Thursday, December 27, 2007

News Flash! Local Whole Wheat Flour

I just discovered whole wheat flour, organically grown in northeastern Colorado, stone ground in Kersey (east of Greeley). The brand is Wheat Land Farms, and I found it at Whole Foods in Fort Collins, though it may be available at other stores.

They proudly say on the package that it was grown and processed without fertilizers, chemical pesticides, herbicides or fumigants. And since it is organic, it cannot be GMO. They grow the wheat themselves as well as grinding it.

I bought a bag, although I can't eat wheat due to celiac disease. I'm keeping it in a cool place so it will last. My DH can eat wheat, so I will use this flour to make items for him, such as Pizza (his favorite food) and bread.

In fact, I'm now all set to make pizza with Windsor Dairy's fresh mozzarella, pesto I made last summer with Cresset Farm basil and garlic, buffalo Italian sausage from Rocky Plains, and some tomato paste I have on hand. I can decorate it with rosemary and thyme from my indoor herb plants. My mouth is watering just thinking about it (I will make a gluten-free crust for myself).

NEXT year, I'm going to get a bushel of local tomatoes when they are ripe, and make my own spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and salsa. My on-hand tomato paste and spaghetti sauce is almost gone. A bushel of tomatoes, and a good day of work in the kitchen, will produce all that we'll use over the next winter.

Not being able to just run to the grocery store for whatever you want makes you think: hmmmmm, next year I'm going to get ________ and put it up for the winter. And I'm definitely going to plant some peas in my garden.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Rocky Plains: Where the Buffalo Roam

One of the wonderful things about local eating is that you get to meet the people who grow your food. I found Rocky Plains Quality Meats on the internet, and found that they have a store at 207 South Washington Street in Loveland. There I met Steve Koch, one of the partners in a buffalo ranch (Phil Haynes is the other partner). They have a small buffalo ranch near Dacono, and a larger ranch near Grover, in the Pawnee Buttes area.

Rocky Plains store has their own grassfed buffalo, pastured pork from Kersey, chickens from Wisdom (near Sterling) and from Northern Colorado Poultry near Nunn (also fresh eggs), gluten-free oats from Powell Wyoming, and a number of other interesting products. Store hours are 9 to 4 Tuesday and Thursday, and 9-1 Saturday.

They make and sell Buff Bites (biscotti of liver), a healthy treat for dogs or cats made from buffalo liver and a very short list of healthy ingredients. Our cats love them. (If you check the ingredients list of standard cat treats, you can see that they are kitty junk food.) They try to use all of each buffalo they harvest, out of respect for the animal, which is one reason for the dog/cat biscotti. They also have skulls and fabulous buffalo robes available at their Dacono store (on the mini-ranch; hours 9-4 Saturday and 3-5 weekdays).

Rocky Plains was a wonderful find for me, and I have been buying food there since we started eating locally. We had an opportunity to go to their Dacono ranch and see the buffalo, including a bottle-fed buffalo calf, so we jumped at the chance.
This is Josey, an eight-month old female. Her mom got mastitis, so Phil's brother Robert bottle-fed her with goats milk, up to 10 gallons per day as she got bigger. Fortunately, she is now on hay and off the bottle, but she still regards the rancher as her mom and will happily come when called and suck his fingers.

The ranchers, partners in Rocky Plains, have been raising bison for seventeen years. I asked Steve why they started with bison, and he said "We thought they were cute". They started the store, and another store on the ranch near Dacono, to make it easier to get the meat to the customers. Their buffalo are strictly grassfed and are never given medications; it is a closed herd. The ranchers raise their own hay for winter feeding.

The Dacono ranch has some buffalo cows and calves, but not the buffalo bulls, since there are country subdivisions near them.
A buffalo bull (2000 pounds and up) can walk through nearly any fence, and could pose a danger to people. The main herd of 250 animals is up near Grover.

Josey was truly a charming young lady, with her little horns coming in. She liked being petted. There was one younger buffalo calf there, still with its red-orange baby fur. The buffalo cows seemed amazingly big to me; the bulls are much bigger. She and the dog Sheila are best friends.

You can stop by their store for wonderful local foods; please contact them before making a trip to the Dacono ranch. You can find more information and contact information on Local Harvest at Rocky Plains

Of Cabbages and Kings

Well, really about cabbages, but in another sense, cabbage is the king of the winter vegetables. Shown are two red and one green cabbage from our CSA. Cabbage stores very well in a cool place, and the green or purple leaves are a welcome addition to winter meals.

Raw Cabbage: Cole Slaw

Main ingredient: thinly sliced cabbage. If you have a mandoline or kraut cutter, you can use it. Otherwise, just use a sharp knife on a cored head of cabbage, cutting thin shreds.

Additions: choose from any combination of the following: finely slivered red onion, slivered apple, slivered carrot, raisins, finely sliced radicchio, chopped scallions or finely slivered leeks, or finely sliced cucumber pickles. (In summer, slivered bell pepper, celery, or zucchini could join the party.)

Dressings: You can go with a buttermilk style dressing, or a vinegar and oil dressing.

My Favorite Dressing: 1/2 cup kefir or yogurt (I make my own), 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon vinegar or pickle juice, one teaspoon or more dried dill weed, salt to taste.
Shake up and pour over the bowl of vegetables. We also use this on mixed salads and winter "chef" salads. You can sweeten it with a bit of honey if it's too sour.

Yogurt Dressing: one cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons toasted sesame or sunflower seeds. This makes enough for a big bowl of vegetables.

Oil-vinegar Dressing: Mix 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablepoons balsamic vinegar, fresh or dried herbs to taste, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder. Shake well, pour over the vegetables, let sit an hour or more for the flavor to permeate.

Cooked Cabbage: so many ways

Don't feel you have to just boil wedges of cabbage. There is so much you can do with it. It improves almost any vegetable soup. You can put it in curries and stir-fries. You can saute red cabbage with onion and apple slices, a traditional German dish.
Here are a couple of my favorite cabbage recipes.


This is a traditional Irish recipe.

1 lb cabbage
2 pounds baking potatoes
2 small leeks or a bunch of scallions
1/2 cup milk
4-6 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon mace (optional)

Shred cabbage, cook in boiling salted water till tender.
Peel and cut up potatoes and cook in boiling salted water till
tender. Chop leeks or scallions fine, simmer in 1/2 cup milk for 8-10 minutes. Mash potatoes, mix in milk and scallions, drain cabbage and stir in. Season to taste with mace, salt and pepper. Stir in butter and serve hot.

Alternative: you can put the cabbage through a food mill or blender, and mash in with the potatoes.

Cabbage Baked with Feta Cheese (from Moldova)

2 1/2 lb head of cabbage, slivered finely
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil (extra virgin olive oil is nice)
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill
1 1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 to 2 teaspoons paprika
another 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Blanch cabbage in a kettle of boiling water for 2 minutes and drain. Then saute cabbage in the 3 tablspoons butter and oil for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, till nicely browned, but not burned. Cool slightly.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper and dill into cabbage. Turn cabbage into a casserole or baking dish. Mix feta, bread crumbs, and paprika, and sprinkle over cabbage. Then top with melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes.

Lactofermented cabbage (aka Sauerkraut)

Yes, you can make your own sauerkraut. And it's not hard. You need a half-gallon canning jar (I find them at Ace Hardware), which makes this an easy process. You will also need a small plastic bucket or similar container. This is the process of lactofermentation, which improves the digestibility as well as the keeping qualities of the vegetables.

3.5 pounds green cabbage
1 tablespoon salt
1 small onion, cut into chunks (optional)
1-2 teaspoon your favorite seasonings: always caraway seed; you can alo add dill seed, mustard seed, a few juniper berries, a few allspice berries, etc.

Slice cabbage finely, using a knife, mandoline, or kraut cutter. Mix the cabbage and the salt well, in the bucket, and let stand for 15 minutes. Then start pounding. You can use your fist, the end of a rolling pin, or bean masher. You need to pound the cabbage until the juices start to flow. When you have pounded all the cabbage, and it is very juicy, you are ready to fill your jar.

Place about 1/4 of the cabbage in the jar, press down well, add
1/3 of the onion and spices. Pack another 1/4 of the cabbage, then another 1/3 of the onion and spices, and continue until your jar is full. Press down well to eliminate air bubbles. The juice should come up over the level of the cabbage. Put the lid on. Place the jar in a saucer on your counter. Let it work. It will probably take about 7 days. Now put the jar in your frig for it to mellow. It can be eaten at any time, but it's better after another few weeks have passed. It will keep for months in your frig; just use a clean fork each time you get some out of the jar.

If the cabbage develops a funny color, smells bad, or gets moldy, throw it out. I have made many jars of sauerkraut and never had any trouble. It is important to use organic cabbage which is still juicy and not dried out. Sauerkraut keeps best when made with the autumn cabbages.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT reduce the amount of salt. The full tablespoon of salt for the half-gallon of cabbage is necessary to prevent any unpleasant organisms getting started in your ferment. The lactobacillus bacteria which does the work gets along fine with the salt.

If you are interested in learning more about lactofermentation,
I recommend the book "Making Sauerkraut" by Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schoneck.

Loveland local people can contact Ursula at Cresset Community Farm to attend a pickling session. Ursula is a master of pickling, and makes a wide variety of lactofermented vegetables.

