Sunday, June 29, 2008

Local diet update - June 29, 2008

What a week! Despite having lost a couple days of baking/cooking to the lack of AC in our house, I accomplished a lot. I made a chocolate cake and a batch of homemade ice cream (all from scratch) for my hubby's birthday, yogurt, a large pot of veggie and italian sausage soup, bagels (this time cinnamon bagels - and ooh aren't they pretty!), a loaf of white bread, rye dinner rolls, white sandwich rolls, a large batch of potato salad, and several different kinds of pancakes with various flours. It might take me two full days of baking/cooking, but I find it's definitely a simple, green, and frugal choice - I only heat the kitchen once; I wash up the dishes all at the same time, saving water; and since all this food will take weeks to eat, it makes mealtimes super simple - just reheat! 

My most exciting news on the local diet front is that my dad came over on Wednesday with a second box (1/2 bushel this time) of peaches from Henderson, 155 miles from here. As I handed him his peach jam from the last box of peaches, I could see how eager he was to dig in to the jar. So as soon as he left, I started in on the ripest of the peaches for 2 more batches of peach jam. That makes a total of 5 batches - that's a lot of peach jam, but will it be enough?

The peaches were so ripe, the peels came off with no trouble, and rather than cutting the peaches, I just squished the pulp away from the seed with my hands and into the bowl (I was going to have to take a potato masher to them for the jam anyway). The aroma was phenomenal and all those peels will make great breakfasts next week with a little of my homemade yogurt. Mmmm.

Within 1-1/2 hours I had 7 large and 2 small jars of jam ready to boil in my canning pot. Not bad. This process gets more instinctual each time I do it. I can't believe I was ever panicked about  messing things up. Once you get the hang of it, it's way too easy. Another couple dozen peaches were peeled, sliced, mixed with a little vitamin C and sugar, and dropped into gallon size freezer bags. I can only imagine how tasty these will be come winter.

Friday, of course, is the arranged pick-up for Sand Creek Farm. All we had on order this week was a gallon of raw, whole milk. I still have 1/2 a pound of gouda, and some italian sausage in the fridge to get us through to next week. 

Saturday's farmers market was, as always, a highlight of the week. I can hardly believe the difference the season makes. For the winter months, the market consisted of just one veggie vendor and 2 egg vendors. Now the vendors are out by the dozens and hundreds of eager customers arrive looking to get the freshest and the ripest foods available in town. I made a valiant effort to keep from purchasing more than I can eat within a week (always hard when everything looks so good). With a fresh batch of homemade all local soup in the fridge for lunches, all those yummy peach peels, homemade breads and yogurt, local rice, a couple bags of local beans, and fresh local milk and cheese, I didn't need much. 

Heirloom Herbals was back with their homemade soaps and being down to our last bar, I stocked up with 5 new bars (we're finally down to the last bit of liquid soap in the  house and have almost completely switched to local soaps)! I picked up some sage for my herbal tea; basil and tomatoes for tomato sandwiches; potatoes and onion for potato salad; zucchini and more of those onions that I'll saute and serve over either some local rice or those 2 spaghetti squash there on the right; a watermelon; a cantaloupe; and finally, one dozen eggs. I really needed 2 dozen, but if you're not at the market by 8:30, all the vendors run out! But I'm lucky. I've bought my eggs now every weekend for the last 9 months from Joe and lately, he's been tucking away a dozen eggs just for me. Isn't he sweet!?

As far as non-local food purchases this week, I did pick up a few things. I bought some bulk, unbleached, organic flour from Brazos Natural Foods (I brought my own containers so there is absolutely no waste). And at our grocery, I bought half and half (for ice cream), heavy whipping cream (also for ice cream), a 5 lb bag of bread flour, and a box of Nature's Path organic corn flakes (for hubby). I also picked up some mushrooms from the grocery, but they are local (about 36 miles from here).

The fridge and freezer are now completely stuffed and I have the whole week ahead of me. I'm sure I could make something extravagant out of all these goodies, but I'm a girl of simple tastes. Last night, I sat in front of my "dinner" plate - one of my homemade rye dinner rolls, toasted and topped with homemade butter and homemade peach jam; a bowl of fresh, local watermelon; and a piece of the chocolate cake I made earlier, entirely from scratch - and I realized there wasn't a more beautiful meal in the whole world. 

Happy (and mindful) eating!


Michele said...

I'm so jealous of your farmers market, we simply don't have anything like that here in my Suburban town..sigh...if I had to eat locally I fear I would starve to death.

Those peaches sound amazing!! If you find yourself with an extra jar...grin...just kidding...sort've....

JAM said...

I'm so impressed with your ability to get all those things going at once, and I also wish we could get all that nice fruit. Our veggies at the market are getting to be pretty good, but so far the only fruit is strawberries at $6/quart. I think we're better off buying the jam already made from the jam lady!

EcoBurban said...

Oh, geez... those bagels look so darn good! I am pretty sure they are beyond my technical abilities, so you might just have to air mail me some!

emi said...

green donut,he

hmd said...

