Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yum! Winter Soup and Butternut Squash Dinner

In an effort to add more recipes to the RFC archives, as well as to inspire you to do lots of exciting winter cooking, here are some tips and instructions on cooking a hearty soup with cold-season flair. My tips for cooking a great side of butternut squash are also included.


Fennel, White Bean and Olive Soup

This soup is based on a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, called 'White Bean and Olive Soup.' That recipe calls for celery and zucchini, but I've changed mine into a delicious December version. I admit my 'locavore' factor is a bit low in this recipe, but I believe January through April is the time to allow yourself some wiggle room. It's still necessary to eat, and I think we should eat well, even if it means using a couple things from elsewhere while simultaneously maintaining the goal of doing better next year. For example, I'm ordering fennel seeds. We'll see how it goes...

1 fennel bulb, chopped. Preserve foliage for use as a garnish.
2-3 medium carrots or 6 small carrots, chopped
2 smaller onions
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup halved and pitted kalamata olives
1 can cannellini beans
1 6oz can tomato paste (you could probably substitute canned or frozen tomatoes, maybe 2-3 chopped)
4 cups water
4-5 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used pre-chopped frozen sweet peppers for this that I preserved this summer-- yay for reaping the benefits of seasonal labors!)

Pour olive oil into a big soup pot. On medium high heat, cook onions, fennel and carrots with roughly a teaspoon of salt in olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add pepper, garlic and bell pepper, and saute for about 5 more minutes. Mix the tomato paste with 4 cups of water and add to the saute along with the rest of the ingredients, including spices. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fennel foliage.

Butternut Squash Side

Easy if you're an experienced cook, but I wanted to pass along my favorite way to cook butternut squash, since I only discovered it in the last couple of months. Take a standard cookie sheet that has sides, and fill it with about 1/4 inch of water. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then place each half face down in the water. Bake on 400 for 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Just check periodically for softness. When ready, remove from oven and cut into chunks. Apply a small pat of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar to the top.


A slice of your favorite hearty bread finishes off this meal. Ours was the French white bread from Ellwood Thompson's (a leftover from bread and cheese offerings to relatives on Christmas afternoon), but I really am partial to some of the darker breads they offer there. I will mention that the No Wonder bread guy is still selling at Byrd House market, and Montana Gold also bakes their bread in-house.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tricycle Gardens -- Gardening Classes in 2009!

Is your New Year's resolution to start a garden in 2009? Get a head start by taking classes with Tricycle Gardens, your local community gardening nonprofit.

Listed courses include:

JANUARY, Saturday 24th, 12-3pm
Creative Coldframes and Cloches
Jump start your spring by integrating creative cold frames and cloches into your home garden. We will demonstrate how to build 3 simple types of cold frames, and a variety of cloches. Tapping into our resourceful & inventive minds, and by using new, used and found objects, we will find new & beneficial tools for successful gardens.
Please dress warmly, as we will be outside.
INSTRUCTORS: Danny Finney, Allison Mesnard, Stacey Moulds
LOCATION: Jefferson Avenue Garden (at 24th Street in Church Hill/Union Hill)
COST: $50, 20 spaces available

FEBRUARY, Saturday 14th, 11am-2pm
Seed Swap & Potluck
Start your Valentines Day with a seed swap! Bring some seeds / perennials to trade, and a dish to share. Go home with new varieties, tips and stories.
LOCATION: Tricycle Garden's Office, 211 West 7th Street (in Old Manchester)

MARCH Sunday 8th, 1-4pm
DIY Sub-Irrigated Planter Workshop.
We will discuss a variety of designs for making your own sub-irrigated planter as well as the plethora of garden crops and flowers that can be grown successfully in this type of unique and water saving planter.
Container garden enthusiasts who haven't yet tried using SIP's are highly encouraged to sign up for this workshop. We will also discuss many different "soil-less" growing mediums you can make yourself. Everyone will go home with a fully functional water efficient SIP that they have made themselves ready for planting.
INSTRUCTORS: Danny Finney, Allison Mesnard
LOCATION: Tricycle Garden's Office, 211 West 7th Street (in Old Manchester)
COST: $65, 30 spaces available

MARCH, Thursday 12th, 7-9pm?
The Nitty-Gritty on Community Gardens
What is the story about community gardening and the local agriculture movement? Learn about the history of community gardens in America, and the nuts & bolts of what it really takes to create and sustain a garden in your community. Learn about the work of Tricycle Gardens, and what they are doing to make community gardens a part of the story of Richmond. Lively discussion encouraged.
INSTRUCTOR: Lisa Taranto
COST: $25

APRIL , Sunday 5th
Build Your Own Rain Barrel
Participants will receive a 55 gallon #2 plastic food grade barrel with all the necessary components to make a usable rain collector. Tools and helpers will be on hand to assist in the assembling. We will discuss and explain set up and maintenance of your rain barrel as well as offering a few suggestions for the more adventurous DIYers for converting heavy duty plastic garbage cans into functional rain collectors. We will discuss how the use of rain barrels can be a component in reducing our negative impact on our local waterways and help foster a stronger connection with the health and well being of our diverse and complex ecology.
INSTRUCTORS: Danny Finney, Allison Mesnard, Stacey Moulds
LOCATION: Tricycle Garden's Office, 211 West 7th Street (in Old Manchester)
COST: $75, 50 spaces available

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Turkey Soup From Scratch

Aahhh, the wonderful rewards of homemade chicken or turkey soup... . For those of you who haven't tried making your own stock, or broth from scratch I promise you it is well worth the relatively small amount of time it takes to make. Making soup from scratch stretches your food dollars and is a healthy as well as delicious way to make the most of your leftover Turkey, (or chicken),carcass and all.

Chicken or Turkey Stock
1. Remove any meat from the carcass that you deem good eating meat. If you have a large turkey like ours each leg will offer up enough meat for multiple sandwiches (no lie). If you leave this meat on the bones your stock will just be that much richer, but I believe it is a waste. I pull off all the meat, place in a tight container in the fridge and then "pull it" or shred it at the very end of my soup making process, adding it to the soup after all the vegetables are done cooking.

2. Fill a large stock pot with enough water to cover the entire carcass, legs, wings, neck if you've got it, etc. Set the pot on the burner and turn it on high.

3. Add vegetable bits. I save all my scrapes from garlic and onion skins and ends to carrot and fennel tops just for these stocks. Just remember to cut vegetables into large chunks that will not turn into total mush before the stock is done... Here are some veggies to make a great stock...
Fennel greens from the bulbs you buy for roasting etc.(with out a great deal of the stem)
Carrot greens and Carrots pealed and chopped into 2-4 large pieces. You don't have to peal them, but if you don't the skins make make your stock taste bitter.
Onions, skins and all. Halved or quartered.
Garlic, skins and all. If you grow your own and have a bunch of small heads, just slice the bottom off the whole head, break it up a bit in your hand and through it in.
Celery tops
4-5 whole peppercorns
A nice pinch salt... Alice waters says it is important to add this now to help bring out the flavors and not wait until you make the actual soup.
Sage, Rosemary, marjoram, thyme ( I have all these in the yard, and keep dried bunches of them in the kitchen during the winter.

Again Alice Waters recommends allowing the stock to come to hard boil, then turn it down to a soft simmer right away. As soon as you have turned it down use a large spoon to remove the foam off the top. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, but 2 hours is great too. Just remove and cool a little from time to time to check the taste.

When stock is ready place a large colander over a bowl or stock pot large enough to hold all the stock and strain it off from the bones and veggies. If you are not going to make soup right away, be sure to refrigerate the stock fairly quickly rather than let it cool slowly at room temperature. Once it's cooled a little, you can finish cooling it in the fridge in a large metal pot with some kind of covering and a towel underneath... or after its cooled some you can divide it into smaller containers and freeze or chill those. These are great to have for sauteing, or making various soups etc.

Turkey or Chicken Soup

If you want to make soup right away, just pour the still hot stock into a large stock pot and place it back on the stove maintaining a very soft simmer until you start adding your veggies.
Here is an estimate of what I put in... it varies every time depending on what I have available and what I am in the mood for. These veggie number are for a good gallon of stock...

Throw each group in the stock when your done chopping.
1. 3-4 large carrots, scrubbed or pealed, and sliced 1/4" thick. (pealing is less important here and I usually leave the skins on)
2. 1-1/2 large onions. pealed, and chopped.
3. 4-5 medium potatoes, pealed or scrubbed and cut into about 1" pieces. (To peal or scrub for me depends on if I see green under the skin. The green of the potato is a toxin, and if your potatoes are starting to green just under the skin then they should be pealed)
4. Celery rinsed and chopped into 1/4" pieces. ( I have substituted the thicker fennel stems at times)
5. Salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste.
6. "Pull" or chop up your leftover turkey meat and toss that in once the veggies are almost tender.

