Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dark Days: Another discovery

Well, I have to say that today’s local discovery was a little embarrassing, but I suppose I’ll get over it. The backstory began when I learned that a little corner health food store near us now carries wonderful grass-fed Noris milk. It’s terribly expensive, but I ordered some once and it is oh, so good. I still had glass bottles from Noris that came with a $2 deposit each, so this afternoon Munchkin and I went to the neighborhood grocer and paid for a half gallon of heaven by turning in enough bottles to cover it. While we were there, I checked out the produce section.

I’ve been chasing all over town trying to find local produce, including the disappointing special trip I made last week, and here is a little store that has anything from Oregon or Washington labeled! By farm! They don’t have much local produce right now, of course, but what they do have looked great. They carry Noris milk, Deck Farm eggs, and who knows what else I didn’t have time to look at. I’ve always written off this little store as exorbitantly expensive, but I went ahead and bought some local lettuce and Washington onions -- the prices were less than I've paid recently. As I was leaving, I saw another item that I purchased for $12.99 last weekend from a much larger store. This little store had it for $9.50. And the embarrassing part? They are .7 miles from my house.

Our local dinner this week was less inspiring than last week's, but tasty, just the same. This evening we ate pork roast which turned out delicious both due to the fact that it was from our pig and also that I used Alice Waters’ instructions. To the roast I added my last two local potatoes and a green salad made with local lettuce (!!!!!), leeks and carrots. The red bell pepper that I included couldn't possibly have been local.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to enjoy a glass of that milk!

He's got the concept

The other morning Munchkin woke up way too early and Scott went in to check on him. Scott let Munchkin sit in his lap for a couple minutes before he thought better of it and suggested that Munchkin go back to bed. Munchkin answered, "That's not my first idea."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Penquin Fireman"

Munchkin named him himself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Three-year-old

The definition of a three-year-old is:
Immature enough to dig through a friend's room (while he's supposed to be sleeping), find her lip gloss and play with it.
AND...
Mature enough to respond (when asked about the whereabouts of said lip gloss), "It went down a vent."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dark Days: Inspired

The other participants of the Dark Days challenge are cooking such amazing stuff with local ingredients that they finally inspired me right out of my local-but-ordinary rut! For this week’s local meal I chose homemade calzone and salad.

I’ve found that through these dark days of winter I’ve had to relax my standards on what constitutes a "local" meal. I had counted on fruit and vegetables from my favorite farm stand since they remain open through the winter. However, my last two visits have been disappointing as all they had were OK looking carrots, moldy onions, sprouting potatoes and mealy apples. On a tip from a reader, I found a small grocery store that labels most of their produce by origin. Very nice! But the store aisles are tight and I just can’t take Hurricane Munchkin in there until he gets a little older. I went in today (by myself) looking for salad ingredients and the only produce I found from Oregon was cabbage, leeks and fennel, and I don’t know what to do with fennel. I could have made a cabbage salad, but I didn’t want to waste Scott’s favorite iceberg lettuce (already in the fridge), so the only local ingredients I included in the salad were carrots and leeks. Oh, well, the calzone is the real star.

For the calzone, I made bread dough using Oregon whole wheat flour, Oregon white flour and local honey. The yeast, sugar and salt were not local. I filled Munchkin's calzone with cheese. For the rest, I used a mixture of local sausage (our pig), local grass-fed ground beef, Tillamook cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, local leeks since I didn’t have local onions (I like leeks better, anyway), CSA garlic and non-local olives and mushrooms. (I've got a phobia with local mushrooms – they’re probably safe and delicious, but I'm still afraid of them!) After baking the calzones, I topped them with my last bag of spaghetti sauce, made last summer from CSA tomatoes, onions, peppers and I can't remember what else, but it had enough spices in it to cover up the fact that I forgot to put the seasoning in the calzone! Overall, it tasted great. I don't think I've made calzone since Munchkin was born, though, and I'd forgotten how much time it takes. Fortunately, we've got leftovers for another meal. :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Eat fish twice a week...

South Georgia Island
How many local fish do you imagine this crowd eats???
You took a great picture, Dad.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

McCloud Pictures

The first is self-explainatory... The second picture is of a ladybug nest that Munchkin found when we were playing in the snow. The nest was about 20 times the size of the part I captured in this picture. I've never seen anything like it before!

