Thursday, May 28, 2009

Busy busy busy.

Hey, you may continue to experience sparse posting for a while into the future... Those who know me in person or from other sites will know that I'm in the middle of a divorce right now. I'm preparing to move next month, while juggling a full-time school schedule and, of course, my two children.

So until things are settled in at the new place, I may not be on nearly as frequently as I'd like. I'm continually thinking of things to blog about but can't find the time to sit down and write. As soon as I can, I'll be writing much more regularly.

Thanks for your patience!

Local Eating in Northampton

For Memorial Day weekend, Matt and I took off for Northampton, Mass. Those who know me from elsewhere or read my Moroccan Mint Tea blog know my love of Northampton. I stumbled across the place by accident last summer on a trip with my mom and kids, and have been in love with it ever since. Matt agreed to make a trip with me, and has friends to visit there besides.

This wasn't at all like meeting the rail-thin, impeccably-groomed Manhattanite (who by the way was very very nice, nothing at all against her); these were my kind of people. (I'm hoping they're not insulted by my thinking so.) Conversation ran the geek gamut, from Harry Potter to Star Wars to Star Trek to who-knows-what, including my personal favorite, Fandom Wank. We also talked a fair amount about local eating, because one of them, Rob, has adopted a raw diet, which also tends to be local. He's had a hard time finding meat in his current location, so if I can ever get him out here to visit, I'll be sure to drag him to the farmer's market with us; he'll absolutely love it.

At any rate, I was hoping that, in a town like Northampton, a locavore might find something of interest to write about. We passed a sign that read "your locally grown food co-op," and swung in. It was the River Valley Market. I wondered whether they'd only carry local items (you could find enough to fill a store in Saratoga, after all), or just emphasize local producers.

It was the latter. It wasn't a bad place, but I'm still more partial to Honest Weight. (Good thing, since it's much closer.) They did have some local items, with local asparagus and fiddleheads front and center, but not as much as I'd hoped. We bought some definitely-not-local strawberries and truffles (the chocolate kind, not the fungus) and hit the town.

It was a good evening. Kicked around Thornes' for a bit, which I always love. Hit the brewpub for a drink or two. Teased Matt about how long it took him to pick a beer. That sort of thing.

The second day was truly my favorite, though. I love socializing, but sometimes need a little quietude afterwards to clear my head. Nothing much was open when we were done eating our bagels in town, so we headed for the Smith campus. The place was full of families from the graduations that weekend, and older ladies who were there for an alumni gathering. Old friends happy to meet up again, and newer friends getting ready to say good-bye. Matt and I just walked through on our own agenda.

Off the athletic fields, we found a trail and started following it. What I had thought was a pond on the campus turned out to link to Mill River, with trails on either side. I had no idea where we were going, but I'd just eaten and had a cup of tea in hand, so I was good to go for a while. It was beautiful scenery, and some well-meaning soul had been walking the trail ahead of us pulling garlic mustard; wilting plants littered the path for most of the walk. That made me chuckle.

Eventually we asked someone on the other side where the path led to, and it sounded kind of far, so we came to the conclusion that eventually we'd just want to turn around and go back. So when we were ready, we crossed and went back on the opposite side. (Much of the river is shallow and rocky; all we had to do was take off shoes and roll up pants.)

Hit a few shops on the way back into town, and as we were headed towards a used book store I'd noticed the day before, Matt said, "Local Burger & Fries."

I said, "What? Where?!?" He pointed across the street. We made a note of it for after the book store.

I worried that Local Burger & Fries might be named thusly because it was the local burger joint, not because you could get actual local food there; it just seemed too good to be true. But no, they do! Even the potatoes came from a local farm, and any one of the family members there will start listing off the farms that different foods come from if you ask. The fries are hand-cut and fried in peanut oil, and absolutely fantastic. You can get your burger in black angus or grass-fed, and they'll ask you if you want "pink or no pink?" They have turkey burgers, potobellos, and their own version of a veggie burger (no doubt to keep it local).