More Winter Treasures

Winter Squash

Now that we've moved well into winter from fall, the local vegetables and other foods that we have become especially precious. This is our season's supply of squash from our CSA, minus the ones we've already eaten. In previous years, I've often given away much of the winter squash we received, but this year... this year I needed to rethink. They are treasures of nutrition and I need to find ways to incorporate them into our diet.

Yesterday I baked the large pumpkin in the picture, which gave us over 5 pint jars of pureed pumpkin and a nice bowl of crispy roasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds are especially welcome since we're not eating any crunchy snack foods. The pumpkin can be used in soups, pies, or puddings, or the pumpkin waffles (see the Pumpkin post) which I'm going to fix for Christmas breakfast.
NOTE: If you are going to can pumpkin, you need to use a pressure canner to avoid the risk of botulism. Pumpkin is a low-acid food. What I did was to pack into wide-mouth pint jars and put in the freezer.

Other favorites:

Grilled Delicata: Cut a delicata squash in half the long way, scoop out the seeds with a spoon (and roast them; they are Delicious!) Now, take your big knive and cut the squash lengthwise into 10 to 12 long pieces. You can grill these in a heavy skillet in a bit of olive oil, adding herbs if you like. Turn every few minutes so each side gets roasted. The delicata cooks in maybe ten minutes this way, not needing the oven. It is done when fork-tender. The skins become tender when it is cooked.

Quick Southwestern Stew: Have some cooked beans on hand, pintos or anasazi or other type; they're good cooked with a little onion and garlic. Cut up a larger squash, such as buttercup, butternut, kabocha, or similar. Peel and cut into 1" chunks. Simmer in water to nearly cover until tender (only takes 10 minutes or so).
Stir in the beans and heat all together, stirring. The squash will partly break down to make the sauce. Serve with salsa and a little grated cheese. Yum.

Meyer Lemon Tree for Christmas

My dear husband bought me a Meyer Lemon tree for Christmas from Fossil Creek Nursery, in a large pot. The sweet thing has one large green lemon on it, and many buds coming. We plan to keep it in the house during the colder weather, in a sunny window, and put it on the patio in the warm days of summer. I think I will have to pollinate the blossoms myself to get fruit.
You can see the green lemon in the picture, behind a few leaves.

They also had lovely grapefruit trees in pots with grapefruit hanging on them. And I got a miniature tangerine tree too, not blooming at the moment but a beautiful strong plant.

It occurred to me as I ran out of lemon juice that citrus is one thing I'd miss: lemons in particular. So, now I have a little treasure: my own Local Lemon (with, hopefully, many more to come, each one precious).

Very Local Herb Garden

I have herbs growing outdoors here, thyme, oregano, rue, sage, and others. I usually did not collect them and use them, which seems strange to me now. Now, with new eyes, I decided to get some house-plant herbs. Why not grow delicious fresh herbs in my sunny window? They can go outside in the summer for a refresher course of sun. I can use them judiciously meanwhile, in soups, salads, vegetables, etc.

I went to Rabbit Shadow Herb Farm on Hiway 402 east of Loveland. I am now the proud owner of two nice Rosemary plants, two small bay trees, a pot of thyme, a pot of (baby) parsley, a pot of Doone Valley lemon thyme, oregano, and a 4" shrub of lemon verbena. Well, some of them will have to grow up a bit to be able to stand the harvest. The thyme and rosemary are big enough now. I will use a few sprigs each in the oven-roasted root vegetables we'll have with our Christmas dinner.

Here you can see one of the rosemary plants, with beautiful pale-blue blooms on every branch, and one of the baby bay trees. Behind these plants is the olive tree I bought last summer (maybe silly; I'll be surprised to see an olive from it), and a jade plant. The herbs integrate well with the other house plants. Why not grow something good to eat, in addition to the tropical shrubs we usually have as house plants.

As we move into the cold dark period of the year, my focus for fruits, vegetables, and herbs tightens in to what I'm growing inside, what we have stored in the garage and other cool places, and the dried fruit I have in the cupboard. There is a feeling of gratitude for these foods, which will keep us healthy and well fed during the winter, until next summer's bounty.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Week 4: Nothing Beets Borscht

Beets are one of those vegetables that people seem to love or hate. Cooked plain, I don't really care for them. But a nice bowl of borscht: just the thing for a cold winter night in December. It's on my stove now. The following recipe is nice because the beets are pureed, but the other vegetables are themselves.

Beet and Cabbage Borscht

2 good-sized beets
1 small head cabbage
1 good-sized onion
1 medium turnip
1 large carrot
3 garlic cloves
4 oz. fresh green pepper
(or 1 oz. dried)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons dried parsley
(or 1/4 cup fresh parsley)
8 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 oz. diced chemical-free bacon
1 tablespoon vinegar

Peel beets, cut into strips, and simmer in 1 quart water until tender. Cut up fine: carrot, green pepper, turnip, cabbage, garlic cloves. Put in large kettle with 2 quarts water, bring to boil, add herbs, salt and pepper, and diced bacon. Simmer 45 minutes, or until beets are tender. Puree beets and their cooking
water in the blender, then pour into the kettle of vegetables.
Taste for salt. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. Garnish with sour cream. Serve with cucumber pickles and country bread.

You can omit the bacon for a vegetarian soup. The following soup has many of the same ingredients, but the results are distinctively different.

Russian Borscht (adapted from the Frugal Gourmet)

3 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 pound stewing lamb in small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound cabbage, chopped
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, diced
2 lbs beets, peeled and diced
(if you have the beet greens, cut them up and add)
3 quarts beef stock
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat oil and brown garlic and lamb. Add onion, saute lightly. Then add cabbage, beets, and tomatoes, beef stock, vinegar, and 2 bay
leaves. Cook two hours. If you have the beet greens, add them
and simmer 15 minutes. Check the seasoning. Garnish with sour cream and snipped dill.

Spiced Onions and Beets (adapted from The Complete Spice Book)

2 sweet onions (Walla Walla style), peeled and sliced
2 beets, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1/4 cup sugar or 3 Tbs honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook beets in water to cover till tender. Reserve 3/4 cup of the
cooking liquid. Mix beets, onions, cooking liquid, vinegar, sugar, spices, and salt. Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes.
If you like, you can fish out the spices, or leave them in. This makes a nice relish, and keeps a long time in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another Way - the Bullseye Diet

This idea is very well described in Sharon Astyk's post at
Casaubon's Book:

Instead of arbitrarily choosing 100 mile radius, or 200, or 500,
or 50, you try to get all your food as close to your home as you can. The center of the bullseye is your home and yard. The next ring is your neighborhood, then your immediate area, then regional farm, then food from your state, then food from your nation, and the outermost ring is food from everywhere.

The Bullseye diet could be more work, or less work, than the 100-mile diet. Carefully done, with the Bullseye diet, you would examine each food item that you buy, and see if you can get it closer to you. Example: You buy potatoes from Colorado; can you buy potatoes from your county? from your neighbor? can you grow potatoes yourself? Not so good example: you want strawberries in January; the closest place is Chile; you buy them at the supermarket.

The Bullseye diet doesn't work as well if you are not determined to eat seasonally and regionally. Sharon, of course, IS determined; she is one of the most determined people I have seen. Doing as Sharon describes, you would start with your own home, planting as much as you can. Fruit, vegetables, potatoes, grains, chickens if you can, honeybees... if you have even a suburban lot, you can grow a truly surprising amount of food for your family. If you live in a city, you can probably find a community garden, or you can start one!

This gives us a way to work with items that are not immediately available. If you want, for example, dry beans, you know that you can find them from New Mexico. Can you find them in the Alamosa area? almost certainly. How about Weld County? Yes, I think so. They are grown there, but can we get our hands on them?

Using the Bullseye principle also helps you localize your eating gradually, especially if you don't have a CSA membership at present, and don't have a lot of foods on hand. Once the farmers markets start in Colorado in May and June, we are all set for vegetables and lots of other things. So you could eat carrots from California now, and when Colorado carrots show up, move in a few rings toward your home. Carrots store beautifully in the proper conditions; you will probably be able to keep your Colorado carrots into early spring. If you grow your own, you can keep them in the ground by mulching them very heavily to prevent frost damage. You can dig them during a warm spell (like now).

There is an advantage to the 100-mile diet, which is that you work Really hard to find items within your circle; not having a food that you would really like, that you know is grown here, lights a fire under us to talk to people, share resources, or start planning a garden.

There is an advantage to the Bullseye diet, which is that the food gets closer and closer if you work at it. You can also build community in your city or town, and even in your neighborhood.

You can, of course, do both: the 100-mile diet, but steadily work your way closer and closer as you can. The best of both worlds!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Visit to the Turkey Farm

I found the Eastern Plains Natural Food Cooperative on the internet in late October, and signed up for a membership. This entitled me to a premium, from several choices, and I picked
"two small turkeys, 7-9 lbs". I heard from Dallas Gilbert, the turkey farmer, and he said we could come pick up our birds on November 17th. I also asked about chickens and eggs; he did not have chicken eggs, but he might have duck eggs available, he said.

Dallas lives south of Bennett, Colorado, which is 30 miles east of Denver on I-70. It's a long drive from Loveland, but within our 100-mile circle. The weather was calm, fortunately (I write today, looking at five inches of snow outside our windows).

