Tag Archives: local and fresh

On the Menu: August 22-27

As Thadd gets ready to head back to school this Thursday and I take on more work (this always happens in the fall, which I am happy about–cash is always welcome–but it does hectic things up a bit), the menu will look different. And, the seasons are changing, so new vegetables will be in and some of our spring and summers will be out. There’ll be a bit more on that later this week, when I share with you what our Fall & Winter garden will be like! For now, you’ll just have to be content with our menu:

On the Menu


Monday: Shawn’s Special Chili. Yes, I know it’s still August in VA, which can mean searing heat and humidity. Why in the world am I making chili? Well, apparently Thadd’s been craving it for weeks and finally got up the courage to admit he’s a little nuts and wanted it for dinner. We’ll be using our fresh tomatoes, too, which should make it extra fabulous. There is meat in this chili (grass-fed, local, from our favorite beef farm Pannill’s Gate), but it’s important to remember that much of what you see here isn’t exactly as it might seem from a standard American perspective. This chili “recipe” (I call it that, Thadd calls it “another thing I don’t write down so no one else can ever duplicate) uses 1 lb of ground beef, but makes…oh, I’d say about 2 gallons of chili. The meat is flavoring, but the protein comes from lots and lots of beans. 3 kinds, in fact. We’ll eat some, and some goes in the freezer for quick meals later on.

Tuesday: Vegetarian Kufta:

We love lentils. These are a lot like falafel, and are usually fried; but, we prefer to just bake them. They’re topped with a yogurt sauce, fresh tomatoes, and can be eaten either on greens or on flat bread (we’ll do both).

Wednesday: Protein & Vegetable Kebobs. Probably tofu, if I get a chance to stop by Integral Yoga on Monday to pick some Twin Oaks up (we’re out–I need to stock up). We’ll marinade in whatever comes to mind, then throw them on the grill. Thadd will eat his over rice, I’ll likely eat mine as-is.

Thursday: Not-Your-Mom’s meatloaf, with seasonal vegetable. Thadd teases me about this. He loves my meatloaf, but keeps insisting that, since it’s got beans, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and often some other veggies in it, it’s not really meatloaf.  I disagree–it’s got meat, and it’s in a loaf. Ergo, it’s meatloaf.  Whoever you agree with, this is one way we stretch that fabulous meat we get. It’ll be served with whatever vegetable is fresh out of the garden that day.

Friday: Salmon patties, with quinoa and fresh vegetable. Canned salmon has it’s positives and negatives. On the plus side, it’s the cheapest way I’ve found to get wild caught salmon, which is both leaps and bounds healthier for you than farmed, and far more environmentally friendly. The downside is that it’s been impossible for me to find it canned without BPA. Here’s where we compromise in our household. We use almost nothing else with BPA: we store in glass, we buy almost nothing else canned besides fishes, we don’t use plastic eating or drinking ware, etc.  We’ve decided that, for us, the BPA cans of fish are worth the benefits of the salmon. Feel free to disagree for yourself, but it’s a decision we’ve made for us. These will be cajun spiced, and served with a yummy quinoa “risotto” made with coconut milk. Again, as it’s summer and we have a garden, the vegetable will be whatever we have on hand.

Saturday: Tortilla soup. This will be a modified version, since we’ll be using up some turkey meat that needs to come out of the freezer instead of chicken (the stock will be homemade chicken stock, though). But, it’s a great seasonal soup, with fresh corn, jalapenos, and tomatoes. We’ll eat some and freeze some.

I think I’m going to stop doing lunches and breakfasts here, since that never really changes.

And, that’s it for this week! How are you eating healthy this week?


A Dinner from My Nephew: Wild Rainbow Trout

My youngest nephew is quite a fisherman. He lives several states away from me, though, so I rarely get the chance to eat his catches, something I lament regularly. I try to fish with him whenever I get back home, and if I had him around, I’d fish a whole lot more here in VA. I’ve watched him grow up with a fishing pole in his hand, a proud smile on his face with every catch. He’s gone from randomly tossing a line in the water at age 5ish to an accomplished, seasoned fisherman at the ripe old age of 17 (how did that happen–man, I am getting old fast!).

