Thursday, December 18, 2008

Help Fund the Cincinnati Neighborhood Gardens Program

The city of Cincinnati is considering eliminating all funding for the Neighborhood Gardens Program, which assists low- and moderate-income neighborhoods develop vacant lots into gardens. Forty-two community gardens with over 600 gardeners provide outreach to over 2000 residents, supplementing their food budgets with fresh produce and as a side benefit helping clean up and maintain neighborhoods.

The program's budget is $40,000 for 2009 and another $40,000 for 2010. To help save the program, you can sign the online petition. The petition includes possible solutions for funding the program.

Just Cured Available at Kroger, Dorothy Lane Market

Starting Friday December 19th, Just Cured smoked salmon and gravlax will be available in select Kroger stores in the Greater Cincinnati area. The initial stores to carry the salmon are:

Kenwood (Fresh Fare by Kroger)
Hyde Park
Harper's Point
Blue Ash

Just Cured is also now available at the three Dorothy Lane Market locations in Dayton.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boulder Belt's Farm Share Program

Boulder Belt has updated the page for their 2009 Farm Share program (which is similar to a CSA but has some important differences from most CSAs.) For more information, visit their site.

Monday, December 15, 2008

thefoodpeople: Local Still Big for 2009

thefoodpeople (a UK-based food trends research firm) predicts the Big Food trends for 2009 in the UK. Most of their predictions (transferred here with their original British spellings) probably also apply to the US or can be interpreted for the US:

  1. Comfort food - Incorporating retro, nostalgia, feel good foods of the past, treats;
  2. Scratch cooking and home baking - More cooking from raw ingredients, cheaper cuts, also more cakes, tray bakes, sponges not just because it saves money but also it makes you feel great;
  3. British - British will continue to be big – British regions, traditions, ingredients, breeds and species; [editor: translate this to the US as "Local will continue to be big."]
  4. Less protein - Less protein on plates, it is expensive and also there are so many possibilities with vegetable accompaniments;
  5. Head to tail - Eating more of our fish, meat and vegetables and throwing less away, using new and forgotten recipes to utilise more of the animal, a principle that can be applied to anything;
  6. Sustainable meat and fish - More about new varieties and those that we should be eating more of – rock fish, gurnard, flounder, mahi mahi;
  7. Changing drinking habits - Drinking at home rather than out in pubs and restaurants, also big in drink is beer, cider and cocktails;
  8. Thirst for food skills and knowledge - More entry level cookery schools teaching the basics and how to get the best out of what you have;
  9. Restaurant and farm alliances - Savvy restaurateurs teaming up with farms to bring the consumers food that they know and trust;
  10. More miniaturisation - More things getting smaller – greater choice, less cost, more variety, more cute factor;
  11. More customisation - More brands and businesses offering consumers the opportunity to customise or tailor their goods, products or services;
  12. Health - Instant nutrition, ultra low calorie, health through natural choices.
Emerging Food trends for 2009:
  1. Beauty foods - Foods that enhance your inner or outer beauty;
  2. Raw food - Foods that are raw and retain all of their natural goodness, raw food diets;
  3. Free food - Incorporating foraging, freeganism, growing your own, fishing;
  4. Bistronomics - Avant garde cuisine at bistro prices by using what’s in season, not throwing anything away and using modern cooking techniques;
  5. Next generation desserts - With less sugar, more flavour from the ingredients and a blur with savoury;
  6. More food by mail - More foods delivered to you, personalised as you need / want them by post;
  7. Sous vide - Use of sous vide to deliver convenience, consistency and quality as well as colour, flavour, texture to chefs and industry;
  8. Community food projects - Power to the people, groups of people sharing land, skills and knowledge to share food within communities;
  9. Modernised and interpreted cuisines - Look out for Greek, African, Mexican, Indian and Scandinavian influences in 2009;
  10. Anti (this and that) foods - Foods that fight certain conditions and aliments;
  11. Fun - Introduction of more fun, personality and informality into brands and the dining room;
  12. Multi sensory emotional food experiences - Use of alternative techniques to cook, serve, present food to deliver a more all encompassing food experience that is multi sensory.
Here's hoping the trends toward eating local, scratch cooking, eating more sustainably, developing cooking skills, and restaurant/farm alliances turn out to be more than just trends.

All I want for Christmas is…

A compost bin!!

No jewelry. No cashmere.

