Sunday, December 21, 2008

Eating Locally in Winter

This is a great excerpt from a book I am reading, Outstanding in the field; a farm to table cookbook by Jim Denevan:

"The goal is to build a tasty, satisfying meal primarily with what is local and seasonal, supplementing with ingredients from farther afield. The reality is that it's tricky to eat strictly locally and seasonally all the time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find a good deal of our foods from close to home when possible. There are an increasing number of ways to do this: Purchase local chickens at a farmers' market instead of industrial ones shipped cross-country and enjoy domestic berries from late spring to early fall instead of buying imported berries in January."

It's extra challenging here in the Black Hills but I am convinced it can be done.

So here's what was on my plate for Sunday. Sorry, no photo.

A potato dish that included Yukon Gold potatoes (stored from Gage's Gardens). It was so good, I have to share the recipe:

About 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 onions, cut in wedges (mine came from Safeway)
1/2 tbl dried rosemary (from my summer garden -- still fragrant)
3 tbl olive oil (this was from World Market (their own label) in Sioux Falls -- EVO and it's really good)
Salt and pepper

Throw everything in a baking dish and mix together so the potatoes and onions are coated. Put in a 375 pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are done and a little crunchy. Every 15 minutes, mix it up. Yum!

We also had stuffed hamburgers. The burger came from a local cow (RIP) that we purchased from the Butcher Shop in Spearfish.

Here's that one:

For four burgers / one pound of ground beef.

Stuffing mix: Finely chopped onions, peppers (from my garden last year), a piece of pastrami (from the Butcher Shop) and a piece of Swiss cheese (I think from Sam's Club), dried oregano (from my summer garden), salt and pepper.

Mix together the chopped onions and peppers, set aside.

Divide beef in 8 sections. Take one of the sections and flatten it out so it's very thin (I put it on a cutting board) but still thick enough that it won't fall apart when you pick it up with a spatula. Put a small piece of the pastrami on top of the burger and make sure to leave about an inch from the edge. Then scoop on the onion / pepper mix, salt and pepper and top with a small piece of Swiss. Roll out another section of burger so it's flattish and put it on top of your burger with pile of stuff on it. Seal the edges like you've made a little pie. Try to really seal it or stuff inside (like the cheese) will really ooze out and it won't be as cute.

I use a little spray oil and cook the burgers in a big frying pan with a lid over medium high heat. Be careful when you turn them over so they don't come apart. These are really good and a nice surprise when you bite into them . No bun needed.

Oh, and we had some broccoli too. From Sam's I think.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Eating

As I am reviewing the Eat on $25 Challenge I did right before Thanksgiving dinners I made, I am thinking that what I was eating (although not very flavorful) was very healthy. In fact, the whole experience really gave me a great kick start trying not to gorge myself over the holidays. The problem I am having is that we keep getting goodies from everyone! Fantastic cookies, candies, fudge, little bags of chocolate and marshmallows -- things I can normally pass by at work but struggle when I see them in my own refrigerator. I'd rather just throw it away but that is such a waste! Especially from what I learned from my challenge. And well, it's not very thoughtful for those who made it for us.

So at least for the next four days before Christmas, I am going to focus on eating whole foods and not like a whole pie or whole plate of cookies. Whole foods meaning that they are in their most natural form. Local foods in the Black Hills are scare at this point. At least local produce that is. Now I did freeze some things from the summer and still have squashes in the basement. Okay, I have the making of a few meals here. I'll try and have at least one local food in each dinner for the next four days.

Join me -- it will be fun!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Back to local feasting!

Now this is what is good and right about eating locally in the Black Hills. Lamb from the Butcher's Shop and butternut squash from Gage's Garden right here in Spearfish. I got the squash this summer and it's been down in the basement along with other squash buddies that will all be eaten this winter.

The lamb was prepared simply -- salt and pepper and broiled. So fantastic. Mike is not a butternut squash man but it's my favorite. Just 20 minutes in the microwave with a bit of water and you scoop it out and enjoy. I added salt, pepper and some Irish butter -- HEAVEN. You'll also notice the leftover spinach (with orange zest) and cooked carrots from my Eat on $25 a day Challenge. Nice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What's left over from the $25 a week challenge?

After seven days of eating on $25, this is what I had left over:

- 4 baked potatoes
- 1 pork ramin
- 1 very ripe banana
- about 1 cup of cooked carrots
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 1/2 bag dry black beans
- handful chicken bullion cubes
- 1/3 bag white rice
- 1/3 bag dry lentils
- handful fresh spinach
- about a cup of cooked lentils
- about 1/2 cup cooked pasta with red sauce
- about one serving dry pasta
- 1/2 can coffee
- about a cup of cooked mixed beans and pasta
That seems like a lot, doesn't it?
So I went ahead and froze the carrots, banana, cooked beans, pasta and rice. So I am thinking I should start with this stuff for a January challenge. Hmmmm...
I just read "If you feel comfortable with where you are at (in anything -- life, job, fitness etc) you are not learning and growing." Learning and growing. It's what it's all about!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Front page of the Rapid City Journal!

Here was the article "$25 food challenge humbling, appreciated" in the Rapid City Journal on Thanksgiving day. I think there is so much we can learn when get out of our routine and challenge ourselves in interesting ways. I learned that while you can eat healthy on $25 a week, it's not fun. What I did take from it was the multiple uses of oranges including candied orange peels and the joys of orange zest. Don't underestimate orange zest when you are spice free!

There is something else that needs to come out of this but I am not sure what it is yet. I'll be thinking about this for January. New year, new challenge.

Day 7 -- Wednesday -- Last Day

Holy Buckets! I lost 3.5 pounds this week!

Let me back up. Each Wednesday is 'weigh in' day at the Kane household. Sort of like Weight Watchers, except it's just Mike and I and no group meeting afterwards. We've been doing this for a year or so to encourage each other in our work out and weight management efforts. As most women know, your weight can really fluctuate and it doesn't always mean anything. BUT 3.5 pounds is significant.

