Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Local Yokel

You might be wondering why I'm spending so much time talking about local eating. "Who cares, anyway?"...."Just another silly 'hippie/yuppie' trend" you may be thinking. Which may be so, but I ask you to think about this: An average dinner travels approx. 1500 miles from 'farm to fork'. Given today's high fuel prices (albeit, lower than this time last year) and the rising global demand for oil, many people are looking at what they can do to help reduce their 'carbon footprint' and minimize our nation's dependency on oil. It seems that everyone I know is looking for 'greener' alternatives, from reusable shopping bags to hybrid vehicles. Sometimes the solution can be as easy as looking in your own backyard (or maybe your neighbors).
For me, there were many factors that began my path towards the 'locavore' lifestyle.

1) The Environmental impact - My 'carbon footprint' is big enough between the 70 mile round-trip commute (although I do carpool most days) and the amount of air travel I do. Why not try to reduce the amount of oil 'in' my food?

2) Supporting my local farmer(s) - I am fortunate to live in a suburban area that still has a lot of family farms. Harleysville has not yet been completely developed, sub-divided and taken over by strip malls. One of the reasons we loved this area so much was because it still had a "small town" feel. In order to keep it that way, I feel, it's important to keep the small farmers and gardeners in business. On average, $0.21 of your supermarket food dollar actually goes to the farmer. The rest of the $0.79 is used for marketing, distribution and other assorted costs. When possible, I prefer to put that whole dollar, directly into the hands of the farmer who grew it.

3) Rethinking consumerism - In this economic environment I've really started to think about the lasting affects of a consumption based society. I consider myself lucky that Jake and I are both gainfully employed and haven't been impacted by the economic crisis like so many other people we know. That said, I have really started to think about my spending differently. Trying to eliminate wasteful spending and really taking a look at the business models we support by our consumerism. Right now, our country is in an economic restructering period. We have really been trying to support the businesses whose ideals we agree with, rather than what's sold cheaply in the 'big box' stores.

4) Food appreciation - I've noticed that the week's I go to the farmers market and bring home fresh ingredients, I am more inspired to break out my cookbooks and do something that brings out the flavors of what I've purchased. It also forces me to think about what's in-season (which is easy to forget when cucumbers and strawberries are available in most grocery stores year-round). By thinking more creatively about what's for dinner makes cooking much more enjoyable...not to mention we eat a lot better.

Now is the best time of year to try and become a 'locavore'. While I don't want to sound too 'preachy', I would like to encourage everyone to visit their local farmers market to see what's available locally and meet the people who grow it. If you don't know where to find one, check out www.localharvest.org

Speaking of local meals, here are a couple of the local dinners we made last week:

Turkey sausage and cauliflower stuffed peppers:
The first green peppers were available at the farmers market last weekend (they had to have been started in a green house, since we've had so much rain lately).
We stuffed them with browned turkey sausage, green onions, mushrooms, carrots, and steamed cauliflower (instead of rice). They were very tasty!

I also made Halupki (stuffed cabbage rolls). I've never made it before and let me tell you it is a PRODUCTION! This was a total impulse purchase - the farmers market had the biggest, most beautiful heads of cabbage I've ever seen (pictured at the top of the page). I had to buy one. we served our cabbage rolls (stuffed with local ground pork and non-local organic rice). Served with green beans -which were picked that morning- and boiled red potatoes all purchased from the farmers market...delicious.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wine Weekend

It's officially summer...and that means vacation time! In our house, we rarely take a "real" vacation...usually opting for long weekends of traveling and/or camping. We have fallen in to this routine after years of having different work schedules and family obligations (I used to spend my time traveling back to Seattle, while Jake had to work).
This year, due to the amount of travel I've been doing for work, the thought of getting on an airplane (or even just going to the airport) was about as appealing as a root canal. Instead, we decided that a camping weekend was just they kind of R&R we were in the market for. The original plan was to head down to Virginia...however the weather forecast was not cooperative. We didn't think that 90 degree temps and 60% humidity sounded like our idea of a good time. Although our "camper" (see picture below) has A/C - I don't think German engineering can combat a triple digit heat index.
So we decided to head north - to the NY Finger Lakes, instead of south to Virginia. What a great decision it turned out to be. After driving thru a little bit of lightning and hail on Friday morning, we ended up having a glorious weekend. It was sunny and in the high 70's all weekend.
For those of you who have never heard of the Fingerlakes, it is essentially NY's "Wine Country". It is a gorgeous area of upstate New York with beautiful lakes, nice state parks and a fabulous wine trail. Those of you who live on the West Coast will need to temper yourselves...remember that the Mid-Atlantic states do not have the same length of growing season as California, Oregon and Eastern Washington. However, there are some really terrific wines that can be produced in a colder climate - particularly Riesling's.
One of our favorite New York winery, at least prior to this trip was Dr. Konstantin Frank's.
They really don't make a bad wine and the view of Keuka Lake from the tasting deck is beautiful (not sure that we got a picture). The diamond in the rough of the trip had to be McGregor Winery...there wines are wonderful and the winery was so welcoming. McGregor is our new favorite NY winery. If you ever get a chance to visit - I highly recommend it!
I don't think I had realized how much I needed a little quiet time...thankfully Jake did. Before we left, all I could think about was, between work and home, how much I had to do. I was still thinking about postponing the trip until things were a little calmer...fortunately my husband wouldn't let me. Jake recognized that I needed a break, more than I did...and for that I am grateful. The weekend of relaxing, wine tasting and nature was just what I needed.

