer’s markets are starting up next week so she’s expecting a lot more on her plate soon.

And Kate so shamed me: she is blog-FREE thanks! (SO sorry!) She made the following good eats from her farmer’s market finds on Saturday: “We had grilled sandwiches with bread baked from 100% local whole wheat flour and Wisconsin onion/mushroom jack cheese. I also made Honey-Spice Roasted Cauliflower (ExpatChef on EatLocalChallenge.com) with local cauliflower, and we had the first ears of sweet corn of the season. For desert we had Door county cherries.”

My One Local Summer: week two meal


Not dinner yet

I ask myself this question on occasion: Am I an epicure?

I hesitate to answer it in the positive for many reasons. Mainly, I don’t think I am there yet. (And also, can I really be an epicure if I deny myself the pleasure of animal flesh?) Yes, ’tis true, I do have high standards. I mean, hell, I moved my family from the city to the country so I could GROW SOME FOOD. And at restaurants, I have a very low threshold for the mediocre: if I am paying for a meal, especially now that good meals are hard to find, that meal better sing. But I mainly answer in the negative (so far) because, in essence, I am asking myself, Am I Insufferable Yet?

This was last night’s fare. (It was my birthday, so I cooked for five.) Beets are coming in, and boy, do I love them. Crepes are easy yet people think they’re magical. Feta. I made my first feta ever with milk from my goat guy. And fava beans. They never do really well for me, yet, like a spurned lover, I keep planting them, year after year, and tend them with such care. Oh, and salad. We’re at the point here where our salads are bigger than the salad spinner can take.

Buckwheat crepes: ground buckwheat from last year’s planting; eggs from Bea and Bonnie; local whole wheat flour; stock from last year’s veggies; salt and butter not local.

Beet filling: Chioggia and Detroit Red beets and their greens; Walla Walla onions; hardneck garlic; Italian parsley, Par-cel cutting celery, garlic scapes and onion greens as garnish. All from the garden.

Crepe topping: Stock, goat-milk feta.

Salad: Speckled romaine, Amish deer tongue, bibb, arugula, cress, onion greens, garlic scapes and the last of the peas, with vinaigrette made from last year’s scallions, garden herbs and local gone-bad red wine

Favas: Just butter.

Dessert: Mom made a tart cherry pie, with some of my local flour, Michigan sugar, and local (to her) cherries.

Beverages: Local wines from Tabor Hill.


Dinner.

GO MIDWEST! Lots of great goodies for Week One

Go meet some hot Midwestern cooks! These happy folks have completed Week One of One Local Summer.

ME, for one. I completely cheated this week as today is my birthday (yes you can send gifts if you like, or at least sing) and we actually splurged last night for a yum-licious meal at a local restaurant that features local artisanal food AND wine. In one simple meal I supported something like seven farmers, which is something I doubt I will be able to claim the rest of the summer.

Don’t ask Phelan about the poor quality of her photo, but her meal sounds great. She is homesteading with her three boys, husband, scores of critters and one mean donkey in Kansas.

Matt in Iowa is generously acting as a subset to the Midwest (I know Iowa is big, Matt, but really) and the OLS challenge in general by being the catch-all to folks who didn’t make our sign-up deadline in time. His site has loads of local food he likes, so if you’re ever in I-o-way…

Lucette and her husband are in Cleveland. Check out her cookbook-crazed blog and her local meal; there’s lots to see. Venison burgers and homemade strawberry ice cream…that sounds good to me!

Fellow Michigander Ang (Farm Mom) made up some wonderful grub this week. She had BOTH asparagus and morels so it was quite the ode to spring! Sigh; asparagus, sigh. Morels. SIGH!

FrugalMom lives in Illinois and is on the path to simple living. One of the fun things about this challenge is finding out how to cook previously unknown items like kohlrabi. She whipped up something good with it!

Evie in South Dakota made her family taco salad for her first meal. Before you say “Hmm, tacos” I’ll mention here that she made the tortillas herself AND served them with buffalo meat! She’s been known to see bison out home on the range when she’s running down her country roads.

AnnMarie has been practicing her local meals for a while now with lots of raids from her garden. She and her husband are following a path of simple living. She did the challenge last summer, too! She’s a Cheesehead, er, Wisconsinite. I envy her access to dairy. She envies my access to peaches. The grass is always greener…

Stacie is a laugh riot, IMHO; she and her husband and two young boys are in rural Illinois. This is her second summer of doing the OLS challenge; she’s a great cheerleader of the idea because, well, after doing the legwork, local eating is simply now what they do! There’s no turning back…

Gina and her husband homestead in Indiana with their two young boys. They have tomatoes already, so I am exceedingly jealous!

Jennifer calls her blog DisOrganization but dang, she even published the recipe for HER first meal. She’s in southern Ohio.

