Saturday, January 31, 2009
I promised myself I'd make the winning pie. Future farmgirl will be pleased sicne pumpkin is her favorite.
But the all the pie talk got the iFarmer in the mood for an old-fashioned Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie. So I'll be making that tomorrow for game day.
Should be a nice way to cool off our mouths after downing Chicago dogs and chile cheese dogs.
I'm also experimenting with filo dough. I'm dreaming up stuffings as I type.
Friday, January 30, 2009
This farmgirl could not resist following that link.
Here's the photo from Flickr:
The historic photo is of Ron's street in Wichita, Kansas.
In the photo is a farmhouse (far right) and a barn. The barn is Ron's house.
I love that his kids can honestly answer yes, if someone (probably someone old), asks, "Were you raised in a barn?"
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I did some advance planning so that our meals wouldn't suffer, which made me wonder why I haven't been doing menu planning all along.
The first thing I did was dust off a crock pot cookbook that Urban Dweller gifted me. It's the "Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes."
What I love about crock pot cooking is you don't have to follow the recipes precisely to have a perfectly wonderful meal waiting for you when you get home from work. Plus, I can make it the night before, put the crock pot in the fridge, then drop it in the cooker and switch it to low before I walk out the door.
Our first crock pot recipe this season: Mole With Chicken & Rice.
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of mole, or at least I didn't think I was. But I happened to have all the ingredients in this recipe, so I threw it in the crock pot the night before, steamed some rice and sauteed some zukes & cilantro, when we got home and...voila, a complete meal.
And, yes, I'm now a mole fan.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Check out the description of Victory Acres and see the other 74 nominees on the site so far.
Nominations are only open until Jan. 31, so if you have someone in mind for First Farmer, fill out the form ASAP.
And even if you don't have a nominee...please vote. There are some fantastic names in the mix.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The idea would be that this sustainable-loving, eco-friendly, progressive idealist would plow a few acres on the White House lawn and show the world how it can and should be done.
There are 49 nominees so far for First Farmer, including some of my heroes: Will Allen, of Growing Power; Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms; and John Peterson, of Angelic Organics.
I'd be more than happy to throw my support behind any one of these fine farmers.
But I'm going to make my own nomination:
Terry Himelick and the crew of Victory Acres in Upland, Ind.
The Himelick Farm, est. in 1893, has been around for six generations and has turned into a successful CSA. But this is no ordinary CSA. In addition to organic herbs, veggies, flowers and pasture-fed meats, it serves a much broader purpose and more Holy mission on its 114 acres.
Victory Acres is part of Victory Inner-city Ministries, a not-for-profit with the aim of providing healthy work and healthy food for inner-city Indianapolis residents.
I'm not just biased because my family works on the farm and gets a share of bounty.
I am truly in awe of the work and agri-experimentation I see being done there.
In the photo I attached, the folks from Victory Acres are working on a well driller that can be used in third-world countries to provide clean water to entire villages.
So...my vote definitely goes to Victory Acres.
A special thanks to the folks who alerted me to the site. I received notes today from the most likely and unlikely sources.
Update: I submitted my nomination, but it'll take 24-48 hours, if it's accepted, before it appears on the site.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I've only seen two of them: Food Fight and King Corn. Both are definitely worth screening. Would still love to see those on a big screen, especially King Corn.
I'm betting, just based on the two I've seen, that Jeff Nield, is right when he says:
If you watch all of these films you'll understand where our food system stands today, a little bit about how it got that way, and you'll have some insight into what it might look like in the future. There's a scary, uncertain future built on greed and there's a bright, progressive future built on community.The Tree Hugger summaries make me glad I had a chance to see a couple of these. And they've made me want to try to pick up the other three, probably in this order:
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survive Peak Oil (I think I could get through it now that I've read the recommendation that I first suspend political ideology to do so).
The World According to Monsanto (at some point, I'm just going to have to face how the influence of this GMO giant).
Our Daily Bread (which will probably push me closer to vegetarianism).
Sunday, January 25, 2009
These include the ubiquitous church cookbooks that are filled to the brim with recipes for casseroles, sweet breads and cookies.
