Monday, March 29, 2010

The End of Dark Days- Dark Days Week # 19

I am amazed it has been 19 weeks since we started this challenge and I feel as though it flew by. I'm sure for some of the participants the dark days seemed much longer than here in sunny San Diego, for which I do feel thankful and lucky! This will be my last dark days spent in this beautiful city, for in July I will be moving to Northern California and experiencing a little more rain and weather change than in San Diego. But don't get me wrong, I LOVE northern California and have been waiting to return for years...I am pretty excited to get up there! One thing that the Dark Days Challenge did help me notice about San Diego is that we actually do have seasons! We always have such a bounty of food at the markets and the weather doesn't change too drastically and it can be hard to pinpoint changes around here, but this year I noticed Spring. I went to the market this weekend and found asparagus at the Sage Mt. Farm stand and was ecstatic! They also had potatoes and across the walk at Suncoast Farms there was baskets bursting with baby purple artichokes! Spring! I had planned a completely different meal for this write up and planned on purchasing a few different items at the market, but there was no way I was passing up any of those offerings. I wanted to finally purchase a chicken from Womach Ranch and roast a chicken and use all the parts and go out with a bang, but I think my Spring meal was a better ending for the end of Dark Days!
I had some alone time that afternoon when we returned home from the market and I took a walk to the coffee shop across the street and almost finished reading "This Organic Life" until it got too cold. Of course while reading I was feeling inspired to cook and when I got home I went straight to the kitchen, I had perfect, fresh, local ingredients that would go well together. I put on the potatoes and an egg ( from the market as well) to boil while I chopped up baby artichokes, baby bell peppers, green garlic, and green onion. I threw those in a skillet with some olive oil and then used the last of it to drizzle the asparagus and threw those in to roast. Last minute I decided to sliver some fresh almonds I got that day from Lone Oak Ranch and tossed them in the saute. Everything was done at the same time and I was overjoyed...probably considered weird to some, but I'm sure you guys understand! I had all sole ingredients except the sour cream, I couldn't resist! The sour cream was Organic Valley and purchased from my local co-op that I do not get to enough, but not local itself! Oh and I also indulged in my salt that I sprinkled atop it all, it was the X Roads salt (from the Philippines) from our local business at one of the farmers markets. The picture may not be pretty, but I was lucky I took a picture at all, I just wanted to eat! Everything was so delicious and I was sad my kids had missed out on the meal, but we have more spring goodies that I can cook for them another day. For dessert I had an Aloha Latte Cookie! I love Aloha Lattes, let me tell you about them. There is an Orange coffee truck in San Diego named Joes On the Nose and they make the most delicious drinks, of which my favorite is the Aloha Latte! It is espresso, soy milk (my preference), mocha, macadamia nut and coconut topped with coconut whip cream! I can not go to one of the weekend markets and not pick up a drink and many days I wish they delivered! They have other drinks that are just as interesting/delicious (check out the menu), a great staff and the orange all around you just exudes happiness. Twice now I have been lucky enough to have Joes pair with another local vendor and offer flavors of their own intertwined with other products. First Viva Pops, a wonderful local popsicle shop and now 410 degree cookies, the company with the best cookies you could probably ever taste! They ship orders too, so if you like cookies at all, even if you're not in San Diego check them out. The cookie they created had all the ingredients of an Aloha Latte and I don't know how I withstood from eating it all day but I did and I was so glad, because it was the perfect ending for a perfect San Diego, end of Dark Days Meal and I was one satisfied SOLE eater!
I am happy for the coming foods and warmer weather, but I am sad that the challenge is ending. I have been so inspired by others posts, recipes, and experiences and I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of this community. I know I will continue to follow many of the blogs and stay up to date on what's cooking in your houses over the months of hopeful abundance to come. I will surely be sticking with a more Sole way of eating and am very much closer to my goals than I was when I started this challenge. I realize when I do have to go to the store lately, it's basically for beverages, pasta and rice and I feel great about that. Thank you to all who have commented, given me tips or advice, and held my hand through this journey! The Dark Days were not only bearable, but fun!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dark Days Meal #18

