Day 2 of the 100-yard diet

Monday: day 2

For breakfast, I experimented with amaranth. This is a tiny round grain that grows from a decorative, easy to grow plant (they are in fact often weeds); the leaves are also edible. I grew some last year – just a couple of plants – but not knowing what to do with it, the harvested grain was just sitting around in a jar.

I cooked 1/3 cup amaranth in 1 cup water, it takes about 10-15 minutes to cook. To
serve, I added honey and milk. It’s tasty, but doesn’t stick together in the bowl
and does stick in the teeth… probably better as flour. Along with the cereal, I
also had hard boiled eggs.

Midmorning I put a butternut squash in the sun oven to bake. After a couple of hours, out it came and in went the garbanzos to simmer. The sun oven is great this time of year, I can cook without heating up the house (we don’t have A/C).

Bread is very easy to mix with the bread machine; but we always take it out and bake in regular loaf pans or in whatever other form is useful, it comes out much nicer. We use the same basic recipe we use for bread, pizza dough, burger buns, etc. In the simplest form:
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups wheat flour (this took the whole pound of wheat from yesterday)
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast

Today I formed the dough into pita bread to go with the falafel. A little heavy with all home ground whole wheat flour, but good flavor and we like a good hearty bread.

For lunch it was quick to make turkey salad with some leftover turkey, our own chevre thinned with milk to give it a mixable cream cheese texture, and chopped sweet red pepper. Add a slice of home grown tomato (Big Rainbow), put in a pita and it made a delicious sandwich.

For dinner, soup and falafel sandwiches. I roasted some sweet and hot red peppers, fried a small onion, and pureed both with half the baked squash, a little cumin, salt and pepper, then thinned with goat yogurt to soup consistencey; and it resulted in a really delicious, spicy soup.

The falafel was just okay; cooked garbanzos, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander, and a bit of flour. Garbanzo beans (they are really a type of pea) are the easiest dry bean to grow and harvest, I think; they tolerate some frost, so they can be planted early and harvested early before the really hot dry weather sets in, and since they are big it’s easy to separate the dried beans from the pods. The parsley reseeded itself in the perennial garden. Coriander is the seed of cilantro, and since my cilantro usually flowers before I have many leaves, I do have coriander seed. All this was blended together, formed into patties and baked. The falafels were served in pita bread, along with chopped cucumber, tomato and yogurt sauce. Maybe I don’t have the right recipe, or maybe they just are better deep fried…

There’s so much to eat around me, though it all does takes effort to prepare, but I’ve been oddly hungry today. I’m afraid my body is used to more simple carbohydrates, sugar and white flour. It’s eye opening since Jay and I thought our diet was pretty good already. But now, how much more so, with nothing that came from a factory, nothing from the Iowa cornfields, nothing refined, no additives, no packaging… this is the way real food really is.

Day 1 of the 100-yard diet

We took the eat local challenge for a week and went on our 100-yard diet, with a few exceptions and wildcards.

Sunday: day 1
We start with coffee with goat’s milk. Today we used honey to sweeten instead of sugar; honey is local, sustainable and more nutritious than sugar. It just takes me some getting used to the honey flavor in coffee.

We scrambled eggs with onion, sweet red pepper, fresh tomato, and garlic in olive oil, with salt and pepper, and topped with goat feta. Along with this we had hash brown potatoes cooked in butter.

It was very filling and tasty, but I miss bread… I like simple, starchy breakfasts. I ended up with too much egg dish and not enough potatoes for my taste. And feta doesn’t work as well as cheddar in this dish, but feta is so easy to make.

With the late and filling breakfast, we didn’t really eat lunch. I ate as I worked – raspberries, cherry tomatoes, green beans, sweet peppers and peas, all raw right off the plants in the garden. Then bits of meat as I striped the last of the meat off the turkey we cooked last weekend.

I started some preparations for eating later this week, since we’re so busy during the week. I’m making stock with the turkey bones, onions, salt and pepper and a few bay leaves from the small potted bay tree on the patio.

We grow a small amount of grain and beans, this year about 5 pounds of wheat and a couple of pounds of garbanzos and black beans, and small amounts of minor grains – we’ll rely on this to vary the potato diet. Potatoes are so easy to grow and a nutritious source of starch, but personally they just aren’t as delicious as wheat or rice.

I started garbanzos soaking for tomorrow’s dinner, and ground flour from 1 pound of wheat. That should make one loaf plus extra for all the other things we use flour for.

Dinner tonight is eating out – the Rogue Flavor Dinner! Adam Treister (Jay’s boss) got tickets for us all to attend, lucky us! So we’re bending the rules, but it is an eat-local event, after all, and it’s just too good to pass up.

