Category: Local Food

A Few of My Favourite Things

Kids who make their own lunch. And arrange it on a table they’ve set up themselves.Children who read. A baby who still nurses from time to time.

Tiny front-yard gardens that produce actual tomatoes to be picked by girls still wearing pajamas.

The smell of a lime being sliced open, which makes me think we should up and move down south to a country where these would be locally grown (along with mangoes and avocadoes).

Good Enough

Trying to get up in school-ready time, which is silly because we still have two and a half weeks of summer vacation left; but I want to remind myself that I can do it. And I can. It just makes me want to go to bed earlier. Unfortunately, the children are not going to bed earlier. If anything, they seem incapable of falling asleep before 9:30 at night, no matter when we tuck them in (perhaps we should end the two-week-long sleepover going on in Albus’s room; Apple-Apple is in his loft bed, because she kicks, and Fooey and Albus have been sharing a mattress on the floor, which leaves only enough floorspace for masses of dumped Lego. My thorough cleaning of several weekends ago was decimated almost instantly). Naturally, no matter how active our days, the children still wake up at approximately the same time. This morning it wasn’t their fault. We were all woken by an apparent earthquake, the entire house shuddering on its foundations. It’s still going on. Endless road construction.

:: :: ::
Tomato season seems to be starting only just now; at any rate, my favourite savoury fruit hasn’t been offered in bulk yet at either of our local food sources. Tomatoes loom, and part of me is questioning whether I’ll find the energy and time to do the work when the bushels start rolling in. (I think I can, I think I can). It feels like I haven’t been putting up food at the same pace as last summer, or perhaps not with the same fresh enthusiasm. Because we’ve already filled one freezer, so obviously we are putting food up: mainly blueberries, apricots, peas, and yesterday evening Kevin grated a ton of zucchini (for baking). There is no doubt if we had to live on what I’ve put up, we would not survive; but why am I thinking in these all-or-nothing terms? Instead, why not appreciate how second-nature putting up food has become? Not vast quantities, but little bits here and there. It does add up, and will make our winter more flavourful. There is so much summer bounty, and no way to preserve it perfectly. The way of all things perishable.
Cheery, huh.
This post has been written in the midst of serving children breakfasts and trying to meet their variety of demands (poorly, due to focussing on this posting instead). And now it’s time to hop on bicycles and head to swim lessons.

Recipes for a Party

I like a party where people of all ages can relax and have a good time, including the hosts. And I really really really enjoy hosting just such a party. The planning! The feeding! The mingling! The half-finished conversations and the help with the dishes! My planning basics are: who, when, food, beverages, activities, seating. I’m fond of a good to-do list. If all the thinking and preparation is completed before the guests arrive, you can just let events unfold in a lovely swirl around you.

Herein, a few recipes and photographs to document Fooey’s fourth birthday party: nine children, eleven adults, zero injuries.
Yesterday morning, I started cooking a giant pot of black beans (from Nina’s buying club).
**Mini-recipe: Pot o’ Beans: Rinse and pick over six cups of black beans, cover them with water in a large pot, bring them to a boil for two minutes, then turning off the heat and let them soak for an hour. Add some whole cloves of garlic, to taste, several bay leaves, approximately one tablespoon of salt, and cook on low heat for two hours, or until done. Add more water if needed during the cooking process. Pretty effortless.**
About an hour before the guests were due to arrive, I started a large pot of white rice.
**Mini-recipe: Pot o’ Rice: Place three and a half coffee cups of rice in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add approximately double the water, or add water to about one thumb’s length above the level of the rice. Add salt if desired. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, simmer undisturbed on low for twenty-five minutes (brown rice takes about forty-five minutes). Turn off the heat and let rest, then fluff with a fork before serving.**
Meanwhile, I was also frying up two generous pounds of hamburger (Nina’s buying club, again).
**Mini-recipe: Hamburger Topping: Saute one chopped onion and several cloves of garlic in a large pan with a small amount of olive oil. Add hamburger. Season with salt, cumin, and ground coriander to taste.**
Finally, I made a fresh tomato-peach salsa, which involved a lot of chopping.
**Mini-recipe: Tomato and Peach Salsa: Finely chop four large tomatoes, three ripe peaches, several green onions, and approximately one cup or half a bunch of fresh cilantro. Slip in a few finely chopped zucchinis, if you’re looking to rid your fridge of these, too. Salt to taste. Dress with cider vinegar. Add hot chili pepper flakes if you want some heat.**