This week I am not posting about a complete meal, even though that is the challenge! I did have lots of simple, SOLE meals this week but all of them were things I've made before and not very interesting. The best meal I had this week was a bowl of re heated Lundberg brown rice with leftover Christmas Lima beans and topped with home made pickled carrots and radishes. That was delicious, but not worthy of a whole write up. What I do think is worthy this week is the strides I've been making in making my own food. I joined the Real Food Challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal and the timing has been great. I have learned so much during this Dark Days Challenge and have been getting comfortable in my kitchen and now for the last month I have taken on a second challenge that challenges me to put even more real food in our diets. I think at the end of this month, I will be thriving in my new way of eating and I will be comfortable to go on without a challenge to hold me up (even though I'll gladly join another if it comes around). I finally found a great bread recipe that I had the ingredients for and was simple enough for me to make and it came out great!! I used the other half of the dough and made a cinnamon/raisin/walnut loaf! I also made crackers plain and with three different seasonings: cinnamon/sugar, onion/garlic, and ginger/pepper/poppyseed. I loved the crackers and so did my kids! My son asked if I could make some for his class and if he could take them in his lunch! That was a success for me, if I can replace chips or store bought snacks with home made ones that is awesome! I also finally got the sauerkraut going and my daughter can't wait for it to finish fermenting, it's been sitting about a week now so maybe today we'll try some on some home made crackers. My other big accomplishment this week was using my canning pot for the first time and preserving some food! I don't grow my own food, but I do support local, organic growers and feel preserving their food is almost as good as preserving my own when I can't grow it. I followed a Food In Jars recipe and made delicious carrot/daikon pickles! The brine was so good, I could've drank it! This was my first attempt and I have no kitchen common sense so I didn't do a perfect job, but they are still edible. What I did wrong was I poured the brine and veggies in the jar together instead of packing it and got jars only half full of veggies. Next time I'll know better. The ones that went in the water bath are still sitting on the shelf for a few more days, but there was one jar that was only half full that we were going to didn't make it that far. Those were the pickles we ate on our beans and rice for dinner the other night. They of course weren't all pickly yet, but they were delicious and I can't wait to pop open a can of them soon! So all in all I think I had a very successful week of Dark Days and Real Food and I can't wait to see what happens next week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dark Day Meal #17

I started reading a new book a few weeks ago, even though I am still reading two others..."This Organic Life, Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader" was calling from my bookshelves. I love the book and am very much enjoying reading it. It is a story of Joan Gussow and her journey into local eating, and producing what she could on her property in New York. Not only does it tell a story, but you learn along the way and she also includes a few recipes throughout. I decided to make one of the recipes for our Dark Days meal last week, Joan's Kale and Potato Soup.

Christmas Limas (instead of pintos) - Sun Coast Farms
Kale- Suzie's Farm
Olive Oil - unfortunately the last of my Petrou
Red Onion- Sage Mt. Farm
Garlic- the f.m.
Bean stock from the cooking of the limas
Chili flakes, Bay leaves from the store
...and last but not least the potatoes were form the store! I know that was bad, I thought about leaving them out but it just wouldn't have been the same without them and I couldn't find any at the market.

This soup was quick cooking and very easy for a weeknight meal as long as you have your beans ready! To wash down the soup I had a nice glass of green juice made from the stems, leaves and greens from the veggies we picked up at Suzie's Farm. Once I juice the veggies and an apple, I pour it in the blender and add wheat germ, a few almonds and a drop of honey. I wish I could have this juice all the time, it works as a great replacement for coffee in the morning and anytime I need a little extra nourishment and the kids like it too!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Visiting Suzie's Farm

Catt White, a wonderful Farmers Market manager in San Diego posted a great question on face book a few weeks ago "Do your kids think vegetables come from the farmers market? Do you?". I had to laugh, of course my kids and I know that vegetables don't come from there!!! But it did bring up a very good point and that was although we shop at the farmers markets and know the farmers, we have not seen the farms, we don't see the food in the ground and the kids probably don't know as much about their food as I think. So I decided to sign up for Suzie's Farm tour, that they hold every second saturday of the month and go see where exactly our food DOES come from. There has been lots of events that go on at the farms that we regularly purchase from, but those farms are all in North County which is a significant drive for our unreliable vehicle that we have. Suzie's Farm is a SAN DIEGO farm, that is closer to us than any others and is actually in town. Suzie's is newer on the radar for us than the others, but that has made no difference, from the first time we purchased from them at the farmers market I was impressed with the quality and selection of their produce.
The tour is open to all and lasts about 2 hours, you pay $10 and you can harvest whatever you'd like while you're there. So Saturday morning we woke up and drove about 15 minutes down to the farm. Lucila (the owner) and two off her farm hands, Ellie and Misha were there to lead us through the forty acres we were visiting called "Kiki Town". Lucila gave us a brief introduction of how the farm came to be, how it got its name and where exactly we were in regards to the Mexico border and San Diego land marks. Then we grabbed our bags and started walking. She talked at different points about what the organic certification process is, how they have grown in the past year, what their future plans are for being Bio Dynamic and of course she spoke a lot about their crops and what the different foods were, etc. Lucila, Misha and Ellie would cut you something you wanted or pull it up for you, but I think most people got in there and got dirty for themselves....isn't that the point?

