Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Introducing Little House Green Grocery!

Guess what, y'all?!  We are opening a neighborhood green grocery!

After years of working with farmers markets and studying food policy, (and out of my own desire to feed my neighbors) I finally found someone crazy enough to take the leap with me into the world of retail.  Even with all of the roadblocks put up by permits and the details of commercial real estate, my partner Jess and I have been buoyed by the unwavering support of our community. 

Our vision, quite simply, is to feed our neighborhood well.  Little House Green Grocery will offer customers a convenient, neighborhood source for locally produced foods, fresh produce, grocery essentials, and a limited selection of prepared foods while providing a community atmosphere through events and classes. Though we don't know the exact spot yet, we do know that the grocery will be located in the neighborhood of Bellevue, which has a reputation of supporting small businesses and progressive causes. Our vendors and our neighbors are really excited, and so are we!

Ultimately, we want to make this model adaptable to other communities in the city.

Our website is still fairly basic (we are building it ourselves to save cash, but welcome your tips and ideas!) but our Facebook page is pretty lively.  Check 'em out for the play- by- play as we move toward our opening in the fall!

To add to the adventure, we have entered a local start-up competition put on by i.e.* with a prize of $10,000. The public is asked to vote on the contestants May 30 through June 1. There are 143 contestants, so we need your vote!  Please save the date, tell your friends, and vote for Little House Green Grocery. We will use the funds towards our start-up costs.  If we get into the top ten finalists, we will get a billboard (so we hear) and great exposure, which will be invaluable.

We will be starting a Kickstarter campaign soon- we love what crowd sourcing has done for local projects!

Also, if your favorite food producer is looking for a new outlet, please send them our way. The vendor agreement is on the website, as well as our contact info.  We are particularly looking for four season farmers and locally produced pantry staples.

Thanks y'all!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recipes for an Early Summer Gathering

Chocolate Cherry Brownies!
Cookouts, barbeques, picnics... they're all happening and they all send you looking for recipes that hold and travel well, are made for the grill, and are perhaps a bit indulgent.  I thought it would be fun to start off by checking in with some of our favorite local food bloggers to see what they are cooking up!  Tim Vidra of EAT is always a good bet, and this beautiful post for grilled skirt steak with "salsa verde'" is perfect for a backyard party and allows him to share herbs from his own garden.  F is for Food's post from last weekend talks about two things that are perfect for those who want to say out of the kitchen all together... carryout subs from Coppola's Deli (one of my all time favorite spots), and a cheese and anchovies plate with Billy Bread.  This post also has a fantastic looking recipe for Shad Roe with bacon and fresh herbs. 
Looking for a seasonal dessert? Our friend Ushan has a fb page called Family Friendly Foodie Fun, and she just shared a cherry pie recipe using cherries from her cherry, and peach picking adventure in Charlottesville this week. 
They all look so great! 
Here's some of my favorites from the RFC...

Double Chocolate Cherry Brownies

Red Cabbage Cole Slaw with Greek Yogurt

Strawberry and Rose Ice Cream 

Peach and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Shannon's Vegan Spinach and White Bean Dip
4 oz fresh baby spinach
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
1 shallot, diced
4 med-large cloves garlic, minced
5 pitted kalamata olives cut in half
1 15oz can white beans
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
Saute fresh baby spinach in olive oil and the juice of 3 lemon wedges until just wilted through.
Rinse and drain one 15oz can white beans and puree in a food processor with juice from remaining lemon wedges. If lemon is large you may need to leave out one or two wedges to keep it from being overly tart. Add the sauteed spinach, a couple good pinches of the salt and about 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper along with all the remaining ingredients and run through the food processor again. Serve with cauliflower, raw fennel, radishes, and bread.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When it Rains Leeks it Pours

