Saturday, December 31, 2011

Menu for a New Year's Eve supper

Bread, cheeses olives
Salad with citrus, beets and Parmesan
Wilted beet greens
Pears poached in Traminette
with brown sugar cinnamon ice cream

Friday, December 30, 2011

Snapshots of a Very Merry Christmas

This Christmas I was fortunate to host dinner at my house (first time ever - yay!). Our Christmas was a perfect balance of cheer and relaxation. Here are some some snapshots of our celebrations. Wishing you all a very happy and safe new year!

Rosemary wreath

Vase of spruce branches from the backyard

Me, cooking

Yummy spices!

Cabbage harvested from the backyard

Table and hearth

Me and my best buddy, Rowan

Family members hard at work

Cooking with Mom

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holy Mother!

When you get a kombucha mother of your very own for Christmas, you realize what lucky food nerds you and your friends really are.  Matt and Sallie made this batch and its accompanying mushroom, and now it is in my care.
Here is what Matt says about the care and feeding of my new creature.  He has been getting to know this SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) for quite some time.

Hey girl!  I'm glad you are getting exited about this brewing.  If we are right about about the benefits, it is well worth drinking it every day, and even if it's merely tasty that's good too.  Frankly though, I don't think humans would have bothered keeping it alive for 3000 years if it was a hoax.  It is like a sourdough starter in that it is derived from elements in the environment but to keep it in a form usable to us we have to husband it and keep it somewhat carefully to keep it alive. Check out "Kombucha: the Miracle Fungus"  by Harald Tietze, he points out that fact, among many other interesting things.  One is that Kombucha is actually considered a lichen, a symbiotic combination between fungus and blue green algae, which have been recently discovered to be not algae but single celled bacteria- one of the earliest forms of life on this planet.  So, we probably share considerable DNA with Kombucha!
So the basics:   Brew tea and add sugar.  Generally, 3/4 to 1 cup sugar to each gallon of tea.  Most people say to use simple granulated white sugar, the cheaper the better.  A lot of people that would never use it for food use it in kombucha because it is so transformed in the process that they are not worried about the organicness or whatever.  Also, you can theoretically use any natural sweetener but some work better than others.  There is some controversy about using honey.  A lot of people say it doesn't work, but maybe that's because of introducing wild yeast and such which might change the balance of the kombucha strain.  I have used it and it seems to work fine.  Expensive though and hard to judge what would be the equivalent of a cup of table sugar.  It seems to be organic cane sugar is probably the best if you can find a bulk cheap one.    If you use honey, don't use it every cycle.
The tea is also simple but complicated.  Black tea works fastest and has the richest flavor.  Green by itself will work, but tends to be astringent, light and slow to ferment.  My favorite mix is 2/3 Irish Breakfast and 1/3 Green.  I usually use about 6-10 bags per gallon depending on how dark I want it.  So boil the water, turn it off, add the tea, let steep and cool for an hour with the cover on, then add the sugar, cover, swirl and leave overnight to cool.  Do not add ice to cool as there is bacteria in your freezer (gasp)!  Then, in the morning you take you your SCOBY out of the pitcher or jar with clean hands and put it in a clean bowl with some of the liquid from the last batch (it can sit in the fridge like that with some saran wrap on it for many weeks with no problem.  Empty the gunky stuff from the bottom that you didn't want to drink and rinse the vessel.  Best not to use soap, but if necessary just make sure it is completely rinsed.  Never use anti-bacterial soap in the vessel or on your hands when prepping, if at all possible.  The scoby is very hardy, but you could damage it a little.  Pour the sweet tea, cooled off to below 80 degrees, into your vessel then carefully place the scoby on top so it floats. It may not want to float right away, especially if the room is cold and the scoby came out of the fridge.  If that's the case just let it be.  You want it to be as unwrinkled as possible as the layering effect is strongest once the  scoby is flat and tough and smooth.  If it gets all wrinkled (or folded in quarters as yours was) you can try to stretch it out, tear it in half or just leave it and eventually it will form a new top layer that is more smooth.  This will happen if you take a scoby out of a bigger vessel and put it in a smaller one.  It is fine, will still work the same, but essentially the thing breathes and it seems to thrive on surface area, plus it does best if the whole surface of the liquid is covered.  As you experiment with different vessels you will see how the ratio of the surface area to the volume of liquid effects the brewing.  The higher the ratio (i.e. the larger the surface of the vessel) the faster it will brew, but the flavor may be best when brewed a little slower than full-steam ahead.  Other factors of the speed of brewing are air temperature, temp. of what the vessel is resting on, season, health and balance of scoby, amount and type of sweetener, type of tea...yikes! Really, though, you can't go wrong.  Just expiriment, drink it at all stages so you know what's going on, and enjoy! 
Cheers to your health my friend!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Possible Urban Homestead??