I think the challenge was part of this loss. I did not eat mindlessly. There is more to this and a big eye opener for me which I will continue to think about. I didn't go out to eat except for the $.30 patty at McDonald's which was oh-so delicious. We love eating out and I usually make good choices but sometimes I just want Guadalajara's Super Nachos with all the fixin's. Lastly, I didn't drink anything except water. No wine, no delicious Pile of Dirt Porter at Crow Peak Brewery. All things to consider.

In reflection, this has been a worthwhile adventure and one I would recommend to anyone looking to work on their food budget, food waste, creativity, weight loss (!) and self knowledge. Each experience will be different but I take away a whole new set of ideas and eating habits from just this week:

Candied orange peels!
Zesting orange peels into yogurt, spinach and rice
Finely chopped oranges in non fat plain yogurt
Having hard boiled eggs around
Bullion is very handy
As well as,
No mindless eating
Better planning of menu and shopping
Staying on a budget
Making it work during everyday life of work, meetings and family events
Not wasting food
Being thankful for every bite!
I may consider doing this next year with a different twist. Stay tuned!
On the final menu:

Breakfast: GV black coffee. No oatmeal this morning. Got too busy with work, it was lunch time when I got hungry.
Lunch: Made some lentils with bullion (thank you bullion for flavor!) and steamed rice. Also had a spinach salad with grated carrots, orange zest (so fab) and a hard boiled egg. Finished with yogurt and half an orange chopped up. Lots of food and I am full.
Dinner: While definitely the most attractive meal of the week, taste was okay, satisfaction high. This was the evening of leftovers. Rice, lentils, black beans, spinach with zested orange peel!, sliced oranges, pasta and a hard boiled egg. And yogurt with a whole banana. I could not finish it all!
What I learned today: Finishing a task or project is very rewarding. Learning something and taking it with you is even more so. I will look at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow in a new way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 6 - Tuesday

Six days of of taking the "Eating on $25 a week" challenge and it's almost over. I set out to discover if I could really stick to it and to learn something along the way. Success for both! I haven't cheated, although was given many opportunities for 'volunteer' food which included a lunch brought in for a meeting and coffee and tea at work, while I was making 'other' food for the family, having a meeting in a restaurant where everyone else is eating (and having some offer to buy me lunch) and just the general, mindless eating that occurs through the day. I learned that I am so blessed that this challenge ends for me tomorrow, unlike for so many others.

So yesterday, I stopped at Staples and Spice on my way home since our son was out of bread. Since he can't eat wheat, dairy or soy, he eats bread made of rice which is only carried in health food stores. It would be very difficult for him to eat on $25 and I feel for those families requiring special diets. After picking up a loaf of brown rice bread and another package of potato starch (use in much of his baked items), sitting up at the counter was a few bottles of Starling Gewurztraminer which we had just tried for the first time last week (obviously before the challenge). I commented how good it was and, look! the gal at the register happen to have an open bottle chilling and offered a little taste. Oh, the inhumanity! I ruefully declined.

You might be saying, whatever, why is this important? It is important because in my life, wine is part of my fantastic 'food joy' and reminded me of what I was missing. More importantly, it reminded me (or really just hit me on the head... again) that many people do not have the pleasures such as wine or other luxuries and again, I felt rather small.

For today:

Breakfast: Of course, oatmeal with 1/3 banana (the last 1/3 that was in the fridge -- very ripe and brown but tasted good) and GV coffee. This time I made sure to drink all my coffee while it was hot so I wouldn't waste any.

Lunch: Each month, I get together with other marketing professionals and business owners in town and we talk about a specific topic and help each other with ways to better market our businesses. Today's meeting was at the coffee shop Perkins where I was fairly certain the menu would not have anything for $.01 which is what I had left from my original $25. I am thinking, is there a re-buy option (like in Texas Hold 'em) here? Dang, no. So I sat with my ice water and participated. Then I rushed back to my office so I could eat my cold black beans, lentils and rice and spinach. I had eaten my carrots earlier in the morning and saved the orange for my ride home. The best part was the orange; everything else was pretty average.

Dinner: It was time for pasta again, so I threw in about 1/3 pound of thin spaghetti and took out some of my 'pasta sauce ice cubes' I froze earlier in the week. Since I had added water to my Huntz four cheese sauce (which really did not appear to actually contain cheese or anything else chunky), the sauce was pretty tasteless; more like red water. I steamed about a cup of chopped carrots and threw in some spinach which wilted nicely. It looked pretty but had little taste. The saving grace of the meal was that I sliced up a full, very ripe, banana into yogurt. I mean this was a RIPE banana - ready for banana bread. Usually I would have frozen it or tossed it but not today.

What I learned today: In the business world, food plays an important role too when having meetings over lunch or over coffee. People who can't afford to do this may have missed opportunities. Our society is so rich that going out to lunch is an expected necessity and not treated as the gift it really is. If you can afford to eat out, be thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 5 --Monday

Today is a new day. This is my fifth day of the "Eat on $25 a week" challenge and I think I am hitting my stride. For one thing, I am not nearly as focused on the food. Maybe it's because my food choices are just not that exciting? Or maybe I am getting used to the same thing? Or maybe it's because I feel like I am really getting something out of this process? I don't know.

What I do know is that I will look at my food choices, food budget, food waste and general thoughts about food in a new way. What stands out is that I will be more thankful for my food as each bite is really a gift.

On the menu today:

Breakfast: Do I even need to write it down? Oatmeal with 1/3 banana and GV coffee. Today I brought my coffee in to work but got busy so the coffee got cold. Since we don't have a microwave at work, I couldn't reheat it. Bummer.

