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Preview: Dirt to Dish - Eating Local for Urban Families: Recipes & Stories of Sustainable Food

Dirt to Dish - Eating Local for Urban Families: Recipes & Stories of Sustainable Food

Eating Local for Urban Families: Share recipes, local food and sustainable eating news and resources. Gluten Free, too!

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:56:36 +0000


Look for the Oatmeal: Hot Apple Maple Bacon Oatmeal Cereal

Sun, 10 Oct 2010 22:15:00 +0000

You can go through your life working hard, doing your best to be a good parent and wife, making a happy home for your family, squeezing in time with friends (or at least sending them supportive little love notes on Facebook) and think that whatever comes from all that effort is as much as is available to anyone in life. And whatever hardships cross your path are just there and there's no way around them.And you could be very wrong. You could be missing a whole other level of happiness you didn't know was available to you.I don't like conflict. I hate bringing up things that are difficult to talk about. Things that I think make me look pushy. Or picky. Or demanding.This is no more evident in my life than with food. I live in one of the most vibrant food cities in the world, with farmers markets in every corner of the city to restaurants run by world-famous chefs to food carts. And yet I get all tied up with anxiety about trying anything new, or going to a restaurant, or any situation where I don't know what food is going to be served, because I'm afraid I'll be stuck eating a house salad (no crutons, vinegar and oil dressing). Or, that when I tell the server that I'm gluten-free they'll say, ignorantly, "It's all vegan!" Or they will refuse to serve me. (It's happened.) Or worse, I'll get sick.And this is silly. There are ways for me to eat good food whenever I want. It only involves a little planning and speaking up for myself.Sometimes it takes a good friend, one who is a true problem-solver, who has a perspective far way from your own anxieties, to point out the possibilities you may be missing. Someone like Asha.At BlogHer this past August I roomed with Asha from Parenthacks. We took some very wrong turns on our Tutus for Tanner run (okay, walk) in Central Park and got back to our special runners' breakfast late. No food left. So we crashed the Newbies Breakfast. I'm always a ball of anxiety over the food at conferences because so much of it is wheat-based pastries and pasta dishes. I may find gluten-free food, but I'm often left hungry. I took one cursory look at the long buffet table and whined about how there wasn't anything for me to eat. I immediately resigned myself to eating Lara bars and lattes all day."What about that oatmeal?" Asha asked.Oh.Right there was a deep pot of steaming, thick oatmeal. I mean, seriously, right in front of my face.How many times had I thrown my hands up in the air and missed opportunities because I didn't have my wise friend next to me pointing out what's there for me to freely take?I cringe to think about this. And I'm not just talking about food. Over the next few weeks I started thinking about the other places I give up without trying: In work situations. In my marriage. With friends. In my own personal projects.Were they totally gluten-free oats? I wasn't sure but I generally don't have a bad reaction to oatmeal. It was breakfast. I had not been forsaken, which is how I usually feel when I eat outside of my home.Which really? Is just ridiculous.And this is easy to miss in my life, because in so many other areas of my life I dive headfirst into what's hard. Really hard. I do lots of things, everyday, that would scare most people, but it doesn't even occur to me to be scared.So why do I let food interfere with my happiness?I'm done with this. There is too much good food out there that I can eat. And cook. And grow.My new mantra: Look for the Oatmeal.Hot Apple Maple Bacon Oatmeal CerealServes 44 cups cooked oatmeal (We eat the GF Bob's Red Mill Oatmeal)2 small red apples2 strips cooked bacon, chopped finely2 tbsp brown sugar1 tbsp chopped nuts 1/2 cup rice milk (or your favorite liquid dairy or dairy substitute)dash cinnamondash saltmaple syrup to taste1. Chop apples into small chunks, leaving a bit of skin here and there for color.2. Add rice milk to the oatmeal and turn stove to low.3. To oatmeal add apples, bacon, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and salt. Heat through until apples are just soft, about 7 minutes.4. Add maple syrup to taste.[...]


Fri, 06 Aug 2010 18:18:00 +0000

It's funny how sometimes a garden can mirror the landscape of your life.

My plan was to get all the starts and seeds in the ground before the SXSWi conference in March. Mother Nature had other plans and rained us out most weekends. We got the dead old plants out, prepped the soil with fresh compost, and that was as far as we got.

I came back from the conference exhausted (as usual) with a tremendous amount of work to get done (so grateful) and didn't touch the garden for weeks. Eventually we did get some seeds in the ground.

And then at the end of May my father died. Suddenly, unexpectedly.

But in the wake of all the grief and confusion and so many things to do came unexpected kindnesses, a deeper trust in special friends, and our busy life kept on.

Despite my neglect of the garden, things grew anyway. Amaranth came back in the same spot it had grown in last year. I still don't know what to do with this stuff. But I'm happy to see it there. It's pretty.

Work has been something of an experiment this year for both Aaron and me. Aaron left his job last summer, did some consulting, and fleshed out a start-up idea that had been brewing in his head for years. Now that that he knows it has legs this idea is now an official side project and he's looking for a fulltime gig. Meanwhile, my freelance and consulting became the steady work in our house. I got to work on some interesting projects with smart people...and now I hope to get paid for all of them. Oh, this economy.

I've never planted tomatoes in my garden. It doesn't get enough hot sun for enough hours in the day, I always said. But two tomato plants decided they liked the kale patch and would set up shop. Sun doesn't seem to be a problem for them and now they need to be staked (I'll get to that someday). Just seeing them when I water (or when I get to watering) reminds me that even things I think aren't possible, or aren't worth starting, can work out just fine.

After last year's squash took over my driveway I vowed to clear a space at the front end of the garden for zucchini and pumpkins. I never got the starts (or did I, and let them shrivel?) but pumpkins and watermelon (!) decided to set root in that spot, with out my help. I was grateful.

The grass grows. The children grow. The bees come and go.

And now it's August. I'm thinking about fall planting (I'm probably late on that). We're starting to harvest the greens that did grow, despite the cats digging up most of the seeds and shitting everywhere.

And when I stand at the end of the driveway and look over my garden and see the towering sunflowers (also, interlopers), the crocosmia grown from bulbs from my dad's garden, the adirondack chairs I set up to make a lounge in our carport, I think this is a pretty great garden.

And I wonder: Do I have it in me to keep this garden growing, to make it what I want it to be? To make it into a place of beauty and a place to welcome friends, a space that feeds my family? Am I willing to dig deep, turn the soil, see what's underneath? Can I put in all the hard work that's required to get what I want?

Yes. (image)

Kicking and Screaming

Sat, 26 Sep 2009 14:05:00 +0000

I will never understand why, when those last days of August come into view, people wish for the end of summer and can't wait for fall. Their giddiness over cooler days, cozy nights by the fire, chunky sweaters is understandable, I guess, but I'd still rather be half-naked, outside, in the sun.

Maybe people succumb to this phenomenon because they are just exhausted by the sun-drunk pace of the season. In Oregon, where our summers are gloriously mild, but tragically brief, we try to cram every outdoor activity imaginable into those three short months before the damp and moldy winter sets in. As the days get short and Labor Day comes into sight it's as if these fall-lovers have rung every ounce of summertime enthusiasm out of their cells and welcome the dark and the wet just so they can hibernate until March. By then they'll undoubtedly have cabin fever and start wearing shorts as soon as it hits 65 degrees.