The problem is that in my trans-fat free home, I can't use shortening. At least I haven't been able to find one I can use so far.
About two years ago, Crisco announced it was going to have a shortening that it could advertise as having zero trans fats per serving. And that's what's advertised on Crisco's website. But that's not the Crisco on the shelves of stores where I shop.
We all know at this point that many food companies are tinkering with portion size. I've seen some shortening on the market, including the Crisco in Oak Park and Berwyn, with three grams of trans fats per one tablespoon serving. Still way too much for my comfort level.
I've been making due by subbing in butter or using a meld of the ingredients noted in my Grandmother's 1988 Extension Homemakers Association book, "Our Favorite Recipes," with updated combinations from places like the Food Network. But there's always something lost from those mashups.
So...I'm still on the hunt for pure vegetable --- non hydrogenated --- shortening.
Are there any of them out there?
Update: I kept looking online and saw a couple organic, non-hydrogenated shortening products that are getting raves. One's from Spectrum, a palm oil, that is getting so-so reviews on the blogs I've seen. The other is Jungle Products Organic Shortening. Looks like the melting point may be lower, so I wonder about pantry or fridge storage.
I'll have to check my Whole Foods again. I didn't see shortening last time I was there. As progressive as Oak Park is on many fronts, we have a relative dearth of health food and food co-op options.
If anyone has tried either of these or has another suggestion, let me know.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
As you'll recall, Allen is the recipient of a $500K MacArthur Genius Grant and is the founder and CEO of the urban farm enterprise Growing Power.
Allen told the blog that he was among several individuals asked to take part in a conference call in which Obama advisers were collecting food policy information for the Ag Department.
Allen spoke specifically about training urban farmers and setting up local, sustainable food systems.
Good news indeed to hear that Team Obama is talking to folks like Allen.
Don't expect Allen to pick up and take an Ag post in D.C.
"My name has been out there, but I’m not interested," Allen is quoted saying. "I like working in communities, and with infrastructure development. I want to be a voice, but I’ve gotta touch the soil, too."
But if Team Obama wants a pick up game, Allen, a former basketball player, is in: "At my age, I’d have to wrap my knees and ankles, and arms and shoulders. But I’d give it a go."Thanks to Food Fight's Chris Taylor for tipping me to the story.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The story bills this as a major scientific advancement that could end the world's reliance on, you know, dirty nasty, environmentally unfriendly livestock.
The nonprofit research consortium New Harvest is pushing for the use of lab-grown fish, chicken, and pork. The idea (a really bad one) is that "in vitro meat would reduce the demand for farm animals, slowing the spread of diseases like avian influenza and minimizing the meat industry’s enormous environmental footprint." PETA's on board too, having pledged $1 million to the first person to develop a commercially viable way to produce lab-chicken.
I'll become a vegetarian before I knowingly eat petri-dish chicken or fish. Ick.
Then again, if we all have to launch into space on a mother ship because we've destroyed our planet...those petri-dish nuggets might look pretty tasty.
Google is my search engine of choice. VFG's on Google's Blogger. I manage my blog photos on Picasa and I use Google Analytics as a backup (I only prefer Sitemeter because it's real time).
So when I learned that Google's former executive chef opened a new, farm-fresh friendly restaurant, I wished Palo Alto wasn't so far away.
Calafia Cafe & Market A-Go-Go is part breezy, elegant modern sit-down, part carryout, and the brainchild of Charlie Ayers, author of Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef who Fed Google.
His restaurant's motto?
"Slow food served fast."
In a San Jose Mercury News story about the opening and a "why I did this" testimonial on his site, Ayers said the restaurant "will appeal to a wide range of audiences, from students to busy professionals and parents looking for wholesome, affordable fare for their families."
The Latin- and Asian-influenced menu will be prepared using local ingredients. The San Francisco Business Times reports that, in true locavore fashion, a majority of the food will come from within a 150-mile radius and will be devoid of growth hormones or antibiotics.
And, of course, there's a strong tech component to the experience. Diners can pay by mobile device or at self-checkout kiosks. Online orders can be picked up at designated parking spaces.
I'll let you know if he decides to open an outpost in the bountiful Midwest.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I'm excited to finally read this book, a work that's clearly had so much influence on how and what Americans eat.