And the third picture is the view of Mt. Shasta from the street near our friends' house. Makes us want to move there!

The downside to indoor plumbing...

This past weekend we visited friends in McCloud and we had a great time (despite Munchkin and I getting sick), but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what happened yesterday on the way home...

We pulled up to a gas station in Mt. Shasta City and since I was not feeling well at all, I went inside the convenience store to visit the bathroom. It was a grimy place and while there, I noticed that the background noise stopped and the lights in the bathroom turned off. This wasn't a big deal since there was a skylight, so I thought nothing of it until I walked out and saw that the store was dark and locked up

Scott was circling around the gas pumps to come and pick me up, so I waved my hands from the window to get his attention. We could talk a little through the door and he told me he had just seen two guys leave the store and drive away. Besides that, the gas station didn't even have gas. About then, a phone rang. I followed the sound and picked up what I thought was a cel phone laying on one of the tables. It was somebody trying to order barbeque. I hung up after telling the caller that it wasn't my phone. Then, I used the phone to call the local police. The dispatcher was very friendly and said she'd call someone. A short while later, she called back to the same phone and told me that the owner was on his way over to get me out. In the meantime, Scott fumed and poor Munchkin worried and "called" both the police and the fire department asking if they could get mommy out!

Long story short, the owner showed up fairly soon (I think I was locked in about 20 minutes total, but it seemed longer) and let me out. He mumbled, "Sorry, I didn't know you were in here," and then breezed right by. It turns out it actually was some kind of Barbeque place. When I realized that I had been using their own phone, I wished I'd called Australia!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dark Days: Local Truffles

Happy Valentine's Day!

In the spirit of the Dark Days challenge and to continue my Valentine tradition, I made Scott some "local" truffles. I have to fudge (ha ha) the definition of local ingredients a little, but it's for a worthy cause. I used chocolate made by a local company (next year I'll worry about where the cacoa beans came from), local cream, and I topped some of them with chopped up local walnuts. The light corn syrup was decidedly non-local!

Munchkin has had a really bad tummy bug this week. Yesterday, the poor kid could barely eat a spoonful of jello, but that didn't stop the lobbying. Don't know how many times I heard, "I feel much better, now. I want a truffle."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Fear of God

As we've switched Munchkin to a toddler bed, we've had a little difficulty getting him to stay on it for his naps. Actually, saying we've had a little difficulty is like saying our friends in McCloud, CA, who got 8 feet just in January, had a little snow! Anyway, one day, right before Munchkin’s nap, I prayed with him that God would help him be a good boy and stay on his bed during naptime. Munchkin was quiet until I laid him down in his bed and he said very solemnly, "I don’t want God to come in here."

Guess what? He stayed on his bed.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dark Days: A Local Meal

Laura at Urban Hennery has already started writing the latest recap (which should be up on Sunday) so I hope I’m not too late to get my entry in... After all my attempts at homemade foods in the last month, I actually have a full local meal to report!

This evening we ate London broil (local, grass-fed), local potatoes with local sour cream and butter, and a broccoli/cauliflower blend that I froze last summer from our CSA extras. The only non-local item was the marinade for the meat, which had a bunch of ingredients I wouldn’t want to give up. Grass-fed London broil really has to be marinated. The meat turned out delicious and tender and the potatoes tasted great. One pleasant discovery in this whole "eating local" thing has been the taste of locally grown potatoes. I used to think I didn’t much care for potatoes, but local ones have flavor!

The broccoli and cauliflower would have been fine if only I hadn't been distracted telling Scott about how Munchkin took the case off of the thermostat this afternoon. The veggies turned out mushy, but that wasn’t the fault of the local ingredients -- it was OE (operator error) as they say in the computer business. :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nighttime Musings #1

Sunday morning Munchkin woke up bright and early talking about tools. It seems he dreamed he bought a new circular saw and air compressor because his old ones were broken. Then he drove himself home from the hardware store.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hey, cool! I've been tagged! (Update)

I've never been "tagged" before, so I'm just guessing how this works, but I think I'm correct. Bloggers "tag" each other for cute little stuff and then you answer the tag and tag some more bloggers. Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood tagged me for...