Incredibly easy to grow, delicious to eat and good for you, leeks are one of my favorite late spring foods.  However I'd never grown them before.  Last summer my husband handed me a small pot of what looked like chives.  They were in fact, hundreds of individual leeks just waiting to be teased apart and planted.  Pots of leek "starts" such as this can be found with the vegetable plants at Lowe's and Southern States.  Anytime from late summer through early spring, plant leek starts in full sun (they need a good about 8 hours per day) in loose, well drained soil with a good six inches between each tiny bulb and wait till the plants are about one inch in diameter. To be honest I planted mine in early spring of 2011, sort of forgot about them, and didn't harvest them until two weeks ago.  They were still great! 
So what to do with all these leeks?  My two favorite options are the Lemon and Leek Quiche from the Food52 cookbook, and a creamy potato and leek soup using Ina Garten's Roasted Potato and Leek Soup Recipe. A friend of mine, who is an amazing at home cook , (I'm talking nine layer cake on a Wednesday night just for fun) made a ridiculously good potato and leek soup last week using a combination of the above recipe and Garten's Zucchini Vichyssoise recipe.   He said he added one squash, to add a little sweetness, as well as rosemary because a potato and leek soup with rosemary is the house soup for one of his favorite restaurants.  Whatever you choose to make, remember that it's the white part which provides the best flavor.  The pale green portion is still fine to use, but the dark green foliage should be discarded.  Dirt will often fill the many layers of each leek, so rinse the leeks, chop or slice them and then rinse them again in a bowl of water.  Leeks are not only delicious, they are also a valuable health food.  Loaded with vitamins K, A, manganese, C, folate, and even iron.  Check out more on the health benefits of leeks and how to preserve them when cooking  here.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RFC visits: Edible Landscaping

Last week, some of the family gardeners came into town and wanted to check out the Edible Landscaping nursery in Nelson County.  Edible landscaping is such an appealing idea in general that we were all excited to see which fruits we could introduce into our gardens at home.


Fat blueberries
Everyone was so helpful and so nice at the nursery, including owner Michael McConkey who walked us around, bursting into song every once in a while and joyfully exclaiming over fruiting plants as though he was just discovering them himself.  He even brought me this giant mulberry that was one of the sweetest I have ever tasted!
Michael and his giant (and super sweet) mulberry


Gorgeous pomegranate flowers

Swallowtail feasting

 We had such fun exploring the idea of introducing more food plants into our gardens.  My uncle Alan and aunt Paula wound up with several plants- including an asian pear tree and a goumi berry (which is a nitrogen fixer in addition to having tasty berries).  Alan had to sit with the shrub on his lap on the ride home, but it was a most lovely drive.
Uncle Alan and his Goumi berry
I didn't bring anything back because I had not done sufficient research on what to plant, but there is always mail order...  It is a fun day trip though, so head on out sometime, and bring some fruits home!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RFC Throwback: May

There are loads of spring recipes to share for the RFC throwback for May.  Markets and gardens are flush with fruits and veggies again.  In 2008, we shared recipes for mulberry upside- down cake and mulberry and almond ice cream.  'Take your pick--'tis the season! 

Upside down cake- not just for pineapple
Then there are the strawberries... Strawberry rose ice cream?  Strawberry tart? How about strawberry salsa?  All of those recipes are in this post from 2009.  Yummmm....

Strawberry mania!

To add to the mania, I want to share my favorite recipe for strawberry jam.  One night in May of 2010, Casey invited me to share in the making of the famous Freeman family strawberry jam.  I love it to this day- using the loose jam often as sauce for ice cream and in all kinds of baking.  

So many berries!


What about all of the veggies that are filling our plates these days?  Shannon did this lovely post in 2011 on the versatile kohlrabi.  As a side, as chips or as a slaw, kohlrabi might become your new favorite springtime veggie!

Beautiful purple kohlrabi

Happy spring, y'all!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

RVA Food Truck Court: Friday Night Delight

Last night my husband and I found ourselves with only $26 dollars left in our entertainment budget. We have big renovation plans for our home this year, and are saving our pennies. But, what can you do with $26 bucks? I'll tell you. Go to the RVA Food Truck Court.

The court is held at VA Historical Society on select evenings. Right now the schedule is as follows: Tuesday, May 15, Friday, May 18, Tuesday, May 22, Friday, May 25, Tuesday, May 29, and Friday, June 1 (weather permitting). You can get grub from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

We had the best time with our $26 bucks, and even had money left over to stop at Sweet 95.  The court was hoppin'. Full of people, pups, babies, and kidlings. The only down side is we didn't have space in our tummies to try everything. But don't you worry - we'll be back. Here are some of the highlights.

First, Sustenance. This truck focus on local, organic, and whole foods. The menu offers yummy sandwiches and other picnic friendly foods. Look at the local offerings!

Other RVA favorites were present, like CrossRoads Ice Cream & Coffee and  Pizza Tonight.

After several laps, Rob decided to have the Tofu Ban Mi from the Rooster Cart. He agreed I could have a bite, so I lapped the court again.

The sandwich was a hit, simply yummy and very generously sized. Having spent only $9 bucks for the sandwich and a drink, I went to find my grub and I settled on tacos. No surprise, tacos are one of my most favorite foods *ever*.  The tacos from Boka didn't disappoint.