The only complaint I have is the lack of healthy stuff. It's true that you don't go to a burger joint for health food, but it would be nice to be able to order a salad. The menu is a bit limited - but their simplicity could be part of their success, focusing all their energy on making a few items really, really well. And they certainly do.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


So the other night, I was over at my brother's and sister-in-law's, dropping off some tomato plants (Sweet 100's - a breed of cherry tomatoes we used to grow on the farm back in the day, NOM NOM NOM) and homemade yogurt, and mooching some of her homemade strawberry jam to give F with her yogurt. My sister-in-law started regaling me with tales of her childhood, eating mass quantities of wild, foraged salads (she even knew a bit about the nutritional values).

I'd been getting so many pigweed seedlings in my garden, along with the purslane, that I started to wonder if it's edible. Well, lo and behold, that's what she used to eat so much of. I believe she said pigweed, dandelion, and milkweed tops (which you have to get young or they're bitter, she says). She also used to forage fiddleheads.

Well, you know what this means. Next time I'm at F's, I'll be scanning the lawn for something new.

Then I remembered that I'd saved a link in my favorites for wild edibles; Foraging with the "Wildman." It's full of great information, and contains photographs as well as drawings of varying stages of the plants so you can identify them easily. Not everything on there is edible - some things are remedies, and some are plants that you'll want to identify in order to avoid. For some reason it doesn't cover pigweed (although Garden Mosaics does here), but there's a wealth of info on lamb's quarters, sow thistle, curly dock, and nettles (harvest with gloves!), as well as the favorites here at Budding Locavore, garlic mustard, purslane, wood sorrel, and violets. That first group are all plants that I've seen around and wondered about, and now know I can forage.

He also discusses daylilies and clovers (good for tea), and he's made me very curious to try and find sassafras and black birch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mostly-Local Chicken Croquettes

So I had this almost-entirely-uneaten roast chicken leftover. Whoops. Sometimes I find that I get a little over-enthusiastic at the buying end of things, given how little my family eats at the dining end of things. Today I set it in a pot to make some stock (this week, with a piece of green garlic - apparently just immature regular garlic - a carrot, a hunk of yellow onion, a fistful of fresh sage, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and a handful of Christmas spinach), but wondered what on earth I'd do with that much boiled chicken meat? Usually, I end up with more meat than I can use with the broth from a well-used carcass.

And I thought, whatever happened to that chicken croquette recipe I used to like so much? And went and found it, and made some alterations for my own version. I used two cups of the broth, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and a sprinkling each of chicken boullion powder (I have it, time to use it up so I can learn to do without), poultry seasoning, and salt, to make gravy to go over them, like my gramma used to serve when I was a little girl.

I served up brown rice, one of those frozen stir fry vegetable medleys I hate so much, and some Christmas spinach sauteed with another green garlic shoot on the side.

Mostly-Local Chicken Croquettes

3 cups cooked chicken meat
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
1 shoot of green garlic, chopped and sautéed
1 teaspoon dry parsley (fresh ain't in yet)
1 teaspoon chicken bouillion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons water
3 eggs

Put chicken meat, bread crumbs, green garlic, spices, water, and eggs into food processor with a chopping blade; pulse until finely chopped and well-blended.

Form into patties; sauté until cooked through. Serve with gravy.

What I learned is, first of all, cut the recipe in half for my household. Second of all, whole wheat bread crumbs are DENSE. I added the water to keep it from being too dry, but that didn't help the density any. I'm wondering if, in future, the addition of some romano cheese or something like that would help; I think that's part of what makes my meatballs so soft in comparison to straight whole wheat breadcrumbs. (Those meatballs are a post for another day, when the tomatoes have come into season.)

Something else to experiment with as I go along.

Not local today: all dry spices, chicken bouillion, cornstarch, brown rice, stir fry vegetables, cooking oil, whole wheat bread, eggs

In Defense of Food, Boiled Down.

That last blog moved me to google a little bit and see what else I could find on Michael Pollan, and I turned up this essay that he wrote in 2007, before he published In Defense of Food. It's twelve pages long, but it covers the gist of much of his book, including some of the guidelines he discusses for eating. In fact, some of it is repeated in the book verbatim.

It's a long essay, but absolutely worth a read if you are interested in your health. Enjoy!

