Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheesy on the outside

I wanted to finish my Project Fresh (or 'month of local') with a bang: homemade cheese. I had to start by getting A LOT of milk from our local dairy--an expensive and refrigerator-consuming task. It so happened that we ordered butter for the first time from SMC AND some half-and-half--so we were stocked with dairy. Those of you who are surprised (shocked!) that I bought butter, rest assured that it is for Mayumi and not for me. :-)
I ordered cheese from 'Ricki the Cheese Queen.' I found her online even before reading about her in 'Vegetable Animal Miracle' by Barabara Kingsolver. I ordered two kits--mozzarella/ricotta, and hard cheeses (to make Parmesan). I was excited to begin and made my first effort on Sunday. Unfortunately--I failed. I tried again on Monday--even worse. My first attempted yielded a mozzarella-like product (that is delicious!) that, although ungrate-able, was slice-able, and I tossed it on top of some lasagna (see below--left). The second batch basically turned into cottage cheese. Delicious, but totally unsatisfactory as far as I am concerned. Sigh. I still had to use it to top a second lasagna, as I was making two (see below right).

A short video, staring Mayumi and my hand.

I've had more success with peaches. We have long since run out of apple sauce and sugar--which although we don't use TONS of the latter, we still do use a bit of the 'Sugar in the Raw' almost on a daily basis. And applesauce-who can live without applesauce when you have small kids? So--I made peach puree, with which we have sweetened our greenbean puree ('greach' is what Nate is calling it). Some of that same puree, strained, went into our iced herbal tea (Teavana--NOT local but super delicious) as a sweetener. Not too bad.

I borrowed a food dryer from a friend and went to town trying to replace yet another 'staple' in our house: raisins. I dried a bunch of peaches and cut them into little chunks. Tasty! But I ate them almost as fast as I dried them so very few (none, really) were left for storage. Sigh.

I plan on using this food dryer a great deal. Here I've dried some oregano from our garden. I also dried a bunch of basil in the oven.

Thanks to my buddy Nicolina, I keep on trying new bread recipes.

And I made my own hamburger buns, filled entirely with local meat and produce.

Difficult to see, I know, but in this pan are homemade ravioli in a light cream (SMC) sauce.

This month has also seen my first attempt at cooking okra. AND eggplant. I decided to knock both of these mystery vegetables out in the same meal. Not terrible (but not awesome).

Soaking the eggplant (on the left, submerged in salty water).

This doesn't look so bad--but the olive oil and lemon sauce is really what made it tolerable.

Breaded and oven-fried okra. Weirdly--Mayumi loved it and ate her entire portion.

We have basil come out of ears but have run out of Parmesan. So I made parm-less pesto, and tossed it with mozzarella (not of my own creation) and homemade noodles. It was tasty. Nate could tell the difference but I was happy with it.
One of my favorite meals of the last week turned out to be enchiladas with a homemade tomatillo and jalapeno sauce. Yum! Filled with local chicken, beans (from our food storage), and local corn. Topped with local cheese.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Peanut, Peanut Butter (JELLY!)

Mayumi learned this song in primary and sings it from time to time, getting REALLY excited to loudly whisper that last part--'jelly!' She finds it very silly and laughs great peals of Yumi laughter.

Hopefully you will understand, then, how challenging it was for everyone in this house to go without peanut butter the last two weeks. Mayumi loves it, Nate could eat it by the jar, and I just find it convenient. Sadly, we finished our only jar the second day of the month--and I was committed to not buy anything from the grocery store we could make ourselves or buy locally.

Peanuts ARE grown in Virginia, but it took me some time to find a seller this far north in the state. After a few misses, I finally found someone--the local Lions Club! They had a booth at a farmers' market in the next town over and I pounced on them. On their peanuts, anyway, and pumped them for information regarding peanut butter production. Fortunately one of their number knew what to do and imparted some of his secret methods to me. You, too, can learn how to make peanut butter. Just watch:

Many long minutes later (I was worried it would blow out the motor), it DID turn into PB, and on top of some homemade bread and with some of our local honey--mmm mmm mmm.

