Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fallling Off the Wagon :(

Whoa, it sure seems like I've fallen off the Eat Local wagon lately. In trying to analyze, it's not so much that we aren't eating a goodly portion of locally grown foods as it is that I haven't been doing much thinking or planning. Lots going on, including eating a number of meals elsewhere - at friend's houses or restaurants or Christmas parties. And, currently, I am in a clean out the refrigerator mode since we are heading out of town on Saturday to spend Chrismas in Alameda, California with my sister-in-law.

Now that I think of it, though, last night's dinner was largely local. I started out making a pork chile verde. It ended up to be more rojo than verde, however, based on what we had available. The pork and most of the vegetables were local. But, I did use some commercially canned tomatoes and am not sure where they came from. The whole wheat tortillas were made locally. But, we also had brown rice which is a travelling item.

The next week will be similarly haphazard because we will be on the road. Since we'll be in California, I'm thinking there will be lots of options that are local to where we're spending the holiday, but I won't be the one doing most of the meal planning. That will be a nice change from the usual large gatherings here at our house for Christmas. In any case, I should be able to get back on the wagon and do some more careful thinking and planning after we return. Although, my main farmer's market will be closed by then, so that will really add a bigger challenge to the whole game.

But, then, that's OK. My main theme of this blog is having more time in my life to do things I think are important. Never thought it would all be easy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fa-la-la-la-la

On the theme of trying new tricks, I have been curious about how to include a video clip in the blog. So, I am going to make an attempt with this high class musical interlude.
video

And, on the further theme of high class musical events, we had our last rehearsal tonight for my singing class recital on Thursday. Grady is nobly suffering with the disappointment of being unable to attend. His sister is conveniently arriving at the airport at the same time. I'm wondering how much he paid her to schedule that arrival time.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Brrrrr! Redux

OK, I don't know what is with my luck at outdoor shopping. When I went to the Farmer's Market last weekend, we had snow during the 45 minutes I happen to be there (keeping in mind it seldom snows in Portland). No snow prior to that and none since. Until today, that is. And, this time it came just when I arrived at the Saturday market (an outdoor arts and crafts market). No sign of it before my outing and none during the remainder of the day. I have the feeling I'm not going to be welcome at these markets anymore. I could have gone on Saturday when it was sunny and warm. But, I had decided to wait until Sunday so I could go on my way home from church. Another of my resolutions in my "new" life (i.e., life beyond school) is to think more about my trips in the car and to try to consolidate them and eliminate as many unnecessary trips as possible. So, rather than make a special trip just for that on Saturday, I waited to combine it with another trip in a similar location - and got the snow! I was hoping to buy some Christmas gifts to support local artists and came home with some cooking utensils in beautiful hardwoods from trees in this area.

I made another local meal this week in addition to the squash and pasta. It was a quiche which we had for breakfast this weekend. Eggs, milk, bacon, cheese, arugula and shitake mushrooms all from within a 100 mile radius.

I'm attaching a photo from the crafts market. Mainly all it accomplishes is to prove I was there - the snow was too light and my camera too basic to be able to see it coming down. But, I can tell you that those stands selling the fleece hats were very popular.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Locavore Week 8

Well, it's not really week 8 for me since I was a late joiner to the challenge. But, in any case, this is one of our local meals for this week - Baked Goat Cheese and Roaster Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine. This was one of my more successful local meals since darn near everything came from easily less than our 200 mile winter radius- the squash, goat cheese, red pepper, fettuccine, garlic. The exceptions were olive oil, salt and pepper, and I have no idea of the origins of the crushed red pepper. Also, the salad items all qualified - lettuce, arugula, radish, green onion. Plus, it was all delicious! I used the delicata that I got on my snowy outing to the Farmer's Market. This meant I could leave the skin on the squash and it roasted up very nicely. This was another recipe from my "Best of Cooking Light" collection.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Brrrrrrrr!!!!


I have to admit that, when I think of going to the Farmer's Market for vegetables, my mental image is warm summer mornings or cool, sunny autumn Saturdays - walking from stand to stand, checking it all out, thinking about what I can cook that week and then buying produce from farmers in our area. It's more than grocery shopping - it's an experience in the outdoors, sometimes seeing friends to chat with. Ahhh...now, doesn't that sound lovely?
What I do not picture is 35 degrees and snow - rushing to the nearest stand and buying whatever they have there rather than shopping around. We seldom get snow in Portland, but, the one brief allocation of it came yesterday right at the time I had available for the market. So, I bundled up and went for it. In actual fact, it either got warmer while I was there or I got used to the cold because I did spend more time wandering about than I had originally thought I would be able to tolerate. So, it was a pretty happy adventure after all in spite of the frigid temperatures. And, who I am to complain when I can get fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms on December 1 in our climate?!
One of our local meals this week will involve that delicata squash, the red pepper and Nonna's handmade linguine that you see in the picture up there. Nonna, or someone who must be a very good friend, had hooked up a small heater with a fan to a canister of propane gas from her grill to keep warm while selling her pasta in the cold outdoor market. More on the squash and pasta later.

