Thursday, October 25, 2007

Local Meal #3 - Grape expectations



(Munchkin crushing grapes)

For our 3rd local meal, I adapted a recipe that has been a big hit in the past: Pork chops with apples & onions. I'd heard that it worked with pork sausage (and we have a LOT of pork sausage - see 9/14), so I decided to try it that way. It turned out just fine. Here’s the recipe the way I did it:

Sausage with Apples & Onions
(for two plus a toddler who will only eat the sausage)

½ lb bulk sausage (from our local pig)
1 crisp apple (local farmstand)
1 onion (CSA, which ended this week - boo hoo!)
Olive oil (one of my exceptions)
1/4 c apple cider (local)
salt & pepper to taste (I used RealSalt that my dad brought back from Utah, so it counts as local)
Fry spoonfuls of sausage in a heavy skillet until done. Set aside and keep warm. Add sliced apple & onion and a little olive oil to same skillet and saute 4-5 minutes until softened. Add cider and reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat. Serve the apples & onions with the pork sausage.

To the recipe above, I added baked potatoes (CSA), artichokes (local farmers’ market), and for a beverage we had the rest of the (local) apple cider.
So what’s the deal with the grapes? Yesterday, Munchkin and I went grape picking with friends. I wasn’t going to get many grapes since I didn’t really know what to do with them, but before I knew it, I had 11 pounds of Concord grapes in my bucket and Munchkin had way too many in his tummy. When I wasn’t looking, Munchkin turned his grape bucket upside-down (to use as a ladder) and stood underneath the arbor with clusters of grapes hanging down on all sides of his head. All the better to eat like a king!

Last night I found a recipe for grape jam and I halved the recipe since I didn’t really know what I was doing. The resulting quantity of jam was so small that Scott declared it a lot of work for two sandwiches! It was probably a good thing, though. Even with an emergency phone call to a friend (which saved the jam from becoming grape soup), it still didn’t turn out right. It is now grape rubber! It tastes pretty good, but it sure doesn’t spread.

I still had about 10 pounds of grapes sitting on the counter, so late this afternoon I decided to turn them into grape juice. I liked it(!), but there was no way I could cool the juice by dinnertime, so I decided to serve apple cider. I compared the local apple cider I had bought with Treetop’s 100% apple cider. It was sort of like comparing a local tomato with a grocery store pink thing -- who knew there could be such a difference?!!

What I learned: If you want to serve grape juice with dinner, don't start making it at 5:00!

The bottom line: Dinner was very tasty and I'll make it that way again. The grape juice turned out good, too. One of my "rules" for this challenge was to find a local source for a new ingredient each month and so for the month of October, I’m choosing grapes for making my own juice. Not as much work as I would have thought, and rewarding. Oh, and Jennifer, if you’re reading this, thanks for the invite. How did your grape jam turn out?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Important "Firsts"

During Munchkin’s first year, we celebrated all kinds of important "firsts" – first smile, first time he rolled over, first steps, etc. Now that he's a toddler, we don’t have so many significant firsts. We had one the other night, though – first time Munchkin handed me something alive and squirmy that almost bit me!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A little bit of fall


On a recent beautiful fall day, I took Munchkin out to a local farm stand that I'd been wanting to check out. It was everything I hoped and more. I came home with such a fun variety of fall foods that I just had to take a picture! The plastic bottle is honey -- everything else is self-explainatory.

This afternoon I shelled some of the walnuts. Munchkin was fascinated, of course. When I cracked off a perfect half walnut shell, he exclaimed, "It's a bike helmet!" and then he ran to get his collection of Little People so he could fit each one with a helmet. He had to settle for some less-than-perfect helmets, but he didn't seem to mind.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baby face

It has happened twice, now. After a meal, Munchkin puts his hand up to his face and, I'm guessing, feels crumbs or something. Then he says, "Scruff. Munchkin's getting bigger!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Local Meal #2 - One of life’s little ironies


On Monday I wrote about deciding to make (local) crockpot soup and then choking on the price of the pasta. Upon further consideration, I realized it was going to be hard to stick to my limit of one non-local ingredient if I also wanted fresh bread with the soup. As I thought about this, I cooked Monday night’s dinner: pork roast (so local that Munchkin fed the pig a couple times), baked CSA potatoes with local butter and local sour cream, and roasted CSA beets (a new experiment and now I know Scott doesn't like them). 100% local except for the oil and spices that are part of my "exceptions" anyway. So that’s my official local meal!

Yesterday I made the soup using local chicken, broth, vegetables and, of course, gold-plated pasta. I added a piece of Parmesan cheese rind in the soup for flavor (from Italy!). The soup was good (see 10/15 for link to recipe), but it tasted much the same as when I make it on the stove the hour before dinner, so the only real advantage was the do-ahead factor. I only used part of my luxury noodles (which were very nice, by the way), so I froze the rest to use in next month's turkey soup. :)

What I learned: If you are chopping onions as quickly as possible because your eyes are burning and then your toddler interrupts to show you something, don’t wipe away your tears with onion hands. Owwie!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The real reason for the siren

The other day Munchkin heard a siren, but he was disappointed when it didn’t pass by our house. I told him it probably went somewhere else. Munchkin said, "Fire engine is prob’ly going to (a local grocery store)." I asked why it would go there and Munchkin answered, "It needs to get coffee."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Yipes!