Lunch: I brought along some leftover black beans, lentils and rice and spinach. Again, without heating it up, it was very average. I also finished off a half of an orange and a handful of chopped carrots. Every single carrot in fact. Yesterday, I got the idea of trying candied orange peels as I was thinking of ways to use the peel aside from zesting. Although sugar was not on my challenge list, I made it anyway for "later". Doing the challenge inspired me.

Dinner: As you can see, I had the left over ramen. Do be sure to throw some greens in there, it really makes it. More spinach, a steamed baked potato with some of leftover pasta sauce and more plain yogurt with finely chopped oranges. The yogurt really feels like dessert.

What I learned today: Everyday we choose what goes onto our plate and into our mouth. Some people don't have that choice. If you DO have the choice, be thankful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 4 -- Sunday

So, I finally had some ramen noodles today. Ramen is what everyone thought I'd be eating each day. Ramen is really total junk food. The 'block' contains 14 grams of fat and 1900 mg sodium. I think a big Butter Burger over at Culver's will give you more fat but not sure on the sodium. AND I have to say, it was good. I had pork 'flavor' which according to the package, the pork is really dehydrated pork broth, milk and yeast extract. The pork flavor powder is actually the fourth ingredient in the flavor packet after salt, MSG, hydrolyzed corn, wheat and soy protein. Is this even real food?

A neighbor brought over some venison loin and roasts today and I gave her some herbal tea I made from my summer garden (that's what people do here in South Dakota!) and we were talking about my doing the challenge. At first she said, "I could do that!" But that changed as we talked more about it. It 'seems' simple but it's not.

I also candied some orange peels and soooo wanted to try one but didn't because sugar wasn't on my challenge list. Mike said they were as good as Swedish Fish which is a HUGE compliment. I had to catch myself too! I almost scooped one in my mouth without even thinking. That's the mindless nibbling that I know I do a lot but have not this week. Just think of the calories I am saving! Another friend described this as a "weight loss and social experiment". That would be cool.

I have now gotten two comments that said, "You must not be eating anything healthy." I think this part is a misconception. You CAN eat healthy. The trick is to make it taste good. To do that, a few spices, sugar and salt would help immensely.

Here's the candied orange peel recipe:

Peel an orange and cut the peels in small squares until you have about a cup (about two oranges). Put the peels in a saucepan and cover with just enough cold water. Bring to boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Then drain and rinse peels and do the same process two more times. This gets much of the bitterness out of the peels. After the last drain and rinse, put the peels, 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup white sugar in the pan and bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to medium. Really watch so it doesn't burn. Let it cook for a few minutes while stirring to make the peels are coated. When all the liquid is gone, pour the peels out to cool / dry. I use wax paper with a bit of canola oil rubbed on it. In fact, I had some blood orange infused olive oil I used instead. Try to have the peels not touching each other but be careful because they are burning hot.

Store them in a jar in the fridge. You can chop them up for stuffing, baked goods, salads or (like Mike) just eat them as is!


Breakfast: Guess! Yes, oatmeal with 1/3 banana (need to ration these guys) and black GV coffee. Still liking the coffee. Coffee with cream seems so luxurious.

Lunch: One cup of cooked black beans and a quarter of an orange chopped up in yogurt. It really is amazing how filling beans are!

Dinner: At least it looked different. Pork (flavored) Ramen made with a few carrot slivers and spinach thrown in. Since I added extra water, I added a bullion cube. Good thing I got the low sodium bullion cubes! I also, steamed a baked potato with some black beans (this is a good combo) and ate the other half of a hard boiled egg.

What I learned today: I do a lot of mindless snacking and during this challenge I am learning to pay more attention to what I am eating and why.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 3 -- Saturday

Each weekend I look forward to doing some cooking. Something fabulous. Maybe it's a new recipe or something I want to pair with a certain wine I've been eyeing. NOT today. This is the third day of my "Can you eat on $25 a week" quest and my meals are starting to look very similar.

There is a shelf in the refrigerator that I have allotted to my challenge as well as a special spot in our pantry. It's the same stuff that was there yesterday. Duh, of course it is because I only have $.01 to spend until Thursday!

I didn't realize how much of my waking life revolves around food. I think, plan, dream, talk about, garden and tend, eat and enjoy it ... a lot. But when you see the same thing each day, the joy wanes and it's just not as fun. That thought alone makes me feel incredibly small. Of course, this isn't fun. The crazy thing is is that I THOUGHT it would be fun and well it's really not.

But I have already learned so much about myself and budgeting that I know the result will be positive so while the enjoyment levels wanes the learning and growing level increases. Isn't that the way so many important things in our life progress anyway?

To clarify, it's $25 per person for the week and only I am doing the challenge in our household. It's extra difficult because you can't use anything you already had in your house. No spices to zip up those beans, no salt and pepper to enhance rice or no vinegar to liven up that spinach salad.

So here's what was on the menu today:

Breakfast: I lingered over my GV black coffee and skipped breakfast. Not typical but we headed out to run errands. I am liking this black coffee! I am surely saving calories as I usually add half and half and Torani.

Lunch: I was hungry when we got home especially since we picked up pies at Jack's school for a fundraiser. For lunch, I heated up lentils and rice and poured in some leftover pasta sauce / water combo as well as some sliced carrots. The sauce did the trick! It was delicious and very filling. I also had some yogurt with the left over 1/4 of a banana. There is no wasting food here! Really, who would save a 1/4 of a banana that, while I did have it in Saran Wrap in the fridge, was rather brown? Yours truly. Yes, it was brown but I just mushed it in the yogurt. I then remembered my Charlemagne (from the 3rd Indiana Jones) -- I had three pounds of potatoes which I had totally forgotten about! I was giddy. I micro'd one and with nothing to put on it, I really enjoyed it. Maybe because it was organic? Or just maybe because it was different.