Eastern Plains Natural Food Cooperative driveway
After we left the Interstate, we drove another 12 miles south on washboard county roads, following his excellent directions, and finally found his driveway and drove up.

He was a pleasant and quiet man, obviously dedicated to the health and happiness of his flock. He raises heritage turkeys, the rare breeds that make up only 5% or less of the turkeys sold in this country. Most commercial turkeys are the broad-breasted type, which can't even breed normally and have a hard time walking as they grow up. The broad-breasted breeding males weigh upwards to 100 pounds.

Blue Slate turkeys
The heritage turkeys that Dallas raises are mostly Blue Slates, with a few Black Spanish and Bourbon Reds thrown in. We got to meet the breeding stock: a tom and a little flock of hens in each spacious fenced enclosure. He incubates the eggs, and raises the young turkeys from the stock.

The young turkeys (who were all gone to be dinner) live in a large open field, with a tall hoop house with perches inside. The young turkeys go in at night. They are protected by his two guard donkeys. We got to meet the donkeys, and after a polite offering of my hand to be sniffed, I was allowed to pet their heads and long ears. Guard donkeys

Dallas explained that donkeys just hate everything in the dog clan: dogs, coyotes, and foxes. In the previous year he lost fifty young birds one night; that's when he hired the donkeys as guards. Since then he hasn't lost any birds.

Khaki Campbell ducks

He also has a flock of Pilgrim geese, and a flock of Khaki Campbell ducks, both rare poultry breeds. He doesn't raise chickens himself, but sells chickens and eggs (in season) from Wisdom Farm in Sterling. He had reserved us three large chickens, at $9 each. Turns out that Sterling is just outside our 100-mile circle, but we took the birds anyway. We packed the two 8.5 pound turkeys, the three chickens, and two dozen duck eggs into the back of the Smart car, and drove back to Loveland.

The duck eggs were wonderful; I think some were goose eggs, as they were even bigger. This kept us in eggs for several weeks. We cooked one of the little turkeys for our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was tender and flavorful. Heritage turkeys don't have the big blocky breast meat; the bird is narrower and the breast meat runs along the side of the bird, but is hardly less in quantity for the difference in configuration. Their legs are longer in comparison to their body, and they certainly spend a lot more time running around on their legs out in their field than commercial turkeys crowded into small fenced yards.

We ate the turkey fresh, as leftovers, in salads, with rice. When most of the carcass was cleared, I made soup from what was left. I got a gallon of broth, enough for two batches of soup, picking the smaller bits of meat off the bones. We put local vegetables into the soup: leeks, potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens. Delicious. I didn't count the number of meals we had off the one bird, but it was a lot. Now I'm ready to NOT have turkey for a while; we will cook the other bird in February or March. We've eaten the eggs, and will be cooking one of the chickens next.

Dallas also delivers to Brighton when he gets enough orders; this is about half the distance for us, and even less for Denver residents. But we were glad that we had a chance to meet him and his handsome birds, and see his farm out in the Colorado plains.
I encourage Northern Colorado local eaters to contact him. See the link to the right of the blog page.

Hummus - The Quest - Chapter One

Yesterday I fixed some hummus to take to a party, using my usual recipe. Drain a can of garbanzo beans, put in food processor with sesame tahini, olive oil, chopped garlic, lemon juice, and water.

The garlic was from Cresset Farm. The olive oil is one of my Exceptions. What about the rest of the ingredients?

Lemon juice: I used the last spoonful of lemon juice in the bottom of the bottle. It's gone.......

Sesame Tahini: On hand in the refrigerator, maybe enough for two more batches of hummus, then that's gone...... Can you grow sesame seeds here? I don't know, but I'm sure nobody is doing it now.

The canned garbanzoes: There's hope on this score. Abbondanza CSA in Boulder grows garbanzos, and with luck I can get some.

It's a simple recipe, a simple food, but creating it will pose me some problems in the immediate future.

I was inspired by the loss of hummus to think about getting a Meyer lemon tree, a successful house plant as a tree in a big pot. It should be able to winter over inside, then spend the summer on the patio. I also started thinking about.... kumquats. Not one of my most favorite foods, but the citrus tang sounds pretty good right now. They can grow in an even smaller pot, being a little two or three-foot tree. I'm thinking... I could sliver them with chicken, or in a salad....

Local eating doesn't mean going back to what was eaten here 100 years ago, or 500 years ago for that matter. Our great-grandparents wintered on sauerkraut, potatoes, bacon, coffee, and bread. But we don't need to restrict ourselves as much as that. We can choose from a world of food plants, the ones that WILL grow in our climate, or in our sunny windows, not just the ones that grew here in the distant past.

In a few months, I'll write Chapter Two of Hummus, the Quest. Or maybe I won't? I'll give it a try, anyway.

Successes and Challenges

I was set to post our first month's results, but some of the challenges got in the way. I'll describe them later in this post.

November: a month of changes

During November we used up all of our perishable food from the frig, and most of the semi-perishable food. We used some food from the freezer (some was local, some not), and the same for the pantry items. As we would run out of an item, it was time to find a substitute, or eat something else instead.

I have been keeping a diary of foods we eat each day; date, who (Jim or myself), the item, its source, and its status (Local, On Hand, or Exception). Jim and I do not always eat the same food; our tastes are different. I glanced down the entries for the beginning of November and the end, and found that, as you might expect, we were eating more and more local food. By weight or quantity, we probably eat 90% local food. I included entries for small items such as herbs, spices, cups of tea, etc. I stopped typing in "salt" as an ingredient; it was too tedious. Salt is an Exception anyway, so it doesn't matter that much.

A pleasant surprise for me was losing six pounds during the month, although I ate what I wanted and did not cut back. I was satisfied with smaller meals, because the food had so much flavor. I did not go hungry at all, after the first few days of cravings for the lost junk food. This is good. Jim also lost a few pounds.

The non-local foods that we were using by the end of the month fell into a few categories: teas (we are both tea drinkers), herbs and spices, frozen peas and lima beans (they'll be gone before long), condiments (soy sauce, mustard, etc.), rice and various flours, olive oil (Exception). Jim eats low-carb most days, and I can't eat gluten-containing grains, so grains aren't a big part of our diet anyway.

I also kept track of the foods I bought during the month, by date, item, brand or source, location, and type (local, exception, gift).
The only non-local items I purchased were hazelnuts for Jim (one of his Exceptions). My sister sent me some medlars (a little-known fruit, from her tree). They are very tasty; I think I'll get a tree for here. Gifts are okay (if unsolicited; I can't ASK somebody to buy something nonlocal and give it to me, to make up for something I can't buy). In November, I spent less than usual for our food purchases; a little of that was due to using On Hand foods, but most was because I bought no junk food, no processed food, no fast food. Just ingredients.

Overall, we are eating better food, and less of it. I am spending more time cooking, and more time looking in cookbooks. Now in the winter weather, I am fixing lots of soups. They make great lunches, and sometimes suppers. At the end of the month, we have more potatoes on hand, and more local cheeses. We're keeping up with our incoming CSA vegetables better. I found some real winners in our month's exploration, such as parsnip-carrot puree, with milk and butter. This was so delicious, Jim wanted seconds after he ate spiced apples for dessert. As soon as I get my hands on another carrot, I'll make more (we still have parsnips).

It was a surprise to me, just how much fun it is finding local farmers and growers, and talking to them about what they do. In the next day or two I will write up our visit to the turkey farm. Instead of the anonymous food at the supermarket, the food I'm buying is associated with people I meet, with land I see and even walk on sometimes, with the seasons as they turn.

December: a month of challenges

I am more-or-less retired, taking early retirement from my job as a software engineer five years ago. I hardly have time on my hands, but it's not like having a steady 9-5 job. However, for the last two weeks, I have been working 9-5 away from home, on an occasional job that shows up maybe twice a year. This is a challenge for local eating; I have to prepare foods for our lunches, Jim's at home and mine at work (I had a lot of turkey soup). This also meant time spent cooking in the evening, tired from the day's work. Well, you say, what's new about that? That's my life! Yes, and it was mine for forty years too.
I'm not downplaying that as a challenge.

After a few days of work, I got a terrible head cold. I took one day off work, and got enough better to struggle back to keep working on my assignment. Now I was tired, AND sick. This was more of a challenge. Our meals got pretty simple. I was glad that I had four weeks of practice preparing the local meals, because I had already found good sources and knew some easy local meals to fix. I pretty much lost my appetite, though I tried to keep some nutrition going in. It was just too hard to sit at the computer in the evening to work on the blog, so I didn't. I'm 95% recovered now, so I'm hoping to keep up to date with more posts.

Challenges in the Immediate Future

Bit by bit, "On Hand" items leave. I used the last of the lemon juice yesterday. It made me think.... I decided to ask for a Meyer lemon tree for Christmas; it will live in a sunny room in the winter, and on the patio in the summer, and hopefully produce a few lemons for us to use. I can see we will miss some flavors, such as citrus. I also bought two rosemary shrubs in pots, which need watering EVERY DAY, and a tiny bay tree. I'd like to build up a supply of indoor-outdoor herbs, to use fresh in cooking.

The first couple of weeks it felt very strange not going to the supermarket, except for household supplies. Even the health food stores have pretty slim pickings: Haystack Mountain goat cheese (I toured their little farm), potatoes from LaSalle, squash and onions from Grants Family Farm in Wellington. Since there is almost nothing commercially available as local food, especially that can be eaten without cooking, I need to be prepared when leaving the house. We either plan to eat first, or get back before we need to eat, or take food with us.