Greetings readers.... I'm not making a habit of this, but we've been contacted by a reader who has put their home up for sale and would love to see it go to someone who would appreciate the edible perennials and established vegetable gardens.

Richmond, VA home for sale, near Bellevue (Northside), a two-story arts-and-crafts style house on 1/3 acre (three parcels all together). Home is fully renovated, including refinished hardwood floors, bright and charming. The yard has lots of perennial edibles: grape trellises, dwarf apple and cherry trees, elderberry, asparagus, and rhubarb, plus perennial herbs. There are also several raised beds for annuals. $125,000. Contact Anna at for more info.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Oysters

Tradition and food are intertwined. I know for a lot of folks oyster stew on Christmas or Christmas Eve is a long standing (and to some kids, a highly contested) tradition.

Different theories abound about why oyster love swells this time of year. Some say oysters are better for consumption in the colder months when bacteria levels are lower while some claim it's because spawning season slows down in the colder months. And we've all heard that business about months with R's in them. I say for whatever reason, 'tis the season for this beloved bivalve.

Growing up, Christmas at my house was always celebrated with a nice meal, but oysters were only consumed raw on the half shell at the beach. We've never had them on our holiday menu until quite recently. In the past few years Ned and I have adopted this tradition of oysters on Christmas simply because we like them. Our choice is to enjoy them slightly steamed right on top of warm coals in the fireplace instead of the more traditional stew, but never the less, it seems like a nice tradition to adopt.

This idea is made even more alluring because living in Richmond it's accessible, our choice source is Rappahannock River Oysters. This is a family operation, dating back to 1899, growing only the real deal "Crassostrea virginica, the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster."

Word is you can order online from RRO though the end of the day today for Christmas Eve delivery. After that feel feel to order up some oysters for New Years too- they're super with champagne!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Curried Winter Squash Soup

Lots of soup coming out of this RVA kitchen these days.  I wasn't feeling well the other day- which means soup was again in order.  I had roasted a butternut squash the day before, and that was a start.  I knew that ginger and cumin were good warming spices, so curried squash seemed like the the answer.  It turned out well- full o' vitamins and chilies to make breathing easier.  Hope you enjoy!

In two TBS oil (I used coconut oil) on low heat
1/2 chopped onion

Add and mix well (couple of minutes):
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup of tomato paste
pinch (or two if you like it hot) of chile peppers
1 tsp of roasted, ground cumin and coriander
2 TBS chopped ginger
1 roasted butternut squash
2 cups broth (or more if you like it thinner)
1 can coconut milk
drizzle of honey

Let simmer 20 minutes or so- and blend with an immersion blender.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Hey y'all, we've been making some changes to our sidebar to make resources accessible and current.  We have also made it easy to connect in many ways!  You can find us on facebook and twitter, you can connect via email (posts go straight to your inbox) or via google connect.  Of course, you can always email us- we love hearing from you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Season of giving

Tis the season for giving and every year I totally procrastinate on this part of the holiday. It's not that I don't feel generous this time of year, it's just that it all starts to feel like a lot of stuff. So it got me to thinking about where I'd really like to put that good earned money.