This is not me. Mainly because as the summer draws to a close I look back on my mental of list of things I wanted to do while I didn't have to wear some kind of water-repelling gear and always feel like a failure. I never picked enough berries, or rode my bike as often as I wanted to, I didn't re-landscape the front yard, or invite everyone I know to a barbecue. On and on. I was really meant for more of a temperate, Mediterranean climate where these activities can be spread out over the entire year. (Like Oakland, where I went to school, and where I am as I write this, the night before the first annual BlogHer Food conference).

This last week, the first week of official fall, we got a bonus week of hot weather. It felt like an overindulgent gift (but I'll take it). And for once, instead of letting all the annuals and the vegetables rot into the ground and ignore their brown, slimy selves until spring, I actually pulled out the tired and waning squashes and now-bitter greens and got to extending my gardening season. We planted another round of greens and little root veggies: arugula, kale, chicory, radish, radicchio, broccoli raab (which has always succumbed to bugs before, we'll see if it does better in the cooler weather). I put up new twine lines for beans that I hope to get into the ground when I get back home. I've still got rainbow chard which I might be able to keep going if I get a cold frame built to protect it (another item on the summer list that didn't get done this year).

Maybe I won't go into this fall kicking and screaming like years past. If I can keep my hands in the dirt, even if the rest of me is covered in wool and raincoat, and spread out the garden tasks over these long and dark months, I might avoid my own cabin fever and frenzied do-it-all-now mentality next summer.



Mon, 03 Aug 2009 14:13:00 +0000

Last year I had my first vegetable garden. It did okay. I found I can't really do tomatoes (doesn't get hot enough in my beds), greens do beautifully (and I learned I really love arugula), and cutworms are the most disgusting, frustrating beasts in the animal kingdom (and I'm proud to say I got rid of them, knock wood).

So we had our beds, along the driveway where I'd taken out a few of the old roses. And then on the other side of the house, where it's shady, we had some volunteer pumpkins, likely from dumping our jack-o-lanterns in the compost pile there. They were fun, growing up the fence, and we cut some and used them for decoration in the fall.

So I was kind of happy to have some volunteer pumpkins pop up on the driveway side when I planted this year's veggie garden in May. "We won't need to go to the pumpkin patch!" Clara squealed. I love it when the kids get excited about what's growing in our garden.

And so I planted beets and carrots and radicchio, three different varieties of lettuce, cantaloupe and basil and rosemary, and some others. I can't remember everything else. I haven't seen them all in so long...


...because those damned pumpkins have not only taken over the garden, they're taking over the freaking world. And the zucchini and patty-pan squash are their loyal accomplices.(image)

Hot Salad in the City

Wed, 29 Jul 2009 07:03:00 +0000

I’m sitting out on my back deck, my flesh a feast for the mosquitoes, sipping some very drinkable sangria. And it’s 90 degrees. At eleven at night. Portland is in the middle of one of its worst heat waves in memory. Tomorrow we’re expected to tie our all-time high temperature of 107 degrees. All I can say is I am so, so grateful Aaron installed the A/C window unit in our bedroom this afternoon. Oh, yes, it’s true: many Portlanders don’t have A/C. There are even some, like us, who technically do have it, but never actually use it. Earlier tonight we ate some quickly-thrown-together dish of rice spaghetti (at Iris’ request), garden zucchini fried in oil, leftover grilled chicken chunks and some torn basil. I tossed it all with some salt and pepper and a mayo-curry dressing I whipped up a few weeks ago when we ran out of salad dressing. It was fine, meaning everyone felt fed. But it wasn’t anything to get excited about. As I was boiling the noodles, just that little bit of burner heat set off the emergency fan on my range (seriously) and the kitchen was almost inhabitable. And since I’ve just returned from BlogHer (more on that later) I hadn’t done any grocery shopping or meal planning and I’m literally just throwing protein together with veggies as quickly as I can. (Oh, who am I kidding. I never do serious meal planning.) Photo credit: Francesco Tonelli for The New York Times I've got a few more quick dishes for hot nights in my repertoire, but not as many as The New York Time's Bitten columnist, Mark Bittman, who has 101 Simple Salads for the Season. I love the way the recipes are divided. The first group is all vegan ingredients (unless you want to add the bacon Bittman suggests) so I know they're dairy-free, too. Then there are vegetarian salads, then seafood, then meat and then noodles. Most don't require any cooking, and best of all, almost all of the ingredients will be in season in the US at some point before October. Here are a few standouts I want to try: 16 is really close to one of my favorites (fennel and apple). 28 is a revelation. I never would have thought to put figs and almond butter together. 38 is one of the many recipes with watermelon. I love watermelon in savory dishes. They call 43 obvious, but I've never eaten raw beets. Have you? 50 may become my new lunch salad. Boiled eggs are a new staple. 78 sounds like something my sausage-loving, Midwestern husband would love and may force me to figure out how to make gluten-free bread. 79 could be a great one for impromptu dinner parties with grown-ups and kids. I want to eat 81 right now. But the prune plums in my neighbor's tree are about a month out. And 82 may work with all my arugula that's bolted. 94 Quinoa Tabbouleh! I think even my quinoa-hating kids may love 99 since it calls for cherries (I'd make it with red quinoa, which is less bitter.) There's a you can get even more ideas or offer some of your own at the Bitten blog's comments. Tomorrow night, we may eat well. And not melt. [...]

Extreme Consumerism!

Thu, 10 Jul 2008 06:00:00 +0000

Extreme Consumerism: Eating What Only Grows Around You

I was featured in this article on MSN last month about local eating. It's a great article, the other subjects are interesting people and it was super cool to be included with Alisa Smith, co-author of Plenty.

It's always a little strange for me to be reported on since I'm usually the one asking people the questions. I'm always concerned with being clear and giving useful information. And this interview was a challenge. Allison Linn, the reporter and another work-at-home mama, was so accommodating during the interview. Picture this: kids banging on my office window trying to show me their flower bouquets, my bookkeeper asking me where I'd spent that $12.07 last Thursday, trying to catch up on the mountain of paper files that needed sorting. And I'm pretty sure there was at least one emergency knee scrape (with blood!) in there somewhere. I ended the call not sure what I'd said. But it came out alright. In fact, Alison did a good job of capturing my voice.

(One nit: I certainly don't eat only within 100 miles. With produce I strive for Oregon and Washington, but sometimes have to resort to Cali during the really cold months. And considering our gluten-free needs, there's still plenty of packaged foods, like breads and baking mix, in our diet.)

The comments on Newsvine about this article range from inspiring to thoughtful to confused to crass. And crazy. Good reading.(image)

Almost too pretty to drink: Mint + Rose Infusion

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 20:15:00 +0000

(image) This gorgeous infusion is inspired by a recipe from Gayla at You Grow Girl in her book by the same name. (Did you know you can also follow her on twitter? Follow @yougrowgirl.)

The recipe is basically this:
1. Put some edible herbs (like mint, lavender, lemon balm) in a clean jar.
2. Cover with tepid water.
3. Set the jar out in the sun for 3 - 6 hours. Viola! Tea.
From this process you get a subtly infused tea. Gayla recommends this method over boiling the herbs as extreme heat can bring out bitter oils in the plants and ruin the infusion.

Also, make sure the plants are clean and take the tea inside after about 6 hours and put it in the fridge, so you don't get bacteria buildup.

A friend gave me a giant container of edibles in the spring and it included spearmint. Guess what I've now got coming out of my ears? Mint is practically a weed, it grows so quickly and is so aggressive. (Good thing I love mohitos.) If you want to grow it, and I absolutely recommend it for its versatility (and mohitos), just make sure you always keep it in a container!

