Monday, December 14, 2009

Power Bars

My sister-in-law made gluten-free power bars for me when I came to visit last summer.  And they were really, really good.  And I was really too lazy to make them for myself until I got desperate (not too much seems tempting these days with the pregnancy nausea situation, and protein is a great nausea fighter).  So I made these today and wanted to post the recipe website, along with my easier, cheaper version.

So the real recipe is at

Elana's recipe calls for stevia and agave nectar, though, expensive healthier sugar substitutes.  So I went with a drizzle of honey.  And it called for weird salt, and I went with regular.  And it called for 70% cocoa chocolate and I went with chocolate chips.  Anyway, it was pretty easy, you just need to have almond butter to make it (I got some at Trader Joe's a while ago, actually, and just never used it), and if you don't have coconut oil you could just put canola or something in it.

Bon Apetit!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Fiesty Shepherds

Micah is a shepherd in his school's play.  So we had to come up with a costume for him.  And then, of course, we had to come up with a costume for the apprentice shepherd.  If they don't look like shepherds, don't tell me . . .

Bird's Nest Cookies

The kids and I just finished making our yearly "Bird's Nest Cookies."  I didn't actually realize they'd be a yearly tradition until Micah started asking in the summer if we'd be making them at Christmas again.  Bird's Nest Cookies are not "cookies," in the strictest sense of the word, they are a Val creation of uncooked blended nuts, peanut butter, smashed dates, coconut, cocoa, craisins, and raisins.  But, hey, the kids love them.  We made an assembly line after I got the nuts and dates all squished together (with a tiny bit of water to moisten things).  I put the little nests on one plate, Jesse picked them up and dipped them in coconut and/or cocoa and gave them to Micah, who put the raisin/craisin eggs on top and put them on our pretty red plate.

Saying Goodbye . . . to Homebaked Bread

It's official, we've given up on the sourdough for the duration of the nausea portion of the pregnancy (if not for the rest of the whole thing).  Owen threw it out for me this morning.  It had gotten to where I couldn't feed it anymore because the smell was too oppressive (just typing that line caused an alarming wave of nausea to pass through me).  Store-bought gluten-free bread is disgusting and really expensive, but it looks like it's that or a bread-free diet for now.  I did find that heavy nasty rice bread makes great french toast for some reason.  So I've turned about two loaves into that.  Then I just heat it up in the toaster when I want a piece.  Yum.   

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Davis Family Christmas

It's official, we're decorated!  And it's so fun having two kids so into it all.  They make sure we remember to keep the lights plugged in and they make any needed ornament adjustments.  Micah's been asking for almost a year if we could make gingerbread houses at Christmastime, so we finally got it together to make them today.  I did learn my lesson for next year--I will invest in name brand graham crackers (easier and cheaper than gingerbread, but the kind I bought break easily).

Jesse waits all day with excitement for us to do our little advent reading (he likes opening the door to get out the next piece for the manger scene), sing, blow out a candle, and eat a chocolate chip (I know, one chocolate chip is not too exciting, but they still find it thrilling at this age).  And Micah keeps checking his stocking to see if Santa came.

Seed Control by Monsanto

An interesting and disturbing video about Monsanto seed company:

It's about how the seed company designs our food crops around pest control chemicals and control of the seed supply.  It also explains why genetically modified foods are outlawed in England and many other places.  The source of our seed for our food crops comes from the makers of Agent Orange, genetically modified foods, and recombant bovine growth hormones (rBGH).  Go cooperate food sources!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Owen's Haircut . . .

This hairy rodent in our tub is Owen's hair trimmings, cleverly sculpted by Owen, after his home haircut given by yours truly.  He felt it was blogworthy, I don't know.  He has very thick hair.  We thought the sheer quantity of hair was fascinating because it really did look like some creature in the tub.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Feel I Must Say . . .

So, you may have noticed that I have been posting way less than usual.  I haven't been cooking much, I've been dealing with a little nausea, I've been lethargic . . .  And no, it's not a tragic disease, although some days it feels like it.  We're pregnant!  Our third little Davis child is on the way.  It's still early, we're only 7 weeks pregnant.  And although blogging is a slightly lame announcement method, I felt the need to explain my lack of blogging. 

Part of the reason is that I often get excited to post about cooking.  Cooking and local food.  And let's just say that both of those are currently not a passion.  I had to give away all the onions I had stored up (which was a little sad because I had them all braided nicely and hanging in my kitchen) because to me they had started to produce an unbearable stench, cabbage and butternut squash are being given away (well, the squash has found a home, and I have plans for the cabbage).  All food is pretty unappealing, but local seasonal foods are especially appalling.  Sad.  Tonight I am cooking brussel sprouts in the oven and it's pretty rough enduring the smells wafting through the house. 

Anyway, if you think of the Davis family, pray for us.  We're excited, but we have a long way to go (and I have a lot of meals to prepare) before July 16th.  Love to all of my loyal readers, I'll try to write more soon.  :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beauty Out of Darkness

I discover that with the Christmas cactus, it pays to live in a house with northern exposure.  Maybe because it's dark it's doing well (though this seems unlikely, since I read that these originated in Brazilian rainforests, and it's a far cry from that in my kitchen)?  Anyway, it's actually blooming a little early over here, and that may be because it's dark (it's already dark as all get out in our northern exposure kitchen, so maybe my Christmas cactus assumes it is Christmas).  It's either that or benign neglect--erratic watering and no fertilizing--that is really causing it to flourish.
Merry Christmas!

Ode to the Dishwasher . . .

