Friday, June 22, 2012

Try, try again...

I've pretty much abandoned this site until now.  There's really only so much a person can do while juggling work, prenatal visits, home reconstruction, and life planning.  Dark Days Challenge...well, that became something else entirely.

In the end, I've come back much to where I started...wanting to feel well stocked for a world of unknowns.  Recently we've had a ton of power outages...okay, not a ton, but something like 4 in the past 2 days.  Every time the electricity goes off I have this out of portion fear of it not coming on again, well at least for a while.  Fortunately we've never gone more than a few hours without power again.

But it reminds me of college.  We went without electricity for a week after a pretty severe storm.  I'm not really sure how we handled it.  I should be reassured because if a college student can handle a week long outage, surely a more mature and better prepared adult me would be fine too.  It also reminds me of Iraq, where people had 2-4 hours of electricity a day due to intermittent power interruptions.

So every time the power goes out, I wonder how long I could prepare meals out of the pantry.  Right now, I think is the most vulnerable time. I've been eating out of the pantry all winter, but haven't had anything to harvest so far.  And yes, we do have a garden this year, even if it is a little smaller than usual.  Realistically, I'm going to have to buy a bunch of stuff at the farmer's markets this year because our yard is more of a token garden this year.

Things we have in the garden?
tomatoes (not even half the number of plants I had last year)
cabbage (8 heads)
cucumbers (if they make it)
summer squash (1 plant, and the leaves look pretty bad right now)
brussel sprouts
green beans
blueberries (maybe 20 berries on one bush?)
beach plumbs (unless the birds get them first again this year)
strawberries (seems to be already tapped out)
rhubarb (but we're not picking it this year in the hopes it begins to flourish)

What am I missing?
Well, first of all, more of everything I'm actually growing.  But also:

lettuce greens
shell beans
broccoli (planted some but it immediately bolted)

I'd also hoped to add a few fruit trees by now, but that's going to have to wait a little while.

So as much as I can, given that I'll have twins within the next two months, I'm going to start restocking.  I'm not a "prepper" really.  I certainly hope the world won't end in the next few months...but I am a "prepper" in the sense that I can totally see needing supplies for a period of time while humanity overcomes whatever chaos nature dishes us.  While I know I'm willing to bend my values once in a while to suit a need for an easy fix, I'm pretty determined to let those times be few and far between.  So here I go again...try, try again, right?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Interesting Conundrum

Sshh!!!  If you know me in person or on Facebook, please don't blab.  But my news is so closely related to my efforts to eat local, healthy, food, that I thought it's going to make it into my blog someday soon anyway.

I'm pregnant!  With twins!!  It's still pretty early in the first trimester (week 7.5) and I haven't had much luck with pregnancies before.

Which makes eating right even more of a priority.  Too bad I don't feel at all up to cooking, eating, or much of anything else really.  It's intersting though, how much I've had to challenge myself about food.

I'm trying so hard not to eat gluten, although I remain unconvinced that it's as bad for me as my herbalist/acupuncturist (I think she's biased).  I have a bum thyroid which was undiagnosed for a number of years and discovered only during fertility treatment.  Hashimoto's is usually found in older people and I've likely had it for at least a few years.  I am on medicine, but trying out some homeopathic options as well.  The idea behind gluten free is that it reduces the strain on the thyroid, prevents inflamation in the body, and promotes a healthier gut.  I've been pretty good, even going so far as to make gluten free Christmas cookies and avoid the glut of carbs over the holidays.  But I have cheated a few times.

Which is my conundrum.  When nothing sounds good, at all, except maybe a candy bar or KFC chicken, my values are feeling under assault right now.  One little chicken leg doesn't matter, does it.  It's only a little batter.  It's not like it's every day...  If ever there was a time to eat healthy, now is it, and yet I find myself wanting unhealthy things.  I've started to think, if I had a baby in front of me, would I give this to this child.

The answer has been surprising.  You'd think the answer would automatically be no, but I wonder how long I'd hold out if I was exausted and faced with a hungry kid.  The other day while babysitting I threw on a DVD.  For all that I say I want to be a super-healthy person (and TV free), with a super-healthy family, I'm not immune to temptation.

I suppose it's a wake-up call to get a bit more organized.  If I *really* am commited to local, seasonal food, then I need to win the battle now.  Last night I really (and I mean really) wanted a hamburger.  I could almost smell the french fries too.  What did I manage instead?