With excitement comes a certain amount of fear, which was reinforced by this line from Pollan's plug for the book:
For anyone who reads it, dinner will never again look, or taste, quite the same.Hmm...I generally like the way my meals look and taste. Even though that's not much incentive to read on, I will.
Monday, January 19, 2009
So I was heartened to read this piece by Nancy Pekar in the News & Observer, the end of a series about eating local.
Here's the key section:
For those of you who think being a locavore means you have to get absolutely all of your sustenance from area farmers, give yourself a break. Start with a New Year's resolution not to buy any more tomatoes in the grocery store. Or to go to a farmers market just a little more often. Or to try one new vegetable a month.I can totally do this (except that I'd rather have nearly tasteless tomatoes for texture than none at all). Indeed, we already are. We definitely did more to eat local in 2008 than we did in 2007. And we expect to improve again in 2009, for reasons of health and community.
It's good to see in print that someone else is taking this approach.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Turns out that very few states -- just two -- have locked in on a single dessert.
No surprise that in Florida, the state pie, by legislative act, is Key Lime. The only other state to formally ID an official state pie is Vermont, which in 1999 adopted apple as its favorite, according to the Indianapolis Star.
In Michigan, I could imagine there would be a battle over blueberry, cherry and apple...all fruit crops in the state.
Tell me in the comments what your state pie would/should be? Or share a family/regional favorite.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
It's one of my favorite pies to make and a very easy pie to get very wrong...depending on your use of ingredients. The translucent treat can be too creamy (not translucent enough is usually a good clue), too dense and too sweet.
My family recipe, as I posted here, is a personal favorite. It's best if you also have light, flaky crust that doesn't compete with the subtle pie filling.
In a story about the Foodways Alliance effort, WIBC notes that credit for popularizing sugar cream pie goes to Eastern Indiana: "It's said Quaker settlers from North Carolina invented so-called 'desperation pie' around the time of Indiana's statehood in 1816."
But the story also notes that the sugar cream has a competitor: rhubarb pie, which outsells sugar cream at Wick's Pies in Winchester, Ind.
I'm not a big fan of rhubarb pie on its own. But I love strawberry rhubarb.
Still...I'd choose Hoosier Sugar Cream to represent the state.
For those who think it's a waste of time for the legislature to consider such matters, I agree with the Foodways Alliance that promoting unique food items is a way to draw visitors to small towns and family restaurants short on marketing and long on tradition.
Friday, January 16, 2009
But I'm moved by the selflessness of the Fellowship of Christian Farmers, International.
This 24-year-old group has come to the aid of the near forgotten victims of Hurricane Ike: Texas farmers and ranchers who lost miles of fence, livestock and have been struggling since September to clear debris from hundreds of acres of property.
There's a great story about this massive volunteer effort in the Beaumont Enterprise.
This week, the story notes, volunteers included farmers from Illinois and a crew of Amish farmers from Indiana who traveled west to help clear debris and rebuild more than 1,000 miles of fence to hold in cattle and horses.
Clearly, more volunteers and money are needed to get this massive project complete and get these Texas farmers back in black.
Indeed, Christian Farmers plan to "build fences in the Texas Bayou until the cows come home."
If you don't have time to donate, the group takes PayPal.
Thanks to Swagulous for passing on the story.
Photo from the Christian Farmers' site.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I hope to get some nice prints of these to hang at my office and at home. Besides the art, my favorite part of the Folkie's calendar is the tavern's tag line: "It's more fun to eat at a tavern, than it is to drink at a restaurant."
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The university plans to move the 139-year-old Mumford House, which was named for the school's original Dean of Agriculture. The house reportedly stands in the way of new landscaped plaza and bell tower.
This "Model Farmhouse" was built to inspire quality and efficient housing for Illinois farmers. It was also part of the college's original "Experimental" South Farms.
In a note to fellow preservationists, the National Trust for Historic Preservation says that moving the house two miles from campus will not only remove the house from the National Register of Historic Places, it'll put an important part of university history at risk.
I'm all for moving a historic property if the alternative is to tear it down. But I hope the preservationists win this one.