7. If I am using potatoes I usually don't use rice or noodles, but you could have chicken or turkey with rice and veggies, or noodles instead. I always make mine with egg noodles and I make the rice or noodles separately and add them into just the amount of soup I plan to serve. I keep the rice or noodles separate in the fridge and add them to each batch I reheat when I put it on the stove. This may not be necessary, but it is the only way I have found to keep the rice or noodles from slowly absorbing more and more liquid until I end up with an extremely thick soup that looks like it's been condensed.

All of this may sound like a lot, but really the amount of actual prep time is probably only about 1/2 hour for both stock and soup combined, especially once you've done it several times, and the warmth and healthful taste of a nice soup that you can have on hand makes it well worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yoder Dairy to close

Thanks to one of our readers for alerting us to this story, which details the closing of the beloved Yoder Dairy in Virginia Beach. Richmonders were able to get delicious Yoder milk and cream at Ellwood Thompson's, in the classic and reusable glass bottles. The closing of this family run business makes the case that it is our support of these industries that keeps them alive. Don't let this happen to something else you love.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alma's Hearty Health Bread

Here is the a snippet of the e-mail Alma sent to me to provide you with some of the "inside" information and tips she offers. From South Africa, Alma has had to make a good deal of adjustments to her recipes, particularly in measurement conversions in order for us to more easily follow her instructions. This bread recipe is one she has been making for several years and she says that although her family loves it, when she has baked it for some Americans in the past they complained that it was too hearty for their taste. See what you think. I think it sounds great!
When I asked her about Prairie Grain Bread I was surprised to find that she too uses this bread saying ... "I also use the Prairie Grain White because I cannot really bake a better loaf myself, and it toasts and makes toasted cheese beautifully. I have used the 9 grain but I prefer my own brown. "

"This Whole-wheat Bread recipe is my sophisticated version of the original recipe I had from my very first SA cookbook.I used to bake 2 2-lb loaves when my husband was alive but now I do only one, which I divide into two smaller loaves. My bread tins measure 12" by 3 1/2" and are the original ones I brought from SA . There is nothing to be found here that is quite the same size or measurement. However, you can use 1 lb loaf tins.
You will find the recipe seems rather long, but it is because of all the health bits and pieces I add. I would also add cracked wheat but it is a great nuisance because it has to be cooked first and cooled which adds to the preparation time
When I open a new jar of yeast I always proof it first, that is 1 tspn yeast, 1 tbspn water and 1 tspn sugar mixed together in a cup and placed in a warm place. It should rise to at least 3/4 of the cup in about 15 to 20 minutes. Otherwise I just mix the dry yeast straight in with the flour and other ingredients.

Wholewheat Bread
3 cups wholewheat flour
2 cups AP or Bread Flour
2 1/2 tspns Fleischman or Red Star Active Dry yeast
1/2 cup Digestive Bran
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tblspn ground flaxseed
1 tblspn Quinoa flakes
1 tblspn wheat germ (These last five ingredients are optional. Find them at a Health Food shop or the Health Food Section at Krogers,but this is what makes my bread different)
2 cups tap hot water
2 tspns salt
1 tabspn brown sugar
1 tbspn molasses (this gives a good color )
1 tbspn oil
Set the oven to 400.
Mix together all dry ingredients in a basin, including yeast, and stir well to blend
Dissolve the sugar, salt and oil into the hot water. Make well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 3/4 of the liquid. Blend all together.If you see it is too dry, add the rest of the liquids gradually ( you will most probably find that uses it all) and start to knead.

IF the mixture is too stiff You may have to add some more water but be very careful, you don't want the mixture to be too wet. Knead well until the mixture comes completely away and no longer sticks to the sides or to your hands, Continue to knead for about 10 minutes. If it seems too slack add a sprinkling of white flour, if it seems too dry add water but only 1 tbspn at a time. With practice one gets to judge when its right.
[Coat your palms with a little oil] and pat them over the ball of dough. Place in a clean basin, cover and put to rise for 2 hours. It should double in volume.

Punch down the dough, cover it with a cloth and let it rest for about 10 minutes. This last step is not essential but the dough is easier to mould if you do it. Divide the dough in half, flatten out with the heel of your hand and by flattening, folding, and rolling with your hand you can shape it into two loaves that will fit into your greased bread tins.
Cover and put to rise again in a warm place. You can cover it with a kitchen cloth supported by a couple of tall glasses. See that it is completely covered, otherwise the top will dry out. The second rising should take about 45 minutes and it should rise about 1 1/2" above the level of the tin.
Bake at 400 for 40 minutes, but look at your bread after 30 mins because oven temperatures vary and it could well get too brown. If you think your oven is too hot, then set it to 400 for 20 minutes and then reduce it to 375. "

New "mini" Market this Morning!

I just got notice at 7:15 this morning from CCL that they will be participating in a very small market that is starting up in Powhatan. Here is the e-mail they sent out....

"I know this is late notice , but we have and problems with both the phone and the computer. We are going to be set up today at a new farmers market that is opening up in Powhatan It starts at 9 until 12 today (Saturday). It is at the Collier water garden. It is very small market that just started up. It is located on Route 60 west just past the Chesterfield Powhatan line(about 3 miles west of the 288 overpass)"

More Nice Ideas For The Holidays

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about alternatives to the shopping mall style gift mania that seem to characterize the holidays these days....
Anyway, a few days later I was invited to a Christmas open house where the host asked that their guest bring food items to donate to the local food bank in lieu of bringing the usual hosts gifts. I thought this was a great way to celebrate, and enjoy the company of friends and family while at the same time sharing some of what you have with others . All of the food brought by guest was taken by the hosts to the food bank the following day.

Another great idea involving food and the holidays came from my friend Liz when we were discussing holiday gifts. She said that for Christmas a couple of years ago she sent her grandmother a homemade, baked treat along with a card that promised a different fresh baked goodie would be sent at intervals throughout the year. (She sent something about every 6 weeks). What a great thing to look forward to all year! I loved the idea of her grandmother receiving something Liz had been baking in her own kitchen just a day or two before. It really seems to dissolve the distances.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Few Recipes From Alma

Recently I had the great pleasure of having a Friday dinner with my oldest and closest friend and her family. Her grandmother, Alma was there and she and I got to talking about food. Well, since then we have traded several e-mails and she has done me the great favor of committing several of her favorite recipes to electronic "paper" in order to share them with me, and all of you. I hope you get to try them out and that you enjoy them!

Dear Shannon.....
Here are some more of my recipes. I am pleased to think that someone may be interested in trying something different....

Alma's Bran Muffins
Cream together:2 eggs, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup oil,
1 ¾ cups milk
2½ cups flour sifted together with ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp mixed apple pie, or pumpkin pie spice, and 2 tspns baking soda
1 cup digestive bran, (obtainable in health shops)
½ lb raisins or golden raisins
Mix all together thoroughly.

Keep tightly covered in airtight container in fridge at least 24 hours before baking. Bake in muffin tins at 425º for 15 minutes.
Mixture will make 22 to 24 muffins.
You can leave the mixture unbaked in an airtight container in the fridge for a month and just bake as many as you need, but I bake the whole lot and keep them in the freezer. They take about 12 or 13 seconds to defrost.

Fruit and Ginger Cookies
Melt together:
4 ozs Butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 tbspns golden syrup or honey
Sift 2 ¼ cups flour, ½ Cup sugar, 1 tsp Baking Soda, ½ tspn Baking Powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp Apple or Pumpkin Pie spice, 2 tsp ginger
2 eggs beaten
1 cup raisins or golden raisins
Mix all together.
Mixture is quite soft and sticky but the oil makes it quite easy to handle. I put about 3 to 4 blobs in a row and pat them gently into two long sausages with my fingers to about 2 1/2” width on a greased cookie pan and bake for approx 15 minutes at 350ºF

- Cut diagonally into 1” slices while still warm but do not separate.
If desired ice with glace icing when cold. I don’t ice them, because my family prefers them plain. These are very popular but do not stay fresh for long. I freeze them within one day.

Buttermilk Rusks:
9 cups Self Raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp salt
8 ozs butter or margarine
1 pint buttermilk plus 2tbspns milk
1 egg
25 ml oil.
Sift dry ingredients together. Rub butter into flour (I use a grater ), beat egg, add oil, add buttermilk. Pour into centre of dry ingredients, Knead thoroughly.
Form into buns about the size of a golf ball in pan about 12” X 10” X 2”. Fit them in tightly together.

The recipe should make about 60 plus rusks. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, separate gently with a sharp knife and place on two flat baking tins. Allow to dry out in very cool oven - overnight if possible, takes about 12 hours. You have probably never heard of anything like these rusks but I assure you, they are worth the effort!"

