Friday, October 9, 2009


Exchange at the farmers market last week:

Me: (picking through apples on display, filling two baskets with them)

Fruit Guy: I also have a different variety in the truck, which I'm only supposed to sell by the crate because they were picked a week ago, but I'll give you a few if you want.

Me: Well, how much is a crate?

Fruit Guy: $4

Me: For a whole crate?? (Regaining haggling composure, resetting poker face) Ahem, how much can you do for two baskets and a crate?

Fruit Guy: Eh, I'd take $6 for all of it.

Me: (Screw haggling!) OKAY! Sold!

Moral of the story: In upstate New York, in the fall, they are practically giving apples away.

So on Wednesday when I went to Boyfriend's mom's house with his two sisters for our weekly "Craft Night," I brought the crate of apples (and an extra bag full). We peeled and chopped all of them (and I almost sliced the top of my thumb off). Then we put them in a huge stock pot with about an inch of apple cider covering the bottom. We cooked them down a little, added a cup or so of brown sugar, cooked them down a little more, added cinnamon, nutmeg, and a few tablespoons of lemon juice, remembered to add a pinch of salt, and eventually...we had apple sauce!

Boyfriend's mom let it keep simmering on the stove after we left. The plan was to put it in jars for each of us, but I'm not sure whether she decided to go through the whole canning process and seal them. It will probably get eaten too quickly to be worth it.

Next week: grape juice!

Maple-Glazed Pork Loin, Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes

So Boyfriend bought pretty much an entire pig's ass the last time he went to the farmers market. (He really liked the "Meat Guy"). So we had to cook some serious pork this week.

I had Boyfriend trim most of the fat from the pork loin the night before last (which I should have left the kitchen for--my kitchen cleanliness anxiety combined with his propensity for messes is a bad combo).

The I put it in my slow cooker, covered it in salt, a LOT of pepper, a little chili pepper, and maple syrup. I threw in a couple cubes of frozen chicken stock for liquid and put a couple tablespoons of butter on top. Then I put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I took it out, set it to cook on low, and went to work.

When I got home, I washed and sliced up some red potatoes and one small red onion in little chunks. I put them in a baking dish and tossed them with a scoop of mayonnaise (not homemade, but it's not hard to make: look!), salt, pepper, rosemary, and a little dill. I roasted them at 375, watched the latest episode of Glee, then added a grated clove of garlic and turned it up to 400. After 10-15 more minutes they were done.

Meanwhile, just after I turned the oven temperature up, I got out some green beans I had frozen last week and sauteed them in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and another grated clove of garlic.

While the beans were cooking, I put about 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup in a small sauce pan with about a mouthful of apple cider (but, as Grandpa would say, don't measure it that way), black pepper, and a decent amount of chili pepper. Trust me on the maple and chili pepper thing. I set it on high and let it cook down into a kind of glaze (which took no time at all).

Finally, I dished everything up, spooned the glaze over top of the pork, and ate! Though I did pause to bring a serving of everything to Boyfriend at work before I even ate any. Because I am the Best. Girlfriend. Ever. I shall be lauded with praise and gifts and baubles of all kinds. Hmm.

Anyway, it was delicious.

Again, trust me on the maple and chili thing. If that's too daring for you, take a baby step with maple and black pepper--an excellent pairing on its own.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hunger and Obesity

A friend pointed out this very thoughtful article, "The New Face of Poverty is Fat," in response to the post below. The author makes some really insightful points about class and real food.

Food Desert Awareness Week

Today's the last day of Food Desert Awareness Week. The National Center for Public Research defines a "food desert" as:

"A large geographic area with no or distant grocery stores. Often, food deserts have an imbalance of food choice, meaning more nearby fringe good such as fast food, convenience stores, and liquor stores."

It often goes unmentioned that today's ever-so-popular food movements--eat local, eat organic, eat whole food, eat fresh, not processed--are movements of privilege and require the freedoms of time, mobility, geographic location, and income that are only afforded to a certain socioeconomic class.

