Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Love Lucy to Modern Family: Renovating a Cape Kitchen

My husband and I have a small cape on the Northside of town. He found this buggy for sale and upon first visitation, I leaned over and whispered, "Are you mad at me?" As a first time homebuyer, the wallpaper and orange cabinets seemed to be too much to conquer. But, Rob was right: this house had potential. Over time we've been chipping away at the 1940s style kitchen, making something that fits us and our life.
Busy wallpaper and dark cabinets - eep!

The kitchen was small (!) and separated from the larger more formal dining room, which is typical of traditional capes. The kitchen even had a built-in ironing board and the original stove. This push button relic took ages to boil water and half the kitchen space.

Check out the space between the eyes!
For the plug-in appliances, like a percolator!

When we moved in the first thing we did was to pull down the wallpaper (Mom helped, she was such a trooper). But, underneath the wallpaper was more wallpaper and rough plaster.

'Alo, patches!

I'm not gonna lie. Our kitchen looked like this for a while, I mean a while. I preferred it to the wallpaper, but clearly something needed to be done. Then, like magic, we found the energy to do this....

But, we still had two more opponents!
The wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the house and the linoleum flooring.

Ehh...this was going to harder than we thought.

Make that WAY harder than we thought.

Heavy machinery was required.

The wall came down.

Holy smokes! The house felt twice as big!

But, the floors were still a little busted.

One of Rob's dearest friends re-did our hardwood floors.
Here we are enjoy the new flooring with a glass of wine.

We still have more to do, but the hard work has made our small kitchen fit our lifestyle...lots of cooking and entertaining. The greatest pay-off is the integration of the cooking space and the living room. We put our farmhouse dining table in the front of the house, and the couch in near the kitchen. This layout allows us to enjoy our company and cook at the same time. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brain Food Farms

One of my favorite things about being a farmers market manager is getting to see the new talent, the food artisans who are in the beginning stages of turning their craft into a business. It is so brave and beautiful, not only to nurture your craft, but to dedicate yourself to it and make it your livelihood. Whether it is bread from Norwood Cottage, macarons from Petites Bouchees or the diablo cookies and apple empanadas from Hispania Bakery, you know that when you eat food from these specialty bakers, you have been given a very special gift.

As I watched Forks Over Knives this weekend, I was reminded of one of the newest businesses, which I know will be a gift for many time strapped folks who know the value of eating real food- Brain Food Farms.

In Chef Steve Rogge's words:
Brain Food Farms offers seasonal, local, organic, raw and prepared food to the families of Richmond, Va. Foods prepared are all natural with no preservatives, additives, dyes, artificial flavors, refined sugars or refined grains. Brain Food Farms offers products ranging from pre-cut organic vegetables to fully prepared meals ready to heat and enjoy. Our made from scratch products provide a quick and convenient way to keep your family on track. Plus, we do the shopping for you! Food can be picked up directly from our kitchen at 2300 Founders Bridge Blvd, Midlothian, VA 23113, at the St. Stephen’s Farmers market on the corner of Grove and Three Chopt on Saturday mornings from 8 to noon, or we will deliver it to you for a small flat fee ($3-$5 based on proximity to the market) on Saturday afternoon. Foods are procured directly from local farms whenever possible or will be purchased organically from a local source. We recognize and fully comply with the GAPS, SCD, Paleo, GFCF diets and many other variations.
Serving a quality product is at the forefront of our mission. All meats for sale are organic and pastured. All poultry is free range and organic. Genetically modified products in any form are strictly prohibited. We use all natural spring water for all of our stocks and soups. We have visited and talked with all of the farmers and suppliers we procure ingredients from and make sure the standards that they set for themselves are as high as our own. You are what you eat!
The GAPS, SCD, and GFCF diets have been shown to alleviate symptoms and complications from autism, schizophrenia, Aspergers, dyspraxia, dyslexia, epileptic seizures, obesity, ADD, ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
And the brain and brawn behind all of this amazingness?
Steve Rogge is the founder and Executive Chef of Brain Food Farms. He grew up just south of the James River in Midlothian, VA; spending many childhood summer days helping at his Uncle’s cattle farm in Southern Virginia. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Virginia in 2006, followed by three years as a financial modeling analyst at Standard and Poor’s in Washington, DC. In early 2009 he enrolled into a DC culinary school and simultaneously worked as a line cook in a James Beard Award nominated restaurant in Arlington, Va. Moving back to Richmond in the summer of 2010, he worked as a line cook at Six Burner Restaurant in the Fan District, while working part time as a private chef to special needs families. In April 2011 he left his work as a traditional restaurant chef to work with special needs families full time. As of August 2011, he is also the culinary director of SportsQuest, an athletic company based in Midlothian, VA where he constructs healthy menus for Olympic and Olympic caliber athletes.
There you have it- I am definitely starting this week with a whole new appreciation for the small food businesses out there. Are there any others we should get to know? We'd love to share their stories!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Food Film Feast!

