Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 3

Sundays seem to be the best day to plan the dark days meal.  My heritage hog from my CSA farmer is due to arrive between now and Christmas and there is absolutely no room in the extra freezer for 1/2 a pig.  Some of it may have to go to my honey's freezer (gasp!).  Today's SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) meal needed to come out of the freezer.


Pork chops - CSA heritage hog from last year (Large Black hog)
Mushroom sauce - farmer's market - mushrooms grown in PA
Roasted Green beans - my garden
Garlic - my garden
Sweet potato baked fries - my garden
Celeriac salad - farmer's market
Pickled Dilly beans - my garden

Pork Chops

The pork chops were brined in a solution of 4 cups water to 1/4 cup salt.  Boil salt and water, let cool, then add chops. I let them sit overnight in the fridge.  Dredge in flour, pepper and thyme (dried thyme from my garden).  Saute in olive oil, remove when cooked and tent under foil.  Add sliced  mushrooms to the pan, saute until cooked.  Sprinkle with flour, then add some veg or chicken stock (I added mushroom stock, made from a mushroom base from Minor's soup base. )  The soup base and flour are not local.  Cooked mushroom mix until thickened, add chops on top to heat through.



Sweet potato baked fries

Peel the sweet potatoes, slice into equal sizes.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 min at 475, then take out, turn potatoes and roast for 10 min more.

Green beans

Toss with olive oil and whole peeled garlic cloves, salt and pepper.  Put in oven with sweet potatoes at 475.  Roast for 25 min.





Dilly Beans

I opened these because I wanted them and knew the kids wouldn't like them, hence the roasted beans for them.  I pickled these last summer - made with dill and garlic. They are TART but delicious.


Celeriac salad - I bought a celeriac at the farmers market on campus last week.  When I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, oh so many years ago, celeriac salad was a mainstay on any menu.  It's julienned vegetable in a remoulade sauce.  I ran out of eggs, so I just made a vinaigrette.

The meals!
For kids: chops, roasted beans, fries and a couple of mushrooms

For me:
Dilly beans, celeriac salad, sweet potato fries, chops with mushroom sauce


Friday, November 27, 2009

Recycle - Reuse - Food Storage

This piece of furniture now lives in my basement

It's a section of the library's shelf list.  There were 10 sections sold off in the past month. My neighbor and I each bought one.  It was a bargain for $50, especially since S and I saw one about 1/4 the size in a furniture shop on 14th St, selling for $227.   My neighbor cut his in half and he is using it as a work bench/storage in his garage.

The card catalog was in my garage while I figured out where to put it in the house.  I really wanted it upstairs somewhere but that would take redesigning the whole first floor.  Since I wasn't up to that task and didn't want this to sit in my garage all winter, today S, my neighbor and I moved it into the basement.

I think most of the sweet potatoes will fit into it.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 2 - The Meal

Sunday night seems to be a good night to have the dark days challenge meal.  I decided on Cream of Cauliflower Soup served with salad and popovers.

Soup ingredients

Carrots, potatoes and garlic - from my garden
Cauliflower and leek - farmer's market
Cheddar Cheese - Irish, not local
Milk - from the local dairy, home delivery

The recipe couldn't be easier.  It's from the original Moosewood Cookbook.  Chop vegetables, add whole garlic cloves along with water to cover.  Simmer until vegetables are soft.  Puree in blender, add seasoning and grated cheddar cheese and some milk.

Blended soup in pot


Butter, milk and eggs - local dairy
Flour, salt and sugar- not local


The recipe is from an old cookbook called "Cole's Complete Culinary Reference.  Cooking A to Z"

1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp melted butter or vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Add ingredients in order to blender.  Blend for a few minutes until smooth, scraping sides of container.  Pour into greased popover pans.  Bake at 400 for 35 to 40 minutes.

The secret is to put the popover pan into the oven while it is preheating.  Take out when ready to bake, spray with nonstick spray and then pour batter into the pan and place back in to the oven.



Arugula and Lettuce - my garden
Olive Oil and vinegar - not local

A successful meal.  The kids loved the popovers, munched salad without dressing and even ate all their soup.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Week 2

Yesterday,  S and I made an impromptu visit to our local farmer's market, at the Sheridan School.  We were headed across town to the DC Armory, for the National Geographic Sale - and it was a HUGE sale and we bought lots of stuff.

Back to the farmer's market.  We drove past the sign and I quickly made a U-turn, thinking, hmm, let's see what is there.    It was fabulous. I don't know who runs the market, it's called the New Morning Farmer's market and it seemed to be one (or more) farms from PA.  There was the truck with turkeys, manned by the Amish or Mennonite men, lots of produce, lots of baked goods, goat cheese producer.