Dinner: As you can see, dinners are starting to look the same. There's that leftover pasta from Thursday with a little scoop of lentils and rice and a few carrots slices. Again, I added a spinach salad and another half of an egg and another micro'd potato. Here's something that was cool! I zested an orange and mixed that with my spinach with some of the orange juice. It really made the salad. I also chopped up a half an orange and added it to my nonfat plain yogurt. Okay, you must try this. It was so delicious I could have this for dessert every night.

Because I am such a planner, I fixed up a cup of dried black beans for tomorrow and took two big spoonfuls. Delicious! Of course, Through my kitchen window, I see my amazing herbs that have made it through 15 degree nights and three feet of snow and longingly stare at my beautiful sage that would have been perfect with the black beans. ARGH.

What I learned today: Food adds joy to our lives and it's amazing to realize that when that joy is diminished, you really, really miss it. I can't be the only one here. The enjoyment of food is important to everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 2 - Friday

Here I am on Day 2 of the "Eat on $25 a week challenge" and spent my last $.30 on a hamburger patty at McDonalds for Jack's birthday (!) but let's start with breakfast.

Breakfast: Oatmeal again with black coffee. This time I added half a banana to the oatmeal and ate when the oats were screaming hot. Remember no honey or salt or anything else in there. Good with bananas.

Lunch: Lentils and rice I made last night, spinach salad, a half hard bolied egg, a scoop of non fat yogurt and a half an orange. Very filling.

Dinner: For a special treat, we took our son to McDonald's for his birthday and I was drawn to purchase really the only thing I could afford with my last change -- a plain patty -- and it was delicious. Now I have $.01 left until Thanksgiving. Obviously there won't be any shopping going on! For dinner, I came home and made the above photo. Left over spaghetti (without the soup -- it was better today), more lentils and rice (which are actually very tasty), spinach salad, a few sliced carrots, the other half of the egg and yogurt with 1/4 sliced banana. Again, very filling.

What I learned today: More of a reminder that eating healthy food makes you feel more positive and energetic.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 1 -- Thursday

It's true, I am excited to start today. So many thoughts are swirling around my brain as to what and why I am doing this. There is something important about it.

Breakfast: I usually eat oatmeal every morning so this wasn't too different. I made it the same way, 1/2 oats and one cup water in the microwave for 5 minutes. That's when it hit me, I didn't have anything to put in it. Usually, there is at least honey and on 'big days', I'll add raisins, cranberries, cereal and nuts. Not today. I also had the Wal-Mart GV coffee brewing but again, nothing to put in it so it was black. The coffee was not bitter at all and very enjoyable. This might be our new everyday coffee. The oatmeal definitely wasn't as good but since it was hot, it did the trick.

Lunch: I packed along my lunch (which I do most days) and brought along a hard boiled egg, a cup of chopped carrots, a banana and an orange and three chicken bouillon cubes. I knew this was not going to be enough but I didn't get anything else going the night before and I had just a bit of change left over from my original $25 so that would be it. Surprisingly, the bullion really satisfied me -- maybe because it was warm. It was also tasty.

Dinner: I was hungry for dinner. It was pasta (about 1/3 of pound) and the pasta sauce. When I poured the sauce into the sauce pan, it didn't look like much so I filled the can with water to make more. Not the best idea. So instead of spaghetti, I was moving toward spaghetti soup. The sauce was not very flavorful or chunky -- spices would have been perfect here. In addition, I had a small spinach salad with carrots and another hard boiled egg. The egg really made the meal. With all my 'sauce-water', I decided to fill up an ice cube tray and use it later this week. There was also one more serving of spaghetti left over which I'll have tomorrow.

I thought it would a good idea to prep some other food tonight since I'll be working tomorrow so I put 1 cup of lentils with 8 cups of water and 1 bullion cube to simmer. After about 30 minutes, I added a cup of rice. If I had any other veggies, I would have sauteed them and toss them in. An onion would have been really handy here. This made a lot of food and really tasty. I'm looking forward to eating it tomorrow!

WHAT I LEARNED TODAY: Without spices and variety, the flavor and thus enjoyment of food is diminished.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

$25 at Wal-mart

So Mike and I head to Wal-mart (anxious to see where the ceiling caved in) with 25 bucks so that I can start my quest to see if I can, indeed, eat on $25 for the week. These types of 'tests' always draw me in. It's as if I am continually seeking structure. I'm sure there is some therapist out there just waiting to tell me why.

Mike declined to participate but did consider for a moment. His answer was the best: "If I did it, I should do it whole-heartedly. If I just sniveled about it all week, that wouldn't help you. I am not going to join in but let's go shopping!" Yes, he's a keeper.

Looking at this quest through my Black Hills Locavore colored glasses, I knew I needed to get the best nutrition I could with my $25 but could I do any of it with local or organic food? Immediately I knew this was not to be the week to go on Atkins.

My purchase total was $24.69 before tax (remember food stamps are not taxed -- see above photo). When Kristi, rang up my oranges at 5 at $.50 each, Mike stopped her right then and there. Hey Kristi, these oranges were $.44 each! It turned into an ordeal requiring supervisory assistance. Anyway, usually we don't watch that close but Mike caught a $.30 mistake. That's almost two more chicken ramen, my friend.

Here's what I bought: - dozen medium eggs - Hunts four cheese pasta sauce (26 oz) - GV French Roast coffee (ground - 12 oz) - 9 oz Ready Pac Spinach - GV Oatmeal - GV Dried Black Beans (1 lb) - GV Dried Lentils (1 lb) - GV Long Grain Rice (1 lb) - 2 Pork Ramen - GV Thin Spaghetti (1 lb) - Wyler's Chicken bouillon cubes (25 cubes) - GV Non Fat Yogurt (32 oz) - Genesis ORGANIC potatoes from Washington (3 lbs) - Earthbound Farms ORGANIC carrots (2 lbs) - 5 navel oranges from California (yes, they were $.44 each) - 6 bananas from Guatemala

The GV is the Wal-mart brand Great Value. I think it was too. Could I have gotten the same value if I shopped at Safeway, Leuders or the Good Earth? I am not sure. I do know that oranges at Safeway run $2.49 a pound. It would be interesting to compare.