Eating Local

Happy Kitchen Garden Day! Here, we celebrate a week later, on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend; we invite everyone to come over and look at the garden and eat farm fresh food and we have a big tomato tasting (this year I’m growing 50 varieties, although we found TSWV on a few, and pulled up 6 plants to try to get it under control).

Our annual tomatofest kicks off September, which is a month filled with labor: tomatoes, the honey harvest, poultry butchering, potatoes and squash, winter garden fit in somehow, fruit, and we lose our farm hand (Jay’s daughter) to school. September is also eat local month:
And our local eat-local group pushes an eat local week:
(September 9 to 16) with lots of activities to encourage eating local. It’s a good time of year to do it, there’s so much food out there, all fresh and delicious. Since we grow so much, rather than a 100-mile diet, I’m thinking of a 100-yard diet; only eat food that we produced right here on the farm. Given the realities of trying to get the harvest in, while keeping our day jobs, and not causing upset and consternation amongst the stock and pets, and good taste, we’ll make some exceptions, like coffee, animal food, salt, etc. The most challenging part are the starches… We like rice, and I’ve grow only a few pounds of wheat… what we have lots of is potatoes, and I don’t know how well I’ll do on mostly potatoes for a week.

So this year we (Jay and I) are going to take the week-long challenge and eat all our own food, with a few exceptions, and I’m going to try to blog about it, what we eat and just how local the food items are and what energy went into producing them.

Sustainable Food Choices

This is an area where the individual can do a great deal. We all eat, and collectively our eating habits have a huge impact on the world. 10% of all the energy used in the US goes to producing, processing shipping, and cooking food.

Eating more local and more in season is the biggest impact. The average food item travels 1500 miles to your table. Eating out of season almost guarentees that the food will have come from far away – I’ve seen peppers from Israel and Apples from New zealand in the store, just in the produce section. Does our food need to travel more than we do?

It can be hard to find out if grocery store food is local; reading labels helps. Buying something made in Portland rather than New York isn’t huge but it’s going in the right direction. If you are inclined, asking the grocery store where items come from. Making it clear that you, the shopper, wants local food, will eventually push the stores to respond, although I’d expect the Co-op to be more responsive than Albertsons.

Buying from the grower’s market and asking the farmer will assure you have local food with minimal transportatation. It will be fresher and therefor more nutritious. It supports the small farmer who needs it more than agribiz. You could also join a CSA and get a weekly basket of fresh vegetables – this is easier for the farmer who can plan ahead.

Even better, grow your own! That reduces the transport of your food down to a few yards. Grow basic crops in the right season and they are easy to grow. Again this is where if we all do it, it makes a huge difference – one lettuce plant isn’t much, but if everyone in Ashland (pop. 26,000 or so) grew one lettuce plant each, that is a whole lot of lettuce.

Plus you know exactly how it’s been grown. Even those so-called organic standards now have loopholes you could thow a dog through. The most healthy food is the fresh food you’ve grown yourself and picked moments before eating. It’s also the most delicious.

Speaking of organic, buying organic is a good thing. It may cost more but voting with our dollars is important and food is cheap in the big picture. But don’t feel too warm fuzzy about it in the big picture of sustainability and climate change. A lot of this organic food is grown on mega-farms where they use twice as much machinery and oil to make up for not using chemicals. It’s certainly better for you to eat, and poisons the planet less, but a lot of organic food production isn’t in any way really sustainable.

The less processed the food you eat, the less processing (which equals energy use and factories) is needed. This does involves changing our preferences – raw apples or applesauce or frozen apple pie? Making your own soup rather than buying soup is a tricker calculation, but eating more foods raw as nature provided, or barely cooked, is a sure win.

As an aside, you can make your own solar oven, or buy a nice one for about $250, which will bake and steam very nicely and not use any extra power at all.

Changing our preferences isn’t fun, we like what we like, but we can do it if we think about the true costs. You can eat all the in season strawberries you like, but when they aren’t in season you have the choice of trucking them from Mexico or processing. While strawberries are delicious, we don’t really *need* to eat strawberries in January. Waiting for a special food to come in season used to be one of the special delights of the year. If you can always get them, they aren’t special, right? So while it feels like giving up something we enjoy in life, it’s also putting that something on a pedestal and perhaps enjoying it a little bit more as a result.

This applies to non-local foods too. Tropical foods like mangos are less special when you can buy then any time – so think of the airplane fuel and don’t buy them. If you love mangos, buy them only for special occassions, you will enjoy them much more for the waiting.