Rapunzel - it's pretty slim pickings in the winter. Basically whatever Lois (the only veggie vendor in the winter) sells, is what I eat (it was a lot of onions, potatoes and cabbage - ALL WINTER). But summer has amazing variety. Aren't you in Florida? I would have thought you would have a wonderful selection of fresh markets. Are CSAs an option?

Jam - Our market has been pretty pricey on the fruit too, although those melons were a great buy ($5 for the watermelon and $1.50 for the cantaloupe). I'm not sure what my dad paid for the peaches, but I'm not sure I want to know. :) They are super tasty though and the jam is fabulous. I was buying jam from our "jam lady" before I got brave and started making my own. Keep an eye out for good deals. I noticed that at the end of the blackberry season, our vendors were dropping prices just to get rid of them. That can also work if you get near closing time at the farmers market, but then you run the risk of not getting what you need.

Eco 'burban Mom - The bagels are just as easy as bread and the boiling part is SO not a big deal. Seriously, I am a complete dunce in the kitchen. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It just takes practice.

Glenda said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Heather. Very inspiring.

When I read Kingsolver's book, it inspired me to at least be more aware of where the produce I buy is coming from. When given the choice between apples from New Zealand or Washington, I choose those from Washington. It can get tricky tho, if I have to choose between organic apples from New Zealand or non-organic apples from Washington -- I tend to opt for organic, especially since my kiddo is the one who is the main apple-eater in our household.

The rest of the produce is mostly for DH and myself, so I make an effort to buy Texas-grown when possible (definitely easier in the summer, when there's a ton of squash and melons).

Hubby grows tomatoes and jalepenos like crazy each summer. We're trying to grow some eggplant this year, for the first time -- not sure how those are going to turn out.

We haven't been to the local farmer's market yet this summer. I haven't thought to look there for eggs, so thanks for that idea.

I hope that you keep posting updates like this one.

Glenda said...

What cookbook do you use for your bread-baking?

I'm generally an adventurous cook, but for some reason cooking with yeast intimidates me. Go figure.

hmd said...

Glenda - Definitely check out a farmers market the next time you have a chance. It's pretty sparse in the winter (we had one veggie vendor and whatever she grew, I ate - mostly potatoes, cabbage, and onions ALL WINTER). In the summer, it's wonderful and it's not just veggies - you can find eggs, meat, honey, homebaked breads, jams, canned veggies, flowers, fruits, herbs, and later this fall, we'll have lots and lots of pecans. It's such an adventure to discover new things every week. You'll be hooked before you know it. And what surprised most people is that much of the time, it's cheaper than the grocery (not to mention the food is a gazillion times tastier!)

As far as a cookbook for breads - honestly, I've never, ever even looked at one. I'll be posting about bread again soon, but I was totally freaked out by the "yeast-factor" too. I started out with lessons from The Fresh Loaf:

They have lessons for beginners going in why each ingredient is included and how additions can change the chemical dynamics of the bread. I got to where I was feeling comfortable with their basic loaves and then just went wild with experimenting. It's one of my favorite hobbies now. I just LOVE baking bread. It's SO worth giving it a shot. Even if the latest loaf isn't the prettiest, they always taste good and once you cut it, no one will know the difference :)

Michele said...

Heather, since I am in Suburbia, the only "fresh markets" nearby is the chain, Fresh Market. :-/ There are a couple of markets in Miami but they are seasonal (open through April) otherwise I'd have to travel to Homestead which is about an hour from my house. I continue to search, though, thank you for the inspiration!

J said...

Seems like you are really keeping up with the challenge and that it hasn't been too difficult. The farmer's market is the same way here, if you don't get there early, all the good stuff is gone. We got there a little after 9 on Saturday (they open at 8) and the tomatoes were already gone! There is only one vendor with them right now, so he gets cleaned out fast.

I can't wait until the melons start coming in here.

hmd said...

rapunzel - good luck with your search for fresh foods. One hour is defnitely too far to go on a regular basis. Then again, maybe a short letter to the editor might spur something closer to home :)

jennifer - Ahh, no tomatoes! That that just isn't right! It's summer! We have the opposite issue. EVERYONE is selling tomatoes and I don't think anyone ran out. For us, like I said, it's the eggs. They're gone within the first 1/2 hr. Until the market slows down, I'll just have to plan ahead (at least on the weeks that i know I'll need more than a dozen) and get them from our dairy. They are more expensive, but at least I won't run out. Something about not putting all our eggs in one basket... (Ok. I'll stop now. That was bad...)

Glenda said...

Heather, thanks for the link to the Fresh Loaf videos -- I can't wait to watch them! I pick up so much more from watching people bake and cook than from reading cookbooks (yet, I love reading cookbooks LOL).

hmd said...

Glenda - unfortunately, The Fresh Load doesn't have videos, just detailed instructions, but if you search on uTube for things like "baking bread," "kneading bread," or "shaping bread," you can get some great videos that will supplement the instruction!

Glenda said...

I actually stumbled across some videos thru that link you gave me! They are videos posted on youtube, but I accessed them thru that link. Weird, hunh?! The written tutorial with photos, plus the videos, make a great combo.