I did pay a bit more for the organic carrots and potatoes. Regular carrots were $.64 lb and the organic carrots were $.88 lb. What was interesting is that I was going to choose two large regular baking potatoes but the bag of Organic potatoes was a better deal. When we were figuring things out (we brought the calculator!) we figured were over a bit so I took back two oranges, two ramen and one banana. I totally could have kept one of the Ramen. DANG! Oh and no wine, no cream for my coffee, butter for those taters and carrots either.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can you eat on $25 per week?

It's rather shocking to look at your financial statement. Over 40% in the last two months, simply gone. At 41, I don't plan on retiring anyone soon but it sure is an eye opener.

But there are so many things to feel thankful for -- our family, friends, neighbors and health. So I am reading an article in the Rapid City Journal yesterday that donations at food banks are down while requests are climbing. In the state of South Dakota, eligible families receive $25 worth of food stamps per person per week. Now the $25 does not include sales tax since food stamps are not taxed and there are certain things that can not be purchased:


You CAN Buy:
Foods for you and your household to eat:
breads and cereals
fruits and vegetables
meats, fish, poultry
dairy products
Seeds and plants which produce food for you and your household.
Group dining or home-delivered Senior Meals (if you are elderly).

Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
Any nonfood items:
pet foods,
soaps and paper products,
household supplies.
Vitamins and medicines.
Food that will be eaten in the store.
Hot foods prepared to eat immediately.

So you can buy seeds and plants that produce food? That is very cool but for those on food stamps, do they have a place they could plant those seeds? This is a great push for community gardens. Could this work in Spearfish? Yes.

So starting Thursday through next Wednesday, I will be eating on $25 for one week and writing about my progress.

Join me!

The rules are you can not eat anything that is already in your house or accept a gift of food. For example, don't go to a friends house and expect to gorge.

The idea here is to learn and appreciate all of our blessings. What will I learn? Could I do it locally? I don't know. I do know this idea has caught me so I need to find out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Farmer in Chief -- Why our Presidential Candidates should be Talking about Food Security

This is quoted from the 10/9/08 article in the New York Times by the non-industrial based food advocate, Michael Pollin, The Farmer in Chief. It's an open letter written to our President-elect on the importance of food security.

Everyone should read this article. It will encourage readers to consider each food purchase carefully. I also think it will open up opportunities for local farmers and ranchers. The message here is that food IS a national security issue. If you do not have access to safe food for your family, what would you do?

"The American people are paying more attention to food today than they have in decades, worrying not only about its price but about its safety, its provenance and its healthfulness. There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken. Markets for alternative kinds of food — organic, local, pasture-based, humane — are thriving as never before. All this suggests that a political constituency for change is building and not only on the left: lately, conservative voices have also been raised in support of reform. Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming." Michael Pollin

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Baby Bounty and Getting Back on Track

So here I am, back on track. This was my very small bounty picked from my garden before Spearfish got four inches of snow! This weekend I will be cleaning up the remains and see what survived. We were in the Los Altos, CA and I was re-energized in my quest to be a Black Hills Locavore. Of course, in the Bay Area, being a locavore would be much easier.
Today for lunch I made tacos. Corn tortillas from Dan Diego Tortillas, ground beef from the Butcher Shop, tomatoes and green onions from my garden (they made it through snow!), peppers I had frozen last year and a sweet onion from Gage's Garden. Oh and cheese, Romaine and ketchup from Safeway but overall a Locavore success!
We tried for a few weeks only purchasing organic milk and cream but it really hit the pocketbook at almost double the price of 'regular' milk. I need to do some research on the true benefits of organic dairy products. I get the idea but are the cows treated any more humanely? I don't know. Still need that local dairy option...
So we will try this again as I reflect back to my 'rules'.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Buzz about Bees and CCD

There is a claim that Albert Einstein said something along the lines of, "If there were no more bees, man would perish in about four years." isn't sure if he really said that or if someone just made it up and attributed it to the physicist but it is a disconcerting thought when you realize how busy those little bees are in the pollination of our food crops.

Haagen-dazs supported the creation of an educational video about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to better explain the impacts and potential impacts of this important issue. While there is not an identified reason or cause of CCD yet, there is speculation that bacteria, some undiscovered pest or just the stress of commercial bee keeping may contribute.

South Dakota is one of the top producers of honey in the USA.

What is interesting is that I had fewer tomatoes this year (by a lot). Of course, we missed out on some hot weather to get things jumping but I wonder is CCD played a role as well? Since I do not spray in the garden, I have seen bees buzzing around so I am not sure.

It's an important issue to understand and follow. More companies should support these types of projects for the good of all. Hats off to Haagen dazs!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Bounty in Spearfish Valley

Fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruit are now in abundance in the Spearfish Valley. We visited three local markets open throughout the summer: Running's stand, The Farmer's Market and Gage's Gardens.

At Running's it's hard not to get corn because the stand is surrounded by rows of it and it is so fresh and delicious. I bought a dozen ears for $.50 each. Yes, that's a premium price but it's worth it. I always cut off the top just in case there is a worm in there; the only part of the corn that can be an unexpected surprise. Also in my bag were some Walla Walla and red onions. This is the only local farmer growing Walla Wallas, that I know of, and you can't beat these sweet onions.

At The Farmer's Market, I loaded up on a huge zucchini (my mom calls 'Wallies'), more red onions, a purple pepper, a basket of the sweetest cherry tomatoes, handful of small carrots, some red potatoes as well as two loaves of beer bread from the Wild Goose Bakery in Lead and a dozen of brown eggs from Sturgis. If you have not tried the bread from Wild Goose Bakery, I would highly recommend checking it out. Most of the loaves are $4.00 each. The beer bread is in a round and we have enjoyed it with bruschetta, brie and just by itself.