This summer I've been working with our local Slow Food Chapter to help put together the first Slow Food Film Feast!  These guys have worked hard to create an amazing line up of educational, fun, and inspiring films all focused on important food issues.  This first "Reel Food RVA" event will include feature films like Farmageddon, Queen of the Sun, and Truck Farm.   The all day Saturday event opens with three documentary films for food and film lovers of all ages starting off with a great  piece from Bill Nye that's perfect for early morning.  (Just like Saturday mornings back in the day!) 

This event helps to kick off national Food Day which is Monday Oct. 24th.  Join us October 22 at the Byrd Theater in Carytown for a day, hour, morning or afternoon of  film and, of course, food. Stay tuned for ticket, and vendor information. 

Sponsorship: Help get the word out about your own sustainable and local food efforts while supporting Slow Food RVA. For information on Sponsorship opportunities contact Stacy Luks at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple Down Slaw: An Accidental Dinner

So, I came home from the gym last night ready to do nothing, but dinner was unplanned and needed to happen. Well, like any good procrastinator, I did other things than the thing I should be doing (in this case making dinner). I decided it was time to wash and arrange my lovely bounty of local apples (thank you, Agriberry!).

Aren't they lovely?

Well, as luck would have it, I let one of these beauties slip from my hands. It landed (bam!) right onto the hardwood floor. I reached down for the apple and one side was already a bit mushy - there was even a bit of apple juice bubbling off the top.

Apple juice anyone?

So, there was a choice to be made: keep or toss this damaged fruit? It wouldn't have much of shelf life and I've already told you that I was feeling SO lazy. I confess, for a moment, I thought of composting. But, then I started poking around in the fridge for ingredients that would be friendly to a bruised apple. That's when I found these guys hanging out with nothing to do....

Sweet apple with cabbage, carrots, and celery - nice! It seemed dinner was just within, I turned to the pantry and found more willing companions....

So, there it was! For dinner we'd have apple slaw served with extra sharp cheddar cheese. To make the slaw, I used the grater for all the ingredients, except for the cabbage which I thinly sliced. I combined all the fixins in a large bowl with the lemon, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. I've even tossed a few red pepper flakes.

Dinner is served!

Really and truly, this dinner was unplanned and happened in less than 20 minutes. Just what the night called was light, healthy, and delicious (and did I mention easy?!). What a nice reminder of what is possible with a bit of energy, imagination, and good ingredients.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Canning for a New Generation"

In the spirit of the upcoming Yes We Can! event, I thought I'd share my new favorite canning book; Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff with photography by Rinne Allen. These two ladies from Athens, GA know how to can it. The book is organized seasonally (my favorite way) with a nice introduction that takes you through the basics. Or if you already have some canning experience, you can jump right into cardamom plum jam, hot pickled okra and tomato and cashew chutney (!) Also, many of the canning recipes are followed by other exciting recipes in which to incorporate your newly canned goods. Oh, and if all that hadn't already won me over, there is a a recipe for "The Perfect Sidecar" finished with Brandied Sweet Cherries, um... yes please.

So, for now I plan on starting with Red Onion Marmalade with the canning swap in mind... okay spreading it on slices of crusty bread layered with a slab of aged cheddar is not bad for inspiration too. Come on, yes you can!