More about the Milk

I was rather surprised to discover this past Monday that just hours after I wrote my post about local milk, NPR broadcast Terri Gross' interview with Anne Mendelson about her new book Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Throughout the Ages. In this 11 minute long interview Mendelson sites the three most important things to look for in quality milk. She list first that it should be locally produced for freshness, second it should be non-homogenized, and finally for it to be pasteurized at the lower temp of 145 degrees (sometimes identified as "Batch pasteurized").
Click Here to listen to the interview in its entirety.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Many thanks

I just wanted to thank our friends for being such great lovers of food. We get numerous emails referring us to stories and events of which we might not have been aware, which we always appreciate. We three of the RFC work outside, (at early hours at that,) so we do not always have the opportunity to hear/ read/ see the news. That is where our friends fit in. Just today, we received an email from a reader who wanted to make sure we heard this story on NPR about new organic standards for milk. Fantastic. Also, my friend Ingrid called, wanting to make sure that I had heard this interview with Michael Pollan about Obama's pick for Secretary of Agriculture. Thank you guys so much for keeping us informed, and feel free to write us anytime!

Tricycle Gardens Gardening Classes

From Lisa Taranto at Tricycle Gardens:

Interested in hands-on gardening workshops in your community?

Check out opportunities with the Tricycle Gardens family of community gardens: www.tricyclegardens.org

Tricycle Gardens volunteers started a community garden in Church Hill, Richmond, in 2001. It has grown into a resource organization for urban issues including gardening, community-building, and sustainability, with four established community gardens to its credit, and another in planning. Tricycle Gardens provides garden building design, resources and technical support, while helping neighborhood volunteers build and manage community gardens.
LGBG Class Descriptions
JANUARY, Saturday 24th, 12-3pm
Creative Coldframes and Cloches
Jump start your spring by integrating creative cold frames and cloches into your home garden. We will demonstrate how to build 3 simple types of cold frames, and a variety of cloches. Tapping into our resourceful & inventive minds, and by using new, used and found objects, we will find new & beneficial tools for successful gardens.
Please dress warmly, as we will be outside.
INSTRUCTORS: Danny Finney, Allison Mesnard, Stacey Moulds
LOCATION: Jefferson Avenue Garden (at 24th Street in Church Hill/Union Hill)
COST: $50, 20 spaces available

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


From Lisa Dearden at The Center for Rural Culture:


The Center for Rural Culture, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Goochland County, Virginia, in conjunction with Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, is hosting a seminar on Traditional Foods & Healthy Communities with keynote speaker Sally Fallon – author of Nourishing Traditions and President, The Weston A. Price Foundation, on Saturday, January 10th, 2009.

This daylong seminar will raise awareness and educate communities about their health, their food supply and sustainable farming practices for environmental preservation. There will be other experts who will speak, as well as Sally Fallon, on the important links between health and communities. A delicious lunch featuring locally sourced traditional foods will be provided by Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market.

The seminar will take place at the Montpelier Center for Arts and Education, 17205 Mountain Road at the western edge of Hanover on Route 33 in Hanover County (just west of Richmond) from 9:00am-6:00pm. The seminar will include the following lectures/lecturers:

“The Power of Food: a Virginia Dietitian's Perspective" (Lynda Fanning, MA, MPH, RD - Clinical Nutrition Manager, University of Virginia Health System)

“The Basics of Healthy Diets” (Sally Fallon)

“The Politics and Economics of Food” (Sally Fallon)

“Planning for a Healthy Environment” (Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director – Partnership for Smarter Growth)

”How Sustainable Farming can Promote Public Health” (Sally K. Norton, MPH - Scientific / Program Administrator, Department of Social and Behavioral Health, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University)

“How to Change Your Diet for the Better” (Sally Fallon)

Panel Discussion

Cost for the January 10th seminar is $65 in advance or $75 at the door. Pre-register on the Center for Rural Culture’s website (www.centerforruralculture.org). Center for Rural Culture and Weston A. Price members’ cost is only $50 (and also students), but those folks must register by mail. Call 804-314-9141 for a brochure.

The Center for Rural Culture will host two other book-signing and lecture events with Sally Fallon on the same weekend. Participants can meet and talk with Sally Fallon and bring or purchase their own copy of Sally’s Nourishing Traditions book to be signed.

Friday, January 9th 5:30-9:00pm Book signing and Meet & Greet starts at 5:30pm. Lecture - “The Oiling of America/The Cholesterol Myths” begins at 7:00pm. Delicious food and alcohol/non-alcohol beverages will be available for purchase before, during and after event! Cost: $10 suggested donation at the door or pre-register on the Center for Rural Culture’s website (www.centerforruralculture.org). Location: The Camel Restaurant & Bar, 1621 W Broad St. Richmond, VA 23220 (804) 353-4901.

Sunday, January 11th 11:00am-1:00pm Book signing and Meet & Greet starts at 11:00am. Lecture -“Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Having trouble getting started with a traditional diet?” starts at 11:30am. Sally will offer suggestions for no-fuss, economical meals based on traditional foods. Cost: Free, although seating is limited, so pre-registration is suggested. Go to the Center’s website to pre-register. Location: Ellwood’s Community Coffee, 10 S. Thompson St. Richmond, VA 23221 (804) 359-7525.

The mission of the Center for Rural Culture is to educate, promote and inspire members of our community to sustain a culture that supports agriculture and the local economy, protects natural and historic resources, and maintains our rural character and traditions. The Center founded and manages the Goochland Farmers Market and offers many educational programs and opportunities to learn about sustainable agriculture, conservation practices, local foods and local foods systems, smart growth, traditional rural arts, music and rural history.

The movement for a more sustainable local food system is in full swing in Central Virginia, and the opportunity to learn more about traditional foods and their relationship to the health of communities is an important and timely topic. Who should come? – Everyone…students, doctors, mothers, farmers, healthcare providers, teachers, or anyone who is interested in radically strengthening the very foundations of their health and their community.

For additional information, contact Lisa Dearden @ 804-314-9141 or admin@CenterForRuralCulture.org.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Milk and Drinking it Real

For a very long time now I have been wanting to do a "quick" post about local milk and dairy products. For me when I buy milk I am looking for Organic, hormone and antibiotic free, non-ultra-pasteurized. Ideally, I want to buy milk from cows that feed on pasture. I'd like to have the option of buying milk that is non-homogenized and perhaps even... gasp!, "raw."

Part of my education on the subject of fresh milk was from Nina Planck, who writes about the importance of consuming traditional foods. She believes that the road to health lays in consuming the foods that Humans have been eating for thousands of years and have evolved alongside, while staying away from "novelty" industrial foods and the man made alterations and additives that make such foods possible.
In her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why, she has something like 70 pages just on milk and manages to make it all very easy to um, "digest." She discusses the benefits of raw milk, siting studies that show reduced risk of heart disease among groups consuming whole milk, and the dangers of industrial creations such as powdered milk. Planck site's Dr. Kilmer McCully's work The Heart Revolution as pointing out that powdered milk may be the reason why in studies where milk is the one thing changed in the diet, Heart Disease is greater among groups that consume 2% milk and skim milk rather than whole milk.
Planck writes on page 65 that "[d]ried milk powder is created by a process called spray-drying, which creates oxidized or damaged cholesterol. Researchers in 1991 wrote, 'Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is more atherogenic than native [unoxidized] LDL.' In other words, oxidized LDL causes atherosclerosis."
"Milk Powder containing oxidized cholesterol is a common ingredient in industrial processed foods including milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, cheese substitutes, infant formula, baked goods, cocoa mixes, and candy bars. Nonfat dried milk is also added to industrial skim and 2% milk. In fact , skim milk may be made entirely of dried milk powder mixed with water."

It would be important here to note two things... First that anyone thinking of switching from skim to whole should certainly consult someone other than me (or even Nina Plank!), and secondly that the finer dairies will make skim milk simply by skimming off the milk fat. Here you just need to do some research, because according to Planck, no labeling is required to indicate if your lowfat milk is made in this way or from a powder. Since reading this book, I can verify that dried milk powder really is in all sorts of unexpected items.
Later, on page 68, Plank also goes on to say that "[c]ompared to industrial milk, dairy foods from grass-fed cows contain more omega-3 fats, more vitamin A, and more beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Butter and cream from grass-fed cows are are a rare source of the unique and beneficial fat CLA. According to the Journal of Dairy Science, the CLA in grass-fed butterfat is 500% greater than the butterfat of cows eating a typical dairy ration, which usually contains grain, corn silage, and soybeans." She goes on to say that as a "polyunsaturated omega-6 fat, CLA prevents heart disease,(probably by reducing atherosclerosis), fights cancer, and builds lean muscle. CLA aids weight loss in several ways.".... "CLA inhibits growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro. A Finnish team found that women eating dairy from pastured animals had a lower risk of breast cancer than those eating industrial dairy."
So these are just a couple paragraphs from those 70 pages and all of those pages are choc-full of information and anecdotes such as above here. Sometimes she leaves me doubtful, but generally her arguments made good sense to me and the numerous studies and the other authors she cites are a great introduction into a whole world of work being done. Erin, who is just about a life long vegitarian, loaned me this book saying that she actually enjoyed it more than Michael Pollan's work. (This book also has just as much info. on beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs and more.)