One new thing I learned about mint this year is you have to use the top 6 inches of leaves and leave the rest behind--they older leaves are too bitter. I found this out by unwittingly giving a "mature" leaf to Clara and listening to the resulting whining and gagging for about a half hour.

My infusion is a little tender, meaning the flavor is light. I'm not sure if this is normal or if perhaps I need to use petals from newer rose flowers. Thoughts? The mint is definitely the dominant flavor, and the rose is there if you look for it. It's very refreshing on its own and a bit of a treat with a touch of simple syrup.
Honestly, I think my favorite thing about this little recipe is how pretty it looks while it's "cooking."



Well, hello there.

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 08:00:00 +0000

I honestly didn’t mean to be away for 9 months. Was I hibernating? In a way.When I stopped blogging last fall I was transitioning from post-baby, part-time working life to full-time working again. Yowza. I thought I was easing into it but, as a good friend told me recently, work is like water: it will seep in everywhere if you let it. My blogging time got eaten up with client work, networking and business development. We went through a few nannies (that was fun). I’d been a full-time working mama before, but with two kids, and running my consultancy all on my own this time was really different. I was discombobulated.And I was obsessing about food. A lot.Not the kind of obsessing that women do when they’re trying to lose weight. But I was back in that place where I was feeling like the very existence of human life depended on my food choices. And other people’s food choices. And I was getting judgmental--of myself and everyone around me. And that wasn’t a good place to be. That’s the antithesis of what this blog is about.So I took a break. Not entirely from local eating (though there has been a lot of Thai take-out now that there’s a new place down the street!), but from writing about it. I wondered if I would ever get back. And then, after I explained my absence, Shuna Fish Lydon (you know, my giant foodie-writer crush) sent me a little note on Facebook saying, “We'll be happy to have you back.” So I just decided to take my time.In the meantime some of you were still discovering this blog and I’ve been so happy to get your emails (thank you!). And some of you stopped me in the grocery store and asked me when I’d be back. I can’t tell you how much the inspired me to at least keep thinking about writing.I feel like there’s so much to catch up on. But I’ll pace myself. For now, I’ll post this picture of my first strawberry freezer jam of the season, the same recipe that got me started on this local eating road (oh, and the recipe is below, too). Yes, it was a tad overcooked (hazard of making jam while updating client budgets), but I didn’t hear any complaints.Small Batch Freezer Jam-about 2 pints of berries, washed-about 1/2 cup sugar -1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)1. On medium heat, combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in a wide pan or pot. Stir frequently and do not let the mixture boil (a few bubbles is okay). Depending on water content of the berries cook time can be 30 - 90 minutes.2. While jam is cooking, place a small dish or bowl in the freezer. You'll use this to test the jam's thickness.3. When jam seems like it's thickened to *almost* jam consistency, put a dallop on your cold bowl or plate and see if the jam firms up to a finished jam feel. If yes, you're done. If it's runny, cook a little longer.Edited to add: Oopsa daisy. Left out the final step! This is what happens when you post to your blog in the middle of the night. Thank you, commenters! 4. Store the jam in the fridge for up to about 2 weeks (I dare you to make it last that long) or for 6+ months in the freezer. Again, likely it won't make it to that mark. ;)[...]

How Do You Get Your Food?

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 18:23:00 +0000

Last night I told Aaron we're in a new eat local challenge and explained the rules, the main ones being we do one 95% local meal per week. We kind of chuckled because this isn't much of a challenge for us. This is how we've been eating for a year.Then today Alisa and JB from from 100 Mile Diet fame had a blog post about getting to the sources of local food. I've heard from lots of readers about how they would love to eat locally but they just don't have farmers markets nearby, don't have access to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and the supermarkets don't display place-of-origin labeling (which may change sometime next year, at least to display country-of-origin).The transportation piece of eating locally is something I've been thinking about a lot as I make changes in how I get around. Yesterday I took the girls on a bus-riding adventure to the co-op, something we've been doing a few times a month. This was a two-hour trip that normally would have taken about 45 - 60 minutes by car (I'm including the shopping time in there, too). But it was a glorious sunny day, unusually warm, and a great way to get through the witching hour after I stop working and before Aaron got home from work (though Clara still whined endlessly for some stupid red thermal bag she spied when we got to the market).It wasn't an easy trip. On the way home I was carrying Iris in the sling, had my overstuffed diaper messenger bag over the other shoulder, and was shlepping two full shopping bags, one containing four dozen egg cartons and the other a giant container of honey, in addition to various produce and household items. Imagine if one of those had dropped or opened up!Still, I carried all this through rush-hour bus time, happily. But would I have been so happy if I *had* to take the bus to the store every time we needed food? Would I bring the kids with me, considering this a lesson in alternative transportation and developing street smarts? Or would I be bitter and resentful and just give up and go to the Kroger-owned Mega Store 5 blocks away?And if this was three years ago, this wouldn't have happened. I had a full-time job and worked in an office downtown. I couldn't even take the bus then, unless I was willing to trade my 20 minute commute for a 1.5 hour one, bussing the triangle from work to daycare to home.Now, I have so many choices.And then there's my favorite market, New Seasons. All the produce has state labeling, sometimes a label that tells you the name of the farm that grew the food. They mark processed foods created in Oregon, Washington and Northern California (the latter doesn't qualify as local to me, but I'll choose Cali before, say, Maine in most cases). The co-op does an even better job of this by including bulk foods.I just re-checked the farmers market schedule and in October I still have a half-dozen farmers markets I could easily buy from. Next month I'll be down to about three that are still convenient, there will be two through December, and one is year-round.I have so many options. This is all so easy for me.But I've heard that it's not so easy for everyone. If you want to eat locally but find it's a lot of work, what are the challenges that you face? Are there ways to make small changes, like doing one meal a week that's mostly local, or does that feel like more effort than is feasible and worthwhile?I think Alisa and JB's suggestions are great but I'm also keenly aware, as I was when I read Plenty, that they are childless freelancers in good enough shape to ride their bikes everywhere. Not everyone is in that boat; even now I'm not and I have more flexibility in my life than a lot of people.So what *would* make it easy for you? What could you commit to? Or, if you have made small changes, what *does* work for you? And please understand, these questions are not rhetorical, nor are they meant to i[...]

Dark Days Challenge

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 05:43:00 +0000

Oops! I missed posting for the first week of the Dark Days Challenge hosted by my fellow Northwesterner, Laura from Urban Hennery. This is another eat local challenge for the months out of the year when it's not quite as easy to find as much fresh, local variety as it is in the summer months.

(from Laura's rules)

1. We have to cook one meal a week with at least 90% local ingredients
2. We have to write about it - the triumphs and the challenges
3. Local means a 200 mile radius for raw ingredients. For processed foods the company must be within 200 miles and committed to local sources.
4. We're going to keep it up through the end of the year, and then re-evaluate on New Year’s Day.

And I like these rules so I'll go with them, too. The 200 mile radius is a new one for us, but one meal a week, 90% local? I checked Google Maps and this radius includes a good portion of the states of Oregon and Washington so I'm not too worried about that restriction. I'm pretty sure we can pull this off.

Last week was a four-day-long recovery (really, still not caught up) after my Bay Area trip, followed by a funeral for my Uncle Floyd this past Saturday. (We're very sad to have lost him--achingly sad, really--but glad he is finally at peace after a long illness.)

