Apr 27, 2010

{april daring bakers: traditional british pudding}

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Suet: the hard fat found around the kidneys and loins of a cow or sheep. When I read this months challenge, I have to admit that I was pretty grossed out by the thought of suet. Thankfully, Esther was kind enough to allow other fat substitutes as well as pretty much any variation on a traditional pudding we wanted, savory or sweet. Sure, suet might be just as bad butter (what I chose to use), but I felt better about using it vs. actual hard fat from a cow.

As I thought about the challenge, I became more excited to try it. John was also thrilled to find out I'd be making something savory this month. As we are taking on the challenge of eating foods produced within 100 miles of where we live, I was very happy to discover I could make this entire challenge with what I had on hand and a few things from the local farmers market. Buckwheat was the flour I used for the crust and since there is no gluten in buckwheat, the crust did not get as crispy as others. It was still tasty, but hopefully after my trip to the local flour mill I will be able to make these again using whole wheat flour. For the inside I used local bratwursts, potatoes and green onions. I used individual sized ramekins to steam the puddings and each one was a perfect serving size. Even though I put some beer and Worcestershire sauce in the pudding, it was not as juicy as I'd imagined. I saw that some people were putting a gravy into their pudding after it had been steamed and think I will try that next time. It was still incredibly filling and full of flavor. Thank you Esther for this challenge!

Recipe and pics after the jump

Apr 20, 2010

{sausage, tomato and goat cheese pizza}

So, it has been a little over two weeks of doing the locavore challenge. We have really enjoyed taking the steps to eat locally grown foods and have learned a few things in doing so. First of all, forget about meal planning for the week when heading to the market. I am hoping this will change as the harvest comes in and the weather gets warmer, but so far our options have been very limited. What we've had to do is basically take stock of what we have on hand and then while at the market plan our meals. Its been fun and challenging as we are not entirely sure what will be on the menu.

Another thing that has happened as a result of the challenge is that we really have discovered whats been hiding in our freezer and pantry. Everything in there is down to slim pickings as I've used most of it to make or supplement our meals. It will at least make moving a lot simpler!

In doing all of this, we have actually been less tempted to eat out because the meals that we do end up making always sound so delicious. Also by eating locally we've decreased the amount of money we've spent on both groceries and eating out. It will be interesting to see if that continues as more fruits and veggies become available. We have found that the most expensive items to buy are the locally grown, grass fed meat products. It makes complete sense and we are happy to spend the money knowing that the animals have been treated like they are supposed to be and they haven't been pumped full of hormones. It has also caused us to get more creative in how we might stretch the use of that meat. All in all, its been exciting so far and I can't wait to have more options than lettuce and butternut squash...although I do heart the butternut squash.

Pizza recipe and pics after the jump

{how to make: peanut butter}

Since starting the locavore challenge I have been eating a lot more peanut butter. I get tired of eggs every morning and haven't found a place to buy oats locally. I could use some advice on other tasty/healthy breakfasts if you've got any! My breakfasts have consisted of toast with peanut butter and honey or strawberry marmalade for the past couple weeks. As a result, I quickly used up all the peanut butter I had on hand. Since we live in Virginia which is known for peanuts I went on the hunt for some. I found my recipe off of wiki and gave it a go. My sad little food processor, which I had been so happy to buy, did not enjoy the process of chopping up the nuts. I was only able to make about 1/3rd of a jar per batch in the processor. The processor needed a few breaks as did my ears during the 5-10 minutes it took.

Recipe and pics after the jump

Apr 12, 2010

{farmers market + carving a chicken}

This Saturday was our first trip to the main farmers market in town. There were many more vendors there compared to Tuesdays market. We were most excited to find meat and cheese vendors as I'd used the last of our frozen meats to make all of last weeks meals. Unfortunately, the main meat vendor was out of chicken so we purchased some round steak, sausage and ground beef. We later discovered a local butcher who carries Polyface Farm chicken and bought an entire bird.