Okay, so enough on Plank.... if you want fresh, local, milk from pastured cows where can you go?

So far as I know there are only a few options and only one, Avery's Branch , seems to satisfy all of these. Since selling raw milk is illegal, Avery's branch farm provides the option of you going in with other like minded inidivuals to buy a cow that they will then board for you. After you pay for your share of the cow ($100 I believe), you then pay for the up keep and care of the animal, plus the milking and delivery of the milk to you via several local market pickup sites. I believe this is another $35 per month. So the milk is not cheap, but by all accounts, including my husband's, it is wonderful. I have not tried it myself, because of certain medical reasons I am being extra cautious about the unpasteurized aspect.

The Second option is Homestead Creamery.
Whole foods' blog site has a quick piece about Homestead Creamery and a couple of people asked some very direct questions concerning the ultimate fate of the cows at Homestead and if the cows are pastured. On the pastured question the answer seems to be Yes, but you can click here to read the questions and answers in full. For other information about the dairy you can
click Here to read a cute news story about Homestead Creamery's home deliveries. Click Here to see a business summary for Homestead Creamery including their annual estimated sales (a lot higher than you might think. And discover that they also seem to own multiple meat processing plants. ) Click here to see a photo of their shop where you can buy their products including ice cream, butter and beef. Here is a cute slide show of a 4H trip to the Homestead dairy I found on flicker. It has one intriguing photo of cows lounging in in a field of green grass with a sheep dog nearby, and another of the cows eating grain from a trough. Their milk comes in glass bottles, and they actually charge a deposit that you get back if you return your empty milk bottle to the store! Around Richmond you can find their milk, eggnog, buttermilk, etc. at Kroger's Grocery Stores.

Finally there is Yoder Dairies. You can read the rather interesting history of the Virginia Beach Dairy here. It includes a line or two on how government regulations requiring pasteurization in 1931 forced the family farm to become a larger co-op in order to offset the expense. For a very small delivery fee Yoder Dairies has home delivery to several areas east of Richmond. Just like when I was a kid, you can set your glass bottles outside your door and they will replace them with full ones. They have a very long product list and you can get a mixed product delivery as well. However, it looks to me that while the milk is hormone and antibiotic free, these animals are probably grain and silage fed, and may or may not ever step outside.... I'll have to get back to you on that.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Genius Grant for Urban Farmer

Pictured above is Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the community on home growing, food production and distribution within areas lacking viable options for fresh produce, and working to influence agricultural policy in a way that supports local economies and small farmers. Allen is now a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship winner, for his efforts as a farmer and community organizer. MacArthur fellows win no less than $500,000, and though the funds are unrestricted, Allen seems motivated to use all of his winnings to build his project even bigger.

Read the NY Times article here, which talks about Allen's farm and his plans for the future. I noticed Allen uses the term "food deserts" -- exactly the same term used by Mark Winne in his book Closing the Food Gap. I am really inspired by people like Allen and Winne. These kinds of leaders understand that in order to effect lasting change, actions must be taken to influence the structure of food systems and the communities that make use of them. Check out Growing Power's food policy initiatives -- exactly the kind of thing I'd like to be seeing in Richmond and the rest of Virginia.

More on Allen, if you're interested:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vendors and Products to be at the Goochland Holiday Market

Here is the latest update on the Goochland Farmers Market. It will be held indoors this Saturday, December 13th, from 10:00 AM through 2:00 PM
at the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Western Campus in Goochland, 1851 Dickinson Road.
It looks as though they have lots of really good vendors to choose from for this last Holiday Market. And Don't forget the William Byrd House Market, also held tomorrow (see earlier post).

Here is a long list of the vendors that will be there tomorrow, along with a nicely detailed account of what each vendor will be offering. This is an excerpt from the e-mail sent by the Goochland Market Manager...
"This week, we will be featuring the following vendors:
Amelia Soap & Herb Company: We will be at the market this Saturday with our fragrant soaps, along with Lavender Laundry Sachets, our Boo Boo Bags, our Gift Kits, Lavender Lovers, and Kitchen Hands and Garden Hands. There will also be Soap and lotion gift bags for $12.00. We will have our therapeutic Hot/Cold Herb Packs, Neck Rings and Lavender Eye Pillows.
This week we also have our Snowman Bird feeders, these cute little feeders are decorated for the season and are filled with premium bird blend feed. Come on by and check them out, priced at just $10.00. We will have plenty for those of you who missed out last time.

Ault's Family Farm: We will bring Pastured Pork, Grassfed Lamb, Pasture Raised Christmas Turkeys and Fresh Brown Eggs from Free-Range Laying Hens. All of our animals are naturally raised on pasture and fed only non-genetically modified feed with no antibiotics or growth hormones.
Ault's Family Farm & Apiary Pamplin, VA www.aultsfamilyfarm.com

Blue Roo Farms: Gregory will be vending this week with eggs. Find him again in spring for mushrooms as well.
Classics by Patrice: Patrice Simpson will bring hand made jewelry designed with genuine gemstones, freshwater pearls, mother of pearl, .925 sterling silver, and 14 kt gold.

Cross River Farms, LLC: The Moyers family will be offering various steaks and ground beef along with dog bones. Make sure to get some beef sticks for stocking stuffers. All calves are pasture weaned and silage finished. All cattle are Goochland natives.

Dover Nurseries: Ennion and Mary Williams will be featuring furniture, bird houses and flower prints made from local sustainable wood and flowers. In the Christmas spirit think of Adirondack chairs, end tables, an oak bench or a cherry saddle rack.

Earthscapes: Rare and unusual succulent plants from Madagascar and Africa. You won't find these in local plant stores. Unique plants for that hard to shop for person. We will also have handmade crafts just in time for Christmas. Come see me. Mike Wallace

Goats R Us: Donna will be vending goat cheese products. She will need to leave a bit early, so don't come late!
Grayhaven Vineyard: Grayhaven Winery will be providing samplings and sales of their hand-crafted Virginia wines including unusual varieties such as Pinotage, Touriga and Traminette. www.grayhavenwinery.com
Hang-Ups: Helen James will bring hand quilted pillows, wall hangings, table runners, and other decorative hand-sewn items.

Manakintowne Specialty Growers: We will have fall salad mix, arugula, pea shoots, collards, sugarloaf chicory, red giant mustard, bok choi, sweet white and scarlet turnips, baby beets, rosemary, sage, and more. . . .www.manakintownespecialtygrowers.com
Thanks, JoMelinda's Garden Designs: I will be offering landscape design and consultation services, as well as evergreen containers, seasonal evergreen centerpieces, and wreaths.
Look forward to seeing you! Melinda CrouchMustard Seed:

Courtney Guido will bring wreaths made fresh with Virginia local greens and centerpieces, potted amaryllis and paper whites in decorative pots and unusual succulent house plants for holiday gifts.

Nanci's Creations: Nancy Crymes will bring decorated wreaths and silk flower arrangements with a Christmas theme.

Obsidian Studio: I will bring fused glass gift items including earrings/pendants, decorative plates and Christmas ornaments. Stained glass gifts include boxes, sun catchers and panels. All are one-of-a-kind, handmade in Goochland by me, Ellen Blake. See my work at www.acggoochland.com

Outside the Box Designs: Alisa Clark and Sharon Johnson will be vending. Come and see our new purses and jewelry for winter.

Phoenix: A Wildlife Alliance: We are ready to celebrate the holiday season! We'll have Christmas ornaments, wreaths, birdhouses, Trim-a-Tree for wildlife kits, Japanese Maple tree saplings as well as our usual assortment of crafts.
Recursive Paths, LLC: Rhonda will bring photography, cards, earrings, and soap. An eclectic mix.
Simply Southern: The Winslow family will bring delicious pies made from scratch.