Anyway, I've learned a lesson: pre-order an online grocery delivery before I leave on a trip to be delivered the day I return. I spent most of last week slapping together random meals, and local many were not. Observe: for lunch one day, the kids got gluten-free tuna noodles made with CoffeeMate instead of milk. And then they got it again at dinner.

This week we are all prepared. I did a huge grocery shop at the big store on Sunday afternoon and a little shop at the co-op this afternoon with the girls. I'm working on a series of meals that go through a week, made easier with a little pre-cooking on Sunday and then incorporating the leftovers into meals throughout the week.

Sunday I cooked up two chickens, though one was intended to be dinner that night. We had a birthday party, then I did my shopping, so I didn't get home in time to make the chickens for dinner and instead roasted them after the kids went to bed. We had sausage patties and a ton of veggies instead. I also cooked up a bunch of roasted potatoes that we used in a frittata tonight (totally delish, like souffle, probably the best one I've ever made, and I have no idea why).

Having all this food, much of it already cooked up, in the fridge feels like wealth.(image)

To The Bay and Back

Fri, 19 Oct 2007 14:53:00 +0000

I hadn’t been back to my alma mater, Mills College, since I packed up my dorm room, stuffed it all into my dad’s van, along with Aaron’s motorcycle (seriously, we put the bike in the van) and headed north to Portland. But this past weekend I headed down to the Bay Area for a journalism department reunion and finally saw the campus and all of its gorgeous Spanish architecture, inhaled the scent of the eucalyptus trees (I think this is what made me go to this school—that smell lifts you up and make you feel like you can do anything), and met up with a group of women I didn’t actually know (no one from my class was there) but all shared this campus, a beautiful and maddening little world all of its own. I’d been back to the Bay Area many times, even to my old haunts in Berkeley, but not to campus. There are lots of reasons, too many to go into here, and as time goes on most of my old disappointments with Mills seem too inconsequential now to hang onto. For a few years I’ve wanted to renew relationships with the people and the professors I knew then, partly for your basic career networking, partly out of a desire to make connections with new graduates and help usher them into the working world, but mainly because they were such a big part of my life, they taught me so much, and I missed them.I was on campus for a very short three hours, so I really didn’t get to see much of anything. And that was because I had to head across the Bay to see……Shuna! Ok, really, you have to believe me. That white blob in the middle really is Shuna Fish Lydon. The LitQuake Lit Crawl reading was totally packed into at Laszlo’s, a skinny, dark bar in the Mission. When I first got there (sure that I’d missed her entirely because I’d had to drive around for 20 minutes looking for parking) the place was packed to the door and even when I stood on my tiptoes in the entry way I couldn’t see anything. I held my camera over my head and tried to hold really still, but as you can see that didn’t work out very well. No matter. Shuna read her piece on recipes, which I knew well. It was lovely to hear her sweet, clear, sometimes creaky voice read her words aloud. This was a warm and witty Shuna (with just a smidge of bitterness thrown in there, which is her way). It wasn’t the Shuna of raw emotion I saw speak at Blogher when she spoke about the impact the words—the good and, especially, the bad--of food bloggers can have on an eatery, how they can make or break the fortunes of so many good people. If you’re not reading her series on opening a restaurant, which addresses this here (though somewhat cryptically) follow the series by starting here.At the reading I ran into Jennifer Jeffrey, who has just published her crab book. We talked a bit about her two-part piece on feminism and cooking (part 1 here, part 2 here). This issue is one I’ve been contemplating for a long time, before and after Jennifer wrote on it. I keep thinking I need to write some kind of response, but…I keep running into work deadlines, field trips, housework, a funeral, dentist appointments, trips to the co-op where the damned local eggs still haven’t come in, coffee dates with friends I haven’t seen in months… I keep running into all the real-life craziness that women juggle when they devote themselves (by choice or for survival) to work and family and friends.For Jennifer I think the food probably suffers before the writing. Though I only assume this because she’s published two books. For me, I know the writing suffers first. I could easily choose convenience food and have more time for writing, or anything. Right now I have to trust that the food has to come first, because that’s where the writing starts. The problem is I always feel like I’m stuck at the beginning an[...]

Sell your car, plant a garden

Mon, 08 Oct 2007 07:27:00 +0000

It's official: I'm a member of Flexcar!After reviewing some material I picked up at their booth at the Green Sprouts festival a few weeks ago I did the math and realized that my 10-year-old, paid off, totally reliable Subaru Impreza, which I drive about 100 miles a month, costs me about $200 a month in gas, insurance and maintenance. Imagine all the local eggs I could buy with $200 a month...One of the ways Flexcar make membership attractive to me is the gas is free! You're expected to fill the tank if it gets below 1/4 tank, but they provide you with a gas card so you don't pay anything.So we're in the midst of a little experiment: Can I go without the Subaru and rely our on our BioBeast (the Ford F250, which runs biodiesel) and alternative modes of transport for a month or two? If yes, we'll sell it. And I like extra money so I'm determined.This is the Scion I drove on my Flexcar maiden voyage. Truthfully, it drives like a tin can and the instruments are poorly designed. But it got me there.Aaron bikes or takes the train to work so the BioBeast is home all day. But it's huge. Last week I had a meeting downtown where I knew the parking situation was going to be tight. Not wanting to risk circling until I found a spot big enough for the BioBeast, and then having to parallel park, I reserved a Flexcar. There's one parked about three blocks from my house--totally convenient. I gave myself about 15 extra minutes to walk, picked up the car without incident and made my way downtown without fear of sideswiping anyone! So far, I've only driven the Subaru when I'm being lazy, I've been too sick to walk (like this week) or I haven't planned ahead. For example: I was all set to meet a friend down on Mississippi for dinner and could take the #6 bus almost door to door.But Iris hadn't nursed for most of the day and I didn't think about this until it was almost time to leave. I nursed her...then Clara had a meltdown and didn't want me to leave. By the time I got out the door I saw from my porch the bus pulling away from the stop.Not wanting to make my friend wait 20 minutes while I took the next bus or got on the laptop to reserve a Flexcar, and not wanting to parallel park the BioBeast, I drove my car. But looking back, had I not had another choice, I would have driven the truck, it just would have been a pain. Don't know if this is Flexcar art or if it's from the city, but I love this signI'm not sure how often I'll use Flexcar so I bought one of the low-use plans. My ultimate goal is to use public transport or walk/run/bike as often as possible, but with my tight work schedule sometimes that just doesn't work. And as much as I am a believer in alternative fuels, that gigantic F250 just isn't always practical for urban driving. I'll likely only use Flexcar when I'm going somewhere by myself, such as work meetings, because I don't want to constantly change out carseats. When the kids come with me, we'll drive the BioBeast.If this works, and so far it seems like it will, we'll have an extra $150 bucks or so in our pockets at the end of the month. This will come in handy when I start on next year's vegetable garden![...]

To the Pumpkin Patch

Mon, 08 Oct 2007 07:05:00 +0000


Not our first visit of the year to Kruger's Farm, but the first for pumpkins.


Somehow, they still have strawberries. Sure, half of them were moldy the next morning, but at a buck a pint, and in October, you can't really complain.


There's more than pumpkins over in those fields...a sign of healthy, clean soil.


Who is that big four-year-old in the back, there? And maybe if that baby would quit fighting sleep she'd not be dozing on her feet like that.


That's the spirit, little R! Now Iris, if you would please just let us all get some sleep you might feel this chipper, too.

In case you can't already tell, Miss Iris, formerly The Best Sleeping Baby in the Universe, is turning us all into zombies by exercising her toddler will. Please pardon signs of sleep deprivation such as misspellings, poorly worded directions, and mistakenly omitted ingredients until further notice.