The kids had a blast running all around and pulling up their own food. When we first arrived my son said he didn't care about the vegetables, he just wanted to look for bugs and by the end I think he could've cared less about the bugs! They had a great time pulling up beets on their own and eating peas. They also tried hard at digging up carrots, it took three little sets of hands to get one carrot out of the ground! My daughter loves carrots and at one point I turned around and she was eating them straight out of the dirt. They sampled everything there was to sample and felt what it was like to get stung by stinging nettles! I didn't bring any home to cook up, but maybe one day because Lucila told us all about how good they are for you. They are a weed and there are PLENTY all over (especially in the pea vines where the kids were shielding their eyes) but they are 40% protein and chock full of vitamins. What we did bring home was a bag full of goodies: cabbage, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, chois, broccoli, carrots, beets, radishes, peas, celery, dill, cilantro, and my new favorite fennel. I had never had fennel and did not know what I was missing, it tastes like black licorice and is crunchy like celery! I am in heaven! At the end of the day, after two tours, the farm had welcomed 100 visitors!! Hopefully good business for the farm and a great opportunity for our local community to learn about their food. I will not only continue to shop from Suzie's at the market, but we will definitely be returning to the farm again soon...and now I can say without a doubt that my kids know vegetables don't come from farmers market. Do your kids know where vegetables come from?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

English Muffins...just the beginning

I've joined a new challenge! The Real Food Challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal. The challenge is to get more real foods into your life and is going on for the month of March. A lot of challengers are attempting all "Real" food for the month, but I am not yet ready for that leap. My commitment is to learn to make a lot of bread/grain products myself. I can bake a loaf of bread in my bread maker that is decent, but I want to really master a loaf of bread for my family. I also want to learn to make tortillas, which we eat a lot of in this house. I added to my list English muffins, bagels and crackers because those are other things that we sometimes buy and I would like to cross off my shopping list forever.

I started last week with a decent loaf of bread in my bread maker just to get me biggest problem with my homemade bread is cutting it. When I slice the bread, it crumbles and is all different sizes and doesn't work too well for sandwiches that aren't eaten at home on the plate ( school lunches =( ). Does anyone know what I'm doing wrong? So onto the first real trial in my challenge, I made English muffins. My mom had been talking about wanting some for a few weeks and I didn't think she had bought any yet, so off to work I went. I found a recipe that seemed so simple that I figured something had to be wrong, but hey what the heck it had so little ingredients I figured if I messed up I wouldn't be wasting too much. Here it is:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar

Mix well, cover and set aside for 2 -12 hours (the longer the better) - I sat mine aside overnight for about 14 hours

Next add:
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes

Heat griddle over med. heat for several minutes (add a smidge of butter if non stick)

Place muffin rings on hot griddle and fill 2/3 with batter

Cook on the first side for 5 minutes until bubbles come through and bottom is slightly browned

Flip and cook about 2 minutes, then remove the ring and finish cooking until browned.

Doesn't this sound simple? It was! I will not say I made a perfect batch, but they were tasty.

The problems I did have:
1. I had no muffin rings or cookie cutters to use to shape the muffins, so.....before I let the final dough rise, I used a sprouting jar lid and shaped the batter into circles and let rise that way.

2. I didn't have corn meal to use when shaping up the muffins, so they had a little flour on the outside as opposed to a corn meal dusting

3. I am crazy about things not cooking enough or being well done so I pushed down my english muffins while they were cooking and made them too flat ( I do the same thing with pancakes, I have to stop!)