Cancer-Fighting Herbs for Your Garden

I get a newsletter today from, an interesting little site I found while learning about homemade beauty treatments. I started off on that little tangent when Emma was a toddler, because a friend and coworker sent around an informational email about microdermabrasion that included the little gem that one of the crystals used in the process is bicarbonate of soda: baking soda. I started exfoliating at home with the stuff (I don't want them shot at and sucked off my face, thanks - sounds too harsh for me!), got great results, and started trying to find other things I could make myself for my face.

At Care2, I found article after article on making your own lotions, cleansers, masks, and steam treatments. Now I never graduated to lotions or anything else fancy, but if something had a simple set of ingredients, I'd try it out, and I went through a long period of Sunday-night spa treatments. Good times.

Nowadays I'm busy with other interests, but when I got a link to an article on garden herbs in today's newsletter, I thought I'd share. It's important to remember that every plant comes with a host of phytochemicals, generally good for you, most of them undiscovered and unstudied because there are just so many. This is why Michael Pollan encourages us to eat more plants.

But this article does cover some interesting phytochemicals that have been researched and are linked to fighting cancer, which is interesting in and of itself, at least to my mind. Be sure to peek around over there; it's an interesting website full of tons of great information.

5 Cancer-Fighting Garden Herbs

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Many hands make light work.

I remember, a dog's age ago, when I worked at Albany Medical Center; my manager there used to say that all the time. The fact is, the reason that old cliché rings true is that many hands generally make work more of a party, and therefore not really work at all. Well Hell, why do you think people used to throw sewing bees and corn shucking parties? That stuff can be deadly dull by itself.

Well in my opinion, a garden is just the same. It's a dreadful lot of work for one person to do on their own. That's why my friend's idea of a communal garden in her yard turned out to be not just a good idea, but a brilliant one. She's a single mom, with a three-year-old daughter, a six-year-old son, and her very first rural abode (I think). Across the street lives her friend, divorcing, with her three children. Then there's me, a frequent visitor, divorcing, two children.

My friend, I'll call her F here until she tells me otherwise, had a vision of a big garden out back... melons and pumpkins and peas and beans and spinach, and for some reason, tomatoes, even though she doesn't like them. ("It doesn't seem like it's a garden without tomatoes!") Fresh stuff that she could feed her kids. A garden can be powerfully entertaining and educational for a kid, on top of giving them just about the best food you can get.

But, you know. Two kids. A job. A cat. A house to keep track of. That's a lot by itself, without the garden.

So she made it a group effort.

We've all been doing our small parts here and there for weeks now, but this past weekend it just all came together at once. Even squeezing in as much work as we could when we had the opportunity, we'd only had half the original (somewhat small) garden patch tilled and planted at all. My brother's tiller provided the motivation, because he needs it back by next weekend for his garden; so I told Matt my biggest priority would be working at F's that weekend, and we all just dove in.

Matt got most of the preliminary tilling done on the other half of the garden patch. I filled in blank spots with more seeds where the bunnies had munched the pea and cauliflower plants. Planted another two rows of spinach. Got teased by F's mom about how crooked my rows were.

F's friend across the street, J, mowed the bejeebers out of the side lawn. Part of the problem with getting us started is that none of us seem to know how to use lawn equipment, or at least how to maintain it. Now we're finally getting underway, but we have a lot of catching up to do - that grass had been L-O-N-G.

Then J brought us up to her asparagus patch to have a look. It hasn't been tilled yet - what can I say, we're all newly-divorced women trying to learn new skills - so it was more like foraging than harvesting. Definitely the most fun I have ever had cutting asparagus. The girls were better at finding them than we were. Matt's daughter swears the overgrown asparagus she refused to put down helped her detect them. On the walk back to the house she carried a whole bag of overly-tall asparagus like some kind of weird asparagus beauty queen holding her bouquet.

On the way over to look at J's blueberry bushes, we found a huge patch of wild strawberries in bloom. Duly noted for next month! The asparagus field is flanked by two patches of what may be blackberry brambles, too.