Last time I was home, he sent me home with a cooler of frozen, vacuum packed rainbow trout, venison, and wild pork (yep, he and his brother also hunt!).

When we pulled the first package a couple weeks ago, they were beautiful:

We wanted to grill them, so I stuffed them with onions and herbs, and put them on skewers, then rubbed the outside with olive oil, salt, and pepper:

And onto the grill with fresh sweet corn and homemade ciabatta bread:

We put them right over the hottest coals for about 7 minutes a side. Don’t forget to brush the grill with oil first, or they’ll stick and that’s just a mess you don’t want to have to deal with. They came off the grill perfectly, with crispy skin and fully-cooked, roasted meat:

To top off this all-local meal, we sliced tomatoes and basil from the garden, then topped with some local feta cheese:

At the end of the meal, all that was left were the bones:

I can’t wait to make more of this fish. It was beautiful–nutty, smokey, no fishy flavor at all. It was even better because it was wild-caught, responsibly, by someone with a passion for what they do. Thanks, Josh, for the fish and the memories that go with it.

And now, I need to find a place to fish that doesn’t require a boat, because I really miss this kind of fresh fish. My current fishing holes aren’t so productive.

On the Menu

I am not going to bother backlogging my meal plans for the time my internet was down, so we’ll just pick up with this week’s. It’s August, so that means a lot of fresh produce and veggies!


Monday: Black Bean Chicken. This is a recipe from my friend, Bethany, that is great for days when you just don’t have time to cook. It’s done in the slow-cooker, is healthy, and makes a pile of leftovers (which is good for us, since Thadd’s taking his lunches to work).

Tuesday: Chickpea saag over brown rice. Thadd’s night to cook. He’s really perfected this Indian dish, and while it’s usually served as a side, it works great for us as a main course. And, talk about getting in your veggies!

Wednesday: Crustless quiche and tuna salad sandwhiches. A great meal for hot days, crustless quiche is fantastic served right out of the over, or cold. It’s also a great way to use up those little bits of leftover veggies, which we’ll be doing here. It’ll be sort of a Quiche Lorraine, since we have a lot of greens and tomatoes. Serving it with tuna salad on the bread Thadd made from our grain-CSA whole wheat (locally & organically grown whole wheat, freshly ground). I have to say, this stuff has totally converted me to using fresh-ground grains. It’s so much better than pre-ground that I don’t have words. He made tortillas out of it last week, and they were just spectacular.

Thursday: Lasagna with salad and garlic foccacia bread. The lasagna was made earlier this week, when I was running the over anyway. It’s got all kinds of goodies in it, from grass-fed beef to fresh tomatoes and greens. The bread is another one of Thadd’s latest creations using some flavored oils we made out of our dehydrated tomatoes and herbs. It’s so good.

Friday: Thai Peanut Noodles with Scallops. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t leave a ton of leftovers. We’ll be swamped with leftovers by this point in the week. Scallops were on sale.

Saturday: Grilled fish, with sliced tomatoes and Some Other Veggie.  We’ve got rainbow trout to use up (be watching for the grilled trout recipe I did a while ago to show up in the next week or so!), tomatoes in abundances, and I am hitting the market Saturday.

Sunday: Leftovers.

Lunches: leftovers, sardine & tomato salad lettuce wraps for me, Greek yogurt with fruit. Breakfasts: eggs, oats with coconut milk, leftovers. Snacks: raw milk, fruit, nuts, cheeses, boiled eggs, veggies.

What’s on your menu?

It’s About Time!