Yes We Can! Details
November 5, 2011
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location TBA
And it's all free! You just have to bring something to swap!
Register by email:
Send your name, your products and about how much you will be bringing

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

a whole new world!

I feel like I have a thousand irons in the fire. It's ridiculous.

In the meantime, I am so freaking psyched about the mayonnaise I made. Still! It's making me a bit cocky and I'm thinking about taking on another item that is consumed like gangbusters in my house.

Soy milk . . . holla! My little crew of three goes through a ridiculous amount of soy milk. I have been just buying it because I figured that's what you do. But that whole making my own mayonnaise thing has changed my tune.

I'm thinking of getting a soy milk maker. Truth, I had never heard of this before. But, my friend mentioned it the other day and I have been hung up on the idea ever since. I mean if I can make mayonnaise, I can make soy milk . . . right? We'll all find out soon because I am angling for the soy milk maker as my birthday present (October 9th if you are reading this old man!).

Has anyone else ever made their own soy milk? For some reason, I feel like if I make my own soy milk I will have truly "arrived" somehow. Man oh man, this is exciting!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Growing for the Community Kitchen

Two more reasons to love your RVA: some of our museums are growing fresh, local food for the food bank, enhancing their original mission and focus. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has a 'Community Kitchen Garden', with a goal of delivering 10,000 pounds of fresh vegetables this year to the Community Kitchen. This part of FeedMore prepares food for Meals On Wheels and the Kids Cafe. I got to work in this garden during the summer with our youth volunteers, giving me great insight on how many hours it takes to work and plan a production garden. A whole, sweaty lot.

The produce we grow is determined by the Community Kitchen's need, so they request certain crops at the beginning of the season. This year, we grew zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes until they were each taken down, slowly, by squash bugs, a common pest in this area. We were able to get 8,819 pounds to date, so that is not too shabby. We've now planted 150 Cauliflower plants, 225 broccoli and 84 cabbage for this season. You can read more about our adventures this season here (along with all the other fun stuff going on in the Garden), and sign up to volunteer here.

See how much fun we have? I also got to grow herbs (mostly basil) for the cafe at the Garden with the youth program- We had even made the compost the herbs were grown in from kitchen scraps from that very cafe! Hyper-local!

Since the season is winding down, I wanted to check out other gardens with similar goals in the area. Lo and behold, the Science Museum of Virginia has its own garden called the Green Acre.
Brian (the manager of LGBG's Community Kitchen Garden) and I went out last Friday to see how the project at SMV is going. A beautiful green space behind the museum holds a permaculture exhibit (maintained by Tricycle Gardens) and lovely herb and veggie plots tended by Matt (the Outreach Coordinator for the museum) and Katie, (the manager for the Green Acre). In between their other museum duties, Matt and Katie also grow and deliver herbs and veggies to the Community Kitchen.

Love how you can see the FFV factory behind the herb section.

Thanks Matt and Katie for showing us the Green Acre! I love how beautiful and urban it is. Even their supply room also houses a old RVA street car! The Green Acre will soon house several bee hives, so if you are interested in beekeeping, there will be an opportunity for hands- on learning with the Richmond Beekeepers Association. If you would like a tour or to help out in the Science Museum's Green Acre, contact Matt at

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adventures in "condimenting"

I did it! I created mayonnaise!

Or I made some at least!

Forgive the dark pictures, but this was a night-time activity. I actually had a friend visiting from out of town so I put him to work as a taster last night at 10:00 pm (he's good people).

This recipe that my friend found on Vegan Epicurious was outrageously easy to follow (which was exactly what I needed to attempt it at night and, ahem, after a few beers!).

I gathered my ingredients and got started.

I might not have needed the ducky and the baby monitor, but I thought they were a nice homey touch!


½ cup of soy milk, plain and preferably unsweetened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of canola oil
¼ teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon of agave
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
zest from 1/8 of an organic lemon
1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard

Again, this recipe really was easy. All I did was pour the ingredients right into the blender. I mixed, I blended, I liquified . . . I achieved mayonnaise!