Friday, November 30, 2007


While still struggling to make meals with a high percentage of local ingredients during this season, I am now adding a layer of difficulty to my task - meals that are lower in fat and calories. Not that the two goals are incompatible, it's just more things to take into consideration when planning what we eat.
Last night's dinner was moderately successful on the former and very successful on the latter goal. Chicken and Goat Cheese Quesadilla from one of the "Cooking Light" books. I could have used local chicken, but am still using up turkey from last week. The goat cheese was from Fraga Farm, not farm from here in Sweet Home, Oregon. Whole wheat tortillas, onions, chicken broth and sour cream all local - not so the lime and I don't remember where the cilantro hails from, but assume it is another in the ubiquitous California supply. Those lovely green slices on top are tomatilloes from our garden. The recipe is also on the Cooking Light webpage.

Meanwhile, in my continuing journey to life after school, I've taken an important step this week. In consultation with my husband, I finally made the decisions about how to handle the retirement options and sent all my paperwork into the public employee's retirement office. Woo-hoo! It's official. And this afternoon, we are heading to our financial planner to get more advice on our long-range planning. Of course, this now means another challenge to add to the food planning - spend less money!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thank you, Julia

Sunday night I made Boeuf Bourguignon for our last dinner with the kids home. It gave us a break from the turkey leftovers, but also presented some challenges for our eating local efforts. The recipe is an update of a Julia Child recipe that is on Epicurious and a favorite of ours. The meat was no problem - the beef from a ranch in Riddle, Oregon. The four slices of bacon are cured at New Seasons, and originated at a ranch in Silverton. The onions, shitake mushrooms and new potatoes all came from within our state. But, for some reason, all the carrots at New Seasons were Californians. I had thought that this time of year, I'd be able to get more local carrots. Might have been able to do that had I checked out other places. But, this is the dilemma I sometimes find myself in with the eating local challenge. I might find a product grown within a hundred or two hundred miles if I drive to several places that are not close to my home. Or, I can go to the New Seasons market that is .6 mile from my house where they make an effort to buy local, but sometimes get produce from further south. There are a couple of farmer's markets that are also quite close and would surely have had the carrots, but it is past their season now. So, California carrots was what I used.
The other dilemma was the wine. We have wonderful red wine grown and made here in Oregon. But, I haven't found any that are inexpensive. And, with two cups going into the stew, it's hard for me to justify paying $20 or more for a bottle when I can get a reasonable tasting, but much cheaper red for this purpose from elsewhere. I promise to make up for it by drinking lots of nice Oregon pinot noirs!

So, if you are looking for a nice winter dinner, this could be done with a fairly high percentage of local products - especially if you live in California. As my sister-in-law said: you can hardly go wrong by cooking a good piece of beef for a long time with a lot of wine and vegetables.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

We've had a couple of fabulous meals here lately with family and friends sharing the cooking responsibilities. Alas, I don't think either made it particularly close to the 90% local goal. I keep planning things to cook that I think I might be able to manage within the 200 mile radius and then finding that California is the closest I can get for many of the ingredients. When it's not a traditional meal like Thanksgiving, I think I need to start by going to the store or the coop first, see what's available and take it from there. We had local yams, cranberries, pumpkin and cherries for pies, chard, leeks and chanterelles. But, the featured guest came from Diestel Farms in California. Not to be confused with my friend here.

We enjoyed no less than 4 cranberry dishes. My personal favorite, and that of several others (it was gone by Friday), was the Bourbon Cranberry Sauce. This recipe was kindly shared on the Farm to Philly blog. I will copy it in below since I still haven't mastered the skill of inserting links.

Last night, we had a belated celebration of my birthday. So, I was off the hook completely for planning or cooking. Grady and Aileen took care of all that and I got to relax. Their menu included cedar plank-grilled salmon, risotto with mushrooms, onions and tomme de savoie cheese, salad garnished with pomegranate seeds, and Moosewood's poppyseed cake. Kris created a variety of cocktails out of what he could find in the kitchen.