Sun, 07 Oct 2007 21:30:00 +0000

From eggbeater: Pastry Chef Am I. Moderne or Old-Fashioned? This is an example of why I'm madly in love with Shuna. God, I love indignant, passionate, slightly cranky and inspiring food writing.

I first heard her speak at BlogHer in July when, as the subject of scathing restaurant reviews came up, she gave an impassioned, teary request to food writers to remember the folk who are pouring their hearts and souls (and their bank accounts) into the food we eat and how our words can determine the fate of their livlihoods and their lives. I was smitten.

I am a complete sucker for an artist, which is why I've worked with them for the last 10 years (but oh, thank the heavens I didn't marry one). And I absolutely believe chefs are artists as they use all the same parts of their brains and bodies as any painter or designer. And I love anyone who is as devoted to her craft and her brethren as Shuna is. That passion and commitment is intoxicating and I love being around it (in the case of Shuna, reading about it).

Most of all, I love the product of that passion. I'm going to be in the Bay Area next week and I am so hoping I get to taste that "crunchy & sumptuous" chocolate cake!(image)

Linky Love - Local Eating in the News

Fri, 05 Oct 2007 23:54:00 +0000

Psssst! If you look over on the right-hand column of this page and scroll waaaaaay down you'll see the Google supplied news for local food issues. I always find interesting stories from around the world on local eating and food supply issues.Food is the mega trend of 2007The U.S. is easing up on its practice of selling surplus commodoties to NGOs at low prices, possibly opening the door for small farmers worldwide to get a more fair price for their crops. From The India Times:The virtual disappearance of dumping is great news for farmers across the world who can now expect to receive the real price for their crops from the world market. Unfortunately, the downside is that for the world’s 850 million hungry people, often concentrated in countries ravaged by war and famine, the decline in food aid also means plunging further into hopelessness.Related to this, last August U.S.-based CARE, one of the largest international aid organizations in the world, announced it will turn down 46 million dollars in food subsidies from the U.S. government.***Just as I was realizing that there were no presidential candidates that have local food on their radars, I read that it's an actual campaign issue in Ontario, Canada:All parties polish apple to promote local foods; Ontario farm aid now yields city votes, tooDepending on the day on the NDP campaign bus, Howard Hampton might be munching on a strudel with organic Swiss chard grown near Hamilton or Italian sausage from a King City pig. It's part of a plan to promote the local food movement, underscored by a radical platform to pass a law, if the NDP were elected, that would require grocery stores to reserve shelf space for Ontario produce.The four biggest parties have platforms to provide a boost to local farmers and get more of their products into our bellies.It's a sign that politicians have realized agriculture is also an urban issue. City dwellers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, and how it is grown.***I may need to go visit Fran Clemetson in Maine. She writes about her book group reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and how it inspired her to plan local meals for her family of six. I need a book group that helps me plan dinner!Eating Exclusively Local; Well, AlmostWe have a rather proactive book group and had been discussing ways to promote the local food economy when some of us decided to create a challenge by eating exclusively locally grown food for at least one meal and reporting back to the group about our experience. We had a good discussion around the challenges of meal planning.***And it's that time of year again: Thanksgiving! This is a special food holiday for me because this will be the eleventh anniversary of holding it at my house (except for the one the year I was pregnant with Iris because our kitchen was under construction and I had morning sickness from hell). I love the week-long ritual of planning, shopping and cooking. Oh, and the eating, too.The 100 Mile Diet people are getting everyone ready for a local Thanksgiving. I encourage anyone who is on the fence about eating locally to try out the 100 Mile Thanksgiving, or, as we do it, eating from your region or state. Given that the traditional Thanksgiving dinner draws from seasonal foods in North America, it's really not that hard. For most people it's pretty easy to find turkey, pumpkin, potatoes and other vegetables from close-by. LocalHarvest is always a great place to start.***We just finished the last celebration of Clara's Birthday Week. I'm beat. But we've got an old friend (and her we-haven't-met-yet husband) coming for brunch tomorrow and I've got to get planning. The Tipping Tree eggs hadn't shown up at t[...]

Fred's Roses

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 07:30:00 +0000

My husband rolls his eyes when I tell people this: I can read the personality of a house. Sometimes. If I really want to. Some houses, I don’t want to read. There is too much sadness, anxiety or a sense of resignation. We once lived in a new apartment. It was a like a baby, excited to see what we’d do next. My uncle once lived in a house that hated children.Our house has always been a house of possibilities. Of invention. Of dedication and perseverance and optimism. Sometimes I think this house has made us who we are now (I’ve essentially lived here my entire adult life). We loved this house from the moment we walked in the door, almost exactly ten years ago. True, we were living in a broken-down, worn-out and totally apathetic 93-year-old townhouse with the most maddening, pothead liar for a landlord. Just about any dwelling would have looked better.But that’s not true. We did look at other houses, after this one (it was the first). And we just loved this house. It’s a 1912 Craftsman bungalow, wide, with a full front porch, and four dormers. I especially loved the kitchen (it seemed huge then, before kids). It had solid bones, a proud character, and we could afford it (we actually rented it for almost a year, then bought it). And we wanted out of that crazy townhouse. FredIt wasn’t until we’d been here a few months that I started to think about Fred. We pieced together, from stories we were told, that he probably grew up in this house, and lived most of his adult life here. We don’t know much else about him, except that he was frugal and self-reliant, handy and committed. We could see it in the things he left behind. I started to read this house, once we’d settled in and arranged our ratty towels in the linen closet, organized our cheap cookware in the white melamine Home Depot cabinets our landlord installed. Fred had left a deep impression here, from the jar lids nailed to the rafters in the basement (presumably to secure containers that held small items, such as screws and nails, up out of the way) to the old hybrid roses that lined the driveway. And when I read this house I knew it was ready to be ours. Fred was leaving, knowing that his home was in the care of people who truly loved it and would care for it. I don’t remember when I really began to think about the garden. I do remember, after living here a year or two, Aaron said something about taking over all the yard work knowing I was bored by the whole idea. He was tired of the unwelcoming juniper in the front, the suffocating hedge in the back, the mishmash of immortal calendula and random, forgotten perennials in the driveway beds. I’d done some of the basic maintenance here and there, and I’d worked very hard at taking out the blackberries at the behest of the mortgage company; they could attract pests, you know. (Incidentally, this company also made us exterminate a bumble bee nest under the porch, which I will always regret, much the same way I wish we’d just tended down the brambles.)Later we learned that Fred was out practically every day tending those blackberries. “To keep active,” the lady next door explained. Now I know he probably enjoyed a bumper crop of berries, too. I’ll always wonder what he did with them. Eat them? Give them away? Did he bake? Make jam?Gardening to distractionThough my container garden at the townhouse threatened to take down the whole dilapidated balcony with the weight of clay pots, I was uninterested in the garden here. Until, that is, about 2001, after we’d lived here about four years, when the economy was in shambles and no one in this town, who worked in marketing or design at least, co[...]

