Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

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Dark Days 18 – – this is getting really hard

March 21, 2010

This is why animals are in danger of starvation in early spring – there is nothing left to eat! 

We’ve tossed the last of our carrots – ewww they were getting really icky.  The potatoes and sweet potatoes are history too.  The local flour is no longer available – I reckon they sold what they’d made from Fall’s harvest.  I feel like the grasshopper from the grasshopper and the ants – I clearly didn’t work hard enough in the Summer and Fall to store up enough for the Winter and Spring. 

So, we made an effort this week, but I’m not sure any one item on the menu meets the Sustainable Organic Local and Ethical guidelines – different items are good on a couple and lacking on the others – some are totally lacking, period..  And it isn’t a highly coordinated meal either – more of a “what can we put together that’s close to SOLEful and relatively balanced?”

Salad – local and hydroponically grown greens – that’s probably the best.

Cheese – the cheddar blue we found a couple of weeks ago made by a local creamery – great on salads.

Milk – the local, ethical, non-hormone enhanced but not organic Kilgus milk (this milk has led to more hits on my blog than anything else).

Butter – made from heavy cream from the same dairy as the milk – so local and ethical… I made the butter in the food processor – I’m getting better at that.

Bread – homemade with organic unbleached flour and buttermilk leftover from the butter making – the wonderful whole wheat flour we’ve been using is no longer available.

Ground pork – I know the farmers – they are among my best friends – so the hogs were treated ethically because I know they really do care about the animals – but it is a pretty conventional hog farm and it is neither organic nor sustainable – but definitely local.

Honey – local honey (the only type to EVER buy! DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON ANYTHING BUT LOCAL HONEY! – sorry for yelling, but I’m a bit passionate about the honey thing – guess I should do a post on that, huh?).  Anyway, the honey was great on the pork (my daughter used maple syrup which is good too, and while organic, not local – we’ll assume the trees weren’t tortured though).  The honey was also used in some honey mustard – the mustard was not local or any of the other good stuff – but I saw a recipe for mustard – so next year….)

My husband and daughter had bottled mass-produced salad dressing – sorry.

We’ll try to eek out one more dark days meal for next week, and then I think we will call the challenge met.

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Dark Days – Potatoes Au Gratin

December 12, 2009

It is the end of the semester for the two family faculty members, plus the usual meetings, the occasional holiday concert, etc. etc.  I am not whining, I’m explaining.  Dark Days week 4 was in danger of sneaking by with nothing au gratinto say for itself.  But we pulled our act together and my husband made potatoes au gratin.

We used the natural/ethical/local milk we are fond of and local cheddar cheese.  I made butter from cream from the same dairy that our milk comes from.  And the potatoes came from our own organic (and of course, sustainable and ethical, and needless to say, local) garden.  A baked potato for the youngest and hydroponically grown local salad for the oldest (and any other takers).

My husband is a tad lactose intolerant and the milk in this meal put him over the comfort edge, so we probably won’t repeat it.

Butter making does not seem to be as straightforward as you would assume.  Beat the milk until it cries Uncle has always been my recipe.  This time I beat it and beat it and it got to the consistency of very very hard whipped cream or very very light butter, but never clumped together and separated from the butter milk.  I don’t know the variables that might affect butter making.  I don’t know if freshness of the cream matters, or how rich that cream is to start with, or the temperature, or the mood of the cow.  I just don’t know. I suspect I could have/should have beat it longer.  But then again my husband has declared this the best butter he has ever tasted.butter and baked  So perhaps I’ll aim for this consistency in the future.

Luckily, I have this cute butter dish to put it in.  It is incredibly light (the butter, not the dish) and it is awfully tempting to spread it on bread like it is cream cheese rather than butter. 

Next week? Who knows which direction the muse will send us.

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The First of the Dark Days

November 18, 2009

Today (Wednesday) was our last chance this week for a dark days meal (a sustainable, organic, local, ethical – SOLE – meal – – click the button in the side bar for more information).  I am going to Chicago for a conference tomorrow and won’t be back until the first week will have passed – – we couldn’t mess up on a challenge the very first week.