Now more than ever agriculture should be celebrated, front and center.
Check out the Landmarks Illinois site to take action before the Jan. 22 public hearing.
Thanks to Urban Dweller for passing on the preservationist e-mail.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
We were in a celebratory mood tonight, so we popped the cork on this Flat Rock, Ill., wine.
It was nice, very sweet. It was perfect when I plopped in some frozen strawberries.
Monday, January 12, 2009
We had a bunch of Florida oranges at Christmas thanks to a Santa who delivered a partial crate to The Farm.
And I just bought a bag of some of the sweetest Naval oranges I've ever tasted. I can easily forgo the leftover holiday chocolates for a few slices of these beauties.
Oranges are also a major reason I think it would be especially difficult to restrict myself, as many others have done, to local only food.
Face it...there are no orange groves in the otherwise bountiful Great Lakes region. That didn't stop my grandfather from trying.
He brought back to his Kokomo, Ind., subdivision a tiny orange seedling from a visit to my mom in California. He nurtured that little tree. Each year, he'd plant it near his grapes in the garden, then did it up and bring it inside for the winter. This, obviously, became an increasingly difficult task as his efforts paid off with a beautiful little tree.
It never produced fruit. But it was a source of pure joy for him, a true labor of love.
It's doubtful, except for my pre-teething years, that I've ever gone more than a couple weeks without citrus...either oranges, limes, grapefruit or lemon.
That's why I watched Vital Information's local only experiment with awe. I had the same experience following along with the Kingsolver family's experience, as chronicled in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
But...for the oranges alone, I don't think I could operate under such formal restrictions.
That doesn't mean we won't try some version of a buy local experiment. I've been mulling over various scenarios. And I'm thinking we may be able to try something for a shorter period of time. It's a huge commitment to go a full year...especially in the Midwest, where winters are harsh. It's more doable if greenhouse produce is OK (though they are arguably just as tough on the environment because they have to be heated and consume large quantities of fresh water).
In any event, it takes significant planning and food storage success to get a Midwest family through the winter while most area farmers markets are closed. That's one of the reasons I've enjoy the young moms blogging at Food Storage Made Easy. I definitely plan to do more canning and saving from the summer and fall harvests this year. That's one of my New Year's resolutions anyway.
Right now, I'm trying for a percentage of our meals...several meals a week that contain large amounts of locally produced meats, cheeses and vegetables.
Oh...and it helps that, at least for the time being, I'm counting local beer and wine.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I did manage to eat a lot of grilled Wisconsin cheese...at the hotel downtown [If you're ever at the Intercontinental, try the Big Gooey for lunch.] and at Mars Cheese Castle on my way back south.
But I at least had a chance to rediscover New Glarus, which was on tap everywhere I went. I'm a big fan of their Spotted Cow, but I brought back a whole sampling of local brews, most too hoppy for me, for the iFarmer.
We used to be able to get New Glarus in Chicago. But no more. Brewmasters Deb and Dan Carey have focused on keeping their brews high quality...which, unfortunately for us, means we have to cross the border to drink the stuff.
The Spotted Cow is light and smooth, though not sweet. It's a perfect all-around beer.
Can't wait to try the Wisconsin Belgian Red. I remember keep this cherry surprise in stock for company. We'd serve it chilled in wine glasses. It's that good.
The Careys also brew an organic beer, Organic Revolution. Too rich and bitter for me. But the iFarmer is a fan.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I can get behind every point...but was especially excited to see this under point No. 1:
We also need your leadership in developing a plan to get affordable high-speed internet service to every rural business and home. It’s essential to entrepreneurship.The CFRA notes this in support of its high-speed Internet position:
The federal government stepped in to provide rural America access to mail, phone and electrical service so we could truly be part of America. In the 21st century, high-speed internet service is just as essential. Bring in the best experts to help you select the most promising approach among an array of emerging technologies. Money won’t solve the problem if you don’t have the right strategy.VFG agrees 100% (and not just because I want more blog readers) and will sign the letter here.