Chicken Soup with Rice

Thu, 04 Oct 2007 07:04:00 +0000

The first night after the Eat Local Challenge was over, I got a nasty cold. I was achy and cranky and not up to cooking.So I ordered take out. Thai Food from Thai Ginger, one of the best-loved Thai places in North Portland.And, it was…salty. That’s what I noticed first. The vegetables were quite cooked and salty. But then the Pad Thai was super sweet and oily. Before I could bring it up Clara noticed, too. “Salty,” she said, with a bit of surprise. (She’s getting a very keen palette, that one, though it doesn’t often seem to be working in my favor.)After a month of eating food that was either my own local “good grub” or fancy Northwest Palette, this food that is usually one of my favorites seemed really foreign and off.But I appreciated the leftover white rice the next night when I made chicken soup. I’d roasted a whole chicken over the weekend to carry though the week, something I’ve been doing often. The only problem I’ve found is that these organic chickens I’m buying barely have enough meat for two meals. I need to find some local farmer with fat chickens. lemon thyme (I really love this photo) Hopefully, enough rosemaryThese are yet two new additions to my herb garden. I’ve been blowing through the rosemary so fast my little plant was about down to stumps and I was going to have to start wandering the neighborhood with scissors. I fell in love with the lemon thyme in the garden of or cabin on Orcas Island. Both go great stuffed under the skin of roasting chicken.Anyhow, we had leftover chicken and this white rice and I had a container of frozen stock I’d made previously thawing in the fridge. After we eat all the meat off the carcass I make stock and freeze it, then bring it out as we finish the next roasted chicken to make soup.I’ve included measurements in this to give you a place to start, but they’re all approximate and totally open to adaptation. This is one of those dishes you can tailor to whatever you’ve got in the pantry, which is pretty much how we roll, if you hadn’t noticed. Edited to add: My friend, Leah, pointed out that celery is always a good addition to chicken soup and I totally agree. In fact, I prefer it with celery. I just haven't accepted that I have to start buying Cali-grown veggies yet.This soup was a bit thick since I had relatively little liquid and the rice with potatoes made it starchy, but I liked the heartiness. The tarragon was a nice change of pace, though the next day I had the leftover for lunch and the nutty, garlic flavor had intensified significantly. There is just no way to make roasted chicken look good in photos.Chicken Soup with Rice2 - 4 cups of chicken stock, depending on how thick you want your soupabout 2 cups of chopped roasted chicken (or ½ cup per serving)2 – 3 carrots, chopped3 – 4 potatoes, cubed½ cup onion, chopped1 clove garlic, minced or chopped1 tsp. dried tarragonsalt and pepper to taste1 cup cooked rice; white, wild or brown, depending on taste That's the rice. And veggies, of course. The Knob Creek is my "cough medine." Add hot water to a shot for a soothing nightcap.1. Heat the stock in a sauce pan on medium heat until just steaming. Add garlic and onion and let warm for a few minutes.2. Add carrots and potatoes and let simmer, covered, for 5 – 8 minutes, until just tender.3. Add chicken and tarragon, then salt and pepper to taste and stir. Next add the cooked rice. Simmer 5 – 15 minutes until flavors meld to desired taste. Mmmmm. [...]

ELC: The summary

Wed, 03 Oct 2007 08:24:00 +0000

September is over, the leaves are yellow and collecting in my flowerbeds. And the Eat Local Challenge is over.How’d we do?1. As much as possible, eat produce grown and meat and eggs raised in Oregon and Washington.Grade: BOf course, we strayed here and there, but for the most part this is what I bought at the store and markets. And it was easy! Our dinners were almost always all local (except for spices and condiments) and we ate well. Sausage, potatoes, veggies, chicken—all easy to get here. Breakfasts were second-best with eggs being the main player, rounded out with local fruit and accompanied by gluten-free pancakes (not at all local) or Bob’s Red Mill Rice Cereal (local company, rice from Cali).Lunches were another story. See below for how well I did at making Aaron’s lunch (I made two, then not at all). And I had a lot of business lunches, though those really couldn’t be helped. Even the good days were a little dull with random leftovers. In fairness to myself, that’s how I always do lunch because I work at home and barely have time to eat. But I would like to make more interesting and satisfying lunches with local foods. I’m thinking soups this winter…2. If it’s not local ingredients, buy from a local company.Grade: B+There are lots of local food companies here and our neighborhood grocery store, New Seasons makes it easy to spot local foods with their little shelf tags. They also make it easy to discern which is local produce by displaying place of origin labeling on prices signs.We ate a lot of Kettle Chips, Kettle cashew butter, and Bob’s Red Mill products. All yummy.3. If not locally produced nor a local company, then organic. Grade: A-This was pretty easy. The only thing that wasn’t local and wasn’t organic was the gluten-free pancake and cupcake mixes.4. Bring lunch to work. Grade: FTotally flunked at this. Mainly I just forgot about it. And Aaron always likes to have a lot of food so our meager leftovers wouldn’t work for him. Sometimes he made his own sandwiches, I noticed. But I’m certain he ate out a lot. Not his fault, I’m the one who didn’t buy the right kinds of foods. But I still don’t know what those are.5. If we eat out, eat at locally-owned restaurants that use locally-grown ingredients. Grade: AAgain, this is easy. Portland is bursting with fabulous local restaurants and cafes (even the NYT think so). There were times when I was eating out and I felt guilty when I was eating something totally delicious because I knew the meal wasn’t entirely local. But I know a good chunk of at least the in-season ingredients were local, and I kept the dollars in my local economy, creating a bigger channel for local producers to sell into. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?6. Stick to the average American food budget. In this case $144 per week.Grade: C+Oh, I tried. And I got close. But I know just eating out one night a week through us over, and even without that, we were usually a bit over. There were a few things I could have done differently but chose not to: 1) bought cheaper eggs that were local but from a big chicken factory; 2) skipped the chips, as they’re not a necessity (we just wanted something snacky); 3) bought less fruit and more vegetables; 4) gone without the gluten-free products (if you don’t know, they’re $$$).But then there are few things I did that I don’t normally do: 1) bought a lot of ground meat because it is always cheaper and bought whole chickens instead of parts; 2) bought the bare minimum of veggies except when it came to potatoes, which I bought a lot of; 3) when and item of p[...]

Summer goodbye, summer goodbye

Fri, 28 Sep 2007 07:31:00 +0000

Summer goodbyeSummer goodbyeYou can no longer stayAutumn is on its waySummer goodbyeSummer goodbyeThat lyric is from a melancholy song the kids at preschool sing this time of year. It’s like a lullaby that sings you into the quiet, dark days of winter.Melancholy meThis past Wednesday was the last market day at the Interstate Farmers Market, the one closest to our house. Like every Wednesday before (at least the ones when we made it) we met up with old friends, new friends and “market friends." The kids climbed on the park's new play equipment while the moms and dads obediently pushed swings “HIGHER!” and caught squirmy, squealing toddlers at the end of slides.Our neighbors, two doors down. Silas, Clara's best playmate, was coming down with an end-of-summer cold.My girls always gravitated toward the samples, especially the berries and peaches. And when I was brave (stupid) enough to let Iris out of the stroller or backpack Clara dutifully guided her grabby hands away from the Roma tomatoes. Iris, however, did not appreciate this.Now that it’s over for the season, I think more than the food I'll miss the farmers. I'm still a little shy around them--I feel like sort of a groupie. But I learned so much in even the shortest conversations. And farmers are always excited to tell you about their crops and what they love about them. After selling, that's the reason they're at the market.See those squashes? I refuse to buy squashesthis early. There's plenty of time for squash.Five minutes before this picture was taken she'd been stung, twice, by a homocidal yellow jacket, right on her eyelid!. She was fine, obviously. A honey stick seemed to take the sting away.I stuck to my budget on this market day, but it meant being very frugal and not getting a lot of fruit. Saturday I got a little panicky and had to get some nectarines at the grocery store. (Next I'll tally up the costs, and do my official retrospective of the Eat Local Challenge.) No one can deny those yellow-gold leaves. Autumn is here. But the season isn’t totally over, of course. The Hollywood Market goes for a few more months and the Portland Market in the Park Blocks goes ‘till December. I can still get my farmer fix. Clara and me in the parking lot next to the Interstate Farmers Market, overlooking the Willamette River and the city of Portland.Edited for formatting.[...]