Most valuable about both meals, however, was not the food, but rather the company and the conversation. It was a lively time with good friends on both evenings around our big old dining room table. And that is what I am most thankful for. I'll see if I can get my photographer son to give me some of his pictures from both evenings to post later.
Back on the Dark Days Challenge wagon this week.

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce
From Far to Philly blog

1 lb. cranberries
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. bourbon

Mix the cranberries, cinnamon, and sugar together and bake, covered in foil, for one hour at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and give it all a good stir; pour in the bourbon. Refrigerate overnight and serve chilled.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Squash Redux


Last week, it was squash sweet potato soup. Then last night the featured item was stuffed squash. Acorn squash, apples, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon - what's not to like? Dessert and dinner all in one. We thought it was a nice variation for the acorns and went well with our salmon steaks. If you want to try it, you can find the recipe here:
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/StuffedAcorn.htm
Sorry, I still can't figure out how to make that an active link, so you would need to copy and paste to find it. Still playing the rookie blogger card.

I had hoped this would be our main eating local meal for the week. But, rather late into it, I realized that lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon are all in the not-so-local category. (Like WAY not local, in fact.) And there weren't enough other ingredients to make up 90%. Although the salmon was more local than usual since we were at the coast. Darn. Well, it was a good effort. At this point, we are cleaning up stuff in the refrigerator to make room for the turkey and his friends. So, our one Dark Days meal for sure this week will be leftovers of the squash soup. We'll do our best with the Turkey day meal, but a lot of factors are out of my control.

On my other- and happier- countdown clock, it is now two days until the first of the beloved offspring arrives!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Only a Temporary Setback


Although we have pretty much harvested the last of the vegetables from the garden for this year, we still do have these lovely dahlias bringing some color to the back yard.

I could be discouraged today since my formerly-known-as-lucky UM slippers were not the lucky charm I had hoped for today. But, no, not letting that get me down. Today is my birthday! And, while those of us who are older than dirt probably shouldn't get so excited about birthdays, this is the magic one that allows me to retire soon. So, I am a happy woman. No football loss or rain is going to spoil my day. Besides, we are heading off to a party soon and then to the beach for a couple days. And, I also have next week to look forward to when the beloved offspring will be in town and we will have the delayed birthday celebration.

No cooking today other than making polenta triangles to take to a party tonight. But, then I didn't like how they turned out, so Grady is making a fruit salad for us to take instead. My main Dark Days Challenge meal this week will be tomorrow night - to take advantage of the fresh seafood available at the coast. I'm bringing some squash from the farm that we visited up near Mt. Hood to complement the fish. I will report on that when we return.

Do you think we will qualify for some obscure bowl game anyway?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Squash + Sweet Potatoes= Great Winter Soup



Here I am sitting home alone (sniff, sniff - poor, pitiful me) while Grady is over at a friend's house listening to Curtis Salgado at a house party. Had I actually paid attention to the place in the recipe that said "use caution when blending hot liquids", I would be there with him hearing some great music. Instead, I've been here holding an ice pack for most of the evening on the burn in my left palm.

Thank goodness the dinner was delicious, which helps make up for my stupidity. Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle Sauce. Except we skipped the sauce for tonight. I'm hoping to find some peppers tomorrow at the Farmer's Market and then we can have the sauce with the leftover soup. The butternut squash in this soup was one of the squashes that we brought home from a farm on our "Fruit Loop Tour" in October. And it made for an ideal cold, rainy day dinner - squash, sweet potatoes, onion, leek, ginger and vegetable broth. Pretty simple except for that pureeing in the blender part.

And the lucky slippers are all ready for the big game tomorrow. Hoping for the miracle upset in honor of my birthday. M Go Blue!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Pumpkin Knows All



While 99% of the people here in Oregon are watching the Ducks play Arizona tonight with their hopes set on moving up to that #1 slot, I personally am in the official countdown to Saturday morning at 9 a.m. when my alma mater plays that other team from the mid-west. (I choose not to think about the game earlier in the season when Oregon played Michigan at home.)

Gotta go - must make sure my lucky UM slippers are clean and ready to go. I hate to leave important details to the last minute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trying to Cheat on Chickens

In response to my newly acquired faithful blog readers (meaning they've read this blog once), I have fixed my profile so that it no longer shows that I am in accounting. Even though I was a mathematics teacher for many years, I have absolutely no aptitude for accounting. I leave that to the smart people in my life. And, following up from another request, I have changed the settings so that anyone can make comments. You do not need to be a registered "member". Since it is unlikely there are hordes of folks jumping at the chance to read and comment on my blog, I can't afford to put any barriers in the way of anyone wanting to share their wisdom.