Just somewhere to recycle ALL that vegetable refuse that I produce over the year instead of putting it in (gulp!) my garbage can on its way to the landfill! My husband (bless him!) delivered my lovely black, rotating bin early. Along with a book called “Let It Rot! A Gardener’s Guide to Composting” by Stu Campbell for some holiday reading by the fire! I generate a LOT of green waste and each time I place that in my kitchen garbage can, I cringe. Living in a suburban neighborhood, with manicured lawns on each side, left us with no place to build a bin intended for rotting refuse.

My husband came through with an Enviro-Cycle Composter bin that rotates easily on a roller base. From the operational guide, you can compost year-round, and in the winter, apparently, freezing breaks down fibers readily so you’re ready for some fine decomposition in the spring. As a lovely accessory, I also get a stainless steel pail to store my veggie waste until I have enough to make the trip outside worthwhile! I have a lot to learn – but after glancing at the guide, I realize I need 50% ‘brown’ refuse to mix with my green. Brown material includes leaves, grass clippings, straw, shredded paper … I’m thinking that sounds like a job for one of my kids. I’m sure I can hold up my end of the bargain producing the green!

After 10 years as a CSA sharer, I don’t know how I’ve existed this long without one! I hope you get exactly what you wish for this Holiday as well! I’m going to go peel some carrots for lunch so I can get started…..

Beef Short Ribs in the Slow Cooker

Although I have five of them in different sizes, I'm not a huge fan of the crockpot. There always seems to be a better way to cook almost everything, and I use mine mostly for making oatmeal overnight and for keeping food warm as an alternative to chafing dishes and warming trays. (At Thanksgiving, I had one full of gravy and another full of mashed potatoes.) But for cooking tough cuts of meat when you don't have time to babysit the oven for hours, a crockpot does a great job.

I had some great-looking beef short ribs from Green Acres. I've made beef short ribs in the oven before and always seem to end up drying them out, so this time I decided to try the crockpot. To go with, I made some mashed sweets and sauteed chard, both from last week's winter CSA box, so this turned out to be a 99%+ local meal. Even the leeks (the last of a bunch I'd bought late spring from Boulder Belt at Oxford Farmers' Market and frozen), beef stock (homemade) and butter (from our herdshare) were local. Which sort of underscores the point that eating locally isn't difficult after you've been doing it a while. I had all those things in my fridge, pantry and freezer.

serves 6

3 pounds beef short ribs
salt and pepper
flour for dredging
3 T butter
1 c chopped leeks
2 c beef stock
3/4 c red wine vinegar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 T chile-garlic sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T catsup

Salt and pepper meat; dredge in flour. In a large skillet, heat butter and brown meat on all sides. Add meat to crockpot. Add remaining ingredients to skillet and scrape up all the little sticky bits. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer gently until reduced by one-half, about half an hour. Pour over ribs in crockpot and cook on low 9 hours.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Last Open-Winery Date for Harmony Hill

Harmony Hill winery & vineyard will be open one last time this year on Saturday Dec 13th from noon until 5pm and will then close until May of 2009. Their wines are also available at Biggs locations in Anderson, Hyde Park, Eastgate and Mason

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Locavore Series of Dinner Parties at Nectar

Polly Campbell announced the upcoming Locavore Series of dinner parties at Nectar in Mt. Lookout, which regularly sources locally. The dinner parties start next week and include The Rustic Flavors of Bourbon with Woodford Reserve's Whiskey Ambassador Peter Wagner, A Taste of Honey with State of Ohio Bee Inspector Andrew Kartal, and Spinach: A Tasty Green with Turner Farm's Bonnie Mitsui and Melinda O'Bryant, with more local-food dinner parties to follow. Price per person is $55; for reservations call (513) 929-0525.

Nectar on Urbanspoon

Factory Farming Subsidized by Environmental Quality Incentives Program

A report (pdf) released yesterday by the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE) exposes how industrial hog and dairy operations are subsidized through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The report, Industrial Livestock at the Taxpayer Trough, estimates that between 2003 and 2007, roughly 1,000 industrial hog and dairy operations have captured at least $35 million per year in taxpayer support through EQIP.

“This report demonstrates what family farmers have known for years—this corporate-controlled, industrial model of livestock production can’t survive without taxpayer support,” said Rhonda Perry, a livestock farmer with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center from Howard County, Missouri. “Taxpayers should not have to foot-the-bill for this corporate welfare that is fueling the industrialization of the livestock industry at the expense of family farmers, rural communities and the environment.”
EQIP was established in the 1996 Farm Bill as a cost-share program targeted at family farmers to help them incorporate conservation practices into their farming operations. However, the 2002 Farm Bill opened the program to factory farms, allowing them to use EQIP to help them expand their operations.