Sweetwater Farm: Heather, Jerry and Morgan will be at the market this weekend with some hand forged ironwork, baskets, holiday wreaths, and greens and other natural materials for holiday decorating.
The Dutch Oven Bakery: Carmie will be there with our usual breads, cinnamon breads, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and some pies.
The Goochland Restaurant: We will be at the market with coffee, soup, and sandwiches.
The Original Velatis, Inc.: Bill will bring some delicious home made caramel candies. www.velatis.com
The Virginia Naturalist: Steven Davis will vend 1 gallon perennial herb pots, Virginia rocks, minerals, and fossils, gemstone jewelry, and dried and fresh herbs.
Works of Art: Lynne and Roger Fuller will be vending original oil paintings."
Be well,Cricket Rakita

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Saturday Dec 13th Holiday Market at William Byrd House

Support your community, find unique gifts, and keep the holiday spirit local by shopping at the WBCH Holiday Food and Craft Show.

Saturday, December 13th
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
William Byrd Community House224 South Cherry Street

Featuring vendors from the Byrd House Market plus local handcraft artisans.Prize drawings every half hour and for $1, you could win a beautiful handmade quilt!
Find out what our vendors are bringing at www.byrdhousemarket,blogspot.com

There are a lot of vendors listed for this market including several great vendors like Lavender Fields that are not on the regular Richmond Farmers Market rotation.

And don't forget WBH market is still operating on Tuesday evenings renegade style with vendors like Faith Farm, Victory Farms and No Wonder Bread. Faith Farm is operating in conjunction with other vendors who provide produce as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Green Grocer in Richmond

At the Bryan park market on Tuesday, I was joking with Charlie Collins of Victory Farms about how crazy he is to double the size of his farm next year to four acres. Where was he going to put all of that produce? He told me that he and Gina are looking for a spot in the fan as a green grocery. How exciting is that? The Collins' are having a bit of trouble getting a permit for a building because many places in the fan do not have adequate parking spots for a store. Which is sad and ironic in a place with actual sidewalks, but exciting news none the less. We'll keep our ears out for more details.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cooking with Booze

I found out that today is the birthday of the Bloody Mary, so I have some ideas to help you celebrate. Let's start with cocktail hour.
I have a very adventurous cousin who would indulges my every whim when it came to making fancy drinks. Ok, so I realize that it is inherently beautiful to mix drinks where one can simply go outside and harvest citrus for one's fancy mixed drinks, and truly, a real whiskey sour is a gift, but have you ever had a Gin Fizz or a, get ready, Lavender Sidecar? Regardless of where you are in the country, a Gin Fizz is a really fun drink- kind of a mix between eggnog and an eggcream soda. Here is one recipe, but we used one closer to this.

Also fun and impressive, (but might have to wait for summer), is a Lavender Sidecar. This is really fun, and different from fruit based cocktails. The recipe my cousin based his creation on is:
1 1/2 oz brandy
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lavender honey syrup (Lavender flowers heated with honey and water)
1/2 oz lemon
dash orange bitters

Now, on to the soup course.

On cold and rainy days, I make gallons upon gallons of soup. Here is one of my favorites, which will help use up the lifetime supply of vermouth we all seem to have around.

Potato soup with Leeks and Fennel

3 TBS butter
3 leeks, sliced and rinsed well
1 bulb of fennel, sliced (save the tops of these to make broth at a later time)
3 cloves of garlic, whole and peeled
2 tsp dry Vermouth
8 fresh, fist sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
salt to taste
2 Cups homemade broth
4 Cups water
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 Cup heavy Cream

Heat butter over medium heat in stock pot. Add leeks, fennel and garlic sauteing until soft- about 10 min. Add vermouth and cook about 5 minutes until liquid has evaporated. Add potatoes and salt, mixing with veggies. Add stock and water and boil for 30 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Add nutmeg. Puree in food processor in batches, adding cream until totally smooth. Serve with toasty bread and olive oil.

Ok, now onto dessert- pie crust to be exact.
My cousin Jack, (who also happens to be the fantastic bartender,) used this recipe for the crust of his Chocolate Walnut pie. The recipe uses two teaspoons of vodka instead of the entire amount of water in the dough. Vodka prevents gluten from forming, resulting in a flaky crust. I must say, it was delicious.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shannon's Apple Crisp

After picking 30Lbs of apples this fall, baked apples and apple crisp became a weekly affair. I tried a few different recipes, but in the end they all had too much butter, too much sugar, and too little oatmeal for my taste. Here is my Husband and Mother-in-law approved recipe...
( A mixture of Gala, Granny Smith, and Honey Crisp or other sweet-tart apples like Braeburn works great for this. Ann from Agri-berry recommends blending different apples together to create a more complex or less one dimensional flavor.)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
For the Apples:
6 large to med. apples, cored, pealed and sliced into about 1/8inch thick pieces.
Cinnamon ( about 1tsp. be careful, too much and there is no going back)
Nutmeg (1/4-1/2 tsp)
Dark Brown Sugar, or Honey, or some of both.
Add a couple tablespoons of the sugar, sprinkle cinnamon all round and give dashes of nutmeg. (you can also add about 1/4 tsp of ginger if you like and about 1/2 cup rasins)
Truthfully I never measure this part. Just add the ingredients in small amounts, mix well, taste, and repeat until you enjoy the flavor. The apples should taste very good on there own, but be slightly tart.

For the Crumble: (This part is exact)
1 cup Oats slow cook (but not steal cut)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
You can use a food processor I am sure, but the way I do it is to put all the dry Crumble ingredients into one large bowl and mix them together. I then add the small pieces of cold butter, sprinkling them across the mixture in about 3 batches, working each wave of butter bits into the mixture by working them in with my fingers. You are squishing and separating the butter bits so that more and more surface area is coated and working it in until you have a nice crumbly texture. This really doesn't take long, no more than 5 min.

Spoon the apples into a pie dish, then using your hands put the crumble on top pressing it down slightly as you cover the entire surface of the apple mixture. In the end the crumble mixture is about 1/4 inch thick.

Bake for 1 hour (give or take depending upon your oven)
Cool some and enjoy! I light to eat mine with a little Greek yogurt instead of ice cream.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Keeping the Holidays Close to Home-Giving More by Giving Less

A small rant followed by some shopping and non-shopping suggestions.

So My Husband and I have spent a little time thinking about "The Holidays" and how we want to celebrate. For us the Holidays mean Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. We are saddened by the constant, seemingly unchecked turn towards more and more commercialization as each year passes. How many (here unnamed) stores were open on Thanksgiving this year? The pace of life and the holiday season seems ever increasing until some years it seems such a flurry of racing and worrying that its hard to enjoy all those things that are supposed to make the holiday so great.
So Thanksgiving 2008 has come to a close, but here we are at the beginning of the Holiday shopping season with Christmas still ahead of us. The pressure to have all the latest "stuff", and to buy gifts regardless of need does not leave me with any real feeling of what the holidays are supposed to be about. To be perfectly honest I really like "stuff" and I like having "stuff." What I don't like is everything that we seem to be sacrificing by focusing so much of our time, attention and personal resources on selecting, and acquiring said "stuff."

People should not have to spend time away from their loved ones in order to put in more hours at work to have the money to spend more time racing around town fighting traffic and crowds to buy more stuff, until they are exhausted, and close to broke, and then spend more time, probably on their own, shopping for their prepackaged, mass produced, time saving meal. The pressure to have lots of gifts and "bigger" gifts at Christmas leads people to buy so much that is cheaply made, extraneous, and quickly forgotten. NPR this week did a quick piece on Lead in cheaper children's toys. They were reminding people that the legislation Congress passed to try and prevent such items from reaching our children will not take effect until this February, two months after Christmas. So I know you've heard this a thousand times, and I am probably "Preaching to the Choir," but here are a few resources and ideas and I very much welcome any that you may have.

1) If possible take some time off from work to give yourself more time and energy to devote to friends and family or volunteering. If you don't have the luxury of paid days off, perhaps you are someone who is well enough off to be able to say... one day's wages lost will mean that much less spent on gifts or Christmas "paraphernalia" (very tricky if you have small kids, but the time spent together may be worth it)

2) Give homemade gifts such as food that you can give in advance of the actual holiday. This way the person you gift it to has something on hand to save them time in their own kitchen! Something homemade that requires that extra effort and time always is appreciated. The food will be enjoyed and your time is also gifted. For someone who is not a cook, or is elderly prepare a meal that can be frozen and reheated when needed. Last year for a group of friends that always trades baked goods at Christmas, I mixed things up by given each one a two serving portion of homemade soup with a couple homemade truffles. A quick meal for a busy time. The wide variety and quantity of baked goods produced by this group of between 5-7 women usually means that I am set for the holidays.

3) If you don't cook or bake you can support our local growers and small businesses and give a great gift by giving a basket of some fresh produce and jellies, cheeses, breads, wines, nuts, etc all from local sources. Healthier, homemade foods and fresh produce, and time saving food on hand is a wonderful gift and if shopping a local market the vendors also will be grateful for your business.