I can also see that even with 5 Exceptions apiece, there are a lot of things that will just go. Soy sauce, for instance. I'm not going to consume a precious Exception for soy sauce; I can't make soy sauce at home even if I could find the soy beans. When I use it up, it's gone. As the months go by, and the On Hand items run out, it will be an adventure figuring out how to get a variety of flavors in the food. From more than a month's experience, I see that finding FOOD per se is not the problem; we are well supplied with meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Plenty of calories are available, plenty of nutrition. How to keep interesting and varied flavors will be the challenge.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week 3 - Daikon, winter's white treasure

Daikon is a large white radish, often 12 inches or more long. It has a mild radish flavor. It is harvested in fall and keeps well in cool places or refrigeration for a long time. It is also known as the "vegetable crowbar" for the power that it has to break up hard soils and penetrate into them many inches, pulling up minerals and nutrients that other annuals can't reach.

What can you do with daikon?

* cut up into small cubes and put into salads, serving radish duties
* cut or slice and put into stir fries; daikon complement nearly any Asian stir-fry vegetable dish
* peel and grate finely, sprinkling with a little salt and a few drops of soy sauce, and serve as a relish; goes well with Asian and non-Asian types of meals

Shredded Napa Salad

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (about five) or use five fresh shiitakes if you have them
1/2 pound shredded Napa cabbage
2 scallions, trimmed and sliced
2 ounces peeled, sliced and quartered daikon radish

Pour boiling water over the shiitakes, let soak 20 minutes, remove hard stems and slice (for fresh shiitakes, just wipe off and slice). Toss all the vegetables well. Mix with dressing and serve. You can use a commercial Asian-type dressing to save time, or make your own: 2 tbs vinegar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp dry mustard, 2 tbs soy sauce (tamari), 1/8 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 1/4 cup olive oil. Shake all together well. Stir in enough to moisten the salad, or serve on the side.

Napa and Daikon are good buddies, also forming the basis for the Korean kim chee. You can make kim chee at home by lactofermentation. It is really pretty easy. You will need a 1/2 gallon jar (such as a canning jar) with a screw-on lid.

Napa Kim Chee

1 pound Napa cabbage, cut in quarters lengthwise, then crosswise into 1 to 2" pieces
1 pound daikon radish, peeled and sliced very thin
2 tablespoons peeled and minced garlic
2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger
6 scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon flavorful chile powder
3 tablespoons sea salt or pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Mix 6 cups of water with 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons salt, stir until salt dissolves. Plunk the cabbage and radish down in the water (you'll need a large bowl). Make sure it all gets wet. Push it under a few more times during the next 8-12 hours.

In another bowl, put the ginger, garlic, scallions, chile powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Pull the vegetables out of the first bowl, reserving the water, and put into the second. Stir well, so that the seasonings are well distributed. Then pack the flavored vegetables into your half-gallon jar, pushing down some to eliminate air, but not absolutely squishing. This amount should just about fill up a half-gallon jar. Pour all the liquid from the second bowl (the one with the seasonings) into the jar, and top it up with leftover brine from the first bowl. Now, screw on the lid loosely, put the jar in a saucer, and put it on the back of your kitchen counter.

If your kitchen is cool in the winter, put it next to your frig or on top of it to help the kim chee out a little. It will probably take the full week. 70 degrees is ideal. If your kitchen is hot in the summer, such as 80 degrees, it may be done at five days or even before.

Wait.... tick tock tick tock. After five days or so, take a clean spoon and sample the juice. Is it sour enough? No... leave it another day. Yes... you're done. Tighten down the cap, store jar in refrigerator or reliable cold storage (under 45 degrees).

Do NOT change the recipe by decreasing the salt; the salt is essential to allow the vegetables to ferment properly and not go off into mold or unfriendly bacteria.

Koreans eat kim chee in great quantities; it is a delicious and healthy condiment. They also make it with a tremendous variety of ingredients. You can serve it with rice or meat dishes; you can make kim chee pancakes which are a delicious savory dinner pancake. Mix 1 cup rice or wheat flour, 1/2 cup drained and finely chopped kim chee, and water enough to make a thin batter.
Cook in an oiled non-stick skillet, turning once to make sure it is cooked.

One trick to the best kim chee is to use the right chile powder. Cayenne is so hot that, to my taste, it overrides the rest of the flavors. I like an ancho chile powder, medium heat, nice dark color. Hatch is good too. I realize that these chiles are out of the 100-mile range. You can get sensational southwestern chile powders at Native Seeds/SEARCH, an organization which is preserving the traditional southwestern food crops.

Whenever you help yourself to kim chee, use a clean spoon or fork. Don't lick the fork and reintroduce into the kim chee; you want to keep your personal germs out of it, to promote long-term storage. It will keep for many months in your frig.

White Radish Soup

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or part stock and part water
6 dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 cups bean sprouts
1 pound daikon, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces
soy sauce

If you are using dried mushrooms, put in bowl, pour boiling water over, and soak for 20 minutes. Then remove hard stems and slice the mushrooms. Reserve soaking water and add to soup (be sure not to pour in the little bits of gravel in the bottom). For fresh mushrooms, just remove stems and slice.

Heat stock, add mushrooms and radish, simmer 10 minutes. Add bean sprouts, bring to a boil, simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Taste broth and add soy sauce as needed for the saltiness you desire. Done! A very soothing and warming soup in the winter.

BTW don't use commercial bouillon cubes to make the stock; it just won't be the same. You can make a vegetable stock with chopped vegetables such as onion, carrot, scallion, parsnips, zucchini, celery, and washed dried shiitake mushrooms. If you make your stock, save the mushrooms out for the finished soup (you don't have to soak them; you already have). Just pull out of broth and slice. The rest of the vegetables can go into the compost (or feed them to your chickens). Simmer the broth 30 to 50 minutes, fish out mushrooms, strain the broth. Then season the broth with salt, soy sauce and optionally a little toasted sesame oil. Can be used in a variety of Chinese dishes.

Assets and Liabilities

Each of us has assets and liabilities when it comes to implementing a 100-mile diet, or any other local diet. I'll brainstorm a little in this post. I'll mark where we fall with ****

Gold Star: a mild climate to grow food nearly year round, enough rain or other water.
Silver Star: temperate climate, rain or irrigation water. ****
Challenges: harsh climate, northern plains, hot southern desert, drought.

You will have to work a lot harder in a harsh climate, both to grow food yourself, and to find local food others have grown. Northern climates should be able to offer local pastured livestock; most wheat in this country is grown in the Dakotas and Montana (the problem is getting the farmer to sell it to you).

Gold Star: Live on a farm or small acreage; preferably owned by you.
Silver Star: Own a house on a lot in city, suburbs, or near town. ****
Challenges: Live in an apartment. It is even more of a challenge if that apartment is in a large city.

But the challenge of city apartment living is not insurmountable. Alisa Smith and James McKinnon started their 100-mile diet, described in their book "Plenty", living in an apartment in Vancouver B.C., and made it work.

Some cities have public gardens that you can reserve a space in. Some apartments have balconies that you can put some potted plants on. Many cities are served by CSAs that truck their produce into the city for their customers. You'll have to dig around. If you live in a huge place like Chicago or New York City, you may have to make your circle a little bigger (maybe 200 miles) to get along. The Hudson Valley north of NYC, for example, does have a tremendous number of CSAs and organic farms.

Cooking Skills----
Gold star: Enjoy cooking, have had some experience, willing to learn new tricks. ****
Silver star: Haven't cooked much, too busy, don't know how.
Challenges: Don't cook, don't intend to learn, nobody in my family cooks or is interested.

If you don't cook, don't intend to learn, and nobody else in your household intends to learn, then the 100-mile diet is not for you. Maybe somebody else can figure out a solution for people in this situation.

If you fall in the Silver Star category, and are willing to work at it, you can do just fine. Get some good cookbooks, organize the work, for instance, by spending a few hours on the weekends cooking for the week, or figure out meals you can make from local ingredients without a lot of preparation time. Get together with a friend who DOES cook, and learn from him or her.

If you live in the mild climate, you won't need to put much food away; you can go with whatever's available. The harsher the winters, the more you need to learn to freeze, can, dry, and pickle summer produce to get along.

Gold Star: Sufficient income to buy better food, or believe that improved health is worth spending a little more. ****
Silver Star: Cost is some concern, but health and other concerns are also important, so we can cope with it.
Challenge: Just barely have enough to buy the cheapest food; reliant on food banks; live in a dormitory or institution.

Americans spend a smaller percentage of their take-home pay on food than any country in the world, and less than at any time since the founding of the Republic. The U.S. is hooked on cheap food, really cheap food. And what we get for that, is..... really cheap food. Cosmetically appealing, flavorless produce; prepared food with too much sugar, fat, salt, preservatives, chemicals, etc., meat from a broken CAFO system (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) which puts us at risk of E. coli and a multitude of food-borne diseases and recalls; it just goes on and on.