O, Dishwasher,
I didn't know how I cared
'til I washed that 1000th dish
after two long weeks without you
how I yearn for the sound of the doorbell
announcing the helpful local Appliance Guy
willing to work on a Saturday
O, Dishwasher

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Sourdough Saga Continues

I'm actually getting into a real routine with the sourdough bread.  Every other morning, while the kids are eating breakfast, I mix some kefir and oat and brown rice flour in with some of my starter--and a little flax meal.  I add one egg, a little baking powder, a little sugar, a little bit of salt (I know, measurements will come one day, really, I'm just not a very measury person and have been lucking out with not measuring).  I stopped adding a drizzle of olive oil because it's just so moist that I don't need to.  And I stopped adding xanthum gum because I forgot once and couldn't tell the difference.

Then I let it rise.  Some days I let it rise once, sometimes twice.  It depends when I want to bake it and whether I remembered to transfer it to the loaf pan or let it rise in the bowl (if it rose in the bowl it needs to rise again when I transfer it).  Today I let it rise twice and it took until about 4:00 until it was nice and high and ready to bake.  My dough is about doubling in size now when it rises, which is a huge improvement from my initial attempts.  It really improved exponentially when I added sugar to the starter and when I started covering the loaf pan with a lid while baking it at 450 degrees for the first half hour before baking it uncovered at 350 the second half hour. 

I'm about at the point where I think I'm going to stop buying any bread, for anyone (including the gluten eaters) because this tastes so good, is easier on digestion (the yeasts added to breads are much harder on the stomach than the natural yeasts "caught" in sourdough starters or kefir, and Micah complains of his stomach hurting if I give him too much wheat), is healthier (I'm grinding all the steel cut oats and sweet brown rice myself in the coffee grinder so it's all whole grain flour--plus I add flax meal), and does not require me to drive to the store.  Just trying to pitch the sourdough bread to any who might consider doing it, it's really good!  I can't imagine how good it would taste with wheat flour, yum!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Pleasant Valley Sunday . . .

Having church start at 1:15 on Sunday, as we do, leaves a lovely open slot each week to have a family bonding experience.  We have started hiking every Sunday morning, and we love it. 

This picture is from Valley Forge National Historical Park (the Revolutionary War site).  It's ranked one of the top ten parks in the nation for viewing fall leaves.  We had a great time, though we did have to space out the sandwiches and apples strategically to lure some of the family members through the full two miles + (one bailed anyway, and had to be carried).  Happy hiking!

A Sad Event with a Happy Resolution

So on Wednesday, I went to replicate my sourdough successful loaf.  I put out all of my starter into a bowl as suggested by a helpful online source.  I added some flour and left it to sit out while I drove Micah to school.  I said to myself, "Self, you are really going to have to remember to take out some starter before you add egg or anything that will make it unsaveable."  Then I came back from dropping him off, on the phone (already, you see where this is going), and put an egg in it.  So I baked up all my starter and made by far my best bread yet.  Very crisp crust, extremely moist inside, sour taste (you know, like sourdough bread), perfect with the Amish farmer's market rhubarb jelly I had on hand. 

But I knew that it was going to be a while until I could make any again, seeing as I had made it impossible to save any of my starter.  Which would either end my happy trip down sourdough lane or prove that I had my starter recipe nailed down.

As soon as I had my bread all mixed up, before I even baked it, I got out a jar and added some flour and water.  I added some sugar and some kefir.  Two more times on Wednesday I fed my starter.  By Thursday it was bubbly and active.  I fed it three times a day on Thursday and Friday, too.  Today (Saturday) it was ready to make into bread.  It made more good bread!

Three things I learned:
  1. My sourdough starter recipe rocks
  2. NEVER empty all of the starter into a bowl
  3. Keep more starter around (use a bigger jar and feed it more each time)

The smaller objects are there to offer a size-comparison for the enormous jar of starter on the left.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Farmer and the Cowboy

Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends,
Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
One man likes to push a plough,
The other likes to chase a cow,
But that's no reason why they cain't be friends.

Territory folks should stick together,
Territory folks should all be pals.
Cowboys dance with farmer's daughters,
Farmers dance with the ranchers' gals.

Micah and Jesse did all right together, so I guess we're well on the way to peace between the two.  I'm just glad we could do our part.

An All-Day Recipe . . . Butternut Squash Lasagne

So, dinner tonight was amazing!  Butternut squash with homemade cheese and smoky marinara and greens from the garden (swiss chard, broccoli rabe, and arugula).  The recipe was based on the one from this website:

Really good, but I figure I spent almost my whole day on it.  OK, so if I'd bought the cheeses and had noodles I didn't have to pre-cook and made the sauce the day before and didn't have little kids in and around where I was working the whole time . . . it probably just would have taken two hours.  I have to say, even though I didn't accomplish anything else today, it was still worth it.  So if you have two hours to invest uninterrupted and buy the cheeses and stuff--it will totally be worth it.  Yum!  Great way to use a seasonal veggie if your family is as tired of butternut squash as mine is (or if you just have no idea what to do with it).  I didn't even cook the squash like they said.  I just baked it and then scooped out the seeds and spread the soft "puree" on for the butternut layer.

If you make it, tell me how it turns out for you!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sourdough SUCCESS! It rose!

