Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 17 - Putting a Face on Our Food

One of the 3 Wyandottes that we had

Sunday -
Grassfed beef hamburgers on homemade buns. Sauteed onions from the farmers' market, homemade ketchup, homemade mayo, homemade pickles and jalapenos. And cauliflower from our garden.

Monday -
Roasted winter squash from our garden with falafel on homemade tortillas and tzatziki.

Tuesday -
Coq au vin from our last Silver Laced Wyandotte that was at the end of her egg laying days.

Wednesday - 
Fend for yourself night

Thursday - 
Spaghetti with homemade pasta. 

Friday -
No one seemed hungry so we didn't prepare anything. 

Saturday -
Pork rib roast with potatoes from the farmers' market and sauteed cabbage from our garden.

Reflections -
I'm finding that we eat dinner a lot less than we did when we went to the grocery store. We get home from work and we're just too tired to prepare anything or we're not all that hungry so we just don't eat. It's fine by me. I'm also finding that places I once loved I no longer want. I used to love Panda Express. Their orange chicken was my favorite. Now, just thinking about it makes me a little sick to my stomach.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bacon Day 1

I guess you can say I just jumped right in head first. After deciding to be part of Charcutepalooza's February Challenge I immediately went to the Fatted Calf and bought 5 lbs of pork belly. I then ran over to the Oxbow public market to the spice merchant, World Spice. I bought curing salt, kosher salt and juniper berries. I knew we had everything else that I would need to make this bacon.

I walked into the Fatted Calf in Napa. It's usually pretty busy when I go in but they helped me right away. I ordered the pasture-fed heritage pork belly.  What I like about getting meat is that I know the animals were treated humanely - one of the rules, as it turns out of the Charcutepalooza. I go to the Fatted Calf at least once a week and we've chatted with the butchers there, so I'm a bit surprised that they don't recognize me yet. I didn't get to view the beauty of the pork belly until I got home. I opened up the butcher's paper and angels sung. It was beautiful.

I then mixed up the spice mix. I followed the above recipe but I also added a bit of cajun seasoning to kick it up a bit. I'm a bit worried about the juniper berries though because whenever I drink gin I puff up a bit. I don't regularly eat juniper berries, so honestly I could be totally fine. 

Clockwise from the top we have juniper berries, crushed garlic cloves, curing salt (it's pink to let you know not to eat it), kosher salt, ground nutmeg, pepper with fresh thyme and bay leaves, brown sugar with a dusting of cajun spices. 

I then mixed all of the spices and salts and rubbed the pork until it started to become moist. I then covered it with some plastic wrap in a pyrex baking dish. It will sit for a week getting massaged occasionally until day 7 when I roast it. I'm looking forward to having fresh bacon next weekend for breakfast!

I Think My Head Exploded (In a Good Way)

I keep hearing about it. It's everywhere I look. But I didn't know the details. I'm talking about Charcutepalooza of course! A year of preserving meat. February's challenge is Bacon for the apprentice (which I undoubtedly am). Oh yeah! I'm going to try my hand at making bacon!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Torturing Ourselves

Because avoiding grocery stores wasn't enough. Tom and I have thrown down our gauntlets. Maybe it's because we just feel like going without a grocery store has become too easy. So we came up with a crazy idea to make this challenge even more difficult. The last three months of our year - July, August and September - we will not spend any money on food. We will rely solely on our garden, foraging, our food storage, and bartering. THIS I'm nervous about. Fortunately it's when our garden will be producing the most.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week 16 - 4 Months In

Sunday -
Stuffed portobello mushrooms with sausage.

Monday -
Pizza with bacon, spinach, grilled onions and mushrooms.

Tuesday -
Beef stroganoff with grassfed beef and handmade noodles. 

Wednesday -
We had to eat and run so I just had a homemade peanut butter and honey sandwich on homemade bread. 

Thursday -
Grassfed beef shanks with mashed potatoes from the farmers' market, broccoli from the farmers' market and cauliflower from our garden.

Friday - 
Another eat and run night because we were off to see Joel Salatin talk. We had sandwiches with bread from the Model Bakery and meat from the Fatted Calf.

Saturday - 
Mashed sweet potatoes with pastured pork porterhouse steaks and steamed cauliflower from our garden.