The blueberry bushes are still awaiting their trimming. After this weekend the garden is in fairly good shape - I want to leave F room to plant some stuff too, after all - and maybe we can get to that soon, plus cleaning out the Virginia creepers that've grown in there. Nasty stuff. But also, the whole ground is carpeted in violets (including a patch of bizarrely tiny ones), just waiting for my salad bowl.

But when we came back for dinner, all kinds of thing had taken place in our absence. F's parents had come over with a mower and their own tiller, and tilled out an entire space for an herb garden as well as mowing the remainder of the lawn. After we ate, F was like a kid with a new toy at Christmas; even the rain couldn't keep her inside, and before you knew it we were all out there. I planted the parsley and chamomile while the kids her two kids and my daughter raked the chewed-up weeds out of it; F tilled the crap out of the main garden; Matt and his daughter chased my two-year-old son everywhere (they ended up playing T-ball with him, and he went home covered in mud).

Got home, ran tick checks, stuck the kids in the tub. Ran our own tick checks, which I don't mind saying is a fairly sexy enterprise until HOLY COW THERE'S A TICK GETITOFF GETITOFF GETITOFF!!!!!

So, that's another thing I'm learning in my new life. There were three ticks found on me this weekend, and I'm finally starting to take it with a little calm rather than descending into a giant case of the heebie-jeebies.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My brother is made of win and topped with awesomesauce.

It turns out that my brother has a tiller. He tried to tell me as much here on the blog, but it's not accepting his comments. (Here's hoping it will now!) It's electrical in nature, which is a bit odd, but it's small enough to fit in the car, which is extremely helpful.

So we'll be expanding our gardening at my friend's house quite a bit this weekend. We've been operating purely with hand tools, and I don't know if you've actually every tried to garden with only hand tools, but you don't get very far. It's actually pretty disheartening. We did manage to get in two rows of peas, some broccoli, and some spinach, but I think that was mostly because we were able to get in so early that the weeds weren't very big yet. By the time we got to clearing the other half of the garden patch, it was nearly impossible.

Next weekend is when my brother will be doing his gardening, so we'll be squeezing in what we can this weekend and that may be it. Wish us luck!

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Those three rules are the overarching theme of Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food. You know, the one I can't seem to get into the re-read of. When I do, it'll be great fodder for blog posts, being full of interesting guidelines and ideas for healthy eating at its end (such as the emphasis on eating more leaves to balance against your consumption of grains - but I get ahead of myself).

Today Mr. Pollan was interviewed over at Democracy Now, and you can see a video of that (or read the transcript) here. He covers his usual themes from his books, and expanding on them in light of current events like swine flu and the food industry's response to what consumers learned from his books.

I've been told that at least one person had a problem posting comments here on the site. I tried tweaking my comment settings; if anyone is having comment problems still, please email me at knockoutlill [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Half-Local Chili

When I use dry beans, I prefer to avoid the canned variety. For one thing, they're full of sodium. For another, they're squishier, and they weigh a lot more. This means they make my grocery bags heavier, and they cost more to ship around.

And now, I've been lucky enough to find dry beans that are, if not local, at least from this state.
The co-op has started carrying certain types of beans from a farm in Ithaca. So far I've only picked up the cannelinis - I don't eat very many beans, since I'm not a huge fan - but it's a start. I still had some kidney beans and black beans on my shelf, and couldn't really excuse picking up more on my last trip.

I've had a hankering for some chili recently, and there are some canned tomato products on my shelf that need using up. So I picked up some ground beef at the farmer's market from the Lewis Waite Farm in Jackson, New York.

Lewis Waite is one of the farms that hadn't been at the winter market in Saratoga. They're the very last stall the way the market is set up now, and when we were there on the first week of the summer market, Emma stopped to look at their pictures. They have albums full of photos of their farm for customers to look at. As I walked past, trying to catch up with the girls, the woman working the stand said, "I have more pictures if you'd like to see them."

Well, I'm easy. If you're a seller, and you talk to me, I'll at least stop and look at what you have to offer. Actually, I think she was talking to Emma, but nonetheless. So as soon as the girls were happily absorbed in tree climbing and I made sure Matt was willing to follow my son around for me, I went back to check it out. I absolutely, no question, did not need any meat that day, but I could at least look for another time. Two things I noticed: they brought unusual cuts (Beef heart? Not for me, but how interesting!), and they made their own hot dogs. Awesome.