So the missing ingredient was . . . sugar!  I looked at a couple of websites on getting sourdough to rise (regular, not gluten-free like I did) and I found some helpful suggestions:
  • add sugar to the starter
  • only add a tiny bit (but don't skip it) of salt
  • leave the starter/sponge out in a bowl overnight (I covered it with a towel)
  • cover the bread when it's baking at 450 degrees for the first half hour, then uncover for the last 15 to 30 min.
I once again did not measure, but I used the following ingredients:

starter (I added some of the flour and let it sit overnight)
oat flour
brown rice flour
little bit of sweet sorghum flour
little bit of flax meal
2 eggs
baking powder
a few teaspoons sugar
pinch salt (1/4 teaspoon?)
pinch xanthum gum (to make it stick together, gluten-free)

Today's loaf makes a hard knock on the outside, and a soft, moist inside.  It rose this time, which is a first really, and I attribute that to the addition of the sugar.  I didn't add enough flour to where it was kneadable, I left it pretty moist and used a spoon for my "kneading" and to transfer it to the bread pan.  I poured the starter into a bowl last night, turned on the oven till it was a little warm then shut it off, and put the bowl in the oven with a damp towel overtop. 

In the morning I added all of the other ingredients (including the eggs) and then stirred the mixture in the bowl and let it sit for about 2 to 3 hours.  Then I transferred it to a buttered loaf pan and let it sit another 1 1/2 hours in the slightly warmed oven with a towel overtop.  I covered it with a glass lid that almost fit for the first 1/2 hour and let it bake uncovered for the last half hour.

If interested in replicating this, you will be pleased to find that I intend to measure and post the measurements next time!  :)  The only part I will not be measuring is the starter.  That you just need to play around with (like I did) and try to get it to bubble. 

Just put one part flour, one part water in a jar.  Add a few teaspoons of kefir (I use dairy kefir) and a pinch or two of sugar.  2 to 3 times a day add more flour and water (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, rotate between buckwheat, sorghum, brown rice or sweet brown rice, oat, etc.--I really like the texture of my flours and I have been grinding them myself with a coffee grinder for about 30 seconds (buy one that holds as much as possible if you plan to get one for this purpose)).  If your starter doesn't seem active enough you can add a little sugar or kefir to the starter.  Stir with wood or plastic when you add the flours.  Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! 

Obviously if you can eat wheat use at least mostly whole wheat flour and this will taste unbelievable.  You would want to add enough flour to knead yours.  And you can skip the xanthum gum.  Lucky you!

For you gluten-freers, this is a great loaf.  Way better than what you buy in the store, and it keeps like wheat bread.  Great for eating fresh with butter and jelly or for toasting.  Happy baking!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Personal Prayer

I don't know if anyone else will find this as helpful as I did, but I've struggled for years to really know how to keep focused when I pray.  I get bored, antsy, forget what I'm doing, drift off to sleep, or avoid it because of expectance of failure.  This was a really helpful and practical method to pray, and I love listening to Tim Keller, the pastor of a church in New York City.  He's so down to earth.  Anyway, hope it's helpful . . .

Friday, October 23, 2009


Micah was convinced that Halloween called for the making of scarecrows . . . so here's our best (well, our ok) attempt at it.  They each decorated the "face" of the scarecrow, and we stuffed them with newspaper and threw a few strands of straw in for effect.  Happy Halloween!

Sourdough Bread: Attempt #3, Result--Tastes good, flat

Well, I can't get it to rise . . . but it tastes good now.  I started using only flours I know taste good (like brown rice, amaranth, sorghum, oat) and just a little bit of buckwheat.  I'm still not measuring anything.  And I've been adding an egg (this time I tried 2) and a little baking soda.  So I can't really get it to rise at all, but it's moist and it tastes really good.  So that's a major improvement.  I'm using about a cup of kefir each time, too.  I'm still brainstorming ways to make it rise, and then it will be perfect (and gluten and added yeast free), or as close as gluten-free can get.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From Grapes to Nuts . . . Er, Juice!

So, with the help of the Davis children picking up handfuls of grapes to wash in the sink, the grapes were washed, boiled, squished through a strainer with a wooden squisher (technical term), sweetened with sugar, boiled, and poured into 200 degree heated jars and then sealed with screw on lids as the liquid cooled.  We got 5 and 1/2 quarts of juice out of half a bushel.  The juice tastes amazing, way better than from a can.  I didn't strain it through a pillowcase like I read you can because I figure I don't care and it probably gets rid of fiber or something good.  So it's just a little cloudier than store bought.  A success for sure!

Still in Search of the Perfect Sourdough . . .

Well, I still haven't found it, exactly.  But I feel like I'm on the right track.  I started using about (as of now, I'm not really measuring--so if I actually find a winner, I'll have trouble replicating it) a cup of kefir (that thin yogurt-like stuff I'm growing on my counter), a half cup of starter, a cup of coffee-ground sweet brown rice, 1/2 c sweet sorghum flour, and 1/2 c coffee-ground oat flour.  I also added, for good measure, a little shake of xanthum gum (it helps hold together gluten-free recipes), one egg, about a teaspoon of baking powder, and, oops, today I forgot the salt.  So it didn't really rise much, if at all.  But at least when it baked today it rose incrementally.  And it tastes great.  So even though potato flour makes it rise more, I'm going to avoid it.  There's nothing yummy about the smell of potato when making toast.  Anyway, today's loaf at least made some pretense of rising.  I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Story with a Hole

It is rather alarming to me that news stations are posting stories about "killer vegetables" and leaving readers to assume that handwashing neglect is responsible for thousands and thousands of food contamination deaths each year. These vegetables (and other foods) are mostly being contaminated by the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) which feed cattle and other animals foods they were not designed to eat, pack them closely together and allow them to stand in their own feces, and the runoff water from these disgusting "farms." Added to that is the problem of the monster California farms feeding the nation while small local farmers (a far safer source for these 10 risky foods) are left with a very limited customer base. Why is our media (let alone our government) not suggesting the solution of local sustainable agriculture . . . a MUCH safer alternative.