The topic of saving money with local eating is worth a post in itself, which I will try to write in the next few weeks. But for starters, most of us spend an unconscionable amount of money on fast food, junk food, fancy coffee drinks, sodas, vending machines, and prepared foods. Include with that restaurants or take-out several to many times per week. If you were to add up all that you spend on various sources of food (a GOOD EXERCISE, by the way), that would give you a fair baseline to compare for local eating.

When you buy local food, you are buying FOOD. Not packaging, not advertising, not long-distance transportation, not massive distribution chains. FOOD. The money goes directly or nearly directly to the farmers and producers. That pastured beef you buy from your neighbor costs a little more a pound, but you can be sure it is clean, safe, tasty, and raised without cruelty. Anyway, more on this topic later.

Those in dormitories or group living facilities probably can't do much more than appeal to the kitchens and cooks there to buy more local food.

Gold Star: Have an ocean coast in your 100-mile circle (seafood, salt, seaweeds, yum!); have a variety of ecozones in your circle
for example uplands, river bottom, sunny and shady areas.
Silver Star: Have suitable agricultural land, with or without large variations, in the area. This includes mountain plains, Midwest, southern US, Pacific Coast, New England, in the U.S. ****
Challenges: Live next to toxic waste dump, nuclear plant, coal-fired power plant; polluted air, water, and land. All I can say is: MOVE! That geography is not good for your health.

Given any reasonable geography within your 100 miles, it should not be a limiter.

Family concerns------
Gold Star: Every member of your family is interested, or at least willing to give it a try. ****
Silver Star: One or more family members are set in their ways, or have dietary restrictions of various types, or are "fussy eaters".
Challenges: Having heard about local eating from you or somebody else, at least one family member is dead set against it, and will try to thwart your plans.

It's certainly nice to have everybody on board. But you may be able to bribe those who are a little less willing with extra "exceptions", more than you might otherwise give. Any local food that you eat is better than eating none.

Dietary restrictions could be weight-loss diets, allergy restrictions, celiac disease (wheat/rye/barley intolerance), lactose intolerance (milk), kosher, vegetarian, vegan, or others.

Weight-loss diets can probably be worked with; after all you're eating NO junk food, NO fast food, NO sugary foods, etc. I lost six pounds in the first month, eating whatever I liked.

I have celiac disease, so on the one hand, I'm not used to a wheat-based diet (cereal, sandwiches, pasta, day after day), which is helpful since wheat is one of those hard things to find most places. On the other hand, the alternative flours that I used for gluten-free baking are all out of range. I need to work on it.

Lactose intolerance in the family would mean that person would not eat dairy products, which is fine, because they weren't eating them before.

Kosher food: you just have an extra complication in your supplies, which should not be insurmountable.

For vegetarians, those that eat eggs and dairy do have a challenge, since the grains and beans which are important in the vegetarian diet are hard to find, but I think it is not impossible. The soybean is a staple of the vegetarian diet, usually run through industrial processes, and will be hard to find outside the supermarkets. Once you find your soybeans, preparing them is tedious (such as soy milk or tofu) but not impossible.

Vegans are probably in the worst situation, in our present food situation, for local eating. The soybean concerns for vegetarians are even worse for vegans, since they have few other sources of protein. For Northern Colorado 100-milers, nuts are not grown commercially in this area (though sunflowers are), eliminating another valuable protein source. I'm not saying it couldn't be done, but I think you'd have to prepare yourself with extra research finding food sources in order to succeed.

Children, especially of the "picky eater" variety, can be a problem. You know your children best. Some children will respond to a challenge, and want to save the planet; it's gratifying to see how aware many young people are now. With other children, you will need to move very slowly, offering them better food choices but not pushing hard enough to build up resistance. You may end up for a time fixing extra food for the picky one. Eventually, if the rest of the family is eating and obviously enjoying the healthy foods, the picky one will come along.

Perhaps some family members will cheat behind your back: get that cola, candy bar, greaseburger, bag of potato chips. Nothing really to do about it. Just put the healthy foods on the table.
Again, you know your family situation best.

You could help bring reluctant family members on board with trips to the farms or farmers markets where you're buying the food. You can talk to the farmers, see the animals and maybe pet them, maybe even pet the vegetables as they sit out there in their home of dirt.

Some adults will respond well to facts and figures; negotiating skills may be required for some. You just have to play it by ear. My husband was initially a little reluctant, but willing to try it. After a month, he finds he really loves the foods we're eating now, much more flavorful and interesting than before.

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who have successfully coped with a variety of challenges, some I haven't thought of, and certainly many solutions I haven't thought of. I encourage you to share with us.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So, What Are We Eating?

When I tell people that we are eating a 100-mile diet, I sometimes get a mild form of disbelief. I say, yes, we are eating some things that I have on hand, because it is disrespectful to throw away food that you have because it didn't grow around here. I'm afraid some people think that we are eating only what we have on hand, and sometime in the future will be reduced to eating tree bark and squirrels that we shoot in the yard. Well, it just isn't so.

We've been on this diet nearly four weeks now, and have eaten up all the semi-perishable food, such as commercial dairy products and vegetables and non-local fruits. My husband's favorite chef salad has morphed over these weeks.

Leaf lettuce --- > escarole and Napa from Cresset Farm
Commercial carrots ---- > Cresset Farm carrots
Commercial tomatoes ---- > omit, mostly
Green peppers, Cresset all the way (we've been blessed with peppers this year)
Applewood Farms organic sliced turkey ---- > local chicken breast or turkey
Applewood Farms pepperoni ---- > local sausage, finely sliced
Commercial grated cheese ---- > Windsor Dairy cheddar or fresh Mozzarella
Commercial salad dressings ---- > homemade dressings

He has gone from a near-total non-local salad to a totally-local salad, an easy step at a time. I will write a later post on homemade salad dressings.


I am using some meat from my freezer, before buying very much local meat, but it is not for lack of excellent local supplies. It is very easy to find local beef (Cresset Farm, Rocky Plains, and other growers). Local lamb is also available from many sources. Rocky Plains has local pastured pork from Kersey (a little east of Greeley). Northern Colorado Poultry has chickens raised in Nunn. Eastern Plains Natural Food Coop has beautiful pastured heritage turkeys (one of them graced our Thanksgiving table). You can see the links for these suppliers in the sidebar, and there are many others.


Windsor Dairy is a godsend for us; we get fresh milk, and buy a variety of cheeses, cottage cheese, and heavy cream (too good to believe). I use the fresh milk and make my own yogurt and kefir (both VERY easy). There are a number of other small local dairies about, not hard to find. Cresset Farm runs a seasonal dairy, starting up again in the spring.


Hazel Dell, west of Windsor, grows fresh mushrooms: shiitakes, portobellos, oyster mushrooms and others. So we've had stuffed mushrooms, sauteed mushrooms, mushroom sauce for pasta, mushrooms in soups, and I'm just getting started.


I have Cresset Farm CSA summer and winter vegetable shares each year. Cresset is sold out for winter. The supply of seasonal vegetables is so good that I pass some along to friends. There are a number of other excellent CSAs in our area, and all across the country. You can find them at the Local Harvest website. Check out Grant's Family Farm; they sell their organic produce in local stores, as well as summer and winter vegetable shares. Once May comes, farmer's markets are available in every town.

We have some frozen peas and lima beans left in the freezer, and will gradually be using them. Next year, I'm going to buy a bushel of local peas!!!

Today I found some heirloom tomatoes, raised in Nunn (greenhouse, I'm sure, this time of year). I will occasionally buy these local tomatoes, though tomatoes are really a summer fruit.


Although there are no commercial fruit growers in our area, nearly every yard has some fruit trees, and if yours doesn't, you can plant them. One little apple tree can provide you with 200 to 500 lbs, of apples per year, after a few years growth. In this area we can grow plums, peaches (in a north-facing area), apples, table grapes, cherries, gooseberries, serviceberries, rhubarb, and loads more.

My cabinets are filled with applesauce and dried fruits, and the garage has the last 100 pounds from our trees. In August you can find chokecherries and wild plums growing along all the river and stream courses in our area. Wild plums, nicely ripe, are delicious for fresh eating. Chokecherries should be cooked into jelly, since the seeds are mildly poisonous raw.

It's a bit late this year, but next fall, look around your neighboorhood. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find a dozen neglected fruit trees, dropping their fruits onto the grass and sidewalk. Just stop and ask the owners if you can pick. They'll probably try to give you a hug, for saving them the trouble.


These are the troublesome items, which I'm still working on. Lots of grains and beans are grown in our area, but they mostly disappear off into the commodity market, and show up anonymous in markets all over the country. In this case, I've been using what we have in the pantry.

Since I have celiac disease, we don't have any wheat products in stock, but I have several kinds of rice, and alternative flours such as teff, tapioca, and amaranth. After a while, these items will be gone. I'm hoping to find a local supply for some grains and beans before that time.

What I expect to find: wheat (though not for me), oats, barley (plenty is grown for the microbrewers), spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet, pinto beans and other dried beans. As a local market develops, more local farmers will see the considerable advantages of selling a premium product direct to consumers or a consumer buying coop. So stay tuned.


Coffee: the universal exception for most people, and for Jim also.

Tea: I've got lots on hand, and will be using it up slowly. When it's gone, then what? An exception? (I've still got a few esxceptions I haven't specified.)

Spices: some just won't grow here no matter what, they are tropical trees and vines. Barbara Kingsolver (in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle") made "spices" her exception; her husband's was "coffee", her daughter's was "dried fruit", and they did eat non-local grains, such as rice. I haven't decided.