Oh, and as an aside....you can even eat locally on vacation!...below is my burger and fries from Rooster Fish brewing (after a day of wine tasting - we decided to have dinner at a brewery!) The hamburger is from locally raised cows and the bread baked fresh daily. Served with handcut fries and beer made from NY cascade hops....delicious!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

One Local Summer - Week's 2 & 3

As summer gets closer (today, Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year) eating locally becomes more enjoyable. The farmers markets in the area are starting to open and more green veggie options are beginning to fill the stall's.
I was unable to post our local meal from week 2 because I left for the airport right after we finished eating.

Week Two's Dinner:

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Rosemary and Olive Oil
Braised Sugar Snap Peas and Spring Onions
Mashed Turnips
Heirloom Tomatoes (Organic - grown in a Greenhouse in Lancaster) and Basil from my garden

While we try to produce most of our meals from local ingredients - in the weeks during the "one local challenge" I am trying to make a weekly Sunday dinner from purely local ingredients. Tonight's dinner (Week 3) was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (which I'm rereading for the third time).

Week 3's Dinner:

Roasted Vegetable Panini's
Roasted Onion, Zuccini & Yellow Squash from Landisdale
Tomatoes - Lancaster County
Bread - Souderton
Mozzarella - bought from Willow Creek -not sure where locally they get it.
Parm. Cheese - ok, not local...but I brought it back with me from Italy - where it is made locally. I think that still counts.

And for dessert....

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream - using the last bit of strawberry jam we made this afternoon (more on that tomorrow) and local cream.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Scotland Pictures

During my last trip to the UK I was finally able to do some sightseeing....

The city of St. Andrews:

The Castle of St. Andrews:

St. Andrews Cathedral:

The Scottish Countryside:

I will say...Scotland is stunning. If you ever get the chance, visit.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Eat Local - Week 1

My welcome home dinner (after spending the last two weeks in the UK for work, consisted of:

Grass fed steak
Steamed broccoli
Sauteed spring green onions and mushrooms
Asiago bread (from a local bakery)

And for dessert...strawberries and cream with fresh baked shortbread.

All from local sources....(purchased from Willow Creek)

Monday, May 25, 2009

One Local Summer

For the past few years now, I have become an advocate for the "Eat Local" movement. Even before I was aware that there was an actual "movement" I tried to cook from organic, local ingredients. I feel so much better about what I eat when I know where my food comes from...the asparagus we ate tonight was picked yesterday (not weeks ago and trucked hundreds of miles to our supermarket). Jake and I are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can drive less than 8 miles and be at a market that sells a wide variety of local goods or go out to the actual farm and meet the people who grow what we eat (which is the case when we go out to Hendricks).
This year, I've decided to take part of the "Eat Local Challenge" mainly because I would like to show an actual commitment to eating within my region and partly because I would like to invite others to join me. While I don't want to sound too "preachy" I would like to encourage everyone to check out the website for some good information and tips about eating locally (www.eatlocalchallenge.com). Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org) is another good resource for finding farms and farmers markets in your area. Lastly, if you are interested in the subject I would HIGHLY recommend Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Maryland Sheep & Wool

Last weekend Jake and I trekked down to the Maryland Sheep and Wool (MDS&W) festival. This is always such a fun outing for me...and despite his allergies, even Jake has a good time. This year I vowed not to come home with a lot of yarn - I'm really trying to knit down my stash. I was good...only bought two balls of yarn, one ball of Malibrigo
- b/c I couldn't resist the color or the price, and a ball of sock yarn by March Hare dyed in "ruby slipper" colorway (no Wizard of Oz fan could pass that up).
Despite being a little grey, the weather held off and didn't rain (we went Saturday - I heard the Sunday festival goers weren't so lucky).
While we were there, I met Heather of Craftlit - a podcast that I love listening to while I knit, drive, work, etc. We also met Amy of Knitty and Jennie the Potter - whose mugs I L-O-V-E!
We almost came home with an angora bunny - it was so adorable and only 6 weeks old! I REALLY wanted it...and almost resorted to begging. Jake, squashed my dreams of spinning angora fiber from my very own rabbit. His reasons:
#1 - I don't spin. I don't have time to knit as much as I would like, let alone start learning how to spin.
#2 - where would we keep a rabbit?
#3 - I'm not home enough to take care of the dog that we have, and he would be the one, cleaning out rabbit cages while I was traveling.
So, sadly, we didn't leave MDS&W with a bunny. But it really was CUTE!

(Ignore the bad picture of me - the humidity from the rain we had the past few days made my hair incredibly flat)


A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a wine party at our house. We made up a bunch of little wine charms for the occasion. Here's a closer shot of a couple of them. They were VERY easy. Couple of beeds and a charm on earring hoops.

Wine Charms made by Jake & Rae