The 10 riskiest foods in America - Food safety-

School Days

Micah has been in Nursery School for a few weeks now, which has been an adjustment for him and his mother (well, and especially for his little brother, who of course needed to pose for the school picture, too).  He really likes it and does really well overall, though recently drop-offs have been excruciating.  He draws an elaborate picture of a boat every morning right when he gets to school.  At home, he tends to draw camping sites or rockets.  Most recently, he's into castles.

This one is on its side, but we're starting to be able to tell what he's drawing before he tells us (he practices drawing about 3 hours a day).  Right now he's drawing a map of our neighborhood (though I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, it seems to feature a giraffe).  Anyway, we're enjoying the boys and praying that Micah will go back to the cheerful drop-offs of the first two weeks at school.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sourdough Bread: Attempt #1, Result--partial failure

This actually looks better than it tastes.  It was only pretty good with lots of jelly.  I don't think I can actually repeat this recipe exactly, because I add a different flour to my starter each time I feed it.  The recipe I use, based on major adaptations to one on, was:

2 and 1/2 c amaranth, millet, quinoa flour (ground in a coffee grinder)
1 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c flaxmeal
1 c warm water
1/2 c sourdough starter
1/2 t salt
1/4 c olive oil
flour for dusting; garlic powder and sesame seeds to sprinkle on after last rise and after rubbed with olive oil

Next time I won't let it rise in the crockpot.  It sort of started baking.  I think that was why it didn't rise enough and got really hard.  I'll also use honey to sweeten it a little.  I also might use whey or kefir in place of the water or part of it, just to see.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Truly Terrifying Article

CAFO beef strikes again! E-Coli runs rampant in the beef industry in this country.

NYT: E. coli path shows beef inspection flaws - Food safety-

Let's support our local farmers who feed their cattle grass. I'm about to buy (and split with friends) 50 pounds of grass-fed beef from a local farmer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Upcoming Events: Grape Juice and Sourdough

Hopefully on Monday I will be able to post a picture of at least one of my next projects: the baking of the first sourdough loaf, and the making and heat-sealing of grape juice (I asked the Amish girl at the farmer's market and told her I didn't know how to can but she assured me it was ok to heat seal grape juice). 

The sourdough had to go in the fridge for the weekend b/c we're going out of town and it's smelling a little ripe and ready to go.  I think I'd cry if I came back to find overly fermented sourdough on the counter.  The kefir's in there too for the weekend.  All fermentation projects on hold for now. 

The concord grapes are in the cool pantry/mudroom.  We'll see how they hold up.

Honey-Baked Lentils

hippiechickinsing on Chowhound gives a great recipe for yellow lentils. She says:
"I like honey-baked lentils. It's basically 2:1 water to lentils; for 1 cup lentils, I add 1 T. honey, 2T soy sauce, 2 T oil, 1 clove garlic and any spices. I usually use a curry blend, but dill works nicely, too, and salt and pepper. Put everything in a casserole dish, cover and bake at 350 for about 45 min.. I add carrots and red peppers sometimes. It's a versatile dish and goes well with baked potatoes, rice or flatbread."

I had no idea what to do with yellow lentils and had them around for about 6 months before I made this attempt. They were really very good (and I had very low expectations). I didn't measure anything, but I put in everything she said except the optional veggies. And for the spice I just used a little bit of curry.  I did use 1 and 1/2 c of the lentils and adjust amounts.  But then I had to bake it for at least an hour and a half.

I served it with Rice Vinegar/Garlic/Soy Sauce/Olive Oil marinaded ahi tuna steak with my homemade kefir as a yogurtish topping, sweet potatoes, and broccoli rabe/baby red beet green saute. It was a great meal. Yum.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


OK, so I used the microwave for one of the steps to play it safe, and I did order a kit by mail, but I did make cheese!  It only took about 20 minutes or so (it's called "30 minute mozzarella," but unbelievably, it really only takes that long).  I didn't even have the thermometer I was supposed to have so I just guessed, and it still worked.  I do appreciate now why cheese is expensive, though.  2/3 of a gallon of milk only made a little under a pound.  It tasted exactly right.  I got my kit at the New England Cheese Making Supply Company ( 

I was going to put cheesemaking off until after my sourdough and kefir experiments, but I had to make pizza and didn't have enough cheese (because I stopped buying it knowing that I could make it), and this is my brand of lazy and cheap (didn't want to go buy some at the store).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jesse is POTTYTRAINED! Hurray!

Wow, what a blessing!  We are loving the freedom of Jesse out of diapers.  This is the first time in four years we haven't had to change diapers.  OK, except for the overnight diaper in the morning.  . . . And the diapers of the child I babysit a few days a week.  But still!  Very exciting.  And Jesse is very proud of himself.  He will often shout at me while I'm on the phone (sometimes with a business-related call, which is embarrassing) "POO POO on the POTTY!" so I share his good news with whomever I am speaking.  The boys really enjoy these group bathroom times now, though Jesse's figured out how to join his brother standing at the toilet, which is what they really find entertaining. 

Here's to some great diaper free days!

Weird stuff on the counter (kefir and sourdough!) . . .