4) Time..If you can spare it, even a little makes a big difference. If not volunteering, than offering to sit for friends or family with kids who could use a night off. If you are handy give a coupon for an afternoons help around the house for someone who really needs it, or a day spent in their garden... and then don't flounder when they redeem it!

5) Make the gifting experience a little more personal by buying hand crafted gifts from local vendors. Often these items cost no more than something you'd find in the mall, but the gift can be one of a kind, your money is going into your community, and you may even build a relationship with an artisan whose work you love. Richmond is full of local artisans and crafters providing just about everything except perhaps that plasma tv or digital camera. There are two Holidays markets this coming week (see earlier post).

6) Give gifts that involve spending time together... tickets to a show, a movie, the symphony, a day at a game. (The new Mount Pony Theater outside of Culpepper Houses the new Library of Congress' National Audio-Visual Center. They will show films off the National Film Registry Free of Charge 3 times a week in a beautiful 200 seat theater. You just have to make a reservation. For the Month of December they will show all Christmas films starting with "It's A Wonderful Life" this Tuesday Dec 2. Putting something like this together would be a great gift, I think.)

7) If you're going to buy that camera, get it from a small local business. Sure, you'll save money buying from a big box store, but where is your money going and what type of business model are you supporting? If Christmas is supposed to have some meaning, perhaps in this consumerist environment, there is something to be said for thinking about where your dollars go. Again the money goes back into your community, and I am fairly certain your shopping experience will be far better.

8) If were talking adults, have fun with it and just do a white elephant gift exchange. I have actually gotten some really great and useful stuff this way, and the game is a lot of fun regardless.

9) Make a charitable donation in the name of a loved one. Select a charity that they support or would like to support. I've done this for my mother the last couple of years. On Christmas last year I gave her a homemade card with the donation info. and a small something for her like homemade chocolates.

10) Give no gifts at all... It's possible,, I have witnessed this phenomena. Replace the time spent cruising the mall parking lot with a nice meal together or doing something you love.
A couple of website to help out.

http://www.handsongr.com/ This organization connects people who would like to volunteer their time with organizations in the greater Richmond area who need their help. They match people and orgs. based on the interest of the prospective volunteer and do volunteer group outings. You can call 804-330-7400 ext 129 for more information.

http://www.locallectual.com/ (an on line source for "locavores" wanting to go to the next level") This site has some work to do, it's still fairly new, but it has listings of markets, and restaurants as well as products made in the USA and the shops that sell those products. It offers the opportunity for you to create small "communities" on the site. These can be geographically based, and while there is an upstart one for Charlottesville the site is just waiting for anyone to start one for the Richmond area.

http://www.etsy.com/ This is THE site for people looking for handcrafted items. There is a nice feature on here where you can specifically search for crafters in your city or zip code. I typed in Richmond Va and came up with over 10 pages full of local crafters.

http://www.localharvest.com/ I am sure you all know this one. Ideas, perspectives and sources on local eating.

That's it. That's all I got.

November 29th at the Market

My fridge is jammed full. My wonderful mother sent me home this past Thursday with many containers of leftovers and the grand prize... the turkey carcass, complete with two huge drumsticks to make a great soup. Despite my full fridge, I felt compelled to go to my Saturday morning farmers' market knowing that we are almost at the end of our market season. I am determined to spend a nice chunk of the weekend cooking and freezing one last batch of prepared greens, and soups, etc in anticipation of winter.

The market was quiet. I usually go to South of the James on Saturday mornings and the mad rush, and the sea of shoppers had this Saturday finally given way to small bands of dedicated market goers.

What luck for me!
With time to chat with vendors, and mull over my choices I had a very nice time and walked out with everything I'd been hoping for. Here's what I got...

From Victory Farms...
1 Bunch Radish
3 Quarts of Green (and a few red) peppers @ $2.00 a piece
1 Bunch Beets with their greens $2.50
5 apples (cameo and granny smith) $2.00
1 large bunch parsley $1.00
1 bunch of celery $2.00?

From that very nice woman with the cider and the bread and the pies and the potatoes.... oh sorry, can't think of her name...she comes from Farmville, she says she is all organic and the cider is wonderful!
1 nice grouping of heirloom red potatoes (I think these were only a few dollars and the potatoes are red throughout!)
2 bunches of Carrots $2.50 each ( She says the carrot greens are great for soup making)
1 Bunch Beets $2.00 The greens on these beets were lovely and I cook them up like chard.
1 Bunch Radishes $1.00

From the No Wonder Bread Man
1 Rosemary Focaccia
1 Semolina Baguette

There is still several different markets left around town in the next couple weeks. In additon to the items listed above, the vendors still had boxes of sweet potatoes, herbs like rosemary, sage etc, kale, collards, lettuce of all kinds, swiss chard, white potatoes, several types of apples, asian greens, scallions, meats, pies, homemade preserves, cheeses, and breads sweet and savory.
Seven Hills Catering is also offering beautiful boxes of fancy chocolates created by the owners son who I believe went to New York to learn the art of chocolate making.

Conventional verses Local Foods; A Price Comparison

Many, many months ago Natalie and I tried to get serious about figuring out the cost differences between buying Local and "Conventional" Groceries. It seemed that for us the real cost savings came from all of the prepackaged, canned, frozen and ready to eat prepared foods that we were no longer buying. Still, we wanted to know not only if we were spending more or less in total since starting down our locavore path, but we wanted to be able to provide you with some solid information on price comparisons, fresh item to item.
We made up a list, sticking to organic fruits, and vegetables. Erin would check Kroger, I would check Ukrop's, and Natalie would check Ellwood Thompsons all in the same week, then compare market prices for those same items. Okay, so I think in the end I was the only one to fill out my price list and we never completed our "great study".
Now, however, a woman with Local Harvest is attempting a much more ambitious food cost comparison project, and she's looking for help.
Here is a copy of her letter...

LocalHarvest Newsletter - Is Local More Expensive? September 25, 2008

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest Newsletter.We get this question a lot: "Is it more expensive to eat local food?" Usually we try to work our way around the question, speaking with enthusiasm about the quality and flavor of fresh local food, its healthfulness, its contribution to the local economy, etcetera. Sometimes we convince the questioners that they can't look at price alone, because the quality of stuff that's picked green and trucked in can't be compared with that of the fresh, vine-ripened produce. Other times the person hears us out and then says, "So it is more expensive then, huh."
The truth is, we don't know the answer to the question. As with so many substantive issues, the real answer is, "It depends." It depends on the product and the season and the vendor. Depends on whether its organic and how much of it the farmer or grocer is trying to move that week. Lots and lots of variables. Still, with the economy looming large in many people's minds, it seems a good time to try and find out.
A few days ago I took a notebook to my local supermarket, made a list of the prices for various fruits and vegetables, and then compared notes at my farmers market. The organic produce section at the grocery store was completely cleared out on this particular day, so I gathered conventional produce prices at the store and "low spray" at the market. Small watermelons (the ones they're calling "mini" or "personal size" this year) were $2 at the farmers market and $4.49 at the store. Local tomatoes at the grocery store were $2.49 a pound, and $1.50 a pound at the market. Peppers were less expensive at the market. Winter squash was about the same. Onions were cheaper at the store.
This small foray into price comparisons made me want to know more. I would like to have a good answer the next time a reporter calls to ask me whether 'local' is more expensive. Not that price is the only measure of value, but it is one, and sometimes an important one. Moreover, the perception about the relative price of buying local is also very important. I'd like to ask for your help.What I have in mind is a kind of collective research project. This newsletter will go out to about 50,000 people. Certainly a few dozen of you might be interested in doing a little comparative shopping over the next couple of months and maybe again in the spring? I have a spreadsheet that I will send to anyone who is interested. You can fill out the portions of it that apply to the foods that are in season where you live, and send it back to me. We'll compile all the data and report the findings back to the group. If you are interested in learning more about participating in this grassroots research, please contact me. Meanwhile, please enjoy the rest of the newsletter, and as always, Eat well and take good care -
Erin Barnett Director, Local Harvest

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last Minute Thanksgiving Recipes From Local Harvest

If you really haven't planned ..here is nice website full of good thanksgiving day recipes to get you out of trouble http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/category/holidays/thanksgiving/

Upcoming Winter Renegade and Holiday Markets

Just to be sure you are all up on some of the local markets that are still out there waiting to serve you with great local meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, preserves, pies, breads, and veggies, and as of late... chocolaty treats... here is a quick run through.
Byrd House Market ( warmer inside space is often used)
Here's a snip from their e-mail...
"Truly diehard BHM shoppers know that many of our vendors continue to setup up on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the BHM location at Linden St. and Idlewood Ave until their crops or their endurance for the cold gives out. This is known as the Renegade Market
Venders participating are: CCL Farm, Faith Farm, Victory Farm, Koralee Coffee, Rural VA, Perennial Flowers, Nancy Louise, Chocolate Cravings, Bread for the People, Flynn's Foods, Wildwood Carver.
Some vendors take advance orders and will update you on their weekly products. Go to http://www.byrdhousemarket.blogspot.com/ "

Goochland Farmers Market will be holding at least one more indoor Holiday Shoppers market on . Saturday, December 13 at the J. Sarge Goochland Campus from 10:00am to 2:00pm. For more info about this special market, go to: http://www.centerforruralculture.org/rural_market.php This market will include food vendors as well as local artisans and crafters.