So of course I thought... give food!
And what better than to give food where it's needed locally?

The result of this idea is in no way a complete list, but I have attempted to come up with some local food based organizations that would benefit from charitable donations or the gift of volunteering this year.

Here are a few to start....

Central Virginia Food Bank

Community Kitchen

Shalom Farms

Also, think about the gift of membership to a local food based organization like Slow Food RVA

Or join a local CSA or Food Club.

And contact your neighborhood churches to learn about how to donate to their Food Pantry.

Please help us expand our list, feel free to comment and propose any other opportunities.

Happy giving!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friends love when friends make food

My friend Ayana consistently inspires me with her kitchen successes.  Today she is sharing one with you and it's not even remotely vegan, so you know I must really love her!

Take it away, Ayana!

So, I have never done this before so please bear with me.
Tis the season, and around my home that means hearty meals, preferably one pot and easy to clean up. It always seems that easy on the surface, but behind the scenes there is simmering and sautéing, tasting (my favorite) and more than likely some substitutions involved. The tasting is in a way… the measuring. I do not measure anymore, and for that matter neither do my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother… and if I have to, be prepared for some disaster to come crawling out of the kitchen, that would be me, and food that just is not quite right, not Ayana. However, I will try my best in order to deliver this recipe.

Back to my season… well the oven blew up just as I took out my Thanksgiving turkey, I mean immediately after sitting my turkey down there were fireworks. So needless to say, everything for the next few weeks is stove-top (not the dressing but the cooking style). I had a bag of shrimp that I had been saving for the Christmas gumbo, but I figured I might as well enjoy anything at this point – especially if it cooks fast!

During this season, it is always Southern and Cajun/Creole cooking for me! I figure it will keep my husband happy through the New Year, and then he is stuck for another year! Just kidding!

Anyhow, back to my brainstorm: Shrimp + Cajun/Creole = Shrimp Étouffe (I have always been told that I had an aptitude for math).


Veggies –
The Trinity: Onion, Bell Pepper and Celery. The ratio is about 1 : ½ : 3 ribs
Garlic: 5 cloves (adjust for your taste, I typically use a bit more)
Pureed Tomatoes: 3 small (I had the last of the season’s vine ripened on hand – luck of the draw!)

Fat –
Butter and Olive oil, about equal parts at 3 – 4 tbls. each.

Protein –
1 lb. of Shrimp (preferably shell-ON)

Flour – Amount equal to the fat used (ex. 6 tablespoons for 6 tablespoons)
Seasoning – Ok, so I mix up huge batches of my own seasoning and use it on everything. This is also what I used to flavor the dish. However, you cannot go wrong with:
1 Bay Leaf
Adobo (sin pimiento/without pepper)
Paprika and
A dash of Old Bay

Tips and Tricks:
The Trinity - This is something that I keep in the freezer and just scoop out what I need. I also use the entire piece of celery up to the leaves.
The Fat - I am not known for always keeping butter on hand, margarine will do just fine, however simmer it for a few minutes so as to remove as much of the water from it as possible so that we get a nice sauté going. For the richest and most delicious guilty pleasure... use Ghee all the way!
Shrimp - Now, when in Rome… typically when in New Orleans or having a Big Easy affair I use crawfish but this is equally tantalizing using shrimp, it just takes a little more umph to pack a punch of flavor. This is why I buy shrimp with the shell on, after peeling the shrimp boil the shells for a shrimp/seafood stock for an extra wow (I also freeze the uncooked shells when not needed). Use your seasoning in the boil as well and just drain through a mesh/other colander and reserve the hot stock on the side for later.