My shrouded jars are: 1) the gluten-free starter that is aspiring to be sourdough bread; and 2) kefir, a hippie-type food that basically contains the bacteria and yeasts in yogurt.  I find myself in a strange new (vaguely alarming) world of stirring and sniffing and waiting.  The kefir arrived in several baggies in the mail looking like little curds of cottage cheese in cream.  I put them in milk for 24 hours and--AMAZING!--I got a thin yogurt product by today.  It looks and tastes (and cooked, on our fish tonight) like a thin yogurt.  Yum.  So I read about it that you can thin it and use it like buttermilk in pancakes or strain it and make it into cheese or drink it plain OR you can use it as a booster for a sourdough starter. 

A sourdough starter, just for those who don't know, is a fermenting dough product that makes its own yeast through the fermenting process.  It's harder to do with gluten-free dough, so I read that using a few tablespoons of this yogurt-like kefir can help with the fermentation.  We shall see.  But it did make great yogurt.  And for those who are concerned that the milk product is on the counter, I did put the yogurt in the fridge.  What remains on the counter is my new batch.  When I go away for the weekend and can't swirl or sniff it I will put it all in the fridge.  I am hoping to get to make a decent sourdough loaf of bread before I go away this weekend. 

I read an article (Thank you, Aunt Nancy) about gluten and yeast creating an especially bad combo for our gut health, and how back in the day everyone made sourdough bread and it was so much better for you.  So, here I go, but it's even harder trying to make it gluten-free.  I also feel like adding the kefir stuff just puts me into a whole new camp of weird.  But I am loving it!

I will of course post any success or failure on my first sourdough loaf.  At least the starter doesn't stink, it smells sourdoughish, and it's been on my counter now for a good four days or so, which would have been long enough for it to go bad.  Hopefully this will be more successful than my attempts to make gluten-free beer bread with hard cider.

Friday, September 25, 2009

About that Pizza . . .

That mozzarella, tomato, basil, thin-sliced red onion pizza with olive oil drizzled and parmesan (we used romano) sprinkled on top . . . was some of the BEST pizza I've ever had.  Even accounting for the gluten-free crust.  I have actually discovered that Trader Joe's brown rice tortillas work perfectly as crusts.  I just eat two mini pizzas each time.  Anyway, just didn't want anyone to miss out, you gotta try this recipe.  Hopefully while all the ingredients are still local.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seasonal Pizza

In my attempt to eat local foods year round (which will of course include my canned and frozen additions in the winter months), I'm instituting Friday pizza day. We're on our third or fourth Friday this weekend. So far we've done summer squash pizza, broccoli pizza with roasted red peppers, and mozzarella with basil and tomato pizza. This one looks similar to that last with the addition of thin sliced red onion. I'm trying it this Friday.

Summer Pizza Recipe Food & Wine

If any locavores are going to try a similar idea this winter, it's a good idea to roast and freeze some peppers while they're in all the farmer's markets in cheap and plentiful quantities right now (an idea, I should add, I got from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). Rachel Ray showed me how I can roast them right on the gas stove top, just turning them as I go. And then I pit them and throw them in a ziplock in the freezer. I also arranged with a farmer to get a bushel of onions that store all winter, so at least I'll have onion and roasted red pepper and tomato sauce all stored up for my winter pizzas.

Happy pizza eating!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Healthcare Reform . . . Through Local Produce?

Check this article out! Michael Pollan says that making insurance companies take all patients regardless of health issues or pre-existing conditions could be a radical step toward moving the American diet back toward a vegetable/fruit centered localized base. Wow, I hope he's right.

Op-Ed Contributor - Big Food vs. Big Insurance -

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For those with zucchini to use up . . . or to sneak in . . .

Zucchini Bread
(adapteded from a recipe from Mary Bailey on

3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cup wheat flour or ground gluten-free grains
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup wheat germ or flax meal

In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini, and vanilla. Mix well. Add flours, baking powder, soda, salt, wheat germ, and cinnamon; stir to combine. Stir in raisins and nuts, if desired.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Bizzarely Healthy Applesauce Breakfast Cake

1 1/2 c oats
1 1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c flour (of any kind, really, I use gluten free blended grains)
2/3 c walnut or pecan pieces
2/3 c raisins
1 egg
(if you like things sweeter you might want to add sugar or honey)

Mix. Put in 8x8 or 8x11 greased baking dish depending on if you want thinner or fluffier cake, sprinkle top with cinnamin, and bake between 350 and 375 degrees for 45 min. to an hour.

It's Freezing!

The freezing of produce has rather taken over all of my free time these days (well, free time and time that should be spent sleeping or cleaning or something besides stirring, slicing, or squishing). Over the last week or so I've frozen:

  • spaghetti sauce
  • tomato sauce
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced peaches
  • grated zucchini
  • free range chicken and broth

I've also harvested pears off of a neighbor's pear tree (she knew about it, it wasn't in the dark of night). They turned out to be very green and will mostly all have to be thrown away. I'm new to this foraging thing. (Let's not revisit the horse chestnut scenario from last year.)

There has absolutely got to be an easier, lazy version of tomato sauce (than boiling diced tomatoes and squishing them gradually through a collander with a rounded wooden squisher), though Owen pointed out that if I blend it it will no longer be sauce, since the seeds and skins will make it just blended tomatoes. Hmm, well, maybe I'll have to do it again next year, but OH BOY, what a lot of work. It felt very un-modern-American. Micah helped cut up rome tomatoes with a butter knife.

It felt like a bit of a ripoff to spend 5 hours on the spaghetti sauce and only have 10 gallon bags to show for it.