South of the James
The South of the James Market at Forest Hill Park will be there this Saturday Nov29th from 8:00-12:00, and again for a special Holiday shoppers market on Saturday December 6th.

Bryant Park Holiday Market
The operator of the South of the James Market has put together an additional market in Northsides' Bryant Park. There was one this past Tuesday Nov 25th, and a second one is scheduled for this Tuesday Dec 2nd from 2:00-6:00pm.

17th Street Holiday Market
I must admit I am a bit out of touch with what is going on at 17th street these days... However someone there seems to be taking steps to coordinate and advertise a healthy and helpful market environment. Their website indicates that the Thursday market was moved to the Wednesday before thanksgiving to aid holiday shoppers, the market will be open for the last weekend in Nov. and there is a Holiday shoppers market scheduled for the evening of Friday Dec 5. 5-9pm Here's a little quote from their website...
"FREE ADMISSION FREE PARKING Get into the holiday spirit as the 17th Street Farmers' Market presents our annual Celebrate Illuminate festivities! In its 10th year, the Holiday Market rings in the Spirit of the Season, featuring free LIVE holiday music, free horse-drawn carriage rides and plenty of holiday shopping opportunities! This year's musical line-up:6:15 - 7:15pm Henrico Pops Chorus7:45 - 8:30pm Tuba Christmas "

Lakeside Market
Okay, so there should be one Saturday Market left for Lakeside market which is scheduled to run through November. This market has fewer vendors than some markets, but the vendors it usually has are great. Chocolate Cravings, Agriberry, and vendors selling chickens, eggs, bread, homemade jams and jellies, goat cheese and more. This market has been tricky to "find" lately as the vendors have been moving inside the adjacent "Lakeside Towne Center" building. So don't give up if you drive past and don't see tents out. This past Wednesday a friend told me she saw a couple of vendors standing near the road holding signs that read "Market is Here" or "Market inside" and waving people in. Lakeside has already held on Friday evening Holiday Market, I haven't heard if another is planned for December.

Busting the KFC "Meal Deal Challenge"

This was passed on to me by a friend and I thought I would pass it on to you....

"Some of you may have seen the recent advertising from KFC touting their "Meal Deal Challenge" - the premise is that you cannot make (at home) the meal they offer for less than their price ($10).
Needless to say I took umbrage and have thus taken them to task. I beat them by 3 bucks and had extra food leftover.Recently, the American public was issued a challenge by the folks at KFC (formerly "Kentucky Fried Chicken," but "fried" just didn't sound healthy). The fast-food joint argues in its latest commercial that you cannot "create a family meal for less than $10." Their example is the "seven-piece meal deal," which includes seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits, and a side dish -- in this case, mashed potatoes with gravy. This is meant to serve a family of four. I'm not really a competitive soul, but this was one challenge I could not resist. When it comes to food, America has been sold a bill of goods. We've been flimflammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked. We've been tricked into thinking that cooking is a chore, like washing windows, to be avoided if at all possible, and then done only grudgingly and when absolutely necessary. On the contrary, cooking is a vital, spiritual act that should be performed with a certain reverence. After all, we are providing sustenance to the ones we love -- can anything be more important?
Read the whole entry on www.Grist.org

Dec 10 Conference on Cultivating VA's Farm to School Program

For all who may be interested there is a Conference being held Wednesday DEC 10th at UVA for a $20 attendance fee. Even if you can't participate its good to know our Extension Department is working to get people together and talking...
Here is a copy of the email I was sent...

Cultivating Virginia's Farm to School Program: A Conference for Farmers, School Nutrition Directors & Interested Citizens
When: December 10, 2008
Where: University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, Charlottesville, 100 Darden Blvd, 22903
Time: 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM RSVP is required! Please register with the Northern District Office at (540) 341-7961 or mcbenson@vt.edu.
Cost to Attend: $20 Send to: Virginia Cooperative Extension Northern District Office C/O Farm to School Conference P.O. Box 701 Warrenton VA 20188 Please make checks payable to VCE- Northern District
Farm to school brings healthy food from local farms to school children nationwide. These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, and supporting local small farmers. The specific purpose of this educational conference is to 1) learn how farm to school is coordinated across the United States, 2) provide a review of Task Force findings and current local efforts, 3) learn about potential model farm to school programs for Virginia, and 4) explore how Virginia can more effectively link its schools, farming and food systems together to improve the economic viability of agriculture and health and nutrition of Virginia's youth.
More info can be found HERE.

One Great Winter Food Co-Op

Happy Thanksgiving!
Just a reminder....People have been talking about the great possibilities of this Winter food Co-Op put together by Edible Garden. This Co-op provides all manner of meats, dairy, mushrooms, and veggies for the cold winter months and has a Thursday Pickup time of 3:00-6:00pm. At Edible Garden in Goochland. The Co-Op started Nov 1st.... but if you are interested you can still contact Molly at ediblegarden@comcast.net for an automatic response e-mail full of information and the registration form. In their e-mail they state that "As this is a first time, grassroots project we will continue to take registrations throughout the season and we will renew memberships in the Spring of 2009 for the Summer Season." There are lots of great farms that have pooled together to provide participants with all the food stuffs they may need for a happy, healthy, and delicious winter season....
Here is the original e-mail that I was sent...
"Celebrating the Simple Pleasures of Food Edible Garden will be offering a Winter-Season Co-Op for our customers to enjoy buying local vegetables, meats and dairy products straight from the farm through a weekly on-line ordering process.
If you are interested in participating in this unique opportunity to fill your pantry throughout the year with the wonderful local ingredients that we enjoy here at Edible Garden : Respond to this E-mail or call us at (804) 784-2011 and ask for a registration package. Call soon, the season begins November 1, 2008. Just a few of the participating farms include: Ault’s Family Farm, Pamplin Blanton Garden , Suffolk Brookview Farm, Manakin-Sabot Creekside Farm, Suffolk Cullipher Farm, Virginia Beach Dave & Dee’s Homegrown Mushrooms, Sedley Evergreen Springs Farm, New Kent Shenandoah Farms, Mount Jackson Shire Farm, Windsor Wild T Bison Farm, Haynesville Whitener Farm, Suffolk "

A late word on Pomegranates

My mother in law sent me this quick, but informative piece of information on pomegranates from "Cooperative Living" a magazine she receives as part of her electric co Op. It has some fun information about the pomegranates history as well as brief info on growing the plant itself. Working in gardens I see people all the time who have never seen a pomegranate plant, and had no idea that any type of pomegranate could grow here. They are always stunned by the beauty of the flowers as well. Pomegranates have been in the grocery stores for a few weeks now, but for those willing to put in some effort there are varieties of pomegranates that produce edible fruit here in Va. These fruits will not be the grand grapefruit sized types that you find at the supermarket, (more the scale of a smallish orange), but grown as a spectacular ornamental with the added bonus of beautiful edible fruits these plants are great.
According to this article by Paula Brown pomegranates are " packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, iron and compounds known as phytonutrients that help the body protect against heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Pomegranates’ potent antioxidants also help retard aging and can neutralize almost twice as many free radicals as red wine and seven times as many as green tea. Some researchers suggest the crunchy seeds even help flush fats from the digestive tract. "
Pomegranates are available nationwide, with most commercial production in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California. Areas with hot summers and cool winters are ideal, since after flowering the fruit requires six to seven months to ripen, and cannot be ripened off the tree. Throw in the condition that pomegranates do not fruit well in humidity and Virginia would not normally seem a prime spot to tinker with this crop. However, pomegranates were grown in Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace Garden as a delicacy for the landed gentry, where they were planted with figs and espaliered pears. Thomas Jefferson, ever in search of exotic specimens, received starts from George Wythe and planted them at Monticello, where he tricked these and other tender trees by creating favorable growing conditions in his hillside orchard, terracing with a southeastern exposure, lengthening the season."
This short article is well worth the read with information on best siting in the landscape as well as good varieties and growing instructions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Menu for Thanksgiving Dinner in California

Olives, Celery, & Heart of Palm
New Orleans Style, Organic, Brined Turkey
Organic Kosher Turkey with Tuscan Rub and Evan's Gravy
Sourdough Dressing with Kale & Chard
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Creamed Spinach
Roasted Carrots, Parsnips & Jerusalem Artichokes
Cabbage Slaw with Fuyu Persimmons, Pomegranates & Citrus Vinaigrette
Butternut Squash with Lime Syrup & Chives
Fresh Cranberry Relish with Star Anise and Kumquats
Cranberry Sauce with Ginger & Homegrown Oranges
Yeasty rolls
Napa Valley wines
French Apple Tart
Chocolate Walnut Pie
Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Mac's Persimmons in Pudding
Flourless Chocolate Cake

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello from California!