For our mostly local meal this week, I'm making the crockpot noodle soup recipe that is on http://www.rowhousekitchen.blogspot.com/ (Look for Oct. 9 - I can't figure out how to link right to it). It sounds wonderful. I decided to search out local pasta so I could use my one exception for my (no-longer) secret ingredient: Parmesan cheese rind. I have been as yet unable to locate Oregon wheat flour, even though I know wheat is grown in Oregon, but I found homemade pasta from a company that is in my own town. Excited, I didn't check the price before I took it to the cashier. $4.98 for one pound! Ouch! I think I see a pasta maker in my future.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Even more adventures in crayons

Then there was the time I allowed Munchkin to play with crayons while I made an important phone call. The set of very large round scribbles on the floor was a "circular saw" and the set of lines from the floor to as tall as Munchkin could reach on the sliding glass door was a "crane." This is why I buy only washable crayons.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More adventures in crayons

Munchkin returned from Grandma’s house with a crayon drawing that looked very familiar. When he has a willing subject, Munchkin instructs the artist to draw whatever he wants drawn. His pictures are filled with grown-ups’ attempts to draw Munchkin's favorite things.

This particular picture included a sketch of a hand tool. Munchkin showed it to me and said sadly, "Grandma wouldn’t draw a reciprocating saw."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Adventures in crayons


My mom gave Munchkin his very first coloring book the other day. Delighted, Munchkin could hardly wait to get out his crayons. Choosing the page of his favorite dinosaur, a Triceratops, Munchkin declared, "He needs a hard hat!" So he drew him a blue one. Drew him some glasses, too. Maybe if Triceratops had actually worn the hard hat, he would still be here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Local Meal #1



OK, I’m in. I’m already buying local meat, dairy and produce. My goal is to push myself to find local sources for other types of products (grains?!!). Part of the fun is posting menus and watching other challenge blogs to see what they are doing. I want to participate in that, so I’ll be posting some local menus & recipes. If you only read my blog for the "cute Munchkin stories," don’t worry – I’ll keep up with his entries!

Every "challenge" needs rules, so here is what I’ve come up with. If you want to join me, please do!!! Make up your own rules! Mine are pretty modest:
  1. My challenge is for the months of October & November, then I’ll reevaluate.
  2. Make at least 3 dinners/month using local ingredients and then blog about them.
  3. "Local" means the state of Oregon. Most people do a 100 mile radius, but since the eastern half of Oregon is mostly desert, my 100 mile radius covers the part that grows food. It’s easier to just do Oregon.
  4. Search out local sources for at least one new ingredient/month.
  5. Exceptions (everyone has these for things they can’t find locally!): 1. Anything Munchkin eats – it’s hard enough to find food for a picky toddler and he has a bunch of diet restrictions on him right now. My challenge won’t apply to him. 2. Anything extra that Scott eats – like coffee or Ranch dressing. 3. Spices and oils. 4. For each "local" meal, I’ll allow one non-local ingredient in addition to my exceptions #1-3.

OK, here we go! My first local dinner was far too easy! We still get CSA veggie boxes through the end of October so I made:

  • Tossed green salad (all local except for Scott’s Ranch dressing)
  • Spaghetti noodles (I’ll use my one non-local exception for this one)
  • Homemade spaghetti sauce (Local: grass-fed ground beef, CSA tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers. Not local: spices)
  • Shredded cheese (This required an adjustment since I would normally use Parmesan. Instead, I used Tillamook cheddar. As I said, this challenge meal was far too easy.)
What I learned: The shock – even though I didn’t include Munchkin in the challenge, I actually looked at labels to see where his food came from. Munchkin’s mandarin oranges were from China. Hmmm. Could that be why they’re called "mandarin" oranges?

The bottom line: Dinner tasted pretty good. My spaghetti sauce isn’t quite right, yet, but I keep working on it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Another "Eat Local" Challenge


I’ve been reading some blogs by other "eat local" fans. Seems like it’s mostly women with small children, or maybe those are just the blogs that appeal to me. Reading blogs is a much more entertaining way to waste time than playing solitaire! (Not that I’m advocating wasting time, but it's nice to "veg out" when the active toddler finally takes a nap! Now that I think of it, maybe that's what these other authors with small children are doing, too!) Anyway, the author of one blog has begun her own wintertime eat local challenge. (http://urbanhennery.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/dark-days-of-winter-eat-local-challenge/)

It’s pretty easy to eat locally grown food during the growing season, but obviously it’s harder during the winter. Especially if you haven’t already loaded up your pantry and freezer with preserved foods! In this new challenge, you make up your own rules. For example, Ms. Hennery is going to cook one local meal per week and write about it. I’m considering joining her challenge, but haven’t decided what approach to take. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Delusions of grandeur

When confronted with an unwelcome traffic signal, Scott waves his hand Jedi-fashion and instructs the light to change. If it changes, he boasts. If it remains red, he makes excuses for the lapse in his powers. This evening, he learned the real problem. Attempting Jedi mind tricks on a red light, Scott waved his hand and said, "You will turn green."

Then a cute little voice in the back seat said, "Go back to red."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Did you know...


Did you know that in two seconds a toddler can make such a mess of a slinky that it takes a parent 15 minutes to untangle it?!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Funny kid

We recently had an issue with a fence contractor about overspray (from the stain on the fence) that landed all over my vegetable garden. We resolved the problem, but not before Munchkin suffered through my many, many phone conversations. One day I was on the phone with my dad and I told him that I needed to hang up because I smelled something stinky. Munchkin, listening as always, grinned big as he put his hand on his diaper and said, "It's overspray!"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Munchkin's Dictionary #1

It's cute what kids come up with when they don't know the proper words. Here's some entries from Munchkin's dictionary...

"trees wiggle" = it's windy outside
"egg juice" = egg white dripping down the side of the mixing bowl
"Giggle Munchkin!" = please tickle me
"down hug" = a hug in which we don't pick up Munchkin