The basic meal at the end of these simple recipes is served buffet-style, starting with a bowl of fresh flour tortillas (Nina’s, again!), and continuing in the following order: rice, beans, hamburger, grated cheese, chopped lettuce, feta cheese, sour cream, fresh tomato-peach salsa, hot sauce, and, finally, a giant bowl of tortilla chips for crumbling atop everything else. You can add or subtract as your own tastes desire.Now, the cake. This “bear cake” has become a family tradition, in part because it’s ridiculously easy to make and always ends up looking, well, cute. The older children no longer request it, I must add. The design comes from a book that, as children, my brothers and sister and I used to drool and fantasize over, titled “The Cut-Up Cake Party Book,” published in 1973. The authors were fond of dyed flaked coconut, and the themed party, but their bear cake design is unbeatable: bake your cakes in one square pan and one round pan, use the round cake for the head, cut a few squares out of the other cake, and, voila, teddy bear’s body with paws! Frost and decorate.

Okay, deep breath … here’s today’s confession: I use a boxed cake mix to make our birthday cakes. There, I’ve said it outloud! Aagh! But here’s why: because I used to go to a lot of fuss and bother to bake cakes for my children’s birthday parties and they weren’t measurably better than this boxed brand I discovered a few years back. It’s made by Dr. Oetker with a short list of organic ingredients, all of which I’ve heard of and which do belong in cake. I add the eggs, milk (soy milk in this case) and oil. I’m not claiming it’s the best cake ever, but it’s easy to handle, pops out of the pan, and is reliably tasty.
The same cannot be said for storebought frosting, however, so, this birthday, inspired by eating a gigantic slice of my friend Nath’s crazily delectable chocolate cake, I requested and prepared her Swiss Meringue Buttercream, from a Martha Stewart recipe. She claimed it was not that complicated. I’d say we have different definitions of complicated; but nevertheless it turned out so beautifully and spread so smoothly and tasted so rich that I will absolutely be making it again. To save time, and typing, and because it is not in any way a “mini-“anything, I’ll refer you to Nath’s blog for the recipe, with these words of caution: one and a half cups of butter.One final recipe … because this was a summertime party, with lots of adults as well as children, Kevin devised a lime-green rum punch, stirred up in a large glass container and served, upon arrival and throughout the evening, to those guests old enough to appreciate it.
**Mini-recipe: Kevin’s Rum Punch: One container of frozen limeade, three parts water, two cans of club soda, one part rum, one-half part tequila.**
Stir it up. The party’s started.

Fruit for later

This has been a slow growing season due to lack of sunshine and heat, and excess moisture, and I’ve also been slow to preserve this year: usually, I’m hot out of the gates with rhubarb and strawberries (asparagus is something I prefer to eat fresh). In any case, this year there still remained bags of last year’s rhubarb and a half dozen containers of strawberry freezer jam, which seemed like enough, so we just ate and enjoyed the fruit raw. We’ve done the same with cherries, absolutely gorging on the fresh and sweet, choosing not to pit and put any of these away either. But here we have the first real preserving effort … and what ease it was, the fruit purchased at Nina’s buying club, carted home in the stroller, and put up after supper: four litres of blueberries (minus those snacked upon), measured out in two-cup amounts, and a pile of apricots, pitted and thrown into bags, now lining the floor of our freezer.
Last winter, I regretted not putting away a few blueberries for smoothies and general snacking and muffin-additions; and I greatly appreciated the few bags of apricots, frozen in exactly the same simple manner (raw; no sugar added), which were preserved without forethought only because I’d bought too many and they were going bad on the counter. Who could have guessed they would taste so amazingly tart and tangy stewed up and served over hot breakfast cereal? CJ loved them too.
Everything I plan to put up this year follows this theme: easy, and wanted.