CFFE is leading the fight against the corporate takeover of the hog industry and working for policies supporting independent family farmers. Member groups include: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Land Stewardship Project (MN), and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cabbage Rolls

I found a great cookbook recently: Bake Until Bubbly. It's a book of casserole recipes with nary a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup to be found. All of these casseroles are from-scratch, which is very exciting to someone who loves the ease of a one-dish meal but would rather not use industrial "food" products in homecooked meals.

Yesterday I had several heads of savoy cabbage I wanted to use up. The book contains three recipes for cabbage rolls (one each from Finland, Poland, and Croatia) so I modified the Polish recipe. The original recipe says it will serve six, but I think that's wildly conservative. The recipe calls for three pounds of meat, for gosh' sake! I ended up with two 13x9 pans of rolls, so I froze one.

Both husband and son gave these the thumbs up. They were a lot of work, but I think next time I'll probably make four smaller pans containing one meal's worth each out of this recipe, so for me that's worth the time and multiple dirty pots and bowls.

Cabbage Rolls
makes 2 13x9 pans, 6 servings each
or 4 8x8 pans, 3 servings each

3 pounds of cabbage
salt, various uses
6 T butter, divided use
3/4 c rice
1/4 pound bacon, diced fine
2 med onions, cut into 1/4" dice
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 t ground pepper
1/2 t ground celery seed
1/4 t marjoram
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 c ketchup
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 c water
1 c tomato puree
1 T brown sugar

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a small saucepan with a cover. Preheat oven to 325. Oil two 13x9 or four 8x8 pans.

Core cabbages and remove outer leaves. Drop into large pot of water for 10 minutes, peeling away leaves with a tongs if possible as they loosen. Drain leaves on paper towels. After ten minutes, remove remainder of heads and drain, then peel off leaves carefully and drain. Trim the large thick outer vein to make leaves more flexible.

Add rice to saucepan along with 1/2 t salt and 1 t butter. Stir, return to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a skillet, saute bacon until crisp. Add onion and saute until transparent. Transfer to a large bowl. Add rice, beef, pork, chicken, pepper, celery seed, marjoram, nutmeg, ketchup, Worcestershire, and 1 t salt. Mix well.

Arrange cabbage leaf flat on cutting board with stem end closest to you. Place 2 - 4 T stuffing (depending on the size of the leaf) onto the center of the end of the leaf, roll once, fold in ends, and continue to roll into a neat package. Place seam side down in baking casserole, arranging the rolls into a bricklike pattern so that empty spaces are filled neatly.

(If you'd like to freeze one of the pans, press plastic wrap down over rolls, cover with aluminum foil, and freeze for up to two months. Thaw completely before continuing.)

In a bowl, mix water, tomato puree, and brown sugar. Pour evenly over cabbage rolls. Dot with remaining butter. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Split Half of Beef

Our split half (that's one-fourth of a cow) from Hillsboro-area farmer Adam Hershberger of Highland Haven arrived yesterday, 108.5 pounds of beef at $2.15/pound, plus processing charges of $60 for a total of just over $293. That works out to $2.70 per pound and includes steaks, roasts, chops, ribs, ground beef, and all the other cuts. And it's a lot of meat -- I had two medium-sized coolers filled.

For those who are interested in eating locally but worry that it'll cost more, I have to believe that this much beef -- which I think will probably work out to around a year's worth for my family, as we tend to eat beef maybe once a week or so -- for this little money is an incredible deal. If you have a freezer and the financial ability to shop in bulk, I can't imagine you'd be spending more on this unless the only beef your family normally eats is ground beef.

I'm glad I asked for a share of a smaller cow -- I was fortunate that it all fit into my freezer! And fitting it all in pretty much destroyed my careful organization. Usually I keep beef (along with beef bones and beef stock) on the bottom shelf, pork on the second, poultry on the third, seafood, lamb, and butter on the fourth, fruits/veggies on the top shelf, and flour/grains/nuts in the door. With several dozen packages of beef arriving, I had no choice but to shove some of it in with other things. And of course I should really get any older beef out first, so that's going to mean taking things in and out for a while. I'm hoping by the time I get all the older beef out, I'll have figured out how to get all the new beef onto the 'beef shelf.' Being the AnRet that I am, I'll probably be out there this afternoon trying to organize it. I want to add a layer of wrapping to help it keep longer, anyway, so I might as well do everything at once.

There are a lot of cuts included that I've never cooked before. I'm really looking forward to this as a challenge -- what do you even do with beef liver? Oh, wait a minute...liver and onions, right? I tried a bit of a friend's order once in a restaurant, years ago. Bleah. Tasted like mud. Oh, well, maybe I can find something else to do with it. Suggestions are welcome!