Reflections - 
The co-op order can't come soon enough! And when we do make it, it's going to be pretty big because we're so low on so many things. Vegetable oil, flour, sugar, corn starch, all things we're low on. Spring is coming quick which also means we'll be planting a lot! I'm excited about this because I'm hoping to up production in the garden. My goal is one ton of food this year. I think it's doable with the right planning. We learned a lot this past year about what our garden can do.

Next weekend is the Twain's feast. It's a potluck dinner based off of Mark Twain's list of 80 "American" foods that he missed when he was in Europe. To attend all you have to do is bring a dish from off that list. We're going to be bringing squash pie. It will also be a book signing and discussion of Andrew Beahrs' Twain's Feast. I'm really looking forward to this event! Now off to go find a tradtional 1870's squash pie recipe.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's Not a Matter of "If" but "When"

It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt more than when the housing bubble burst in 2007. It's going to hurt us more than we can ever imagine. The food bubble is going to burst soon. We've ramped up food production but there comes a point when we will not be able to produce anymore food. And yet population growth isn't slowing down.

I don't like to be a conspiracy theorist. I really don't consider myself one. But I remember back in 2005 telling a coworker that the housing bubble was going to burst. At the time though I wasn't quite aware of what that meant. Now I do. And it wasn't not pretty. But take food. We all need food to survive. Without it people will become desperate. It's an entirely different ballgame.

Monsanto tells us they can help. They tell farmers to use their genetically modified seeds because they will increase yields. And yet the don't. They don't produce anymore more than conventional crops. In fact it's been found that they produce 10% less than conventional crops. But let's forget that all. We've reached peak oil. Even conventional crops which rely heavily on petroleum for their production (fertilizers, pesticides, equipment, transportation, etc.) are now going to raise in price. GM crops also rely heavily on petroleum.

But that's not where it stops. We've also greatly depleted our topsoil and water resources, which plants must have to grow. Through heavy cultivation and poor management we have lost one third of our topsoil. Industrial agriculture is running our aquifers dry because there isn't enough rain to water crops. With climate change comes unpredictable weather that can easily destroy crops.

Food prices are set to rise for 2011. According to the USDA "For all food, prices are expected to rise two to three percent, which is double the levels of 2010. Meat prices are expected to rise up to 3.5 percent, and dairy 5.5 percent." - CNBC

So what can we do about it? It's time to seriously start thinking about growing your own food. Grow it wherever you are. Get window farms if you have to. Become a guerrilla gardener and grow food on empty lots. Join a CSA. Shop at the farmers' market. Join a community garden. Join a yardshare.  Just don't rely on industrial agriculture to save us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 15 - Where is the Time Going?

Sunday -
Squash soup with squash from our yard, peas from our yard, carrots, onions and mushrooms from the farmers market and leftover duck.

Monday -
Fend for yourself day. I don't even remember what I ate.

Tuesday -
Grassfed grilled tritip with sweet potato mash and cabbage from the farmers' market.

Wednesday -
Grassfed ground beef pot pie. Carrots, potatoes, onions and mushrooms from the farmers' market. Peas from our garden. Sauteed cauliflower from our garden.

Thursday - 
Frittatas with spinach from our garden. Our hens are starting to lay again!

Friday -
Sloppy Joes with homemade buns.

Saturday - 
Roasted tritip with turnips, potatoes and carrots from the farmers' market.

Time seems to be flying by. With that, so does the food. Because of not going to the grocery store we go through our basic supplies a lot faster - esp. sugar and flour. I need to make sure to order those staples with our next co-op order.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Food Activism Just Went International

But there is something I can do here and I urge anyone that's at all interested in our world to take part. I just finished watching The Cove. It's a documentary about the wholesale slaughter of dolphins in Japan. 23,000 dolphins a year to be exact.

Dolphins are at the same level as us in the marine food change. Because of this they are incredibly toxic. In Japan the government puts a limit on Mercury at 0.4 ppm. Dolphin meat is around 2,000 ppm. So why do people eat it? Most don't know it as it's purposely mislabeled as other types of whale meat that is generally considered safer. And they were considering feeding this mercury laden meat to those that are the most susceptible - children through their school lunches. So why even catch dolphins if they are so toxic?

It all starts because of the lucrative business of brokering dolphins to aquariums such as Sea World. A single dolphin can fetch $150,000.