Pizza time again. Here we have 100% whole wheat crust (serviceable, but nothing to write home about), Fertile Plains Farm Canadian Bacon (from our local Farmers' Market), Mozzarella from the Falls Church Farmers' Market, homemade sauce (can you believe that it took 12 Roma tomatoes to make sauce for one pizza) flavored with herbs from our own garden. Yum!

And how's this for gorgeous? Mayumi would be satisfied if all she ever had to eat were berries--particularly BLUE berries.

Blue and purple just aren't colors you see enough of in edible foods. We'll be trying some more of those great colors this week as I try to cook EGGPLANT. Oh, I've tried to cook eggplant before but I can't say that I've enjoyed it (I made some moussaka earlier this year but just didn't love it). As you can, there is some eggplant in my crisper here, along with some peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. On a shelve above you would find another vegetable I have ZERO experience cooking: okra. We'll see how it goes. Why okra? Well, that is what they are selling right now--that is what is in season.

Equally as colorful but not evident from the photo are the cooked carrots and green beans to the left. I've always made my own baby food, but this year it is strictly from veggies/fruit on offer from the farmers' markets. Thus--no sweet potato (right now) and no apple sauce (I just made some peach sauce--I'll include the photo next time). These veggies pictured were just boiled, the drained, and then were processed into (yum) puree. Hey--Emi loves it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yes! We have no bananas.

We like bananas. Mayumi ADORES bananas. We have been known to go through over 12 bananas a week, and that is if ration them.
Bananas are a healthy portable snack ideal for toddlers--but they also come with a price. Our banana consumption alone doubtless contributes at least half of the GDP of a Central American country, but are these Banana Republics better off? Probably not. At anyrate, no one grows bananas around here, so it is off the list this month.

What is on the list? Check it out:

It isn't QUITE ideal apple season yet, but one particular variety are popping up at that markets--a tart variety, good for baking. I used them to make baked apples (ala mode--homemade icecream with SMC milk and half-and-half) and sweet apple bread (baking now--pictures forthcoming).

Speaking of dairy, Nate made some yoghurt the other day. He used to make it all the time during his mission in India. We used SMC milk and yoghurt to make MORE yoghurt. This SMC yoghurt is DELICIOUS and quite runny (think 'drinkable' yoghurt. I guess that particular bacteria is just runny...because that is what it made: more runny yoghurt. No complaints there; we all (especially Mayumi) love it. The finished product is here to the right.

Remember the mustard disaster? Well, who needs mustard anyway, when you can make 'Glo's Goddess Dressing.' My mother made up this receipe based on the famous Annie's Goddess Dressing she loves to buy but wanted to make herself. I eliminated the olive oil to make it thick. It is DELICIOUS, and the recipe follows:
1/2 C. canola oil (I normally use olive oil when I make it for salads)
1/2 C. tahini (sesame seed butter)
1 t. minced onion
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1T. soy sauce
1 t. lemon juice
1 T. Garlic
1 T. sesame seeds
1 T parsley flakes
DELICIOUS! See the photo (the parsley in the foregroun is from our garden):

Speaking of disasters--end blossom rot! We have it! Or, to be more precise our tomatoes have it. Look at these pitiful vegetables! As you can see, our garden look awesome. The basil is growing well, the pumpkins are getting bigger...it looks like we can't complain. But the tomatoes--every single last one even the still green ones--all have have end blossom rot. I haven't the faintest idea WHAT that is but when I described the problem to someone they nodded sagely and diagnosed it. Sigh. Our tomatoes last year were so beautiful (still enjoying the dried tomatoes). Thankfully the professional farmers seem to know what they are doing, because I can't have a sandwich without a tomato.

Speaking of tomatoes--we put some of our sundried tomatos on top of our pizza last night! So here we have totally local pizza: whole wheat crust, homegrown and canned sun-dried tomatoes, local mozzerella and ricotta, tomatoes from the Farmers' Market and homemade pesto with homegrown basil. YUM! And for dessert-baked apples and homemade icecream.

Speaking of herbs, we used some of our garden grown parsely for a wicked awesome soup the other day. Local zucchini, potatoes, corn, bell peppers and SMC half and half, along with some whole wheat rolls that Nate says were my best to date. This chowder is a Rachel Ray recipe.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I like it: Independence Day

This is Mayumi's new favorite expression. She says "I like it," followed by a dramatic pause, and then states the thing she likes. One of my favorites--"I like it: samak truck" ('samak' is 'fish' in Arabic and the 'fish truck' was the travelling aquarium we visited). I also enjoyed 'I like it: Daddy singing' (meaning 'daddy's song' which is the BYU Fight Song).