But despite these issues, they had great holes and crannies, they had that English Muffiny taste and they were a big hit with my family. My sister came over to try one ( she only lives a block away so she can travel easily for food) and ate hers on the way home with no butter, jam, etc and said it was great! I know this isn't a recipe chock full of health, but it's definitely still better for you than the ones bought from the store and it really is that easy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dark Days Week #16

This week our dark days meal was not picture worthy, but I figured it was post worthy because I made my own refried beans and attempted to make my own tortillas. We've all been sick in my household and nobody is really hungry for much. My son must have asked every day if he could just have fruit for his meals and my daughter who could usually eat us out of house and home hasn't been to keen on meals this week. So we've been eating a lot of plain rice and pasta with raw fruits or veggies on the side, a lot of leftover soups from the freezer and yes even the last Campbell's we had in the cupboard. I think I only have about 5 cans of food left in there to eat one day and then it will all be gone!! I haven't bought any canned food, sauce, etc since we started this challenge and don't plan to.
On to the meal of the week that is post worthy, which was burritos we had for dinner Sunday night. I have started cooking beans A LOT since we gave up most non local meat but usually we eat them as is or in a soup. When we have burritos I just scoop the beans in whole and roll them up but my son usually says that's not a burrito and deconstructs his. So this time I decided to try my hand at refried beans and used a recipe from Rick Bayless: Mexico One Plate At a Time. Eventhough it is really just mashed up beans with some onion and garlic I am still pretty proud of myself that they came out good and my son ate his burrito whole! For some reason I always thought they would be hard to make but now I'm not scared anymore. The beans were from SunCoast Farms, the onion and garlic were from the farmers market and the avocado oil was from Bella Vado. I think what made them extra delicious to me was that I usually don't salt or season my beans at all and this time of course I did. I think I'm going to start experimenting with my beans now and adding a little something more than water when I cook them. I also attempted to make whole wheat tortillas, but that did not turn out as well as the beans. I found an EASY recipe in a hand me down old Whole Earth Cookbook that simply said mix flour, salt and water, knead till elastic, roll into balls, flatten into tortillas and heat on the griddle. LOL, not so easy for me. I have just started to actually knead a few products and I think maybe I just don't have that down. I mixed the ingredients, kneaded until I thought it was elastic and then wondered where I went wrong. As I split them into balls, they were slightly sticky and when I attempted to roll them into tortillas they stuck like glue. I was able to pull a few off the board and get them on the griddle, but they looked terrible and tasted not so yummy. Thankfully we had a few tortillas left over from the last trip to the market and my refried beans didn't go to waste. I piled the beans into the tortillas with Lundberg brown rice and topped mine with the last of my FireHouse Jack cheese and cilantro from the market. I just joined a new challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal and my goal is to get good at tortillas, bread, crackers, bagels and english muffins this I guess attempt number 1 at tortillas failed, but I will be trying them again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dark Days Meal #15

This week for the Dark Days Meal I made a meatless chili with wheat berries and black beans. I picked up some wheat berries last week at the market and wanted to experiment with them this week so I was looking all over for recipes and found this great one from Eating Well. I had the beans and berries, but was short on the veggies needed so I took a rare Friday trip to the FM near my house. This was a perfect trip made for chili, one of the stands was selling baskets of overly ready tomatoes for $2 which I picked up so I didn't have to use canned tomatoes and the tortilla lady had HUGE bags of jalapenos in liquid for only $2 and I picked up those so I didn't need a can of chipotle peppers. I also got the garlic, onion, bell peppers, avocado and cilantro I needed. So Friday night I cleaned and soaked the beans and berries and saturday morning I cooked them both. This is only the second time I've cooked black beans, but there has to be a secret that I don't know. Both times they have come out hard, I taste them at 1 hr and they seem pretty good, but a little hard so I keep them in about 1/2 more and it seems they only get harder!? Being in the chili it didn't really matter, but this is something I'm going to have to figure out!
On to the wheat berries, they were great! I took half of them and made a great wheat berry pudding (like rice pudding). In place of the maple syrup I used one of my new favorite things, Brown Rice Syrup. I had seen this online and wanted to order some, but the s&h was more than the product itself! Then a month or so back my local Henry's started carrying it and now I use it for everything. I put it on my pancakes, in my tea and coffee, to bake with and to sweeten anything else that needs it. I love it!
So into the pot went all the yummy ingredients from the market, along with some of our special salt, and other seasonings. About 1/2 hour later dinner was done, well at least my dinner was done. I took a bite and it was much hotter than I expected, both kids still tried it but my son wanted nothing to do with it. My daughter kept her bowl with a few bites to sample, but didn't want more. It was even hot for me, though I admit I am a sissy with hot stuff. What made it bearable and extra delicious was the fresh avocado and cilantro on top, each cool bite followed by the rush of heat! I'm definitely glad I have enough for the leftovers! Also on top I grated a little bit of Spring Hills FireHouse Jack which is my favorite, but added even more heat! Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of those jalapenos...