Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrate Food Independence Day With Us!

Foraged lavender drying in the sun room, isn't it beautiful!

July 4th is all about freedom, food...and fireworks! This year join us in asking government leaders to participate in the Food Independence Day movement by celebrating freedom with locally sourced foods. In support of the event, Chris and I are using as many locally produced foods as we can this holiday. We hope you get involved by signing the petition and sharing your holiday menu on the Food Independence Day facebook page.

Most people start with a recipe, and go the store with a list of items to buy. Instead, when preparing your Food Independence Day Menu, look at what's available locally then determine what you'll make from those items.   Here's a snapshot of our holiday spread:

Breakfast, my favorite meal of the day.
(Well really, I like 'em all)!

Earlier I blogged that I've become passionate about lavender.  While walking recently, Chris and I stumbled across some lavender. Excited, I took a few sprigs since, well, I killed the lavender plant Chris bought me.  We the lavender and made lavender pancakes with homemade June berry syrup.  We're starting off our holiday weekend by making these pancakes again.  We might add some locally raised scrambled eggs too.

It's prime lavender season and if you prefer not to forage for lavender, Clark Farm has lavender bunches for sale.  Saturday they'll be at the Kansas Grown Farmers' Market.  Visit them and wake up to your own lavender pancakes this July 4th.  You could also make lavender lemonade, or use a beautiful lavender bunch as the focal point of your table.

The Main Event - Our Fourth of July Celebration!

Chris here, Paula's letting me write on her blog, isn't she just the sweetest thing!  We collected a fair amount of local ingredients over the last six months, so our menu is made up of items we have on hand and some currently available at the Farmers' Market.  I scoped out the availability at the Andover Central Park Farmers' Market Wednesday.  They had cucumber, zucchini and squash, potatoes, peppers, garlic, green beans, herbs, a tomato here and there, lettuce and other greens, and corn (a little wormy but the farmer says he will pick the real deal sweet corn next week, can't wait).

We're going to make Chicken Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy using  poultry we got from the last Unruh Pastured Poultry butcher (see Paula's list for their info).  Sides include:
* Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Green Beans (red potatoes from the farmers' market, garlic, green beans and rosemary from our garden)
* Cucumbers and onions in a sweet and sour dressing (cucumbers and onions from our garden)
* Fresh bread made from local wheat (Paula makes it and it is wonderful) with apricot jelly.  Local flour, wheat berries or bread are available from Norm's Flour.  We picked apricots last weekend at Paula's Aunt's house and are making the jelly as I write.  
* And for dessert, a Chautauqua Hills Farm Blueberry and Blackberry parfait with fresh sweetened whipped cream from Hiland Dairy for dessert.  Lance from Chautauqua Hills Farm said many of you picked their berries last weekend, so you know, they are excellent!

Like Paula said, I encourage you to work backward on your menu.  See what is available and then google a recipe and have fun making it!  Happy 4th of July and God Bless America.

Local Foods and Community Gardens Update:  Paula here again - Tuesday I sent out an updated  list of local food sources and area community gardens.  If you missed it, send me an email at

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Local Food Wedding - What a Splendid Idea!

Doing our best impersonation of "American Gothic" at our wedding last August.

While interested in simplicity and focusing on things that matter, Chris and I chose a country marriage on my grandparent's farm.  Since childhood, I dreamed of coming down the beautiful staircase in their parlor, to my beau waiting at the oak fireplace.  Dreams do come true, we married in that setting on a beautiful, 80 degree August day.  Many guests complimented saying it was one of the best weddings they attended, unpretentious and meaningful.

At the time we married, introduction to eating locally wasn't on our radar - a few months into newlywed bliss we watched Food, Inc. and our food practices were challenged - nutritionally, economically, ethically, and sustainably.  We made changes immediately, and learn more everyday.

Last week I read a blog by a couple getting married and celebrating by producing all of the food for their reception themselves - a local food wedding.  I love the idea, and am encouraged to see another young couple committed and passionate about the local food system.  They plan to blog their progress - I'll be smiling as I read the updates.

While reading "Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer" I came across a Portuguese quote that said something like "The happiest times in life are the year after marriage and the week after killing a pig."  I read it to Chris and he said, "so are we killing a pig Aug. 1st?"  After all, he is 1/4 Portuguese - what a great idea! 

My poor husband, shouldn't have opened his mouth, that's exactly what we're doing, Hawaiian style - he's Portuguese AND Hawaiian!  Stay tuned - I'll post pictures of our 1st anniversary hog roast in the country once it happens!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Get Connected!