But, alas, I thought it was too salty and a bit sweet (even though the soy milk was unsweetened and I only added the tiniest bit of agave).

When I make this again, I will wait to add the agave until after I mix it up and taste it. Some people might like a slight bit of sweetness, but I tend to not like that so much. And I will add MUCH less salt.

Everything turned out great in the end though. I was still worried about it, but after a bit more tweaking (and the adding of my best friend, garlic) we deemed it an acceptable and tasty first effort!

What about you guys? Did anyone get a bit more fancy with your mayo-making? Recipes please!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two classes you won't want to miss!

Go RVA! There are some really fun foodie events coming up this month.

This Saturday, Mise en Place will have a Farm to Table market tour and cooking class at The Farmers Market @ St. Stephen's. The class meets at 8:30 to do a tour of the market, then start cooking by 9:30 or 10 and eat around 11:30-noon. This will be the fourth F2T class that they have taught this season. Chef Jannequin Bennet says these classes are always very lively- sounds fun, oui? The class can usually finish about 5 different recipes, depending on where people's interest lies, though one class completed 7 different dishes! You can learn more and register for this class on their website.

And, if you are getting ready for the RFC's Yes We CAN! preserved food swap, you won't want to miss Tony Arrington's lunchtime lecture at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on 'Preserving the Harvest', September 28 from 11:30- 1:30. Learn about pressure canning, proper freezing techniques and how to preserve herbs for the 'off seasons'. I do get to help with this class, and am pretty psyched to learn what Tony knows. You can learn more and register here. See y'all there!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Make Mine Virginia Wine - And Box It Up, Please!

I'm going to talk about two often misunderstood things: Virginia wine and boxed wine. My folks loved boxed wine when I was a kid. I think it wasn't their preferred wine, but it was fairly tasty and cheap. Even as a kid, I understood that there was something funny about boxed wine. Maybe it was the silvery interior bag? Maybe it was the cork-less spout? Maybe it was the bulk-sized offering? Or maybe it was that my folks joked about it? Either way, there is something about wine in a box that always garners a chuckle.

Let me be clear. I am not a wine expert. I drink wine and my husband has dreams of growing grapes in Virginia. Last year we took a big step forward to realizing this dream when we purchased nine acres of land south of Charlottesville. In order to prepare for our future life as wine makers, we drink wine and we visit vineyards as often as possible (it's our job!).

Sometimes people complain about the cost of Virginia wine - they say it is expensive. Often times it can be. But, remember that these wine producers probably have mortgages on their land, unlike their French and Italian counterparts with more established businesses. And, with any market, there are good deals and not so good deals. It is all about finding what is tasty to you at a price point that matches your budget. And, hey (!), the more we drink it the cheaper it will be become!

Wineworks by Michael Shaps, located in Charlottesville area, is a great option. And yes, it comes in a box. Shaps makes 100% Virginia wine and has a focus on making tasty wine at a tasty price. A box offers about 4 bottles of wine and the price is nice. We purchased a box of 2009 Cabernet Franc for less than 30 bucks (on sale). This is a tasty and approachable wine. Cab Franc grows well in Virginia, and so the flavors are balanced and not beaten to oblivion with oak. With boxed wine, you aren't looking at a product to let age over the years, but you are going to have a product that will be enjoyable for weeks after opening and easy to share at parties. Plus, you won't have to worry about a corked product. So, open your hearts and minds to Shaps's boxed Virginia wine. You won't be sorry you did.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Cook In A Hurricane

The Dining Room: Battery powered lanterns from our wedding got an encore performance, along with no drip candles from Trader Joe's (They worked perfectly), as well as soy and beeswax candles from the market.
So you may have heard we had a wee storm last week. It rocked the house, this time from above and not below, and wiped out power for our little nest as well as those of hundreds of thousands of others. In a week when it means you're lucky if you can only complain about having no power I thought it would be nice to join Rachel in going on a bit about how we dealt with this problem, generator free, on the culinary side.

Matt cooks up a storm using a head lamp to light his way.