Could I eat the way I choose to eat now if I were a single parent? Maybe. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage? Probably not. If I were a single parent earning minimum wage, living in a city with no car and no grocery store within ten miles, having been raised by parents who did not cook meals from scratch or grow food in the back yard or ahve aplace to teach me how to pick out good vegetables? No effing way.

But that's the kind of scenario facing far too many people today. People in the public health arena (my own mother included) are desperately trying to convey the message that if you eat crappy, processed food, you will get chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. Lower class populations suffer from these diseases at alarmingly higher percentages than anyone else. But if the only places you can access food are convenience stores and fast food restaurants, of course the food you eat will be crappy and processed.

We've cut the impoverished off from a healthy food supply and guaranteed that their socioeconomic status will limit their access to healthy food for generations. And I'm not exaggerating when I say, it is literally killing them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Long Hiatus, Butternut Squash

Well it's been quite a while since my last post. I guess that's probably because it's been quite a while since I cooked anything decent enough to blog about. Sad. I'm back now, though (really, promise!), and I'm really psyched for fall cooking.

Boyfriend went to the farmers market last week instead of me. Despite the fact that he came home with approximately none of the things I asked for and what must be a bushel of peppers (peppers, of course, being the only produce we already had in the fridge), he did manage to impress me by finding some weird little "baby" butternut squashes.

Now, I looooove butternut squash. I could devote an entire root cellar to it. I could eat it every day from October to May. And if I had an entire root cellar, I just might. These ones were maybe a third the size of a regular butternut. Very cute, actually. And the perfect serving size for me (and Boyfriend, I guess, if he's lucky).

The smell of butternut squash roasting is one of the quintessential signifiers of autumn to me. It brings me right back to evenings when it got just cool enough to light a fire in the fireplace. Mom would be curled up in an armchair, watching football. Dad would be standing at the stove, stirring this or that, but mainly leisurely sipping his Manhattan.

Mind you, despite the heartwarming memories it invokes, when I was little, I hated butternut squash. I was forced to eat it every week or so during the winter, and it made me want to vomit. I think this could be attributed to several factors.
A. My dad roasted the squash, added brown sugar and maybe some butter, pureed it, and baked it again--I'm still not a fan of it this way.
B. I left it on my plate until I lost the "eat it or no dessert" stand-off with my parents, meaning I only ever ate it cold.
C. I didn't like any food when I was little.

Some friends of mine (the granola family) served me butternut squash one day that rocked my world. They roasted it in the oven, drizzled in olive oil and copiously smeared with garlic. Hell, I'd eat my left arm if you drizzled it in olive oil and smeared it with garlic. This opened up the doors to butternut squash soups, sauces, chunks of it pasta dishes, sweet dishes (butternut squash pie? WAY better than pumpkin), the list could go on and on. You can pair it with savory herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, with tropical flavors like coconut or curry, with traditional American fall ingredients like cinnamon, apples, and cloves--the possibilities are limitless! Can you see why I say I could eat it every day??

On to practical matters. I made ravioli with a butternut squash cream sauce yesterday. It was quite delicious, if I do say so myself. Here's how:

I used...

1 "baby" butternut squash (you could go with about a third to a half of a regular one) from the farmers market

1 italian sausage from Sweet Grass Meats

1/2 a medium white onion, also from the farmers market

a few swirls around the pan of chardonnay from Dr. Frank's winery (the only white I had on hand)

1 cupish whole milk (cream might be better if you're the kind of person who keeps cream around)

2 cloves garlic

small sprinkle of cinnamon

salt and pepper


olive oil

16 or so frozen ravioli (it can be made fresh, but...I just didn't)

gala apples (another tart apple like macintosh would work just as well)

Okay, so I began by roasting the squash in a 375 degree oven for 20 or so minutes--drizzled in olive oil, with salt, pepper, and a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Then, I cut the sausage out of its casing and cooked the loose meat in a sauce pan. When it was done, I removed it and added the chopped onion to the pan with some butter. After 5-10 minutes I added some white wine and garlic and turned up the heat.

