Thursday, November 21, 2013

Terrific Turnips!

Turnips are a terrific vegetable to grow locally in the winter.

Okay, really, have you ever heard anyone describe the turnip as "terrific"?  This root vegetable is probably something more of a staple that does well in the ground throughout the winter.  It's ability to provide nourishment when other tastier veggies are absent from the local diet made me interested in tasting it for the first time.  A friend has turnips, and was kind enough to share some with our family.  What to do with them?  For some reason, turnip soup sounded tasty, so I made this recipe.  It was simple, local, and with a grilled cheese made a nice Saturday lunch.

Now, what else to do?  Chris decided to pull out his mandolin to slice up some paper thin turnip pieces.  He then stuck them in the oven at 200 degrees...wallah, turnip chips.    They actually got a little too brown, but they were pretty tasty half way through baking. 

Since then we've had roasted turnip and carrots two nights this week.  While they're not a vegetable I'd run to the grocery store to buy (does the grocery store even sell them?!), I do think they are tasty enough to eat throughout the winter season and there are plenty of recipes to try.  Next, turnip mash...something like mashed potatoes, only using turnips.  New culinary experiences here we come! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yeah, it's local...but I just ate WHAT?!

This too is local...

One morning I visited my Mom and Cousin Paige at my grandfather's farm.  Browned cow heart sat in a pan on the stove.  "It tastes just like roast beef," my younger nature-loving cousin said.  Well, I'll take your word for it.  Mom and Paige have been the caregivers for my 97 year old grandfather.  One night in the dark, while he was in the hospital, my Mom went into his room and fell over an extra wheel chair, hitting the side of her face on the way down.  The result:  two black eyes.

I love that Chris and I moved closer to my family because we share dinner together on Tuesday night, taking turns cooking.  The week after watching Paige and my Mom devour the heart, it was their turn to cook the family meal.  Needless to say, I'm cautious when we dine with them.  My Mom made lasagna and Paige prepared a roast beef in the crock pot.  I felt immediately suspicious, "no, really, it's roast beef," Mom insisted.

I cautiously put some on my plate after watching Dad have a second helping and Chris encouraging, "it's really good Paula." Here's my eating experience:  As I eyed the food sitting on my plate, my mind said, "Okay, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, it's roast beef."  Fork-full goes in and as I bite down I think, "this isn't a meat I'm familiar with, I need to spit this out,"  then I thought, "nah, it's just my mind not trusting them and making the tasting experience strange," so I swallowed and immediately dumped the rest on Chris's plate.  I was certain there was a bit of game taste, and I wasn't going back for more.

Later that evening, after dishes were cleared and dessert enjoyed, we again discussed the roast beef with comments of kudos from my Dad and Chris.  My Mom said, "Okay, do you want me to tell you what it was?"  Aha, I knew it wasn't roast beef.  "What, what was it, what?"  "Look at me," she responded.

Coon!  You're kidding, you fed us coon?!  Yep, Paige trapped a raccoon and decided she wanted to serve it up.  According to Paige, you should only eat wild animals after a freeze, which we'd recently had.  So there we were, dining on coon.  She was happy to take us out then to show us the carcass and the fur.  Now, how's that for local flavor?  Anyone want me to add a "coon" section to the Local Producers List?!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mission Accomplished - MS, RD, LD

Mission Accomplished - MS, RD, LD

While it's not as exciting as James Bond, my most recent mission accomplished happened right before the birth of my second child.  Yes, I finished my Masters in Dietetics.  Why am I writing about this?  Because I think you will like my final research paper topic, "Do School Gardening and Nutrition Education Improve Children's Nutritional Intake and/or Health Status?  A Systematic Review."  See, right up your ally!
Did I know what a systematic review was before writing this paper - nope.  In a nutshell, I did my best to look at all the research between 1990 and 2012 which included info on children, gardening, nutrition education and their intake.
Here's what I nutritional intake is impacted positively by gardening, specifically gardening combined with nutrition education (surprise, surprise folks).  One study found that kids ate a half cup more produce daily when they were involved with gardening.  If a half cup doesn't sound like much to you, try following a dietitian for a day.  Trust me, it's an accomplishment to impact kid's intake that significantly.
All in all, 13 studies showed positive impact on nutritional intake (yes, almost 100% of studies were pro-gardening), two studies showed positive impact on activity, and four showed positive impact on adult perceptions of the impact of gardening.  I love that the kids who might not be good at basketball, track, or volleyball, can find an activity outlet through gardening.  What a great way to be physically active!
Yes, there is much more to share, but I'll spare you all the details.  If you're really interested I'd be happy to share the whole paper with you - just email me at
And now for the best part about completing my masters...a homemade Oreo ice cream cake made by Mr. Chef.  Local, no.  Tasty, yes!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This season's favorite find...

This season's favorite find...