We shopped with the idea of what to make for the week 2 challenge.

Here is what we bought:

Fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms (PA is a large producer of shrooms), a leek and tuscan kale.

S with Tuscan kale

I was thinking of making a cream of cauliflower soup - using butter and milk from my dairy, leek, cauliflower and garlic from my garden.  Serve with popovers (butter, eggs, milk from my local dairy - flour I'm not counting!).

My son wants to make homemade pasta so the mushrooms can go into a sauce for that.

S went home with the kale.

That's ok since today I went to my own garden and pulled parsnips, mustard greens, lettuce and arugula.  The russian red kale was also ready but I decided to pick that later in the week.


Washed parsnips


Lettuce and Arugula


Mustard Greens


Flowers in the garden

There are still flowers in my front yard garden.  Don't they know the days are heading into winter?



Day Lily

Rosemary in bloom

Friday, November 20, 2009

My rain barrels are here

As I write, there is a very cute dude (why are environmentalists rugged and cute) installing my rain barrels.  Subsidized by the DC government and RiverSmart Homes.  Installed by DC Greenworks.

The barrel

Preparing the site.

Rain Barrel Technician

Is it going to fit?

Cutting the gutter

Barrel installed and ready for use

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Composting toilets

How crazy is this thought?  Composting toilet.  I think my children would not look twice as they abandoned me in embarrassment.

Would this work in an urban home in the city?  There would be no problem using the compost, that's for sure.

I need to investigate further.  First, my project for the winter is to get that worm system set up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sadness over Tree

The house next door to me is a rental and has been ever since I've lived in this house.  It is owned by a brother and sister and I'm assuming it was their parents home.  There was a big old beautiful cherry tree in the front yard.  Now it is gone.  I just spent 30 min watching it being cut down.  My heart is broken.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the tree.  The new renters told me the brother and sister had different opinions and that one wanted it gone (why?!) and the other didn't.  The renter also told me he was requesting that the tree not be cut down.  It is now gone.  The backyard of this house is filled with a dead apple tree, weedy trees like loctus and mulberries, every possible invasive vine from English ivy to honeysuckle to poison ivy.  Why in the world was it felt necessary to cut down the beautiful tree?  It was one of the last cherry tree varieties to bloom and housed many many birds who would then land on my bird bath.  My son was so upset he started to cry.  It's a crime.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today's farmer's market

The Dupont Farmer's Market was hopping.  There were many vendors with produce, eggs, cheese and flowers.  There was poultry, pork, lamb and buffalo meat.  There was handmade soap that smelled wonderful.

We bought broccoli, filet beans, small potatoes, mozzarella and cucumber/melon soap.

The soap is from Harmony Creek Farm

The cheese comes from  Blue Ridge Dairy

I forgot to note  where the produce was from. Next time I will bring my camera.  At least I know I can get local meats (beside my heritage hog which should be delivered in Dec)

Dark Days Challenge Week 1

I just ate breakfast and realized the whole meal was created from local sources.  Today is the first day of the challenge that runs from Nov 15 to March 15.  The kids and I discussed it last night and decided to visit the farmer's market in Dupont Circle today

My DC friends will find this hard to believe, but I have never been to the Dupont market.  For the most part, I don't go to farmer's market since between my CSA and my own garden, there is little I need.  This year,  my employer started a farmer's market on Wed, on campus.  Every week I walk out of the library and visit the friendly people staffing the table for the Upper Crust Bakery.  I think I've tried every type of bread so far.

Back to my breakfast.

Bacon, the last slab from my Black Hog, raised by my CSA farmer, Allan.
Eggs and butter, delivered to my door from South Mountain Creamery
Bread - made this week by Brian (the ingredients weren't local but I'm not going to count basics like flour and yeast).

So I had 4 slices of heritage hog bacon, scrambled eggs and a piece of toast with butter.

I would have taken pictures but I ate it all before I could get the camera!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

how could I forget the sweet potatoes

I also have pounds of sweet potatoes, shallots and garlic to use for the challenge, all from my garden

My freezer

The Dark Days Challenge starts tomorrow so I thought I would take an inventory of my freezer.

Upstairs Freezer

Not Local: Vegetarian sausage, Turkey burgers, hamburger buns, shrimp, chicken breasts, cranberries, kiwi, corn, cupcakes, a bottle of grappa

Local: Strawberries, blueberries, dehydrated peaches

My garden: Plum tomatoes, arugula pesto (ok the oil and nuts to make it aren't local), parsley, basil pesto, winter squash, peas, snow peas, hot peppers, rhubarb, roasted tomato puree

Downstairs freezer

Not Local: Tilapia, coffee, toffee chips, girl scout cookies, hot dog rolls, unsalted butter, clam base, roasted red pepper base, tortillas, cranberries, flounder, english muffins, bagels, naan, chicken legs, puff pastry shells, chicken breasts, mozzarella.