Meanwhile, I scooped the now-cooked squash out of its peel, into the blender. I added the milk, blended, and poured it into the wine sauce. I also added the sausage back in.

While it all simmered, I cooked the ravioli for 6-8 minutes. When they were done, I put them in bowls, added the sauce, and topped it with a few slices of apple. Mmmm.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Granola Success!

My friend, Mrs. Y, contacted me with her granola recipe after reading my cry for help! She said she uses half butter, half coconut oil, and cooks at a low temperature (300ish), stirring every ten minutes.

I did this and it worked!! I melted the butter, oil, and a little honey in the microwave first. Then I added rolled oats and cooked it like she told me to. It only took about 20-25 minutes, even at 300 degrees, and I'm still going to play around a little with the ratio of oil to honey to oats.

The coconut oil is not local, of course, but neither were the oils I was using before. The butter is from a local dairy, where we also get our milk and yogurt (which Mrs. Y will tell me I can make myself, but I just haven't got a starter batch yet...someday soon!).

Coconut oil is some pretty amazing stuff! It contributed its own subtle coconut flavor to the granola without having to add chewy shredded coconut, and it can even be used as a moisturizer or hair conditioner (and, according to the internet, a handy lubricant in other areas as well--but maybe ask your doctor first). However, I couldn't find it in our grocery store anywhere but the organic section, and the 14 oz. jar of organic coconut oil was $8.99!! I'm positive Mrs. Y would not, could not, feed her family (of 12!) this stuff at that cost! Where can I find it cheaper??

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

3-Egg Honey Wheat Bread

I know this teenaged girl, the Amazing Miss A.; she gave me the recipe in this post (and takes my calls whenever I need advice on tweaking it). She--amazing girl that she is--makes this bread every Friday for her family's Sabbath meal. She has also been known to turn the dough into delicious cinnamon buns. I believe the dough can be frozen and baked later (of course, I'd have to call Miss A to check for sure).

Her recipe includes these ingredients:
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
3 tbsp melted butter
1/3-1/2 cups sugar (I use part honey, part sugar)
1 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups flour (half white, half whole wheat)
1 tbsp yeast

She and I both use a breadmaker to make the dough. I add the ingredients in the order they're listed and put it on the dough setting. When you take the dough out of the breadmaker, you need to let it rise again until it's doubled in size (about 2 hours). Miss A braids it into challah first, but I just put half in a loaf pan and plop the other half down on a baking sheet as dinner rolls.

Once it's had time to rise, I brush the top with egg yolk (making it, really, a 4-egg bread), bake it in a pretty hot oven (around 400 degrees) until the top is golden brown. For a loaf, that's about 20 minutes.

You could make it without a breadmaker (and I did until Boyfriend's mom so generously bequeathed hers to me). Just mix the yeast and the water (make it warm) in a small bowl, mix the other wet ingredients in a large bowl, add the dry, then add the yeast mixture. Let it rise for about an hour, knead, and let it rise again for a couple hours. Then you would just bake it like I did. It's much easier in a breadmaker, but your arms get a nice workout if you do it the old-fashioned way.

I made this bread a couple days ago, and it's already gone. I'm also about to make my third jar of peanut butter since I posted about it. Read: Boyfriend is eating a buttload of peanut butter sandwiches. I hate to even check my jam reserves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Blogging Legitimacy

I wrote an email to my two very best friends alerting them to/explaining/defending my new blog, and this post is more or less what I wrote. I realized as I wrote that my need to defend food blogging was meaningful and merited a more public account.

So, I studied political science in school and used to write a political blog--and by "write," I mean "hardly ever write." I was too much of a perfectionist about political theory, logic models, structured arguments, gross stuff like that. It felt too much like work to put together regular cohesive political essays.

