Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cooking with Sunshine

Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around food. My Grammie Neily made the best homemade donuts. I loved her baked beans and I am still trying to recreate her recipe. I loved any food that my Gram Smith cooked - home cooking served with love. Every year my dad labored long and hard in our veggie garden and I couldn't wait for the pea pods to get plump. Don't even bother cooking them - just eat them fresh off the vine. And then there were the cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes eaten fresh out of the garden taste just like sunshine. When I was about eight years old, I laid in the garden in between all of the tomato plants and just kept popping those cherry tomatoes into my mouth - oh, heaven. I couldn't stop. The hives I developed later that day were a small price to pay for having eaten my way through the tomato plants.
As an adult I have had veggie gardens here and there. I enjoy the process but the reality is that to create a successful garden it takes hard work and long hours - sometimes these are rare commodities in life. I always enjoyed gardening with my children, for many reasons. But they are all grown and out on their own so...if I have a garden it will be my responsibility. I made the decision to plant a garden so that I can once again taste the sunshine.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately about food. Specifically I have focused on the source of the food we consume. How far did that cuke have to travel? Should I be eating watermelon in January? There is so much information and a great deal to consider as I process all of this 'new' info. I am trying to make educated baby steps which will allow me to be successful. I planted the garden, joined a CSA, and... I decided to attempt the Eat Local Challenge which is officially called the 'One Local Summer'. This challenge asks participants to cook one meal a week which consists totally of local foods. Local is defined as within a 100 mile radius from one's home. How hard could that be?
Well, let's suffice it to say that at one point I was almost having an anxiety attack as I tried to figure out what type of meal I would prepare for my family. Could I serve them rhubarb soup or a salad of chard and sprouts? My garden is at the beginning stages and has nothing to offer yet. The CSA starts on June 14th so...what to do? I called my daughters who are better informed about the whole idea of eating local. I prayed that they would be able to direct me to some local food goods.
Sure enough, they led me to a local food Co-op only twenty miles away. I should be embarrassed to say that I usually have only shopped at the big grocery stores but I am not. It is what it is and I am now trying to eat healthier. And that's a good thing. I entered the Co-op with some trepidation. I find it intimidating to shop in a new store especially when I don't know what I am looking for - all I had written on my list was 'Local' - where to begin?
The first thing that I noticed when I entered the store were the smells. It was a mixture of lavendar and some unknown scent. Whatever it was I found it calming. My blood pressure started to drop as I searched for my local dinner. Everything looked organic BUT how would I idrentify it as local? My stomach churned.
And then...I happened to look up and I saw the chalkboard. The Co-op had a list written on a chalkboard of all the local produce! Sweet! Chard, spinach, bok brain began to create a recipe. I found local organic eggs, cheese from a nearby town - visions of a frittata danced around in my head. I also bought some turkey cutlets which were raised two towns away - just imagine!
So I purchased all of the necessary ingredients plus some organic bananas and some wicked huge chocolate chip cookies that were still warm from the oven. I don't know if they were local or organic but they were yummy!
Frittatas are easy to create and forgiving. You can be creative and serve a healthy meal in a relatively short amount of time. So...all of the anxiety was a waste of energy. I did it. I created a nutritious, tasty meal for my family using only local produce. The 'One Local Summer' challenge is turning out to be a true learning adventure for me. That's okay - bring it on. I encourage you to challenge yourself and try eating some homecooked meals full of sunshine this summer.
Below is the meal I served my family as part of the One Local Summer challenge. The ingredients were local organic eggs, spinach, chard, swiss cheese and organic milk. Turkey cutlets were broiled - and were plump and juicy. I served this meal with pride and felt healthier as we enjoyed each bite. Each week I am supposed to post about the local meal which I create. I can already feel the anxiety level dropping and my confidence rising as I plan my next local dining adventure! Creative cooking with a local flair!


Melissa said...

I think you hit on a super important point which is that we need to rethink how we cook as much as what we cook - fritattas are a great example because you can mix all sorts of veggie combination based on what's available, not on what's written in a cookbook somewhere. I think this is also tied very closely to wasting less food. For example, I had made kebabs for dinner the other night. They were so so but not a big hit, with lots of left over chunks of pepper and onions. I dug some carrots out of the freezer from the csa, plopped it in a pot with some beans I'd bought bulk and cooked earlier, and mixed it with some spices, and it was chili. I didn't have all the ingredients listed in the chili recipe, but it didn't matter.

Your fritatta sounds great - plus the good news is, now you have sources for several local items that you can go build from! Since you have the freezer space, you might consider contacting the turkey farm directly and buying a whole bird from would probably end up being a lot cheaper.

Keep up the good work :)

Flower said...

What a great plan to follow and it encourages us all to think about eating healthier!! I too am trying to be more conscience of everything I buy and eat. There is never a lack of things to learn!!
Sorry about your spinach! We go to great lengths to save our garden from one thing or another. Sometimes it's frustrating to see how quickly the plants are destroyed or eaten by a wild animal! Keep at it!!
Thanks for stopping by! I always enjoy a visit.

Marg said...

I think we are two peas in a pod.
I thought, "Can she read my mind?"
I used to garden also, until I went to work 10 years ago and now that I am home again, I have my little helper planting with me. I will post in the next week what my garden looks like. You will not believe it, but it works.
Checking out the game tonight?

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