The easiest freezing item was the grated zucchini. Now I have to find some recipes that use grated zucchini.

My broccoli rabe is almost ready (the first of three mini beds to be planted). The rutabaga could be ready soon, who in the world knows. And I planted swiss chard, kale, sugar peas, spinach, brussel sprouts, carrots, red beets, tatsoi, and endive.

I found a possible source for apples (for applesauce) and potatoes and buttercup squash that haven't been sprayed much and possibly a quarter of a grass-fed cow . . . if the Amish woman from the produce stand does actually call me as she said she would. I'm also going to try to get some onions that are dried for longer term storage.

The local eating adventure continues.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Going Local, Going Green, Going Crazy

Young urban homesteader who wants to know how old he has to be before he can buy his own farm

So we're getting a bit more extreme here lately (thank you Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for the inspiration). I froze corn and lima beans for the winter last night and this morning--only 3 small bag of lima beans, I'm still learning to appreciate those guys. Plans are on for my mom to come and help me freeze spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. I'm hoping to freeze some fruit this year, too, but I may be too late to the punch. (When deciding you want to eat all local, mostly from your own land, it's best to reach this conclusion sometime around January. Reaching the conclusion around June, like I did--and after, in some aspects--creates a lot of frantic last minute scrambling.)

My next concerns:
  • Finding local grassfed beef
  • Making applesauce in the fall, and buying pumpkin to store for winter treats (too late for most storable fruit at this point)
  • Making cheese (I found a website to buy supplies and read in the aforementioned extremist book that you can make mozzarella in 30 minutes--wouldn't it be dreamy to be able to to tomato, mozzarella, basil ON YOUR OWN?!)
  • Finding where to buy my grapevine, lime tree in a container, and apriocot tree for the fall

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A post for the Davis children fans

Just thought some of you might appreciate a picture of the Davis boys following this turtle while we were at the beach the other week.


My trash can is full of cucumber, cantalope, and zucchini plants--and my one grape tomato plant and sunflower. Bummer. It looks like blight, from what I can deduce from my online research. I don't know, things didn't look so healthy, that's what I do know. Which means I can't even have the satisfaction of composting the vines. I have a feeling my remaining zucchini, cantalope, and tomato plants will meet an early end as well. Serious bummer. On the bright side, this opens up room for the fall planting I meant to do (I got a late start in the spring because I had not yet realized I was going to become a 4 Season Harvest girl--yes, yet another reference to Eliot Coleman--and you have to have your summer crops out of the way by early August if you want to have room for broccoli rabe, rutabagas, red beets, carrots (for overwintering), leeks, spinach, and what have you. So this empty patch (where my cucumber and some cantalopes once grew) will hopefully be a burgeoning plot of broccoli rabe in a few months. I wasn't really prepared for the great loss that an organic farmer can have in a growing season. That cucumber was my joyful companion each time I gazed out my kitchen window. I had such high hopes . . .
Maybe this is my rite of passage.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's for Dinner?

If anyone cares to find out about what frightening changes have occured in the American food supply in the last 50 years or so, check out this movie. It was truly frightening, but also exciting. The word is getting out about why E-coli is spreading to spinach, why our meat is so unsafe and unhealthy (both related to CAFO--concentrated animal feeding operations--sites dumping tons of animal waste into water supplies and breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria through unhealthy and disgusting practices with cattle and chicken farms), and how immigrants are being treated in an appalling way. And hopefully the result of the information getting out will be similar to the effect of The Jungle when Upton Sinclair wrote it (we need to make the reforms they made then all over again).

The movie was inspiring, though, and not just depressing, because it emphasized the ways that we can make a difference:
  • start a vegetable garden (even a small one)
  • sit down as a family to eat a homecooked meal
  • buy local and organic
  • see their webpage for other action steps (
Honestly, it was a little bit of preaching to the choir for me--I knew a lot of the information already. I guess the one thing I'll change is that I'll try to start buying organic milk (ouch, expensive).
Anyway, great movie . . . go see it!

Cheap coffee that is Organic, Shade Grown, and Fair Trade!

So I was alarmed to find out at the zoo the other day that coffee growers often cut down the rainforest in order to grow coffee instead of growing the much enviro-friendlier shade grown varieties. The sunny varieties cause hardships to birds (loss of habitat) and require more pesticides than shade grown coffee. I assumed I could not afford shade grown coffee, but at the following website at Amazon I found coffee that is:
  • shade grown,

  • organic, and

  • fair trade . . .
. . . with 48 oz. for only $16.10.
Very exciting! That's cheaper than what I'm paying now at Trader Joe's.
Here's the link:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden Update

This time of year, it's hard to get good help in the garden. Everybody's working their own land. These two guys are the best I could do. I made them get their hair cut, they looked like a disgrace before. Every farm's gotta have some standards you know.

So I know you've all been waiting to hear about the status of the garden. Well, things have taken an even more serious turn of late, and we (Micah, Jesse, and I--Owen can't decide whether to laugh, or cry depending on what new way I've found to spend money on our garden, he's not really part of the "we" in this case) have decided to become four season gardeners (as in, yes, I've read another book, Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long). I'd like to provide most of the family's food from our little city garden. We're somewhat late to the punch for this year. We should have been growing all manner of winter squash and more substantial foods (I mean, cantalope and cucumbers will be lovely, but probably will not feed us through the winter).