We tried the Asian and Mexican tofu tacos. Yum!

With happy bellies, we packed up and headed home, but with a stop at Sweet 95.  Did you know that all their ice cream is locally sourced? It is - from Homestead Creamery.

So that was our evening. We spent less than $26 bucks and had a delightful time. I promise to share more thrifty finds as we continue to save for our home renovations. In the meantime, get to the court, you won't be sorry you did! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Foraging for Mulberries

Talking with some friends about foraging recently reminded me of this post, written a couple years back, but still holding true as our favorite annual urban foraging tradition...

The neighborhood climbing tree, a mulberry tree, or as I’ve started calling it “the giving tree” is one of our favorite places…
Early spring we start stalking our favorite neighborhood tree, waiting for that perfect moment of ripeness.


This year we weren't disappointed, our annual spring tradition of urban foraging yielded a plump and juicy harvest.

Fresh picked!
 So what to do with all that delicious fruit? Every year we land on the same idea, trying to recall our mulberry ice cream recipe (every year we make it up.) I was determined this time to find the right one. Possibly inspired by dueling recipes with Ned, I came up with what I consider to be perfection. And special perfection on my boy's chocolatey moist birthday cake.
Waiting patiently...
Here is what I came up with, an adaptation from David Lebovitz “The Perfect Scoop” recipe:
Mulberry Ice Cream:
2 quarts of mulberries (blended in a food processor then mashed through a sieve)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
After straining berries you will have a thick purple liquid, let it cool then mix together ingredients and chill before freezing in ice cream maker.

So do you have a secret foraging spot? And what do you do with all those delicious mulberries?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Coffee for the Snail's (and slug's) Pace

About eight years ago I was lucky enough to see organic gardener and author Anne Lovejoy speak at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  One of the things that stuck with me was her recommendation to use spent caffeinated coffee grounds to repel/kill slugs and sails.  Curious, (verging on skeptical) at first, I've used it for years in thick, perfectly closed rings around my leafy vegetables with great success.  The encircled plats stayed intact while those left without the grounds were eaten.  Multiply that by seven years, and you have a believer. Apparently the caffeine is a neurotoxin that probably exist in plants in the first place because it protects them from such attacks.
I've seen searching the blogosphere, but in looking for some evidence outside of Ms. Lovejoy's expertise and my own observations, I found two very affirming articles (see below).  Perhaps I have such good success because we use a strong, fresh roasted coffee and scoop our beans out into the grinder  in what could be called "heaps" for good measure. Regardless, give it a try. What have you got to loose?  Coffee grounds add organic matter, small amounts of slowly released nitrogen, and may slowly make your soil slightly more acidic. note... my totally unscientific observations have led me to believe that this really works, unless there is any way for the slug or snail to amble up the leaf without coming in contact with the coffee.  Note holes in some leaves above.
Science news

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy International Compost Week!

Whether you pile it, bury it or feed the worms with it, composting is easy and critical to the food system. Talking about waste is not pretty, but it is essential.  And trust me, when you see your veggie scraps and yard waste become nutrients for your garden, there is nothing more beautiful!
I am a big believer in composting as an easy way to help minimize trash and to keep your garden growing well.  I have seen all kinds of compost systems in my time- three- bin systems, piles housed in chicken wire, buried in holes and even worm bins inside apartment pantries!  I have two piles going right now- a giant one at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden where I work, and a tiny 'transfer station' one at home.  Both are super easy to maintain.
The three bin system at Lewis Ginter was initiated by the head chef at the Garden, Tony Arrington.  His dedication to saving food scraps and keeping them in his walk- in refrigerator is essential to the success of the whole operation.  Two or three times a week, either the youth volunteers or I head up to the kitchen to collect 6- 9 five gallon buckets of salad trimmings and coffee grounds.  We incorporate this project into our programs, and visiting families love to help 'feed the worms'!  We cover the food scraps with dried leaves or grass, and add a few handfuls of compost that is farther along to the new pile.  When one of those bins fills up, we let it 'rest', taking the compost out of the other bins and adding it to the garden, and then we start a new pile!  This is a 'cold composting' system- it is basically a giant worm bin that never goes above 120 degrees.  Sometimes squash seeds will sprout, but we don't mind.
My pile at home is the super lazy gal's answer to composting.  I have a bucket by the sink for food scraps, and every once in a while, I dump the bucket over the side of my deck.  The pile is hidden by a witch hazel shrub from the front.  With the small volume I create, even with the garden waste, lint, dog hair and contents of the vacuum bag, it never gets big enough to mess with.  Once a year I shovel the stuff from the bottom of the pile onto the garden, but it really just feeds the bed it is in- kind of like a keyhole garden!
So, cheers to you and your compost- whatever form it takes!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Summer Season 2012 Markets!!

