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Reach Out: Your #Locavore Friends are Waiting!

8 Sep

As we begin week 2 of the Locavore challenge, we’re thinking of the ways that food brings us together.  Most shared meals have this effect, but consider how eating locally offers the chance to make friendships, build new bonds, and keep your community and environment a place to live well.  Perhaps you don’t count farmers as regular dinner guests (but invite them, they may really appreciate someone cooking for them after a day of harvesting winter squash), but going out to a farmers market, buying their food, then treating it with interest and eating it with appreciation all go into building community with local food.  Imagine if nobody did that–what would happen to the farmer, the farmland, and your surroundings?  Now, imagine a brighter future.  What would happen if everyone who went to the farmers market convinced ONE friend, co-worker, or acquaintance to meet them at the farmers market.  How many more farmers would be supported?  How much more food would be available?  How much stronger would the local economy be?  (If you’re interested in some studies on the impact of small local farms, including how they tend to purchase more of their inputs from local sources, check out studies from the Dyson School of Agriculture Economics and Marketing at Cornell and the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems).

local-ingredient cornbread (made with honey and butter, not sugar and oil) and garden-to-table vegetable soup

local-ingredient cornbread (made with honey and butter, not sugar and oil) and garden-to-table vegetable soup

So, what happened in week one?  We saw a big uptick in blog visitors, some action on Facebook and Twitter.  One Twitter user, Amy Reinink, tweeted us photos her yogurt-in-progress.

She even strained it to make it Greek-style and posted about the challenge on her blog!  Way to go, Amy!

Our summer intern Maddy (you’ll read a post from her in a few weeks) has been working to engage community and bringing them to action through Think Local Geneseo.  Here some reasons those people gave why they’re taking the Locavore Challenge:

“I care about local farmers and their families”

“It tastes better”

“Factory farming is wasteful”

“I trust local produce”

“It makes sense”

See all the great reasons on their Facebook photo album.

Many locavores spent a few days last week sharing in traditional foods and activities of Rosh Hashanah.  They were brought into community through shared symbols, faith and for those who saw the connection, through local food-sharing.  It was indeed possible to have a very sweet Locavore Rosh Hashanah, with local apples and honey representing the sweetness anticipated for the new year.  We loved reading blogger Leah’s latest post at Noshing Confessions.  What inspiration, as usual, on good food and making the most of the seasonal bounty in the context of age-old traditions.

Some of us have families that give us instant community, and we can share the locavore challenge with them.  Sarah Raymond, Membership and Development Coordinator, is going through her first Locavore Challenge with NOFA-NY.  Here’s how her first week went:

“This September, as part of my Locavore Challenge, I plan to bring more dialogue into and emphasis on our food activities as a family.  As the month rolls on, I will help my kids keep their own Locavore journals, full of drawings, photographs, recipes we used together, stickers, stories, and most likely, a few smudged food marks. I think it can turn out to be a nice little family tradition every September. We began this week by going to our local farmer’s market. The kids picked out some peaches and blueberries to savor and share while exploring the market. Sure enough, not long after the first few bites, a group of kids had congregated together, each investigating and sharing each other’s food, with their parent’s approval of course. That’s one of the great things about food, it brings people together. For my kids, I want them to know that sharing healthy food is a way to show others their love and respect for them. In toddler terms, we like to give people healthy foods to eat because we care about them and want them be healthy so they can have fun.”

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Others among staff were impressed that a few words spoken to some fairly new friends (“I’m eating local foods as much as possible this month”) had a noticeable impact on those friends’ food-buying habits.  At a recent Labor Day dinner, the hosts were very excited to tell Rachel, Beginning Farmer Coordinator, that the tomatoes were from HER farmer (one she’d pointed out to them upon a chance encounter at the Brighton Farmer’s Market).  Everyone at the party agreed they were some of the meatiest, most delicious tomatoes they’d ever tasted.  True, when someone hears you’re trying to eat mostly local foods this month, you may have to convince them why you think it’s important (it may not be an instant sell).  But if you talk about the challenge in the right way, you can indeed effect change.   More on that later this week! Wednesday’s worksheet will help you come up with a Locavore Sales Pitch, so start thinking about why you are taking the challenge so you can tell others about it.