The other points are detailed in the letter, but here's a heading list:
1. Support grassroots entrepreneurship
2. Ensure that renewable energy builds wealth and opportunity in rural America
3. Make federal policy work for family-size farms
4. Embrace land and water stewardship and use it to create economic opportunity
5. Harness the power of research to create a better rural future
I encourage you to read the letter and sign on too, even if you're an urbanite. A successful urban America depends on a successful rural America.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I won't have a car the first night, but I'd love to check out the Riverwest Co-Op Grocery & Cafe. I'd have to be in a non-meat mood though, because the cafe is veggie only. Still, I'd love one of these in my neighborhood. Or even better, a Outpost Natural Foods. Why does Milwaukee have such great shops and co-ops leaving Chicago in its sustainable ag dust?
But moving on...
I'm thinking I may also want to check this place out: Nite Owl Drive-In, the home of the jumbo burger. Yum.
Before I go, I'll definitely need to consult with Teacher Man and our friends in Milwaukee. If any of you have suggestions, shoot me an email or post a comment.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Why? Because I'd for sure want to check out Joe's Farm Grill. I just caught the tale end of a Food Network show featuring Joe's. Sounds farmtastic. And I'm not just saying that because I was watching a food show while hungry.
Much of the menu is assembled from the freshest ingredients, grown right on the Johnston family Farm at Agritopia, which includes a local organic farm stand and coffee shop. The family also notes on its site that it tries, whenever possible, to buy ingredients from local establishments.
Of course, I'd also like to explore Agritopia, the communty built around an urban farm. In arid Arizona? Hmm. Interesting.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I didn't do much celebrating. I'm celebrated out and ready to get back to my normal routine.
But because this is a 2-year anniversary post, I'm going to note some programming highlights from the last year.
I try to file a post five to six days a week. In '08, I had 318 posts, up from 221 in 2007.
My number one story of the year had absolutely nothing to do with my favorite topics: food, urban agriculture or sustainable farming.
No, it was a post from April 17, 2008, "Kokomo UFO Mystery Solved." For some reason, when you type "Kokomo UFO" in to Google, VFG is the number one result. That drove a ton of traffic to VFG, though I doubt many of these ET fans stayed around long. I can tell when the Kokomo UFO is meantioned on the History Channel or on Discovery because my traffic spikes.
I seem to have picked up most of my readers this year from friends and family pass alongs and from an unlikely source, Pastor Joel Osteen. I was excited when Osteen started a Twitter feed and began following me. Even though he hasn't tweeted since he started way back in November, his Twitter followers have made their way to VFG. Yay!
Much of this blog remains devoted to exploring agriculture in the spirit of discovering ways to support my family's farm and sustainable farm practices around me. That has largely resulted in a shift in focus here to the Buy Local movement. That includes seeking out and blogging about farmers in my region or who I happen upon when traveling. And it includes seeking out and IDing local manufacturers of toys, jewelry and whatever else being created in my own backyard.
So, for 2009, readers can expect more agritouring and local-centric shopping.
Happy New Year!
Friday, January 2, 2009
The Travel + Leisure Mag editor notes that agriturismos, in which tourists are put to work on an actual farm, have long been in operation in Italy.
But U.S. farmers are only just beginning to take advantage of agritourism opportunities.
At MaryJane's Farm, visitors can stay for as little as $139 a night. Oh and I love the this characterization of Mary Jane: "the Martha Stewart of the milkmaid set."
Five others caught the magazine's eye for its Farm Stays piece, including Michigan's Inn at Black Star Farms and one of VFG's favorites to watch, Maverick Farms.
Here's the segment:
Alpaca Farm Girl.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The iFarmer has control of the main course. This year it was baby back ribs, seasoned with a dry rub, then basted with a chipotle BBQ sauce the iFarmer dreamed up this morning.
To go with the ribs, I altered the pumpkin in its shell recipe to kick it up a notch with some chipotle.
But the icing on the cake, literally, was the Chocolate Guinness Stout Cake. I had planned to fumble my way through the recipe this afternoon. But one of my college friends was visiting and she's an expert in the art of beer baking.
So I took the opportunity to apprentice. Well, actually, I mainly watched and handed her things.
But I feel better about making this on my own at some point. It's certainly worth the effort. You will not taste a cake that is more rich and moist.
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