Seasonal Transitional Dinner

Fri, 28 Sep 2007 05:00:00 +0000

The kind ladies at Enviromom, Renee and Heather, whom I met at Green Sprouts last weekend, gently pointed out that I haven’t been posting a lot of recipes. And they’re right. It’s been so hectic around here I haven’t been taking the time to make notes and take photos. But last night I did, and here’s a great example of what we’re eating for dinner these days.This meal is “seasonal transitional,” meaning it’s taking the best of the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It has a few non-local (to me) ingredients but most ingredients can probably be found just about anywhere in North America right now.Potatoes have become our new pasta. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. I appreciate that they’re loaded with good vitamins and minerals. Clara is still boycotting them, but everyone else seems to like them fine. I used to dislike potatoes, too, because I thought they took too long to cook (they don’t if you slice them thinly) and they’re high on the glycemic index, something I try to avoid, at least at dinner. I think I also wasn’t storing them correctly and that affected the flavor. Now I keep them in a paper bag in a cupboard and I’m enjoying them much more.Fennel still feels very exotic to me as this is the first season I’ve ever cooked with it. I know! I love the licorice taste and Iris devours the celery-like stalks. Even Aaron, who dislikes licorice, likes it. Clara hates it. Shocker! Chop the fennel bulb like you would an onion. Chop the stalks like celery.Apple Fennel Salad-1 fennel bulb, chopped in half and then into thin slices (See Note)-1 Granny Smith apple, or any variety of your choice, chopped into 1” chunks-1 small carrot grated, more if you like-1/4 cup red cider vinegar-2 tbsp. olive oil-2 tsp. local honey1. Toss together fennel, carrot and apple in a salad bowl.2. In a separate bowl combine oil and vinegar and stir in honey. Whisk or stir briskly with a fork. Toss with salad to coat.Note: You can dice the ends of the fennel stocks like you would celery.Apple Fennel SaladWhat do you call this kind of potato dish? It’s not casserole, it’s not a hash (though if you diced the potatoes it could be, I’m just too lazy to go to that much work). So I’m just calling this a “Fry Up.” Because that’s just what you do—throw potatoes and meat together and fry it up. This will not win any culinary awards. This dish is pure sustenance. Given our budget constraints with the Eat Local Challenge it works because it's a filling, nutritious and tasty, cheap dinner.I seriously made this up as I went. That’s how I cook most nights. The beauty of cooking with fresh, whole foods is that you know the flavors will be strong and present and the texture of the foods will be at their best. If you've got those things, you don't have to do much else to the food.In the case of this particular potato dish I wanted it to complement the salad, since that was the dish with the strongest flavors. I didn’t want to add onion or garlic, like I normally do with my staple potato dishes. And I certainly didn’t want to add anything too sweet. So I decided, as the potatoes were cooking, to chop up a carrot and toss that in. Then I actually added a few sprinkles of dried fennel seeds. I know that seems like fennel overload but the dried seeds are considerably less potent and have an earthy flavor. The flavors just faded into one another, like different hues of the same color. And Clara ate the carrots. The Fry UpPotato and Ground Pork Fry-up-1 lb. of ground pork (or turkey or be[...]

Keeping Perspective

Wed, 26 Sep 2007 10:15:00 +0000

What happened to September? Oh, I know: school started, clients came back from vacation, and I had to get back to work. I love my work and I’m so lucky to be able to do it at home and spend so much time with my kids. But it interferes with my blogging.Last Saturday, while Clara and Aaron were off at a birthday party, Iris and I took the bus up to Peninsula Park for the Green Sprouts Organic Baby and Family Fest. We ran into our Alma midwives, Cynthia from Zoom Baby Gear Cloth Diapers. I will always be grateful to the women at Alma for supporting me through my pregnancy and to Cyn for loaning me the cloth dipes that got Clara potty trained. I also made friends with a woman at the Flexcar booth and signed up for a membership! I’m thinking of selling my car. More on this later.One of the best parts of the event was meeting Heather and Renee from EnviroMom. They've got all kinds of ideas and insights that make your life a little bit greener. I’d heard of them a few months back when they got some local press and loved their style. As I’ve written about before I can become obsessed and single-minded about my food values, despite what I preach: Every little bit helps. I truly need some like-minded friends to help me keep my perspective!How have we been doing with the Eat Local Challenge? Still, pretty good. I mean, I’m sticking to the plan and not buying much that isn’t absolutely local. All of our produce, meat and eggs are from Oregon and Washington. I tried to go a little while without corn tortillas and gluten-free bread, and I may have been able to live on wild rice and potatoes, but this wasn’t working with Aaron’s or Clara’s bag lunches so I bought more today.I’ve also been out on business meetings and kid outings quite a bit and I know not all of what I’m eating is locally made. Still, I’ve stuck to local companies, keeping the dollars in the community. I think my biggest transgression was buying corndogs for the girls and me (I know, likely not even gluten-free) at the Oregon Zoo. We joined friends there in the morning and I really didn’t think the kids would hold up long enough for lunch. But they did, little buggers, and I had to feed them. We’d already polished off the cheese and strawberries I’d brought along. I admit those dogs were yummy. But! The Zoo did offer local apples, which we happily munched.Some days I feel like we’re not eating any more locally than we were before the challenge. Then I realize that we’ve done fine without packaged pasta, tuna fish, and rice bars for the kids, which is new for us. (Although today, at New Seasons, Clara specifically asked for “something that comes in a wrapper.”) And while I haven’t taken meticulous notes on my spending in the last 10 days, I only spent about $12 at the farmers market last week, and about about $80 at New Seasons. We’ve done a good job of working with what we’ve got. And less is going to waste.I tried to make our exceptions workable for our family so that this could be a sustainable practice, not just a one-time challenge. We may be getting there.[...]


Thu, 13 Sep 2007 05:11:00 +0000

According to the exceptions we claimed for the Eat Local Challenge we can use up whatever was in the house when we started.


This is how much salt we have left.

I feel like I've taken so many more exceptions that most people because of food allergies and such, that I can't make an exception for this. We can live without table salt, for sure. It's just that it makes everything taste so much better.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Wed, 12 Sep 2007 05:05:00 +0000