After my whining the other night about the difficulty level in checking out where all my food comes from when I make something with multiple ingredients, I need to follow up with a more positive observation. At least if you go to that trouble, it is smart to make enough to have leftovers so you then have a second meal that comes primarily within the 200 mile radius. Last night, we had the leftover cornbread stuffing and more salad from the same vegetables. Since we'd only had the two pork chops from the ranch in Bend on the first outing of this dinner, I got some chicken breasts to substitute for a second meal. Alas, I have not yet done research on where to find chicken raised closer to home. So, we had some from northern California. A lot of our food that is readily available around here comes from California. If I were one to quibble with the rules (that I voluntarily signed on for), I would note that we don't get the full benefit of the 200 miles to the west. By the time you get to the Oregon coast, we should have another 125 miles left in the radius of our agreed-upon circle. So, I'm thinking we should be able to lop off that portion of the circle and tack it on to the south. But,that still wouldn't get me to the source of those chickens, so I guess I'll give up that argument and do my research.

Taco Salad tonight with more of those darn California pollos.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tat Soi


OK, so, in preparing my first official 90% local meal for the Dark Days Challenge, I discovered a few little issues I hadn't thought about ahead of time. First, there is the fact that my kitchen is already full of a lot of food of unknown origin. Can't really see throwing it all out, but I guess I will have to try to use those items without compromising the commitment too significantly. For example, at the farmer's market, I had gotten two pork chops from the Pine Mtn. Ranch in Bend. Then, I found a terrific-sounding recipe for pork chops with cornbread pecan stuffing. Cornmeal was available from a local outfit and all but one of the vegetables met the requirements. I could have substituted filberts which are grown in Oregon for the pecans which most definitely are not. But, I had pecans on hand. So, pecans it was and maybe next time, I'll try a local substitution.

Next thing I learned is that it is probably a whole lot easier to stay in control of the 90% local thing if you stick with simple food preparations. This lovely pork chop recipe had 16 ingredients and the salad recipe had 12. While it is true that I have more time available in my life now that I am working half time, that is 28 different items to research. On the other hand, I was quite pleased to find anything that actually called for the tat soi that I brought home from the market as an experiment. Epicurious actually produced six such recipes for me. If tat soi(also billed as tatsoi) is new to you as well, it is the lovely green in the featured photo of the day. I'm going to try some of it in a pasta sauce tonight along with peppers, tomatoes and zucchini(the last from our own garden) and chanterelle mushrooms.

Lastly, a thank you to my blogging-mentor sister Ann for the nod in her "Running Crazy" posting today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Molly and me



This is Molly. Molly lives with us and she really IS an old dog. I, on the other hand, am neither a dog nor old (a point which the beloved offspring would surely challenge if they ever read this.) New tricks are highly unlikely to feature in Molly's future. But, I am beginning to learn all kinds of new things, tricks or otherwise. After leaving a 60+ hour a week job as principal of a PreK-8 school and moving into semi-retirement, I am finding that I can still learn lots of new things.

The most recent is that I have become a late entry into the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. This challenge was issued by Laura at the Urban Hennery blog. (The rules for this can be found at http://urbanhennery.wordpress.com/dark-days-challenge/). My interest in the Dark Days Challenge is to improve what we eat here at our Portland FourSquare house in Ladd's Addition and to be more responsible about the effects of our eating choices. While my school was becoming an International Baccalaureate school, I talked a great deal with staff and parents about the goal for our students to understand that their actions have an effect on people and places all over the world. But, I think I was so busy running the school that I really didn't have time to examine the effects of my own daily choices. You never want to be in the position of telling students to do something you cant really back up in your own life at least in some way.

So, as a small beginning step I signed up today for the Dark Days challenge and prepared a dinner that was somewhat of a warm up for the 200 mile expectation. Tomorrow will be the full-on challenge dinner for this week. Tonight I took a wonderful recipe from the blog of another challenge participant and made "Roasted Poblano and Potato Quiche". I didn't take a picture of it because the photo from the recipe author was much prettier (http://figswithbri.com/?p=73) - I don't have a beautiful fluted pan like hers. The second photo is the gorgeous selection I brought home this morning from the farmer's market. (Being a rookie blogger, I haven't figured out how to move the picture to be next to the relevant text.) This includes the poblanos, walla walla sweet onion, and the German butterball new potatoes that went into the quiche. I used eggs and cheese that were not particularly local because I already had them in the fridge. But it was a positive, and very tasty, start to one of the new things I hope to be learning more about.
Thanks for checking in on my efforts. You can help keep me honest.