Well, in theory, I have internet access again. In reality, let’s not get our hopes up that it’ll last. But, while it does, I am trying to get photos loaded and posts written. First things first: I promised my twitter followers and some other folks a picture of the huge Mortgage lifter tomato we have in the garden, so here it is:

Keep in mind that the fella holding this monster is 6 1/2 feet tall. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it once it gets ripe (other than save the seeds, of course), but it warrants something special. If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments!

If you look closely, you’ll see part of our new tomato trellising system. Our tomato plants completely got away from us this year–some are taller than Thadd, and hanging so heavy with tomatoes even at the ends–so our initial system was a bust. Fortunately, a friend of ours has a huge stand of bamboo, and I have a partner who enjoys engineering challenges. Born of this combination was the tomato trellising system we began installing yesterday:

It’s not easy to photograph, but hopefully you get the idea. We got about about 80% of our tomatoes in the lower bed trellised yesterday before we ran out of bamboo. Hopefully, we’ll get the rest done later in the week. I am not sure when later in the week, since we also have a ton of other food-and-garden related stuff do to:

Yep, the tomatoes are in. Above is just a part of one day’s harvest. So, we’re canning on Thursday.  In the meantime:

Peaches are also in. These are from one of our absolute favorite places in the area, Vintage Virginia. I know their website says “Vintage Virginia Apples,” but  they also do peaches and plums, and everything is an heirloom variety. I’ve never tasted any fruit like theirs, and we try to put up a bunch of the peaches and apples each year (drying, canning, freezing, saucing,etc.). I got 30lbs of peaches yesterday, and plan to get another 30 lbs. next week.

Also, we’ll have damson plums from a neighbor to deal with later this week, and I can barely keep up with my basil. So, it’s a busy week, but I know we’ll really appreciate all the work when we have fabulous food all winter. What are you preserving right now?

The Garden

An online-friend and fellow healthy-n-frugal foodie asked me to post some garden pictures, something I really should have been doing all along, anyway.  We’re really excited to have a garden this year, since it’s the first year we’ve ever been able to have one of our very own. We live in a rental, and didn’t anticipate that the landlords would be keen on the idea of us tilling up the backyard. Turns out, we were wrong! They even tilled for us, how amazing is that? It did go in late, which means we had to plant in too much of a hurry for us to do a lot of what we’d like. But, that’s part of starting a new garden, right? We’re already laying out plans for our fall/winter garden, which will include more co-planting and more careful spacing, for starters.

The garden isn’t huge–we’re certainly not going to be able to live on it alone–but it’s a start. We’ll be putting a lot of it up for winter, and it’ll also help keep our costs down during the summer. Plus, fresh-from-the-garden just tastes better. And, our other neighbor has a garden that must be the size of Texas, because holy cow does that guy have produce. He’s been giving us some of his extras, and we’re going to return the favor in canned goods. Bartering for the win.

So, here it is! (Note: my good camera battery was dead, so these aren’t as beautiful as I’d like. I’ll get around to it soon).

We planted a slew of morning glories around the short fence we put up. This serves three purposes: it makes it really difficult for animals to get into the garden, it attracts loads of pollinators, and mostly it hides the very-functional-but-not-so-pretty fence nicely!

We planted 16 tomato plants, all heirlooms of various varieties. We got our first grape tomatoes this past weekend, and our first big tomato on Tuesday!

Above is the “hedgerow” made by the morning glories. We actually need bigger stakes for some of our tomatoes, which will get done as soon as the temperature drops below 99 degrees. Below, our pickling cucumbers and wax peppers:

And, of course, the basil:

This is just one plant. I have several of these, and I’m having to harvest about every other day. Thankfully we love pesto! Not pictured are several other kinds of peppers, the rest of my herbs, a random accidental volunteer zucchini plant, and my blueberry bushes. I’ll try and get some pictures of them soon.

So far, our harvest has been fabulous. We used one shot of homemade garlic aphid spray, and that was it. No chemicals. We’re looking forward to a long season of eating food from right out of our back door, and putting it up for fall and winter, too. I’ve already done a pile of ice-cubed basil (in both water and oil), pesto, sauteed squash, pickles, and some dried hot peppers from the garden.