It's going to be an interesting education in proportions, too. My family eats a lot of ground beef and the very occasional steak or ribs or roast and not much else. I don't really even have much understanding of how much of any one cut is on a given cow.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Local Foods Wheel

Here's a great idea I'd love to see implemented here in the Ohio River Valley for our foodshed. It's the Local Foods Wheel, a pocket tool to help people know which locally-produced foods are in season at what times in a certain area.

Friday, December 5, 2008

re-Review of Lavomatic at Wine Me, Dine Me

Wine Me, Dine Me has done a mini re-review of Lavomatic.

Food Congress of the Cincinnati Region

Wow, lots going on in the Local Foods movement around here!

The first Food Congress of the Cincinnati Region will take place in early March, 2009, and aims to gather delegates from Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana concerned with local land use, public policy, health, environment, and economic development as they relate to food production, distribution, and consumption. The general objectives of the Food Congress are to foster a culture of collaboration between urban and rural stakeholders concerning local food systems in the Cincinnati area.

The first meeting of the Food Congress will be Thursday, December 11th, 2:00 - 4:00pm at the Community Design Center at UC (2728 Vine Street in Corryville) and will focus on logistics and delegating planning responsibilities to interested groups. All interested parties are welcome.

Those unable to attend but interested in helping with planning, email Food Project Coordinator David Mann or call him at 513.556.3282.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winter Squash Addiction: A Confession

Okay. I admit it. I can’t walk away from winter squash. I love ‘em. All types. All sizes. My sideboard is filled with pumpkins of varied lineage, also acorns, butternuts, spaghetti squash. And when I go weekly to pick up my winter CSA share, I feel compelled to buy one or two more squash over the few included in the share already. Perhaps it’s a way to stay connected to that bounty of fall, especially now that the stark winter weather is here and the trees are bare. Perhaps it’s because I love to eat any dish or baked good that has pumpkin or winter squash as part of its makeup. Soup, pasta, chili, muffins, pie, cake, pancake, pudding…..oh, stop me now!

Two days before Thanksgiving, my friend Kathleen and I pureed two types of winter squash to make pies. We sliced up a large musque de provence squash (otherwise known as fairytale), and roasted each slice until a fork slipped through the outer skin easily. Then into a food processor, into a custard, and, finally, into a homemade pie crust (courtesy of Kathleen!). We also halved a Long Island Cheese pumpkin (so named because of its resemblance to a wheel of cheese, pictured above) and roasted it. Looking at the two types of puree, it was apparent which would make the better pie. A taste test clinched it. The Long Island cheese puree had a creamy texture, golden color, and a sweeter taste. The fairytale was a more vibrant orange (oh, the beta-carotenes!), but a more watery texture and the taste, though good, wasn’t as sweet as the Long Island. We made pies from both, and while both tasted wonderful (oh, so much better than a pie from that fast-food restaurant I shall not name….), the Long Island Cheese pumpkin pie was heaven!

I am aware that not many people would choose to spend precious hours taste-testing pumpkin varieties right before Thanksgiving, but I skimp on the table decorations. (You guessed it: I put a few of the prettier squash in the center of the table and have done with it!) Anyway, I plan to use the gallons of winter squash puree in my freezer in just about every way I can think of. Kathleen suggested the pumpkin pancakes – I substituted the puree for mashed banana in one of our favorite pancake recipes, added cinnamon and a little ginger, and the kids couldn’t eat enough of them! We’ll make pumpkin bread to hand out to aunts, great aunts, grandparents, etc.. And I’m looking for a good pumpkin scone recipe…..

The one type of winter squash that I don’t puree and freeze is the spaghetti squash. These last a good while – though we’ve been eating ours weekly in a dish, Spaghetti Squash with Sausage Filling, that’s become a family favorite. Below is the spaghetti squash recipe. Enjoy!! I’m off to continue my winter squash odyssey......

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage Filling
1 spaghetti squash (3 ¾ - 4 lb), halved lengthwise and seeded
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups marinara or tomato sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Place squash halves, one at a time, with a little water in microwave safe container with cover slightly askew to allow steam to escape, cook on high for about 8 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, sauté sausage, pepper, onion, and garlic in a skillet until sausage browns and vegetables are tender. Break up sausage with spoon. Mix in marinara sauce. Using a fork, pull out squash strands from shells. Mix strands with sausage mixture. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Place in casserole dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (alternately, you can leave skins intact and place filling into the shells for a fun presentation). Bake uncovered in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and bubbly.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chalk Reviewed by Get in Mah Belly

Local food blogger Get in Mah Belly has re-reviewed Chalk Food + Wine.