Let’s end this rumination turning the locavore challenge into a community-builer with some kitchen ideas that take a spin on one of our classic locavore activities.  That activity, appropriate to Grandparent’s Day (today), is to interview a relative about a food tradition.  That’s always a fun one, as some of our past blog posts show.  Decades ago, locavore eating was the only eating, and our grandparents (or great-great-grandparents) might not think of this challenge as anything but normal.  That’s where traditional foods and regional cuisine comes from–what used to be the best things to eat in that place and time.  If you’re low on inspiration from traditions, culture or passed-down recipes, try to make some new ones to repeat.  First think, “What are my local foods?  What’s available (farm-fresh) to cook with today?”  Work backwards to find a recipe that uses that food.  We have plenty of ideas collected on Pinterest.

One more crazy idea (and if you e-mail us a picture, we might just post it here next week) to share with friends and family.  Pick one ingredient.  A fruit or vegetable will be easiest.  Obtain a lot of it (perhaps in various varieties, from different farmers).  Then make a feast out of it.  Don’t just cook one dish with it.  See how many different ways you can play with that one ingredient.  Chances are that next year, whomever you invited to your Broccoli Brunch, your Carrot Circus, your Pepper Potluck Party, your Eggplant Eating Extravaganza, your Tomato Tournament or your Zucchini Zone will want to join in the fun again!  Voila! A Locavore tradition!  Try a variety of dishes, some cold, some hot, some raw, some not, to marvel over that one ingredient’s flavor and texture in all its forms.

lots of kinds of zucchini to test out!

Zucchini "Carpaccio"

raw zucchini salad (Martha Stewart)

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grilled zucchini and tomato salad (the kitchn)

zucchini ricotta galette (smitten kitchen)

zucchini ricotta galette (smitten kitchen)

ugly and therefore tasty zucchini chips

zucchini parmesan chips (smitten kitchen)

Pickle Recipe

quick zucchini pickle on toast with cheese (101 cookbooks)

zucchini ice cream (flavor of italy)

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On Finding Balance: 5 Strategies for Happy Locavore Times

3 Sep

Lea Kone, a Rochester local who’s worked in the organic farming advocacy world since 2008, writes in today.  Read on for an in-depth look at how she works Locavore principles into her life year round.

Five years ago, I went on a relaxing Caribbean vacation with two books packed for beach reading–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I am not entirely sure what inspired the local-foods themed picks, but I do know this: After that vacation, my life was never the same. I flew through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s prized non-fiction account of her family’s year-long attempt to eat only food that they grew themselves or could obtain locally. Everything about the book – from Kingsolver’s exquisite writing, to the recipes, and even the facts and figures in the footers– drew me in and made me want to do what they were doing.  I was hungry and ready to become a local foods “disciple” and to spread the word about how eating local and organic could save the world.  And that was when I became a believer. I quit my job, moved back to New York and began a career in the organic farming and advocacy field. You’re thinking “she did all that just from reading two books?” – the answer is yes.

I was terrified for my first day of work in the organic farming advocacy sector, not because it was a new job, or because it was a new “field” to me.  I had no idea what to anticipate for those things, but my actual panic was about what to pack for lunch.  I was in the process of moving into a new apartment, I hadn’t unpacked a single kitchen utensil and had zero idea how I was I going to whip up some amazing local, organic, and seasonally appropriate dish to bring for lunch.  Would my coworkers ask where the grain from my bread was grown? Was my cheese local, organic or both? Was it better to bring a vegetarian meal or show my commitment to pastured protein sources? I thought that being committed to “the good food revolution,” and working within the field meant that I must become the ULTIMATE LOCAVORE immediately.  I did not encounter sideways looks or a shunning based on my lunch choices.  I have since learned that the community of locavores is encouraging, but most of the pressure to perform comes from within.  During the Locavore Challenge, we have a chance to put more focus on our habits and what more we can do, and this is a good thing.  In those first few days of wanting to be the best possible locavore, I had some lessons to learn about what really mattered to me in that department.

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Eating locally and organically can be (but doesn’t have to be) over-thought and stressful. The truth is that this change to local and organic is supposed to be a good, healthy and happy change in your life, but forcing yourself to become The Ultimate Locavore is too much.  It’s too much change, too fast, and too absolute.  Now that I think about it, that’s a good life lesson in general, but it’s an imperative lesson when becoming a Locavore, and more importantly, a Locavore who still sees their friends. [Editor’s note: don’t forget that you can engage your friends and find new ones through the locavore challenge, though Lea certainly has a point here about not creating Locavore-colored walls around yourself].