According to my new favorite research book, the Organic Olive Production Manual, "Less than one tenth of one percent of the world's olive oil is produced in the United States, and almost all of that is produced in California." Of course- the same Mediterranean climate which produces some of the finest wine grapes in the world is the perfect spot for olive trees. Luckily for me, this thanksgiving trip to visit my family and my old stomping grounds in Napa perfectly corresponds with the olive harvest.

My Aunt Cynthia is one of my favorite people on earth because she gave me an appreciation for both food and plants, and well, for work. Life is work, she taught me, so do work that sustains you, which sustains the world. She and her husband David Easton, are pioneers in earth building- Rammed Earth, specifically. When I moved to California 10 years ago, they were building the very house I am sitting in right now. I got to help put in a lot of the food trees and native plants that surround the building, which now feed us daily.

I will (perhaps) have the opportunity to gush about the rest of this adventure, and my new appreciation for persimmons and how my aunt is the only other person I know who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to eat apple crisp for breakfast, as well as musings on thanksgiving traditions at some other time. But right now, I am fascinated with the olive. Harvesting olives, it turns out, is not difficult work. On Saturday, five of us harvested over 100lbs of Manzanillo olives in about an hour. This variety, (Manzanilla de Sevilla) according to my new favorite book, "is the most widely planted table variety in California and the world." Olive trees produce heavily every other year, and this was a slower year- last year the harvest was closer to four hundred pounds.

Sunday was community press day. We traveled to Jacuzzi winery in south Napa, and poured our buckets of Manzanillos in with other olives harvested that day. We will get about two gallons of oil from the press sometime in the next three weeks. We saved a few olives to cure for eating, a long process that involves lye and salt, but it turns out we should have picked table olives weeks ago, when they were less ripe. Ripeness for oil is about 80% black and 20% green. Olives TURN black in the curing process. Who knew?

Ok, enough for now. Apparently it is time to eat again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apple Treats

Following our trip to Carter Mountain, a flurry of cooking ensued among the members of the RFC. How many ways can you eat an apple? I chose two traditional methods, both of which were first-time cooking endeavors...

Apple Butter

The secret to making apple butter is using a crock pot. Apple butter begins its life as applesauce, then cooks slowly (oh so slowly) down to the thick brown substance we are familiar with. Traditionally it is made on the stove, but we actually had to keep ours in the crock pot for TWO DAYS before it was the correct consistency. The Joy of Cooking (a book everyone should own and keep on hand in the kitchen) can give you good ideas for how to spice your apple butter. A word of caution: it takes a LOT of apples to make a small amount of apple butter. Be prepared.

Apple Pie

This is the first time I have ever made apple pie. I admit, I was excited...and it was so much easier than I thought. Pie crust is easy to make! Once again, let the Joy of Cooking be your guide. Simple and traditional recipes, I believe, are the key to preserving and enjoying the harvest. Also, I will mention I've heard there are good deals on apples at the Lakeside Farmer's Market. Grab them before the season is over!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The RFC took its second annual apple picking trip to Carter Mountain near Charlottesville last week, and how lucky were we!! We estimate that we walked away with enough pounds of apples to equal a whole new member of the RFC. Shannon and I were mad pickers, in love with the beauty and promise of the fruit on the tree, willing to take every single one home with us. Alas, apples are heavy, so we had to pick in shifts, taking a break to carry our loot to the car. Natalie, on the other hand, is a much more reserved and reasonable apple picker- she only took a limited number of each type of apple. I envy her restraint.

Besides the beauty and the promise of apple turnovers long into the winter, the best thing about Carter Mountain is their apple cider doughnuts. They used to have a pipe hooked up to the venting system which would pump out the (insert your favorite superlative here) smell of the fresh doughnuts, which was heavenly, but highly distracting. This year we ate the oh- so- lovely doughnuts after a long hard hour or two of apple picking. So good.

Carter Mountain has a gorgeous, relaxed atmosphere, with lovely views and relatively easy paths. I even got to take my giant dog, Clyde along on the adventure. On our visit, the second weekend of November, we chose to pick Stayman, (perfect for cooking) Fuji, (great eating and cooking) Winesap, (great for cooking) and Pink Ladies, (great for eating). There were many more, including Golden Delicious, available to pick that day. To see what you can pick this week, check out the Carter Mountain website. Have fun!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Experiments with Bacteria

This weekend, I entered into a new (and, to me, slightly foreign) realm of food preservation. Inspired by my 'Four Season Food Production' instructor Cindy Connor, I composed and began to ferment my first batch of Kimchi. This traditional dish is a staple of the Korean diet, and I really enjoyed eating it when I lived in Japan and visited South Korea. It's also easy to make.

There are apparently huge benefits to eating fermented foods. Our bodies, of course, are huge microbial cultures, full of bacteria thriving all over the place inside us, in particular inside our intestines, where they can exert a huge influence on how we process food and how we feel throughout the day. The 'good' bacteria help you digest your food and outcompete the 'bad,' leaving no room for those bacteria that can cause sickness, such as E. coli. Fermentation is a way of attracting these 'good' bacteria, by providing a culture in which they thrive (a crock of pickles, kimchi or sauerkraut) and then introducing them into your digestive system by consuming that culture. The distinctive taste of fermented foods is often one that must be acquired, but perhaps the knowledge that the microbes who come with that taste are great for your body will help.

My guide to this, my first fermentation project, has been Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Katz is a fermentation expert, having tried everything from sauerkraut and kimchi to mead, beer, cheese, yogurt and vinegar. Apparently Katz also came to visit the J. Sargeant Reynolds Sustainable Agriculture club earlier this year (I think..), and did a big demonstration on how to start out in fermentation. Unfortunately I missed out, but I'm on the bandwagon now, especially after Cindy's story about how her chiropractor cured his acid reflux issues by eating fermented foods. Another good reason for trying fermentation \is it's an easy way of preserving all your summer vegetables!

So let's get started...how did I go about all this?

I'm not sure if the kimchi I'm making is 100% authentic, but here is a list of the ingredients I used, and where I got them (this is mostly a locavore kimchi!):

1 medium Napa cabbage (Amy's Garden)
3 sweet peppers (Amy's Garden)
ginger root (Amy's Garden)
1 medium daikon radish (Manakintowne Farms)
1 medium Pac Choi (Amy's Garden)
4 cloves of garlic (Ellwood Thompson's)
2 Thai hot peppers (home grown and dried!)
1 onion (Ellwood Thompson's)
4 shallots (Amy's Garden)

We chopped up the big veggies (the napa, pac choi, sweet peppers and daikon) and soaked them for a few hours in brine. The brine is just a mix of water and sea salt, using 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water. Once the vegetables had softened, we poured off the brine, reserving it in a bowl, and mixed the spices (onion, garlic, ginger, peppers) in with the vegetables.

My next step was to put everything in a glass crock we had on hand, crushing the mix down into the bottom and causing the vegetables to release their own juices. The goal is to have all the vegetables in the crock submerged in briny vegetable juice -- anything exposed to the open air will rot instead of ferment. The vegetables released a fair amount of liquid. I added a bit of the brine at the end to make sure there was enough.

A yogurt container happened to fit perfectly inside the crock we were using. I put a yogurt top down inside the crock on top of the vegetables to hold them down, then weighed down that top with the yogurt container, which is filled with water and closed with another top. Wild Fermentation dictates that I taste the kimchi daily, and suggests it takes about a week to be 'ready,' though you can ferment foods for as long as you like, depending on how intense a flavor you desire. I've got the crock sitting on the kitchen counter next to the stove, where it will absorb a little warmth (a good thing for the bacteria). Check back later for the results and a tasting!

If you're interested in fermenting things yourself, I recommend buying the book Wild Fermentation. Katz has good instructions and plenty of information about why these foods are great, and how to go about introducing them into your diet. Briny pickled vegetables may seem like a strange venture, but it's definitely worth investigating. Also, Pete from Manakintowne Farms told me he'd be bringing more daikon to the Saturday market in Forest Hill Park next week -- local, organic daikon is hard to find because it's really not a cash crop, so grab them while you can!