I do a lot of reading on food issues vis-a-vis political theory/philosophy, and there is a large emerging genre of such writing. There is also a trend in popular culture of analyzing our collective and personal food habits. Then "Julie and Julia," a movie about talking about cooking, came out and is hugely popular, and I had the realization that everyone's talking about food right now.

And I realized that I eat interestingly, with a more ritualized food ethic than most Americans. And I think American food culture may turn out to be at the crux of the great struggle of 21st century. And if I'm really a feminist and if I really assert that the "personal is political," then my personal interactions with my world are more relevant political commentary than engagement with theory and logic and all of the traps of "reason" and "truth" and "reality" that the patriarchy controls. And what's more personal than what I put into my body to sustain it? And what's more intimate than sitting down and breaking bread with someone? This story is important. Stories of breaking bread together always are. And everyone enjoys some good food porn.

So I gave up on the pursuit of truth and the confines of logic, to embrace the primal, the spiritual, the pleasures of the flesh and all the other erotic and delicious indulgences The Man wants me to demurely eschew.

Or maybe, I'm just a narcisist writing a food blog, and trying to make it sound less lame.

So if you are a passionate food voyeur, a connoisseur of wholesome food and mediocre writing, or a merciful real world friend of mine, read on. Comment. Encourage my narcissism. Maybe it'll suck balls. Maybe it won't.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slow-Cooked Beef

The beef was tender and delicious. It has a slight gamey flavor compared to supermarket beef, which I really enjoy. I could have cooked down the red wine in a pan at a higher heat to make a sauce, but it was really moist and flavorful without that. We ate at our new dining table for the first time! We've been couching it for way too long. It is so nice to finally sit at a table across from a person. It really makes eating food feel like Having a Meal.

I got some stew cuts of beef from Heiden Valley Farm at the South Wedge Farmers Market here in Rochester. They raise cattle, pigs, and chickens that are pasture-raised, grass-fed, and sold locally. I've had their bacon before and loved it, I get eggs from them every week (at $3/dozen), and I'm excited to try their beef.

Eating ethically, particularly when it comes to meat, is often very expensive. We have decided the investment in our health, the local economy, ecology, and general food culture is worth it. Still, we are not rolling in dough over here. Money doesn't grow on organic, local, community-supported trees. So I use some budgeting tricks like buying in bulk and freezing, buying a whole chicken and stretching it with other ingredients into several meals, saving the bones for stock. And of course, getting the cheap (read: tough) cuts of meat and cooking them slowly.

I thawed the beef (which is cut into 2 inch sq. chunks) last night.

Today at my lunch hour, I grabbed a bottle of Bully Hill semi-dry red wine, reflected on how great it is to live in the Finger Lakes area, ran home and took out my slow cooker.

I braised the meat (which was still a little frozen) in a hot pan, then threw it in the cooker, and covered it with salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, and a little brown mustard.

I sliced an onion, sauteed it in some butter in the braising pan until it was starting to get brown, then I added a sliced clove of garlic.

After another minute or so, I added the onion and garlic to the slow cooker, poured about 1/3 to 1/2 the bottle of red wine over it all, covered, set it on high, and headed back to work. Were I not such a procrastinator, I could've done all that last night, put the pot in the fridge, and set it on low this morning to cook all day. Alas, I did not. It will still get 6 hours of cooking time.

I'm now about to head to the farmers market where I'll pick up some green beans to sautee on the side. I'll just cook them in some olive oil, salt, and garlic.

I may also cook the one new potato I have left from last week. I'll probably slice it pretty thin, toss it in olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little dill, throw it on a baking sheet and roast it at about 425 degrees.