At Gage's Gardens, I picked up a muskmelon and seedless watermelon from Woonsocket. I have NEVER tasted a sweeter muskmelon. Imagine a cart full of huge melons and when you walk up to it you are greeted by a heady perfume of summer! That's what it smells like -- summer. And the watermelons are also amazing and so RED. I had to get another basket of cherry tomatoes as I had almost finished my first basket from The Farmer's Market, some larger red and orange tomatoes and a perfect peach from Colorado. The peach looks amazing and I can't wait to enjoy it. One more day it should be perfect. I also figured that a peach from Colorado is a better choice than a peach from California! I have to say that the people who work at Gage's are some of the nicest which adds to the whole experience of buying local.

This is the best time for Locavores in the Black Hills!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Search of a Local Dairy

We have yet to find a local dairy but I haven't really dug in and researched the possibility. Instead we are purchasing organic milk and cream. We are buying the Safeway O brand of milk ($5.79 a gallon) and half and half ($3.99 pint). They are expensive but are they worth it? That's an area I will do some research on. What exactly defines an organic dairy? I don't know. I am also purchasing organic Stonybrook Farms yogurt too. We have not found an organic supplier of cottage cheese. I haven't checked the options at Leuders either. Walmart carries Horizon (as does Safeway) but it's more expensive.

After finishing the book Farm Sanctuary, I find myself questioning how humane the animals destined for the table are being raised. The link above is the organization's website (founded by the author, Gene Baur) which is doing important work in the area of education and lobbying for the compassionate treatment of farm animals. While I do not see myself morphing into a vegetarian at this time, I'd like to make my food choices as smart and humane as possible. For example, although I have never eaten it, I will not eat fois gras which is made from diseased, fatty duck and goose livers. How people get those livers that way is not only a sad side of humanity; it's just mean and gross. I haven't heard of any local duck wranglers in SD making fois gras and it's not something I would search out anyway!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Your Carbon Footprint

Treating the earth kindly is important for a Black Hills Locavore. There is much talk today about our 'carbon footprint'.

A carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide". It is meant to be useful for individuals, nations and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming. A conceptual tool in response to carbon footprints are carbon offsets, or the mitigation of carbon emissions through the development of alternative projects such as solar or wind energy or reforestation. The carbon footprint is a subset of the ecological footprint, which includes all human demands on the biosphere.

This is an interesting site that will help you calculate your own carbon footprint. Be prepared to have what you pay for utilities handy.

While I didn't go through the whole process (but I will), there were some questions that relate to eating locally that can reduce each of our carbon footprints including:
  • Being a vegetarian (difficult in South Dakota with our fantastic beef/bison and lamb!)
  • Buy organic food (more and more options all the time; even better -- grow your own)
  • Buy food that is in season (since our growing season is short -- maybe freezing and canning summer produce are options?)
  • Buy only second hand clothes (Being second hand is second nature to me! Sweet Repeat in Spearfish and yard sales are okay by me most of the time.)
  • Buy things with very little or no packaging (Depends on what we buy but something to think about. Bringing a cloth bag when buying groceries could be one example.)
  • Buy second hand furniture and appliances (Not sure about this one. Second hand furniture -- maybe; appliances -- not sure)
  • Recycle or compost everything (We are exploring recycling options in Spearfish that cost $14 per month. I could compost but need to set that up.)
  • Focus on recreation that is zero carbon like cycling and walking (This probably means I should pull my clubs instead of taking a cart!)
  • Do not own a car (Some could do this -- driving to Rapid City which is 50 miles each way would be tough but we could still think about our shopping 'trips and errands' and be smarter about that. Mike could ride his bike to work in the fall!)

These are great ways to reduce our carbon footprint. If we all made little changes, the net result could be a big impact.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Locavore Eating -- Eat what you have!

One of the purposes of this experiment is to remind people to THINK about what they are eating and making smarter choices. Again, I am reminded of the vast quantities of food I have socked away in our house.

This weekend, I scrounged through my freezer and found BBQ pheasant, roasted red peppers I had made last summer, duck stock ice cubes and chopped peppers. I went to the pantry and found green lentils, white rice and wild rice. And I have a slew of spices -- some that I tossed this weekend because they were older than 'several' years. Really we should all toss much of our spices!

Now it's true, I have probably been a locavore even before I heard the word by personal choice. I love gardening, I love to buy food from gardeners and ranchers and local food just tastes better. Cooking is a favorite pasttime and I love to 'make my own' when I can. With this experiment, it's got me thinking about the great benefits of eating local as well as shopping in your own cupboard BEFORE going to the store. This has been an added benefit.

So over the weekend, I made a recipe called Kitcheri which is an Indian lentil / rice / spices dish. This is so delicious and easy to make. I added the pheasant and had a complete meal. Again, shopping AT HOME is a smart move.