Anyway, in the long term this will mean things like cold frames, trellises, netting, and possibly a root cellar. But in the short term, it means I'm still squeezing in summer crops in July in little spaces in the garden. Fall crops begin in August, so here's hoping summer crops hurry up. I'm not alone, though, I heard this year is late for crops due to rainy cool weather in May. I should really start my crops about a month earlier next year. Some of them, anyway.
Here's the nitty gritty:
Greenbeans- pretty good yield every few days
Cantalopes- no sign of anything bigger than a tiny flower
Chard, Kale- rather lame, so leaves picked
Basil- good
Blueberries- dying?
Cucumbers- one really big plant, lots of tiny ones so far
Zucchini- four or five tiny ones, plants look healthy
Lettuce- a few big salads worth
Broccoli rabe- two good pickings late May
Strawberries- a few here and there

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Clean 15 & The New 2009 Dirty Dozen

Here's an updated list on what you don't have to buy organic--and what you should buy organic. Anyway, just giving the update in case it's helpful to anyone. The list has changed this year.

Save Money On Organic Fruits And Vegetables - Low Pesticide Foods -

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like father, like son . . .

Owen had a picture taken with his mom exactly like this at around age two or so. Jesse takes after his dad a little with the crying. He's a bit of a whiner. We thought it was a great idea to capture the identical "Mom trying to cook while child clings to her legs" photo to pair with his father's. Sadly, after taking this picture last night, we realized that Jesse had a fever. Made it less funny. He's had a rough 24 hours. Lots of "Blue's Clues" today (great show). Get well, Jesse!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here comes the sun!

UEE ( is a Philadelphia group starting a solar panel rental system as an alternative to PECO. We'll be renting panels at the current rate we have been paying for electricity with PECO for the next 20 years. That way our bills will stay the same in the coming years even as energy bills increase (as PECO warns is coming as soon as price caps are lifted). Hopefully we'll have them on our roof by September. (We just have to wait until 100 people are signed up so it will be viable). We definitely want to lock in prices before an increase comes. It's a really great system, well thought out. Food for thought in case anyone lives in the area and wants to keep electric prices down.
Our contact is Chris Metcalf at 610-639-0528 (

Monday, June 15, 2009

Simple Healthy(ish) Crumble

Squish 5 ripe bananas in a pie dish. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar. Put in some frozen or fresh berries and mix. Sprinkle instant oats and small walnut pieces on top. Squish some soft butter chunks in with the oats/nuts and push them down a little bit into the berries/bananas. I didn't measure anything and I doubt it matters too much how much of anything you choose to put in. Bake at 350 until top is golden (it takes a long time because of how moist the bananas are), about 45 min. or an hour. Viola, easy crumble. Pretty healthy, as desserts go.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Garden Groweth

Well, the garden is progressing nicely, if slower than I feel prepared to handle. The lettuce will be ready soon. I actually already harvested about half of a rather spindly broccoli rabe crop. We ate it. It had some tiny holes bored through, but Owen doesn't feel that the $50 I want to spend on nematodes (bug parasites that help control pests) is justified at this point (since we haven't budgeted for all of the gardening expenditures we've been incurring). I told Owen gardening makes me feel powerful, but he told me empowered is a better word to use with milder connotations because it makes me seem like less of a megalomaniac. Anyway, I have some little tomatoes now, still green, and we've gotten a few strawberries. I was researching my zucchini problem: we have beautiful flowers with no mini-zucchinis connected. It would seem that we either have all male or all female flowers, or that we don't have enough bees to pollinate. This is a serious problem, one that perhaps goes a little beyond my skill. Online I found all sorts of
suggestions involving q tips and spreading of pollen in female flowers. Oh dear, I should have paid more attention to Mr. Underkoffler in 10th grade biology. If anyone is able to identify whether this is a female or male flower from the picture, please let me know. Uncle Darry gave me some raspberry bushes, one of which even has raspberries on it. Needless to say, this is wildly exciting for the family. Well, I'm not sure if "wildly excited" exactly describes Owen's relationship with the garden. Mildly interested, maybe. Micah's excitement helps to make up for some of his lacking in this area. Greenbeans are my big obsession lately. The top left picture shows them growing along a fence. I now actually have them growing along five different fence areas. Spreading out the risk, so to speak. My neighbor plans to spray her back yard for weeds, so I anticipate a certain amount of loss of greenbeans against her fence. I say "anticipate" but I certainly will be devastated if and when such loss occurs. Several of the bean
plants have gotten pretty pink flowers, which I guess means beaners are on the way (unless we have some weird male/female flower issue of course). I can't wait to feed my family off the fat of the land.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The only good redbeets I've had . . .

They may not be pretty (and this was the best photo of four, I think), but roasted red beets are one of my new favorite spring meals. I cut them in 1/2 or 1/4 depending on size, left 3" of tops on them, and then put them in a baking pan with slight sides. I put a little bit of olive oil, a little bit of balsamic, a little bit of water, a little bit of salt, and a little bit of rosemary and then roasted them on the middle rack for a little over an hour (there are a lot of "a little"s in my recipe b/c I don't measure anything). Anyway, I flipped them about halfway through. I sprinkled them with garlic powder when they were done. They taste amazing! Just like anything does prepared in that way I guess. You could probably roast old tennis shoes in olive oil, salt, and everything and they'd be great. Bon apetit!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Seriously, I'm not making this up!