The six unimportant things meme. Just list six unimportant things about you, and tag more people to play. Easy enough. (Update: I just found the "rules..." The rules for this meme are: (1) Link to the person that tagged you. (2) Post the rules on your blog. (3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. (4) Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. (5) Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website. I don't know enough bloggers to tag 6, so 2 will have to do.)

So here's my list:
1. I detest scrambled eggs.
2. But I have a weakness for those tacky little fruit pies in the grocery store.
3. When I was in high school I could recite pi out to about 10 digits.
4. My first car went through a new muffler every year.
5. I have five extended family members who have the same birthday.
6. I don't like being cold.

And I tag: Yankee Food and one of my new favorites, Green Bean Dreams, although Green Bean has a really great post up about how she is trying to cut back on stuff including internet time, so I understand if she doesn't respond... Thanks for thinking of me, 100 Acre Woods!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Heartbreaking in Haiti

No one was meant to eat this local.

In Haiti, some people are so hungry they buy "cookies" made from dirt, salt and vegetable shortening for 5 cents apiece.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dark Days: My New Favorite Cookbooks

I have two new cookbooks and they are both my current favorites! The first was a Christmas present from Munchkin (with help from Daddy, of course) and it is a cookbook that was compiled as a fund-raiser for a local fire department. Kind of appropriate as a gift from Munchkin, don’t you think? Anyway, what I love about it is that many of the recipes sounds like they were dictated by the firemen themselves. I’ll give an example shortly...

My other favorite cookbook is even newer. One afternoon last week, darling son resembled an out-of-control little tornado and I was a wreck by the time Scott got home from work. Scott graciously told me to take the evening off, even from dinner, and go out somewhere. I went to one of my favorite restaurants (a cute little place that specializes in rice and bean dishes) and then I browsed in a bookstore. Never a good idea. I discovered The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and my evening out got more expensive by the price of the book. :)

I have found that as I've embraced the concept of using local ingredients, my cookbook needs have changed. I don’t need a book with a lot of new recipes. Instead, I need instruction in how to make the best use of the local ingredients I’m learning to love. I finally found what I’ve been looking for in the Waters book. The book teaches how to cook, but emphasizes local and seasonal eating. Those who are already excellent cooks might find the author boring, but for those like me who are very much still learning, she is fantastic. I studied the teaching half of the book like I was back in college! The second part of the book has recipes, but Waters main advice is to buy the best quality ingredients and cook them simply, tasting as you go. My kind of cooking! The book also coached me through last week's pasta making. I couldn't have asked for better directions.

This week’s experiment in local eating was inspired by the fireman cookbook. One of Scott’s favorite dinners is my "taco casserole," a recipe that calls for refried beans. I had never even dreamed of making my own until I saw the recipe in the fireman cookbook. I’ll print it in it’s entirety so you get the flavor (pun intended) of the book:

Refried Beans (Frijolito)

2 c pinto beans

This ain’t brain surgery. As always with any bean, soaking them first will reduce cooking time. Boil beans in 4 cups of water with ½ teaspoon of salt til soft. If not soft add more water & cook longer. Dice and fry 3 strips of bacon, add to cooked beans and Ole!

Cute, huh! But not quite enough information for a beginner. When I got the Alice Waters book, I saw that she had a chapter on what to do with beans including how to soak them, cook them and use them in recipes. She also gives very clear directions for making refried beans, so forgive me Mr. Fireman, but I decided to use Alice’s recipe instead of yours.

I soaked the beans (local from Azure Farm) and then that evening began to make dinner. If I’d read the directions just one more time, I would have remembered that the beans needed to simmer for at least an hour before I could use them and I would have started sooner... I had to use canned beans in the casserole and then after dinner, when the pinto beans were finally soft, I made the refried beans with local onion and bacon fat from our pig. Hey, next time I make that casserole, I’ll have all-local refried beans to add to it!

The refried beans turned out very tasty, although before I use them I want to mash them better so the skins aren’t so evident. Even though the beans missed dinner, it’s another triumph for the "eating local" project. This is fun.

Friday, February 1, 2008

One cute quote

It's been almost a week since I've posted anything -- sorry! I've got ideas rattling around in my head, but this is the first time Munchkin's taken a nap since Monday and it does cut down on my blogging time. :) I'll be posting more very soon, but for now, the quote of the day:

This morning Munchkin raced into his room, breathless, and said, "I just crashed into Daddy! Give me a ticket!"