We lost power mid-day Saturday. The end of one table became lighting central with candles, flashlights, lighters and batteries all together. That first night was scary, but the no power part was rather fun. (That wore off before too long.) To start we pulled some fish from the freezer and pan fried it. Having e a gas stove we can still cook without power. We have the electricity free cooking thing down as our 30 some year old stove has always required manual lighting of the burners and pilot light. Post rain a pan, or pot set on the grill can work as well.

Trying to focus on using up perishables we boiled corn, and stuffed poblano peppers with some left over 're-fried' lentils and rice. A few rounds of cards, several crashing trees, and a wary nights sleep later we were due for a good cup of joe.

Older than our oven, this stove top percolator was a thrift store find twenty years ago... (Thanks mom!) I highly recommend Investing in such an item, or a French Press if morning coffee means anything to you. For the percolator, just add water, filter, and grounds (we had pre-ground our bag of coffee!) turn heat to high until water boils. Adjust to medium low and watch the water perk through the clear cap atop the lid to check the color. In about fifteen minutes your coffee is done. Obviously a French Press is more efficient in terms of time and fuel and there is no risk of messy boil over when your out talking over the neighbor's fallen trees.

Dinner number two: From the grill.
The sun was shining, the air was cool and we took advantage of it all to grill some chicken rescued from the freezer. We added left over pesto and tomatoes grilled on aluminum foil. The green beans were picked that day from our garden.

Egg in Pepper
I'll write more on these soon, but basically you just cut a pepper in half lengthwise, add some cheese and herbs if you like and place on the grill. Immediately top each half with a raw egg and grill until the eggs are cooked to your liking. We had these with with hash brown potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and re-fried black beans with peppers, garlic and onions.
Now if all of this seem a little to rosy, it is. We were lucky. Still, our third meal was our limit. Once work hours began and I didn't see the house in daylight for five days straight. all semblance of order and most certainly fun was lost along with a good deal of spoiled food.
The best lesson from each of these little hiccups in life is the value of community. Neighbors coming out to help, offering each other labor, food, a hot shower or a cup of coffee. Many thanks to our neighbors who offered us a spare generator, (though we weren't quick enough) cook stoves, lanterns, rides when both of our cars broke down mid-week, and help putting them back together. Many thanks also to the friends and family who sheltered us for all those nights later in the week when we needed to step out of the dark! Its wonderful to know you're all there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And her thoughts turn to...mayonnaise?

First things first, I have decided to look on the bright side of Irene.

With the tree down, there is plenty of room for a fig tree!

We were really surprised by some of the hurricane damage we had (my car is actually under that tree above!) but overall we were really lucky. We did lose power until Sunday though, which put a definite damper on my cooking. I'm still kind of getting my act together so this post is a bit more "plan" and less "do" than usual.

I actually had a lot of cooking plans for the last week. But, without power, we were left to just dream about what we would make when life got back to normal. Dream and eat lots of sandwiches. So naturally, discussions around the house turned to mayonnaise. Okay, maybe that seems weird, but Micah uses mayonnaise like nobody's business. It's outrageous. And he likes the good mayonnaise which is like $4 for a teaspoon!

All that to say, now that we have power back, I can embark on my next cooking adventure.

I'm making mayonnaise. And since it's me: I will also be making vegan mayonnaise. Micah is going to make real mayonnaise and I am going to make unreal mayonnaise (as in, that stuff is so good, it's unreal!) and we are going to tell you how it went next week.

Have any of you made your own mayonnaise? Did you stick with it or was it too much of a hassle? Any suggestions for a little vegan just looking to get her sandwich on?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A gift of peaches

Pre- Irene, I was got a half bushel of peaches from Agriberry. I have a peach obsession, as you well know. Plus, I wanted to be ready for the Yes we CAN! event in November (hope you are coming!) and that box of peaches held a lot of possibilities.

I did make peach butter (some with bourbon!) for the event, and had loads of fruit left over for freezing, and eating for breakfast all week. Then, last Saturday afternoon, Anne and I got a hankering for peach margaritas. Yes, indeedy.