Local: apples, sour cherries, strawberries, pork butt, pork chops, ham steak

My garden: hot peppers, plum tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, tomato puree, green beans, shredded zucchini


beets, pickled beets, zucchini pickles, bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, dilly beans, honey carrots, strawberry jam, asian pickles.

Other local ingredients I get

Eggs, milk, cider, salted butter.

My garden is still producing carrots, parsnips, mustard greens, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce.

What should my first local meal be to make?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recipes from the garden

I'm still harvesting lots of greens from my garden - arugula, kale, mustard along with chard from my neighbor.  Today is a holiday for my kids so we are all home and I decided to clean out the fridge and make some food

Lentil Soup

(from the garden - garlic, carrots, pureed tomatoes, arugula, mustard greens)

Saute chopped onion with some minced cloves of garlic.  Add diced carrots.  Cook for a few minutes, then add 1/2 cup green lentils and 1/2 cup french lentils (tiny green ones).  Add a pint size package of thawed pureed tomatoes with a couple of cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer until lentils are done.  I added a teaspoon of dijon mustard and a splash of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper.  Once lentils are cooked, add chopped handfuls of greens.

Arugula Pesto

(from garden - garlic, arugula)

I followed this recipe for the pesto - except I forgot to add the raw garlic to the food processor.  I also froze most of it in ice cube trays and didn't add the cheese.  Cheese will be added when pesto is thawed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Root Cellars

My sweet potatoes are moldy.  Well, at least the random one I picked up the other day.  All the sweet potatoes are lying on newspaper, on the basement floor (except for the 3 that are on the stairs leading to the basement).  My basement is humid.  My city is humid, the other day it was 70 degrees and it's November.  I've had success with growing onions, shallots and garlic but some of them are lost during storage because the basement isn't dry and cool enough.  Onions are pulled in July and it doesn't get cooler until Oct.  What to do?

My mother suggested tubs with straw or sawdust.  Don't know where I can get straw this time of year or sawdust - mom lives near a paper mil in Maine, sawdust probably floats over her property for the taking.  I need to befriend a woodworker.

Mother Earth News had an article about how to build a simple root cellar.  Start with an old, cast off refrigerator and dig a hole large enough to sink the fridge in the ground to be flush with the soil - oh, I could see doing that here in DC!  Right next to the cistern I want to install to catch more water.

I have a garage where I could possibly build a little root cellar.  But I also have city animals and would be afraid that the produce would be pilfered.

Off to find a source for sawdust

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cold Frames

Last winter I built a cold frame with help from a friend.  The idea was to extend my gardening efforts into the winter.  There was scrap lumber in my garage and we bought recycled materials at a totally cool place called Community Forklift.  There was a wide variety of old windows to choose from along with a great big pile of bricks for selection.    A plan for the cold frame was sketched and then we spent a weekend or two putting it together.  Basically the bricks form the outline with a wood base all around and the window is hinged to cover.  Here is what it looks like

Last month, I decided to finally start using it, so it was filled with old leaves, manure and soil.  I planted seeds for spinach, lettuce and mustard and dug up some lettuce plants from my garden and transplanted into the frame.  The idea is to try and have greens over the winter.  The spinach doesn't seem to be sprouting and since it didn't come up in my veg garden either, I wonder if it was a dud package.

My CSA farmer, Allan, sent me a link last year to a site that talked about cold frame farming.  I can't find the link nor can he remember what it was. I'll have to use my librarian skills to locate it.  I've never started my own seeds for growing, such as tomatoes or peppers but with the cold frame available for hardening, I think I  might try it.  Apparently one can also direct sow plants like broccoli into the frame and then transplant them out as seedlings.

Another friend of mine gave me a cold frame that he didn't want.  It's in a package and needs to be assembled and is currently sitting on my back porch.  That might be this weekend's project.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Homesteading - a backward step?

My friend C, sent me this article questioning if urban homesteading is a backward step for women.    The  essay goes on to talk about gender roles and the popularity of women doing more canning, beekeeping, gardening and cooking from scratch.  In my case, gender roles don't really come into play since there isn't a man living here other than my son who is the one who loves to cook.  His sister tells him she doesn't have to learn since he can live with her and be her cook!  I said in a previous post that I grew up with my parents gardening and my mother preserving all the food as well as cooking everything from scratch.  That's just how it's always been with me - cooking from scratch is how I've always done it no matter if I was in school or working full time.  My kids will say "why buy a mix when it's so easy to make from scratch" - I have them brainwashed.   Is it a backward step for my gender if I love to garden, grow my own food and preserve it?  I don't think so.  It helps to be obsessively organized plus I spent several years in a job cooking breakfast and lunch for 200 people - putting a homemade meal on the table for 3 people is a piece of cake.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Rain Barrels

I've already failed in the NaBloPoMo challenge to post something to the blog everyday this month. I'm in Charleston, SC for a conference and while there is an "internet cafe" often there is a line of librarians frantically waiting to check their email.