I sent my husband after beef (to his everlasting surprize, I'm pretty intolerant to beef usually) and I opened a can of home-preserved marinara sauce.  Between meatballs (made with local egg, gluten free flour, spices, and sauted in olive oil) semi-local beef (all I can tell is that it's distributed out of Milton, MA...Milton, really?) and a package of Quinoa spagetti (not even remotely local) I managed to stay within my diet.  I know I'm not getting enough green stuff though.  I did end up downing an entire can of my mother's dilly beans and have been nibbling on edamame, but overall, I need to add more local veggies in my diet.

So will I manage to make it out to the farmer's market this weekend and get some salad greens and kale?  Lets hope my self-control will last that long.  And that idea that I would eat out of my pantry throughout the winter?  That's pretty much not going to work now, so I've got to figure out a new plan pretty darn quick.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meatless Monday

Thursday I ended up at South Station.  My school had had a field trip to City Hall and we dismissed students from there, so I kind of wandered, a little lost, looking for the bus that would bring me home.  Since I don't usually go to South Station I had no idea there's a farmer's market there...that goes all the way to December 23rd!

It wasn't a big one, and since it was the day before the Occupy Boston eviction, the tents kind of blended in, but there was a pretty good variety of winter crops available.  I didn't have much cash with me, but I instantly decided that I would center this week's local meal around something from the market.  I probably should have bought the chard, but I don't LIKE chard.  Instead I bought more squash.  I have so much butternut squash I really didn't need to buy any additional squash, but I saw some carnival squash, and thought that it would at least be a different squash this week!  I asked how far away the farm was, and it was 60 miles away, so not bad on the local score, plus 3 large squash were only $2.50.

I'd planned on cooking over the weekend, but meals over the weekend included lunch at a local bread bakery, leftovers, and a few bowls of granola.  It was just that kind of weekend.  Monday I realized that I'd better get my act together if I wanted to really live up to this challenge, so I stopped off at our little local shop in search of anything local.

I could have purchased some local flour, eggs, milk, or yogurt, but I really wanted to stay away from a traditional meal this week, plus I wasn't in the mood to cook anything.  If I was going to make local, it was going to have to be dead easy this week.  I picked up some sweet potatoes from Rhode Island (70 miles away) and some butter from Vermont (180 miles away, but man is that butter good) and decided to make do with other stuff at home.  I could have bought some local meat, plus I have some stocked up in my freezer, but I was more in the mood for a meatless Monday.

So what did I cook?  I made squash with butter and maple syrup (from Natick), roasted the sweet potatoes with some brussel sprouts (marketed by the coop as local, but I'm not sure where they came from) and added some homemade sourdough bread with butter.

Okay, the bread wasn't made with local grain (although we have some), but I'm not going to turn down my husband's sourdough.  He gets the rye from our coop, but as soon as I have time to experiment we'll be grinding our own.

All in all it was an okay meal.  Super cheap.  I estimate that the meal must have only cost about $3 in total (including the bread), and for 2 people, that's a pretty good deal.  I even have leftovers for lunch.  If I did the meal again, I would definitely add some meat.  Sweet potato and squash is just a little too orange.  Still, it was filling, and local, and pretty tasty. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dark Days: Leftovers!

I’m probably going to be using up Thanksgiving leftovers for the entire winter season.  I wanted to make sure I bought a local turkey, so I went to our neighborhood shop (American Provision) that specializes in local fare.  We had Thanksgiving the weekend BEFORE the actual holiday, so our options for a fresh, unfrozen turkey, were limited.  I ended up getting a 14 pound bird from Misty Knolls, which is actually 200 miles away, and not nearly so ideal as I'd previously been led to believe.  I would have preferred a bird from Natick Community Organic where I used to work and volunteer, but they tend to have big birds, and I didn’t want to end up with a 33 pounder.  For a group of 4, 14 pounds was more than enough.  Out of my turkey purchase I’ve made turkey broth, and then bone broth, and I’ve frozen a ton of meat.

This weekend, for my husband’s 41st birthday, we went on a hike in the Blue Hills Reservation, only 20 minutes away by car.  It was wonderfully (and a bit unnaturally) warm, but cool enough that something warm, like a soup or stew, was just the thing after the end of a 3 hour hike.  Since I’m involved in the Dark Days challenge I decided to pull out some turkey and some homemade bone broth from the freezer and make a soup.

I have a bucket of sand in the basement preserving the carrots I grew this year.  I’ve “sanded” some of the potatoes I grew as an experiment to see which way holds them the best through winter.  Beside the turkey, broth, carrots, and potato, I needed to add spices, which were not local.  I did have some local spices in my weekly box this year, but I often failed to preserve them, so I’m using my stockpile of organic spices purchased primarily at our local food cooperative, Harvest CoOp. 

