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.