When I participated in the very first Locavore Challenge in 2010, I tried to approach it like an Iron Man Challenge. I stripped my cabinets bare of any imported pastas, oils, sugars, and regionally un-identifiable canned beans and vegetables. I trained like I was a future Olympian as well, pre-preparing tomato sauces, chicken broths, crackers, breads and soups.  I made local, organic ice creams and plum upside down cakes for desserts, became a connoisseur of fine sustainable New York State Rieslings and turned my nose up at people with bananas or peanut butter.

locavore pig

So, “Fine,” you might grumble, “You’re great at being a Locavore.  What’s the problem?” Well, attempting the Locavore Challenge with too much force, as an obsession and with an all-or-nothing approach rather than a passionate pursuit with some self-forgiveness and flexibility built in, will probably wear you out.  Going “cold (organic) turkey” is a tough approach for anything.  You’ll know if you’ve taken it too far, because the next thing you know you’re 20 days (or 2 days) into the challenge and hiding in a dark corner of your local bar on a Wednesday night inhaling a piece of pizza made with ingredients from who-knows-where, contemplating a non-organic, not-lovingly-prepared, not-local chicken wing, and rationalizing it all because you are drinking a Peak Organic NY Local Series Beer and muttering incoherently under your breath “at least I know where my hops come from.”   For the record, Peak Organic is brewed in Maine, but that particular brew is produced with all NY state ingredients.  Take it a little easier than the perfection approach, find the areas in which you can sanely and reasonably challenge yourself to do more, and you’ll find yourself increasing your Locavore lifestyle without that binge effect.

Top 5 List for Becoming a Locavore Living and still LIVING

5. Identify your breakfast options right away. It is the most important meal of the day, and if you start your day as a grumpy, hungry, unprepared Locavore, you are going to be sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts sulking and ashamed by Day 3.

My Breakfast Go-To: Fritttata (that’s EASY EGG DISH in Italian)

A frittata is as good, if not better, cold than hot and great for lunch or dinner too. Start by sauteeing local veggies, bacon (if desired) and potatoes. Add beaten eggs, cheese, and seasoning. Heat until set and then finish under the broiler.

4. Discover local grains. Wheat berries, freekeh, rolled oats, cornmeal and local wheat flours are going to change your world. Open your arms to them.
Grains (photo: John-Paul Sliva)

My Local Grain Go-To: Polenta (that’s CORN MUSH in Italian)

It is easy to make, super versatile, and is good for any meal of the day. Try it with a poached egg and salsa in the morning, or with cheese, sausage and roasted veggies for lunch of dinner.

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3. Commit to one afternoon or evening in the kitchen. It’s no surprise that a little advance planning and preparation
can make a world of difference. Pick one day, either the same day or shortly after a market or CSA day and go nuts in the kitchen.

My Day: Sunday

My market of choice is Sunday morning, and for me, it just makes sense to shop, come home and wash and prep all of my market bounty [Lea’s not the only one hip to this plan]. I like to start by roasting a whole chicken, and then turn that into a soup that I can enjoy well into the week.

My Chicken Soup: Shredded chicken with homemade broth, and chock full of the extra roasted veggies from the roasted chicken. My favorites: carrots, onions, fennel, parsnips and potatoes. This becomes a hearty stew like soup that embraces all of the flavors of late summer and early fall.

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Cut up and roast a big pan of root vegetables on your in-the-kitchen day. You’ll have food for now and the start of hearty salads and sides later in the week.

2. Set realistic goals. Will you choose a few non-local items that you must have: coffee, tea, peanut butter and eat 100% local otherwise? Will you just eat local at home? Or will you try and replace certain items in your cupboards or refrigerators with local alternatives?

My Goal: To eat 90% local and organic.

This is really my goal all year, and its really my aim for it to be as close to 100% as possible, but I believe that setting reasonable and achievable goals is always better than setting oneself up for failure. This season is bountiful with local products, so I start by stocking my fridge exclusively with local and organic fruits and vegetables. I choose local grains, beans, meats and dairy products as well, and allow myself to add small amounts of non-local oils, seasonings and accents (like the occasional lemon or Parmesan cheese). That sets me up for being nearly 100% at home, and allows me to be open for what options I may have before me while eating with friends or family.

Locavore home cooking: sauteed okra, herbs and corn fritters.

Locavore home cooking: sauteed okra, herbs and corn fritters.

1. Be real. Let yourself be human, and don’t aim for perfection. Even the most committed local and organic food experts have occasions when they eat chocolate and bananas and drink coffee and tea. Of course, they prefer Equal Exchange, Fair Trade and Organic to Dole, Nestle and Folgers, but you get the gist. This isn’t the Organic Olympics or the Sustainability Seminary. Give yourself a break and just focus on enjoying the delicious food.