Part of supporting local foods includes getting involved and connected to organizations supporting the movement.  The internet has a plethora of sources, here are some I use:
  • FRESH the movie listserv - Provides updates on political events related to foods (pesticides, Genetic Modification, etc.) and creates online petitions for the government about controversial food related practices.
  • Savor the Season:  Eating by the Calendar in Kansas highlights seasonal produce, includes recipes, and discusses food related issues.  They are on facebook.   
  • The Kansas Rural Center is a "non-profit organization that promotes the long-term health of the land and its people through research, education, and advocacy. The KRC cultivates grassroots support for public policies that encourage family farming and stewardship of soil and water." They are also on facebook.  
  • Slow Food International "was founded to counteract fast food and fast life."  Slow Food USA focus on our country and  Slow Food Wichita/Flint Hills is committed to slowing down the local food culture.  Their group meals focus on local, organic foods.  Announcements and updates can be found on facebook.
  • The Food, Inc. website includes information about food related issues and an area to sign petitions to support healthy foods.
Many more sources exist out there, if you have a great source of information leave a comment or email me at

Local Foods List Update:  I sent out the most recent food list on Tuesday. Email me if you would like to receive a copy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Would you like some syrup with that Pancake Rock?

"Foodies" enjoying the view from Pancake Rock.

While heading to hike Pancake Rock in Colorado last week, Chris and I stumbled across the Friday morning Woodland Park Farmers' Market. 
We talked with a group of people who encourage and educate gardeners at high altitudes.  
Proudly they directed us to a small part of the farmers' market selling produce from gardens in their town.  They hope to have more local gardens in the future providing fresh food to the community.

Most of the produce came from Pueblo, ~50 miles away, and it was beautiful.  One man acted sad it wasn't closer, but I thought that was pretty good!

Earlier I wrote about Chris looking for mushrooms in our front yard.  Unfortunately peak mushroom season does not occur in June.  The only mushrooms Chris found were huge, but petrified.  You can imagine our excitement when we found locally grown mushrooms at the market! The mushrooms are started in petri dishes and grow on organic medium under sterile conditions.  Listening to the grower talk, it sounded more like a science lesson than gardening!

We purchased Fresh Oyster Mushrooms and enjoyed them on our pizza, mmmm, nothing like fresh food!

Monday, June 14, 2010 the front yard?

Mushroom hunting in our front yard - yes, in Wichita, Kansas!

Caution:  don't try this at home unless you are absolutely sure you know what you're doing!

While enjoying a day off from culinary school in Colorado a few years ago, Chris went hiking and came across mushrooms.  A few days earlier, the restaurant he worked for received a shipment of expensive Bolete mushrooms, also known as Porcini.  These fungi he happened upon looked just like the ones received by the kitchen.  He harvested the mushrooms, put them in his pack and went home to identify them, knowing if he ate the wrong type of mushroom it could be a big mistake.  After all, mushrooms can be poisonous, but they can also be a delicacy. 

After arriving home, his research indicated that these mushrooms were edible.  He cooked them up, enjoyed them and is still living to tell the story.

On Sunday I found my precious husband sitting in the middle of the grass in the front yard, with a book on one knee and a mushroom in his hand.  Unfortunately, all of the mushrooms in our yard are poisonous.  It's fun to know that the possible sources of food we find are endless!  Prior to Sunday, front yard mushrooms were not a local food I considered.

While our mushrooms were not safe to eat, we plan to hike in Colorado this summer and Chris is taking his mushroom book along.  Good thing our cabin has a kitchen, I might be eating some local (to the area I'm vising) mushrooms.  Here's to accurate identification of mushrooms, I am not interested in gastrointestinal discomfort or death from any mushroom meal!

Local Foods List Update:  I emailed the most recent updates to the local food producers list out last week.  If you did not receive the list, and would like to receive it and future updates, please email me at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When did perfume become more important than food?

"The Unlikely Lavender Queen" by Jeannie Ralston

Don't get me wrong, I like perfume.  Recently while reading, "The Unlikely Lavender Queen," I came across this thought-provoking quote: 

"Originally brought to [Provence] by the Romans lavender took a liking to the southern slopes of the Alps with their well-drained soil, and began to grow wild in the region.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, farmers cleared out almond orchards, ... and in their place, began cultivating lavender to supply perfumers in Grasse."