Count em' up, 16 Markets and Growing!  Please note changes to times and days for may returning markets, and the Return of the Goochland Farmer's Market! Stay tuned for more updates...
Summer Season Markets Around Richmond and Beyond!:
17th Street Market
17th and Main (Shockoe Bottom)
Saturday Growers’ Market, 8:30am - 4pm
Sunday Vintage and Growers’ Market, 8:30am - 4pm 

Byrd House Market
S. Linden St. and Idelwood Ave. Oregon Hill)
Tuesdays 3:30-7:00pm

The Tricycle Gardens Farm Stand
2107 Jefferson Ave (Church Hill)
 Thursdays 4:00- 7:00pm

South of the James Market
Shelter No. 2 in Forest Hill Park
Off of Forest Hill Ave o 42nd Street, Richmond VA 23225
Saturdays 8:00am-12:00pm
May 5, 2012 – December 1, 2012

The Farmers Market @ St. Stephen's
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
6000 Grove Ave.
Outdoor Market:
Saturdays 8:00am -12:00pm

Monumont Ave. Farmers Market

First Baptist Church, 2709 Monument Ave.
Saturdays 8:00am-12:00pm

 Virginia St. Farmers Market
Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm
May 10 – October 25, 2012
Virginia Street and Turning Basin in the Shockoe area

Huguenot-Robious Farmer's Market
2051 Huguenot Road (At The Great Big Greenhouse)
Outdoor Market Starts April 2
Thursdays 10:00am -2:00pm

Lakeside Farmer's Market
Early Market starting March 31st! 

6110 Lakeside Ave. (Just outside city limits, near the corner of Lakeside and Hillard)
Wednesdays 8:00am-12:00pm and 3:00-7:00pm (Dawn-Dusk through Thanksgiving)
Saturdays 8:00am-12:00pm through Christmas!
April -December
West End Farmer's Market
No more Sunday Hours
Gayton Rd and Ridgefield Pkwy
Wednesdays 3:00pm-6:30pm
Saturdays 8:00am-12:00pm

The Goochland Farmer's Market
2955 River Rd. W. in Goochland 

May 5- October 20

The Chester Farmer's Market
Early start:  April 7th!
The Village Green
Chester Va
Saturdays 8:30-12:30
April- October  (Closed September 22)

Ashland Farmer's Market
Duncan St. behind Town Hall 
Saturdays 9:00am-12:00pm
May 5-October 27
Thanksgiving market on November 17
Holiday Market on December 1

My Manakin Market  
New Hours!
68 Broad St, (Behind the Bank of Essex, Just outside Short Pump)
Saturdays 9:00-1:00

Williamsburg Farmers Market
Merchants Sq., Duke of Gloucester St. (Between Henry and BoundarySt.)
Saturdays 8:00am-12:00pm
March 31 -October 27
Holiday Markets: November 17, 24 and December 8

 Charlottesville City Market
A must see...
Saturdays 7am - 12:00
April- December

Friday, May 4, 2012

Strawberries and Eggs

Last week my work required some driving, all the way to the West Virginia border and back to be precise. To keep my hands off my cell phone and my mind focused on the drive, I made a pit stop at the public library and picked up a few audio books, including "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

Now, my household dutifully purchased and gave copies this book when it first came out, absolutely.  But, in a painful moment of  honesty, I acknowledged that the winding chapters on the science of corn became somewhat of a road block for me.  I never read the book in it's entirety.


But, it's true. So, to finish what I started, I went to the check-out with Mr. Pollan's opus in tow.

Listening to this book was simply rejuvenating, especially as I listened to the many chapters on Polyface Farm while as I rolled through the Shenandoah Valley on a bright spring day.

The bountiful descriptions about the importance of local foods, clean foods and, in particular, seasonal foods, reminded me my family, friends, and community are building a local and slow food infrastructure...and I am a part of that....of our local community who is "opting out" of industrial foods, as Pollan would say.   I couldn't wait to get home.

Once home, I was delighted to find that I had purchased a dozen Polyface eggs just before I left. The timing was perfect. Also, in my fridge I found a carton of local strawberries purchased from my Farmers' Market. 

I mean, come on, look at these beauties. I knew that we were having strawberries and eggs for supper.