Mid July I began thinking about how I preserve foods, and how I love my dehydrator.  What I don't love:  the energy it uses for the almost 24 hour cycle it takes to dehydrate my local finds.  So I got to thinking, I could dehydrate outside without using an outlet, but then, what about the flies, bugs, etc.  I must have been sending up some kind of request or prayer I didn't even realize I was doing because within a couple weeks I found this beauty at a yard sale.

Yes, a "Hanging Food Pantrie" food dehydrator (and sprouter).  The picture is a little dark, so if you're unable to see it try checking it out online here.  New this beauty is $58+, but it cost me $4 (don't you love a good bargain)!  Yesterday someone shared some locally grown apples with me (picked about a mile from my house).  My chance to use the dehydrator!!  I just finished pulling the apples from both the electric dehydrator and the "Food Pantrie".  I must say, I get a much more consistent product with the all natural dehydrator and I feel better about not using precious energy.  Here's the finished product...yum!!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Colorful Conversation

Earlier this summer we enjoyed a tasty local meal - chicken salad on fresh greens with cucumbers.  In Dietitian school I learned that plates should be colorful - reds, blues, greens, purples, oranges - these make a plate appealing to the eye.  As my food production instructor repeatedly told our class, "the eye eats first."  So, when I looked at my rich local plate, with lackluster color, I told Chris I'd missed the mark.  "Well, we'll have colorful conversation then," Chris replied.  Aha, of course! 

The church we attend shares produce on their produce sharing table.  The table provided over half of the meal pictured by offering us the greens and the cucumber.  We purchased the chicken from a local farmer.  A produce sharing table is a great way to share garden excess with others as well as pick up items you are lacking or would like to try.  It's just another way that gardening can build the health of your local community.  Where could you introduce a produce sharing table among interested individuals?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cluck, cluck, squaaaawk, squaaaaawk, eeeek, squaaawk, cluck, cluck, squaaaawk!

Cluck, cluck, squaaaawk, squaaaaawk, eeeek, squaaawk, cluck, cluck, squaaaawk!
We moved into our new house last year.  Recently the 35 year old air conditioner Q * U * I * T !!  Oh my, it's hot.  To beat the heat, our family spent last Saturday morning in the breezy back yard.  Lucky us, the air conditioner broke at the perfect time for us to listen to our first egg being, uh, born? ... nope, layed.  Without a rooster, no fertilization is happening in our back yard.  Earlier, I noticed one of the hens spending quite a bit of time sitting in our strawberry patch.  I had some concern that she planned to lay an egg there.  However, soon I heard clucks, squawks and other painful birthing noises coming from the coop.  After the sounds subsided, we went to check it out.
Little two-year old Clara got to pick up our first egg from the nesting box.  I am impressed, no golf ball, ceramic egg or white door knob let this hen to know where to lay.  Instead, she was smart enough to figure out where we wanted her lay, without any artificial signal.  Good girl!

With excitement Clara carried the egg all around the yard.  "An egg, the chicken laid an egg!" she exclaimed.  Then...

Yup, she dropped that egg, splat, right next to the concrete.  "I wanna 'nother one...I wanna 'nother one...I wanna 'nother one...," she repeated over and over as we answered, "You'll have to wait another day or two until the chicken lays another egg."  This is hard for a kid to understand when they are used to going to the fridge or store, and getting an egg.  What, wait for food?  Why in the world would we have to do that?  Food becomes incredibly precious when you produce it yourself and realize the time that goes into one, precious egg.  It also forms the virtue of patience in a budding little two-year old and her much older parents.  Here's to fresh food!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sweet, sweet strawberries!!

Oh the sweet, sweet strawberries!
Last night our family went strawberry picking north of Wichita at Jester Creek Farms.  Without many words, here is our wonderful experience...
Oh, the excitement!

Three generations, picking strawberries together.


Part of our efforts.
Taking a break to picnic.

Cutting fresh picked strawberries for...
...enjoying strawberry shortcake in the patch!

 This morning, as Chris and I sampled the strawberries, we compared them to some we purchased at a local store.  A rare event, the ones at the store were actually ripe all the way through, instead of white.  Can you guess which is which?

Left:  Jester Creek Farms  Right:  Store bought
The store bought strawberry was almost right on the fresh picked in taste, but what was that missing  A zippy flavor at the end of the tasting experience.  I quizzed Chris, thinking my mind was trying to make the fresh picked taste better.  His response, "It's the full strawberry flavor with something missing."  Yup, something is missing, it's a small difference, but it's there.  And yes, it was worth a few hours, on a beautiful evening, in a strawberry patch a few miles from my home.  Building an experience with my family and friends, getting fresh air, learning from my parents about the strawberry patch my grandparent's owned.  What's that credit card commercial say...Priceless. 

While discussing the tasting experience, I discovered that women have better taste sense than men.  Chris learned in culinary school that women can often dissect a dish by the taste and smell better than men.  And oh, the smell.  Chris processed our strawberries after I was in bed with the kids, and talked this morning the wonderful smell of strawberries. 