How is your garden growing? If you’ve got garden pics or a blog, link to it in the comments!

Better Late Than Never, and On the Menu

First, a wrap-up of the Weekend Cooler Challenge.  This should have happened a week ago, but I had huge writer’s block (I have no idea why, I just did). This is the really short version:

It was a total win. No crappy fast-food, a weekend without stress about “where are we going to eat and is it going to cost my life-savings to have decent food?” The slightly longer version is better told by Gaylin herself:

“What do I wish we’d really had time to make? Well, if I hadn’t gotten an emergency call from work that derailed the middle of my cooking efforts, both the scones and the Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon that we get from our fisherman, Montana Dan’s Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. He sells at the local farmer’s market (as well as online). 
And how did it all fit in the cooler? With the exception of the wine, everything fit with more than enough room, for the time it spent there, including the ice used to keep it cool on the trip. Of course it didn’t stay in the cooler; it actually ended up in the hotel room’s bathtub once we arrived. But that’s another story. ” 
She later added: “Oh wait! I know what I forgot! The homemade nutella brownies. I wasn’t particularly pleased with those. I prefer fudge brownies, but they ended up more like cake brownies. They were good, to be sure, and disappeared almost as fast as the booze smoothies, but they’re a recipe I need to tweak a bit, I think. ” I’m putting this remark in this wrap-up, because I think it’s important to say that even those of us who cook a lot and do it well (and this wonderful woman makes me look like a talentless hack–she’s amazing) aren’t perfect. We have recipes that don’t turn out, we run out of time, we just plan give up some days. And that’s okay. It’s part of cooking, of learning to cook, of finding what works and what doesn’t.  You make a note that something needs to change, and you do it again.
People ask me a lot “where did you learn to cook,” and “How can I learn?” The answer is simple: practice. There’s no way to get good without mistakes. The more you cook, the less you’ll generally totally screw up, but you will still screw up. Generally, those “mistakes” come out less and less severe (I mean, do any of us really think that those homemade-nutella brownies would have been anything other than dreamy?), and sometimes will even result in wonderful new things.
And, with that, I’m going to remind you to visit Gaylin’s page regularly, because she’s awesome. And she admits her mistakes, as well as sharing her wonders (of which there are many). And that is the mark of a wonderful Chef!
This week is incredibly busy for us. For starters, I’ve got a bunch of blogg-y stuff to do, like updating my sample menus, which I’ve been promising to do forever.
Monday: Vegetarian Lasagna with homemade ciabatta bread.  The garden is coming in, and so is our neighbor’s. He planted squash. Lots of squash. I have something like 15lbs of it waiting for processing in my kitchen right now. I love this recipe because 1) it’s not a recipe, it’s more of an idea and 2) I haven’t met a vegetable that doesn’t work in it.  Fresh red sauce, basil and other herbs from the garden, squash, spinach, onions. I did not make my own cottage cheese, though I really need to get my rennet and get that started, nor did I make my own noodles (that’s just because I was lazy). Thadd, of course, did the baking.
Tuesday: BLTs. Tuesdays are always a hectic day here. I teach late, and Thadd works. So, generally this day needs quick meals. I have to admit, we’ve been waiting for this day for months: we’re eating our first garden-fresh tomato, from our own garden!
We’ll have it with our lettuce, and Thadd’s homemade bread. The bacon, unfortunately, isn’t local. There’s only one person at all even sort of local doing it, but it’s an hour drive to get it. So, this is hormone, nitrate, etc. free bacon.
Wednesday: Hoisin Tofu with Vegetables. We have some Twin Oaks tofu left in the freezer that needs to be used up. I’ll rub it with homemade hoisin sauce, skewer it, and toss it on the grill with (you guessed it) squash and grape tomatoes. The veggies will be rubbed in olive oil and sprinkled with Asian 5-spice. Since we’re using the grill and non-petroleum charcoal is expensive, we’ll be doing the other grill items for the week, too.
Thursday:  Grilled Rainbow Trout with Packet potatoes and vegetable. My nephew is a wonderful fisherman. It’s a shame he lives so far away from me, but I am really excited to finally bust out the fish he sent home with me on my last visit to MI. I love rainbow trout, and it’s a rare treat. We’ll grill it gently, and serve it with potatoes tossed in olive oil and whatever spices I feel like that day, and probably some kind of vegetable (we’ll see what’s in at the Wednesday market).
Friday:  Steak over Green Salad, with charred sweet potatoes. The grass-fed beef from Pannill’s Gate Farm is calling our name. We’ll do one steak on the grill Wednesday, then let it chill out in the refrigerator until we slice it up for the salad. It’s great cold. The sweet potatoes are an idea from some friends. When they’re put directly on the coals for about an hour, they get really creamy and lovely!
This weekend is up in the air for a variety of reasons, so no dinners for Sat or Sun.  Lunches, as usual, are leftovers. Breakfasts will be combinations of fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, eggs, bread, and leftovers (I am hoping we have some rainbow trout leftover!).
What are you eating this week?

Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipes: Booze Smoothies!

I promised you the last recipe today. I also promised you a wrap-up. One of those promises is going to be fulfilled, the other is going to have to wait until my writer’s block goes away, hopefully Monday. I have to say, though, that while I love all these recipes, these two are my favorite. Not because they’re the most gourmet or anything, but because damnit, I want some fruit and booze (hey, it’s been a long week)!  So, take it away, Gaylin!  (As a note, if you guys haven’t been checking out the recipes and comments on her blog, go there now–there’s all kinds of extra goodies over there from this series, as well as bunches of yums otherwise unrelated!)

Frozen Fruit Booze Smoothies
I had originally meant these smoothies to serve as an alternative to breakfast, but when it came right down to it, the bottle of local rum was staring me in the face when I started the whole process and before I knew it, we had what we like to call in our house “booze smoothies.”
The recipe starts with fruit we freeze during the harvest time, when they’re in season. Strawberries typically come from Maple Creek Farm, our CSA, but we occasionally get them from other farms that sell at the farmer’s market near our house. One of them isn’t on the web. Burda’s Berry Farm, located in Three River’s, Michigan. Their berries are always great quality and when they feel the fruit has passed its prime for eating out of hand, it’s picked and turned into other things, like jams and jellies. In addition to strawberries from them we also get blue berries. Another berry farm we get fruit from is Bigelow’s Berry Farm.
Most of the berries we get from our farmers are super ripe when we get them, so we process them the same day they land in our kitchen, for maximum freshness. What we can’t use that day or the next, we’ll clean or hull, and then spread out in a single layer on cookie sheets that fit in our freezer. Once completely frozen, the individual fruits go into freezer bags and await whatever insanity we have planned for them in the middle of the cold months when we’re craving the fresh fruit that’s never available except from far flung places off the American continent.
So, to make our fruit smoothies, I put an extremely generous cup full of mixed, frozen berries, into the blender, and to that I added an equal amount of frozen peaches. I topped this with the last two scoops of homemade peach ice cream that had magically survived my husband’s assault (ok, I confess, I hid it so I could have some and then I promptly forgot about it). To top all this off, I added a good cup full of a locally made Pinot Gris called “Gris Gris” made by Vintner’s Cellars, a custom wine maker just down the street from my house (how cool is that for local!). This didn’t produce quite enough liquid for the processing, so we topped it all off with about half a bottle of our newest local spirits find, Freshwater Amber Rum from New Holland Brewery in my hometown of Holland, Michigan.
Whir the dickens out of all of this, and poof, booze smoothies, without ever having to resort to adding water from ice cubes. “Sheer genius!” was my favorite compliment from sharing these. They traveled in the cooler quite nicely in our large thermos (the one that’s never seen coffee in it) and were gone in the blink of an eye when people got wind of their yummy factor.