As part of this month’s Eat Local Challenge we pledged to try to limit our spending to $144.00 per week, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (I’m trying to find the exact citation of this). I was worried about sticking to this, because I regularly spend that much or more in one trip to the store, and I go a few times a week.And…we did go over by a good chunk, mainly because of poor planning and actually over-buying. But we still have spent much less than we normally do and eaten really well. I wonder what the hell I’ve been spending my money on all this time.I started the tally on August 29th because that was the day I did shopping at the farmers market for food that would carry us through that first weekend. By the end of the week we went over by $27.00 on groceries, mainly due to the sweet generosity of my husband (more on that later). And there was one desperate trip to Burgerville, a fast-food joint dedicated to local foods, to the tune of $11.50.Then that Sunday evening Aaron and went to dinner at Pizza Fino, a locally-owned Italian place down the street from us, but that was not family food, that was marriage maintenance. (I am a huge believer in date night.)Also, my loving husband, bless his heart, ran to the store to get wine for our dinner that first Friday night, which happened to be our 11th wedding anniversary. I gave him a budget of $8 per bottle, but he assumed I’d want Pinot Noir, my favorite type of wine, and it’s hard to find a good Pinot under $20. He did find one that was pretty decent, if a little simple, for about $15 on the Jezebel label from Daedalus Cellars in Dundee, Oregon. He also bought their Pinot Blanc, which was also nice and dry, very refreshing after a long weekend of yard work in hot weather. And local! Though around here local wine is pretty commonplace.This second week I went to the farmers market and automatically got $40 in tokens. I can see now that was a mistake. I bought $40 worth of food and now I have to frantically figure out what to do with it all before it goes bad. It’s too much, even though I’m freezing some. I have to cut back.Then, at the Alberta Co-Op, I was starting to feel deprived of quick, protein-rich snacks and bought too many hazelnuts and this super expensive trail mix. All local! But more than we needed. And just too expensive.Here’s our breakdown for the first two weeks of the Eat Local Challenge:Week One:Veggies & fruit from the Interstate Farmers Market: $40.00Groceries from Alberta Co-Op: $43.53Groceries from New Seasons: $23.71.Groceries from Fred Meyer (owned by Kroger): $33.82Lunch at Burgerville: $11.50Total: $152.56Week Two:Veggies & fruit from Hollywood Farmers Market: $40.00Groceries from Alberta Co-Op: $55.00Groceries form New Seasons: $71.00Total: $166.00I'm super glad that our problem is buying more than we need rather than feeling deprived and going over budget. This next week, I'll be a lot more on top of the planning.[...]

Food dreams

Tue, 11 Sep 2007 07:01:00 +0000

I am dreaming about food. Almost every night. I fall asleep to visions of tomatoes hanging heavy off of jungles of vines, more than I know what to do with but I want to cook and preserve them all, as if the salvation of the human race depends on it. In my dreams I wander abandoned roads deep into forests, searching, my feet sinking deep into mud, winter sun keeping watch through the skylight in the canopy. I wake from non-sensical discussions about the scarcity of blackberries wondering how it is that I haven’t bought any this year, though I’ve eaten a few picked from overgrown brambles, perhaps even in my own backyard.Every aspect of this project speaks to the prominent, if conflicting, aspects of my personality: my sense of artistry (the writing, the photography), my perfectionism (it must be purely local), my controlling nature (the deep planning and sourcing required), my contrasting tendency to just wing it when I can’t be bothered to come up with a plan (dinner most evenings), my idealism (eating local will save the world), and then my pragmatic side (Ovaltine will not bring down civilization). Thank god for my pragmatic side. Imagine what I would be without it.It doesn’t help that the idea of eating local is on NPR all the freaking time. And this topic isn’t really new in the Northwest. Five years ago my friend, Erika Polmar, started Plate and Pitchfork, an evening of gourmet food smack in the middle of the field where it was harvested. (We had our anniversary dinner at their last dinner at Gaining Ground Farm in Newberg weekend before last.) Dinner at sunset in the field at Gaining Ground FarmAnd Portland is filled with people who are growing food and canning food and making jam and keeping chickens. Just the other day I met with my business attorney and when we finished the biz part we talked about the new vegetable garden he’s putting in his new house, complete with greenhouse to grow citrus. Oh, citrus. I’m so jealous. I may have to get a greenhouse.Some days what I choose for each meal weighs on me, every time I eat that day. I imagine where this food began back up the chain, and I think about what will happen if I consume it. This is where I start to drive myself crazy. Most days, I’m relieved to say, I stick with my mantra: “Every little bit helps.” And most days, I’m also relieved to say, I realize that we are getting the bulk of our calories from Oregon and Washington.This is all sounding so dramatic. I have to stand back and giggle at myself sometimes.Saturday I had a major stress freak out about getting to the farmers market because we were completely out of fruits and veggies. Somehow it got to be 12:30 PM and the market closes at 1 PM sharp and shoes weren’t on and sippy cups were lost and everyone was melting down. And then it seems I overbought because it’s Monday night and I’ve got several days of food left, and I’m over budget, and I only needed food until Wednesday, when the farmers market down the street opens.But then I’m beside myself because New Seasons didn’t have Oregon Jewel Wild Rice and the grocery people seemed to think they didn’t carry it anymore. When they told me this I had to remind myself this did not mean anyone would starve.And then I take a deep breath and remind myself that this is a process. We are moving toward a goal, not failing. And that I don’t believe in being perfectionistic about this local eating project because [...]

Day 4 Eat Local Challenge: Going Strong

Tue, 04 Sep 2007 20:54:00 +0000

We’re on Day 4 of the Eat Local Challenge and we’re doing pretty well. Much of what we ate this weekend was from our local region, if not our metro area. When we sat down to dinner last night—pork loin with plum sauce, beet and cucumber salad, and Oregon Jewel wild rice-- we realized that all the food was local, save for the salt, pepper and vinegar. In fact, most of our meals this weekend were farmers’ market veggies, friends' gardens and locally-grown meats.Picky, pickyThe part that feels like it’s not going as well as I hoped is the fact that Clara is really missing her favorite foods, like freezer waffles and our usual pancakes. Quick treats are a problem, too. I’m hurting for a replacement for our gluten-free rice bars, the snack of choice in our household. And she is still hating tomatoes (gah!!!why???) and turned her nose up at my lovely, chunky salsa fresca. That is, until I pureed the hell out of it. Then it looked normal to her. Normal as in mushy and runny like the pre-made salsa you buy in the grocery store.I made gluten-free baking mix one of our exceptions but we ran out last week and I wanted to see if I could find a way to work around it. I haven’t. And with all the jam I’ve been making (plum jam recipe to come soon!) I’m missing something to put it on. I did find a loaf of rice bread in the freezer, allowed under our exceptions, and this morning I made French toast for the girls using local eggs. It had been so long since I’d made French toast Clara had forgotten what it was. She loved it and all was right with the world again.Fresh Eggs!And that leads me to our biggest success so far this week: Finding farm-fresh eggs. I checked in at the Alberta Cooperative Grocery and it turns out they get fresh eggs Fridays and Mondays, each day from one of two farms. The girls and I made an adventure of it and we took the bus to the co-op and picked up two dozen eggs from Tipping Tree Country Eggs (they don’t appear to have a web presence). They weren’t as fabulous as the rich and filling eggs we got on Orcas Island but these eggs had tons of flavor. I think we’ll put these on the regular menu.The literature posted at the market says the hens are free ranging and lay wherever (I guess this is where the idea of an egg hunt comes from!). And they obviously have several different types of hens because the eggs were all different colors and sizes. Clara especially loved the tiny green eggs.At the co-op we also found honey from a neighborhood beekeeper, bulk granola-like cereal from an Olympia company (forgot to write the name down), and some varieties of apples not usually found in our regular grocery store.What wasn’t fun about this whole outing: schlepping an impossibly heavy grocery bag, including fragile eggs, with a sleeping baby on my back and an understandably worn-out Clara on the bus. Nor did I appreciate the boys peddling weed at the bus stop in front of the co-op. I’ve got to put a little more planning into our bus trips.Local LunchAnother big success is the lunch I made for Aaron to take to work this morning. The fact that I made lunch for him at all is a success. Last night I roasted an organic chicken from Coastal Range Organics and cut up the breast meat this morning. I mixed the chunks of chicken with some canola mayo, a little pickled relish, some chopped up blanched almonds and a little dried thyme then spread it on some organic [...]