Food

Hand Picked

Posted on Sep 27, 2011 in Featured, Food | 0 comments

Hand Picked

{This is an old draft from a couple of years ago that I never posted. But I like it so here it is today.} As we pull in, the sun glints off the only other car in the gravel parking lot. It is early but the day is already warm and the sky is a brilliant blue. It takes a couple of minutes to disengage: unbuckle carseats; gather ourselves; make sure keys are in hand, not ignition, before shoving the door shut with my hip. We make our way through the opening in the hedge and up a path to a little market stand. The cedar shake roof is long and low and one wall is open to the fresh air revealing a wide counter and a cooler with vats of ice cream: raspberry cheesecake, bubblegum, maple walnut, moose tracks. There is no one behind the counter but after a minute, a woman calls out from the side of the building. We find her sitting at a picnic table playing cards with a young girl. She tells us that the best picking is to the right, anywhere we like. We clatter off, the four of us and our odd assortment of buckets. Noa, our thirteen month old daughter is not walking yet but we brought along her push toy: a bright yellow, orange and purple wagon with big wheels, a handle and a storage box under the seat. She toddles after us determinedly pushing the wagon over the gravel, falling every few steps but always quick to rise and push on. She has not yet figured out how to turn the wagon; her tactic whenever she encounters an obstacle is to look back at us with a grin and wait for help, one hand still resting on the handle. However, today she will need no such assistance. We have come to a pre-walking, wagon-pusher’s paradise: a blueberry farm. Our four year old son Rain runs ahead to choose our row. After a moment’s wait while we turn the wagon into the wide alley between waist high blueberry bushes, Noa is greeted with the longest unobstructed straight stretch she has ever seen. We set her free. Noa is instantly distracted from wagon pushing paradise when she notices the marble sized berries on the bushes. They are a deep dusky midnight blue and covered with a light powdery film. I am not sure that Noa has ever had blueberries and she has certainly never seen a blueberry bush. Call it human instinct; she drops to her knees, crawls to the nearest bush and begins to fill her mouth with berries with both hands. In fact, this is pretty much the reaction of all of us. We are all diverted from our intentions by the sweet, slightly sour fruit. I love the tanginess of the berries that still have a red blush to them. It takes a few minutes before we are able to get down to work, overwhelmed as we are by the plenitude on each bush, blueberries hanging in clumps like grapes. Eventually, we settle in. The rows are wide with freshly mown grass between. It is the perfect work space for a mom of young kids. Fully fenced to keep out the deer, bushes dense enough that it isn’t easy to get into another row, vast enough to provide a sense of freedom for roaming as far as they like and provided they stay in my row, I can always see them. Rain wanders off, imagination and monologue running a mile a minute as usual. He has a yogurt container laced on to his belt loop but he picks directly into his mouth. The only rule: Fill your bucket or fill your mouth but once the fruit is in my bucket, hands off. The small competitive spark in me flares up as I make it my goal to fill my large pail before we leave. Aaron and I begin working on opposite sides of the same bush so we are facing each other. Noa stays close for the most...

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Summer By Numbers

Posted on Aug 28, 2011 in Featured, Food, Parenting, Simple Living | 0 comments

Summer By Numbers

We’ve been counting a lot around our house lately. Here are some examples: Number of pounds of pickling cukes picked by Aaron and Rain while I jiggled and bounced Silas in the Ergo: 29 Number of pounds of pickling cukes bought from local farm stand: 10 Number of quart jars of homemade dill pickles made at 11pm after children were sleeping: 31 Number of times per night that Silas wakes to nurse: 8-12 Number of cute noises Silas makes per hour: 568* Number of annoying noises Silas makes per hour: 6 Number of decibels of annoying noises Silas makes: 100* Number of decibels of planes flying over our new house near the Air Force base: 130* Number of decibels of Rain’s constant singing & clapping: 75 Number of pints of strawberry jam canned while children watch movies: 13 Number of pounds of blueberries picked by 3 adults, 6 children & 1 sleeping baby: 16.5 Number of pounds of blueberries remaining after 2 weeks of pies, smoothies, snacking: 0 Number of coats of orange, yellow, red & purple paint (respectively) it took to paint our 1976 Dodge camper while the children slept and watched movies: 5, 2, 4, 3 Number of days on annual camping trip to Klein Lake (Sunshine Coast): 5 Number of sunny days on annual camping trip to Klein Lake (Sunshine Coast): 1.5 Number of teeth Silas has now: 6 * These numbers may or may not be slightly exaggerated. There you have it folks. That’s the way the final days of our summer are shaking down, in numbers. How did your summer add...