I like supporting the Brookside people, but to be honest, the beef I've gotten there was a tiny bit gamey. And, I like to spread my dollars around to a number of different farms, on principle. So I was open to trying a new place for ground beef, and that's just what I did this weekend. (I still bought a chicken from the Brookside guys that day.)

It tasted fantastic! Matt made burgers with it, and I also tried a little nibble of mine after cooking it for the chili today. Lewis Waite grass finishes their beef and dry ages it, too. They also have cooking tips sitting right there for you at their table, if you need them. Their pamphlet is full of health information and glowing descriptions of their farmland and animals and, my favorite part, it says on the back in tiny, barely-legible text, "love and gratitude to all." But really mostly to the observant, I'm guessing from the font size.

Beyond my status as a new locavore, the real reason I'm willing to try paying more for local meat is to get my hands on the pasture-raised stuff. The meat of pasture-raised animals has a very different composition than the CAFO stuff. I've heard it theorized that it's not beef that has a high fat and cholesterol content, but merely CAFO beef specifically. Well, we have a lot of cardiac health problems in my family, and I'd like to do what I can to remain healthy as long as possible. This seems like a good way to go.

Today's chili is probably a unique batch; not only was I using up shelf ingredients I probably won't buy in the future, but I had lost the recipe I usually go by. This will have to be my new "basic" recipe from which I operate.

Half-Local Chili

1 cup dried beans (I'd use more next time, maybe a cup and a half)
1 lb. ground beef
1 small red onion
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
2 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, squished
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 12-ounce can cooking wine (I only had white on hand)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 hot red pepper, crushed

Boil and soak your beans, then cook and drain them.

Sauté the beef, onions, and garlic until done. Add beans, tomatoes, and spices, and cook till thoroughly heated. If possible, give the chili some time to sit around and the flavors to meld together. Chili always tastes better the second day!

The beans were an absolute fiasco for me today. I'd read that you'll get less of a flatulance issue if you cook them in water with a teaspoon of baking soda in it. Now I don't know whether the baking soda makes the cooking time shorter or I was just unattentive, but I ended the process with bean mush. And I'd used up all my kidney beans in the effort, so the chili I eventually made with a new batch of beans only had black beans and cannelinis. Still tasted good, though!

The hot red pepper was, oddly enough, grown by my ex-husband last summer. So that was local, too, and has got me thinking of drying some of the herbs I'm growing this year, for local spices year-round.

Not local today: Black beans, kidney beans, garlic, tomato products, cooking wine, all spices except red pepper.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day is coming!

I'll be celebrating tomorrow with a tea party/lunch with my kids and mom. We'll be having PBJ tea sandwiches (regular PBJs with the crusts cut off and made into pretty shapes), green salad with violets, and the potato salad I made before, minus the pink-and-purple this time (it didn't show well through the dressing, anyway).

After hanging with the kids, mom and I will be heading out for the new Star Trek movie. I was raised on the original because of her, so it seemed like geeking out together would be the perfect Mother's Day.

On Sunday we'll be getting as much done as we can in my friend's garden - seems like a good day for it, if we have to rent a tiller (don't know yet), since everyone else will be otherwise occupied. If we don't need to rent, there are still carrots and spinach to plant - running behind!

I've finished my re-read of AVM and I'm trying to get into a re-read of In Defense of Food, but it's just not happening; probably just my usual end-of-semester malaise. I'm heading into a weekend of cooking and gardening, though, so hopefully that'll bring me back!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Verdict on the Banana/Orange Muffins

They were great! You can't really smell the orange, but you can definitely taste it, and they were delish. The recipe made a dozen, and they're already gone.

Stock Pot

Anyone who's ever run a really frugal kitchen knows that one of the best ways to save is with a bubbling stock pot. Saving up leftover vegetables, chicken carcasses, and so forth are second nature, because you can get another meal or two out of what most people think of as table scraps to be thrown out or composted.

