Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spent the morning listing stuff on etsy! Loads of these cute naturally dyed hankies.....

Some fun rust-dyed quilting or sewing cotton

And a few scarves - this is my absolute fave. I had a hell of a time not keeping it!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I was inspired by 2 things, recently - this gorgeous shot of a really well-stocked farm pantry, and this amazing list of home-canned goods (scroll down and look on the right-hand side of the screen).

In the past year or so, we've gone to eating maybe 75 to 80 percent local foods in my house, for 2 reasons. 1) I got divorced, and the income coming into my household dropped, well, let's just say a really staggering amount. I had to learn how to get by on much, much less, and VERY quickly, and 2) it just really seemed like the right thing to do, for environmental and social reasons.

I consider myself VERY lucky to have learned an absolute TON in 4-H, as a youngster. I learned to cook, make candy, bake bread, sew, and freeze and can foods. In short, actual useful life skills that they don't really teach you in school (at least, not very well - certainly not at my high school).

So it's been interesting to me to see how my buying, cooking, and eating of food has changed REALLY drastically since "going local".My food pantry no longer holds pre-pacakged commercial soups, breakfast bars, cookies, chips, or cereal. Instead, this is it: an astounding collection of fantastic homemade jams (my friends are generous to me!), yeast, certo, homemade fruitcakes, comb honey. A few leftover organic noodles and some sort of funky pudding mix are languishing in there - remnants of a former lifestyle.I keep bulk bins of raw sugar and locally-produced white and wheat flours, mostly for breadmaking.My spice cupboard is VERY well stocked. Good, fresh, and ample spices are absolutely the key to good cooking, I think, especially vegetarian cooking (I've been veggie since I was 13 years old).There are many things I have to learn, and many things I hope to have soemday - a small cold frame, and root cellar are among them. For now, I keep winter squashes in our unheated basement. (Tori the cat watches over them. I have 8 cats, and every single one of them goes nuts when I cook squash or sweet potatoes. They love them!!!).
My canning cupboard is pretty woeful this year. Quite a few jams (most of which are gone - given as holiday gifts), some tomato soup and peaches and fruit and herb syrups, and quite a bit of apple pie filling, but no beans or pickles or tomatoes or salsa - mostly due to a really horrid year in the garden. I also always have a nice selection of dried beans, and a few baking staples: fair trade cocoa and chocolate, mostly.Here's a load of cordials, infusing. Not exactly necessary to life, sure, but damn fun nonetheless. From left to right - key limes in rum, pineapple in rum, strawberry and lemon balm in vodka, black raspberry in vodka.
Having ample freezer space is KEY to eating local year-round, I think. I was sooooo lucky to find this upright, full-sized, nearly new, very very clean freezer for FREE on craig's list. Isn't that fantastic??? It is chock-full of pesto (LOTS of pesto), tomatoes, corn, roasted tomatoes, roasted root veggies, veggie "bits" (ends, peels, middles, etc) for making veggie stock, herbed butters, local goat cheese, and astounding quantities of white peaches, applesauce, black raspberries, red raspberries and grape juice (it was a fantastic year for fruit).Last but not least, we have the meat freezer and the coffee roaster. What kind of vegetarian has a meat freezer, you ask? The kind that lives with 11 carnivores (1 human, 8 cats, and 2 very large dogs). I get bones from the butcher whenever possible, for my canines (they LOVE them!) and also try to get bulk inexpensive meats for my pets as well.

The coffee roaster is divine. If you are at all interested in good coffee, I suggest you get one just like it. It's relatively inexpensive and WILL pay for itself pretty quickly - when you buy your own green beans, you can get organic/fair trade bulk beans for around $5 a lb, shipped - which is much cheaper than the ten and twelve dollars a pound I used to pay.Plus this is far, far fresher! it takes about 20 minutes to roast 1/3 lb of beans, and doesn't make too much noise, or smoke.

So, that is what "eating local" looks like at my house.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This week's "Freezer Soup of the Week" (Holiday edition- because I took it to our annual Christmas Eve family soup supper)

First - make veggie stock, using (as usual) the end bits/skins/peels, innards of all the veggies I ate or froze this winter.

Secondly, get a bag of roasted root veggies out of the freezer. This summer, when we had a glut of veggies from the csa, I roasted huge pans of carrots, garlic, turnips, potatoes, beets, onions and parsnips in the oven, with generous helping of rosemary, basil, thyme, black pepper, sea salt, and olive oil, and froze the leftovers for winter soups.

Blend together the defrosted root veggies and veggie stock, until rich and creamy. (This could be a delightful simple soup as is - with a bit of sour cream dolloped on top, and a sprinkling of Penzey's amazing smoked spanish paprika for both color and flavor).

But, instead - I salt-roasted some potatoes - okay, a lot of potatoes. I coated large baking potatoes in butter, rolled them in sea salt, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven until they were done. I chopped them, skins and all, and added them to the soup, added loads of freshly cracked black pepper, some whole Jersey milk, and huge handfuls of grated local gouda cheese.

It was pretty darn good. I'm glad I have lots to eat for leftovers.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I still maintain that this over-the-top rich mac and cheese is a guaranteed foodgasm, but now I want to make this one as I understand it is divine too, and could be my "everyday" mac and cheese. I will make it and let you know how it goes.

Now, back to parking my ass on the couch and knitting the Hot Damn afghan (Which i highly modified, because that is how i roll). I got about 1/3 of it done last night while watching a movie and this morning while drinking coffee. And you know what? I really like it. In all it's acyrlic glory, even.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's crunchtime.

I've gone entirely handmade for gifts this year. I think the only thing I bought were 2 reusable travel mugs, to gift with certificates to a locally-owned coffeeshop, to 2 folks I know who are addicted to their lattes and chais. :)

Otherwise it was knitted gifts, homemade jellies or liqueurs, dried herbs, and such. I was totally stumped as to what to make for one person, until this morning, when I decided to make this Hot Damn afghan, knit on gynormous needles. Unfortunately that means I had to buy acyrlic yarn. But i know for a fact this person would not like natural fibers, had to be done. Now I have, what, 3 days to knit it?

Wish me luck.

I also think I'm going to make this hot chocolate mix, which sounds pretty damn divine, I think. Nom nom.