I NEED the dark days challenge…

8 Dec

From Rachel

Sigh.  That’s how I feel about my local eating lately.  Since the end of September, Rochester has still been awash in great local and organic produce, and I’ve definitely been relying on the farmers for fruits and veggies.  We’ve been fortunate with really mild weather, and it’s almost DECEMBER!  Still, despite the good habits I formed during September, including purchasing local only flours, etc. I do feel I’ve lapsed a bit.  It doesn’t help that my inventory of local polenta, freekeh and oats ran out, but I’ve still been using local wheat flour and eggs.  I lapsed on making my own soy milk, I’m using (fair trade) white and brown cane sugar more than local sweeteners, etc.  So I’m SO glad there’s a new challenge to kick me into gear.  I like the Dark Days Challenge because it’s the moderate approach to locavore…I wouldn’t be a content locavore every meal of every day, as we all know.  But my favorite foods are the ones that star local organic fair produce, so this is a great choice for me to use as sort of a practiced meditation on that concept during the winter. It’s like going to that really intense yoga class even though you sort of do yoga in your living room most mornings or something like that.

“Good Enough Reason”

Though eating local is instinctively a good idea, I find myself faced with when to use the results of long summer afternoons storing food for this very occasion.  I don’t have enough stored to eat these foods all winter, so they become extra special to me.  They become like a collection of good wine for some people…wine that never gets enjoyed because it’s so special.  I dehydrated, pickled, canned and froze foods all summer and fall so I would enjoy it, not just enjoy looking at it, but I know that a lot of that food will not get opened if I don’t have a “good enough reason.”  I sort of rang a starting bell on opening jars at Thanksgiving.  Seemed like a special enough occasion and like it was late enough in the year (never mind the non-frozen ground outside that is yielding heavenly sweet kale and big ol’ carrots and more).  When I post about Dark Days, I plan to give a run-down of the stored foods opened and the fresh foods used, which will encourage me to open and celebrate the fresh taste of summer and fall while snow (maybe) falls outside.

On Thanksgiving and next day:

  • Pickled green tomatoes (canned Sept. 2011)
  • Ginger-Pear-Lime preserve (canned August 2010–only three jars were made of this heavenly stuff, and I thought a first holiday meal with a significant other’s family was “good enough reason” to break out the final jar)
  • Delicata squash (brought in a huge bin into the NOFA-NY office by our at-large technical assistance specialist, who is a lifelong farmer who obviously knows just how to grow and cure winter squashes, that flesh was dang dense and sweet)
  • Rosemary and parsley (my windowsill)
  • Beets and Turnips (from last CSA pickup back in October)
  • Carrots, potatoes, garlic, onions (local farmers)

Annnnd forgot to take pictures of how all this glorious food came together.  There was a pickle tray with Lea’s refrigerator pickles, beans, garlic scapes and my green tomatoes.  The ginger-pear-lime went on bread on Friday, next to cranberry relish.  Squash and veggies were roasted and mixed into a quinoa salad (dressing included South River miso, soy sauce, organic orange juice, windowsill parsley, butternut squash seed oil) for Friday.  The rosemary roasted potatoes that I made were probably the winner in the local-ingredients content, as only the olive oil, salt and pepper were not local.  So, not doing too bad without really trying, but I’m all fired up reading some other blogs, ready to challenge myself to highlight local non-vegetable ingredients again.

Imported binge/Challenge your default cooking habits

31 Aug

From Rachel:

We were discussing a bit in the office the past few days whether we should binge on the obviously non-local foods that we will do our best to avoid starting MIDNIGHT tonight!  I, somewhat randomly, did not have my morning coffee on Monday, and decided maybe I should take a day off from the imported wake-up juice.  Then yesterday I also avoided it, just to see.  I was planning on treating myself to some after a doctor’s appointment, but then it seemed the wrong time.  This morning I woke up and decided I was already off the coffee (since I was getting a withdraw headache).  Thus, the decision was made that I have given up coffee for as long into September as seems logical.  Not going to lie, I might go back especially given the wonderful local roasters we have, and given the long car trips that I’ll be taking to some field days mid-month.  Lea was mentioning how she felt like she should inhale some greasy Asian take-out food tonight (but I’d be surprised if she really did given the wonderful food she has stocked up on).  Interestingly, you could make local ingredients into the same food, minus the rice, but that take-out food is just magically comforting the way it is.  Stephanie, our Administrative Assistant, is tearing up a little at the thought that avocados will never be local (and we all agree there; perhaps we need to endorse a very cold-hardy avocado breeding program).  Kate, our Executive Director, treated us to some of our favorite cookies from a Rochester restaurant.  They’re curry and chocolate–one of my personal favorite flavor combinations.  I am planning to avoid chocolate, but I’m still debating spices.  So I indulged in some obvious no-no-for-September cookies, but I know that the bad/good thing about our imported food system is that I can always go BACK to eating curry and chocolate.  But once the fall is over, it’s going to be a lot harder to find thai basil (current location: 1.5 miles from my apartment, and also on my counter) from my garden or eggplant straight off the tables at our area farmers’ markets (under 50 miles, often less).  Sure, spices enhance those ingredients, but why not (ahem) challenge your culinary defaults?  You know you cooking tastes good with the spices and imported characters, but how good can you make that recipe without local ingredients?  For example, last night I made amazing and 100%-local veggie burgers with thai basil, chili pepper, NY soy sauce and veggies and soybean pulp leftover from my soymilk brewing (more on that later).  It didn’t really need the ginger, cumin, thai curry paste from a jar, etc. that I might normally throw in by default–they were left out and that food still tasted interesting, flavorful and a little exotic (man, I just love that musky, anise-y flavor of thai basil).