Luckily, I also found that we had milk. Eggs, milk, strawberries? One meal quickly came to mind: pancakes. Pancakes for dinner. Buckwheat pancakes made with fresh local eggs and milk with local strawberries. Can I get an Amen?!

Those were some good looking yolks. They were *bright* orange and perfectly firm. A complete pleasure.

A simple meal of simple ingredients. Served as a reminder that if you have quality local products on hand a wonderful cooking experience and meal is never out of reach, even breakfast for dinner.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Daily Bread

So this recipe has been around for a while, first introduced to me by a dear friend who uses it well.

I touched on this dough recipe in this post using it to make pizza, and this post in which it magically transformed into a fruit tart. But I've had a special request to share my everyday bread technique again, which I'm happy to do. It's become a staple in our house because it's so very easy!

I like to make a batch every two weeks or so and we use it for everything from the traditional Boule to the everyday sandwich loaf to pizza crust. It can also be  lovely when pressed flat and sprinkled with corse salt and any herb you have on hand, I like Rosemary. I use to make not so sweet rustic tarts filled with veggies or fruit, see image below. We (Ned) also uses it for the occasional special weekend breakfast, he rolls the dough flat and layers it with cinnamon and sugar to make gooey cinnamon rolls. The possibilities are quite endless, the recipe is based on the famous 5 minutes a day bread which you can find out more about here.

Basic No Knead Dough

5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups warm water

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Pour warm (but not hot) water into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into a separate bowl.) Add yeast to water and let it sit for a minute or so. Gradually add flour to the water and yeast mixture. I usually do with with the dough hook attachment on my stand mixer but a regular bowl and wooden spoon work as well. Mix together until the flour and water come together to form a dough ball, not too sticky or too dry, you may need to add a little extra water to get it the proper consistency.

After it is mixed, put it in a large plastic container, it will double in size so find something big to store it in. Let it sit on the counter loosely covered until the dough doubles in volume and then settles on the top. Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

When you are ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Then take the amount you need out of the fridge and make your dough ball (about the size of a large grapefruit) or pat out your pizza dough on a metal baking sheet (use a little olive oil under the dough to keep it from sticking.) Let the dough rest for about 30 min, pizza dough doesn't need so long but it's good to bring it down to room temperature.

 If you are making bread, slash the top with a knife to allow it to expand and bake it for 30 min. If you are making pizza layer a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil first (this makes it crispier and prevents sticking) and bake it for about 10-12 min.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sullivan's Pond

I hope you have experienced the pleasure of Sullivan's Pond goat cheese.  I remember my first taste- Casey unwrapped a fig leaf to reveal a fresh, soft chèvre which was dusted with salt and pepper. That was three years ago- and I still remember it so clearly!  I had eaten goat cheese before, but never as fresh as that one.  This past Sunday, Slow Food board members Ashley, Amanda, and I had the great privilege of meeting the folks behind the cheese, Rona and Tim Sullivan, at their Wake,Va farm.

Rona and Tim with their fine pup Murphy*
 We came prepared to help with chores and projects on the farm.  Since it was a little dreary when we arrived, we sipped tea and got to know each other in the Sullivan's kitchen.  Other friends of the farm arrived, and we helped prepare the soap for next week's market.
Rona cuts soap for the market.*
We talked a lot about what farmers need in order to get their products to consumers through markets, restaurants and groceries. Small business considerations like health insurance and marketing are complicated by the demands of a farm and travel time.  It was eye- opening to hear a farmer's perspective.
Sullivan's Pond Micro Dairy includes an aging area for the blue cheese and Mill Creek.*
We did fit in a little bit of weeding once the sun came out.  We also learned what kind of things a goat will eat... Most green things, really!  The Sullivan's have several different breeds, each with their own dispositions and milk qualities.  The goats each had names- celestial or floral mostly.  Tim said he is not allowed to name them after Star Trek characters.  I have no idea how they keep track of them all!

Goats love vetch!!
One of my favorite parts of Sullivan's Pond cheese is the all natural packaging.  Fig leaves, chestnut leaves and corn husks are all an essential part of the experience. One of the jobs we took on was harvesting chestnut and fig leaves for future use.
Rona shows us how.*

My stash.*
The farm is an idyllic setting and the Sullivan's are the most wonderful people.  We hope you can join us on a workday there sometime soon. We are definitely going back.  If you want to try their cheese (as you should),  it is available at the South of the James market, as well as at Whole Foods and Ellwood Thompson.
The ladies on the farm.*
Sullivan's Pond Farm has the most beautiful chickens and goats ever!  Look at these sweet chicks*
and happy goats!*

*All photos by Ashley Cunningham