Fresh Peach Margarita
Per serving, blend:
2 cubes of ice
1 peach
until smooth (ish)

juice of 1.5 small limes
.5 oz peach shnapps
.25 oz of triple sec
1 oz silver tequila


Monday, September 5, 2011

Take Back The Value Meal! Slow Foods $5 Meal Day


Saturday September 17th make a plan to prepare and share a delicious meal from whole foods for just five dollars or less per person. You probably do this all the time already, maybe without giving it a thought.  Help Slow Food show that eating healthy, whole, and local foods can be just as affordable as a run to the drive-through!  Follow the links below to sign up as a participant, check out $5 recipes, or connect with others in our area who would like to share a meal!  

From Slow Food RVA...

The $5 Challenge - Take Back the 'Value Meal'

September 17, 2011 12:00 am until 12:00 am
National Day of Action - Anywhere and everywhere in Richmond!
On Saturday, Sept 17th Slow Food USA's 2011 $5 Challenge campaign to Take Back the 'Value Meal' will launch with a national Day of Action, where we are encouraging people to take a pledge to cook a slow food meal for $5 per person or less.  Slow food shouldn't - and doesn't - have to cost more than fast food.  Stage a potluck, cook a meal for your family or friends, or for a crowd and charge $5 at the door.  Get creative and help us bring attention to the challenges many people face - and overcome - in feeding their families healthy, sustainable food.
Slow Food RVa will help coordinate groups wanting to gather and shop at Richmond area farmers' markets for $5 per person, then cook and enjoy together a family-style meal.  Contact us for guidance at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Braising away during Irene...

So, Richmond, hoping everyone is safe and sound after this week's excitement. Now seems like a good time to talk comfort food... sans refrigeration.

Irene has left us mostly powerless, literally. So what power do we have left but to feed ourselves? No doubt after the storm passed your first thoughts turned to take out, but how did you weather the storm?

At my house on Friday- when faced with an entire day inside waiting out the storm- my husband's thoughts turned to.... braised meat, with no hesitation. Turns out roasting a local lamb shank from Belmont Butchery was his idea of comfort through the storm. Moroccan cous cous and fresh garden green beans with mint and tomato rounded out a quite delicious and legitimately candle lit dinner. And as a newly adapting carnivore I was quite happy.

I'm curious how the rest of the RFC and our other RVA family faired on the culinary front... hear tell Erin may speak of peaches and bourbon(!)

So using up whats left in the fridge with gas power? Grilled fare? Or just take-out, what is your hurricane comfort food?

Ned's Lamb shank

Humanely procured lamb shank
Olive oil
One medium Onion diced
One Carrot diced
One stalk Celery diced
3 cups stock (we used homemade chicken stock
One large (or two small) diced tomatoes
Garlic 6-7 whole cloves
2 Bay leaves
1 Rosemary sprig
2 Thyme sprigs
A cinnamon stick, (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder)
8-9 whole cloves
Fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 cups red wine

In a dutch oven or large oven proof pot heat olive oil in a pan med high heat, salt and pepper lamb shank then brown on all sides until nice and golden. Take the lamb out, cover with foil and let rest.
Sauté onion, carrot and celery mixture with whole garlic cloves in the same pot.
Add a cup and half of nice red wine, scrape pan, deglaze and reduce liquid by half.
Add three cups of nice stock, we used homemade chicken stock, let reduce.
Add to the mixture a couple diced tomatoes, we used a large beefsteak from the garden.
Add bay leaf or two, rosemary sprig, fresh thyme sprigs, cinnamon, cloves, and more black pepper grinds. (Ned says a lot, like 30)
Cook down liquid and then return lamb to pan when liquids about half cover the meat.
Put in a 300 degree oven for 5 hrs, covered tightly, leave alone, smell happy smells.
Five or so hours later pull lamb out of pan, put under loose foil.
Put remaining liquid through sieve and get rid of solids, (you can also separate the fat out.)
Cook down liquid until the sauce can coat the back of the spoon.
Add sugar or cayenne, basically season to taste at this point, then serve meat with the sauce.