I have to confess, I also snuck some gluten free noodles into the soup.  The noodles were an unnecessary addition, but I was also feeding friends and I wanted the soup to taste close to chicken noodle.  It got me thinking about making some homemade noodles and drying them for occasions like this where I really want to fill out my soup.  For my first official entry into the Dark Days challenge I suppose it’s not quite there yet, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I follow the blog, Not Dabbling In Normal, whenever I have the time.  Recently they, along with another blog site, (not so) Urban Henry, posted a challenge that I just couldn't ignore! Now, I've never participated in a blog challenge, but it's right in line with what I've been trying to do anyway.  I'm going out on a limb and am going to try to make a 100% local dish once each week.  For more information on the challenge, go to this link, and you can find the guidelines and the bloggers who are participating in your area.  It's not to late to sign up if you want to join in as well. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

From the Cupboards

I'd like to post some of the meals that are a result of stocking up for winter, although I've already realized that I'll be doing quite a bit of shopping over the winter anyway.  I wasn't expecting to be on a gluten free diet, and that's really thrown my planning for a loop.  I'm hoping to post at least 2-4 meals per month that come from my pantry, but I'll let you know if I've had to buy anything for the meal.

One thing I can make this week is Vegetarian Chili!

I had a few wilting green bell peppers that desperately needed to be used up.  My garden did great until about mid-November, but then it was obvious that I needed to pull the last of the peppers off if I wanted them before the whole plant died.  Add to the bell peppers a jar of home canned tomato sauce, a local onion from one of my boxes (my onion cup runneth over), some spices, and two cans of beans. 

Okay, everything was pretty local until the beans (and I DO have local beans) but pre-cooked beans mean I can be spontaneous about my cooking.  I'm still missing a part to my pressure cooker (not canner), so I really should have planned ahead and soaked some beans overnight.  Yep, I'm not that organized.  I'm a look in my cupboards and see what I can do kind of girl.

I'd planned on pre-cooking and pressure canning some beans before the start of winter, but I didn't get around to it.  While making this meal I realized how nice it would be to have some home canned beans, but I have no idea when that's going to happen!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving marks the spot on my calendar when I go from hoarding, to using everything up.  I didn't get nearly enough stuff put away, but then, I really didn't expect to actually succeed.  I'm not sure how I could have done better, other than to not have other things going on in my if that's going to happen.

Unfortunately I don't have pictures of my Thanksgiving meal.  My parents came up last weekend and we did it all early.  I can say, however, that the only things I bought fresh for the meal were the turkey, some bacon, eggs, and sausage for the stuffing (although a few things did come from my weekly box from Boston Organics a week prior).

So we had a "real turkey".  By real, I mean from the "real food" movement that I've been reading about.  Sure, we could have bought an inexpensive stand in, but I wanted a turkey from a local farm.  Real turkeys are far more expensive, and not any better tasting that the regular grocery store model, but I like to put my money where my values are.  What better time to support local farms?

The stuffing was made from my husband's homemade sourdough bread, the aforementioned sausage, and celery from my weekly box.  I made cranberry sauce with cranberries from the box (in season and local) and agave nectar I had in my pantry.  Mom made gravy from the drippings, and it came out great!

We also had brussel sprouts that I'd been holding off on cooking for a while because I wanted some veggies.  I didn't grow any sweet potatoes this year, but I did get some in my box a few weeks before hand, so I roasted them as well.  I'd also picked up some beans from our local shop, so my mom made baked beans.  I had a butternut squash, bought from a local farmer's market, that I roasted, but wasn't really ready on time so we skipped it.  Cole slaw came from our own carrots and some local cabbage.  The mashed potatoes were entirely from our own garden.  I also pulled out the homemade apple sauce I'd frozen and opened a can of home canned pickles (the cucumbers were grown in either my or my parents garden).

I made a pumpkin pie for desert...from scratch.  The pie crust had butter picked up from a local farm, but the flour was organic, stockpiled in my pantry for this purpose, but not specifically local (trader joes).  The pumpkin grew in our garden!  The eggs were local, but not in season.  I could have pulled out some frozen ones, but I think I'll save that for later.

Overall I'm feeling pretty good about our meal.  A local meal was a great way to give thanks for all the bounty of this years harvest.  I'm looking forward to making more meals out of the leftovers, and to exploring my cupboards, freezer, and pantry throughout the winter season.