For me, the chicken is pretty much where the stock pot begins and ends. Beef in my house tends to come in roast, London broil, or other boneless form. The occasional ham or turkey breast makes its way into the house, but that's really quite unusual (and ham ends as split pea or bean soup, not stock).

Chicken, on the other hand, is the most-often consumed meat here. It's one of the least expensive, and it's pretty much everyone's favorite besides.

Stock, for me, varies a little bit for each batch, depending mostly on what's in the house. At the very least an onion and a sprinkling of poultry seasoning find their way into the pot every time, but any number of other things go in too, if they're around.

Today's pot holds the leftovers from cutting the last chicken into pieces - skin, backbone, that sort of thing - with fresh sage, fresh rosemary, a fistful of garlic mustard, two small carrots, and half a local onion. When it's all done, I'll be freezing it for next week, when I'm finally going to make this fantastic soup. Delish.

Incidentally, for those of you who lead busy lives (read: most of you), you can do this in a crock pot, too - so it cooks while you're at work or otherwise occupied.

Not local today: absolutely nothing!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


As mentioned, I had a mess of overripe bananas in my house. Along with that, I had some grated orange and lemon zest left over from the Pizza Dolce. I've kind of gotten to the point that, on the rare occasion when something citrusy crosses my doorstep, I won't let it pass without grating the zest off for culinary uses. This means that I'll have to find new places to use it culinarily, though.

So today I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and throw both into some sort of tropical muffin. I used this banana muffin recipe, adding spices (cardamom, cinnamon, a pinch each of allspice and ginger, a sprinkling of nutmeg) and the orange and lemon zest. I used whole wheat flour and aluminum-free baking powder.

I learned about that last one from reading the notes to a Southern cookbook. The author was adamant that for good baking, you needed to purge the other kind from your kitchen - that baking-powdery taste you get sometimes when you make biscuits or pancakes from scratch comes from the sodium aluminum phosphate they use in the cheaper formulas. Argo makes an aluminum-free variety, or I've found it in the bulk section of the natural food store, or you can make your own by blending two parts cream of tartar to one part each baking soda and cornstarch.

The mainstream baking powder works fine for most recipes, but if you cook from scratch a lot you'll start to notice the flavor in subtler baked goods that don't have a lot of sugar or flavoring.

The muffins are baking at the moment; I'll know soon enough whether these flavors go well together, or whether they'll taste like buttocks.

Not local today: Bloody everything.

Another Gardening Update

I have so much time now with the semester out, I'm not sure what to do with it at times. So I went out and weeded during my son's nap. There really wasn't much to pull, but I did it anyway. I needed something to do while on the phone, and it was too nice out to stay inside.

The lettuce and spinach sprouts are developing real leaves now, although I don't think the carrots are showing yet. (I'm not sure what they'll look like when they start to pop up.) On the other side of the garden, I planted my dandelion seeds. Yes, really. I've finally progressed from "just this side of sane" to "that person you avoid talking to at parties."

I also noticed a light covering of the tiniest sprouts ever. Most of them I can't identify yet because they're too tiny, but taking a closer look at the reddish ones I realized they're probably purslane.

Purslane is apparently a delicacy in Europe. Here in the 'States, it's pretty much just considered a ridiculously hardy weed. I spent all summer trying to eradicate it in last year's garden, then learned what it was when I re-read In Defense of Food and Google-imaged the name. Of course by then it was winter, with no purslane, dead or alive, in sight.

This year I'll let it grow a bit. I'll at least want to find out what it tastes like. If I hate it, well, back to my eradication policy. If I do like it, fantastic. One more thing to forage.

I love getting free food.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fantastic Local Dinner

Tonight's dinner was what it's all about. We had a salad of greens from Kilpatrick, with garlic mustard and violets, which Emma loved.

We also had a couple of chicken breasts, which I cut in to chunks and sautéed with the last of the local mushrooms (about six big ones). I added a few finely-chopped leaves of sage and rosemary, and a good sprinkling of dried thyme. Salt and pepper, of course, and a splash of marsala. It smelled a bit too winey, so when it'd cooked I drained off the liquid and it was delish.