Let's begin:
1. Start with the fat (I just like calling it that instead of oil). Place in a sauté pan and get it hot, then throw in your trinity and season to taste. Sautee until tender then add your garlic.
2. When all that good stuff is smelling good, begin sprinkling the flour in about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to stir until everything is incorporated and you will keep stirring for about 5 - 10 minutes. You want the color tan, but no darker than peanut butter (or you will have to begin again or just make Gumbo)... Ta da - you have made Roux! See that was not hard.
3. Hopefully you have a seafood/shrimp broth from the tips I gave you. If not a vegetable or chicken will do well (reduced sodium). Begin to stream in the hot/warm broth, it just goes easier if it is hot /warm already.
4. Add your pureed tomatoes and your bay leaf and let this simmer until the sauce has thickened (~15-20 minutes), the longer the better but we have already taken some steps to cut down on cook time.. (I like it to at least be at the consistency that if you dip it/stir your sauce  with a clean spoon and take it out, it should still cover the back the spoon. You should be able to run your fingertip down the spoon and the sauce will stay separated on the spoon).
5. Time to add the shrimp, and do not forget to season them! *In order to make your shrimp curl, cut them lengthwise while shelling and cleaning. Let the dish simmer until the shrimp curls (a few minutes) and it is done. Do not overcook the shrimp.
Remove the bay leaf before serving. Garnish with fresh cut parsley (which I forgot for the picture) and enjoy over rice. My favorite: Mahatma Jasmine... the buttery flavor just adds another level of depth that long-grain just does not do for me.

Thanks Ayana!  Anyone else working hard to being hometown flavors to their house this holiday?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recipe: Tomato Bisque

Here is an easy, rich recipe you can put together with items that might already be in your larder.  Served with toasted cheese and chutney sandwiches (my new favorite), it makes a warm supper for cold evenings.

Tomato Bisque

1 TBS Butter
Saute on medium heat until translucent:
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 quart canned tomatoes
1/2 cup of red wine
pinch of italian herbs, salt and pepper

Let simmer for about 5 minutes

(Optional) Add:
1 cup of broth 

Simmer (do not boil) for another 10 minutes

Puree with immersion blender

1/2 cup of heavy cream

Warm through, and enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Frog Bottom CSA- sign up early and get 2 weeks free!

Missing tomatoes and squash and eggplant yet?  Well, it is time to think about where you can get some when they come 'round again!

Photos courtesy of Frog Bottom Farm

Frog Bottom Farm will offer three types of CSA for 2012!
  • Regular vegetable shares (full and half;) -- get two weeks of your share FREE if you sign up by December 31
  • a limited number of prepaid shares which can be used toward anything they sell (produce, eggs, pork) at any of the market pickups
  • egg shares (choose from a dozen or half dozen per week during the regular CSA season)
The Frog Bottom CSA runs from June through Thanksgiving, and the diverse selection of produce is always beautiful. Pickup sites are available all over town.

One of the other wonderful things about Frog Bottom is that Lisa and Ali host visits to their lovely Pamplin farm during the season, so you can see where your food begins and how it grows. 

Joining a CSA is a wonderful way to eat well, to support your local farmers, and to join a community.   You know we are big fans of all that!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Virginia Food Summit in Charlottesville

Just a quick post to let you all know that the 2nd Virginia Food Security Summit is going on today in Charlottesville.  The Virginia Food System Council (the 501(c)3 that was formed after the first summit in 2007) has put together a Farm to Table plan (see a draft of the plan here), which looks at the local food system through the rich farming heritage of Virginia, and opportunities provided by the growing demand for local products.  The summit is a chance for growers, policy makers, chefs and consumers to discuss the the plan and its implications for the state.

I am attending, so if there is anything you'd like for me to find out about local food on a state level, you can email me here, and I will certainly try.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Garden 2011- 2012

The median garden is in full swing with late fall/ early winter veggies.

Turkish garlic planted in mid- October

Red Swiss Chard, volunteer carrots and Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale with a ground cover of Cilantro