I will update later on how it turns out! Also on all the lessons on pollination I learn from the overly friendly Bee Guy at the market--since I need to buy honey today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Granola Cries for Help

I am trying to perfect a granola recipe, mostly because I neeeeed to eat breakfast in the morning, and I'd like something quick that I can "grab and go" if necessary. Lately I've taken to staring in the pantry and whining, "we don't have anything to just pick up and eat." To which Boyfriend replies, "we decided it's not ethical to 'just pick up and eat' things."

Blah blah blah, I know he's right. But I'm sleepy and grumpy in the mornings and it would behoove both of us if there were something I could prepare in advance to be eaten quickly. Granola is what I'm trying at present, but suggestions are welcome.

Here's what I've done:

Poured maybe 3/4 cup of olive oil in a bowl, added a drizzle (less than 1/4 cup) of honey, warmed it in the microwave to soften the honey, and tossed in several cups of rolled oats--just enough for them to be coated in the oil/honey mixture.

Oh, I throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg too, with a pinch of salt.

Then I spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake it at around 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, add dried cranberries, let it cool, and put it in a big jar.

It's not bad, but it has an almost burnt flavor. Definitely not the light crunch of boxed granola. Maybe I am using too much oil, or cooking at too high a temperature. I will continue to play around with these factors.

Meanwhile, help! What else could I be doing wrong? What other breakfast items could I pre-make?

Honestly, I don't see why Boyfriend can't just get up half an hour earlier and make me a delicious breakfast every day. Seems totally fair.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First You Take Some Peanuts and You...

I decided to make peanut butter yesterday, because I heard it was easy. And it really freaking is.

I bought a giant bulk container of shelled, unsalted peanuts (they are not grown locally) at Wegmans--(where they stock local eggs, dairy, and produce when it's in season!).

I put maybe a sixth of it (a few cups) in my food processor with a little bit of olive oil, a sprinkly of salt, a drizzle of honey, and blended until it was smooth.

Done. Seriously.

Why do people buy peanut butter? It took me not 5 minutes to make a 12 oz. jar full of peanut butter. And I will make several more jars with less than $5 worth of peanuts. And it tastes fabulous.

It has the texture of "all natural" peanut butter--a little grainier than conventional kinds--which I enjoy. The honey is a natural preservative, so I figure it will last at least a few weeks to a few months in the fridge.

Food "Rules"

I live with my boyfriend in a tiny apartment in the moderately sized city of Rochester in upstate NY. We decided, upon moving here, to be more conscious eaters. This means, for us, that we follow some rules when it comes to selecting our food and eating it. They aren't always strictly enforced (at the moment), and are subject to change. We're just dipping our toes in the whole foods, local foods water, so to speak. But here they are:

1. We buy local food whenever we can.

This means we go to farmers' markets in the city and farm stands around the city. This rule is fun and easy in the summer and early fall, but nearly impossible during the long, frigid winter here.

2. If it comes in a package, we don't buy it.

In other words, we buy whole foods, not pre-processed, pre-packaged foods. We'd rather do the processing of foods--cooking, blending, mixing, preserving--ourselves, and control what gets done to and added to what we eat.

3. We buy organically grown food if it meets our first two rules.

The first two rules are more important than the third. We would rather buy from a farmer down the road who can't afford organic certification than from a certified corporately run agri-business in California. It is important, if it's available locally, to eat food that's grown sustainably and animal products without antibiotics and growth hormone.

Exceptions to the Rules

We are okay with buying items from far away that can't be or aren't produced locally--and can't be replaced by something that is. These items (for now) include coffee, tea, chocolate, flour, sugar (though we replace with honey when possible), various spices, rice, and olive oil.

When winter arrives we will have to buy non-local produce. We have not had the resources this harvest season to preserve, freeze, or dry the amount of produce we'll need for the winter. Unless we plan to eat jam and pickles until June.

So, to sum it up, we are in our early twenties, with a limited budget, in a city, in a tiny kitchen, in the soon-to-be frozen tundra of the northeast, and we are doing this! You can do it too!