Lastly, we had our take on the Carrot and Parsnip Latkes. I'm going to call them fritters, because I didn't use nearly as much oil as the recipe calls for; it was much more of a sauté than a deep-fry. After all, if you're not making real latkes, why not save the fat for another day? I also didn't have fresh parsley, and I discovered that a pound of parsnips plus two medium carrots equals a LOT of vegetable matter. I'll be cutting this recipe in half the next time I make it. But, if you like parsnips, it was very tasty.

Carrot and Parsnip Fritters

2 medium carrots, scrubbed
1 pound parsnips, scrubbed
1 scallion, minced
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Shred carrots and parsnips in food processor; transfer to large bowl and toss with scallions and flour. Add eggs and stir together. Mold into cakes and sauté in skillet or on griddle until browned and cooked through.

Tonight I went to my friend's house with the big garden. It'd been raining, so too muddy to really garden, but I did manage to grab a spaghetti-sauce-jar full of white violets to eat with Emma tomorrow. I'm toying with the idea of inventing a violet salad. It'd be super-pretty for Mother's Day.

Not local today: dried thyme, salt and pepper, canola oil, butter, flour, eggs, marsala

I've learned the secret to controlling the weather.

Go outside.

Water your garden.

Within half an hour, rain will start to fall.


You're all going to think I'm nuts.

I just spent ten minutes on the phone with my boyfriend. (Hereinafter referred to simply as "Matt." Because that's his name.) No, that's not the nutty part. I spent ten minutes on the phone with him, mumbling because I was sitting at the dining room table next to my napping son's room, making myself incomprehensible in the little Bluetooth doohicky, trimming dandelion seeds off tiny bits of fluff with a pair of scissors.


I'm cultivating dandelions.

Here's what I know about dandelions: They're related to lettuce. They're really good for you. But they're bitter as Hell unless you catch them early. And the final point: I never manage to catch them early.

So when I went down to water the garden and I found some dandelions all fluffed out, well the rest of it all seemed natural to me. Probably because with school out I now have a surplus of time on my hands during the day. But also possibly because I've gone off the deep end with this whole "local" thing.

I also did manage to find violets from a safe-to-eat location, and I've got them put away in my fridge for tonight's salad. They wilt absurdly quickly, but I'm hoping they'll be okay on the nest of moistened paper towel I've got them on. Parsnips and carrots are grated up for the latkes, and the breast portion of the last local chicken is waiting in the fridge to see what diabolical plans I have in store for them.

Probably breading. I love a good breading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shift in Priorities

It's funny, as you get going on a project like this, the changes you notice taking place. I've gotten into a lot of self-improvement projects in the past, but this one is different: it wasn't really undertaken deliberately; it was a change in mindset, happening from the inside out. I'm only changing because I feel like it, and the ethical plusses are just a bonus.

One of the things that I'm noticing is the change in prioritization when it comes to eating. There was a time when I did it from an economic standpoint. If something was more expensive, I was more likely to make sure it got eaten. If something was cheap, for example bananas, I wouldn't sweat it too much.

Now, I think in terms of mileage. I've had a half-dozen bananas growing riper and riper on a shelf in my pantry for while now. They've gone past the point where they're in any way appetizing to just peel and eat, but still - how far away did they come to get here?

So last night we ate banana pancakes for dinner. It gave me a good excuse to break out the New York maple syrup, too.

This afternoon, Emma and I will make banana muffins.

The last banana, I'll smoosh up into the yogurt I made last night. I'm completely hooked on the homemade yogurt now; I eat it constantly. My favorite aspect of it, though, is my two-year-old son. Even though it doesn't come in a little plastic container and I have to add flavor to it for him, he knows exactly what it is: "Oh-gurr! Wah oh-gurr!" I love that.

Canning Excitement

Last year at Christmas I got several jars of preserves from my brother and sister-in-law as gifts. My son likes the spiced pear one, but my favorite - long-gone now - was the homemade strawberry jam. Turns out she'd gotten a little over-enthusiastic when she went berry picking that summer and needed something to do with the danged things. Even someone who loves strawberries as much as she does can't eat the ninety pounds she'd brought home.