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You Are What You Eat

Posted on Sep 27, 2010 in Featured, Food | 2 comments

You Are What You Eat

Last night I had the pleasure of getting out for an evening with Aaron (!) and the privilege of seeing Joel Salatin speak. I first saw Joel in the movie Food, Inc. (which I highly recommend, by the way) and I was captivated by his passion for sustainable farming. He operates a family farm in Virginia called Polyface Farm and has been featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and also in the documentary Fresh. Here is a clip of Joel from Fresh: Joel’s family raises pasture-fed beef, pork and poultry on their once totally depleted, almost soil-less farm which they completely revitalized without sowing any seed. Refining methods introduced by his father, Joel rotates his herds through his land using portable electric fences to allow the land to replenish itself naturally, without fertilizers. The animals eat grass and roam in the open air. This is the exact opposite of the feedlots and industrial food system. Salatin argues for the local food movement, for transparency in the food production system, for a re-integration of our rural and urban lifestyles where we respect our food producers and include them in the communities where we live and work. He urged us not to expect change overnight but to do what we can every day to change our food system. Ideas included turning the millions of acres of lawns in North America to edible food gardens, reinstating the kitchen as the heart of our homes where we make our food from scratch from real ingredients (not unpronounceable ingredients that come in packages), buying from local farms that allow us to tour the premises and of course, gardening with our children. With sparkling eyes and a big grin, he is a compelling, even mischievous speaker, as he said last night, “I definitely recommend that you break a lot of laws.” This was in response to the question at the end of the night from a man who stated that everything he wants to do is illegal so what laws should he break first. Of course, Joel is referring to the over-regulation of ordinary citizens who want to make their own choices about the food they eat: whether it’s to buy eggs from the neighbour, have backyard chickens or drink unpasteurized milk. I was already sold on his message, but I was further enamored when with a roll of his eyes he stated that our disconnect with food began back in the day when people decided that breastfeeding wasn’t good enough for our babies. He went on to tout the virtues of La Leche League, Lamaze and having dads in the delivery room as examples of ways the pendulum is starting to swing back towards an acceptance of the sanctity of life, even the sanctity of life of the least among us (the animals and plants we eat). Maybe it’s because I’m a hormonal pregnant woman but when he ended his speech by saying, “May your children call you blessed for they have inherited a better earth than we had,” I had just a little tear in my...

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Bread & Butter

Posted on May 31, 2010 in Food, Simple Living | 12 comments

Bread & Butter

A few months ago, a potter friend of ours made Aaron a baking stone so we could try the artisan no-knead bread recipe from Mother Earth News. This went amazingly well but we’ve waxed and waned in our bread making over the months. We recently started up again. I wanted to try a bread that required kneading because it’s been suggested in the Waldorf school meetings that I have been attending that kids love to knead bread. I’ve tried the French Bread recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook a few times with varying degrees of success. Similarly, I’ve been wanting to try making our own butter. I remember fondly making butter as a kid by shaking it in a jar for, um, forever and I remember how delicious it was. We’ve been trying to make more and more food ourselves and I thought this would be a fun one to add. So last Tuesday (the only day the kids and I are home together the whole day without outside commitments like work, preschool or dance class), we decided to tackle homemade bread and butter. This time we used the Basic White Bread recipe from The Joy of Cooking. As predicted by our Waldorf friends, Rain loved kneading the bread. It was so fun that we forgot to take a picture. But here he is with the dough ready for the first rising: While that was rising, we started on the butter. You have to warm the cream to room temperature and meanwhile, stick the bowl you will be using in the fridge to cool it. Then you pour the cream into the bowl and whip it with your hand mixer. Notice the cloth on the counter. I did an awful lot of counter wiping as the cream sprayed everywhere, including all over the front of my sweater which later that evening, smelled like sour milk. I recommend an apron. The first stage is called the frothy stage: The next stage is meant to be the whipped cream stage, where it should get thick and start forming peaks. After this stage, it should get even thicker and start crumbling. The cream we were using came from a local farm and was unpasteurized. As a result, I do not know it’s exact fat content. It certainly didn’t seem as thick as a store bought whipping cream but resembled a cereal cream or half and half. We I whipped for a long time – Rain got bored and left – but it just wasn’t thickening into whipped cream as it should have. I whipped longer and longer until I noticed that there appeared to be curds floating in the foam. On closer examination, I discovered the curds were yellow. The longer I whipped, the more of these curds appeared so I just went with it. Then I strained off the buttermilk. I didn’t get nearly as much butter as I would have if I had used whipping cream. According to the internets, 1 quart of cream should have delivered up 1 Lb of butter. I used a quart of cream and got about 1.25 cups of butter. The next stage is to wash the butter. If any of the buttermilk remains in the butter, it will go bad quite quickly. To do this, you put the butter in your blender with some cold water. You blend it and then pour off the water. You repeat this process as many times as it takes for the water to be clear when you pour it off. Once you have cleaned the butter, the last thing to do is to squish it all together to form a solid chunk. I used a combination of a rubber spatula and my hands to do that part. It was a bit of a strange process because there was some water drops still in the butter and of course, water and oil don’t mix but the butter was soft so it was hard to squeeze the water out of it. I did manage in the end though....