Buy in bulk, too, whenever possible. Packaging is pure waste, even if some of it is recyclable, that doesn’t excuse all the energy and materials that went into manufacturing it and printing all sorts of designs on it and shipping it empty, filling it, shipping it to the store… you get the picture. If you do have the opportunity to buy bulk, bring your own containers or bags. And of course bringing canvas bags whereever you shop means less packaging.

If you can’t buy bulk, you can buy in larger containers – those individual small packages of raisins or juice have a great deal more package for the same amount of contents than a large single box. Usually the larger quantity costs less too, so it’s win-win, as long as it’s something you will use before it goes bad. Or freeze it.

Figure out how to not waste food. A study in Scandanavia found more than half the food that’s purchased is thrown away. This seems to disagree with the buy large packages suggestion, but it’s really depends on what you are doing now, where the easy wins are for you and your family – if a lot of food spoils in your fridge, maybe consider making some effort in this area. Observe your shopping and eating habits. Take a few things out of the grocery cart before you check out; supress your impluse to buy food. Make an extra effort to eat what is in the fridge before it goes bad. You can also get a dog, or chickens, or start a worm bin, or even just a compost pile, to deal with the waste – but far better not to have that food grown somewhere, shipped all around carefully refrigerated, handled in the store, and cooked: just for the worms.

Eating “low on the food chain” – plants rather than animals – is also good. There’s an inherent loss in feeding a cow or chickens, they use a fair amount of the food to walk around and moo or squawk. Industrially produced animal products (including milk and eggs as well as meat) come from animals that are treated very badly and is neither sustainable, moral or healthy.

However, animals can also eat things that we don’t care for (like grass) and scraps like carrot tops. Animals can lead enjoyable lives on small farms. If you eat meat, seek out animals raised in these more sustainable ways.

Learn to cook from more basic foods. For example, while canned beans are handy, it’s not that much more work to soak and cook dried beans – just a matter of learning and practice. Baking bread isn’t hard either, and the results are better tasting, cheaper and much more rewarding than store bought.

Try new kinds of foods – sustainable local foods – learn about native and wild edibles. Try unusual things in your salad; sorrel soup is a french delicacy that’s made from a perennial weed. Try serving millet with dinner. Go wild and learn how to process acorns for food. I don’t know that this is so really a suggestion for individual action for sustainability, but it’s a way to get in touch on a whole new level with food and history and the land that supports us.

“Vegetable Surprise” recipe (or way of life)

When you work full time, and have gardens and animals to care for, plus lots of other projects, something tends to get less attention. For us that is cooking. Often we just come in at dusk and look at each other and hope the other has some great dinner idea… but rather than order out for pizza, since we do strongly believe in eating our own food as much as possible, we’ve come up with quick meals that use whatever vegetables are available.

Besides Top Ramen (which I’m embarrassed to say we do eat from time to time) the main thing we make is what I call Vegetable Surpise. (I think the name is funny, since it’s not a surprise – but no one else thinks it’s funny; just humor me). Here’s the “recipe”. You can make as much or little as you like by adding more vegetables, but when vegetables are the main part of the meal you need a surprising amount – I rarely manage to cook up enough for leftovers.

Vegetable Surprise
– onion (one small or 1/2 large)
– garlic ( as much as you like; I use a big spoonful of that canned chopped stuff, or 2-4 cloves fresh)
– oil
– vegetables (such as cabbage, kale, collards, chard, gailahn, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, beets, dried tomatoes, peppers, jerusalem artichokes, green beans, snap peas, zucchini, winter squash, kohlrabi) cut in bite size peices.

You may need to parboil beets and winter squash; it’s hard to get them soft enough in saute.

Chop onion and garlic and saute in medium hot oil. After a couple of minutes, add vegatables in order of hardness (hard to soft). Cook vegetables until done to taste (we like them undercooked, but then, we’re hungry at this point).

Serve over pasta and top with grated hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino romano (or any cheese, really – gorgonzola is good, cheddar works)

Or serve over baked potatoes and top with cheddar.

Or add a couple of eggs with the cooking vegetables, and some soy sauce, and serve over rice.

Or add a lot of eggs, let cook for 10min, flip over and cook on the other side, and call it a frittata (we usually add sliced potates to the vegetables when we do this)

Or only cook vegetables halfway, remove from heat, add a lot of beaten eggs and a little milk, and pour into a pie crust and bake, call it a quiche.

Or you can add cream (after the end of cooking to make a cream sauce), or ricotta; but these require more sense of adventure and having some leftovers that need using up.

Fresh tomatoes don’t generally work, they release too much liquid when cooked so you get a runny, sloppy dish. However, if you add cut up small fresh tomatoes shortly before serving, so they just get barely hot, it’s particularly delicious over pasta with grated cheese.