My husband stopped at the year round farmer’s market (heavy on the organic) on the way home yesterday and got greens (hydroponically grown) and pork chops.  chops He also made baked potatoes with our own potatoes.  [I hadn’t eaten the potato yet, just smushed it up with the butter before I remembered I wanted to take pictures.)potato Our son is not an adventuresome eater (as if pork chops and potatoes require bravery) – he had a salad with the greens and some green onion cheddar from a local cheesemaker.  The salad included carrots from our garden.H's salad

My husband also brought home a pint of heavy cream from the sustainable, ethical local, natural (nearly organic) dairy – – as close as we can get, so I’m calling it good.  This morning I made butter with it. butter There was a glass of buttermilk left that my husband will use to make some bread this evening for us to eat whenever.

To accompany dinner, my husband and I had wine made by the Benedictine monks at a local Abbey.agape1

But wait – we aren’t done yet.  We are celebrating my son’s birthday tonight (once my daughter gets back from dance class).  His birthday is Saturday, but I’ll be gone.  I had initially thought I’d bake a cake – and I could have at least gotten an organic mix (I am not the bake a cake from scratch kind of woman).  But, no, that wouldn’t be SOLE – – what to do what to do. 

First I decided on chocolate – an exception to the local part of the SOLE – but organic chocolate is readily available, and my understanding is that if it is organic than it is automatically fair trade and ethical (i.e. all organic chocolate is fair trade, but all fair trade chocolate is not organic – at least that is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong.)

I spent too much time scanning the Internet and finally decided that I could make something tasty that wouldn’t kill us, would be relatively SOLEful, and would be something my son would like. 

I bought some organic chocolate chips at the health food store (I also found local whole wheat flour – that was a great find for my husband to use in bread making).  I then bought another pint of heavy cream and a quart of 2% milk from the above mentioned dairy of high morals. 

I melted the chocolate and mixed it with a cup of milk (what I’ll do with the rest of the milk I’m not sure – maybe make pudding).  Then I put it in a cake pan (9 x 9).  Meanwhile, I had whipped the cream and then combined about 1/2 of it with the milk and chocolate in the cake pan.  That went in the freezer.  I mixed a tiny bit of organic powdered sugar in with the rest of the whipped cream – that’s in the fridge.

When my daughter gets home we’ll have my frozen chocolate yummy (that will now be the official name) with whipped cream and my son will open his computer-oriented presents (he has taken to making stop action films – at least he was doing that last month – – so we bought him a video capture device to turn analog tapes into digital and a computer game – and this weekend the computer will be upgraded with more memory and a graphics card – plus fixed because all of a sudden it is incapable of accessing the internet and the printer spooler has ceased to function… virus perhaps?)

Back to the dark days – so, what were the exceptions? What didn’t quite stack up on the SOLE criteria. Well, I mentioned the chocolate – that was not local.   And we did have salad dressings and they were just store bought.  I was proud of my son who thought better of mixing blue cheese dressing with green onion cheddar cheese (a pretty strong flavor in its own right).  So he was dressing-less. Oh, and the mustard in the honey mustard for the pork chops was just your basic brown mustard – but the honey was local.

We did ok – we’ll see if we can do better in future meals.

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My Milk

November 7, 2009

toy cows and milk jug 

The Dark Days are coming – by which I mean the Dark Days Challenge where my family will eat one meal a week made of SOLE food (sustainable, organic, local, ethical).  The challenge begins November 15th.  My local year-round farmer’s market (which doesn’t have a website or I would link you right to it) will be seeing even more of our business as we try to fill in gaps in our own stocks.

One item we now buy routinely from this market is milk.  We buy Kilgus milk made by the cows on a farm in Central Illinois.  I e-mailed the owners to get a bit more information than I could glean from their pamphlet – and Jenna Kilgus was very forthcoming.  She made clear they are not an organic farm.  They are grain farmers and the grain is not grown organically.  That grain also is fed to the cows, so not organic.  However, the animals do graze on “natural pasture” from April to November, so that is good news.  Also, the cows are not given any growth hormone (rBST) and that, to me, is very important.  Another plus, the milk is non-homogenized, which means the fat particles that are in the milk are not broken down by the homogenization process and so will not pass so easily through intestinal walls.  Apparently there is some evidence that non-homogenized milk helps keep cholesterol levels down.  The milk is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, which maintains vitamins and enzymes. 

Oh, and by the way, this milk is tasty.  We buy the skim milk and the kids and I go through two gallons a week. 

I have a few other milk alternatives. I can buy organic milk at the bigger grocery store.  I have done so on occasion and when I do I try to choose one with the closest distribution center.  But it isn’t local.