Spotted: One opossum (not the one in this photo taken by the Opossum Society of the United States)

Who: Val, and neighbors (who saw it first and pointed it out to her)

Reaction: Oh my goodness, this must be blogged . . . NATURE IN NORTH PHILLY!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

And then there were two . . . and then one . . . and then just a dirty nest and some bird poop

The baby birds are fat and literally started falling out of their nest because there just wasn't room for them all. Here's a picture from the beginning of the week, right after big brother hopped out. Big brother did have to hop/fly back up to the nest temporarily after a cat discovered them. I have no idea how he pulled that off. (I observed them for quite some time, off and on, and they just seem like sitting ducks, or well, sitting robins, believe me. Chirping and not really moving even when toy trucks come to within a few inches--accidentally, of course.) I chased the cat off, like a true Darwinist would not do (the nature filmers don't try to scare the lion as it closes in on the antelope, though maybe self-preservation is a factor there). I kept waiting to find his little mangled body somewhere. I even had a dream of finding him dead. That's when I think the stay-at-home mom realizes her world has shrunken in a truly alarming way, when she is worried enough about a baby robin that she has nightmares about its death. Then the next day his sister (let's just keep all the genders involved) flew the nest. We were down to Junior. Junior didn't seem really motivated to go anywhere. He stayed up there by himself quite a while. At least another day. Then he made the big leap but hung out right below the nest on the porch for a good 12 hours. He left a lot of nasty poop all over the porch. He had a bike parked right near him by an unobservant visitor. He almost got hit by a toy truck (that in fairness was poorly aimed by the mother cleaning up and not by the toddlers playing with it). The funniest part was his really loud mother squawking at him from a nearby tree, all day, trying to motivate him to leave. I guess there are similarities between all species.

A Message from Val's Mom, Mary Frey

Restaurant and grocery store chains across our country need to band together and commit to 72 degree minimums for air conditioning levels. I mean, talk about a ridiculous cause of greenhouse gases--over-air conditioning. Then we won't all need sweaters in the summer! And maybe we could agree to heat somewhere in the 68 degree range in the winter. Just a suggestion from Mary . . . put on this hopping blog per her suggestion.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baby Robins Arrive

So, seriously, I don't know what is different this year. But I guess God is reminding us that evidence of His creation is all around . . . even all around North Philly. I mean, wow, hedgehogs, robins, little snakelike lizards, slugs, snails, house finch, squirrels (argh!), termites . . . we're just teeming with life over here. It is very comforting.
Also comforting is the evidence of thriving green beans, strawberries, zucchinis, and tomatoes. The green beans are doing well enough that I spaced them out a little and added a row against the fence in our front yard. Grow, babies, grow! Two of the raspberry vines (out of three) turned out to be, well, dead, thus prompting further rebate from the online store.
Moral: Online shopping works better for non-living things.
Mom brought me a healthy raspberry vine to put the mail order survivor to shame. And she brought a rhubarb plant. Now I can really connect with my ancestral roots . . . I mean, does anyone you know still make rhubarb sauce? I may actually have to look into freezing spaghetti sauce if all of my tomato plants thrive. Two are looking pretty peaked. (I must confess I had to look online to find the spelling of that word, meaning sickly. I guess I could have just written sickly, but that would be to deny my rich heritage of Pennsylvania Dutch/Lancaster expressions.) They do not seem to be perking up despite many a worried or angry look I have sent their way.
This tempts me to reclaim some of the healthy plants I put in my neighbor's flower bed, because a) she'd never notice, b) hello, I garden for her for free, and c) I don't know if she'll even eat all of the tomatoes she's going to get.
But I won't because a) I was raised not to do things like that, b) I have a huge guilt complex despite years of learning of how God loves me no matter what (and I mean, I guess it isn't very loving to God to steal back your neighbor's tomato plants), and c) she gets way better light than I do so they'll do better in her flower bed. I'm sure if I really need a tomato later (which is unlikely, I do still have 14 pretty healthy plants), I could ask for one.
Anyway, the cantaloupes are not looking too hot. But let's not talk about them. It's too important to me that they do well.
And that's all this 5th generation farmer has to say about that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spotted: One Hedgehog

According to a nearby neighbor, a hedgehog was recently spotted running past 5419 N 12th St. in Philadelphia, the illustrious Davis residence.
(No photographic evidence was available.)

Burger, anyone?

Hello all! Here's a real pick-me up! (Not really.)

Just doing a little research about the American contribution to global warming and food shortages because of meat consumption, from the Worldwatch Institute and the New York Times, and basically it looks like there are really three big bummers from the huge meat consumption of the Western world (apparently Americans eat about half a pound of meat per day to consume an average of 200 lbs. of meat per year:

1. People are starving and having to compete with cattle for grain.

2. Meat causes global warming from methane gas.

3. Pollution of water supplies from vast quantities of animal waste.

Some random quotes:

"Each kilo of meat represents several kilos of grain, either corn or wheat, that could be consumed directly by humans. If the 670 million tons of the world's grain used for feed were reduced by just 10 percent, this would free up 67 million tons of grain, enough to sustain 225 million people or keep up with world population growth for the next three years. If each American reduced his or her meat consumption by only 5 percent, roughly equivalent to eating one less dish of meat each weak, 7.5 million tons of grain would be saved, enough to feed 25 million people-roughly the number estimated to go hungry in the United States each day."

"To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

"The massive quantities of waste produced by livestock and poultry threaten rivers, lakes and other waterways. In the United States, where the waste generated by livestock is 130 times that produced by humans, livestock wastes are implicated in waterway pollution, toxic algal blooms and massive fishkills. And livestock farms are getting larger throughout the world: one 50,000-acre hog farm under construction in Utah will produce more waste than the city of Los Angeles."