There are still not very many veggies at the market but we were able to buy butternut squash, potatoes, lettuce, goat cheese and more homemade pasta in addition to the meats. I was super sad not to find any tomatoes but hoped that at Tuesdays market the tomato vendor would be there. John was thrilled to discover that there are such things green eggs. We learned there's no difference in taste and that the color varies based on the type of chicken.

More pics after the jump

Apr 9, 2010

{stuffed beef burgers}

Inspired by the Mozzerella Stuffed Turkey Burgers I made a couple months ago I decided to give it a go with the beef I had in the freezer. We had no buns or the ingredients to make them so these were bunless burgers that I topped with a tomato sauce made from the tomatoes I bought at the market. We used up the last of the asparagus and potatoes to finish up the meal. Deliciousness.

More pics and recipe after the jump

Apr 8, 2010

{butternut squash, steak + sweet potato pasta}

At the market on Tuesday I found the vendor Nellies Noodles. They were selling a few varieties of handmade pastas so I picked up the sweet potato one to try out. Since I'm still using what is on hand and the few things I picked up from the market, I chose to pair it with some roasted butternut squash and pieces of steak cooked with some stubbs marinade. It couldn't have tasted more delicious. The textures were very smooth and it was incredibly savory.

More pics and recipe after the jump

{asparagus, steak, oven fries + turnips}

At the market on Tuesday I found one vendor who had asparagus. It was going quickly since it is just coming into season so I bought one of his last few bags. I think every meal during the spring should be served with fresh asparagus as it is one of the most delicious vegetables out there. I cooked mine by sautéing it in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until they were soft but still had a little crunch. Asparagus is even better grilled, but since we don't have an outdoor space at the moment, the stove top worked just fine.

Recipe and more pics after the jump

Apr 7, 2010

{windowsill gardening}

Inspired by the warming weather and our new challenge of becoming locavores we decided to try our hand at starting our own window garden. We have no outdoor space where we currently live, but we do have large windows with decent light. We bought the book Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail and have used it as our instruction manual. It has a lot of great information and once we move to a place with a balcony hopefully we will be able to expand what we can grow. Gayla also has a great blog with plenty of information on getting your own garden started.

We started by planting a variety of sprouts to be added to sandwhiches, salads and soups for seasoning. The sprouts: sunflower, broccoli, radish, onion, black seeded simpson lettuce, spinach, mustard and beet. For our herb garden we are trying tarragon, oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro, rosemary, sage and parsley. We also planted a couple lettuce heads, green onions, jalapeno and sweet banana peppers to grow fully.

So far, most have sprouted and are looking lovely. I can't wait for the herbs to grow in so I can start using them to cook with! I'm not too sure how the lettuce, peppers or green onions are going to hold up, but we will see.

More pics after the jump

Apr 6, 2010

{the challenge of a locavore}

In an effort to eat healthier, fresher foods my boyfriend and I have decided to become locavores. Our goal is to eat locally grown foods within a 100 mile radius of where we live during the months of April to November (prime farmer's market months!). We wanted to do this for several reasons: 1) to eat fresh foods only 2) reduce the distance our food has traveled 3) support the local economy and 4) reduce/eliminate the amount of pesticides and hormonally treated food that we consume. We are allowing ourselves to clean out the pantry and use whatever foods we already have on hand. That's down to mostly condiments at this point because we weren't able to make it to the market this past Saturday. We do plan to support our local wineries, breweries and any local restaurant that also uses local ingredients. We will also have a few ingredients that will be allowed. At this point we are going allow olive oil, salt + pepper, orange juice and rum :D. If and when we do buy those items, they will be organic (except for the rum - that just needs to be alcoholic). We are still figuring out how eating when traveling will work, but so far we are planning to try and eat within 100 miles of wherever we are. If there are no locavore restaurants then we will at least support the local restaurants.

Recipe and more after the jump