Herbs: I have some herbs growing in the yard, and plan to get some in pots for the house, such as rosemary. Most herbs grow here just fine.

Salt: I have a lot of salt on hand, and will be using it. Salt is not produced in Colorado; the closest is Utah. When I run out of our stock, I will buy it, as an exception. Salt has been traded among people way back into paleolithic times, so I don't feel bad about it.

Baking soda: sodium bicarbonate; practically the whole world's supply comes from south-central Wyoming. Unlike salt, which has marvelous variations depending on where it came from, baking soda is just the same everywhere; it's a chemical, a cleaning agent, a tooth-brushing powder, and a leavening agent. So I use it, not counting it as food.


Honey is available locally in every part of the country. Just look for roadside signs. Sugar, no go unless you have a sugar cane field across the road.

OUR RESULTS -------------------

I am keeping a food diary. Approximately half (by number) of the items we eat now are local, but in terms or weight or quantity it is easily 85%, and going for 90%. Most of the non-local items are teas, salt, spices, and occasional grains or beans. I have not knowingly bought any non-local food. We have certainly not gone hungry, and in fact are eating a healthier and more satisfying diet than before. I am doing more cooking.

A few favorite dishes:

Chicken soup: Make broth with chicken backs, bones, etc. Strain the broth, pick the meat off the bones. Cut up one local sausage link. Clean and cut up leeks (Cresset Farm), fingerling potatoes (Cresset or Grants Farm), sweet potato (Cresset Farm or Monroe), herbs to taste (local or not), salt and pepper. A delicious hearty soup.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Local heritage turkey, mashed potatoes with local milk and butter, boiled local sweet potatoes, gravy made with broth and non-local rice flour, frozen peas (yes, not local, on hand). Dessert was pumpkin pie from a Cresset Farm pumpkin, local honey, milk, and eggs, baked in a gluten-free pie shell (non-local flours, but local lard), and topped off with local heavy cream.

Caprese Salad: Slice and chop local mozzarella, slice and chop local fresh tomatoes, and mix together. Sprinkle on (non-local, exception) olive oil and herbs. Yum. This plus a local beef patty and green vegetable is a meal.

Spiced apples: Cut up local apples (for us, our own apples). Put in saucepan with a little butter and (non-local, on hand) spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon. Stew gently for about 10 minutes. Top with local heavy cream. All the flavor of apple pie with about 1/10th the work and time.

--I'll report each month on what we're eating, and on the progress I have made in figuring out some of the more difficult items.

Week 2 - Return to Our Roots

Yes, this is the time of year we need to return to our Roots. The green leafy things are mostly done for, except for Napa, cabbage, collards and kale. Most root vegetables are biennials: they spend their first growing season storing away lots of energy, so that the second year they can pour it all into sending up a seed stalk and making lots of seeds.

Familiar and not-so-familiar root vegetables include carrots, onions, beets, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, and parsnips. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are tubers, rather than roots. Tubers are also storage organs, providing the plant a head start next spring.

Garlic is special: the bulb is also a storage organ, but it wants to be planted in the fall and harvested in mid-summer. Well-stored garlic can last at least six months, and I have stored my garlic from one harvest to the next.

In temperate climates such as ours, root vegetables filled people's plates from November through March, when the fresh wild greens start to come in. And all of the marvelous roots and tubers I mentioned grow very well in our area. Roots on the winter table not only support local eating, they are key to seasonal eating, nutritious and warming for the cold weather.

Cresset vegetable share members have parsnips in their share this week, as well as carrots, and turnips last week. With that you can make the all-time favorite dish: Roasted Root Vegetables.
Almost everybody likes these.

Roasted Root Vegetables

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 pound parsnips, peeled
1 pound turnips, peeled
salt to taste
Herbs to taste: rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme

Cut carrots and parsnips in half or quarters lengthwise, then into 2 inch lengths. Cut turnips into thick slices, then cut in quarters or eighths depending on size. You want the sizes of the vegetables to be about the same so they finish cooking together.
Put oil or butter into a baking dish, add vegetables and mix well. Sprinkle with herbs. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then stir again, moving the outer veggies to the center and vice versa. Bake another 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Sprinkle with salt.

Feel free to vary the roots: rutabagas and beets also work well, as do potatoes. Fingerlings or new red potatoes will hold up to the baking process better than russets.

Parsnip and Carrot Puree

1 pound peeled and trimmed parsnips
1 pound peeled and trimmed carrots
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
salt to taste

Cut parsnips and carrots into small pieces, and put into large saucepan. Pour milk over, bring to boil, simmer 20 minutes, until vegetables are very tender. Let cook a few minutes, then puree in blender. Return to saucepan, add 1 cup cream and salt to taste.
Decorate with a little butter, melted on top.

I had pureed parsnips and carrots in Ireland; they were wonderful.
I had to ask what the dish was; it looked like mashed sweet potato but tasted different.

You can pull the same trick with parsnips and potatoes; in this case use the russets or older red potatoes, since you WANT them to fall apart. Turnips and carrots make a somewhat spicier puree, but also good.

Turnip-Carrot Potage

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut in 1" pieces
1 largish turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
3 medium carrots (or 1 large) peeled and sliced into 1/2" rounds
1 small onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 medium stalks celery, cut in 1/2" pieces
2 cups fresh parsley, spinach, or other tender green, chopped,
or you can use 1/4 cup dried parsley
salt to taste, up to 1 tablespoon.
butter or olive oil

Put all vegetables except greens into large saucepan, add 4 cups water and simmer 15 minutes. Add greens, cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and let cool a little. Put it through a blender or a food mill. Sprinkle with pepper and/or celery seed, and stir in a little butter to each serving.

Dill weed can be used in place of some of the parsley, either fresh or dried, maybe 1/4 cup fresh dill weed or 1 tablespoon dried. You can experiment with other mild herbs such as tarragon and basil in smaller quantities.

Beet and Endive Salad

1/2 pound beets, cooked
3/4 pound endive or chicory (you can use escarole or sugarhat
lettuce) sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Peel, chop and cook the beets by steaming or in boiling water.
Or you can use Ursula's lactofermented beets--UNCOOKED. In this case you probably won't need as much vinegar since they are naturally sour.

In your salad bowl, mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in
the beets, whatever form you have, and the endive. Stir well
and serve.

You can also add chopped apple to this salad, or a little slivered red onion.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Week 1 - Oh my gosh! All that Squash

Cresset Winter share members just got their entire season's supply of winter squash and pumpkins in one gunny sack. This is because squash and pumpkin need to be stored at warmer temperatures, 55-65 degrees F., and the farm does not have facilities, but all of us do. So you can use your squash and pumpkin as home decor, just don't forget to eat them too!

Keep them in a basket, on a rack, or somewhere else that they can get air, and look them over once in a while. It would be good to use or preserve them by the middle of January, if you can. See my post on Pumpkins for some ideas on using those beautiful fruits.

Delicata Squash

These are small cream-colored squash with green or orange lines. Their shell is hard when uncooked, but becomes tender enough to eat when roasted. The seeds of Delicata are a real treat: small and tender when roasted.

Cut the squash in two lengthwise, scraping out the seeds. The seeds of Delicata are a real treat, so don't miss this opportunity. Take off the strings, put the unwashed seeds into a pie tin with a little butter and salt, and bake with the squash, stirring occasionally. Take them out when they are a nice rich brown but not burnt.

Bake the squash cut-side down on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until tender. You can serve them as is, with a dollop of butter. Or, after baking 30 minutes, turn them right-side up, and stuff them. Then return to the oven for
another 25-30 minutes to get the stuffing nicely cooked through.

My favorite Delicata stuffing, adapted from "Moosewood":

Saute 1/2 lb chopped mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped onion with 1 clove crushed garlic in butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1 cup cottage cheese, 3/4 cup bread crumbs or cooked rice, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and other dried herbs to taste. Pile into partially-cooked shells and bake 25-30 minutes. The skins are so tender by now that you can eat them along with the filling.

You could modify this by using grated cheese rather than cottage cheese, using quinoa instead of rice, or using spices such as cumin, coriander and chile powder instead of the parsley. You could add sunflower seeds or toasted chopped nuts. There are just any number of ways to vary this recipe.

Black Forest Squash

These are the dark green, somewhat conical fruits. The seeds of this variety have very heavy shells, and are not so good for roasting. Ursula asks Cresset members to save the seeds from their Black Forest squash, to plant next year.

You can bake and stuff this squash similarly to Delicata though the skins will not be fork-tender. Or you can bake it and scoop out the filling to use like pumpkin, or mixed with pumpkin. The flesh is denser than pumpkin flesh. To use in your pumpkin recipes, you might need to stir in a little water. To bake: cut in half, scoop out seeds and strings, put on cookie sheet cut side down and bake until tender.

You can also cut the squash into strips and peel it. Be careful with the knife since the skins are very hard. The peeled chunks can be added to soups and will cook to tenderness in 10-15 minutes depending on the size you cut.

Gypsy Soup (adapted from "Moosewood"; I love that book)

2 cups chopped peeled winter squash
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
2 teaspoons paprika or mild chile powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
dash cinnamon
1 bay leaf
olive oil

Saute onion, garlic, celery and squash in several tablespoons of olive oil until onions soften. Add seasonings except tamari, and 3 cups water. Simmer 15 minutes, covered. Add peppers, tomatoes and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so. Season with tamari to taste.