Because There Just Aren’t Enough Messy-Baby-Face Photos in Blogland

One strawberry: that’s all it took to cover our lad from head to toe. I like how Kevin’s hand is the only element in this composition that is actually in focus: the calm, still element. Yesterday was our first CSA pickup (Community Shared Agriculture; our fourth year participating), and CJ chose the box (er, the one with the strawberry already half-eaten), and then he proceeded to decorate himself with said strawberry all the way home. Is it possible to have too much local food? We’ll explore that question in-depth this summer with a series of practicums. Right now, I’d say it might just be possible to have too much local lettuce, though now that it’s all washed and de-slugged and spun and tucked into bags in the fridge it looks quite appetizing.
Tonight’s supper plot: DIY taco salad (ie. unmixed for those whose individual foods Must Never Touch; not to mention to accomodate our variety of intense food preferences and abhorrences. Tomatoes! Gak!).
Right now, I’m sitting here obsessively checking the weather radar, trying to determine, with my imaginary PhD in forecasting, which part of this massive summer storm is going to hit us, and when, and whether or not it will arrive with the promised golf-ball-sized hail (please, no!). I was so looking forward to picking the big kids up from their Last Day of School, strolling as always; but have Kevin on alert (he’s got the vehicle today). If I press the panic button, he will meet them in my stead. I’m still hopeful despite rumble, rumble, eerie black sky.

Eat, Cry, Try

Fooey and I, lying side by side in a play tent in our living-room, talking (subjects: camping trips we’ve taken, going to the beach, marshmallows on graham crackers, etc.). “Do you know what we’re doing, Mommy? We’re having a chat!” The wonder and pleasure in her voice.

Does that plate at the top of the page make you hungry? Bacon, fried potatoes, open-faced egg sandwich on local greens, local tomato (must be hothouse). That entire meal is made from ingredients sourced at Nina’s buying club. Local, local, local, and good. I am using her club as my grocery store, though since we still like to eat apples and bananas and drink coffee, we have to visit the actual grocery store (or our neighbourhood health food store, Eating Well) for odds and ends. Buying club was last night and my fridge is stuffed.
If you have Simply in Season (cookbook), I highly recommend its spring quiche trio recipe. We made one with a crumb crust and one with a grated potato crust (pictured above); both very very good indeed, and filled with what seemed very little but became plenty: we filled the potato crust with uncooked chopped green onions and grated garlic cheese, and the crumb crust with leftover hamburger and sliced apples (don’t tell the kids; the apples were scavenged from their lunch boxes). Over top of each was poured three beaten eggs and one cup of milk. It was supposed to be evaporated milk, but we used regular. And, yes, the “we” is deliberate: these were made by group effort. It was that brutal witching hour after school, and CJ was short on his nap, everyone exhausted from too many late nights in a row (we’re heading toward the longest day of the year), the noise a pure cacophony of misery (here’s what it sounded like: … yet food needed to be prepared. Why can’t I be like Soule Mama? I asked myself somewhat despairingly. There must be some way to involve these kids.
So I did. Albus cut the butter into the flour for the crumb crust and stuck it into the pie plate, and Fooey whisked the egg/milk mixture. CJ was not going to be cheered under any circumstance, however, though he stood in his high chair at the counter and with irritation and occasional screaming (whoo, this boy can scream) he pawed at and rejected the edibles I kept tossing at him. What he wanted was his Mama, and his favourite spot on the couch. Soule Mama, how do you do it? I would file this experience under Mixed Success … the older children were pleased to help, their moods greatly improved; but their participation only reminded the babe that he wasn’t being treated with equal respect. He thinks he’s their size, of course.
Yesterday, after buying club, he attempted to follow Apple-Apple’s lead at the little park. She easily steps off the play structure onto a ladder about a foot away; he was sure his legs were just as long. They weren’t. He would have walked confidently into thin air had I not been right behind him.
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