This history ignited thoughts about the shift from growing wholesome food (in this case almonds, a great nut both in taste and health benefits) to plant a crop with less nutritional significance, although lavender can be used as a herb in cooking and in marinades.  This reminds me about what I heard someone say once, "we pay good amounts of money for things that we can survive without, like diamonds, but things we can't live without, such as water, are free."  Ironic.

I've become slightly obsessed with lavender, and wanted to attend the lavender festival in Blanco, TX this weekend, where this book is set, but Chris says it's too far to do on a whim.   Recently I was thrilled when I received an email from Local Harvest that there is a lavender festival near Salina at Prairie Lavender Farm in June!  Disappointingly, I have a schedule conflict and won't be able to go - but it's on the calendar in hopes that next year will work.

My beautiful husband, knowing my disappointment in missing two lavender festivals, got me a little lavender of my own.  What a dear man he is :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Hi there, can I buy you a (local) drink?"

Our transition to eating locally immediately started with purchasing farmers' market fresh produce and honey, then meat and eggs from a sources within 50 miles, and later local chicken. This year's wheat harvest will provide Kansas wheat (we have a mill), and our search for other local sources of foods will continue.  One I haven't given much consideration to, until I read a recent blog (you should read it), is including drinks in the mix.  Usually it's easy, Chris and I drink only water at home from the good ol' City of Wichita.  Well, I should clarify, I drink mostly water - with a few sips off of Chris's occasional beer.

Have you ever thought about making your own beverages -- or, buying local drinks?

Beer:  Homemade beer is an option, and there's even a brewing store in Wichita where you can find supplies to get started.  Be careful though, too much sugar causes beer bottle explosions (Chris has experience with this!)

Wine:  In a previous post I wrote about dandelion wine, but we can't stop there (or maybe you don't even want to begin there!).  Chris and I are talking about making mulberry wine with the berries we collected earlier this summer.  If you don't feel like making it, you could purchase wine from a local winery (WyldeWood Cellars, Vin Vante).  We purchased apple wine from Vin Vante winery at the Old Town Farmers' Market - 90% of the ingredients were grown in Kansas.  Grapes used to make wine, even wine produced in Kansas, are usually not local (but they sure taste good!).  

Soda:  I'm not sure about making your own soda, but if you like root beer Louisburg Cider Mill makes Lost Trail Root Beer (along with other flavors).  Louisburg is south of Kansas City, 175 miles from Wichita.  Are their ingredients local?  You'll have to ask for specifics, although they also make apple cider and according to their website, they get most of the apples locally.

Juice:  While you probably won't find oranges locally to make orange juice, there are other kinds of juice that can be made.  This is one way to use excess produce from the garden or farmers' market.  A home juicing machine is a great way to make homemade juices from local products - think tomatoes, lettuce or spinach.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Simply in Season" - a Cookbook Review

A lifesaving cookbook in a season of abundance!

In the journey to becoming locavores, we know that seasons of overwhelming fruitfulness will arrive (think ripe tomato season - Chris counted last night, we have 38 tomato plans in our back yard!). In the midst of those times, what do we do with all the lovely foods? Canning, drying, and freezing are great preservation methods we will use this year.  We hope to utilize much of the fresh produce when we have it, without getting sick of it. A task that requires variety in preparation. Thanks to an experience on an organic farm near Great Bend, I found "Simply in Season," a cookbook that keeps variety alive in a time of abundance.

The cover of the cookbook reads, "Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods..." - exactly the focus of this blog.  The author focuses on buying locally, eating seasonally, and enjoying the abundance of each season.  Arrangement of "Simply in Season" falls into five sections: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and All Seasons.  Each section includes the entire spectrum of a meal, from breads and breakfasts to desserts and extras.  The colorful margins highlight the types of produced used in the recipe.  This allows flipping through the cookbook to find an appropriate recipe easy, without taking time to examine each list of ingredients for the specific plentiful produce you have at the time.  The last page of each season's section includes complete menu ideas from the recipes included in that section.  All this, and beautiful, colorful pictures and layout too!

During my visit to the organic farm we ate "Sweet Potato Quesadillas", found on p. 258.  I'd never considered that the possibility of sweet potatoes used in this way.  Pleasantly surprised and very satisfied after dinner, my hosts described a visit they took to another country.  In that country, vegetables were scarce and only provided to guests and adults.  While there, they witnessed children fighting over the leftover vegetables.   Can you imagine children fighting over vegetables?  Definitely not in America, unless it's a French fry!