How did the end of our evening go? 
Well, the baby screamed all the way home, but the strawberries were worth it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chicken Wrangler in Training

"I wanna take her in da house Ma"

It's chicken time again.  Chris and I have been married almost four years, and for one reason or another, we've raised baby chicks three of those years.  Watching their antics as they grow is much more fulfilling than sitting in front of the TV.  Even better, we now watch their antics coupled with our two year old's antics.  Slide anyone? ... Priceless.

This year we are growing our largest flow, a group of five.  Two years ago one of the ladies in our flock of four ended up with a deep voice ("cockadoodledoo") so he got sent to the farm.  As our family grows, we need more eggs, so we'll see how these five do for us, so far, no crowing.

Homeless for a month last year between selling our old house and buying our new one, we lived with my parents.  My Mom fell in love with our chickens, so we left them and the coop with her.  Chris intended to make us a chicken tractor that we could move around the yard, but it's a little too heavy for that. This spring it has served two purposes - holding chickens and entertaining kiddos.

We love our chickens and look forward to getting fresh eggs again soon.  And just let me say it again for all those skeptics, raising chickens is way easier than I ever expected! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

From "Awwww, Nuts" to "Ahh, Nuts!"

If you've read my other blog (which I totally abandoned upon the arrival of kids), you know I had an "Awww, nuts" experience that I blogged about (here).  Well, I'm happy to say my experience on the local foods blog is instead called, "Ahhh, nuts!"  A couple weeks ago my friend sent me the following Craigslist posting.  After reading it, you'll see why I was happy - a local source of nuts!  I only got 5#, wanting to test the quality of the product before buying more, but after tasting them wish I would have just trusted the advertising and gone with more.  They are worth the drive (er, well, they are worth the drive my friend did to pick 'em up for us)!

Pecans Fresh 2012 Organic

Date: 2013-02-24, 11:48AM
Fresh 2012 Organic Pecans. Partially removed, easiest picking of cracked pecans you'll ever do. Every pecans is hand cracked by me so I inspect every pecan. This is not commercially cracked, it's better.

A ton easier than removing native pecans!

5lbs cracked $18

10lbs cracked $34

20lbs cracked $62

40lbs cracked $115

Uncracked in shell $15 per 5lbs

Removed/Shelled $8 lb

Ward 316- 777- 1349

  • Location: Mulvane
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
And a new local producers category is created on this website's Wichita Area Local Producers page...NUTS.  Now, I'm still looking for a local source of edible oats - email me if you have one!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This tastes like Grandma's house.

As many of you know, we welcomed an addition to our family late January.  Madeline Elizabeth has made our family of three into a family of four, and we are excited to get to know her better as she grows (and teach her about local food!).

Helping us ease into our new life, many friends generously provided us with tasty meals.  One night Chris said, "It's like going to restaurants, without having to leave our house." Indeed, but it's also like going to Grandma's house.  Why?  One night we received a delivery from a new friend who said, "It's home grown corn."  "Neat," I thought, but didn't realize how special it was until I tasted a spoonful of that corn.  J*U*S*T  L*I*K*E  Grandma's!  The flavor was wonderful and completely unlike any corn from the grocery store.  Chris tasted it, and immediately recalled the first time he had home grown corn as a college student in Oregon.  This is local eating.  Tastes that are so memorable and special that you know when you've had them before, and you remember them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Local Butter Basics

Homemade Butter & Local Honey - A Tasty Combination!

Chris and I love to host local foods meals.  Each attendee brings something that was produced locally to share.  At our most recent meal some new friends brought homemade butter, which I thought was so fun!  Here's how they made it - apparently it's not an exact science so Chris will be great at making it (he doesn't measure anything) and I might have trouble (I measure all my ingredients!)

Here's the butter making process that was shared with me:

My friends put a small amount of room temperature Hildebrand Farms cream in a mason jar (filling no more than 1/3 of the jar which allows the cream to have room to concuss.)  If you're unfamiliar with this local brand, see this post I wrote previously.  They then started shaking the jar and from their experience (they've done this multiple times), it takes anywhere from 4-15 minutes of pretty constant shaking. Apparently, you know you're close to butter when you hear a sloshing sound, and the sides of the jar are no longer coated with cream. Once you actually see the lump of butter, shake for another couple of minutes to separate more of the buttermilk (but not too long, otherwise the butter gets waxy.)

Next, use a small strainer to drain off the buttermilk (and save it to make pancakes!) then rinse the butter with cold water. Put the butter in a small dish, add some salt (my friend would estimate 1/3 teaspoon for 1/3 of a large mason jar) and mash it around with a spatula.

Finally, the easiest step of all...enjoy! 

In my opinion, this post is a Pinterest "pinnable" post.  Someday I plan to show my little one how butter is made through this fun science experiment using food.