After rounding up hundreds of dolphins trainers come out and pick out the ones they want to sell to training facilities. The rest are inhumanely slaughtered out of the view of everyone. The filmmakers - including Ric O'Barry who earned his fame through the TV show Flipper and has now renounced keeping Cetaceans in captivity -  risked everything to put up cameras around the cove where this happens.

I will no longer visit amusement parks that offer dolphin and killer whale shows. I no longer want to support this industry. Not only does it lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of animals that are possibly smarter than us, but the mere act of keeping dolphins in captivity is cruel and incredibly stressful on the animals - much like battery cages for hens.  The stress of captivity alone kills them regularly.

Sorry Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, I won't be taking my family there anymore. You were too expensive anyways.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Gotta Stop

I am bummed out that I'm going to have to stop drinking coffee. It won't be cold turkey but I'm going to have to wean myself off. Why would I ever do such a thing? Because it's making me feel ill more often. In the past if I had too much coffee it would make me feel jittery and sick to my stomach all day long. Literally ALL DAY. But now it's making me feel ill more often. It's not every day but it's almost once a week and it's the same amount I normally drink. So to me that's a sign that I need to stop. <sadface>

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Week 14 - The Menu

Grassfed meatloaf with potatoes and brussels sprouts from the farmers' market.

Tuesday -
On our own. It's getting more difficult to fend for yourself when you don't feel like cooking. I think I had some bread with peanut butter and honey. Speaking of peanut butter, did you know that you can make it by putting a bunch of salted, roasted peanuts in the food processor and processing it until it forms a ball? Oh yeah!

Wednesday -
Roasted chicken with potatoes and onions and a cabbage salad (all from the farmers' market). We slaughtered the chicken on Monday. The chickens are putting weight on nicely. She had a lot of fat on her too. After eating chicken that tastes like, well, chicken I don't think I can ever go back to eating commercial chicken.

Thursday - 
Beef & buffalo broccoli with curry sauce. Kind of an Indian dish. I know, I know, Indians don't eat beef but it was tasty...

Friday - 
Roasted duck with orange cranberry marmalade glaze with mashed parsnips (from the CSA) and potatoes (from our garden). This was the first time I've ever cooked and eaten duck. I figured I should probably do it before we start raising them. And the conclusion? We are DEFINITELY raising ducks!

Saturday -
Homemade spaghetti pasta with sauce from our canned tomatoes and veggies from the farmers' market and grassfed ground beef.

Reflections -
This week was really tough. The third week of not having a farmer's market. We were definitely out of produce and had resorted to eating unripe oranges off of our tree. Really, it was like eating lemons. It was also a week of people bringing in chocolate to the office. I quickly realized that life is too short for shitty chocolate. Yes, I'm talking to you Hershey's, M&M Mars and every other major candy brand out there.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Week 13 - Officially 1/4 the way through.

Monday -
Grilled london broil with rice and roasted squash from our garden.

Turkey Soup with homemade broth and foraged mushrooms.

Wednesday -
Grassfed beef Tri tip with brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes from the farmers' market.

Thursday -
Honey mushroom pierogis with swiss chard from our garden. Um, yeah, honey mushrooms aren't my friends. They like Tom. Not me. Or Jeanette.

Friday -
Grassfed beef ribs with mashed potatoes from the farmers' market and spinach from our garden.

Saturday -
Homemade chili with pastured pork. Blackberry pie from blackberries we foraged for dessert.

Sunday -
Homemade sushi! As good as it was it wasn't anything close to getting it at the restaurant.

Reflections -
This coming week is going to be a tough one. We're running out of produce, esp. onions, which we use with almost every meal. Saturday can't come fast enough. Fortunately we are harvesting spinach, swiss chard, peas and oranges regularly. We've got asparagus, cauliflower and cabbage about ready to harvest as well.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Your Gotta Have it Kitchen Gadgets

Every once in awhile I buy a kitchen gadget and then quickly realize "How did I ever do this without this thing?" Yesterday I bought pastry fabric for the first time. Why in the world was I ever just using a cutting board to roll out dough? Seriously. Food mill, immersion blender, mandoline - they all are indispensable in our kitchen now. So I ask you, my readers, what are your favorite kitchen tools?