Over the weekend, I went back to the Farmer's Market in Spearfish and bought eggs from Sturgis, zucchini and peas from Spearfish (I think), tomatoes from Newell and these pickled jalapenos from ND. Close to local and really hot and fantastic. I also got another loaf of that oatmeal bread. From Runnings we were lucky to get two pints of fresh raspberries -- $12 is a high price to pay but they will only be here for a short period. And they are grown a few blocks away. Now that defines a Black Hills Locavore!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gardening in the Black Hills

Having a garden is an important part of being a Black Hills Locavore. It's true that our growing season in Western South Dakota is short so you really have to work to take full advantage of it.
Here's my garden today. Most of the bounty now is herbs which I love to cook and season with. That's mint to the left and some volunteer huge sunflowers. I do plan to try roasting sunflower seeds this year.
We continue to 'find' things at home going along with my rules. I've learned that the Farmer's Market in Spearfish sells local eggs for $3 a dozen from Sturgis. Still no luck on the local dairy products so we bought organic half and half (Safeway brand -- $3.59 quart) this morning. The important part is that because we are focused on local foods or organic we find we are not spending as much with every trip. This is good and helps our carbon footprint all the more.
This weekend is Festival in the Park in the City Park in Spearfish. We are volunteering and look forward to seeing the art and hopefully finding some new local goodies.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Y2K Food

This seems to be taking a different spin than being 'just' a Black Hills Locavore. So much of this first week has been focusing on eating things that we already have. I don't know about you and your family but we have a TON of food socked away in our pantry, freezer, cupboards and in our basement. We even have Y2K food when we thought the world would end when the ball dropped on 2000. Crazy, yes. But we have quite a bit of freeze dried food that I really have not looked at, well, since nothing happened with 2000! It does however, have an expiration date of 2010 but fits in nicely with my rules.

My garden is looking great with quite a few herbs really going to town. In fact, I brought some mint and tarragon to Roma's in case Leigh wanted to try something new. It's fun to share!

I also visited Staple and Spice in Rapid City and picked up some quinoa flour which is an ingredient in a gfcf pizza crust recipe. On Sunday, I made Jack some muffins with a new recipe and they were fantastic! Often with wheat free, dairy free, soy free, artificial free baking, there is this weird aftertaste. But not these muffins! Of course, Jack already ate them all so I will be making them again. I'll share the recipe later.

We did run out of milk and have yet to find a local dairy so we purchased some organic non-fat milk at Safeway (the O brand) -- $5.79 on sale. That's more than the regular milk but I figured if we only buy local or organic or just eat stuff at home, there will be some savings. Or maybe not. I felt good about it anyway.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Local Farmer's Markets

Saturday found us exploring some local markets and veggie stands in the Spearfish area. I know, it is a bit early but it was the first time I had an opportunity to get out there.

We first went to the Good Earth health food store on Main Street. This is a beautiful store with high ceiling and hard wood floors. Being that our son is on a special diet, we are very familiar with the store but this was the first time we looked at products from a local angle. They do not have a website (yet).

I found strawberries grown locally by Moonrise Mountain Enterprises in Spearfish! This was a good find especially since there was only one pint container. I snapped it up. What made me laugh was that these are tiny berries -- most maybe an inch long. Compared to the gi-normous strawberries from Watsonville, CA, these looked liked mouse sized. But don't let their size fool you -- they were sweet and delicious. $3.75 for a pint. I have some of these berries in my garden too but only got about 10. There were a few other items in the produce section that had local growers names on them. This is cool and a good option but I prefer to buy as 'direct' as possible.

Then we headed down to the Farmers Market which shares property with one of the finest microbreweries, Crow Peak Brewery I have so much to say about Jeff's fantastic beers (and I am sure you will be hearing about them this summer) but our focus on this visit was to check out the the produce. I was really delighted to find lettuce, tomatoes, Kohlrabi and homemade bread. The lettuce is grown right in town on Ray Runnings (on Evans Lane) land and I saw it being picked this morning. Not sure where the tom's and kohlrabi came from. I'll asked next time. The honey whole wheat bread comes from Wild Goose Bakery which is the same bakery I got my bread from last week at the Rapid City Farmers Market. I've read on their site that you can order a certain type of bread and pick it up on Market Days. Nice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rapid City Farmers Market

These are volunteer sunflowers in my garden. I am going to try and roast later this summer.

Today, my work lunch meeting was canceled so I was in search of a 'local' lunch. At Family Thrift (that used to be Albertson's), I asked if they carried any local produce. The gal just gave me a blank stare and said that 'there's a farmers market somewhere in town". Then I rephrased it asking if THEY (Family Thrift) carried anything grown local and she got it and said, "Oh no, we don't do that". Here's the deal. We need to keep asking that question of all food markets, big and small.

The Rapid City Farmers Market is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday off of Omaha where the fish sculpture and sand volley ball courts are.

I was really excited to go to check out more local items. Well, it's a little early in the season but I was glad I stopped by because I bought some of the more delicious homemade bread. It was oatmeal bread. I got over there around 12:30pm and there were four stands. I saw the chalkboard listing different types of breads but the table was empty and the couple and their cute new baby were packing things up. I asked what he had left and when he said, "one loaf of oatmeal bread", I said, "I'll take it!". It was $4.00 and was a regular size loaf-pan loaf and really heavy. I couldn't wait to have it for lunch! The market opens at 9:00am and I am guessing they sell out quick. The next table had a great assortment of jams, spreads and jellies. I loved the jalapeno and jalapeno with habanera and would have bought some but they had food coloring in each. Next time I see the jam girl, I will ask her to consider making either without food coloring and I will buy it. It was hot and fantastic. She also had several live herb plants for sale and I bought a lime basil for $1.75 which really smells like lime. All of her basil looked very healthy so I may buy a few more plants. Mine are not looking too good in the garden.

The third table had more jams, some sewn potholders and the fourth offered meats with no hormones or drugs. Cool but I did not have a cooler and I have a freezer full of beef from the quarter we purchased a couple of months ago. Which BTW is from a local SD cow. Anyway, she also had pickled eggs which, well, I thought were a bit weird but when I got back in my car, I wished I had one to go with my bread. Oh, about the bread. It was not sliced so I just tore off a hunk of it and enjoyed it that way. It was heavy, flavorful and a little sweet. Fantastic!

This weekend we are going to head off to some of the local veggie stands and see what's happening there. I've seen signs for tomatoes and I think they are from the green house in Newell that does them hydroponically. Bring them on!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Do you realize how much food you already have in your house?

You may open your refrigerator, look in the cupboards, peek in the pantry and exclaim: There is nothing to eat!