Trying to find a way around the canned tomato issue as a locavore led me to call her. Well, that and Lucy's crabapple jelly entry over at her gorgeous blog, Nourish Me. (She's down in Australia, so unfortunately her blog is always taunting me with gorgeous pictures of things that are out of season here. *pout*) Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: later this summer, my sister-in-law agreed to teach me how to can!

So before that day, I've got to figure out what recipe I want to use for sauce. Barbara Kingsolver offers hers in AVM, but I need to try it out before canning. I have one that I use, but its tomato components are all canned. I can easily substitute fresh diced tomatoes for canned, but stewed? I'm not entirely sure.

At any rate, I'm looking forward to putting away my own store for the winter, when there will be no fresh tomatoes around. The farm I grew up involved with produced mainly tomatoes, and every late summer or early fall all the Italian ladies would come down from Ravena to get my grampa's canners. Learning to do the same myself really appeals.

Maybe I'll put up some jellies and preserves, too; I'm hoping I'll have some blueberries to spare, and I add flavorings to my homemade yogurt via jams. If I can find a source for crabapples, I'll have it made in the shade.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saratoga market's outside now.

So the Saratoga farmer's market keeps operating all winter, which is great; and when the weather gets warm enough, they move it outside for the summer.

That happened this past weekend, and along with being outside, it's considerably expanded; lots more vendors. And I'll tell you the truth - I didn't like it. Of course that's probably because we had all three of our children with us.

Outside means that it's in High Rock Park, a narrow area with a fairly busy road running alongside the length of it; I'm one of "those" moms that frets constantly about their children and traffic. Well, mine are only two and six, and I'm terribly distractable, so maybe it's not that unreasonable a fear.

And of course more vendors means more things for the children to whine over, and it was every bit as crowded as the indoor market.

But, I can see that I'll like it a great deal when we're flying solo (or, I suppose, duo). I probably won't often stray from the farms I've developed a habit of buying from during the winter, in terms of meat and vegetables, except to blog. But there are lots of farms selling plants, and I have no loyalties there yet. There was even a florist, and a woman who seemed to be selling essential oils (there was a climbing tree in sight, which meant two girls anxious to run ahead - no time to stop!).

So after getting our weekly dose of Battenkill, we stopped to get flower plants for each of the girls; Emma got herself some impatiens, and my boyfriend's daughter chose a flat of pansies (always a favorite of mine - a classic).

One of the last stands had cauliflower plants, and we don't have any of that yet in my friend's garden, so of course I had to stop. Then my boyfriend's daughter noticed the pepper plants, so I grabbed a nice-looking flat of those and a flat of tomatoes (Big Boys, which sound like - if you'll forgive me - a garden-variety tomato; but I was already there so I got them anyway). The cauliflower we planted today, but the peppers and tomatoes have to wait. You can never have too many peppers or tomatoes, if you ask me; I hope they produce in spades.

Community Supported Agriculture.

So, as noted before, this summer I bought a CSA share at Kilpatrick Family Farm. Yesterday was the first time I got to pick up. I'm splitting a full share with my boyfriend; I wasn't sure I'd consistently eat enough to use up the whole share, but the best savings are at that level.

Each week you get six or seven different vegetables; this week every share came with carrots and five other items. We picked fiddleheads (never tried them, always wanted to), parsnips, a bag of salad greens each, and a bag of something called Christmas spinach. Doesn't look like spinach, but it tastes like it. Pointed leaves like holly. Red-and-green. Weird stuff. It looks similar to the Strawberry Spinach from Seed Savers, but without the berries.

At any rate, now I'll have to figure out what to do with fiddleheads. I might try the recipe on the fiddlehead page above; the sauce looks interesting, and I have homemade yogurt to mix it up with.

I'll toss some garlic mustard with the salad greens, and maybe pick some violets for it if I can find them; violets have an interesting raw-pea-like flavor, and I've just gotten our daughters hooked on the things this weekend. They'll make the salad look mighty pretty, too.

And of course I'll want to try out the parsnip latkes, too. Delish!

School's out for me for two weeks; time to get cookin'.