Kelly and her family are also in Ohio. She grilled up some pizzas for their first meal. What’s telling about her post is how hard she tried to source out local stuff, even going so far as to hopefully reduce her food miles for next time. (Hey, that’s the fun part of the game!)

Joanna is a newlywed and newbie cook in Indiana. She fixed up brats in beer for her first meal! Yowza.

Pat is in Oklahoma and for her challenge, she decided OK was OK for her definition of “local.” She’s a mostly sci-fi writer who lives with her three kids and hubby.

Linda in Missouri is homesteading and grandkid-adoring with her husband, with whom she built their home. She made a lick-your-plate-clean meal this week!

Eric and Lori are doing the homestead thing in Ohio with their twins. Their meal sounds quite yummy!

Miranda is in Minnesota. She’s looking to lighten her footprint on this earth with her husband and five kids. Check out her site; you’ll learn a lot! The first week of the challenge was Italian Night and she made some ravioli.

Debbie is in Iowa, trying hard to simplify her life through cooking. There is truth to that, really there is. She got goodies from both her CSA and her farmer’s market for her meal.

Jennifer is in Madtown. (That’s the capitol of Wisconsin for you non-Wisco-savvy types.) You will have to go to Flick*r to see a pic of her meal, but it sounded pretty good to me.

NormaJean is in St. Louis with her husband, and she secretly hopes to one day be a farm girl. (Be careful what you wish for, NJ, is all I can say.) Her weeks have been crazy lately but she’s still taking stabs at the challenge.

Becke is happily devouring her way through Ohio via Columbus. That sounds like a laudable goal, right? Come on go check out this foodie’s yummy site. She made a favorite of hers for the challenge with all local ingredients, and it came out great!

Manerva is in Minnesota and much of what she eats she grows herself. She and her husband have a huge pack of animals on their acreage. Here’s her first meal (and no it was NOT chicken, so they’re all still happy).

We have a blog-less participant. Kate’s also in Madtown, and she, her hubby and baby boy are also backyard chicken wranglers! She “had a homemade pizza with crust made from half locally grown wheat flour, canned tomato sauce from a local farm (Tomato Mountain), Wisconsin mozzarella, and oregano/basil from our backyard garden. Also a side of broccoli from a local farm.” Sounds great!

I hope you all enjoyed Week One! There are some great ideas out there…

One Local Summer 2007


#1 Pea Picker and #2 Pea Stealer here at Old Vines

So~! GO MIDWEST. Looks like we’ve got PLENTY of interested parties willing to give One Local Summer a try this year. Liz has frankly been overwhelmed by the positive response, so we’re going to close the sign-up for the internet roundup. Say what, you didn’t get a chance to sign up? Well. There’s always next year, kids! And of COURSE you can play along at home too!

Please stay tuned here for Monday round-ups of One Local Summer fare. I am so excited for us all. There are so many great ideas and recipes to try, so much inspiration out there…not to mention just plain good eatin’. And participants: make sure you list your sources (other than your back yards, of course) so that other local yokels can ALSO support those farmers.

One Local Summer 2007

She’s local (though she’s not for eating)

Hi Hello Howdy and Welcome to the One Local Summer 2007 challenge!!

So…what the heck is this, El, I thought this was a gardening blog. Well. For many reasons, many of us are reconsidering our food miles. It may be pithy to restate this, but the contents of the average dinner in North America have traveled 1500 miles to end up on your plate. That is a LOT of diesel, people! So some of us are wondering what we can do to put our dinners on a diesel diet. One answer? Find local ingredients for one dinner per week this summer. Cook with them. Blog (or email me) about it. In so doing, you will inspire others, share your frustrations, share your findings, share your…dinner.

Liz of Pocket Farm in Maine has started this challenge, and I volunteered to round up all interested Midwesterners. It is NOT a contest. You will not get kicked off the island should you fail. If you live in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota or Wisconsin, I would love for you to join. So far, we have 15 interested parties, including myself; go sign yourself up here!

The rules are fairly simple. There’s a big emphasis here in Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: should you not feel so inclined to make your own salt or press your own olive oil, then DON’T. But other than the condiments, your meals should be prepared from local ingredients. What’s local? That is up to you. In state. 100 mile radius. 250 mile radius. Me? I will be using a combination. Michigan, fortunately, is an agricultural state that makes most everything EXCEPT olive oil, so finding my raw victuals won’t be so hard for me. Finding local food is fairly easy during the growing season most everywhere in the country. Go to Local Harvest to find sources for farmers’ markets and CSAs and small farms, or Eat Wild for grass-fed and naturally-raised meats; there’s also the Eat Well Guide for other tips, and the Campaign for Real Milk for local sources of milk and cheese.

We’ll start next week, on Sat., June 23rd, and I will round everyone up into a blog post for Monday July 1st. This means I will need you all to have cooked and posted (on your own blogs or by email) by 6:00 EST on Sunday the 30th. Bon appetit, and happy hunting.