I can buy more “conventional” milk distributed by Prairie Farms.  This has some plusses.  It is a co-op of over 700 farms and the main headquarters is in Central Illinois.  The milk and milk products (butter, yogurt, ice cream) are local, but not organic.  There is no indication that there is anything particularly “natural” about their products, other than the milk comes from cows.  So, I assume the worse – that they are given hormones and graze minimally.

Finally, there is a milk cooperative nearby that produces organic milk.  I did look into it but I couldn’t make times for pick-up, periods out of town, and the money work with our lifestyle. 

So, for the time being we will settle for natural and local but not organic milk.  Life is full of compromises.

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What’s been put up?

October 31, 2009

 

picklings

My friend over at Fessenden Farmstead had a piece on preserving fruits and vegetables, which made me think I hadn’t talked about what has been put up at our house.  I’ve been derelict on that because I’m not the putter-upper – my husband is (and I am ever so grateful). 

I suppose that isn’t totally true (it’s true that I’m grateful, not true that I’m not a putter-upper).  I am the runner of the dehydrator – and in fact, I intend to dry parsley today.  I am also the freezer of fruit.  This year it was only blackberries (wild) – it is also often peaches, but apparently peaches are biannual and this is their off year I guess (plus a frost came and killed the blossoms last spring… that couldn’t have helped). 

Peaches look fine frozen, but as soon as they thaw they start turning brown.  Last year I “solved” that problem with camouflage – I froze spiced peaches – the spices (heavy on the cinnamon – but I can’t remember what else) already colored the peaches brown so the discoloration wasn’t as off-putting this year when I used them (great in my oatmeal).  Next year I’m also intending to freeze in single serving sizes.  That should do the trick.

Berries are easy – wash, dry, freeze on a cookie sheet, dump in a container or bag.

I dry tomatoes – and have been enjoying them in many things already.  Salads and sautéed with onion and polenta being my two favorites.

My husband is the tomato freezer.  We stopped canning and went to freezing, primarily because I didn’t like the lemony taste of the tomatoes when they were canned.  I’m sure we could have adjusted his approach, but freezing is so darn easy (we won’t discuss the power usage of the freezer – although a full freezer is more efficient than a 1/2 empty one – and the tomatoes really help keep ours full).

My husband pickles also – and they are soo good.  Pickled green beans are to die for!  And pickled asparagus, and pickled banana peppers – – and pickled cucumbers too.  He most recently made green tomato relish – I haven’t had a chance to dip into that yet.  I made green tomato relish once in my single years – and my face got blotchy and puffy – the doctor said it was probably the steam off the green tomatoes causing an allergic reaction.  I now avoid the kitchen on green tomato cooking day.

So the pantry is well stocked with the fruits (and veggies) of the garden.  All set for the Dark Days Challenge.  That’s the once a week meal made of SOLE food – sustainable, organic, local, and ethical. For more information you can click the badge in the side bar.  Sign up too!

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The 3rd Annual Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge.

October 2, 2009

Today I stumbled upon a meal-making challenge that is just right for my husband and me (or so I hope).  It is called – well, read the post’s title again – – abbreviated as Dark Days by those who know it well apparently (I don’t think I know it well enough to abbreviate it’s name yet).

I found out about it on one of the blogs I follow, (not so) Urban Hennery.  The idea is to make one meal per week during the dark days of winter (thus the name) based on sustainable, organic, local, and ethical ingredients (SOLE).  Exceptions are expected (olive oil, most spices, and coffee for instance are a little tough to find locally made in Central Illinois).  The challenge will run from November 15 – March 31. 

My husband and I were talking about it over dinner.  It may be harder than we first thought – – or every week we’ll have one dinner of carrots, stewed tomatoes and sweet or white potatoes because we should have plenty of that into the winter from our garden (and our garden is very SOLEful).  Still, with a year-round farmer’s market where we can buy meat and milk and such we’ll have a leg up.  We figure we can even buy cream and make butter too for those meals. 

We have a month and a 1/2 to get ready… or maybe to practice.  Wouldn’t it be cool if it was just second nature by then – that our meals were based on SOLE ingredients more often than not? 

Tonight we had pizza (my husband makes the best pizzas).  The grown up pizza was homemade dough (not local flour) with tomato sauce (very local – our garden), anchovies (not local), eggplant (our garden) and feta (not local).  The kid pizza was homemade dough (not local) with pepperoni (not local) and mozzarella (not local).  The kids’ milk is from local dairies.  The wine was from South Africa (not local).  I guess we have some work to do.