Mayumi really enjoyed the Independence Day celebrations. My mother challenged us to do something patriotic every day the week prior to the holiday, and we gave it our best shot. The most obvious of these patriotic acts was to buy and mount a flag on the front of our house.
We had two gatherings--one on the Saturday before with our wonderful neighbors the Mathews family and other friends Shawn and Janna, and then one more event (just dinner, really) on the 4th itself. With the Mathews--we BBQed and set off fireworks. Mayumi LOVED it.

Nate had the following Monday off from work--so we soldiered out in the blistering heat to Clemyjontri Park--and rode the carousel.
Unrelated, but still nice--I randomly chose to plant Zinias in front of our house. They are gangly, awkward, but very beautiful.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Today I made mustard...

...and it was TERRIBLE. Turns out mustard seed one buys in India three years ago 1) may or may not even BE mustard seed, 2) was bad to begin with, or 3) has expired. I am not sure which of the above reasons explains why each of the three mustard recipes I tried (faithfully, I assure you!) were so foul that Nate didn't even try to pretend to like them.

This photo features all three vile concoctions and the ingredients therein. Why was I making mustard? Well, naturally, we ran OUT of it and this month I am not allowing myself to go buy a replacement. If it isn't made locally, it is not going in my refrigerator this month.

Here is one of the meals I made this week:

You can see some of that cheese, the picture of which was in my last post, on top of Nate's homemade spaghetti. The sauce, featured below, is also homemade, with blended up tomatoes from the market and herbs from our garden. Not having any tomato paste, the sauce was EXTREMELY runny. But it tasted GREAT with the ground meat from the local farm. I used up the last of our garlic for this sauce, and worried we'd have to go through the rest of the month without that delicious....root (is it a root?). I had heard a friend of mine was growing it and I contacted her. Yes, she is growing it, but no, it isn't ready yet. But check out this next photo--what do you see in the middle of that pile of glorious vegetables I acquired only yesterday?

GARLIC!!!! YAY! Our very own local Farmers' Market had some, and I snatched it up.

Like last week, Thursday is usually sandwich day. THIS time we are eating smoked ham, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (note: NO mustard). We DO have a new spread, however, that works in a different situation: pear butter. Yes, I made pear butter from our leftover peaches last week.
Our sandwich bread is homemade! Yay! My friend Nicolina, who used to work at Great Harvest, had me over this last week to coach me in my bread making (sounds domestic, eh?). Not only did we make whole wheat, but we tempted our taste buds with a cheddar garlic bread. INSANELY yummy, and I pretty much ate one whole loaf the moment I pulled it from the oven. Next week we'll make a sweet bread, so stay tuned.
That whole wheat? Freshly ground at our house (thanks Glojo for the wheat grinder!).

Nate makes delicious whole wheat pancakes, which this time contained SMC milk and little chunks of peach. Topped with a local honey.

I still make my own baby food, but this month the green beans are totally local. Thanks to my food processor, it isn't as arduous of a task as it sounds.

Emiko is naturally the major consumer of babyfood around our house these days, but we still make Mayumi eat the green beans. How? We mix it with apple sauce and call it "Greenple." Nate gets the credit for the name. Mayumi loves it. I, for one, love to hear her asking for greenple.

Another random meal--roasted potatoes, corn, steamed squash.

Okay, so people have been asking me how I am liking this project. The answer: I am enjoying it. It IS almost twice as expensive as buying regular 'cheap' food on sale. But it is so FUN to shop the Farmers' Markets, and they really do provide enough for one to eat from them exclusively. Of course I have had to make more food from scratch than I usually do. While I have always enjoyed cooking, I enjoy it less and less now that I have kids. Nothing makes hours slaving in the kitchen less worth it then one's 2-year old throwing what you've made on the floor, while you and your husband shovel down your food in silence because you can't possibly hold a conversation over the toddler wails and whines.

Do I sound bitter? Trying not to be. But I was kept awake for 2 hours last night but the younger one who is sleep training.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.