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On Meadowview Street

Posted on Jan 17, 2010 in Food, Reading, Simple Living | 1 comment

On Meadowview Street

I’m usually the one who takes Rain to the library but one week I sent Aaron. He came back with this treasure of a book. On Meadowview Street is the story of a girl who moves to a house in the suburbs and decides with her parents to sell the lawn mower, let the grass grow long and turn their yard into a nature preserve. They plant some trees and build some ponds. One of the latter pages in the book also has lovely drawings of the type of natural plants and creatures she might find in her yard after the makeover. And her idea starts to spread down the street. I love it that Caroline gets her parents on board. Too often, the reality in this story is that the parents would put an end to her nature preserve. This is a story about respecting the earth and about going outside the norm, not being afraid to be different. It’s a story about how one person following her heart can start a trend. I am not a fan of lawns, especially those square lawns in subdivisions and in front of patio homes where all the houses look the same, and the only embellishment to the yard are a few low maintenance shrubs and some tiny poorly pruned city trees. I love this book for inspiring children to think about the changes that could be made to return their lawns to a natural state. I love this book for daring to say that an un-mown lawn in its natural state is more beautiful than a manicured city lot. I love it for suggesting that living in the city doesn’t have to mean you can’t commune with nature. Imagine if the book went a step further and suggested only planting local native species? I’m even dreaming about a second book where the front yard is turned into an edible garden, where Caroline grows lettuce, tomatoes, beans, peas, herbs. Imagine if everyone really did this? There is an organization that is trying to encourage people to do just that. You can check out the book Food Not Lawns and also find them on the internet. There may even be a chapter near you. These are local grass-roots organizers who encourage people in their communities to convert their yards into gardens and grow their own food. They organize seed exchanges and put on workshops for people who want to learn how to garden but don’t know how to start. Until then, you can read this book with your children and inspire them to think differently about what they can do about their own environment and about the food they eat. Book Description: Caroline lives on Meadowview Street. But where’s the meadow? Where’s the view? There’s nothing growing in her front yard except grass. Then she spots a flower and a butterfly and a bird and Caroline realizes that with her help, maybe Meadowview Street can have a meadow after all. On Meadowview Street Henry Cole Harper...

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Blender Mayonnaise

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 in Food, Simple Living | 3 comments

Blender Mayonnaise

I’ve had some homemade mayos before and I have to admit they never come close in taste to my beloved store bought varieties. Until this one. I got the recipe from my sister, modified it a bit and voila! One more thing I don’t have to buy prepared from the store. We’re trying to increase the number of things we make ourselves and for some reason this one makes me extra happy. Whirl in blender: 2 eggs 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 Tbsp dry mustard Clean down sides with spatula. Add: 2 Tbsp lemon juice Start blender, remove cover and very slowly, pour in: 1/2 cup salad oil 2 Tbsp vinegar Slowly, with blender still running, add: 1 cup salad...

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