When in reality, there is a ton to eat but it's just not what you might want at that moment. We all know this but it really hit me tonight as I was making dinner for myself.

I opened everything and then whined (to myself because no one was around) that there was nothing to eat. Then I remembered that I am a Black Hills Locavore and what I have in my house is like a gold mine, a treasure chest and something I shouldn't take for granted because when it's gone, it's gone.

So I made myself a big bowl of nonfat yogurt with a sliced mango, some Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and a handful of sunflower seeds. There is one more mango left and mangoes do not grow in South Dakota. Cinnamon Toast Crunch will not be on the 'list either. BUT did you know that South Dakota is also sometimes referred to as the Sunflower state? I am in luck there. Now I just have to wait until later this summer. And seriously need to start looking for a local dairy!

Next time instead of seeing 'nothing to eat' -- look at it as a gold mine. When our cupboards are full, we are so blessed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The last lemon

July 8, 2008

Here's my garden as of June 3. That's mint on the left -- peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint. I thought mint wouldn't make it through a South Dakota winter. I was wrong.

The garden includes strawberries, various tomato and pepper plants, celery, lettuce, radishes and a lot of herbs which I love to cook with -- chives, mint, oregano, tarragon, thyme, chervil, cilantro, lemon balm and lemon verbena and lavender. Some are for eating -- others just for smelling! When I planted this in June, I did not consider how important it might become.

There are still nectarines in the refrigerator and for dinner, I made salmon which we already had as well. I did, however, add a local flavor of using tarragon, lettuce, chives and chervil for our salad. I put two huge sprigs of tarragon in with the salmon along with lemon then wrapped in foil and cooked for 15 minutes at 425. Really delicious. That was my last lemon! Not a lot of citrus in the Black Hills.

I also had some bulgar in the freezer with some roasted tomatoes from last years garden so we had those too. If I had not started this, I may not have even thought to look for the bulgar. So I think that's good.

First thing on the list is finding a local dairy. We are almost out of milk.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Starting Off -- What about coffee?

Monday, July 7

It's funny that when you start something new, there is excitement about what lies ahead. That's how I feel right now as I officially start my experiment. I am not sure what the financial result will be -- will we save money, spend more money, keep things the same? That will bring about interesting thoughts and ideas, I am sure.

For day one, I see it's going to be easier as long as we have food in the house but I am now very thoughtful about the choices I make. I started a list of common breakfast foods that I need to source out locally. A creature of habit, my breakfast usually includes oatmeal, raisins or fruit, nuts, coffee, sugar and cream. So what about coffee? Very important for many, including yours truly. Okay, one of my rules is looking for organic, fair trade options but already that seems like a cop out.

Because I work in 50 miles away, I plan to stop by Sam's Club on the way home which would be a typical shopping trip. I ask Mike what else we need beside detergent and a few items for our son. Mike says, "Oh yeah, get a bag of the medium tail off shrimp". Just like that! I just stare. He then says, "I guess shrimp really isn't local food, is it?" His enthusiasm is already waining and it's just day one!

One thing about buying local is that you are not as tempted to put something else not on your list into your grocery cart. This worked at Sam's Club as there is not much local anything going on there that I could see. I did read that Walmart plans to start carrying local produce and am interested to see how that will work. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.

Coffee was on my list and I first sought out organic coffee at Sam's and remembered Dark Canyon Coffee on Deadwood Ave. which is right on my way home! Eureka! I stopped by right before they closed and bought a pound of Highlander Grogg for $12.50. Comparing this to the Sam's Member Mark coffee of 2.5 pounds for about the same price, I am thinking we could be spending more. BUT, the coffee shop smelled sooo good, they were very friendly and they put the coffee in a cute yellow bag. It was the experience that I enjoyed. Is that worth more than double the price? We will see.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vive La Locavore in the Black Hills

These are chives. I can eat these because they are in my garden and well, they are good. Even the purple flowers are edible which may come in handy as I learn what it's like to be a Black Hills Locavore.

What is a locavore you may ask?

The word locavore is something new and defines someone who eats LOCALLY. Locally can be defined in many ways. Some people say it's within a days drive or 100 miles or within their town. For me, I am using the 100 mile parameter to define my locavorism. With new words, you can make up words like that.

There are many reasons that someone chooses to eat locally. The price of gas to get places to buy food, the cost in both fuel and air pollution to get that tomato trucked from Mexico to South Dakota in winter, wanting to support local farmers and, frankly, food that is grown locally doesn't have far to go and usually tastes better. Sometimes it's more expensive though but when you think of the whole process it may be slightly more expensive in the short run but in the long run it's a better choice for the earth, the farmer and the consumer.

On Monday, July 7, 2008, I will embark on my Black Hills Locavore experiment and here are 'my rules':

1. Search out food and drink that is grown, raised or 'put together' within 100 miles from Spearfish. For example, Crow Peak Brewery makes their beer on site in Spearfish with products that are grown elsewhere. This works under my rules because, well, they are my rules.

2. I will try and incorporate the whole family in this but our son is on a restrictive diet and only is able to eat a few items already. We get most of his food from our local health food store and will continue to consider local options. Hubbie Mike says he'll try too.

3. If there are some items that are not grown, raised or made in our area, we will search out organic, fair trade products when possible.

4. Anything that is already in our house is fair game and available. No need to be wasteful and throw out my turmeric and that Napa Cabernet but when it's gone, it's gone!

Sometimes I wonder why I would willingly restrict food choices. It may seem silly but I hope to learn more about my local food options and share these with others interested in supporting our local growers, ranchers and community. I read somewhere that for every dollar that is spent locally, it circles around and results in three dollars of revenue for the town it's spent in. I am not sure I understand that but I am willing to be open to the possibilities this experiment will create.

I expect to explore local food sources and report on my experience. This will be fun!