You can use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of the squash. You can use peas or beans instead of the bell peppers. You can add some diced carrot if you wish. You could use diced celery root instead of the celery, or just omit it. You could add one link of spicy of Italian sausage, cut into chunks, at the beginning of the simmering period. You can omit the tamari, checking the soup for salt before serving. This is a dish that is eminently localizable (once we find the garbanzos).

Preserving the Squash

The squash should keep at cool room temperature for a couple of months, allowing you to cook them up as needed. Or you can preserve them for next year.

You can bake your pumpkins and/or Black Forest squash until tender, run the flesh through a food mill or a blender, and pack the puree into hot canning jars, just like canning applesauce. Process in pressure canner or boiling water bath (check directions of your canner). Or you can freeze the puree, for your own pumpkin pies next year.

If you have a fruit dryer, you can peel the pumpkin or squash and cut into thin slices, then dry until leathery, not quite crisp but certainly not damp. Put into glass jars or ziplock bags. These will keep a long while and can be put into soups, or rehydrated and cooked to a puree for use in pumpkin bread. Some people like to snack on them as is, sweet and tasty.

I have not even mentioned pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies, etc. etc. You can use your own cooked pureed winter squash or pumpkin in any of these dishes.

Make the Road by Walking

Recently I came across this famous line by Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

My translation:
Traveller, there is no road,
one makes the road by walking.

We are pioneering local eating, walking where there is no road, making the road by walking it. When we look for, ask for, and buy local food, we are sending a powerful message. If enough of us do it, the message goes out to existing farmers sick to death of losing money in commodity agriculture; the message goes out to young people who want to farm but can't see how to make a living at it.

It's a collaboration. More demand for local food makes for more local suppliers. More local suppliers makes it easier for customers to find local food. It's a virtuous circle, unwinding the vicious circle of no demand for local food, so farmers must sell into the commodity market, often making pennies on the dollar, going into debt, then selling out to corporations or developers.

Let's not wait until we are in an emergency situation. As Ursula of Cresset Community Farm told me recently, "We need to grow farmers."

With Peak Oil having ever greater effects on the cost of everything related to petroleum, we will NEED more local suppliers of food if we want to eat. About 20% of the cost of supermarket food is the transportation from field to factory to warehouse to store. That does not even count the fuel for the tractors, the petrochemicals in the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
The time is coming when "conventional" agriculture will be more expensive than organic farming.

Corporate megafarms are far less efficient in food produced per acre in crop, not even counting the environmental or petroleum costs, though megafarms are far more efficient in labor costs. The most efficient food-growing technique in the world in terms of product per acre is the home garden, closely followed by small intensively-farmed plots. The most efficient way to produce meat is pastured; feedlots are an antiquated dinosaur method of producing meat, based on the incredible cheapness of fossil fuel in the 20th century. They require huge amounts of corn and soybeans, and huge amounts of petroleum to produce them and bring them to the cattle, and producing huge amounts of animal waste which becomes a pollutant rather than a fertilizer. I will go into this subject more in a future post.

Jim and I are walking the road we want to make. By using our existing stock, it gives us time to research and find suppliers of the things we will need. After using up all of our perishable foods, our meals are more than half local food, sometimes nearly all, except for salt.

Please join us on this road that we are making by walking.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Be Thankful for Local Food

Thanks to Alisa Smith and James McKinnon at 100 Mile Diet for allowing me to use their cute graphic. Their recently-published book "Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally" was one of my inspirations for our 100-mile diet. It's a fun read too.

Give thanks for your local food by featuring local food in your Thanksgiving feast. Within our 100-mile circle, we can find turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lots of other hardy vegetables, pumpkin (remember, you CAN eat your pumpkin) pie, and cream to put on it. And we have apples from our trees, sitting in our garage, for baked apples, applesauce, and a myriad other dishes.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Week 18 - A Pumpkin of Your Own

Cresset CSA shareholders now have a couple of beautiful pumpkins from their share, with more to come for winter shareholders. Pumpkins are more than just home decor! You can actually eat them, and they are delicious! (This presupposes that you have not made jack-o-lanterns out of all your pumpkins. The soot from the candle is not very tasty.)

Pumpkins keep for a month or more at cool room temperatures. Racks are better than boxes, so they get a little air circulation around them.

How to prepare your pumpkin

You have decided to transform a beautiful orange item of home decor to food. Cut your pumpkin in half at the equator. Clean out the seeds and strings. STOP! Don't throw the seeds away. Separate the strings from the seeds, and put the unwashed seeds into a pie pan, with a little butter and salt. Now, throw the strings away (better: compost them).

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a rimmed cookie sheet or large baking dish, with a little water. Bake until you can run a fork through the skin and the skin and flesh are tender (30-45 minutes for most pumpkins). Put the seeds in the oven at the same time.

The seeds are done when they are brownish and crispy. Yum.
No need to remove the hulls; they are crunchy and tasty too.

Take the pumpkin out of the oven. Scoop the tender flesh away from the skin. At this point you can run the flesh through a food mill, blender, or sieve to remove remaining strings or fibers.

You can freeze the pulp, or process it in canning jars like applesauce, or just fix yourself a fresh pie or some soup.

Note: Most winter squash can be baked in a similar way. You can roast the seeds of the squash which have smaller seeds; some winter squash have big heavy seeds. You can mix winter squash pulp with pumpkin pulp for pies or soups. The canned pumpkin that you would buy is mostly winter squash, which is why it is so thick.

Here is a link to other wonderful pumpkin recipes:

Simply Recipes - Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

for a 9-inch pie:
2 cups fresh pumpkin
2/3 cup honey
3 to 4 teaspoons your favorite pumpkin pie spices:
-cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamon, cloves (take it easy
on the cloves)
1 cup milk
four beaten eggs
1/2 tsp salt
an unbaked pie crust

Mix the pumpkin with the honey, spices, and salt. Then mix in the milk and eggs. Pour into crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees until done, about 50 minutes.

To make a 10-inch pie, make 1 1/2 recipe (e.g. 3 cups pumpkin, etc.)

You can make pumpkin custard the same, without the crust. Use a glass pie pan or shallow round baking dish, and put it in a hot water bath (a larger pan with about an inch of water in it).


Pumpkin Nut Waffles

2 cups flour (your choice; white, whole wheat, rice, etc.)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat the three egg yolks, mix in the milk, melted butter and pumpkin. Beat the three egg whites stiff, fold into batter. Pour onto waffle iron, sprinkling each with 2 tablespoons chopped nuts. Cook till done (by your waffle iron instructions).


Pumpkin Rarebit Soup (adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

4 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup stock or water
1 1/2 cups beer or ale
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 tsp salt
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp soy sauce
black pepper to taste
cayenne or chili powder to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Mix the pumpkin with the stock, heat with the beer in a large saucepan. Let it simmer. In a small skillet, melt the butter and saute the onions and garlic, then add to the soup. Add remaining seasonings to taste, then the cheese. Simmer partially covered
20-30 minutes.


Finally, a recipe that does NOT require baking and pureeing the pumpkin. Choose a nice small shapely pumpkin for this dish.

Mexican Stuffed Pumpkin

One nice small pumpkin
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces ground ham (optional)
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pimento-stuffed olives
1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or commercial) or 1 1/2 cups
chopped tomatoes
3 eggs, beaten

Brown the beef in the oil, with the ham, onions, and green pepper. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes. Stir in three beaten eggs. Fill the pumpkin, pressing down, then top with lid. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving. To serve, scoop out some filling and some of the flesh of the pumpkin.

How Can You Find Local Food?

Don't expect to find very much local food at your supermarket.  You can find 40,000-60,000 items from every corner of the world.  Most of them are identified only by country of origin, if that.  Lists of ingredients often include long chemical names whose sources do not need to be revealed (melamine, anyone?).  Unless you live in a big produce area such as California, you will have a hard time finding local produce, even when it is in season.  You can ask the produce manager.  The more we ask them for local food, the more likely it is that we will get it.  

So, we have the same question: how can you find local food?

1. Start at home.  

--What do you grow in your yard?  Apple trees? Berry bushes?
--Do you have a garden? Can you have a garden?
--Can you keep bees (most cities allow them)?
--Can you keep chickens?  A few hens are a pleasant addition to your yard.  They eat vegetable scraps and create fertilizer and eggs.  

If you live in an apartment, you may still be able to grow a few pots of herbs or tomatoes on your patio.  Perhaps you can find a community garden nearby where you can have a small plot of your own.

The usual growing season is over for 2007, but you can start to plan for next year.  Consider it a Victory Garden--victory in the fight for local, flavorful, inexpensive food for your family.  If you have a garden, you can look into season extenders, cold frames, hoop houses, etc., that will allow you to harvest vegetables earlier and later than usual.  Eliot Coleman's book Four Season Gardening is a good reference.

2. Join a CSA

CSA means Community Supported Agriculture.  You pay the farmers for a share of vegetables at the beginning of the season, and get a weekly bag or box of freshly picked local produce.  Some CSA sell milk, meat, honey, fruit, bread, jellies, or other local products as well.  CSAs are the fastest growing form of agriculture in the U.S. today, and no wonder!  The farmers get to keep the entire sales price of the share--nothing to middlemen, factories, stores, etc. The customer gets fresh local produce, and gets to know the people who grow their food.