We already have so many wonderful ingredients hanging around, it might take more effort to binge on non-local foods than to just glide gently into a mostly-local habit anyways!  I know I’m not going 100% 250-miles-or-less all month.  I’ve written about my justifications and my cheats before (I’m nuts over nuts, for example).  However, I’m going to push myself to highlight what’s locally available first and recognize my cooking defaults.  I’m giving them a little vacation back on those exotic islands and cloud-forest hillsides whence they came.  Instead of starting cooking dinner by going to the spice cabinet, I’ll go to my garden, my market basket or my counter tops which always have jars of herbs this time of year.  I’ll see if I can maximize those flavors to the point that I don’t need that extra dash of curry powder and cumin.  And I probably won’t binge tonight, since that would be giving too much attention to the things I’m (not really) going to miss this month.  I’m starting my local-foods binge early.  My bread, local nut butter and jam, and all the veggies I want to eat (haven’t bought from a store in who knows how long).  Dessert = peach-apple sauce.  That’s foodie heaven, no visitors from foreign lands, and all I really need tonight.  But check in with me on a week on that coffee promise.

10 Days until the Challenge-Task: Clean Out Cabinets & Fridge

22 Aug

Another post by Lea, Assistant Director:

Well, I am now sufficiently convinced that the month is coming to a close and that preparing for September is in fact inevitable. This morning I had to bundle up on my walk to work and today I started day-dreaming about warm apple cider and pumpkin beer. Fall is cleary upon us.

The next ten posts will continue along the theme of preparation, and today’s post is specifically about “getting rid of the old to let in the new.”

Most people tend to think of Spring as the season of change; opening the windows; spring cleaning; planting our gardens, etc. But Fall is just as much about creating change as Spring, and preparing to take the Locavore Challenge is a great way to embrace this season of change and start fresh in your kitchen.

I’ve been away the last few weekends, and will be away this coming weekend, so I need to maximize my prep time. So, once I finally leave the office and head home, I have BIG PLANS. I am going to take stock over my fridge and pantry, cook up as much of my non-local foods that are lingering around and plan on eating those within the next week. I’ll then take the opportunity to clean out my fridge and freezer (never a bad thing to do at least twice a year) while I am at it, and create two pantries: one of all qualifying locavore food items, another with non-local food items. The latter one I may have to lock up!

Per the Locavore Challenge “rules”, I’ll leave my salt, pepper and spices along with a few of my planned “wild-card” cheat items in the “good” cabinet. For my “wild-card” items I’m starting with just baking soda/baking powder (I’m counting these both at one-because I’m good at cheating!) and vinegar. I like to have some flex room in my plan for when a suprise non-local item comes to my plate and I cannot resist.

Then being the detailed Type-A person that I am, I will create a detailed shopping list for the co-op and markets this weekend. This will be the basis to stock my pantry, and my blog posts later this week.

If you are new to the Locavore Challenge, or eating local meals, I recommend you spend a little more time each night writing down what you eat every day and what you would like to eat during the challenge. Make sure to think about meals, snacks, and beverages. Then keep it simple. You are NEVER going to find a local version of “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” at the Farmer’s Market to replace what you normally eat for breakfast, but you will find all the fixings for delicious frittatas, yogurt based smoothies and more. Remember, this is a season of change, so think differently about how and why you eat what you eat. Think local, think organic and think delicious!

Enjoy the cool, sunny evening fellow Locavores, I’m headed home to begin my pantry project!

Up Next: Blog posts on Non-Local Foods Binge, Stocking Your Pantry, Pickling, Preserving, Making Stocks and Sauces and more.

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