Ramping Up

Every week we get a bag of food from Kam’s Kookery & Guilford Garden. It’s called a CSA, for “community-supported agriculture,” but it’s easier to refer to it as our “veggie bag.” CSA customers commit to the veggies in advance, and given the nature of farming, receive a fluctuating variety and amount of produce every week (or every other week, as the case may be).

I had a couple of things in mind to try with this week’s bounty. My friend Hailey shared her experience of making pastrami-cured beets, which I was excited to make as soon as I learned we’d receive beets. We got turnips too, so to make it worth the effort I combined them. They’re delicious! Here’s the recipe Hailey and I used. I didn’t have any powdered garlic, and they still turned out delicious. At last! I didn’t wait until the turnips were sad and wrinkly before finally putting them to use!

A head of cabbage also came in the bag, so I started a batch of sauerkraut, adding bits of leftover turnips and beets for color and crunch. If you’ve never made sauerkraut before, there’s ample guidance online and in books you can get at the library. I decided to check with one of my favorite bloggers, the Zero Waste Chef, to see how she does it. I took her advice to let the salted veggies sit for an hour or so after I mixed and massaged them with salt. This ensured the cabbage released enough water so that I could easily submerge the veggies in the resulting brine, something that has taken a lot of pounding and squeezing in the past. After I filled the large jar, I decided to add some minced serrano peppers that we had in the freezer, so a small batch will have a bit of heat.

The veggie bag also had onions, zucchini, crookneck squash, sungold tomatoes, new potatoes, cucumbers, and Swiss chard. I love this time of year! This morning I flipped through How to Cook Everything Fast (thanks, Anne!) to see what I could make with some chicken thighs and squash: Provencal chicken for supper!

2011 in Review

Things are kinda slow in my kitchen and garden right now. So, in lieu of my usual highly engaging (ha!) content, I give you: the wordpress.com 2011 annual report for this blog. (And if you want to see how it compares with last year, here ya go.)

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Gamma-Ray Grub

I just posted some thoughts about food, nature, and risk over at my other blog, Charismatic Megafauna, which is even more neglected than this one!

2010 in Review

Please excuse the serious lack of activity around here. I’ve been keeping my new mother alive with champagne, spending some time eating and photographing snow peas (our only successful fall crop), stocking up the freezer with chicken stock, and eating a healthy dose of black-eyed peas for New Year’s. But I just haven’t gotten around to getting any of it posted. Don’t give up on me; I’ll be back someday soon!

Meanwhile, the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high-level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2010. That’s about 21 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 38 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 231 posts.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, freshgreens.typepad.com, mail.yahoo.com, bulgarbugle.com, and harvestymebread.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for chicken fat, heart, oklavore, and census of agriculture 2009.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Rendering Chicken Fat April 2009
11 comments

2

Census of Agriculture February 2009
3 comments

3

About Tricia October 2008
2 comments

4

Garden Update May 2009
6 comments

Applesauce with a Crunch

I tried out Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for Vanilla Applesauce with a Crunchy Meringue Cap. Molly gave me permission to publish her recipe in the September issue of Oklahoma Living.
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I had never worked with meringue before and I’m not a fan of fluffy meringue pies; however, this concept of crunchy meringue intrigued me.

The cap of meringue sealed in the applesauce, so I had to tap, tap, tap to break through. It sort of felt like ice fishing—not that I have ever ice fished.

The recipe worked beautifully and I can’t wait to apply this crunchy meringue cap to other desserts, namely a semi-sweet dark chocolate pudding.

Of course, if you want to try the recipe with applesauce, Oklahoma apples are in season right now.

Meal Planning

I think an impediment to the prevalence of whole, fresh food (and thus, local food) in our diets is the lack of home cooking. And one impediment to home cooking is reluctance and intimidation toward meal planning. This is an easier obstacle to tackle compared to lack of time or money. Though, as meal planning skills improve, good eating will become more efficient and economical.

I’ve come to enjoy meal planning. This is how I do it:

My meal planning routine comes down to lists: 1) frozen food; 2) food I want to make; 3) shopping lists to fill the gap between what I have and what I need.

1) frozen food list
I keep a list of the contents of the freezer. This was initially a way to save energy by reducing the amount of peeking in the freezer. But it has also turned out to be a helpful way to plan meals and make shopping lists.

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Frozen meats

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Frozen food

2) list of meals/dishes
My meal planning routine includes time for flipping through cookbook indexes looking for ways to use ingredients I already have on hand (for example, now I would look for recipes using a lot of potatoes or cucumbers) or I anticipate getting from the food co-op or farmers’ market (like eggplant). Or I look through saved websites or blog posts for recipes that sounded promising or exciting. I bookmark the cookbooks and write down the recipe names on a piece of scrap paper, sometimes noting the recipe source so I can easily find it later. I usually try to include a meal or two that uses non-perishable or frozen food like pasta or meat from the freezer. There might be a lack of fresh food, but I know we have the makings of a meal, even when the refrigerator or pantry look bleak. For example, meatloaf is always an option since eggs, tomato paste, frozen ground meat, and breadcrumbs are staples.
These meals aren’t planned for certain days, but there is usually a balance between quick-and-easy and more elaborate recipes. Once the planning and shopping are done, I usually decide what to cook a day or two in advance, depending on my schedule and the status of my fresh ingredients.

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What's cookin'?

As I make the list of meals, I reference the frozen food list and refrigerator contents, while making note of any items I need to buy. Which leads us to the third list:

3) shopping list
I try to group items on the shopping list by source: farmers’ market, Buy For Less, ethnic grocers.

Read about Chelsey’s similar system. Also, Bob Waldrop has two recent blog entries on meal planning.

Do you have a meal-planning system? Please share. What are your go-to meals or staple ingredients? What delicious meals have you prepared when, at first glance, it seemed there was no food in the kitchen?

Some Reading

Here are some food-related articles I’ve recently read. Are there some good ones I’ve missed?

It takes a community to sustain a small farm
“I used to think there were four distinct pieces to a local food system: production, processing, distribution, and retail. Now I realize there is a fifth: community. Without an involved community of customers who believe in what the local farmer, miller, distributor, and grocer is doing, none of them will last very long.”

It’s getting tougher to bring home the bacon
“The government is concerned that bacteria from a smuggled piece of meat will spread through the ecosystem, infecting livestock and hurting agricultural production…”

Why you should go see Fantastic Mr. Fox
I had no idea.

Cultivating Failure
A ferocious critique of edible schoolyards.
“It’s the state’s Department of Education that is to blame for allowing these gardens to hijack the curricula of so many schools. But although garden-based curricula are advanced as a means of redressing a wide spectrum of poverty’s ills, the animating spirit behind them is impossible to separate from the haute-bourgeois predilections of the Alice Waters fan club…”

And a delightful, smart, animated response to “Cultivating Failure.”