Some CSAs offer working or barter memberships, where you contribute your labor to the farm in return for a reduced-price or free vegetable share.

In the past decade or so, thousands of new CSAs have sprung up all over the country.  To find one near you, look in the Local Harvest website:

and enter your own state or zip code.  You'll be astonished.
3. Farmers Markets

You can also find a multitude of farmers markets in every state in the union. You can generally find an even wider selection of edibles at markets which have stalls or tables from many local growers and producers.  In some areas of the country, farmers markets run year around.  Here in Colorado, they're mostly done in October.  

------a brief interruption-------

A CSA and/or farmers markets can provide you with wonderful local
produce in season, but most of us don't live in perpetual summer. Just as our grandmothers did, we can preserve the summer's bounty for winter. Fruits and vegetables can be dried, canned, pickled, or frozen. The techniques are simple, the equipment is not expensive. The easiest of all: Many hardier vegetables can be kept in a cool cellar or garage, where they won't freeze, for months.

-------------back to our regular program--------------

4. Find and support local farms

You can use the Local Harvest website, or a number of other similar sites, to find farmers in your area who are raising animals for meat or eggs. Perhaps you have local orchards that sell to the public. There are beekeepers everywhere to supply you with local honey.

You can link up with other people in your area who are interested in local food, and share information about suppliers. You could put together a buying coop for bulk purchases, such as grain.

Grains and Beans

In most parts of the country, grains and beans will be the most difficult foodstuffs to buy locally. Practically all of then are sold through the commodity system, giving the farmer a return of just pennies on the dollar of supermarket sales. Most commodity farmers make ends meet with government subsidies, mainly for wheat, corn and soybeans. Large corporations are calling the shots, and making the profits, on this commerce.

We can turn this around, supporting small local farmers, but only if we work together. Small farmers need to know that there will be a solid market for their grains, flours and beans, in order to invest in the processing machinery and mills.

A final note: Does it make sense to start a 100-Mile diet in November? For us it did. We have a lot of stored food: frozen, canned, and staples. We also have a CSA membership which will give us vegetables until March. I quickly found several good sources of meat, poultry, dairy products and eggs. And we have fruit trees in our yard, and five boxes of our apples in the garage.

Whether or not you are ready to start your 100-mile diet now, you can start thinking about what you might do to prepare for it. Perhaps you want to start in June, with a CSA, buying food at the farmers markets and preserving it. I first thought about local eating last year; it took me nearly a year to decide to jump in and do it. Perhaps you need to prepare your spouse and children for the inevitable changes. You will be doing more cooking.

And a fair warning: once you have really started eating local food, you may lose your appetite for the tasteless tired produce and fruit you were eating before; you may lose your yearnings for junk food; you may decide to drive past the burger palace and go home for a satisfying meal. It's an adventure!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week 17 - Shades of Green - Kale and Escarole

This is Week 17 for the Cresset Community Farm Summer 2007 vegetable share. You have Kale and Escarole in your share this week. They are sturdy fall and winter greens, not as well known as lettuce and spinach, but nutritional powerhouses in terms of vitamins and minerals.

Kale comes in a variety of forms, which include Lacinato, otherwise known as dinosaur kale (because it looks positively prehistoric); Red Russian which has a red cast to the green, with more delicate leaves and flavor; Curly, with tightly curled fringed leaves. There are others, too.

My favorite Kale recipe is Caldo Verde, a Portuguese traditional soup. The long slow cooking brings about a marvelous flavor that will surprise you.

Caldo Verde

1/2 lb kale (any type), washed and chopped; you can use
mustard greens for part of this amount
1 pound potatoes, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 cups water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 link spicy sausage (optional), cut up
1 cup cooked small white beans (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to taste

Put the water in a kettle, add the kale, potatoes, onion and garlic, the beans and/or sausage. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for 2 hours, until kale is really tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add one or more tablespoons olive oil if you like.


Escarole looks something like lettuce, with a flatter open head and heavier leaves. You can use it like lettuce, in raw salads, by cutting it finer. It has a mild, slightly bitter flavor that is perfect in salads. It is also great in cooked dishes, where you might use spinach although cooked escarole has more of a warm and sweet flavor than spinach. You can also stir-fry it plain in
a little olive oil, seasoning with salt and a few drops of

Escarole Frittata

1/2 head of escarole, cut into medium pieces and washed well
1/2 onion, cut small
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 eggs
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated mild cheese such as havarti or fontina

Heat a little olive oil in a medium-sized skillet, add the onion and cook until it starts to soften, then add the garlic and escarole. Reduce heat to saute gently and stir until greens are fairly tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, then stir in cheese and the cooked vegetables. Wipe out the pan, add a little more olive oil, and
pour the egg mixture into the pan, cooking at medium heat until
eggs are nearly set. At this point you can run it under the
broiler for a few minutes to cook the top, or carefully flip it
over, or leave it covered at low heat for a few minutes.

For a thicker frittata, double the ingredients and use a little larger pan. Be sure to cook the top under the broiler or by
flipping. A frittata should be cooked all the way through,
though still tender.


Tatsoi - what is that vegetable with the small dark green roundish leaves and long stems, and what can I do with it? Tatsoi is an Asian vegetable that can be used either raw or cooked. You can chop it in with mixed salad greens. Or it can be part of a stir-fry with other vegetables and meats. Or you can stir-fry it by itself.

Stir-fried Tatsoi

Two bunches of tatsoi, washed and chopped
2 cloves peeled and sliced garlic
a little oil for frying (I like extra-virgin olive)
soy sauce

Heat oil in a skillet, add garlic, brown lightly. Then add tatsoi, stirring for a few minutes until stems are tender. It won't take long. Sprinkle on a little soy sauce to taste, and you are done. Nice side dish, packed with vitamins.

Tatsoi Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice (uncooked)
1 medium to large bunch tatsoi, washed, trimmed, and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Thai-type chili paste, or 2-4 tablespoons your
favorite salsa
salt to taste

Melt butter in skillet, add rice and onion and stir until the rice starts to take on a golden or tan color. Then add the tatsoi, salt, and chili paste or salsa. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Bok choy could also be used.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

You Can Make Your Own Rules

One nice thing about choosing to eat a local diet is that you can make your own rules (such a deal...).  Practically anything that you do to eat more local food is good for the planet, so you can decide what works for you and your family.
You can start gonzo hard-core by picking a small area and being strict.  Or you can choose to cook one completely-local meal a week.  Whatever works for you.

Choose the area:
  • 100-mile radius circle (or 50, or 200; you choose)
  • Your whole state (in my case Colorado); makes label reading easier
  • If you live in a little state, put several states together
  • Your bioregion, such as the watershed for your local river, or some other land feature
You can have exceptions:
  • We decided to pick 5 exceptions each; my first is olive oil.  My husband's first two are Alaskan salmon and fair-trade coffee.  
  • Or you can be hard-core and not allow any exceptions
  • However, it is not fair to pick an exception, stock up to the gills on it, then trade it out for another one; you aren't really doing any good that way.
  • We will use food that we have on hand (and since I'm such a packrat, that's a lot of food).  I don't feel it's ethical to throw away food that I already own.  The place to intercept the non-local food is when you are buying it.
  • If you pick too broad an exception, such as "everything made with grains", you will probably find that you are eating commodity grain-based food from all over the place, to the exclusion of local fruits and vegetables.  Do yourself and the planet a favor by being specific: example: brown rice from California.
Choose how much of your eating is local:
  • If we are invited to someone's house, we will gratefully eat what is put in front of us, without carping about its source.
  • We allow ourselves one restaurant meal per week, without locality restrictions.  (You could choose none, or more, or only certain kinds of restaurants....)
  • Other than that, we are eating local (and on-hand) food all other meals of the week.  You could choose to eat local for one meal a day, one meal a week (off to a slow start), or whatever works for you.  For us this includes snacks.
  • If we are traveling away from our area, we will try to eat local food of the area we are visiting, but not make a big deal out of it.  This does not happen often.  If we are away from the house for lunch, we will be bringing our own food with us, instead of being tempted to stop at the fast-food haven or the minimart for snacks.

Why Would We Do This?

I, and others I know, are getting the strong feeling that the time for dithering and wringing our hands is over.  It is time to do something meaningful to reduce our energy footprint and thereby reduce the
emissions leading to global warming.  

I recently read the book Plenty by Alisa Smith and James McKinnon, who decided to eat in a 100-mile radius circle of their home in Vancouver, BC,
Canada.  Their website is

100-mile eating can do the following:
  •  reduce the amount of petroleum needed to get your food on your plate (significant)
  •  thereby making a substantial difference in emissions (more than compact fluorescents, for sure)
  • help you get to know the people who grow, raise, or catch your food
  •  thereby avoiding GMOs, frankenfoods, melamine in your food, and lots of other industrial pollutants and irradiation
  •  totally stop you eating FAST FOOD and chain restaurant fare
  •  increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce your intake of  processed, anonymous foods
  • get you in touch with the seasons and your local foodshed
  • support local farmers and help them resist suburban development
  • stop sending your food dollars overseas; stop supporting mega-corporations who want to control food as a commodity
  • prepare your region (and yourself) so that your residents have at least half a chance to feed themselves when things get bad