My new 150 gallon rain barrels, curtesy of the DC government for the small fee of $30, are set to arrive in a couple of weeks. My neighbor has graciously agreed to try putting a rain barrel beneath his gutter, on the side of the house that shares my side. The other rain barrel will most likely replace the one that is in the backyard and the current barrel will be moved to the side of the garage. There is a small plot that is adjacent to the garage but that is only accessible by going out the back gate to the alley. It's a pain to get water there so having a rain barrel back in the alley should alleviate the problem. The only problem would be want mischief people who use the alley will do to the barrel. I'm optimistic that nothing will happen - on the other hand, maybe it will get stolen. We'll see.

In the meantime, it's beautiful weather in Charleston and my goal is to find those grits mommy porch recommended. Are they locally grown and milled? I can buy locally grown tea - I think there is one tea plantation left in SC.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thinking locally

So my friend Kirsten pointed me to a place in VA that mills their own flour - Wade's Mill - where I can pay $4 for a 2lb bag of white flour.  I'm sure this is fabulous flour but I use probably 10lbs of flour every other week - the question is do I really want to pay that much for local flour - that doesn't even consider the shipping costs.  The mill is 170 miles from where I live so does that count as a local source?  I could drive out there every other week to pick up my flour but then I'm using my car.  I have my milk and other dairy delivered to my door every week and pay a premium for that but for me, the taste it worth the cost.  My friend at Mommy Porch is becoming more aware about the origins of her food.  I guess my point about the whole local food movement is it's good to a certain point.  I like oranges, they don't grow here but I ordered my batch from FL, to be delivered in Dec.  Does that count as a local food?  Lots of fruit and vegetables don't grow in my area no matter what the time of year, should I not eat them at all?

Most of my childhood was spent living in a house that had a huge vegetable garden, numerous fruit trees, bee hives, etc.  My mother would go to the local slaughter house and pick out her side of beef to be cut to her specifics.  My mother and me and my brother would spend the summer canning, drying and  freezing all the produce.  We only ate what was in season and what we grew.  I am trying to do the same with my vegetable garden, my CSA, picking fruit at the orchards, etc.  I want to be aware but if I want a banana, I'm going to buy a banana.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sweet potatoes

I planted sweet potatoes this year and they grew like crazy.  Here is a picture of the harvest - my sweet potatoes on steroids

The problem is my basement is too moist so I'm not sure how long these spuds will last.  They could be cooked and pureed and vacuum sealed in the freezer, but my freezer is running out of space.  I need a root cellar or at least a better way to keep squash, garlic, onions, etc.  There is too much sprouting going on with my vegetables in the basement.

I made a Pumpkin chocolate chip bread tonight and substituted pureed sweet potatoes mixed with a little applesauce for the pumpkin.  The whole baking experience got me thinking about the Dark Days Challenge.   I've signed up for it but I'm not sure my heart is really into it.  I have issues with the whole eat local theory.    I think it's misguided.  For the quick bread, I used flour, sugar, eggs, sweet potato, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, shortening.  For all those ingredients, the only think I can get locally is the vegetable and eggs (my eggs come from either my farmer in WV or through my home delivery milk man).  There is no way to buy locally grown flour or sugar or vanilla or spices, etc.  I can understand trying to buy vegetables in season and locally raised meat - but many many staples can't be grown within 100 miles of Washington, DC and I'll be damned if I give up those things.  

Worms eat my garbage

I want worms to eat my garbage.  Ok, they already do, out back, in the compost bins.  I want them in the house.  Worms eat my garbage is the title of a book by Mary Appelhof and it details how to set up a worm composting system.  The idea is to build a simple container, line with some sort of bedding, such as newspapers and then start to add kitchen scraps.  I've been talking about setting this up for a couple of years and now is the time to do it.  My friends think it's a crazy idea especially when I start to talk about introducing worms to my work's staff lounge.  What is it about worms (in this case, small red wriggler worms) that make people go "eew"?

A worm bin can be made for pennies, not including the cost of worms, but this system is pretty swank

Worm Chalet

I need an enthusiastic partner to help me with this worm endeavor as my honey, S, thinks I've gone off the deep end.